Back to Feb 2015 Show

Aggie Dukes

In recent years I've become acquainted (online) with author Katie Gilmartin.
She's a fan of my QMH site so the rapport was easy. And I loved her 2014 book
"Blackmail, My Love." Others did as well; it won a Lambda Award for mysteries.

Here's the Amazon review I posted for it in 2017:

Latest book I've read, from 2014, and a Lambda Literary winner, and I quite liked it.
Our hero, Josie treks to San Francisco in 1951 to find her gay brother, Jimmy, and
finds herself trying to solve a murder mystery. Jimmy had been playing detective
in trying to crack a blackmail ring targeting gays & lesbians in the community.
Josie picks up the investigations, which lead her to many or history's beloved locales,
like Finocchio's, and meeting Jose at the Black Cat, and others. She also discovers
her own deeper self. It's no accident that the book reads like a noir film on paper, I
could almost hear the narrator behind my shoulder talking Sam Spade-ish. The
book is also important for the glimpses of gay life, and persecution of those times
for just being gay.

Well, Katie is working on a new book, and I can't wait...

Thrill Spot: The Raid on Tommy’s Place

We're back in the 50s and Tommy's Place was a lesbian bar
in San Francisco. Here are a couple articles about it...

Tommy's Joint/Tommy's Place from Lost Womyn Space

The Raid on Tommy's Place - a case of Cold War
anti-queer crackdowns
by Michael Flanagan, for BAR

and, another interesting piece, mentioning Aggie, by Dan McReynolds

I've done my own research on the raid...the San Francisco
Examiner couldn't get enough of it, and I share a number
of clippings about it on this page.

Now, finally getting to Aggie Dukes...she was
a singer at Tommy's Place, as documented
in a clipping near the bottom of this page

Here are some photos of Aggie. The were sent to me by Katie Gilmartin,
who got them courtesy of Mary Kay Sicola (they come from a scrapbook
she was given by Mary Dodd Stalling, girlfriend of the other bartender
arrested in the raid, Joyce van de Veer, who had to hide out in a cabin
in the Russian River so she wouldn’t be subpeoned).

One was tagged "Aggie Duke," but "Dukes" is correct

Sorry, this one is small, all we have. Aggie is front left.
Grace (Miller), who was sent to jail from the Tommy's arrests,
is in back row center

but finally, let's get to the music........

Aggie released three singles on the Aladdin label, a well-respected one
in that genre. The first one got a bit of attention.


Famed jazz musician Buddy Collette played on Aggie's first two singles

Listen to "Swing Low Sweet Cadillac Part 1"
Listen to "Swing Low..." both parts

According to this link, the first single was also released as a 78 rpm

Listen to "John John"
Listen to "Come Back Baby"

"John John" was re-recorded in a faster version

Listen to "John John"
Listen to "Well of Loneliness"

It does not appear lyrically that "Well of Loneliness"
was inspired by the famous lesbian novel of that
title by British Author Radclyffe Hall (1928)

This last single was also released in the UK
on Vogue 9090 in November 1957

And a re-issue was done with "John John" (first version)
on one side and Jeannie Barnes "Can't Get You Off My Mind"
on the other, it's original release was in 1955

This link has a short discussion of her recordings

Her songs have recently been included on a number
of various artist compilations

Aggie Dukes got another press mention in
early 1958, but almost next to nothing after that

Aggie's first single, both sides, showed up on a 1957 various artists LP, now very rare

Aggie was mentioned in a 2009 NPR broadcast, as part of a story on
discovering obscure recordings, shown in part of this article.
At that link you can hear the 6 minute piece, which included the
voice of Aggie's daughter Katherine.

Aggie's name was in one of the news stories on Tommy's Place, this one

Some deep trivia in this clipping, from the Bay Area Reporter, from 1984, where 1950s female
impersonator Tommy Dee, aka Issan Dorsey, remembers his Aggie Dukes drug connection