Thursday, November 19, 2009

Houston History: The Houston music scene forty years ago

posted by Free Press Houston @ 4:30 PM


By Alex Wukman

Like much of Houston’s history, the history of its music venues is always on the verge of being forgotten. There are few ‘historic venues’ in Houston (Fitzgerald’s and the El dorado Ballroom not withstanding) and most of the lineage of Houston’s music history has fallen to the bulldozer while the story of Texas’ impact on the psychedelic music scene of the 1960s and 1970s is only just now beginning to be told.

So Free Press Houston decided to compile as much of a list of the clubs that shaped the city’s scene forty years ago as could be found. Unfortunately, like most live music venues, many of these clubs have left little or no trace of their passing. While many bars and venues get wakes when they die almost none get obituaries; which makes piecing together their history almost impossible. However, the first club from the period that could be identified was Jimmie Menutis’ Lounge and Club, which was operating from the early to mid 1960s at 3236 Telephone Road. Jimmie Menutis’ Lounge has been described by Scarlet Dukes’ 1960s Texas Music website as “being as close to a ‘nightclub’ as anything in Houston at the time.”
Dukes went on to write that, like many of the supper clubs from the big band era, the venue featured a single bandstand surrounded by tables covered with red cloth. Dukes also stated that the club was filled “dark, short, white guys walking around” while acts like Bo Diddle, King Curtis and Jimmy Reed played onstage. Like many of the clubs from Houston’s hippie days the date and reason why Jimmie Menutis’ closed is lost to history and the wrecking ball. The second well-known establishment to open was Dome Shadows on 9218 Buffalo Speedway. Dome shadows opened in December 1963 and went through many different incarnations until it closed in the early 1980s. According to domeshadows.com, the club was initially founded by Marshal M. Stewart who had a policy that all men in uniform, regardless of age, would be allowed in and treated well. For the first few years’ local bands like The Jokers, The Pastels and The Good Stuff held court in the shadow of the Astrodome.

Then in 1965 Houston wunderkind Roy Hoffheinz filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement against Stewart. The suit came about because a few years earlier Hoffheinz had been sued for infringing the copyright of the Colt Arms Company. Apparently Colt didn’t like Hoffheinz naming a baseball team The Colt .45s. Hoffheinz lost the suit and changed the name of the team to the Astros. He paid off the judgment and went looking for ways to make his money back. Hoffheinz hit on the idea of suing anyone he felt was infringing on his Astrodome trademark, so he sued Stewart for $ 1million. Stewart countersued for $1 million, he claimed that the word “dome” wasn’t trademarked. Unfortunately for Hoffheinz the judge who ruled on the case agreed that the word dome wasn’t trademarked.
Stewart ran the club up until 1970 when he leased it to AM radio DJ Paul Berlin. Berlin, who would later go on to gain notoriety for playing bands like Herman’s Hermits and The Animals on KBME, introduced such high concepts as the best leg and wet t-shirt contests to what had been a stalwart of Houston’s hippie Dom.

However, Berlin did book some skinny young kids in leather jackets from New York for their Houston debut in 1977. You might have heard of them. They went on to be pretty big. They were called The Ramones. In the late 1970s Berlin subleased Dome Shadows to a high stakes gambler named Martin Kramer. Kramer’s tenure at the club was short lived, mostly because he was shot dead in a card game. While Hoffheinz and Stewart were slugging it out in court another club catering to the counterculture crowd opened in what has come to be known as the Midtown area but at the time was considered part of Montrose.

La Maison opened in 1964 and stayed in business until 1966. Founded by George Massey and originally called La Maison du Café, the club was located in a house on the corner of San Jacinto and Wichita.

It started primarily as a small folk club, but by the summer of 1965 folk had given way to rock and roll and the club had outgrown its homey location. Massey decided to bring in a partner named Larry Kane and the pair moved the club to a defunct church on the corner of Bagby and McGowen.
After the move Massey and Kane decided to drop the café portion of the name and became the first club in Houston to use go-go dancers. The club became closely associated with bands like the Baroque Brothers and Sixpentz who were the house bands. However, the good times wouldn’t last and the club had to move to 1420 Richmond at least for a little while.

