On April 23, 1940 the Rhythm Night Club was a hot spot for many Socialites in Natchez, MS in that the famous Orchestra Band of Walter Barnes from Chicago, Illinois was performing at the Club that Tuesday night. There had never been such a grand occasion as this for many in the community. Many persons got all dressed up for the Big Barn Dance. Around midnight when everyone was having a good time, everything suddenly became tragic. The Club went up in flames and most patrons were trapped because there was only one door to enter and exit. Two hundred nine plus people lost their lives in the tragedy and many were badly burned. Walter Barnes and most of his band perished in the fire. Barnes died a hero as he continued to play “Marie” to calm the crowd.
70 years later, we(Monroe and Betty Sago) built and dedicated the Rhythm Club Museum on the actual site honoring the victims that lost their lives and the survivors who went on to build their lives in some way. We have exhibits of photos, newspaper articles, live recordings from survivors telling their stories as to what happened that night, written documentations, and even music that the band played that night.