If I can’t bring Central Avenue to Hollywood, I’ll bring
Hollywood to Central Avenue. John Dolphin
Music pioneer John Dolphin was the best secret Central Avenue in Los Angeles kept tucked away. Dubbed Lovin’ John, Dolphin left his native Alabama, made a couple of pit stops before setting down on Central Avenue. With a love for music Dolphin, owned a music label and produced songs for major names. Bandleader Duke Ellington’s “Once There Lived a Fool” was Dolphin’s first success in 1951. Others followed like “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” by the Hollywood Flames and “Make Me Yours” by Betty Swann. He worked with heavy hitters such as Sam Cooke, Charles Mingus Scatman Crothers.
In the show, the audience is introduced to Dolphin opening his store Dolphin’s of Hollywood, on the corner of Central and Vernon. It was as close to Tinsel Town that the residents will get to experience. He had his own music booth where people can record their own records and the shop was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Dolphin was a man ahead of his time. If ever there was a blueprint for success, his was the one to follow. Ever heard of the once fledging label that could called Motown? Berry Gordy was the conductor of that establishment.
Dolphin had a lot more issues to deal with in order for his store to be a triumph. Racism, bribes and a bit of extortion thrown in making the situation look hopeless. But, Dolphin, stood his ground, especially when times changed. He made his shop the spot to be with for the latest in rock-n-roll, soul and other genres. Stu James does a phenomenal job in portraying the visionary businessman with integrity. Early on, he plays Dolphin with enthusiasm and vigor. Nothing stopped him from making his dream a reality. With his loving wife, Ruth (the talented Jade Johnson) who towers her husband by a foot, Dolphin led the music industry in a new and effective direction. That doesn’t mean that obstacles won’t appear.
For one, there are Ruth’s sisters who are leery of Dolphin’s intentions toward their older sister. Then there’s store clerk Percy Ivy (Eric B. Anthony) a talented artist in his own mind, who pressures Dolphin to allow him to record a song and promote it. Eventually, Dolphin agrees and later consequences of his good deed are punished. In the meantime, Dolphin opens the doors of the careers of radio personality Dicky “Huggy Boy” Hugg (played wonderfully with swag by Nic Olsen). Huggy would spin the records in Dolphin’s store. He also became a producer for upcoming artists, like Johnny Flamingo and bands like The Jaguars and The Champs.
Though the focus is about Dolphin’s of Hollywood, it soon turns its attention to the volatile relationship between Percy and Lovin’ John. His marriage with Ruth was on point, he was a loving father and a successful businessman. His relationship with Percy changes the lives of Dolphin, his wife and artists on the rise. But no doubt, Dolphin left a legacy that will never be forgotten.
Recorded in Hollywood: The Musicalplays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. (no show on Saturday, May 23rd) and Sundays at 3 p.m. until Sunday, May 31 at the Elephant Stages – Lillian Theatre located at 6322 Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles. For ticket information, call 323-960-4443 or reserve online at www.recordedinhollywood.com.