A couple of weeks ago I caught the Red Sea Pedestrians in concert and picked up their album "A Lesson in Cartography". During the intro to the Pedestrian's great song "One Mile Wide," band leader Ian Gorman taught us a great bit of local Detroit Jewish history. "One Mile Wide" is about the notorius Purple Gang, a group of particularly vicious, mostly Jewish, gangsters that were bootleggers during Prohibition. According to Wikipedia..
"The Purple Gang was a mob of bootleggers and hijackers in the 1920s. Under the leadership of Abe Bernstein, the gang operated out of Detroit, Michigan, in the United States, which was a major port for running cached alcohol products across during Prohibition, since it is on the border with Canada. The gang supposedly received their name during a conversation between two Detroit market owners, each of them gang victims. One owner made the comment: "They're rotten, purple like the color of bad meat."
The Purple Gang has shown up in pop culture prior to the Pedestrians song (which can be heard on their MySpace page). In fact, it shows up in a highly unlikely place...Elvis. Specifically the song "Jailhouse Rock," in which Elvis describes his band saying "the whole rhythm section is the Purple Gang."
So in honor of the Purple Gang, here's Jail House Rock. I've substituted the classic Blues Brothers performance instead of Elvis's performance because, well, I enjoy it more. If you want to see the King himself, check out this YouTube video.
Blues Brothers - Jail House Rock
You can read more about the Purple Gang at My Jewish Learning.com.