Focus on Local Music Legend John Malveaux

By Steve Propes

When John Malveaux arrived in Long Beach from Beaumont, Texas in 1955, he recalled the new environment was a less segregated environment than his Lone Star hometown, where he attended Blessed Sacrament High School.

After Hughes Junior High, at Long Beach Poly High School, Malveaux played football as a running back, track as a pole vaulter and his favorite sport, baseball.

Upon graduation, Malveaux received a track scholarship to the University of Oregon. “I discovered that in Eugene, landlords would rent to African students, but not to African Americans, I told the teacher and he said ‘Why don’t you write about it?’ Two articles later, one of which was printed in the Oregonian, Malveaux was called into the office of the dean, who revoked his scholarship. “He accused me being sent by the NAACP to cause trouble. My reply was sarcastic: the NAACP was too conservative. I was into Malcolm X at the time.’”

“When I left Oregon, I said to hell with track and field.” After stints at Long Beach State and Long Beach City College, Malveaux toured with track star Bob Hayes, ‘right before he won the Olympics.’ “I went to Pepperdine, where they had discontinued track, setting a Pepperdine pole vault record “never to be broken: 15’ 6”.

One area that didn’t interest him was music. However, his friendship with Thelma Houston at Poly helped change that. “She graduated in 1964. In 1961 or 1962, she was at the Cozy Lounge owned by Big Tate.” Houston was still a minor when she sang there and at The Limit. “Thelma Houston would perform, but I was underage, I used to hide her in the office until time to go on stage, then get her out before anyone could check her ID,” one-time owner Frank Adelish of The Limit told columnist Tim Grobaty.

In 1960 or 61, Malveaux recalled “I saw Aretha Franklin at the Cozy Lounge on Atlantic Avenue. She worked from the piano, but the Cozy Lounge didn’t have a piano. Senter McGintis, brother of NFL star Willie McGinist, lived next door to the Cozy Lounge and had a piano. Big Tate moved McGinist’s piano into his club so Aretha could perform.”

At the Cinnamon Cinder, “James Brown sold music out of his trunk. His drummer before a gig wanted a pay increase; the guy was going to quit. Brown said yes. From then on, Brown began using two drummers.”

Malveaux partnered in World Wide Productions with Lewis Gray, who had a relationship with Motown owner Berry Gordy. They got a date at the Long Beach Arena through Seventh District Councilman Bob Crow for the first Motown Revue with acts like Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandellas and Etta James. The show sold out, tickets were $4 to $5, about 11,000 to 12,000 attended. The pay was $10,000 per act.

In 1968, “I booked Jackie Wilson to perform at The Limit. They sold out for two shows. Late that evening, I received a call that Jackie was very ill with chronic diarrhea and could not perform. I pleaded with a woman calling to let me speak to him.

“I told Jackie I had two sold out shows in a white club packed with African Americans and I feared they would tear the club down because many doubted that Jackie Wilson was coming to Long Beach.”

After considerable negotiation, he agreed to came to the club and personally announce he was unable to perform. In the meantime, his band was playing and we were stalling the crowd. When he arrived, two of us, one on each side, walked him to the side of the stage and signaled the light operator to put the spotlight on Jackie to walk out on the stage. When the spotlight hit him, he ran out on the stage, did the splits and performed one of the most incredible shows I have seen in 50 years of the business.”

Malveaux has booked many additional concerts, including Salif Keita from Mali at the Terrace Theater, “the most famous albino in the world.”

In 1971, Malveaux moved to Las Vegas and worked for an R&B radio station as a time salesman, commission only. “Little Richard was at Vegas Hilton opening for Ann Margaret, hi roller woman complained you could see his parts through his pants, so management told him to wear a jock strap, which he did.

Later at a party at the Sands with Little Richard and Debbie Reynolds telling gay jokes on each other, Howard Hughes kept sending down champagne. “Little Richard owed the government, could shelter income by being a minister. They took everything upfront.”

Malveaux often had a 6 a.m. breakfast with ex-Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis at Caesar’s Palace. “He played golf with Caesar’s clients, visited high rollers to remind them to pay up. He seldom talked about his fight history, had the hugest hands I’d ever seen.”

Malveaux married in 1972. “I married twice. Very brief. My avocation in music was a hindrance in marriage.”

While in Vegas in ‘72, “B.B. King made his first performance at the Frontier, and everybody in the audience got a BB chain.”

Malveaux, who maintains an archive of R&B music, later gave the chain to a local blues fan. The archive is now in storage.

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Comments

Bravo on this article introducing more about the life and legacy of John Malvaux. It is extremely important that such history and legacy is brought into full view! Thank you in the spirit of “lifting as we climb” by celebrating the impactful elders in our communities! Bravo John Malveaux! Bravo Beachcomber! …from all of us here at Villageprojects.net.

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