The Continental Club History
in photos & more
The Continental Club sign was repainted by Gary Martin and the neon was restored by Ben Livingston. This photo was taken at Ben Livingston's shop in December, 1987
Steve in the shadows (yes, his hair was dark then) next to the glowing neon sign
Ben Livingston's date book from December 29, 1987 - "Continental Sign - paint out glass - rewire if necessary - wire in new housings - test transformers"
The freshly painted & newly restored neon sign gets loaded onto the flatbed to make its way home to The Continental Club, on the morning of December 31, 1987
A crane on South Congress Avenue lifts the sign back into place atop The Continental Club, around noon on December 31, 1987
It's almost there!
Ben Livingston's date book for December 31, 1987 - "Continental Club must go up today 12:00" because the Grand Opening was that night!
The Mascots / The Four Spades
The Mascots, a quartet from Houston Texas, were Jerry Lloyd, Harry Bell, Larry Hovis and Joe Toland. Originally called The Four Spades, they were convinced by Arthur Godfrey to change their name in order for radio stations to play their music in the 1950's. A contest was held on a Texas radio station for fans to pick out a new name for the group and Mascots was chosen (The O'Jays were once called The Mascots as well).
The Mascots earliest recordings were:
1955 - Please Have Mercy b/w Dreamboat M-G-M 11959
1955 - Relax-A-Voo b/w The Others I Like M-G-M 12027
1955 - Nobody's Arms b/w Little Mustard Seed M-G-M 12107
1956 - Java Jive b/w Who Put The Devil In Evelyn's Eyes M-G-M 12107
These MP3s are free to download at LarryHovis.net
Larry Hovis' brother, Tom Davis, owner of Green Mesquite BBQ in Austin, relates, "I remember a big moment when his band [The Four Spades] was featured on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts on CBS. The whole family (and a bunch of neighbors) crowded around the black and white television to watch Larry, our brother, on a national TV show! Larry's band won a recording contract from Columbia Records soon after the broadcast."
The Mascots became the house band for The Continental Club in 1955. This was the year that Morin Scott open The Continental Club as a private supper club. Rusty Weir's mother, Iona, was the one who hired The Mascots to provide entertainment for the supper & dance crowd. Larry Hovis said playing there was a big deal for his band. They had recently made a deal with Columbia Records and this was the place to be seen and heard.
Larry Hovis became much more famous after The Mascots, thanks to a singing, dancing, comedy & acting career that took him to Hollywood and Hogan's Heroes!
L-R: Joe Toland, Larry Hovis, Harry Bell & Jerry Lloyd
L-R: Joe Toland, Jerry Lloyd, Harry Bell, Larry Hovis
Posted April 16, 2009 by Dianne Scott
The Continental Club History
Compiled by Dianne Scott
It was a posh place, a club for swells. That was back in the '50s, the early days of The Continental Club when words like "posh" and "swells" meant something. Mr. Morin Scott opened The Continental Club in 1957 as a swank, private supper club with Texas luminaries, including All-American quarterback Bobby Layne, as regular customers. Great touring groups like Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and The Mascots from Houston (Houston-raised actor Larry Hovis was a member. See photo at right) graced the stage in those days. It was originally BYOB, but it is believed to be the first place in Travis Country to sell liquor by the drink. There were four original European street scene wall murals that were a part of the Morin Scott decor. They were uncovered and restored in 1987 by current owner Steve Wertheimer.
The Continental Club purportedly became the first "burlesque" club in Austin during the 1960s. We've found very little documentation of this period of The Continental Club's history. However, it is widely rumored to be so.
Gilbert & Jo Kathrn Grovier owned The Continnetal Club. It is believed to be the first place in Travis Country to sell liquor by the drink. Gilbert & Jo were arrested many times for the offense of serving alcohol during this period.
In the late 1960s Martin Schuler leased the business and it became a beer joint with Happy Hour from 6 a.m.-8 a.m. and a South Austin good ol' boy, redneck clientele. Schuler bought the Club from Morin Scott in the '70s.
