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She was surrounded by some of Baltimore’s best jazz musicians which included

the late Chico Johnson on keyboard and Harold Adams on tenor saxophone.

We all marveled at her passion for singing



Jazz Singer Ruby Glover—The Little Giant of Pennsylvania Avenue—Passes

By Alvin Kirby Brunson

Ruby stood only 5 feet tall.  She was small in size but a“giant in eyes of the Baltimore jazz community. 

I remember the first time I met Ruby.  It was February 2003.  I was hired to teach an African American Studies course at Sojourner-Douglass College in East Baltimore. At our faculty meeting, I immediately noticed that Ruby was surrounded by faculty and staff.  So many people inside the school wanted a piece of Ruby.  She was just that type of person.  When I finally got “my turn” to talk with her, I saw a woman of great strength, character, and intellect.  We became friends from that day on.

Ruby was a guest professor in my classroom regularly during the 3 years that I taught at the college.  I was a guest speaker in her class for 4 years.  She was surprised of my knowledge about Baltimore’s African American musicians and recording artists (past and present) and insisted that I visit her class on a continuous basis.  She also demanded that her students (who loved her dearly) attend our Center’s cultural events throughout the year.

Ruby was a warm, giving and caring Sista.  She knew that it was more of a blessing to give than to receive.  Ruby had a kind heart and a giving spirit.  She always had a kind word to say.  She gave people the assurance that in tough times, things would be okay and she would be there if it wasn’t.  Ruby encouraged me to continue to “do what I do,” which is educate people about Baltimore’s African American music, history, and culture.  She reminded me on many occasions, that my work was important and that it had a positive impact on many people. 

When I think about Ruby, I will always remember the time that she visited my house and vice versa.  It was truly an honor.  We talked about so much.  She was a great person to talk too.  Ruby loved people and people loved her, I do know that.

One of my fondest memories of Ruby is when she performed at the 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Left Bank Jazz Society in 2004.  That night, she was so upbeat; so energetic.  Her performance as well as her students’ performance was nothing short of marvelous. 

She was surrounded by some of Baltimore’s best jazz musicians which included the late Chico Johnson on keyboard and Harold Adams on tenor saxophone. We all marveled at her passion for singing that music she/we love so much called jazz.  That night we also presented Ruby with an outstanding performance award/plaque in recognition of 50 years of outstanding service in the Baltimore jazz community.  It was an enriching experience for all who attended. Ruby’s daughter, Ira, told me later, that her mom was on “Cloud 9” for 2 days.

Ruby enjoyed reminiscing about Pennsylvania Avenue as documented by Carl Schuetter in the Baltimore Sun paper, Art & Society section, December 8, 2002, an article entitled “When Jazz Still Echoes.”  In this full-page article, Ruby speaks passionately about Pennsylvania Avenue in its heyday and the jazz clubs that surrounded it.  Two nightspots that brought back a lot of memories for her was the old Royal Theater and the Tijuana Club.  During Ruby’s time, the Tijuana Club was a top-rated jazz club on the upper part of “the Avenue” where she performed.  People always wanted to hear Ruby sing and scat as evident on her rendition of “God Bless the Child” which she recorded in 2000, as a tribute to her idols, the late Billie Holiday.

On the eve of Ruby’s passing, a good friend called to share the sad news with me.  She said that she “felt cheated” that Ruby was gone & no longer with us.  I reminded her that Ruby was a blessing to everyone who crossed her path.  She passed away doing exactly what she loved—singing jazz.

Ruby would have turned 78 on December 6th.  Let’s thank the creator for allowing Ruby to be a part of our life. 

The Center for Cultural Education is dedicated to educating, promoting and preserving Baltimore’s African American music, history and cultural heritage.

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Other View of Ms. Ruby Glover

Jazz singer Ruby Glover died Saturday (20 October 2007), a day after collapsing onstage during a performance at the Creative Alliance in East Baltimore.  The house was packed and the 77-year-old was thrilled at the turnout for the House of Ruth Benefit. She was introduced by local TV personality Stan Stovall. The audience gave her a thrilling welcome. With her silver cropped hair she was her usually radiant and polished self on stage. Ruby sang two standards, backed by the Tom Reyes Trio, and was unable to make it through a third. Confused she turned her back to the audience and collapsed

She died the next afternoon at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center of a stroke.

Her mother and her mother’s friends who filled her house in the early mornings influenced Ruby to become a jazz singer. She was well-known in the jazz clubs on Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1940s and 1950s, when the 24-block center of Black Baltimore pulsed with the vibrancy of jazz life. She was a wondrous musical element of  Baltimore jazz for more than 50 years as a performer, organizer, and lecturer.

