A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 18, 2010
Main Drag of Many Tears (125th or 126th Street)

"Main Drag of Many Tears” was the slang name of 125th Street (or 126th Street) in the 1940s. The Apollo Theater was then one of the main attractions of 125th Street, one of Harlem’s main thoroughfares (or “main drag"). The back of the Apollo Theater is 126th Street.

Slang author Dan Burley (1907-1962) wrote in 1944 that 126th Street was the “Main Drag of Many Tears.” This could refer to the many people who tried out at the Apollo’s famed Amateur Night and left in tears through the 126th Street exit.  The term is generally thought to apply to 125th Street and the sadness of life in black America.


Wikipedia: Apollo Theater
The Apollo Theater in New York City is one of the most famous music halls in the United States, and the most famous club associated almost exclusively with African-American performers. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the home of Showtime at the Apollo, a nationally syndicated variety show consisting of new talent.

The theater is located at 253 W. 125th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, specifically in Harlem, one of the United States’ most historically significant traditionally black neighborhoods.

Wikipedia: Dan Burley
Dan Burley (November 7, 1907, Lexington, Kentucky - October 29, 1962, Chicago, Illinois) was an American pianist and journalist. He appeared on numerous network television and radio shows in the USA and had two radio shows of his own on WWRL Radio in New York.

He was editor of many African American publications such as the New York Age, the Amsterdam News, and the magazines Ebony and Jet. He also appeared in five films, performed with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Milton Hinton, Lionel Hampton, Leonard Feather, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and wrote music for Lionel Hampton and Cab Calloway.
(...)
He reputedly coined the word bebop and was the creator of The Harlem Handbook of Jive, which sold more than 100,000 copies It was published in 1941 and reprinted 1944. Burley’s handbook brought mentions from H.L. Mencken, Gertrude Stein, Danton Walker, Winchell and others. The Handbook of Jive was translated into French, Italian, Spanish and Norwegian.

13 May 1944, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Dan Burley’s Back Door Stuff,” pg. 6B:
It was a deuce of haircuts on the backbeat of the ace moon of the mellow dim, and this skull was laying some hard ivory rattling in the House of Countless Drops on the fag end of the Main Drag of Many Tears.
(...)
TO UNRAVEL THE ABOVE JIVE…
Main Drag of Many Tears—126th St., where disappointment tinges the loud laughter.

Google Books
Juba to Jive:
A dictionary of African-American slang

By Clarence Major
New York, NY: Viking
1994
Pg. 292:
Main Drag of Many Tears n. (1940s) 125th Street, Harlem; so called because of its many poverty-stricken and disappointed people who try to laugh away their tears.

Google Books
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang
By Jonathon Green
Cassell
2006
Pg. 915:
main drag of many tears n. [1940s] (US Black)
125th Street Harlem, New York. [MAIN DRAG, THE n. + SE, the bars and theatres on 125th Street (Harlem’s main street) where otherwise depressed and frustrated people can attempt to rown their sorrows]

Google Books
Dan Burley’s jive
By Dan Burley
Edited by Thomas Aiello
DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press
2009
Pg. 220:
Main drag of many tears — 126th Street where disappointment tinges the loud laughter

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • (0) Comments • Sunday, April 18, 2010 • Permalink