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Rockafellas', 2112 Devine Street: 15 Jan 1998   29 comments

Posted at 1:29 am in entertainment,historic,nightclub,venue

Rockafellas' was a bar and live music venue on Devine street at the site which is currently Jake's bar. The club opened on 4 September 1984, while I was still in grad school. I wasn't plugged in to the local rock scene, and wasn't a bar-hopper, so the news, if I heard it at all, made little impression on me. As far as I was concerned, Columbia's live venues were The Township, where I had seen Count Basie, Dave Brubeck and B.B. King, and The Colosseum, where I had seen The Beach Boys, Foreigner, Roger Whittaker, "Grover, Magaret & Zas-zu-zas", and Slam Stewart, and The Russell House Ballroom where I had seen The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Carolyn Mass, and George Thoroughgood & The Destroyers (I missed The Police).

I guess I gradually became aware of the place through listings in The Free Times. That was hit-or-miss, but luckily I was reading them in the late 80s at the right time and ended up at Rocakafellas' the first time to see The Swimming Pool Qs. As I've written before, they were one of my favorite 80s bands, and should have been huge. Unfortunately due to the fickleness of fame (and a lame record label), they weren't. I believe that at the time, they were touring to support their last major label record, World War 2.5. This was in the period when vocalist Anne Richmond Boston was on haitus from the group, which was a bit of a disappointment, but they still put on an excellent show. At the same time, the event reminded me why I didn't really visit small venues that often -- even as young as I was then, I disliked being on my feet for a whole show, and when I got home, all my clothes smelled of smoke. I had to throw everything into the washer and jump in the shower, and still I was congested the next day (and deaf, of course). Still it was a good time.

My memory is a bit hazy about the next time I was there. It could have been for the Qs again, as I've seen them many times over the years, but I believe those were at other venues. If it wasn't the next time, it was surely the last time I was there when I saw Dick Dale.

Dick Dale was (and, I suppose, is) The King of the Surf Guitar. Back in his heyday of the early 1960s, he inspired legends that he melted guitar picks during shows, and that Fender used him to test amps since he blew out so many. His guitar playing was rapid-fire and reverb-drenched. Probably his biggest song was "Miserlou". As instrumental rock declined, he fell out of favor and off of the charts until the movie Back to the Beach teamed him with Stevie Ray Vaugn on the soundtrack and sparked something of a renaissance for him. Anyway, this would have been I guess in the mid-90s when I saw him at Rockafellas', and he just blew the joint away. It was an amazing show, marred only a bit by his occasional populist rants (he had a column in some rock magazine at the time -- I picked up one, and still couldn't quite figure out where he was coming from..).

By that time, I was living in Fayetteville & Aiken, so I may have missed some other good shows there, but those are the two I recall with certainty, and they were both very good. I was still living out of town when the place closed. Here's how The State tells the story:


Rockafellas’ always managed to keep the glasses full, the amps plugged in and the stage lights on — until the landlord posted an eviction notice Jan. 15, 1998.

The Five Points rock club had many close calls during its 14 years in business, but that night, it closed for good. The announcement didn’t come from the owners, staff or the newspaper; it was made by a member of the band Zen Tricksters, who found the eviction notice shortly after midnight and announced it to the crowd.

In the early morning hours, the Rockafellas’ crew removed the sound system and memorabilia.

“BYE” was left on the club’s marquee.

UPDATE 15 Aug 2009: Added images of Rockafella's matchbooks found by commenter Melanie.

Written by ted on November 19th, 2008

29 Responses to 'Rockafellas', 2112 Devine Street: 15 Jan 1998'

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  1. I met a girl at Rockafellas in June '86, and we danced and talked all night while the Spongetones played. We got married in 1990 and she had our son in 1998.

    So, you can see that I might remember the place fondly.

    Our routine was to bounce back and forth between Rockafellas and Greene Streets, also a terrific place.

    Some of the great bands I saw at Rockafellas, most of them many times (that I remembered the next day, anyway) in no special order:

    Johnny Winter
    Robin Trower
    Dick Dale
    Swimming Pool Qs
    Wall of Voodoo
    Bachelors of Art
    Isabell's Gift
    Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band
    Mojo Nixon
    Hick'ry Hawkins
    Rev. Horton Heat
    Southern Culture on the Skids
    Blue Sparks From Hell
    Killer Whales
    Tootie and the Jones
    Brice Street
    Hot Lava Monster
    Mud Honey
    Butthole Surfers
    Red Hot Chili Peppers - they were there about three times, about a week before they hit it big. GREAT shows.