However they had to move again and went back to the old church, but under a different name. The last time anyone was mentioned performing there was in late 1966 when the chronicle listed Red Krayola as playing at a fashion show in a closed church. Around the time go-go dancers were grooving to the sounds of the Baroque Brothers and Massey and Kane were trying to figure out where to move to a club called the catacombs opened up in an area that would later be associated with the Galleria.

The club would be called the Catacombs and it was located at 3003 Post Oak. It would go on to become one of the best-known clubs in Houston’s hippie phase. The Catacombs played host to such seminal 1960s bands as the Mothers of Invention, Country Joe and the Fish and Jethro Tull. Since the club was open before the Texas legislature passed laws allowing the sale of liquor by the drink the Catacombs had a “membership application. “ Membership to the club was limited to people aged 15-20 years old and it prohibited members from bringing in “intoxicants of any kind” and required to them wear “school clothing.”

The age limit requirements were common amongst Houston’s teen clubs of the time and the lack of intoxicants didn’t prevent the Catacombs from hosting Houston’s first “pop festival” on August 31, 1968. Like La Maison and other clubs from the period, The Catacombs had to move after the lease expired. In the late 1960s the club relocated to University and Kirby in the then burgeoning Rice Village area.

It’s unclear as to whether the club changed management or ownership after relocating, but what is clear is that in 1970 the club located at University and Kirby was no longer called The Catacombs and was now known as Of Our Own. Despite the new name the club continued booking some of the biggest touring acts of the time including MC 5 and Ten Years After.

Like Jimmie Menutis’, the reason for and date of the Of Our Own’s closing is lost. Despite the incompleteness of the record, the history of The Catacombs/Of Our Own is fairly well documented. On the other hand, the history of The Living Eye, which was located on 1493 Silber and was open from 1966 until sometime in the mid 1970s, can be described as spotty at best. The Living Eye was owned by Scott Holtzman and is perhaps best summarized as being the location of a minor footnote in the annals of Texas’ drug war history.

In 1967, at the start of a six-month residency at The Living Eye, local Houston band The Misfits became the first Texas music group to get busted for possession of LSD. According to the website www.garagehangover.com, the charges against the band were dropped because the drug wasn’t illegal, but the notoriety of the bust was having a negative effect on the band so they changed their name to The Lost and Found.

Aside from being the location of the first acid bust in Texas, the only other notable thing about The Living Eye was its marketing. A promotional flyer for the club touts its 15-20-age limit by saying “If you’re 21…you’re too old. If you’re 14…you’re too young.” The text of the flyer goes on to invite those “in between” to “take a fantastic voyage into the heart of an android.”

The date of the closing of The Living Eye is also lost to the annals of history.
While the dates of operation for the Houston branch of The Cellar are known the location is not. On December 7, 1964 Pat Kirkwood opened a Houston location of the venerable Forth Worth bar The Cellar.

The Cellar’s Houston location would operate until 1974. Like the five other bars in The Cellar chain, three in Fort Worth, one in Dallas and one in San Antonio, the Houston location was known for progressive music bookings, a relaxed atmosphere and gorgeous waitresses in skimpy clothing.

According to multiple sources, the waitresses at each of The Cellar locations wore bikinis while serving drinks. It is also said that at some of the locations girls in the audience would stand on a two foot high, two foot wide divider that separated the crowd from the band and due an impromptu strip tease to music from bands featuring the likes of Frank Gibbs and Roky Erickson. While The Cellar was well known amongst the Houston music community it didn’t achieve the type of breakout notoriety that the Love Street Light Circus did.

Despite being only open from 1967-1970 Love Street became something of a legend for its innovative visuals. Founded by local artist David Addickes after a trip to San Francisco in the mid 1960s, Love Street featured 24 slide projectors, which would be used to show things like birds flying around the room. Addickes has stated that he would take photos of patrons using slide film on one night, develop the pictures and put them in the projectors the next day.

“If someone came back the next night they could see themselves on the wall,” Addickes said at a 2007 lecture. Love Street was located in a three story building on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, standing on what is currently Allen’s Landing.

