Friday, September 08, 2006

The Swinging Door

When I was a college student in Fayetteville, Arkansas during the late seventies there was a club called the Swinging Door. It was on the infamous Dickson Street just now from Roger’s Pool Hall, a place of notoriety because it was frequented by sports writers when they came to cover the Razorback games. It was also the establishment that served me my first legal beer. I won a dollar in a domino game played at a real domino table.

The Swinging Door hosted many talented bands of the time. The Cate Brothers who had a radio hit, Union Man, was one of them. Bill and Bonnie Hearne from Texas was another, although not well known. Bill played guitar and Bonnie played piano. If I recall correctly Bonnie was blind.

The Swinging Door also hosted several more local bands. Some of these bands made the southwest circuit down to Texas and over to Oklahoma. One of the bands was Cornbread. These guys were sort of bluegrass, Cajun and country all thrown together. I guess in the 21st Century we might say they were like the Gourds. They had this dude that played the washboard and man, he really could rock!

There was another band by the name of Zorro and the Blue Footballs. These guys were a riot. They might be described as a redneck jazz and jump blues band. Their shows were all ways filled with surprises, sometimes on the offensive side. They played Bob Wills’ Big Balls in Cow Town and it did not seem to be a song about dances.

One of the surprises that Zorro and the Blue Footballs seemed to always showcase at the Swinging Door was a streaker. Streaking was a fad back in those days. People would run naked across football fields or through campgrounds as we did on a church camp out to Lake Ouachita during high school.

At the Swinging Door the Zorro streaker would come from the back and run through the club right onto Dickson Street. I always heard that Zorro and the Blue Footballs tried this trick in Dallas and it had the same result that we had when we were in high school. They got arrested. We had our camp out cut short when they took us all home on Saturday. But, we were in church on Sunday just so we could talk about it.

The Swinging Door turned into the Whitewater Tavern in the eighties and continued to host good music. It is probably known by some other name now. But I am certain there is a place in its location on Dickson Street that hosts good music from the southwest circuit.

-Willi

p.s. After doing a little googling I discovered that a member of Zorro and the Blue Footballs, Windy Austin has or had a band in the late nineties called Windy Austin and the Hot House Tomatoes.

29 Comments:

Blogger Jay said...

When I was in college in Fayetteville in the late 80's and early 90's the Cate Bros were still the band to go see. They played all over the place, but most weekends they were playing in Fayetteville.

One weekend each month they would be at one of my favorite places. George's Majestic Lounge. George's may have been a gay club when you were there. Anyway, they also played the Library Club, my other favorite place.

Ok, this could turn into a blog post of my own. haha .. A little trip down memory lane.

Oh and when I was there Windy Austin's band was named the Hot House Tomato Boys. He played George's too. I spent a lot of time in George's.

Dickson Street is nothing like it used to be. Most of the places are yuppified. I miss the good old days.

9:07 PM  
Blogger mjd said...

Zorro and the Blue Footballs is an interesting name for a band. Miles and I danced to a band called the UFO's on our honeymoon in 1966. The band members wore silver space suits.

9:21 PM  
Blogger willi said...

Yes George's Majestic Lounge had the reputation of being a gay bar when I was in Fayetteville. I went there quite a bit and never understood why it had a reputation. Perhaps that is a commentary on inclusivness. Funny how people like to label things. Besides they had a cool beer garden.

Feel free to post your "memory lane" Jay. That's what it's all about -the exchange- and maybe the "goodle days" (john hartford)

9:48 PM  
Blogger willi said...

The UFO's in silver spaace suits in 1966! How futuristic is that?

9:49 PM  
Blogger Betty said...

When I was a student at the UofA in the early 60's, we used to hang out at George's. The owner, Mary Iforgetherlastname ran a tight ship in those days. Places like George's are living on borrowed time, nowadays. In fact, Fayetteville, itself, has lost that "village" feel. Too bad.

11:02 PM  
Blogger gawilli said...

I remember streaking. Not that I ever did that myself mind you. Really.

6:05 PM  
Blogger daddy d said...

There is nice little place down by Purdue. They have great piano player, named Bruce. Very cool. He will say, "High new person." as you come into the place.

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Lily said...

I hung out at the Swingin'Door in Fayetteville,Arkansas in the seventies. I still live just down the street on West from Dickson Street.

Unfortunatly, the place there now is called The Hog Haus and is a Brew pub. It has no Southwest Music or much of any kind of music that I know of. It is a nice place with good beer and food but it's not the Door.

A few years ago we had The Swingin' Door Reunion. It lasted two nights and was a blast. Several of the old gang showed up but many didn't get the word. Tommy Elkes who used to have Kiwi showed up to sing,The Ozark Plantation Band, Frankie Kelly, and more I can't recall right now.

We expected Zoro but it didn't happen for some kind of reason and Bill and Bonnie don't travel anymore. Or at least,not Bonnie. Actually, I consider them legends.

