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Music promoter Ralph Weinberg, born in Baltimore in 1895, moved to Bluefield after marrying Ida Effron in 1923. During the second quarter of the 20th century, Weinberg brought some of the greatest performers in the country to Bluefield and southern West Virginia. They included Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Fats Domino, Edward ‘‘Duke’’ Ellington, and Frank Sinatra when he was with the Tommy Dorsey Band. Jazzman Louis Jordan’s hit song, ‘‘Saltpork, West Virginia,’’ was about a run-in Jordan had had with a Bluefield justice of the peace, Wallace W. ‘‘Squire’’ McNeal.

Weinberg lived in Princeton and worked out of Bluefield’s Matz Hotel, promoting entertainment events throughout a wide region. He promoted sports, including boxing and wrestling, as well as music. Weinberg’s Danceland Attractions provided a vital and safe conduit for African-American performers to reach audiences through the South. He established a network of theaters and dance halls and booked concert dates as far west as Texas and as far south as Birmingham. His friends recall that a young Abe Saperstein once offered him part ownership of his Harlem Globetrotters if he would handle their bookings in the South.

For the great black bands of that time, Weinberg, himself white, roped off a section where white patrons could come and enjoy the music, but the dance floor and bandstands were strictly reserved for black performers and black audiences. His concerts were noted for good music, good times, and no racial friction.

Weinberg was on a promotional visit to Columbia, South Carolina, when he died of a heart attack, April 3, 1953.

This Article was written by William R. Archer

Last Revised on December 09, 2015

Cite This Article

Archer, William R. "Ralph Weinberg." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 09 December 2015. Web. 16 April 2024.


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