Quincy roadhouse rocks on out - Yard Rock Closes
- Quincy roadhouse rocks on out
By Daniel Gewertz
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
The phrase ``last call'' has rarely meant so much.
The old saloon was so packed, patrons could barely maneuver
their way to the bar, yet a few determined dancers, mostly 30-
something gals in spandex tops and jeans, still found spots to
wiggle and boogie in place. Well-dressed, white-haired gentlemen and
hefty, leather-jacketed motorcycle dudes brushed together, their
toes tapping to a bluesy version of the Joe Cocker/Dave Mason
classic, ``Feelin' Alright.'' Like some classic roadhouse night out
of 1959, cigarette smoke nearly choked the air.
Though the overt mood was happy and well-oiled at Quincy's
Yardrock Blues Club on Sunday night, a lot of the regular denizens
of this beloved club were also, to quote the chorus of Mason's song,
``not feeling too good'' themselves.
cw-3This was the last night in the club's lengthy history: a
music venue since 1989, a neighborhood bar known as Joe's Pub before
that, and, originally, a lunch room for Quincy shipyard workers. It
opened nearly 50 years ago, by the father of current owner Joe
Said 15-year patron Joanne Cullen of Braintree, ``It is so
sad, and I'm in such a good mood. I'm feeling fine, and I could
break down and cry.''
``This place going is such a travesty,'' said Bob ``Satch''
Romano, musician and South Shore bar owner.
The Yardrock was the Boston-area's last full-time blues club,
but, according to many, also the region's last real, authentic
Ask a half-dozen Yardrock denizens what made it special, and
they all give the same response: community. If they had been
coached, they could not have been more uniform in their assessment
of this smoke-infested, no-frills roadhouse.
``It's like a family. I'm at home. It's like my living room,''
said Cullen. ``Strangers talk to each other here. It's not like
Boston, it's almost a Southern-style friendliness. And the music is
as good as anything in Boston.''
It was fitting that the Steve Murphy Band, an eclectic,
polyrhythmic outfit, play the last chords in this crusty old club,
for Murphy has been the man most responsible for the club's 14-year
history with the blues. In 1989, Murphy played a benefit show at
Joe's Pub, and then began a regular schedule of blues-based nights.
His band name, the Yardrockers, became the inspiration for the bar's
new name. At first it was, for fun, the Yard Rock Cafe. But lawyers
from the Hard Rock Cafe forced the name change to the Yardrock Blues
``Joe always treats the bands well, and it was a very relaxed,
musician-friendly space, a place to play music from the heart,''
Murphy said between sets on Sunday night. ``The audiences were
knowledgeable. And when we led an open blues jam, you never knew
what to expect.''
Murphy's Sunday shows usually attracted only 40 or 50 people.
This time, there were three times that. Lennie Kosonan, a trumpeter
from Pembroke who has jammed with Murphy, said the charm of the jams
was that ``you never knew who you'd end up playing with.''
Susan Tedeschi started at the Yardrock, playing Thursdays and
begging owner Hajjar for a weekend night. Such stars as Duke
Robillard, Roomful of Blues and Debbie Davies played the room, but
the mainstays were from the local scene.
Why is the club closing? Not because of bad business. The
Yardrock had, in fact, been planning an expansion, but the costs to
do so kept rising. (A sprinkler system is now among the costs of
opening a renovated club.) Ultimately, landlord problems sealed the
Yardrock's fate. Hajjar is looking for a new space.
As one of Murphy's sophisticated, Latin-flavored solos reached
its buoyant climax, the crowd cheered. ``I hope another Yardrock
comes down the pike. This is the last of the real ones,'' said
musician Robbie Phillips of Cambridge.