This neighborhood has been home to its share of shining personalities in San Francisco’s long history. For many musicians and music lovers, the Tenderloin was a place where they could pursue their passion free of judgement or worry. The pretension-free atmosphere in the area ended up being the perfect setting for some of the most forward-thinking and beloved works in American history. For the greats who performed live, recorded their albums, or just jammed at local clubs, the Tenderloin will remain an inexorable part of their history, and they a cherished aspect of the neighborhood’s long and nuanced narrative.
Before hippies transformed the streets of the city, another movement was well underway in the Tenderloin, one that turned old musical traditions upside down while inventing a few of its own. Those chasing the latest sound of the mid 20th century might have found themselves taking in the sounds of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and countless others at the Black Hawk jazz club at the corner of Turk and Hyde. While the club is now a parking lot, live albums from Monk, Davis, and others including Dave Brubeck keep the old sound alive for a new generation of listeners.
The sounds that would shake the nation weren’t just performed here-they got committed to record in the Tenderloin as well. The legendary Wally Heider Studios (still in operation today as Hyde Street Studios) located on 245 Hyde Street, right across the street from the Black Hawk, saw some of music’s biggest names turn their ideas into enduring legends. Albums like Santana’s Abraxas, Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Green River (just to name a few) were put to wax here, cementing San Francisco as a beacon of rock and roll visionaries thanks to the welcoming they found in the Tenderloin.
At those two beloved sites, what is now music history was once vibrant and breathing. For a new generation of creators, the Tenderloin remains a place where they can build their dreams. The Center for New Music on Taylor Street functions as a hub for the incubation and nurturing of vital new voices, and the Great American Music Hall on O’Farrell hosts top touring acts right in our humble ‘hood. For a taste of the old and new and everything in between, the Tenderloin serves it up choice.