This is THE place!
Bradfordville Blues Club
7152 Moses Lane, Tallahassee FL 32309
Historical background: The club sits on a couple of hundred acres owned
by the Henry family since the early 1900’s. The Henrys are descendants
of slaves and local indigenous people (Indians, some would call them).
The property has been passed down though the generations. The grounds
served as a community gathering place. From the 1930s through the 1980s,
a Black baseball team, The CC Saints, played there. The backstop is still
there, but is pretty worn. Thousands of people would gather for the games.
Many stayed overnight for the next day’s game. The Saints would
play teams from other juke joints in the area.
Before, during and after the games, as well as during the week, folks
gathered around a bonfire that has burned in the same spot for over 100
years. We still burn the fire every night the club is open. Sometimes,
the family members build a fire during the nights and set and chat a spell.
Old timers tell of musicians who would gather ‘round the bonfire
and play music and make merry throughout the night on their guitars, juice
harps, saw blades and various drums. These sessions date at least back
to the 1930’s. Blues, gospel, field hollerin’ and rhythms
would fill the air, partially fueled by homemade “buck” and
wine, and other spirits.
Depending on who you talk to and how much of the demon rum they have consumed,
there are stories of a wooden building where the locals sold their wares
(vegetables, corn, sugar cane, pigs, cows, etc) during the day and played
music at night. One of the old timers tells of an upright piano sittin’
in the shack, out of tune, but still gud’nuff to play some barrel-house.
Around 1963, the locals constructed the building that houses the club.
It sits on a concrete slab, has cinder block walls, plaster ceiling and
all the hallmarks of weekends spent building the place (floor is uneven,
plumbing is not plumb, electrical wiring that looks more like a bird’s
nest). Inez Henry, now 89 and living in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s,
ran the club. She said that she used to hire bands from all over the place
but could not remember any of them except one named “Tommy.”
She has no records, no pictures, no posters, no calendars. Blues was the
mainstay. Inez gave up running the club in the 1980s. For a time, it served
as a watering hole with juke boxes and DJ spinning records. It fell on
hard times with the crack epidemic, and Inez and her brother, Allen, closed
The More Recent History: About 1992, Tallahassee resident Dave Claytor,
reopened the club bad called it Dave’s CC Club (the “CC”,
as in CC Saints, is a story in an of itself). I heard about the club and
set out to find it. After traveling many dirt roads trying to locate the
place, I finally came upon this concrete bunker sitting on top of a hill,
surrounded by moss dripping oak trees with a bonfire off to the side.
It looked foreboding (still does).
When I stepped inside, I knew I had found Nirvana: a small, one room cinder
block building with a stage in one of the corners. At the time, there
was a guitarist playing the Blues to Dave, his wife and me. Fortunately,
the club was only five minutes from my house and it became my hangout.
Back in my pre-lawyer days, I played in bands and was a big fan of the
blues (circa 1966) I was fortunate that I got to see many of the masters
before they passed, and the music stuck to my like grits to ribs. However,
became a lawyer in 1981 and my playing days were over. However, Dave’s
CC Club rekindled the Blues in my soul. Before long my wife, Kim, and
I began helping Dave run the club and organize blues festivals. During
a 10 year period, Dave brought in many great acts: Jimmy Rogers, Bobby
Blue Bland, Little Milton, Gatemouth Brown, Bobby Rush, Henry Gray and
many more. I couldn’t believe that this place was right around the
corner from me.
Unfortunately, Dave couldn’t keep the club going, and it closed
in December 2001. Kim and I knew we couldn’t let such a unique place
with such heritage and history become another memory. We had no experience
with owning a club and never really thought about it. I’m an attorney
and Kim was a nurse; however, we both loved the place and in January,
2002, we bought the assets from Dave and leased the club from Inez and
Allen Henry. Because it had closed, the health department gave us a really
difficult time getting the necessary permits, but we finally opened the
club as the Bradfordville Blues Club in March 2002. We are celebrating
our sixth anniversary as I type this.
It was tough at first—we almost closed a couple of times because
money ran out, but the Blues gods smiled on us and business picked up.
It remains a hobby after six years of operating on weekends only. It has
never turned a profit, but at least it pays for itself, most of the time.
Kim and I don’t take a salary—can’t afford to—and
many of the club’s “irregulars” as we call them, volunteer
their time and efforts to help us keep the place going. One guy, Walter
Potter, maintains and hosts our website, one couple builds the bonfire,
another couple helps at the door and at the bar, and others chip in when
we need help. It’s a tight knit Blues family with many regular and
very loyal “family” members.
We’ve been quite fortunate to be able to draw that bands that we
do—we are small, 110 max, and don’t have a big budget. Bands
and agents have worked with us to keep the great music coming.
I do all the booking, primarily through agents, but we also try to give
the up and coming acts an opportunity to play. Our customers don’t
always recognize the bands we bring in but they know they will hear great
music when they come out.
The worst part of running the club is the long hours on weekends (4a.m.
is common) and working all week. We don’t get to go out on weekends,
but we bring the party to us. Kim and I do not consider the club “work”—it
takes a lot of time and effort, but it is worth every minute. We are having
the time of our lives meeting the greatest people/musicians in the world
as they play the club, plus the fantastic folks who come out every weekend.
Gettin’ to eat some of the best fried catfish and mullet this side
of the Mississippi ain’t bad either. Some of the family members
set up a tent for a fry fish every weekend using an old, secret, family
recipe. Blues, bonfires and fried fish out in the woods—yowsa!
As long a folks keep coming, we’ll try to keep the doors open. Our
website (www.bradfordvilleblues.com) has some pictures of the tabletop
and wall hanging portraits that adorn the club. These are done for the
club, and each is signed by the artist who played. We’re beginning
to run out of space! WE also have a MySpace page at www.myspace.com/bradfordvilleblues
with pictures and comments.
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