In the late '70s Schuler, in turn, leased it to a couple of guys who were friends of Ike Ritter's. Ritter was a member of seminal Austin bands the Bizarros, Shiva's Headband, Teisco del Rey, Junior Brown, the Dickie Lee Erwin Band and others. In 1978 The Bizarros with Ritter (guitar), Speedy Sparks (bass - Texas Tornados), Bill Bentley (drums - music journalist, writer, producer, publicist), Mike Bellamy (harmonica), and Sterling Morrison (guitar - Velvet Underground), began playing rock 'n' roll covers on Friday nights. When Bill Bentley went into the Club to ask if they could play there, he was told "Sure. There's nobody here for you to bother." And so, live music at The Continental Club had returned. With little fanfare. This was the true beginning of the rock 'n' roll tradition of The Continental Club as we know it today. Speedy Sparks recalls going into the Club for the first time in the '70s, "There was nobody there but a waitress with a beehive hairdo and a guy in a suit at the end of the bar. It was a throwback to the Jack Ruby days. You gotta understand that at that time the town was divided into the rockers and the over 35 non-rockers. The Continental Club was real funky and that was its appeal. There were candy cane poles outside - like barber shop poles. It was just a funky, cool place."
Roger and Roddy One-Knight owned & operated The One-Knight on Red River (current site of Stubb's BarBQ) from 1969-1976. When The One-Knight closed, they went into partnership with local legends Summerdog and Wayne Nagel, leasing the Club from 1979-1983. Nagel hadn't even dreamed yet of being the co-owner of the first-of-its-kind, Austin Rehearsal Complex. He booked this incredible era of music with such diverse artists and musical styles as Stevie Ray Vaughan (with Jimmie as a frequent guest), Joe King Carrasco, Joe Ely, The Cobras, D-Day, The Skunks, The Explosives, The Blame, Butthole Surfers, Leroy Parnell, Kinky Friedman, The Desires, Lewis & The Legends, Van Wilks, and WC Clark, with youngsters Charlie & Will Sexton sitting in. 1982 saw the debut of 11-year old Little Charlie (Sexton) & The Eager Beaver Boys. Some of them are still performing at The Continental Club today.
From 1983-1987 Mark Pratz & J'nette Ward, owners of the iconic Austin music venue Liberty Lunch, picked up the lease on The Continental Club to have access to a smaller room for punk and new wave bands; It was an incubator for acts that would later move to the much larger Liberty Lunch. Some of the acts they developed at the Club included Austin bands that Wayne Nagel had first booked like The Skunks, The Kill, and D-day However, they were also responsible for booking the band that would become an Austin icon and the leaders of the "New Sincerity" pack, True Believers. They were booking touring acts into the Club on a regular basis such as The Replacements, Soul Asylum, and Sonic Youth (given a 3:00 a.m. time slot on their first tour!).
In 1976 Steve Wertheimer came to Austin to attend University of Texas. He was looking forward to a career as a CPA. But Fate interceded. He lived close by the legendary Rome Inn, home to The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan with his various bands; The Nightcrawlers, Triple Threat, and Double Trouble. The cook and booking agent for the Rome Inn, C-Boy Parks, was just as legendary as the club itself. The Fabulous Thunderbirds had immortalized him in their song "C-Boys' Blues". Rome Inn became Steve's hangout and soon enough, C-Boy put him to work. They formed a close friendship. C-Boy was Steve's mentor in the music business and Steve honed his great appreciation and love of musicians with C-Boy as a model. In 1984 Steve became an owner of Ski Shores Cafe and brought C-Boy in to cook his famous "It takes no teeth to eat my beef" barbecue. In 1987 Steve had the opportunity to acquire the lease on The Continental Club. This was the year of the real estate bust in Texas and perhaps not the best time to speculate on a new business. Nonetheless, Steve opened the doors of The Continental Club on New Year's Eve of 1987. The stage became home to many roots rock bands, with the original format evolving over the years to include country, lounge, jump, blues, swing and rockabilly. In recent years alternative country, bluegrass & alternative rock have been added to the format. Punk, garage and glam rock have also seen a booking resurgence at The Continental Club in the past few years.
