100 Years & Counting: 5 Facts about the Great American Music Hall

The beautiful and historic Great American Music Hall has been around since our grandparents were toddling around, not even aware they would one day have awesome grandkids like us. Located Tenderloin-ish on O’Farrell and Polk, this ornate and lushly decorated building is home to amazing shows and even amazing-er old timey San Franciscan architecture. To celebrate this unique SF venue, here are 5 Facts about the Great American Music Hall.

1. Out of Black Ashes Comes a Club Named White

old gamh

The Great American Music Hall was built in 1907 during the time everyone was building and rebuilding buildings after the 1906 earthquake. It was opened by a crooked political organizer named Chris “Blind Boss” Buckley (why doesn’t anyone have cool gangster nicknames anymore?) who named it Blanco’s. Most of the ornate balconies and lush wall fixings that gained Blanco’s a reputation as an elegant bordello, can still be seen today. It was, allegedly, the hot spot for drinking, gambling, prostitution, and, I’m hoping, the occasional West Side Story-esque dance battle.

2. Let Sally Rand Entertain You

Years later, Burlesque performer, business woman, and all around badass, Sally Rand renamed the club The Music Box (adorable, descriptive, and a tiny bit sexual) and turned the club into the place for fun, sexy, wild parties. She was even arrested a couple of times during her own performances for lewdness. If she were still alive today you’d be able to see her performances through RushTix for sure.

3. Progressive…ish

After Rand sold the club in 1948, it reopened as Blanco’s Cotton Club. A short-lived house of jazz that was the city’s first (kind of) desegregated club. Just one baby step toward becoming one of (if not the most) diverse city in the world. In 1972 the club finally received its current name.

4. Local Haunt, Haunted

Any good old building worth its salt has a ghost, at least one. According to a psychic brought in to investigate, The good ol’ GAMH has hella, like 30 or 40 at least. Some say the ghost of Sally Rand herself saunters around the place. If you’re ever at the GAMH late at night after everyone has left and you see a trail of feathers wafting about… run.

5. 3rd Best in the West (6th Best Overall)

In 2013, the GAMH was named the 6th best club in America (3rd best on the west coast behind a club in West Hollywood and one in Colorado) by Rolling Stone. Today, they showcase bands (local and big time), burlesque shows, and even comedy specials (Robin Williams filmed his HBO special, “An Evening with Robin Williams” in the great San Franciscan hall). Whether you want to see a show, or just experience a beautiful and exciting piece of SF history, the Great American Music Hall is where it’s at.