Tabby’s Blues Box

 
 

This might be where we were

This might be where we were

My Dad dumped my mom so after the divorce she decided to move to Panama City, Florida, to get away from all the pain that California had to offer. Her brother and a lot of his kids, and her sister lived there so it seemed like a good idea.
I really wanted to move to New York City and figured anywhere on the East Coast was closer, so I took the opportunity to go along.
In June of 1986 we hired my friend DV to help move all our stuff from Huntington Beach. We loaded up the 24 foot Ryder truck and dragged my Honda Civic behind all the way to Florida in 3 days. We drove for 48 straight hours of sleep deprived halucinations. Texas, which is really wide took what seemed like forever to cross. Falling asleep at the wheel was a constant problem, you don’t know how bad it is until you’ve almost killed yourself.

Because we couldn’t ever see the car we were towing, driving in reverse was something we didn’t want to experience. We were driving through Baton Rouge when we saw a Red Roof Inn right on the highway that looked like we could pull into and out of without too much trouble, so we went for it. We checked in and I was ready to fall asleep the minute I lay on the bed when DV insisted that we had to make a pilgrmiage to Tabby’s Blues Box, a club featured on a public television special called Rainin’ in My Heart. Before I knew it he was on the phone talking to the club and they were open.

DV can tell the rest. (This is from the comments section of A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey post)

Reminds me of a cab ride in Baton Rouge, La. one night after driving for 48 hours straight from California. You and me, jumpin’ out of our truck and into a cab, tellin’ the driver the address of the now defunkt Tabby’s Blues Box. We were on a mission. When we arrived to this venue without even a sign on the front and in not such a good part of town. Night had fallen hard and our African American driver turns his head around and says “Are you sure you guys wanna go in there? I don’t think I would go in there!” “Oh yeah, we’re sure!” We jumped out and thanked our good natured driver who stood by for a minute, watching us to see if we were gonna stay. We moved toward the door of the “club”. Someone sitting at a folding card table just inside charged us what might have been two dollars. We entered the room that was lit with a single red light bulb where a few scattered patrons (maybe eight people)averted their gaze in our direction. To the left was this old black guy with a silver Hard Hat on, playing a beat up old guitar. He sounded like blood, mud & magic. Ahead of us was the tiny makeshift bar…we both simultaneously decided that if we were to get murdered in this place that it would be well worth it. We proceed to head straight for the whiskey. The musician, we found out, was Silas Hogan. He was everything we were looking for in this possible misadventure. It was great talking to him after he finished. We got him to autograph the singles we bought of his tune “Hairy Leg Women” that he was hocking from a small suitcase. He was the real deal. We bought him some grapefruit juice and we all raised our drinks and said cheers. We did die that night, and wound up in blues heaven.

Actually he was wearing a Train Conductor's hat

Actually he was wearing a Train Conductor's hat

That was such a powerful night. I felt like I was Gumby walking into a book about the history of the blues. Everything was hyper vivid. We were exhausted but we knew what we had to do. On our third wind and three sheet to the wind as well. I think you got me on the selling records from the guitar case deal. And here I thought my brain was still functioning. Nothing like a rented moving truck with pink flamingos tied to the vertical curb feelers and three thousand miles of road in your face.
My reply:
I still have my autographed copy of “Hairy Leg Woman” b/w “Bad Little Puppy”, and will post it sometime soon. When I do I’ll just use your comment for text, as your memory needs no correcting, although I thought the singles came out of his guitar case.
And you forgot to mention our cabbie gave me a card with a phone number for the cab company. I called, it was after 2 am, and we got the same driver. We were pretty lit and told him what a great party they had going there.
(The next day we drove to Panama City)

Tabby's #2

Tabby's #2

Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall opened its doors in 1979 as the first and only blues club in Baton Rouge. It featured authentic blues music, offered the original blues “jam,” and welcomed fans from all over the world. The Thursday night Hoo Doo Party was a favorite with college students.

Famous local musicians — Henry Gray, Silas Hogan, Raful Neal — could be found playing there when they were in town. Tabby’s son and Grammy Award winner, Chris Thomas King, got his start there and signed his first recording contract in the Blues Box. The “Box” was visited by many famous people: Mike Tyson, Paul Newman, Bruce Springsteen and Shaquille O’Neal were just a few.

