White New York gangster Owney Madden ran the Cotton Club, which was founded in 1923 and is located in the center of Harlem, New York, at 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue. Madden sold his “#1 Beer” to the pro-prohibition crowd at the Cotton Club. The club was briefly shut down multiple times for selling alcohol in the 1920s, but the proprietors’ political connections always allowed them to reopen right away.
The performances at the Cotton Club were musical revues with a house band, dancers, singers, comedians, and variety acts. That ensemble was headed by Duke Ellington from 1927 to 1930 and intermittently for the following eight years.