Ms. Glover was a resident of Stirling Street in the Oldtown neighborhood and lived not too far from where she was born at Dallas and Monument streets. She helped for many years to stage the annual Billie Holiday competition for young vocalists. Her own voice has been described as smoky with bluesy overtones, and compared favorably to the vocals of Billie Holiday.

Growing up in East Baltimore, she attended Dunbar High School, where she began singing at dances and talent contests, after which she became a local favorite in Pennsylvania Avenue’s jazz clubs.

An evening of celebration of Ruby Glover’s life will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday at Sojourner- Douglass College, 200 N. Central Ave. in Baltimore. For more information, call 410-276-0306.

Source: Baltimore Sun   

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Ms. Glover shared the stage with many of Baltimore’s and the nation’s top jazz musicians including Art Blakey, Sonny Stitt, Keter Betts, Andy Ennis, Doug Cane, Vernon Wolst, Charles Covington, Carlos Johnson, Sir Thomas Hurley, Fuzzy Kane, Whit Williams, Charlie Etzel, Dennis Chambers, Gaynell Colburn, Moe Daniels, Dave Ross and Mickey Fields just to name a few. Some of the local “sister” vocalists as she would call them; Ethel Ennis, Nikki Cooper, Ruby Dawson, Shirley Fields, Liz Figueroa, Earlene Reed, Lady Rebecca, Brenda Alford, Cathy Dorsey, Damita Jo] and brother vocalists, Tiny Tim Harris and Judd Watkins.

Source: Rosa Pryor-Trusty, “Ruby Glover, Baltimore’s sweet, sweet Godmother of Jazz.” Afro-American. 22 October 2007.

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Alvin K. Brunson Passes Over

Alvin K. Brunson (Nov. 14, 1958-March 30, 2008)—Brunson died in a building collapse on March 30. . . . he founded his Center for Cultural Education, a nonprofit organization formed to educate people about Baltimore’s African-American history and culture, Brunson was a ray of hope for people living in the Pennsylvania Avenue community. Brunson took hundreds of people on his Thurgood Marshall/Billie Holiday Walking Heritage Tours of Pennsylvania Avenue, during which he would stop at famous attractions, like 1632 Division St., where Thurgood Marshall grew up, or the former site of the Royal Theatre at 1329 Pennsylvania Ave., one of the only places where performers of color, like Holiday and Cab Calloway, could perform in Baltimore during the Jim Crow era. Brunson also took African-American history to local schools, libraries, churches, civic organizations–anywhere he could find an audience with which to share the message that this history should be preserved and that Pennsylvania Avenue should be revitalized.

Sadly, his message was cut short when Brunson was working to revitalize a building across the street from his Center for Cultural Education at 541 Wilson St. His plan for the building was to use it to expand his center into a cultural museum. . . .

At community events, sometimes Brunson would exhibit his traveling museum aside a display of Pryor-Trusty’s book African American Entertainment in Baltimore. He wanted to remind people in a neighborhood long challenged by urban blight, lack of resources, and poverty that the Avenue’s historic legacy is that it was once the center of black life and entertainment in Baltimore. In a City Paper story about Pennsylvania Avenue (“Street of Dreams,” Feb. 2, 2005), Brunson provided historical context for Pennsylvania Avenue, which was first called Wagon Road back in 1818, and then Hookstown Road, and then Pennsylvania Road because it took travelers all the way to the state with the same name. He asserted that the first black slaves from Haiti settled near the first block of the Avenue at Pennsylvania Street to help build St. Mary’s Seminary. “Theater owners saw the influx of blacks into this area as a means by which to make money,” Brunson said in “Street of Dreams.”

Over the years Brunson served as an expert on Pennsylvania Avenue for several newspapers and he provided a wealth of history on the area in self-published books. He also wrote editorial content about the subject for online media like Doni Glover’s “The Glover Report” column at and Chicken Bones: A Journal. His hope was that one day someone—elected officials, development corporations, anyone with the power to do so—would finally revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue. In the years since the decline of the Avenue in the 1970s there have been partial revitalization efforts, but the Avenue is far from what it could be.

Brunson’s older sister Aletha “Brenda” Brunson, who lives in Richmond, Va., says her family is still mourning the loss of her brother. She says there were six siblings in the family that grew up on Dukeland Street in Baltimore. She says Alvin was very studious, and that his interest in the Pennsylvania Avenue may have been ignited by his love of jazz. When he was a student at Coppin State University earlier this decade, she says, he did a project on the Avenue. “He had a great interest in the contributions of blacks in Baltimore, especially those who had a significant influence and impact on Pennsylvania Avenue and Baltimore in general,” she says. “He had me and everyone else in my family on the lookout for books, albums, magazines—anything anybody could find of historical significance.” City Paper

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posted 23 October 2007 / updated 19 May 2008



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