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.