    Dennis

    19 Nov 08 at 8:11 am

  2. Let's not forget the Spongetones.

    Tom

    19 Nov 08 at 9:49 am

  3. Too many stories about this place. I could fill up several pages, and I have not even seen too many shows here by perspective of other's.

    1. My wife and I had our first date sitting outside of the deck of the Purple Pit drinking Tootsie Roll and Dr. Pepper shots listening to The Toad Lickers.

    2. Saw Jewel open up for Edwin McCain. It was a packed house, but mostly because of the rumor for Darius to show up and sing background on Solitude. He did. Jewel was actually booed. I saw her come in the club, out of the van she reportedly lived in.

    3. Had a chance to see Toad the Wet Sprocket, but did not. Who'd want to see a band w/ that name? One of my biggest regrets ever.

    4. Supposedly, Pearl Jam was going to play on April 10, 1992, but they cancelled because they got the SNL gig.

    5. Saw the Impotent Sea Snakes several times. Anybody who is/was familiar w/ them knows that those were incredible shows!

    Jonathan

    19 Nov 08 at 4:32 pm

  4. Saw Hootie & the Blowfish there 3 or 4 times there before they hit it big. Sadly those were the only shows i ever went to down there. I alwys said i was going to start going more often, but i never did.

    IrmoJeff

    19 Nov 08 at 5:50 pm

  5. Yeah, that's what I used to tell myself about live shows in clubs. In *theory* I like the idea, but in practice, unless it's a band I *really* want to see (unusual now that I am so out of the current rock scene), it's just a bridge too far. The show starts late, my sinuses close down, my feet hurt. Yeah, I'm just a big whiner..

    I *did* see The Wiggles at the Colonial Center last Saturday!

    ted

    19 Nov 08 at 5:55 pm

  6. http://WWW.Dickdale.Com

    He still rules!!

    KC

    20 Nov 08 at 3:15 pm

  7. I don't think Columbia's indie rock scene has been the same since Rockafella's closed. I saw a ton of great shows there in the 90's, including the Goo Goo Dolls just before they got huge.

    I agree with the above post that the Sea Snakes put on a highly entertaining show - I saw them twice at Rockafellas, the last just before they closed.

    Alex

    20 Nov 08 at 3:58 pm

  8. I only saw the ISS at the storefront on Harden by the Eckerds. The name escapes me now. It might currently be part of Group Therapy. Anyway, they announced that due to problems with the police, they would only be doing their 'R' rated show. Still interesting rock theater though..

    ted

    20 Nov 08 at 4:34 pm

  9. Ted, that was The Elbow Room. Yea I agree, if you went too far past the "Rock Theater" part of their show, you were delving in a bit deep,and "interesting" hits the nail on the head. That did not have too many "good" songs, if they had one at all. The shows I saw were definitely not R-rated. People actually walked out, and that's saying a bit considering these were Rockafella's crowd people. Alex, I saw that Goo Goo Dolls show myself. I remember that lead singer saying something to the effect of "This song will change us..." and then going into that radio hit that made them. Saw The Buck Pets as well. Many great bands that never quite made it.

    Jonathan

    20 Nov 08 at 5:03 pm

  10. I too saw Dick Dale there, and yes, he SMOKED it. Too many other shows to mention, but a couple in particular stand out: Mother's Finest (probably one of the LOUDEST shows I have ever seen), and the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Rose_Circus). THAT was an 'interesting' show. I think I might have seen the Genitorturers there too, but that's all a bit hazy now... ;-)

    Ahh, the memories... Someone please kick Art Burke in the ass for snorting this club up his nose and running it into the ground.

    -=B

    Brian

    20 Nov 08 at 6:11 pm

  11. I liked Greenstreets more than Rockafellas. The incarnation when it was in that oddball strip mall thingy at the corner of Gervais and Harden.
    I remember seeing Johnny Winter there in '89 and some Led Zep tribute band that left my ears ringing for days afterward.
    Although Rockafellas would serve me pitchers without ID. I remember seeing Drink Small there and drinking a couple of pitchers when I was 19 or 20 sitting at the front of the stage.

    ChiefDanGeorge

    20 Nov 08 at 6:40 pm

  12. Steve Gibson and his "Peddler" family were my biz neighbors in 5 Pts and we all eagerly awaited the opening of Rockafellas. They were generous enough to let my shop, the Happy Dashery, put on a fashion show right before they opened. No doors on the bathrooms, so we hung fabric.
    I spent many more nights there with friends and have so many fond memories.

