“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
San Francisco in San Francisco City and County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Vernon Alley

Legendary San Francisco Jazzman

Vernon Alley Marker image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, July 12, 2009
1. Vernon Alley Marker
Inscription. The legendary jazz bassist Vernon Alley was born May 26, 1915, in Winnemuca, Nevada. His father was a barber, a railroad man, and a laborer. His mother was a hotel worker. He came to San Francisco as a child and has always called The City his home.

As a young man, his parents took him to see the jazz great Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton. From that moment, jazz was to become his first love in a magical life that touched many people and broke many barriers.

Vernon Alley's life as a pioneering jazz bassist spanned more than seven decades. The deep chords of his bass set the tone for Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Coleman Hawkins. Alley picked the long, thick strings as Billie Holiday sang the blues and Ella Fitzgerald enchanted the nation with her soulful melodies.

Vernon Alley's contribution to jazz and the City he loved took many forms. Like most black men of his era, he had to struggle against racism to achieve success. He is credited with almost single handedly integrating San Francisco's musician's unions and breaking a long-standing color line that kept black musicians of his day from playing east of Van Ness Avenue. His toughness, combined with an irresistible charm, helped him in his quest for equality. Vernon Alley was the first black man to join
Vernon Alley - Close up of portrait on marker image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, July 12, 2009
2. Vernon Alley - Close up of portrait on marker
the exclusive Bohemian Club in 1974.

In addition to being a great musician, Vernon Alley was also an All City running back at Commerce High, Hall of Famer at San Francisco State University, pioneering disc jockey, television personality and long time member of the City's Human Rights Commission and Arts Commission.

Vernon Alley has brought life, love and the language of jazz to his fellow San Franciscans. This alley is dedicated to his contributions to San Francisco, the nation and to jazz.

On November 19, 2003, Vernon Alley, his family, friends, fellow musicians and fans joined Lennar Communities and LNR Partners in the dedication of this alleyway in his honor.
Erected 2003.
Location. 37° 47.045′ N, 122° 23.443′ W. Marker is in San Francisco, California, in San Francisco City and County. Marker is on Delancy Street near Federal Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Vernon Alley (the alley is named after the musician) is located on Delancy Street, between Federal and Brannan Streets. Marker is in this post office area: San Francisco CA 94107, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Oriental Warehouse (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Hawley Terminal Building
Vernon Alley Marker and Vernon Alley image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, July 12, 2009
3. Vernon Alley Marker and Vernon Alley
(about 700 feet away); Fremont Street (about 700 feet away); Brannan Street (about 700 feet away); Beale Street (about 800 feet away); The Alaska Packers (approx. 0.2 miles away); Remnants of Rincon Hill (approx. 0.2 miles away); Building the Seawall (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Francisco.
Also see . . .
1. PROFILE: Vernon Alley. The San Francisco Chronicle's March 2003 profile of Vernon Alley, detailing his recovery from ill health and telling the story of his life. Includes quite a few interesting anecdotes. (Submitted on July 21, 2009.) 

2. Vernon Alley, 1915-2004. Vernon Alley's obituary, by Joel Selvin and Peter Fimrite, appearing in the October 5, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle. (Submitted on July 21, 2009.) 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicEntertainmentNotable Persons
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 21, 2009, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 1,450 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 21, 2009, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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