The Door reunion did have a website but I can't find it anymore. I miss the Door so much. It was a big part of my young life. Now Dickson is all spiffed up by developers and is Yuppie paradise pretty much. Things have to change but we all miss the old Dickson. Fayetteville is becoming gentrified and there is not much any of us can do to stop it. Big money wins. We thought some of the changes might be good but it has all turned into a monster.

My husband and I have a home Art gallery on the corner of West and Mountain called, "The Mystic Melon". It is all our own work. Basically, outsider, out-of-the-box type folk art and his gemstones and silver jewelry. The front of our house is painted in Watermelon colors and motiff. The inside is all colorful and wild. We are one of the last outposts for the Bohemian lifestyle in Fayetteville.

If you get over this way, come by and see us. I still love Fayetteville. But I remember when there was music in the cafe's at night and revolution in the air.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WILLI, I FOUND YOUR BLOG WHILE SEARCHING FOR ZORRO AND THE BLUE FOOTBALLS AS I'M CONVERTING THEIR LIVE ALBUM FROM LP TO CD. A VERY TALENTED GROUP OF GUYS WHO KNEW HOW TO ENTERTAIN. MY ONE AND ONLY ZORRO EXPERIENCE WAS THE FRANK ZAPPA CONCERT THEY OPENED FOR IN THE OLD BARNHILL ARENA IN 1976. THEY STOLE THE SHOW AND " SHOCKPROOFED" THE CROWD. AFTER THEY LEFT THE STAGE FRANK CAME OUT IN A HOGHAT AND DID HIS SHOW, BUT HE HAD BEEN UPSTAGED. NEVERTHELESS, WINDY AUSTIN IS STILL PERFORMING WITH THE HOTHOUSE TOMATO BOYS IN AND FAYETTEVILLE, AR. LOOK FOR HIM OM MYSPACE IF YOU NEED AN UPDATE

7:30 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

I wonder how old these comments are? No year is listed. I came upon this site while googling around trying to find a site that might have a tape or DVD of an old Zorro show. Hopefully from the Swinging Door or Whitewater.

I get incredibly nostalgic when I read about the old days of Dickson Street. I visited Fayetteville a lot in the 60's and got to live there in the early 70's. I moved away for jobs and money and I've been trying to get ever since.

I'm coming up on 60 years old now and I look back now and know that that was probably the best time of my life. I still want to move back there. Hopefully, it will happen soon.

I know Dickson Street isn't the same, but it's still special to me.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous costas said...

Incredible! Dickson st. and Swinging Door, and Library, and George's and Mary, and the rainbow painted across the bridge - they are all still there because we are all here. I hear the vast changes of yappification and internationalism (I am Greek and I am entotled to invent my own words). I too was student in the '70s, so was my Fayetteville born wife, and have spent some life time in these places, always happy to read the poster that Zorro and the Blue Footballs would sail into town. Inspired time! Now we live in Athens, Greece and frequently google back in memory lane. As a matter of fact I knew the "gal" who had painted the cow boy at the S.D. facade. Peace....

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out 'old school f'ville' group on facebook. most of this site is from a later generation (late 80's to early 90's) but could use some older school input.

10:43 AM  
Blogger cowanpreston said...

I watched Windy and Mike at the swinging door no less than 200 times, became friends with them and videotaped one of their later show for them. The tracks on the last Zorro album were mostly from this session. After moving to Little Rock in 1981 I hosted a Zorro reunion concert at Rick's Armory. Another reunion concert was held in Fayettville in about 1983. The video includes Tim Alexander from Asleep at the Wheel and has been seen by Jerry Lewis,Joey Heatherton and many others. Preston Cowan

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everybody eats when they come to my house!

2:05 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

I have the Zorro studio album on vinyl, but what I wish I had was a bootleg of some of the live stuff. I remember their jazz version of Mister Magic (Grover Washington) or Spooky (ARS)...great musicians.

THey also had a cameo (along with SwinginG Door) in the Peter Fonda film "Fighting Mad".

Good times. Anyone know a link to any live downloads?

10:47 PM  
Blogger pepe said...

A little Nostalgia, i see someone remembered the cowboy on the entrance to The Swinging Door but how about it's name sake, The two swinging doors, wooden western tavern style that squeked everytime someone walked in. EERrr EErrr. and for those that got a chance to burn one with Wendy out back on break,allegedly.
And roger's Rec, the Playboy Pinball machine and the infamous hollar of FAN ON!! refering to the exhaust fan by the womens "restroom". Roger served me my first beer in a bar i bought at 7:30a.m. on monday morning, needless to say i was skipping class.I miss that Guy and Swifty That took over for Roger.There was a big article on Roger's in OMNI mag, I still have not found it in archives. and how about Maxine's, The Barn when it was the place before the HYPER building.Of course for the late nighter's you could see Eddie stumbling onto Block street from a place down from Maxine's, they served fresh oyster's, can't remember the name at the moment.How about the Racket Club and The V.I.P. in chickendale, or the O.P.O. and old Coys before he moved to the hardware store. Those were the days of old Fayetteville

10:32 PM  
Blogger Sharon Rakes said...

