I have several enduring memories of Crossroads, the room known as The Dark Side at Owen Sound’s historic Coach Inn.
A drunk patron, perched on a stool. Arms fully stretched as if crucified between two tables. He’s passed out, facing down and I’m wondering how’s managed to hang in that position without crashing to the floor.
Then there was a young man who got thrown out for trying to start a fight. The side door swings open. He’s back, fists raised and ready to rumble. And the door swings shut and hits the guy in the face.
The Dark Side also provided me with several rock and roll history lessons taught by my friends The Black Holes. Drummer Sean Anderson, then my co-worker at CFOS. Jedd House on the upright bass, Tom Hilborn and his nimble fingers on the Gretsch guitar and on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, London Ontario’s ladies man with a capital L, Vince Braca.
Sean managed to get the band booked at The Dark Side and, on that first night when the band opened with The Wreck of the Old ’97 (recorded by Hank Snow, Johnny Cash and many others) I had no idea what they were playing. The atmospheric intro actually sounded more like The End, by the Doors.
A few years later, during another Holes performance in The Dark Side, Vince encouraged the crowd to hit the dance floor. One 30-ish woman yelled back, “If you played anything we knew we’d dance to it.”
She was used to the country rock bands that were common to the Coach Inn, playing tunes like Fishin’ in the Dark, Friends in Low Places, Sweet Home Alabama and the unofficial Owen Sound bar anthem, Riverboat Fantasy (well it seemed that way to me). She wasn’t familiar with the catalogues of Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent or Link Wray.
To be honest, neither was I.
I knew some of the numbers the Holes played, like Johnny B Goode and Good Golly Miss Molly but The Fool by Sanford Clark? Rockabilly Boogie by Johnny Burnette? Never heard them, and I only knew Burnette as the man who sang You’re Sixteen (check out his rockabilly numbers from the mid to late ’50s, killer stuff).
I was born in 1962. Most of the songs I play on the Rock and Roll Riot were cut before I was brought into this world so, unlike some of my fans who lived through the rock and roll era, many of these songs and artists are relatively new to me…and it’s been a wonderful experience discovering all this great music.
Thank you, Black Holes. Thank you, Dark Side.
And to the lady who couldn’t dance to the music the Holes were playing, well…if you can’t shake your moneymaker to Little Richard it’s time to visit the doctor to see if you still have a pulse.