    Debmcd

    23 Nov 08 at 10:10 am

  13. My wife and I loved The Peddler. Still miss it. Mrs. Gibson always treated you like an old friend.

    Dennis

    23 Nov 08 at 3:46 pm

  14. Oh how I miss that club!!! Soooo many memories! And Art was so AWESOME! He treated everyone so good! After we got off of work at Chippendolls, we would go there to see metal band guys in tight spandex on stage! YUM!! (Ricky Glover, Jimmy Mudd, etc.!) Man, I wish someone would open a 80's-90's style metal music club. I might be a little older, but trust me, I STILL ROCK!!

    Ciera

    15 Dec 08 at 1:12 pm

  15. Wow, Zen Tricksters made the eviction announcement? They're a great Grateful Dead cover band out of Long Island who I've seen several times. Never would have thought they'd have played Rockafellas.

    Tripps86

    21 Jan 09 at 9:27 pm

  16. God I miss that place!! Sooo many great bands, unlike the ones today! And I miss ART soooo much! Thanks for all the good times Baby!!

    Ciera

    3 Feb 09 at 12:15 pm

  17. I'm randomly going through the alphabetical list of closings and dropping in on them here and there trying to get caught up; mostly when I have something that will hopefully add some 'color' to a closing. Sadly, many of them have already peaked months or even years ago, and what else is there to say because the other commenters have done such a fine job of painting the picture and filling in the blanks with the history of a location. As you may already know from my other postings on Ted's blog, I love to type, play with HTML tags, and go on and on and on. I'm mocking the "brevity is the soul of wit" axiom at my own peril. So with Rockafellas' I'll forgo my usual manic typing and just say that I wish I had gotten in on this entry the day Ted posted it. Every one of the commenters has hit it on the head, what else can be said ... oh wait... something's coming on:

    The band I played with at the Mary's Celebrity Supper Club New Year's Eve party played a battle of the bands at Rockafellas' once and we actually won for our night. I'm not sure how this happened because in my mind we were just your average honky tonk/juke joint cover band, which usually doesn't do as well as the hip bands playing originals in these contests. The late, great Mike Scott was the master of ceremonies and the place was filled with people all the way back to the Purple Pit. For the whole performance all I could think about was how honored I was to be sharing that stage with all the ghosts of the bands that have played on it over the years. We were set to play the next night, however the singer got abso-freakin'-lutely plastered before leaving and while driving down the country road to his home near Pelion hit a slick spot in a curve, and he and his wife rolled over several times eventually landing on someone's front porch. Amazingly, not a soul was hurt save a bit of bruising, but the car was totaled and the front porch partially destroyed. We never got to find out how far we'd get in the Battle of the Bands because the singer lost his license and had to spend the next few days "out of commission," causing us to miss the rest of the competition. That was our last performance as a band because we dissolved after we lost the singer.

    And finally, if you were at Rockafellas' between 1988 and 1993 and remember seeing some crazy cat with a ponytail (YIKES!) riding up on a blue Infinity recumbent bicycle for Blues & Jazz night (which was on either Monday or Tuesday), drinking pints of Bass Ale, and wobbling between jazz on the deck and the blues inside, you know who I am. That place was so fun wasn't it? I still think about it at least once a week.

    Michael Taylor

    21 Oct 09 at 2:34 am

  18. I used to live in this place. Saw so many great bands. My favorite time was one night in the late 90's I saw Nashville Pussy play. They blew Columbia away that night and only about five of us were in the place to witness the sonic fireball of sound. Kick ass!

    Tim

    12 Jan 11 at 10:23 pm

  19. I'm a Brit who spent three mental years living in Cola in the late 80s. I used to win most of my tickets on the great WUSC. Great rock venue. Stand outs gigs sticking in my brain Goo Goo Dolls, Elvis Hitler and the awesome Volcano Suns.

    Sham 69 played and Jimmy Pursey tried to tee up thier "anthem" by telling the crowd that there is one song that says more about this band than any other song. "Hurry Up Harry," shouted Carl from Manifest.

    I spent a couple of years haranguing Art to book The Fall, only to be greeted with "They're too expensive." Money well spent mate, money well spent.

    Justin Parsons

    15 Jan 13 at 5:35 am

  20. Art passed away over the weekend. Thanks for all he did for the music scene in Columbia!!

    jonathan

    19 Feb 13 at 9:53 am

  21. Matt guitar Murphy of blues brothers fame rocked Rockafellas one night. Did a duck walk down the bar. Great times there but bad bathrooms, as was Group. There use to be a tribute plaque in honor of Taylor Brittain, a dear friend and co worker of mine at WIS-TV on the wall behind the bar Doug Goolsby had made. I believe he moved it to his restaurant he had on Assembly. Five points had it all...between 1980-88, we would close Yesterday's at 2...close Group around 4...then head to Little Oscars and I often left that joint after the sun came up. No wonder I have felt bad since then.