The house drew a 1019 Commerce Street address and featured a mural painted throughout the lower story of the building. The mural has been described as an optical illusion that shows a mid 1960s Houston skyline. Love Street was also known for not having a seating area, instead it featured cushions for customers to recline on and watch the bands and lights. Love Street was located just a few blocks from the Market Square area of downtown that was also the home of La Bastille. Founded by Ernie Criezis in the late 1960s as a jazz club the venue expanded into jazz influenced blues.

Criezis told Billboard magazine in September 1973 that booking the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Buddy Rich and Muddy Waters proved to be financially lucrative. However, Creizis stated that since Houston was so far off the touring track paying to fly down big name talents was expensive. Another club that opened in the late 1960s was Anderson Fair. Located at 2007 Grant Street, Anderson Fair is one of the few Houston musical venues that have been in constant business for over 40 years.

Anderson Fair gained notoriety for booking the emerging country folk acts that came to dominate Texas Music during the 1980s and 1990s. Despite the renown many of the Houston venues achieved it was Liberty Hall that became the most famous of Houston’s 1960s and 1970s venues. Originally built as a church the building, which stood at 1610 Chenevert, was converted into an American Legion Hall. Mike Condray, Lynda Herrera and Ryan Trimble then converted it into a music venue.

From 1971-1978 while it was a music venue Liberty Hall hosted everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Velvet Underground . It was so well known that Springsteen even referenced it in one of his songs. It seems that no matter how big a club was at the time when it closes there isn’t much of a reference.

The same holds true for the closure of Liberty Hall. There doesn’t seem to be much written about why a music venue that hosted artists that came to define much of the last two decades of the 20th Century closed their doors. However, after it closed Liberty Hall became a Chinese movie theatre, but like many of the venues it was knocked down. Now, in the spot where the New York Dolls and Ted Nugent played, stands an empty lot with a view of the Toyota Center’s parking garage.
It seems that every year a small venue goes out of business and leaves behind no record of what happened there or what happened to it. Like the songs played on stages night after night throughout the city, all too often the history of Houston’s music scene only remains in the minds of the people who were there.

18 Comments:

At November 19, 2009 at 5:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

insect warfare will never be forgotten

 
At November 19, 2009 at 10:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

40 years ago? Wukman's parents didn't even have pubes ....

 
At November 21, 2009 at 9:13 PM , Anonymous Geoff said...

Why do the other papers refuse to write stories like this?

You guys should do a piece like this about local music. There are so many good bands that have come and gone in this town. A lot of bands have built a good local following but never 'made it.' Bands like the ones I used to go see when I was a kid: Deadhorse, Crazy Killed Mingus, El Flaco/Bouffant Jellyfish, Joint Chiefs, Spunk, etc.

 
At November 28, 2009 at 5:37 PM , Anonymous Will Howard said...

Thanks for the historical notes.

 
At December 7, 2009 at 12:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Massey's partner in the La Maison venture was actually Jerry Clark and not Larry Kane. Jerry had been previously employed by Houston's KTRK-TV Channel 13 and did work as a cameraman on the set of the Larry Kane Show at one time.

 
At December 8, 2009 at 1:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Celler was located on south end of the west side of Market Square. It was painted black with white signage. They served non-alcholic mixed drinks. Don't forget about The Old Quarter. I saw Lightin' Hopkins there in the summer of 1972.

 
At December 17, 2009 at 1:23 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

"Despite the incompleteness of the record, the history of The Catacombs/Of Our Own is fairly well documented."

This is total bulls__t! If you think this is well documented, then read it! As one of the founders and past President of the original Catacombs, your revisionist history does a disservice to the real story, events, and people of Houston.

Quit reading and re-printing that junk from a poster seller Dennis H(whomever that is) and talk to someone who knows they are talking about.

 
At January 19, 2010 at 10:53 AM , Blogger Stan said...

I was at that 1977 Ramones show. Wasn't it at Liberty Hall, not Dome Shadows?

