Last Friday the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
published a brief story about a vacant East St. Louis nightclub that had been gutted by fire early that morning.
The club had gone by various names over the years but was known most recently as Four Aces.
"It's been vacant for the last couple months and they had break-ins by copper thieves," said East St. Louis Fire Chief Thomas Grimmett.
The nightclub, located on East Broadway (that's the street the Eads Bridge turns into on the Illinois side), has a prominent place in St. Louis-area music history.
"Broadway winds east from downtown, and within a few blocks the vibe is considerably more country than city. Many of the theaters, clubs and restaurants, long neglected, have crumbled and died," then-staff writer Randall Roberts wrote in a Riverfront Times
feature story back in 2005.
"But the Four Aces lives on, a brick single-story at 1312 Broadway that still houses a liquor store in the front and a bar in the back. The other half of the building is devoted to a stage, a dance floor and rows of tables and chairs. The Disco Riders, a 32-member motorcycle club, own and operate the club, and on Saturday nights host dance parties."
Back in the 1950s and '60s, the Four Aces was the Manhattan Club, and it was at the Manhattan Club that a teenage groupie named Annie Mae Bullock met a twentysomething dandy named Ike Turner.
"Turner used to tool around in a Buick Dynaflow crammed with young girls and musical instruments, recalls East St. Louis poet laureate Eugene Redmond. Turner would inevitably land at the Manhattan, where he'd practice and perform.
"Annie Mae would someday become Tina Turner. 'She was a teeny-bopper and a groupie,' Redmond remembers. The future superstar used to hang around the Manhattan while her future husband was practicing. 'Ike was known to run through women,' he laughs. 'Leon Thomas [who later gained fame as the yodeler on Pharoah Sanders' glorious "The Creator Has a Master Plan"] gave him the name, "Ike Turner, the Woman Burner."'"
The Woman Burner, of course, is dead, hounded in later life -- and, still, in death -- with his reputation for woman-beating, as opposed to -burning. Now whatever secrets the Manhattan Club may have held are charred or obliterated.
According to press accounts
, the state fire marshal is investigating the blaze.
Roberts' story, "Arch Madness, a tour of the Four Aces and other local musical landmarks, is available on RFT's archive, right here