My coronary heart aches for Birmingham’s outdated music scene

David Sher’s ComebackTown giving voice to the folks of Birmingham & Alabama.

Click on right here to join e-newsletter. (Choose out at any time)

At the moment’s visitor columnist is Terry Barr.

Not too long ago a pal despatched me a duplicate of Blake Ells’ historical past of Birmingham music, Magic Metropolis Rock: Areas and Faces of Birmingham’s Scene.

It’s a cool learn, particularly if, like me, you haven’t lived in Birmingham for many years and, at greatest, have solely heard rumors of the persevering with Rock and Pop and DIY music scene.

Over the a long time music golf equipment and venues have come and gone within the Magic Metropolis—locations like Brother’s Music Corridor (the place I as soon as noticed Hank Williams Jr after I ought to have been finding out for my Chaucer last down on the College of Montevallo), The Showboat Membership, The Loopy Horse; discos like The Lighthouse, Odyssey, The Gizmo, and Belle’s. Some locations like The Nick, Workplay, Zydeco, Iron Metropolis, Sloss Furnaces, and Gyp’s in Bessemer nonetheless thrive, and Oak Mountain Amphitheater produces glorious regional/nationwide rock exhibits.

Locations like Bottle Tree and so many others, sadly, have come and gone. Once I lengthy for my hometown, it’s the music that will get me most—locations to hang around with pals and to listen to the sounds that nurtured me and that proceed to make me really feel like an adolescent nonetheless attempting to sneak in to The Loopy Horse.

My house of Greenville, SC, tries, but it surely’s simply not a music city though I’ve seen some fairly unbelievable artists right here from Johnny Money to Ray Charles, from Jason Isbell to B’ham’s personal St. Paul and the Damaged Bones. And a few instances I’ve additionally seen Birmingham natives Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires play in small Greenville venues. However even then, such exhibits simply make me miss Birmingham.

Certain, I do know our music historical past has some darker, even violent spots. What occurred to Nat King Cole on the outdated Municipal Auditorium nonetheless haunts, though I used to be solely a toddler when that meanness occurred. And sure, for a very long time, rock and soul exhibits have been segregated as was every little thing else in Birmingham’s social realm, though the town’s AM radio stations like WSGN and WVOK performed a mixture of all types of hits within the 60′s and 70′s. The Supremes subsequent to Steppenwolf; if we may hear this combine on the radio….

I spent numerous {dollars} in Birmingham going to reside exhibits, from Bruce Springsteen to Coronary heart, from Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Buddy Miles, King Crimson, Three Canine Evening, Neil Diamond (at a Bathe of Stars) Badfinger, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Jackson Browne, and Marshall Tucker to America and Gregg Allman.

As soon as, my pals and I have been at Rickwood Area on the Fourth of July to listen to a twin invoice of Earth, Wind, and Hearth, and Uriah Heep. Who is aware of who promoted that present, however after EW&F completed taking part in, we bought phrase that Uriah Heep had cancelled. The viewers was racially combined, and apart from having to go away early, nothing unhealthy occurred to any of us.

On the live performance corridor on the BJCC, I noticed the one British Invasion band I ever bought an opportunity to witness: The Kinks, and, once more, although the gang was primarily white, it wasn’t completely so.

My mom additionally ventured into the Birmingham music scene, attending each Willie Nelson and Chicago live shows. I want I had gone along with her, as I want for therefore many issues I’ll by no means get again.

Possibly the very best present I witnessed in all my years on the town was that Springsteen present at Boutwell. The 12 months was 1975, and although I had two tickets, I couldn’t discover anybody to accompany me. Think about: the auditorium was solely half full, and tickets went for $5.00. This was simply after Born to Run was launched, and Springsteen had graced the covers of each Time and Newsweek. The present went on for 3 hours, and like so many different Springsteen followers once they lastly noticed him play, I felt modified, as if my rock sensibilities had progressed right into a extra mature realm. I’ve seen him 3 times since then, however Bruce’s present that night time in Birmingham will at all times be the very best, doubtless as a result of it was in Birmingham.

While you take a look at Ells’ guide carefully, as I did, you’ll keep in mind bands like Resort and Telluride—bands that made it for a time, and sadly, bands I had fairly forgotten. However what you’ll additionally perceive is that regardless of all of its modifications, good and unhealthy, Birmingham has at all times hosted and needed to host our music.

I used to be lengthy gone when the DIY scene emerged, so I had no thought about locations equivalent to Cave 9, nor did I do know that Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield is from Birmingham. Love her sound.

I do know, as a result of he’s a household pal, that former Lee Bains and the Glory Fires guitarist, Eric Wallace, has labored laborious to make his Firehouse a spot for up and coming musicians to be taught and carry out. What Eric is doing makes me proud; his Dad and I noticed that Badfinger/King Crimson present at Boutwell, and we additionally drove all the way down to Tuscaloosa to see Neil Younger. We’ve been friends for all our lives. I like that custom and household keep on this music, this tradition, and that irrespective of who you might be, music is your touchstone, our nice equalizer.

And whereas I missed too many good exhibits in our city, that doesn’t matter as a lot as realizing these artists and bands have been there, giving all of it they’d for us. Possibly we didn’t at all times deserve it, however trying again, I’m proud that we had our possibilities—that we nonetheless have them even on this more and more unusual age.

Terry Barr is a local of Bessemer. He has been a Professor of English at Presbyterian Faculty in upstate South Carolina since 1987. His most up-to-date essay assortment, Secrets and techniques I’m Dying to Inform You (Pink Hawk Press), is offered at, and you’ll find him at

David Sher is the founder and writer of ComebackTown. He’s previous Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the Metropolis Motion Partnership (CAP).

Click on right here to join our e-newsletter. (Choose out at any time)

Related posts