Born and raised in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore, Ethel Ennis (1932 to 2019) became known as Baltimore’s First Lady of Jazz, with a career that spanned seven decades. Early in her career, in the late 1950s and ‘60s, she recorded for major labels; toured Europe with Benny Goodman; performed onstage alongside Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Louis Armstrong; and appeared on television with Duke Ellington. She became a regular on Arthur Godfrey’s TV show and headlined the Newport Jazz Festival. In 1961 she won the Playboy jazz poll for best female singer. She drew national attention for her rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” for the second presidential inauguration of Richard M. Nixon in 1973. However, she became disillusioned with the demands of a performing career and made a conscious decision not to expand to the famous clubs of New York and beyond but to focus her talents in her hometown of Baltimore.
Now, throuh March 31, 2024, The George Peabody Library at Peabody Institute will feature an exhibit celebrating Ethel’s Place, the club owned from 1984 to 1988 by Baltimore vocalist Ennis and her husband Earl Arnett.
The exhibit focuses particularly on this era of her life, through a range of materials including photographs, posters, unpublished written arrangements, audiovisual recordings, and business records. The event is free and open to the public. The library is located at 17 East Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore 21202. For more information, contact Department of Special Collections, Sheridan Libraries, email@example.com, 667-208-6715.
For more information on Ethel Ennis, read the chapter on her life in Music at the Crossroads: Music at the Crossroads: Lives & Legacies of Baltimore Jazz, edited by Mark Osteen and Frank J. Graziano.
–by Liz Fixsen