Benjamin L. Bynum Sr., Philly jazz and blues scene legend, dies at 98

Benjamin L. Bynum Sr. (The Philadelphia Tribune)

Benjamin L. Bynum Sr. (The Philadelphia Tribune)

This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune.

Benjamin L. Bynum Sr., a longtime Philadelphia entrepreneur and patriarch of a family associated with popular restaurants and jazz and blues venues in the city, such as the Cadillac Club, the Impulse, Warmdaddy’s, Relish and South, died Tuesday. He was 98.

His sons, Robert and Benjamin Jr., followed in his footsteps and now operate Warmdaddy’s, Relish and South restaurants.

The family released a statement via email Thursday but did not disclose a cause of death.

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Bynum started his career at cafes in North Philadelphia and Germantown, according to the family.

In 1965, he opened the Cadillac Club on Germantown Avenue, which became known for booking well-known entertainers such as Count Basie, George Benson, Fats Domino, Redd Foxx, Aretha Franklin, Kenny Gamble, Woody Herman, Billy Paul, Nina Simone and the Stylistics. In fact, Billy Paul’s first album was “Feeling Good at the Cadillac Club,” paying respect to the venue.

By 1977, the Cadillac Club became the Impulse Discotheque, as Bynum kept up with changing times and customer tastes. His sons worked for their father during their high school and college days.

When the Impulse closed, Bynum worked for his sons at Warmdaddy’s, a blues and southern-style restaurant. Bynum was known for booking the best blues and jazz acts in the tri-state area.

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He could be seen working at the door of Warmdaddy’s on Delaware Avenue on weekends. It is now located on North Broad Street. Bynum kept up that schedule well into his 90s, often saying he would never fully retire.

Sandra Mills, a longtime customer of the various venues, said she met Bynum at the Impulse, when former Mayor Michael Nutter was a DJ there.

“He always provides an upscale environment for up-and-coming young Black professionals,” she said. The food is “world renowned” and is often mentioned on television by famous people who visited Philadelphia, Mills said.

“He raised his sons to be consummate entrepreneurs, so that is his legacy,” she said.

When he was in his 20s, Bynum was a member of the Montford Point Marines, the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In addition to his sons, Robert and Benjamin Jr., Bynum is survived by his older brother James; his daughters, Antoinette, Benita and Denee; his partner Thelma; and nine grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

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