Ghosts of The Rockwood Club

As rock ‘n’ roll began to emerge in the Ozarks, there were a few clubs, especially around Fayetteville, where college students and young adults could kick back on a Friday or Saturday night to hear music with a good beat that you could dance to. One venue in particular, The Rockwood Club, would be a force in the 1950s and 1960s. Though Ghosts of the Rockwood Clubownership passed hands a few times, its most famous owner, Huntsville native and former Fayetteville resident Ronnie Hawkins, used the club to provide some young Canadian musicians experience with playing to American audiences. Hawkins, a rock ‘n’ roller with hit songs of his own, had settled in Canada by the early 1960s. He sent one young man, Richard Manuel, and his group, The Revols, to Fayetteville to be the Rockwood Club’s house band for a few weeks in 1961, sometimes sharing a billing with a group known as The Del-Rays.

At other times, Hawkins would bring down his band, The Hawks, to play as well. Many musicians passed through The Hawks, but those most memorable were Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Manuel. When this lineup parted ways with Hawkins in the mid-1960s, they returned to Fayetteville to play several dates at the Rockwood Club as Levon and the Hawks, living in the no-longer-existant Iris Motel on College Avenue. By the late 1960s, those exact same members would be known as The Band and would have hit songs with “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Weight.”

Oh, and The Del-Reys? The two key members, Earl and Ernie Cate, would become The Cate Brothers Band with a hit song of their own, “Mr. Union Man,” and continue to perform engagements to this day.

But to focus only on Hawkins, The Band and The Cate Brothers Band would be a disservice to the club located south of town near the Fayetteville airport. Many big names, such as Wanda Jackson and Jerry Lee Lewis, performed there, and Sun Studio musicians Sonny Burgess and the Pacers played there repeatedly.

So did many local bands who hoped to make it big. Echoes of the Ozarks would like to periodically salute those local bands in and near the Ozark region through a series to appear on here known as “Ghosts of The Rockwood Club.”

Featured today is Mike McAlister, who performed at The Rockwood Club on October 14, 1960, after returning from Canada, presumably courtesy of Hawkins. Not much is known of McAlister except he recorded with Hob-Nob Records in Harrison. This 1958 song, “Twenty One,” which he performed as a duo named Mike and Nancy, celebrates adulthood with a sound that has Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly influences all over it. The chorus: “Just leave me alone, I’m on my own, I’m 21!”

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This entry was posted in Arkansas, Levon Helm, Music, Ozarks, Rock and Roll, Ronnie Hawkins, The Band, The Hawks and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Ghosts of The Rockwood Club

  1. Mark Anthony says:

    where is/was that building? does it still stand?

  2. The Everly’s were a big, big influence on Earl and Ernie. They’re another band that is, I think, not as big in the critical mythology as they were in people’s lives at the time.

  3. Neal Pendergraft says:

    When talking the Rockwood Club you need to include Dayton Stratton as one of the owners. Dayton went on to start The Rink and road managed The Band before he died in a plane crash.

    • There is so much more that could be written about the Rockwood Club, and Dayton Stratton is definitely one of them. The Rink is yet another important venue in Fayetteville, for sure!

    • Ginger Stratton DeLong says:

      Yes, Dayton was my daddy. I remember going to the Rockwood now & then with moma,(Lois), & Daddy. Ronnie Hawkins felt like an Uncle Ronnie to me throwing me up & catching me, tickling…Lots of love & laughter! I must’ve been 4 or 5…Later on, The Rink, lots & lots of great childhood memories growing up until daddy’s tragic plane crash. I often wonder what our lives & his contribution to the music industry would be like if his life hadn’t been taken so young…only 42. Not a day goes by I don’t miss him.

  4. Ed Nicholson says:

    Great piece. Thanks. Does anyone know who owned Hob-Nob records in Harrison?

    • Thanks, Ed. Of the few images of Hob-Nob Records I found online, I noticed the publisher on many of the 45s was listed as Earl Barton, who may have not been an actual person. I’m also learning that Earl Barton Music was the publisher of The Box Tops song, “The Letter.” As for the owner of Hob-Nob Records, I would love to know myself! Other acts on the label included Upton Horn and Wallace Waters, if that rings a bell with anyone.

      • Ed Nicholson says:

        OK. Probably should have known that. Upton was a long-time, very popular KHOZ dj, who had a couple of songs that played quite a bit on the station. “(Today you were a blonde, tonight you’re a redhead), What will tomorrow be?” and “The Mirror Behind the Bar.” Wallace had a local Boone County band that played for a long time.

      • That’s great information!

      • Wilda Fifer says:

        My husband was a barber in Huntsville and Ronnie Hawkins father worked for my husband in the barber shop, that is how we met Ronnie. We just watched a video of Ronnie’s 60th. birthday bash in Canada. We use to kick up our heels with Wallace Waters band, thought he sounded a lot like Ronnie Hawkins. Several years ago we talk to Wallace and he was deep into his children and family and beginning to want to be at home more, which I admire him for that thought. Suppose he has grandchildren now and just relaxing.