Steve was the first Austin club owner to offer consistent early shows with our award winning Happy Hours which have featured Grey Ghost on Wednesdays, Erbie Bowser & TD Bell with The Blues Specialists on Fridays since January of 1988, and Toni Price's infamous Happy Tuesday Hippie Hour dominated the Austin Happy Hour scene from 1992-2007. For several months we had a Sunday afternoon residency with San Antonio accordion master Santiago Jimenez Jr. Y Su Conjunto for a Conjunto Dance Party. For 5 years Redd Volkaert has played a Saturday Matinee that draws an appreciative audience that includes guitar players from around the world who idolize Redd’s style. The Continental Club developed nighttime residencies such as Junior Brown on Sunday nights for 6 years. Later, Sundays became the home of the double-bills of The Damnations & Reckless Kelly, and Alejandro Escovedo & Tosca. Sunday nights are now owned by the country supergroup, Heybale! Steve decided to open our doors on Monday nights specifically to showcase country newcomer Roger Wallace. Traditional country’s saving grace, Dale Watson & his Lone Stars have reclaimed Monday nights for their wildly popular show & dance. Tuesday nights have been the home of The Naughty Ones, Mr. Fabulous & Casino Royale, The Barkers, Dale Watson & his Lone Stars, The Hollisters, Papa Mali and The Weary Boys. The funk band Barfield has held that piece of property for quite awhile, but in January 2008 they will move to Thursday nights and turn Tuesdays over to the double-bill of Alejandro Escovedo and David Garza. Jon Dee Graham has Wednesdays "from here till eternity" according to Steve and it's already been a 10+ year run, including co-bills with folks like Michael Fracasso and Darden Smith. James McMurtry joined Jon Dee on Wednesdays a few years back and today they continue their highly successful double-bill. Of course there is a very long list of bands with past & present residencies including Butch Hancock & The Sunspots, Bruce Robison, Charlie Robison, Kelly Willis, Chaparral, Darden Smith, Storyville, Chill Factor, Don Walser, Alamo Suite, The Derailers, Shoulders, Killer Bees, Harvey "Tex Thomas" Young, The Solid Senders, Asylum Street Spankers, Teddy & The Talltops, Mary Cutrufello, The Tailgators, T. Tex Edwards, Ian McLagan, King Soul, McLemore Avenue, Gulf Coast Playboys, Son Yuma, Ta Mere, Jive Bombers, Wayne "The Train" Hancock, Guy Forsyth, Zydeco Ranch, Kris McKay's Too Many Guitars, Hot Club of Cowtown, Junior Medlow, Victrola, The Resentments, The Hustlers, Donna Pearl's Funky Dance Palace, Damon Bramblett, Dale Watson & The Make-Ups, High Noon, 8 1/2 Souvenirs, The Mother Truckers, Paris 49, Gary Clark Jr., and many more.