In 1999, the North Blvd. railroad overpass project caused the demolition of the original location and a new location was found on Lafayette St. in downtown Baton Rouge. The new “Box” opened in 2000 and stayed open until 2004 when Tabby had a massive stroke while waiting to go onstage.

Tabby Thomas was a great host, too.

Tabby Thomas was a great host, too.

Hairy Leg Woman
Bad Little Puppy

3 thoughts on “Tabby’s Blues Box

  1. Hey A,
    Glad to inspire…and conspire. Kicking against the pricks. I wish I could tell you in words…I tried….how much that night had a profound effect on me. One more anecdote about the trip…do you remember when I was telling you that we should study the map, maybe take a short cut and find some strange out of the way place? With a bucket full of truck-stop gizzards and some beer, we wound up on some dirt road in the middle of nowhere? We stopped to jump out of the truck and take a leak and these rabid dogs came racing at us from the darkness of the desert night, barking, growling and very menacing. We had to speed back unzipped and nearly pissing ourselves just to evade being eaten alive by those mongrels…so, what I guess I’m wondering now is, when do we do it again???
    How about those guys we saw in Nashville? The Elephants? The fucking guitar player had no thumb…they had to duct tape the bundled up paper version on his hand and they were amazing! Or am I mixing this up with another binge I was on? Bad little puppy is gonna be my new mantra…like I ever had one.
    Jack Kerouac, can eat my butt out! Life on the road with Buzz Baby Jesus and me seemed to make perfect sence…and it still does. Call my people and maybe we can make an epic.

  2. I forgot about the dirt road episode. I probably was debating whether I should kill you for getting me into that. I’ll never forget Nashville. Waiting in line for the bathroom, the drummer in the elephants, a long haired indian dude, reached down into his boot to pull out what I expected to be a knife, but instead turned out to be a half pint of whiskey, a ass pocket sized bottle, if you will, and offered me a swig. Turns out we’d both spent time in Pasadena, I was going to art school, and he was sleeping behind a dumpster. You still have the Martin electric guitar you boght a couple doors down from George Gruen? Remember New Orleans?
    H

  3. Where would we all be without taking risks? I know, you looked like you were gonna start crying or just kill me flat out on that dark dirt road….and yes, that drummer dude in The Elephants was a dead ringer for the Indian in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. I asked the guitar player “Why do you call yourself The Elephants?” “Because we play for peanuts” he said. Do I remember New Orleans? C’mon! That was before Nashville, which I believe to be the very last time I saw you but I still remember. Louisiana, we went for a canoe ride setting out from your Mom’s friends house on North Lake Pontchartrain…amongst the fucking Banyan Trees and sharp toothed critters only to find ourselves stuck in a gnarly electrical storm on the water…what genius! The whole place was a swampy maze in a drizzle of rain and lightning…were we stoned? Drunk? We must have been. I probably should have turned the table and killed you this time. It’s a miracle we ever found our way back to the safe confines later, of the Crab Shack, it was more like a huge white barn, where we sat amazed as complete strangers asked if we were gonna eat that big gelatenous orange/yellow sack of goo (is it fat or is it eggs? I don’t know) that resided inside each crab on the huge platter. It seemed to be such a treat to them folks. “What? Why sure…help yourself!” Next we would negotiated the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and spent a rainy day in New Orleans…I remember we ducked into a bar just to find some sort of respite from the elements only to be tagged as willful targets by the bar staff. There wasn’t a soul in the place save for us and a couple waitresses and the Bar-Keep. The girls asked for a glass of water from the bar as they sat and talked to us. Little did we know we would pay dearly for those glasses of H20 when the bill came just for the “entertainment”. I think our bill was about $40.00 for a couple o’ brews.
    I’ve been all over Europe from Norway to Italy and it’s hard to compare anything one might find there to the seemingly eloquent yet ingorant and abusive subtleties of the good old USA. I don’t have the Martin anymore. I must have traded it for another chance at life after this incredible trip of which we now remind ourselves. I’m getting hungry for a piece of asphalt!

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