I got a special invitation Thursday night to travel down to Nashville for the evening, and meet some old music business friends of my friend Gary. It was St. Patty's and it sounded like there was beer involved, so hey, I was in!
Gary also invited mutual friends Bill and Nathan, and the four of us left Harriman about 3:30 PM and arrived at the Douglas Corner Cafe on 8th Street about 5:30.
The bar/cafe/music venue, is pure Americana; only about 20 some odd feet wide and 100 feet deep. or so The walls are brick, the ceiling vintage stamped-tin, the HVAC ducks are wrapped tightly and painted shamrock green to match the ceiling.
The bandstand takes up about 15 feet of the width of the place, but the lighting and sound system is more than adequate. Once the music starts the sound man ensures the sound only drives folks to want to sing or dance to the music; not cover their ears and run for the door, or to the back exit onto the smoking deck!
Steve Jarrell was the first person I saw and was introduced to, while the rest of the "Sons of the Beach" stood up alternately and shook my hand as if they had grown up with me! Friendly guys, and immediately they took turns telling me what they played and what everyone's nickname was. One guy was introduced as Cas Walker's (an old Knoxville, TN business man and former mayor) nephew, but, of course, it was all in good fun.
The "Carolina Beach Music" began promptly at 6 PM, Nashville time, and I immediately knew that Steve Jarrell, an unassuming musician, was the real deal, and from an age gone by that could sing all the old standard rock/beach songs, plus a few that he wrote himself. His primary claim to fame is the song "I've Still Got Sand in my Shoes":
With a cold Fat Tire, I sat back in my vinyl covered straight back chair and reminisced about all the good times I've had over the years; all the "southern belles" I knew "under the boardwalk" way back when. I was thoroughly entertained and taken back to a younger, more carefree times.
Later, an old back gentlemen I didn't recognize was introduced and called to the stage. I noticed him lay his medical supply walking stick to one side and one of the band members pulled him up on the stage, both grunting! As I later learned, it was Clifford Curry, a native son of Knoxville, who years ago gained fame with "She Shot A Hole in my Heart":
Old Clifford, like me, is a slow getting around these days, but he can still belt out his old tunes, and some of his favorites like "Shout" and "Louie Louie". The place loved him and made sure he was seated at a table with lots of friends in the back, and had everything he needed. It's obvious, he is a loving and humble man, one who offered his hand to everyone approaching him. It was a great honor to meet Clifford, and I'll never forget the evening I spent with him and those that love him.
By 8:30, the management was urging Steve and the band to wrap it up. It wasn't because they weren't doing a great job, after all the house was packed and paid up at $10 a head. It was because there were younger boys and a younger crowd waiting their turn to make their own memories.
My friend Bill Radice, a famous sound engineer from yesteryear in New York himself, asked me if it was always like this on a Thursday night in Nashville. I said, "Well, it is St. Patty's day, but the fact is there are hundreds of performers in Nashville trying to make a name for themselves, and they'll take every opportunity to pay their dues. Bars and clubs in Nashville are never in a pinch to find entertainers...new ones come in on buses and planes every day!"
"What we saw tonight were guys that have paid those dues, and are just wanting to live out their golden years and enjoy the music for as long as they can."