Steve has created a unique atmosphere at The Continental Club beginning with Elvis' towering name in light on the roof; the many years of Charley Miller's massive shoeshine stand at the front of the Club; Elvis memorabilia behind the bar; the original wall murals from 1957; Todd Sanders’ "Mercury Man" neon and circus banners; a Jean Goehring metalwork "starburst" logo on the backdrop of the stage & our impressive front doors; art pieces done by employees Rob Gasper and Kevin Collins; Robzar posters; memorials on the walls for our dear departed "Shoeshine" Charley Miller, Champ Hood and Mambo John Treanor; a wall of photos behind the bar as a testimony to the Club's past; a door, window & neon sign from Jake's (a long defunct burger joint/hangout); a French movie poster of "Elvis Presley dans Le Rock du Bagne"; a Frank Kozik poster of The Naughty Ones with Royal Crown Revue; Betty Page images (including on the ladies' room door); 2 murals by Kalifornia Kustom Kulture artist Von Franco; an oversized print of classic cars taken from the roof of the Club at night by Steve Coonan; a Triumph motorcycle suspended from the ceiling (with a chupacabra riding it); photos of the Vaughan Brothers and The Paladins by California photographer Michael Farr; black & white photos of various musicians by Austin portrait photographer Sandy Furlong; the original Rome Inn sign; a classic Irving Kaye Silver Shadow (brass Lionshead model) pool table that is still only 75¢ a game; and an antique "Fortune Scale" (it gives your weight and fortune for a penny!). The newest addition has been Jake's, our iced beer & shot bar in the back room. You can usually find Clara tending bar; if she's not go-go dancing on stage. And even then, she'll return to serve you as soon as the song is over. As you can see, it's an ever-changing space, and we never know what, or who, will appear next!
There have been many videos, live recording, TV and feature films that have used The Continental Club as a backdrop. It is often chosen because it is such a recognizable part of the Austin scene. Videos shot at the Club include: Charlie Robison's "Bar Light", The Derailers' "Just One More Time", Shaver's "Hottest Thing in Town", Calvin Russell's "Crack In Time", The Naughty Ones' "I Dig Your Voodoo", 8 1/2 Souvenirs' "Happy Feet", True Believers' "The Rain Won't Help You", and various videos by Austin Lounge Lizards, Morningwood, Dale Watson, Doak Short, Charlie Sexton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Several live recordings include: Jon Dee Graham, Radney Foster, Ronnie Dawson, Dave Alvin, The Cobras, Leroi Brothers, Joe "King" Carrasco, Asylum Street Spankers, Schwaggert, Junior Brown, Elana James & The Continental Two, Wayne Hancock and a live-feed BBC special with Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock. Our sign and building have been seen in intro montages for Austin City Limits (PBS), Austin Stories (MTV), Check This Action (Austin Music Network), and a K-EYE TV station ID (which also included footage of Steve Wertheimer and "Shoeshine" Charley). The Continental Club has been featured on every Austin TV station and for the VH1 Legends Series on Stevie Ray Vaughan and in segments on Junior Brown for CBS Morning News, CMT and Entertainment Tonight. The People Next Door, a TV movie, and feature films DOA and Slacker used The Continental Club for filming scenes. It has also been the site of photo sessions and interviews for many musicians including the Arc Angels, Junior Brown, Taylor Hicks, Dale Watson, Heybale, etc. In fact, the cover of Taylor Hick's CD, , features my "invitation only" wall of band stickers by the back door.
Household names from film, TV, and music have had a long-running love affair with The Continental Club and it is one of the most regularly frequented venues by visiting & resident celebrities, including Farrah Fawcett, Bonnie Raitt, Russell Crowe, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, Brendan Frasier, Drew Barrymore, Sandra Bullock, Johnny Depp, Sam Shepard, Benjamin Bratt, Chris Noth, Jennifer Anniston, Adrian Pasdar, Robert Pastorelli, Emilio Estevez, Jesse Colter, Juliette Lewis, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriquez, Julia Roberts, Richard Linklater, Mike Judge, kd lang, Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler, Thomas Hayden Church, Lyle Lovett, Ray Davies, Justin Long, Eric Szmenda, Jill Hennessey, Buck Owens, John Mayer, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, Jakob Dylan, Pam Tillis, Kris Kristofferson, Shooter Jennings, Dwight Yoakam, Wanda Jackson, Benicio Del Toro, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Brian Setzer, Tony Joe White, Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, "Weird Al" Yankovic, David Byrne & Jerry Harrison, Beck, Steven Wright, John Sayles, Terrance Malik, Jim Jarmusch, the cast of “Friday Night Lights” and the list goes on.... In fact, I received an e-mail from Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle letting me know that while doing some research, columnist Mr. Smarty Pants had discovered that Jayne Mansfield had either made an appearance at, or patronized, The Continental Club! How cool is that?
