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Dallas History Items: Deep Ellum
"[August 8, 1944] Elm St Resurfacing; looking west ... along Elm Street," V81.9.76.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Dallas was known as "one of the hottest cities in the South." That is, in terms of the music that was playing. Deep Ellum, located just east of downtown, became "the" place to hear the great blues and jazz musicians of the time. Such notable artists as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, Texas Bill Day, Lonnie Johnson, Little Hat Jones, Emma Wright, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Benny Moten were regular entertainers in the area. According to pianist Sam Price, Deep Ellum was "a breeding ground, a place where musicians started out, and when they were good enough they left, went on to Kansas City and New York. In Deep Ellum there were more blues singers than just about anywhere else."
A popular song of the time, "Deep Ellum Blues" by Texas Bill Day, illustrated the night life of Deep Ellum.
By the end of the 1930s and into the 1940s, Deep Ellum became increasingly dangerous and rough. The railroad that ran through on Elm and Central was torn up, making room for the Central Expressway. These changes contributed to the decline of the area and the change of the musical atmosphere.
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