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Rollo concurs. "The bands were getting paid to play the music the people wanted to hear," he explains. "And people wanted to hear music they were already comfortable with, so they could relax, shoot some pool, dance. They weren't there to become rock critics."
Fortunately, Patrick and his contemporaries were not averse to motivating their share of the dance-floor action. The singer has fond, if slightly hazy, memories of the club during its late-Seventies/early-Eighties heyday. "It was a magic, magic time," he opines, "like the glory days of CBGB's or the Manchester scene today. You had Rollo's, and One South across the street, the room with all the mirrors. It was like a huge party that just seemed to go on and on."
Doc Wiley, currently bassist with the Planets and musical director of Washington Square, remembers sitting in with a band and getting docked $25 for leaving the stage to partake of some powdered recreation in the women's rest room. "I'm a recovering addict in my sixth clean year, so I'm not particularly proud of what I did back then," Wiley says. "This town was like Dodge City, with the cocaine cowboys running wild, and Rollo's was like any other bar on the circuit, only more so. They had the prototypical metal nymphs; there were always girls fighting over guys or coke, guys fighting over the same thing. In the mid-Eighties Rollo's didn't really pay that well, so you used to catch bands that were either just starting out and on their way up or over the hill and on their way down. A lot of musicians used to say, `My drug problem's so bad I had to play there.'"
Ramon Corugedo, a 22-year-old drummer currently working with original rockers Big Deal and gigging with classic rockers-bluesmen Money and Cigarettes, grew up with Rollo's. "I started going there when I was, like, fourteen," he says, "hanging out in the parking lot, which was always full of musicians. Sometimes I'd sneak into the club with the band. Usually they threw me out." Corugedo played Rollo's more than 100 times with a variety of different bands, most notably the Breeze and Johnny and the Jammers. His overriding impression of the nightspot, from a musical perspective? "Loud!" he says, shaking his head. "Sometimes you'd get A-circuit bands in there with tons of equipment and they'd just, like, blow people out the door. But that was one thing Carman loved, a band with lots of big, bulky equipment."
Adds Big Deal guitarist Jeff Bazemore, who was Johnny and the Jammers' axeman, "You could tell if they were in a bad mood or didn't like your band, because they'd start charging you for drinks. So we used to sneak in our own beers. One time Carman caught me, and he banned me from the club right in the middle of our gig. Another time, after we had done two or three sets, I was covered with sweat. I went out to my car and changed from my shirt into this leather vest. They wouldn't let me back into the club because it didn't have sleeves."
"Musically, it was pretty decent," says Corugedo. "They never hired a music director or a full-time sound guy, so bands usually brought their own lights and PA. They had bits and pieces of equipment, but it was better if you brought your own. Sometimes we'd use smoke, but the stage was already kind of small and if you had four or five people and PA cabinets up there, it could get real crowded, so if you used smoke you had to be careful not to fall off or knock something over.
"Some excellent musicians used to play there -- Kirk Richards, the guitar player for the Breeze, was really hot," Corugedo continues. "He lives in Fort Myers or something now. Vince Moody, a bass player. Lyle Lingle, another bass player, used to be in Seventh Heaven and a bunch of other bands. Those guys were always at Rollo's or One South."
"The thing about Rollo's was you could go there on a Wednesday night and see some band nobody ever heard of do on-the-money covers of songs like Deep Purple's `Highway Star.' You'd hear the obligatory `All Right Now' or `Born to Be Wild' covers, but you'd hear some off-the-wall stuff, too," reminisces Norman Bedford, local concert promoter, writer, arranger, and cofounder of Ready-Steady-Go! "That's where I first met Peter Patrick, when he was fronting Z-Cars back in '78-'79. The first time I saw him I think he was wearing a nurse's outfit or something. They were playing stuff you didn't normally hear from a cover band -- Easybeats, the Move, Roxy Music -- not to mention a killer rendition of `Time Warp.' And you have to remember, this was when disco was king. It was pretty amazing."
None of these musicians has been to the club since the introduction of strippers. "It's too bad," says Patrick, "because it was about the only place you could go back then -- this was before Flynn's or 27 Birds or Churchill's -- and hear bands like the Cichlids or Charlie Pickett or Gypsy Queen. Johnny Depp used to go there a lot. Nobody was ever carded in those days. It was wild. I remember sitting in a room with George [Rollo, Jr.] after our last set one night. We were just hanging out, talking about the gig, waiting to get paid. They had an old air conditioner that was sort of falling apart, real noisy. George got this huge revolver and just blew the thing apart, like, `The hell with it.' That's what Rollo's was like."