Setting the Stage

Small image of door paintingAmerican musicians, especially African-American musicians, flocked to Paris in the 1950s. They were accepted as the true artists they were in France, and not subjected to the American culture of segregation.

A favorite scene offering "jazz and cocktails" to many expatriate Americans was The Mars Club. In 1958 and 1959, the Mars Club was managed by a young American couple, Barney and Barbara Butler. Jazz musicians who played there had their names painted on the door. That painting is shown here, and in close-up views on other pages. Barney and Barbara Butler are the owners of the Alumni Door image that got this project started. Stories of what they remember about the musicians and the scene at the Mars Club during those days is chronicled here.

Barbara Butler was good friends with the bar pianist, Aaron Bridgers, who was, in turn, very close to the obscure genius Billy Strayhorn. Barbara remembers many interesting stories about Billy Strayhorn and the scene at the Mars Club from those days.

Musicians listed playing at the Mars Club on their resume for the status it carried. The club is still talked about and remembered fondly.

Resources external to this site that provide more information about the club and the musicians who appeared there is provided under the "Additional resources" section on each page.