In the year 2000, The Continental Club extended its roots to Houston, Texas, with managing partner Pete Gordon moving there to get our sister Club up & running. The Continental Club Houston is located at 3700 Main St, at the corner of Main & Winbern, adjacent to the historic Montrose district. The look and feel of the new location echoes, in many ways, that of the original Austin location. But make no mistake; the Houston venue has plenty of character of its own, with terrazzo floors, the original 15-foot tin ceilings and its 1920s art deco neon lights. Since opening in July of 2000 we have sent many of Austin's best bands to Houston and have also discovered many of Houston's musical treasures. We will continue to showcase the best of both cities, interspersed with national touring acts. We look forward to a new era of The Continental Club in Houston, and the continuation of our long history in Austin.
In 2006 Steve acquired the lease on part of the adjacent building to the north, which used to house Steve Brown’s busy One World Guitars (1313A S. Congress Ave). With his entrepreneurial skill, Steve Wertheimer turned it into The Continental Club Gallery; a higher-end bar with a retro/modern vibe, monthly art shows, and live jazz & funk shows that allow patrons to hold conversations or play ping pong in the loft. The 2007 music residencies include David Garza or Son Y No Son on Mondays, The Ephraim Owens Experience on Tuesdays, Trube, Farrell & Sniz on Wednesdays, Paris 49 on Thursdays, The Mike Flanigin B-3 Trio on Friday, Saturday & Sunday with special guests like Denny Freeman, Derek O'Brien, and Spot Barnett joining him for the night. el john, Selector DJs on select dates. Art shows have included the leading Kustom Kulture & lowbrow artists of the day, photographers, sculptors, and poster artists.
The Continental Club has received numerous awards over the years including: Best Live Music Venue, Best Happy Hour, etc, But, the most important award of all has been the love and respect from the musicians that call Steve a friend and The Continental Club their home. We couldn't do it without you!
Houston Continental Club 2010
Check out Chris Gray's latest photo blog in the Houston Press, Houston Music Is More Than Just Wallpaper. He writes:
The block of music-related businesses at 3700 Main known as the Island - Continental Club, Sig's Lagoon, Big Top, etc. - will soon have some new neighbors. The Island's owners are currently remodeling the building due north of the Continental, a former wallpaper store, into a coffee shop and poster gallery, clothing/jewelry boutique and maybe a wine bar. (Rocks Off forgets.) At the moment, though, the exterior is an eye-catching mural of notable names in Houston music throughout the years, as painted by some talented local youth.
Rocks Off took some shots of the mural on his way to work Thursday morning. Check it out the next time you're in the neighborhood.
Or you can view the photos online here
Come on down for a cold one and a hot show in air conditioned comfort, and visit the new location of Sig’s Lagoon, just across Winbern from the club (the side street). Judy Masliyah’s got a brand new clothing store, My Flaming Heart in the front of the new building and look out for Natachee’s Supper ‘N Punch coming soon! Here's a Houston Chronicle article on the happenings, and here's one from CultureMap.com that focuses on Natachee's. Planned openings for the 3600 Main Shops - Open now: My Flaming Heart (apparel, jewelry and folk objects) and Sig's Lagoon (music, posters and gifts at 3600 Main St.). Opening in August: Natachee's (restaurant at 3622A Winbern) and Shop-O-Rama (vintage collaborative), Big Kat's (barber shop/tattoo parlor) and Kat's Meow (hair salon). Opening in September: an as yet unnamed coffeehouse.
I have been viewing photos from The Continental Club's 10th Anniversary in Houston! Thanks to awesome photographer Jay Lee, The Bald Heretic, for always keeping his lens focused on us! Here's his CC 10th Anniversary Photo Gallery.
http://www.29-95.com/music/story/continental-club-10-questions-10-years by Andrew Dansby