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El Roco Club, North Main Street: 1990s   8 comments

Posted at 10:35 pm in Uncategorized

These photos are courtesy of Becky Bailey, who writes of the El Roco Club:

Around the corner [from the Fountain Bleu Club] (sort of) on about the same latitude on North Main Street was a place called the El Roco Club, which was the white counterpart. That’s where the country bands like Ira Dimmery and the Hired Hands played.


It was actually closed at the time I took the pictures, but glad I did. Has since been taken over by a church and the signage is all gone. Took these in July 2002.

There is apparently an active El Roco Club in Columbia right now on Koon Road, but from what I can tell it has no connection to the old club. The only other information I have found online about the old club is a general word picture of the times in an online appreciation of local entertainer Nicola Domenico Pizzuti:

Music entertainment was lively in Columbia during the late 40s and 50s. These were happier times and local musicians were hungry for the opportunity to play live. There never seemed to be a lack of bookings for small combos, and there was always need at the last minute to "grab a musician and go". Public and private clubs about town were rocking and reeling in those post-war days. Nicola was right in the thick of it and, you may have been in the audience when he played! Throughout the years, he played at various popular public and private clubs, where big band dance music was the "music of the day." He teamed up with other local musicians, all of whom either played to fill in where called upon or were members of a combo. Nicola played with local musicians Jay Pace, Greg Bissell, Don Davis, Tom Isbull, Neal Alltee and Sam Cantrell. Occasionally, he filled in and played with combos where the late Paul LaRosa crooned. He also filled in a time or two with the late Jimmy Farr’s small group. In those days, most musicians in Columbia booked gigs anytime and anywhere and many times actually did "grab a musician" en route to a booking. He played many times at the El Roco Club, and Ft. Jackson Officers’ and NCO clubs, Retired Officers’ Club, Columbia Country Club, and Forest Lake Country Club.

(Big thanks to Becky Bailey!)

Written by ted on June 17th, 2010

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8 Responses to 'El Roco Club, North Main Street: 1990s'

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  1. Not only was it common to get "picked-up" for a gig on short notice back in the day, those cats were making $300 to $400 a weekend (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). Back then - 1950 for instance - a good apartment in Columbia was $30 a month, gas was 18¢ a gallon, the utilities were practically given away, and food was cheap. You could actually call playing music "making a living." Nowdays, I'd be lucky to make $100 for the entire weekend if there were any gigs available (they're not), and not only that, some club owners actually CHARGE THE BAND TO PLAY ON THE STAGE!!! One can only imagine that back then the musicians envisioned musicians of the future making $1,000 a weekend (in the bigger cities, some do I suppose). I can think of few jobs where the salary has dropped so drastically rather than increase. Some glamorous life, NOT! But if you're a musician, it's all you know, and you'll do it whether you get paid or not, you just can't call it making a living anymore.

    Thanks for the photographs Becky, and thank you for taking the time to find that article Ted, much appreciated by this musician.

    Michael Taylor

    18 Jun 10 at 1:25 am

  2. Hmm. Now I'm curious about a "new" El Roco on Koon Road. Will check in today. BTW, the original was actually facing Koon Road but all advertisements said "off Hwy 321" which was/is North Main Street (aka Wilson Boulevard). Thanks for your research, Ted, on Nicola!


    19 Jun 10 at 10:46 am

  3. When I was a teenager in the 70s I was warned away from the El Roco with assurances that it was seriously "blacks only" and that I would get hassled, mugged or worse. The one time I did go they wouldn't let me in and wouldn't tell me why!


    22 Jun 10 at 5:37 am

  4. Maybe by the 70s El Roco could have been "blacks only." That was a little after my time and, of course, at the beginning of "white flight" from the city to the burbs.


    22 Jun 10 at 11:10 pm

  5. I mother's step-sister owned (leased?) the building and I have vivid and numerous memories of my childhood at the granite house on Prospect St. across from the side of the club ..I will ride by tomorrow and se if it and the building are still there ..I played there myself more than once with The Jackie Hendrix Band in the 80's ..I think it devolved into an illegal-immigrant gathering place ..but wasa happening place in the 60's ..national country acts ..

    Ron Ammons

    25 Nov 13 at 11:14 am

  6. A band called The Unknowns played the El Roco.
    The El Roco was a rock club for 2 years, approx. 1963-65.
    My Dad played rhythm guitar/back up singer.
    His playing name was Woody. There were four members and Paul Gordon is the only other name I can recall. Dad would tell me of the fights breaking out on the dance floor
    and the band trying to protect their equipment.
    They played mostly British invasion. The Unknowns also played at the Peppermint Lounge on North Main. Forgot location of the Peppermint Lounge.


    29 Dec 13 at 12:31 pm

  7. My grandfather is Nicola Domenico Pizzuti, I have a picture of him my grandmother and great uncles and aunts sitting at table in El Roco on main st if you'd like it

    Katherine Barkley

    16 Sep 20 at 9:11 am

  8. Sure Katherine, that would be great.

    You can send it to closings at columbiaclosings dot com


    17 Sep 20 at 8:39 am

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