Joe drew people that were in various business activities in the community to the Palm Room. These were the professional folks in the community that would come there. This was their stop after work and on weekends. The thing was, it was a carry over of the days in the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s when people dressed. The attire was like suits. And the women wore their dresses. And they would come in to socialize. It was the meeting place. The place to be.

Ed Chestnut Jr

…My father and I both played at Joe’s Palm Room. My father, Ed Chestnut Sr., retired as the President of Mammoth Insurance Company (the largest black owned company in Kentucky at one time). He was the last President before it was acquired by Atlanta Life. My father was born in Jeffersonville. He lived over there with his aunt and his father, because his mother passed at an early age. And he lived between Jeffersonville and Bardstown. His mom was one of the Pipes from Bardstown, that was her family name. His father was from Carolina and settled in Jeffersonville.

 

I recollect that the first Joe’s Palm Room was on the South East corner of 13th and Magazine. On the outside it didn’t look like much, but on the inside it was laid out. It had sort of a plush effect to it. When you walked in, the atmosphere changed. A really inviting atmosphere. Ya had the huge aquarium behind the bar. It was laid out really nice.

 

One of the core individuals that performed there, the musician that sorta organized a lot of the entertainment there, he was a multi-talented musician, his name was Barrington Lee Morton. The nickname for him was Boogie. He played organ, saxophone, he played bass. Boogie, was one of those extraordinary musicians who had played nationally, and actually had relayed to me that he played out of the country. I was fortunate enough to know about him because I went on the road with him a few times. He and my father were really really good friends. They played together at Joe's for years. He and my father both were involved with music when they were in the service up in New York and spent some time in Harlem.

 

I like to say Boogie had devilish ways (laugh). Ya see, in jazz music, this happens with the older cats when they perform. Say a guy comes in with an instrument and wants to sit in. You normally have a list of what they call standard tunes, which are tunes everybody should have in their repertoire, regardless of what genre they play. Ya know the changes, and you improvise over that. Everybody does that. Well what Boogie would do, he would raise the tempo to challenge you. He would choose a song that would challenge tempo, the structure of the song or harmony. And if you went in and proved yourself then you were ok. He was the band leader at Joe's after my father. He was from Smoketown and lived in the West End until he passed last year.

 

My father played with Boogie and these guys. He played guitar. He was a melodic guitarist. I know when I used to play, he used to come in and sit in on me. Say for instance, if you had the instrument that they played, and they didn’t bring their instrument, they would take yours. So my father would come in and get my guitar and then he would burn the set up and want to give it back to me, and I was like nah I don’t want it back (laugh). You finish the night, I aint getting back up there (laugh).

 

He (my father) used to tell me that he and Wes Montgomery used to hang out together. Wes is the jazz guitarist from Indianapolis who was known for playing with his thumb. Normally guitarists played with a picks. But he played with his thumb. My father and Wes hung out down at Walnut Street at the Top Hat. Wes came here and played at the Top Hat during the war. The soldiers would come in town from Fort Knox. Walnut Street would be jumping. My father would be playing and Wes would come in. And Wes did to him, what my father did to me. He would sit in, play the guitar, and want to give it back to my father. And my father would say nah you keep playing. I ain’t getting back up there. Wes died of a heart attack at a pretty young age.

 

There is a guy named Jamey Aebersold, he’s got a street named after him in Indiana. He is famous for publishing jazz works. Jamey and my father were good friends too. Jamey plays the Sax too.

 

All the guys that my father played with, I feel fortunate and why I’ve begun to practice at home again is because these guys took me under their wing. Spent time with me. A guy by the name of Bill Jordan, he was a saxophonist. This guy sounded like Coltrane. This guy would play his sax and it sounded like fire was coming out of his horn. I kid you not. It just mesmerized you. I mean, where is he getting all this stuff from? I played a gig with him one night. It might have been at Joe’s. And I was still in the formative playing years. I knew the basics. I had training in different aspects of music. So, after the gig, he lived not too far, just down the street, he invited me to his house, after we had just played for 4 hours. He handed me his father’s guitar. His father’s guitar was an acoustic. And, the strings were almost like ropes. It was like a man’s guitar, ya know what I’m saying. This guy kept me up until sunrise, playing music. Let me tell you, it was an eye opener, an awakening, an epiphany for me to see this guy get so into his horn. He helped me get passed the physical challenge of playing his father’s guitar.

 

Bennet Higgins, a saxophonist, he took over the leadership in the later years. He had a brother named, Jonathan Higgins, a drummer. Boogie played with them too. He played through several generations of music, my father’s group, then with some of the younger guys. A player by the name of Billy McClain, young guy. This guy was a generation or two younger than my father. He was considered a musical genius because he never had any formal training. He played the Hammond B3. He could hear a song, and he would take off, and I mean he was gone with it. He didn’t have an organ of his own. But he practiced on everyone else's. The fact is that he picked up things so quickly and did so much with it.

 

I was fortunate to have been exposed to my father’s era of musicians. I am one of the only guys still around that had the chance to play with all of these guys and to have known Joe Hammond. Joe was a regal type individual. He stood erect. He smoked a pipe. He had that noble air about himself. Somebody that everybody looked up to. Recognized by his accomplishments and what he was doing in the community.

 

See, I retired as the VP of Information Technology from the Louisville Water Company three years ago. When I was promoted to management, I used to go to report to the board and I used to have to go to the board meetings. Well Joe Hammond was on the board of Water Works. I met him there too. I met him at Joe’s playing but also knew him for being on the board. He may have been the first African American to be on the board, not sure about that, but at the time he was the only African American. You can tell the way that he carried himself that everybody respected him.

 

Joe drew people that were in various business activities in the community to the Palm Room. These were the professional folks in the community that would come there. This was their stop after work and on weekends. The thing was, it was a carry over of the days in the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s when people dressed. The attire was like suits. And the women wore their dresses. And they would come in to socialize. It was the meeting place. The place to be.