Documentary captures history of 100 Man Hall - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Documentary captures history of 100 Man Hall

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) -

The rich history of the 100 Man Hall in Bay St. Louis is being immortalized in a documentary entitled "Call Before Demo: Resurrecting a Legendary Blues Hall."

The 100 Man Hall gave black entertainers a place to perform during the days of segregation.

Many of the artists who performed there went on to become world famous musicians.

"After Katrina, I road past here, and I saw a sign that said call before demo. And for reasons I don't understand, I said, 'You can't knock that place down. Call me. We will work something out. I will buy it from you,'" said Jessie Loya, who opens the documentary with those words.

When Jessie and Kerrie Loya purchased the building, they had no idea the building played an important roll in American music history.

The 100 Man Hall was built in 1922 by the 100 man organization, a civic and social group that helped African Americans struggling with life in the segregated south.

Documentary co-producer Andrew Barrett said, "They would lease their building out to music promoters, mainly rhythm and blues act. It later became know as the Chitlin' Circuit."

Some of those who performed at the Hall later became big name acts.

"They all got their start here: Fats Domino, Eddie Boo, Ermma Thomas, B. B. King, Etta James, James Brown, just a number of entertainers that came through this Hall," Herman 'Rosomo' Williams Rieux said.

Co-producer Matt Barrett said, "Some of the people who played there years ago is back playing there again."

Bay St. Louis Resident Willie C. Acker, is one of 14 people interviewed for the documentary, so far.

Acker recalls his teenage years, coming to the hall.

"Entertainment that was second to none would be at the 100 Man Hall. You could also come here and get you a good meal. And I looked forward to that and the bands and the dances was outstanding."

"The stories of the 100 Man Hall are not written down anywhere. They only exist in the memories of people who lived them," said Andrew Barrett.

Documenting those memories is what "Call before Demo" is all about.

"The 100 Man Hall first approached us about doing a documentary, a short documentary that tourists could see, and they had actually gotten a grant from MAC, the Mississippi Arts Council, as well some help from the Silver Slipper Casino to fund this project. We started looking into it. We were going to do a ten minute video. There was so much information there, you could do a 2 hour documentary easily," explained Andrew Barrett.

Co-owner Kerrie Loya jokingly said, "We're hoping the film at some point will end, or we are going to be doing part two, really."

When finished, the documentary will be used as an educational tool for tourists and students who visit the hall.

"It is really an extremely exciting project," said Loya.

The documentary is expected to premiere in April. If you'd like information on how you can help fund the project, click HERE.

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