Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spider John

I did indeed get to see old pal Spider John Koerner after ducking out of my nieces birthday party. The party was in Park Slope but a call to a car service had somebody there in just a few minutes and it was a fairly short ride to Jalopy over at 315 Columbia Street, tucked into a corner defined by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.


And right next door to Jalopy is Moonshine, a pretty decent full-fledged bar.


It is still a pretty hard-scrabble neighborhood, but getting more gentrified all the time.

The Mean Streets Of Red Hook

It wasn't too many years ago that there really wasn't anything on Columbia Street worth going there for. Now there just isn't much. But what is there is pretty interesting, Jalopy, for example. More of a performance place than a bar. In fact the bar is really small and I think they only have wine and beer. You grab the beer you want from a refrigerated display case and bring it to the cash register where you pay for it. They do have a decent wine selection though.

Bar Man At The Mini-Bar

Across from the "bar" is a display of musical instruments, all for sale.

A Music Store Too

There is a music school here, or at least they give lessons, and they also repair instruments. Just a small space that they also rent out for special performances and loan out for worthwhile causes. Their was a friendly crowd of regulars who showed up so it was a great venue to see some old-school folk music. The place is quite small, just several rows of what like church pews, but it was pretty packed, standing room only, in fact.

I misunderstood what time the music started so we got there about an hour early. That was fine with me, got a great seat in the front row. The front row only held four people, and the other couple were real Spider John fans. The guy had an old album in pristine condition that he brought in to be signed. I own the same album, "Spider Blues," but never thought to bring it along. Also, I have not taken as good care of mine as he had, sadly.

Before the music started I had a chance to take a look at the somewhat eclectic display of paintings hung on the walls.

A fellow noticed me looking at them and asked me if I liked them. I said "Sure," and said the reminded me a bit of Dali. The guy was Eric Richardson and he was the artist. All of the art is for sale and you can see more at his website:


  • Hanging With The Artist

    By the way, I had another picture posted on this blog but after a day it was removed by Photobucket due to what they considered to be inappropriate content. They must really have a thing about the depiction of the female breast, whether it is in an exhibit in a museum or the work of an artist. Very bizarre, if you ask me. I wonder just who makes these decisions.

    Anyway, we weren't at Jalopy for too long when the opening group, the JD's showed up in their vehicle that seemed more than appropriate for the area.

    The JD's Limo

    The JD's, with lead singer Bob Musial and son Jake on guitar and backing vocals were a local favorite and had quite a following in the crowd. They refer to their music as Polish Calypso, but I have to admit that I didn't see the connection to what they played. Mostly coffee-house style folk music, some of it autobiographical in nature. They were pretty good though and the audience responded enthusiastically after every song.

    The JD's, Live And On Stage

    You can see the back of the Mysterious Chinese Woman's head in the picture and, sitting next to her, the two die-hard Spider heads.

    And then, the man I had been waiting for:

    Spider John Koerner And Bar Man

    I was happy to see that his hasn't lost a thing in terms of his singing and playing and that his jokes are as excruciatingly bad as ever..."Hear about the Norweigen farmer who loved his wife so much he almost told her?" It goes over big in Minnesota.

    Still Hootin' and Hollerin'

    By the time he was done and I decided to head next door to Moonshine for a beer and a shot there was quite a crowd on the street, both from Jalopy and Moonshine. Kind of a Friday night get-together of the locals.

    Just Hangin'

    The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I had only been sitting at the bar for a couple of minutes when who should come in and sit at the stool next to us?

    Old Friend John

    Well now, that was an unexpected treat. I bought him a drink and we sat and chatted for about an hour before he had to head out to Connecticut where he was going to visit his sister. It sure was fun to talk about the old days and the old bars. Brought back a ton of memories.

    We decided to walk home, something that would have been unthinkable not too long ago. As I said, this used to be a real rough waterfront neighborhood. One advantage of walking home was that I had to pass Montero's. You can probably see why I had to stop in.

    There Was Only One Way To Go

    There was only Allen, the bartender, and one other guy, who had also just come from hearing Spider John, in the place. Well, it was almost two in the morning.

    Nevada Allen, Settin' Em Up

    I had a couple more beers and shots and then it became apparent that it was, indeed, time for me to toddle on home.

    Definitely Time To Go

    All and all it was a most enjoyably memorable evening. Turned out even better than I expected, especially with the little post-concert tete-a-tete with John.


    Peter said...

    Hey Dan,

    Any chance that Spider John is the man immortalized in the Jimmy Buffett song "The Ballad of Spider John"?

    Katie said...

    wow, what a great night! Jalopy looks like a neat venue, and it's convenient that there's a more complete bar next door. Good combo.

    Bar Man said...

    Spider John was actually written by Willis A. Ramsey and is on his self titled album that was released in 1972. Jimmy Buffett's version of it is probably the best know one.

    Maybe Willis heard of Spider John Koerner and liked the name, but I don't think the song is actually about him. It does sound like a song that Spider John Koerner might have written.

    Willis was born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in Dallas, Texas so I don't know if he would have ever crossed paths with Spider John.

    By the way, Willis also wrote "Muskrat Love" which was titled "Muskrat Candlelight" on the same album. Actually, that was Willis's only album.

    Bar Man said...

    A bit of a clarification, the name of the album is "Willis Alan Ramsey."