By Tom Hanchett (Historian, Levine Museum of the New South)
Charlotte’s Excelsior Club is a longtime music landmark in this region. It is the last survivor of a string of shops and music clubs known as “The End” for its location at the end of the Trade Street-Beatties Ford Road streetcar line. The club was started in the 1940s by Jimmy McKee, who remodeled a existing house in a the glorious new Art Moderne style. African Americans were not allowed at the city’s white country clubs: this urban institution took that place and became a mecca for music ranging from national acts such as Nat King Cole, local players including Wilbert Harrison who went from the Excelsior to national fame with his hit “Kansas City,” and community leaders including the beloved WGIV radio host “Genial Gene” Potts. After McKee’s death, local television personality Ken Koontz made sure the club would continue, and today noted Civil Rights attorney James Ferguson and his family continue the legacy.