The High Country and Frankie Kelly fiddle could be heard blocks away from the Swingin Door in the 70's.What a bank! They brought on Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings one night.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Sharon Rakes said...

I meant what a band! I was part of the band but just a small part the band was awesome because of Frankie Kelly and his sweet fiddle. You go daddy!

3:07 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

Sadly, Frankie died this morning. He was such a joy to so many, and will be sorely missed, but never ever forgotten! Enjoy Heaven, Frankie!!

3:16 PM  
Blogger Skyclad said...

Remember Zorro and the Blue Footballs "cone hat"? It was a highway cone they kept on stage and put on thier heads from time to time.

I used to manage Ken's Pizza across the street and won the cone hat at The Library club when they said anyone who would down 10 shots of tiquila back to back would receive it.

I towed David Allen Coe's car away when he parked there while playing at the Swinging Door. I talked to him years later and he laughed about it.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Skyclad said...

Saddest thing about Dickson Street is that The Restruant on the Corner isn't there any more and the DeLuxe actually sucks now.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Paul Collar said...

In 1980 I moved into a house on Hill Street, 159 Hill Street, and in the refuse left behind was a poster of a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention concert, opened up by Zorro and the Blue Footballs. Only problem was someone had scribbled on the poster, but I put it up on my bedroom wall anyway.

I remember the petrified walrus dick bone that had seen miles and miles and miles of walrus pussy, and the only time I visited Windy at his house, there was nothing to eat, though he did roll a joint of krazo sensimilla, and Duncan Idaho, me and Windy huffed it up.

I worked in George's Majestic lounge slinging beers until they came and got me off Dickson Street to come and teach introductory Spanish classes. It was a real kick in the pants to the geology chairman, Babbling Bob, who took great pleasure in denying me a teaching assistance ship in 1984 because (I think) I got the girl at his summer field camp and he had to make do with Rosy.

Well he keeled over dead on his desk shortly afterward after disgracing himself and a hot new ig/met pet hire that I took graduate igneous/metamorphic petrology under before she had to move on as a result of those overtures.

And today we mourn Windy. And looking back all those years, yes, I really did eat the only time I made it to Windy's house.

That scribble on the poster, turns out it was Frank Zappa's signature, from obscenity to the Senate Floor in three measures and now pushing daisies in the American heartland and undergirding nascent geniuses on the coasts from his grave.

Another ghost rider has hit the sky, and I am a long way here in Central America from Dickson Street, but I can still feel the breeze of the Swinging Door's pull and BB King, the Cale Brothers, Greasy Greens, Jeff Clampett, and the inimitable Zorro and the Blue Footballs.

Tonight I shall fly my staff at half flag.

Pablo

8:44 PM  
Blogger Urk said...

Nice Pablo. I'm sad about Windy's passing too. I came over here because I remembered the discussion of Zorro and Fayetteville and wanted to note Windy's passing, raise a glass and so on.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous cialis said...

Hi, well be sensible, well-all described

4:01 AM  
Anonymous FlatBlack said...

I am in sideways bar in the alley between Wasabi and Farrell's. There is a picture on the wall of the painted cowboy on the swinging door, and a quick Google search lead me to this blog. Interesting to know that is what hog haus used to be.

10:37 PM  
Blogger SonnyMac said...

Wow! What great memories. I learned my lesson one night when ZATBFs were on stage. Never set at the front tables. The washboard guy blew a mouth full of beer all over me. I just blew one back at him. We both thought it was funny as hell. I burned one with Windy just outside the swinging doors in front, right on Dickson street. Partied with Leonard Skinnard one night at the Poor Richards. Shot pool, shot the sh*t, drank beer...no big deal. Then went to see them the next night in Barnhill. Bill and Bonnie, Guy Clark, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Mary standing at the end of the bar, keeping her eye on things...GREAT Memories!! Fayetteville has changed but it is still a very cool place. I'm 60 yrs old now and my 4th daughter will graduate from UA this spring. Oddly and coincidentally, I'm wearing a tshirt right now that says "This one time on Dickson Street" with a modern picture of the street. Every generation has great memories of Dickson Street, But there will probably never be another place as cool as The Swingin' Door...at least not to me. OBTW I'm posting this on 3/18/2012.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Gigi said...

Oo I loved those days! Take me back to Tulsa, I'm too young to marry...I knew thew all by heart!

10:27 PM  
Blogger Gigi said...

Hey Preston! Those were the good ole days!!

10:31 PM  
Blogger Gigi said...

Hey Preston! Those were the good ole days!!

10:31 PM  

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