March is supposed to come in “like a lion,” and go out “like a lamb,” or come in “Like a lamb,” and go out “like a lion.” I’m not sure that any of this applies any more. March is both winter and spring and summer, depending where you are in the country, and everything in between. At the very least, it seems to begin a calming trend in the weather, even if there is a last blast of winter toward the end of the month. Not being sure about what to expect next brings an element of excitement to this transitional month.
My experience in playing night clubs in the sixties was very similar. Playing in the house band meant being ready for almost anything, musically speaking. Monday’s rehearsal meant becoming familiar with the music of one or two or even three different acts which could be a singer, or singers, dancers, animal acts, comedians, magicians, hypnotists, etc. Like the month of March, this became its own brand of excitement.
In Kentucky, just across the Ohio river, there were two clubs that were really nice and classy: the “Lookout House,” and the “Beverly Hills.” Both of these were beautiful venues which brought in acts like Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Frankie Laine, etc. They were fun to play, and made me feel like I was connecting to a bit of music history. Eventually, both of these clubs burnt down under mysterious circumstances. I’m sure that economics played a large part in their demise. Unfortunately.
In Cincinnati, the main venue was Cincinnati Gardens. There I played acts like Sonny & Cher, James Brown, Engelbert Humperdink, and several different companies of Ice Shows like Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice. Also circuses and rodeos, both of which, in my opinion are better played outside. Inside, the air gets rather “close.”
In Dayton, I played at a German dinner/restaurant called Suttmiller’s. This was a large club, seating 500 people for dinner and a show. I never figured out how they transitioned from one dinner/show to the next, moving that many people. Also, this was in the sixties when smoking was still ubiquitous and it could get difficult to see the music because of the indoor clouds. Thankfully, things are much healthier now, but then, most of these clubs are now gone. A lot of the acts that came to Dayton were there to break in their songs, routines, etc, before opening in New York or Las Vegas or Los Angeles. I was proud to be in a house band that could read anything that was written down, and a lot of things that were not. We were constantly proofing. It has become a lifelong habit. This club featured act like: Lou Rawls, Carol Lawrence, George Carlin, Joan Rivers, Professor Irwin Corey, Johnny Desmond, The Diamonds, etc, etc. Too numerous to list.
This too is almost gone. There are very few clubs left now that have live name singers, comic, dancers, etc, in an intimate setting with good food and a safe, smokeless atmosphere. Catalina’s in Hollywood is one of the few left. We are in the habit of seeing Steve Tyrell one or two times a year when he is in town. To me it’s a lot like going back in time. Check it out sometime. And if you are lucky enough to be near a place that features good entertainment, all I can say is: Rejoice! And consider yourself very fortunate. Music that has melody is not dead, it’s just temporarily dormant, or maybe in hibernation. We can always count on one constant in music taste and style: it will change! Not always to what we would prefer, but change nevertheless. So, “Don’t worry, be happy!”