Title: Harlem Nights in Palatka
The Belton’s Society Syncopators
Location: St. Johns Avenue at North Eighth Street
Sponsors: City of Palatka
Friends of the Conlee Snyder Mural Committee, Inc.
Artists: Nina and Ed Mateyunas
Size: 13 feet by 55 feet
Completed: June 2014
“The Belton’s Society Syncopators” was a jazz band created in the 1920s by Cortland S. Belton and his brother Wilbert Belton, young black musicians from Palatka. Originally, they started out with a 4-piece band but progressed into a large band that was known throughout the United States and often compared to the famous Duke Ellington and his orchestra. The Syncopators grew to be one of the top ten dance bands in the nation. They played not only at popular Harlem venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Club but also at clubs from Maine to Key West in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The Society Syncopators often performed at Booker Auditorium, located on North Tenth Street in Palatka. People from Putnam and surrounding counties came to dance and hear the popular band perform the dance music of the day.
According to C. S. Belton, Jr., his father’s influence was responsible for bringing Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong, to name a few artists, to perform at Booker Auditorium. Further research suggests that Cab Calloway, Billy Eckstein, and Al Hibbitts also performed here. C. S. Belton, Jr., who is around 90 years old, still lives in Palatka. For many years Mr. Belton was a high school band director in the public school system in Palatka and neighboring counties.
The original four members of the Syncopators are portrayed in the center of the mural performing on stage with other members of the band seated to their left (viewer’s right). The suggestion of one of their venues, the Cotton Club, is behind them. In the foreground, enthusiastic swing dancers dance to the music. In the far left corner of the foreground is the portrait of Duke Ellington at his piano with C. S. Belton looking on. On the far right are Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
Photos of Special Visitors
Photos of the Work in Progress