Monday, February 14, 2011

The Prohibition Room

In January of 1986, Some Peoples' Kids had gone out on a brief (3 weeks, maybe) tour that took us to Oklahoma City, playing at Doc Severinsen's club. From there we headed south to Dallas, Texas to play the legendary Prohibition Room. The club was located in the basement of an old office building in downtown Dallas, at 703 McKinney Avenue, in the shadow of the N. Stemmons Freeway and Highway 366 interchange. When we arrived at the club, they hadn't cleaned up from the night before, and the floor was littered with peanut shells and trash. There was a muffled crunch with every step we took... a funny/unusual first impression. It was dark inside (no windows) with a low ceiling and exposed pipes and ducts... and featured a stage the size of a postage stamp. Always a fun challenge. Housing was not included in our contract, so when we got there our manager, Jerry, looked into the cost of motel rooms for the week, and decided we would try something different; we rented a Winnebago and set it up in the parking lot; certainly something to add to our list of road adventures... sleeping in an RV under the interstate in downtown Dallas. There were seven of us guys crammed into a RV that was probably made to accomodate five. Fortunately, I always took a sleeping bag with me when we traveled, so I was ready for pretty much anything. And the club had a shower in the dressing room, so it wasn't too bad. Living under the interstate, there was almost always an interesting parade of characters drifting by our little home in the parking lot... but I don't think we ever had any trouble from anyone. Rick brought his portable black & white TV, so we watched whatever shows we could pick up on the antenna at night... and the soaps in the afternoon, of course. My favorite was General Hospital (ha). A couple of times, after the gig, we got bored and decided to fire up the house and drive to the Quickie Mart down the street. That was fun. There was a disco club owned by singer Stevie Nicks in the same building where the Prohibition Room was located, and to pass the time some of the guys in the band would go up there when we were on break, and watch the drunk & drugged up "yuppies" put on their best dance moves. Back home, a couple of months later, we wrote and recorded a little tongue-in-cheek dance tune called "Touch The Wall" about that place. To this day, it is one of my favorite SPK songs. However charming it was to live in a Winnebago in a parking lot, it did get old pretty fast. Pam's sister, Debbie, lived in Irving at the time and she invited me to come stay with them; so around Thursday, I took her up on the offer. It was a bit of a drive, but worth it to sleep in a real bed. On Tuesday morning, January 28th, Wes (our bass player) had gotten up early and left to go eat breakfast. By the time he got back to the RV, we were all beginning to wake up. He came in and told us that he had heard on the radio that the space shuttle Challenger had blown up just after lift-off. It was one of those moments frozen in time... something I will likely never forget.
The Prohibition Room job went well, and ended up being a very memorable road trip for us. We left there with positive remarks from the staff, though we never played that club again.
the pictures above were borrowed from the website

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dear mom & dad...

This was a letter I sent to my mom & dad in West Plains on December 27th, 1979. We were playing at the Holiday Inn in Bemidji, Minnesota. This was our first winter on the road, and the first time we would be away from home for Christmas. And it was also the first time we had ever seen a lake frozen so thick that you could drive cars and trucks on it. The locals also built fishing huts out in the middle of the lake, and used them all through the winter months. We also experienced our first real north country blizzard while we were there. The snow was blowing sideways for 24 hours straight. It was a real learning experience being thrust into that world. Those first few years we spent quite a bit of time in the northern states, and the little things that we picked up along the way came in handy. For instance... after we left Bemidji, we went to Fargo, North Dakota, where the wind chill was an amazing 40 degrees below zero. All of the cars were plugged in at night. Again... something we had never seen before, growing up in southern Missouri. After the first night there, and having to get a jump-start the next day, we went out and bought one of those shop lights and an extension cord. Each night I would prop the light next to the battery in the car, run the extension cord out, and plug it in. It worked like a charm. I guess you can adapt to just about anything, but personally prefer 80 degrees and no ice & snow.
I mentioned in the letter that Pam fixed a glazed ham and baked potatoes as a special holiday meal for us. She was/is a very good, creative cook. When Pam & Patricia were on the road with us, we always had a toaster oven and a two burner hot-plate with us to cook on. Pam could whip up just about anything in our hotel room with that set-up.
Patricia and Pam (and Paul & Babe) at Lake Bemidji Park. December, 1979
Del, standing out on Lake Bemidji... late December 1979

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The LeClaire Hotel

We stayed at the LeClaire Hotel, in downtown Moline, Illinois a couple of times while playing at a bowling alley bar a few block away. I can't recall the name of the club at all... just one of many, but it was a pretty big bar, with a western/cowboy motif. I remember that there was a cowhide mounted on the wall just behind me, on stage, and wagon wheels mounted along the railings around the dance floor. The job was fairly unremarkable, although I think the crowds were pretty good both times we played there. Good, working class, blue collar types... beer drinkers that just wanted to have a good time. Our favorite kind of crowd. Even though the place had a western theme to it, I don't think hey hired country bands. We played our usual top 40 dance and rock music (and the oldies show) there.
I will never forget the first time we were there, loading our equipment in, and an old lady stopped me and asked if we needed all of that stuff to sound good. And I responded politely, No we need all of this equipment so that more people can hear how good we sound. She seemed satisfied with that, and went on her way... probably still thought we were a bunch of hippies, though (ha)
As I mentioned, we stayed at the LeClaire Hotel in Moline a couple of times. Once in December of 1979, and again in the spring of 1980. The LeClaire was a typical, old, big city hotel... and it stands out in my memories of the road. The building was all brick, accented with cut stone and hard woods. All of the rooms were small by modern standards, and the feeling was dark inside, even in the light of day. It's kind of hard to describe. Rene, our female lead singer, insisted that the hotel was haunted. One evening when she was getting ready for that night's gig, she said she saw a ghost in her room. As she described it, she was walking out of the bathroom and saw an apparition enter the room, through the wall. It was there long enough for her to get a good look at it, and then it vanished. If I remember right, she said it was an older man dressed in a black suit. Rene didn't do drugs, and drank only rarely... and the way she described the experience, I believe she saw something. She also told of another time when she had a "vision" while taking a shower at that hotel. She said that she looked down and saw broken glass at her feet, but there wasn't anything there. That evening at the gig, she happened to mention it while we were standing around waiting to play, and Jerry Williams, our alto sax player, said that he had dropped a beer bottle in the shower that evening, and cut his foot! Strange stuff.
As far as I know, the LeClaire Hotel is still standing today. I think it is even on the National Register of Historic Places. I read several years ago that it closed in 1983, and it is now being used for office space and upscale apartments. Ted Kennedy held a press conference there one time while we were staying there, and Pam got a picture of him as he was walking through the lobby.
We played Moline again several years later, during the time when Bob Thomas was playing guitar in the band... sometime during the winter of 1985/86. I remember we had to drive on some icy roads on the trip up there, from Colorado. We stayed at a motel near the river. Again, I can't remember the place we played at all... it's a total blank (although I know it wasn't the bowling alley bar). However, I do remember the motel we stayed at. It was kind of a low-class affair, but at the time it was about all we could afford. When we were checking in, Bob said to the clerk "this place doesn't look anything like it did in the brochure". I guess you had to be there, but at the time it was pretty funny. Part of the humor of it, I think, was that it summed up our musical careers at the time pretty well, also. But at least we were playing.