 
At January 26, 2010 at 1:18 PM , Blogger navy davy said...

yes,it was liberty hall-not dome shadows. anyone remember jimmy deen? or milby park? or the criezis' daughter's place-Slugs? even saw hunter t. at the blue fox in 74..in his book he wondered why no one offered him 'something'-well,it was us he saw in our staged "fights" and it was all about REDS then!s.main golf course is gone,but westwood was our hood.milby park about the time"under my wheels" came out.!the hill at the zoo-
ole plantation when it was a rocking club/used to deliver liquor to them..along with a lot of others. almost got picked up by elmer wayne on shepherd and was working at the P66 across the easement from the boathouse.enuff about me-re:KAUM when they were the hot station? got a poster framed on my wall,and an old 101 sticker with the leaf on it! peace to you,not ON you.

 
At January 26, 2010 at 1:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

collecting money for wallace in 68,taking 1/2 to buy 'space citys' to give away,and the other half to the Panthers...

SPACE CITY!

 
At February 5, 2010 at 7:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep reading that the waitresses at the Cellar wore bikinis. Baloney! They wore bras and panties!! It was actually quite shocking the first time you saw it if you were a "good girl". I'm sure the guys loved it. There was even one time when one of the waitresses got pregnant and continued to work - belly, bra, and panties - all there for everyone to see.

 
At March 23, 2010 at 11:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Cellar was awesome and as as a previous poster stated, the girls did not wear bikinis but bra and panties. I saw a dance contest one night where 6 or 7 girls danced, got completely nekid, and then the real party was on. It was also known as a haven for runaways and underage kids to hang out.

 
At June 13, 2012 at 12:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for wearing panties & underwear and not bikinis, how could you really tell? It was so dark in there. A friend of mine was in a band that played there a few times and many of the band members and club employees? would 'get their guns out' after the club closed just to admire them I guess? He told me one time someone actually 'opened up' with a machine gun and they all hit the floor.

 
At December 27, 2012 at 1:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE OLDER; THAN ALL, VENUE NOT MENTIONED WAS TEEN HALL, ON GRAND BLVD! HERE WAS WHERE THE EARLY SIXTIES SAW ACTS LIKE B.J. THOMAS AND THE TRIUMPHS-[FROM ROSENBERG]ROY HEAD AND TRAITS, GENE THOMAS, NEAL FORD AND THE FANATICS,"NATION" ROCKING SHADOWS[FLORIDA]THE "COASTLINERS"! THE OWNER; WAS VERY FREINDLY--TEEN HALL HAD AN OUTSIDE POOL- WAS ALWAYS PACKED-IT WAS NEAR HERMAN PARK ON A TREE LINED DRIVE AT END OF SINGLE ROAD!

 
At December 27, 2012 at 1:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE LARRY KANE SHOW; -WAS ON FROM EARLY SIXTIES INTO 1970! THE SHOW WAS HOUSTON'S OWN "BANDSTAND" ON SATURDAY-AFTERNOON, FEATURED DANCERS FROM THE JERRY ROE DANCE STUDIO- FAMOUS, PROFESSIONAL DANCERS LIKE; GLEN PITTS[PASADENA] WERE ON FOR OVER A DECADE! DANCES WERE EVERYTHING NEW I.E. WHIP, JERK , MONKEY, CHA-CHA-STROLL-HULLEY-GULLY-SWIM-PONY-WAVE-TWIST--AND FEATURED CAGED GO-GO- GIRLS, LIVE ARTISTS LIKE MAJOR LANCE-PERFORMED HIT; MONKEY TIME!

 
At April 2, 2015 at 8:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Trapeze play at Of Our Own in spring of 1971. It was an early show and my 16 year old friends and I sat on the floor right in front of the stage. Still remember a spirited rendition of "Black Cloud." It was a very small crowd but I was amazed by the energy exuded by the band.

 
At July 27, 2015 at 4:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of Our Own had a board of community members. I was one. It was a great experience. Not making enough $$ and organization problems are what I remember caused it to close. What about Sand Mountain! Wasn't it on Richmond? Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt played there often. Don Sanders. Johnny Winter. Thanks for recording some of the history. Victoria

 
At August 17, 2015 at 8:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So who remembers The American Blues with their blue hair, playing at the Cellar. Went on to become ZZTop. Wow, it was great to be young in the 60's and 70's.

 

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