    J.D.C.

    9 Mar 13 at 11:36 pm

  22. I remember seeing The Dwarves here in 1992 with a bunch of local bands. --A then un-famous Darius Rucker was hanging out on the back patio the night of that show.

    In 1994, I asked about to get a gig running sound, but they were pretty much filled. Still though I saw the Meatmen a few months later with Elvis Hitler and Shleprock.

    When they closed, I took a trip down from Charlotte in 1998 and saw The Business at Sharkey's on Harden, who were briefly doing the Punk shows in Columbia. Then I remember seeing the remains of their PA system at New Brookland in W. Columbia when I moved back in 2004.

    SJeffcoat

    18 May 13 at 2:30 pm

  23. Those of us who worked there will never forget the times we had with the patrons and the musicians. It's a shame that it's such a tough business, because it isn't often that you can spend a decade of your life doing something you love. Jake's is doing occasional live music now, especially Sunday evenings, so come out and support live music in 5 Points again.

    Robbie

    25 Sep 13 at 7:10 pm

  24. There will never again be a music scene in Columbia like there was when Rockafella's was open, especially when they were competing with The Elbow Room to see who could draw the biggest crowd. Two of the most raucous shows I can recall were The Impotent Sea Snakes and The Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13. Anyone remember them??

    Some other shows I remember (most vaguely) are:
    Swimming Pool Q's, Isabell's Gift, Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band, Mojo Nixon, Hick'ry Hawkins, Rev. Horton Heat, Southern Culture on the Skids, Hot Lava Monster, Old 97's, The Badlee's and more than I can think of.

    I used to love going down to the Purple Pit just to get away from the crowd. There was a really cute little bartender that worked down there. You tip her well and you get a few free drinks....

    I went in the building when it was being gutted for renovation to Jake's and I was totally surprised that someone didn't fall through the floor in the old restrooms. The framework (or what was left of it) definitely had some issues.

    Does anyone remember Hunley's? They were in the little shotgun building next door to Rockafella's. They didn't last too long.

    Homer

    25 Sep 13 at 11:26 pm

  25. LOL, I have a few Mojo Nixon cassettes somewhere.

    Positively Bodie's Parking Lot is playing in my head.

    tonkatoy

    26 Sep 13 at 6:53 am

  26. I was rummaging through some old CD's and cassettes and found the following bands:

    Robin's Cradle
    She Says
    Dezeray's Hammer
    Rumor Jenkins
    The Void
    Confederate Fagg

    Anyone remember these?

    RC and SS usually played around St. Andrews (Mother Tuckers and Pizza Bistro). Both were straight ahead rock bands. RC had a female lead and a flute was prominent in a lot of their music. SS was an all girl band that could really rock the house.

    DH and RJ were SC based bands that put out some great music. DH was from the upstate and RJ was from the low country. I don't think they ever played Rockafella's - they may have been at The Elbow Room when I saw them.

    The Void was a great Black Sabbath cover band that was put together from local musicians that were associated with The Jam Room recording studio.

    Confederate Fagg was also a local band that was also comprised of Jam Room associates. I have some very scary pics from some of their gigs from New Brookland Tavern (shredded porno, decapitated mannequins and eviscerated stuffed animals included)....:^)

    Hats off to all of the guys that were members of the latter two bands. Jay Matheson, Chris Bickel, Marty Fort, et.al. They have always been a driving force behind the Columbia music scene. I did not get a chance to go to the Jam Room Music
    Festival last weekend, but I'll bet it was great!!

    Homer

    27 Sep 13 at 1:53 am

  27. I usually coasted out of NBT before the music started, but there was one band that did an awesome cover of "Everything's Zen" back in late 95, early 96.

    tonkatoy

    27 Sep 13 at 7:27 am

  28. Saw Green Day here in '93, before they "sold out" and signed to Geffen and put out "Dookie." Saw them again the following year in Atlanta as the opening act on the main stage at Lollapalooza.

    inkerous

    27 Nov 13 at 2:28 am

  29. @ inkerous, I was at that '94 Lollapalooza show. Did you know that Green Day left Atlanta and went to play Woodstock after their set? I have friends who went to NY.

    jonathan

    27 Nov 13 at 10:23 am

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