      • Don Horn says:

        Upton Horn was my uncle. I used to have the 45 of “What Will Tomorrow Be” b/w “Mirror Behind the Bar”. Unfortunately, I’ve lost it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I vaguely remember this place, although I was never in it. But thanks for reminding me of it. I seem to remember some of my friends talking about it. Maybe you had to be 21 to enter (and I couldn’t pass for 21 until I turned about 35.

  6. Other local bands that regularly played The Rockwood Club in the early 60’s were, John Tollison, The Five Emcees, The Sessions (my band), The Trebles, Johnny Roberts and the Rebels, and many others. Those of us of that era who are still alive meet once a year for a jam session, normally at Georges Lounge in Fayetteville, sometime in mid July. A good number of the players at that jam were regular performers at the Rockwood. My band played there between ’62 and ’65 when I departed Fayetteville and went to Canada with The Emcees. Oh, the stories I could tell about the Rockwood Club.

  7. Scott Hoffmann says:

    I had heard that Hugh Ashley owned Hob Nob Records.

  8. Ed Nicholson says:

    (Gus Smith, a very fine jazz guitarist from Harrison, who taught most everyone in the area who played guitar for 40 years [present company included], still plays gigs around NWAR with his son Matt. Patty Fredrick from Harrison, heard from Gus Smith’s wife about this)

    “Patty, That was easy. Gus knew that right away. Hugh Ashely owned Hob Nob Records. I thought the name was familiar. Gus played in a band in high school with Mike McAlister, Mike Collins, and George Kirby Coffman. HobNob recorded a single for them…..”I’m 21”, and “I Don’t Dig It”…

    (Hugh, of course, owned Ashley Music in Harrison).

  9. Jim Mills says:

    I played there with Greg Samples with I was 15 years old. It was Greg Samples on Guitar and Keys, Jimmy Bayles on Guitar, Butch Bertholamew on Bass, and me on Drums. We played there several time in the late 60’s. It seemed like every gig there was a fight and everyone in the place would all go to the parking lot to watch the fight leaving us in mid song wondering what happened. The name of the band was Pump Station Express. Jimmy Bayles Father James Bayles was a local police officer and he would keep the door for us. I will never forget the Rockwood Club.
    Jim Mills

  10. Pingback: Fayetteville Photo Challenge # 7 | Fayetteville Flyer

  11. Anonymous says:

    I got to jam with the Band, the Cate Brothers, and many more like them……..I played the Hammond B 3 with leslies and backed up many bands in the area……….I started in the 60s so most of these guys were the “older” players who influenced me and helped me connect to the music scene………….what a great time for live music……….I am truly lucky to have met them all

    Robert “Bob” Day

  12. I just bought it recently. Upton Horn was my grandpa, but that wasn’t revealed until about 10 years ago. This is so fascinating to find his work, and to enjoy it. I can tell you where I got it from if want to get another copy.

    Don Horn says:
    December 6, 2014 at 1:25 am
    Upton Horn was my uncle. I used to have the 45 of “What Will Tomorrow Be” b/w “Mirror Behind the Bar”. Unfortunately, I’ve lost it.

  13. I’m going to have the 45 converted so I can upload it to Youtube. I will post a link later once this is done. Probably will be a few weeks.

  14. As promised: http://youtu.be/9VIprHc8DVg (Upton Horn – Mirror Behind the Bar) & http://youtu.be/f11Tl8pVXr8 (Upton Horn – Whatever Will Tomorrow Be)

  15. Took years of researching, $15 bucks for the conversion from 45rpm to CD (plus clean up of audio), 5 minutes to add photos and upload to YouTube. I hope someone out there find joy in this upload.

  16. Fixing… expect a reply in about 10 minutes or less.

  17. Upton Horn – What Will Tomorrow Be full version

  18. Upton Horn – Mirror Behind the Bar

  19. Thanks for fixing this! I love this! Is there anything you can share about this recording? Like when it was recorded, circumstances, etc.? Would love to have any kind of backstory to it, even if it’s small. The whole point of this blog is to preserve these great Arkie/Ozark recordings so they’re not forgotten. This song is country music back when it was STILL country.

  20. I wish I knew more, I really do. Upton Horn was my dad’s REAL dad. Not much was known about him through end of the family tree. I only learned of him almost 2 decades after his passing. I spent years and year scouring the internet for every scrap of information I could find about him. One article in a Harrison, AR newspaper spoke of him being a DJ at KHOZ in Harrison. I found his obit and it mentioned the same things I had found. I don’t know what year this was published. I do know he published another record on another label. Me finding this was, to my knowledge, the first time MY dad ever heard his dad. Wish I had more for you. That’s as much story as I’ve got. My dad’s mom passed away just a few years ago. She lived in Kansas for many years, wanted to be remembered as an Arkansas Hillbilly. She always could make me laugh.

  21. Ken Hada:

    When I was young in the seventies, the star DJ of the local radio station invited folks to call him and request songs dedicated to special people for special occasions. Upton Horn was his name. He was a likeable sort, but he had the propensity of rarely being able to “find” the song requested, so he would acknowledge the caller’s request, then play something else. One time in particular, I remember a fine and gallant country chevalier calling in to request a love song dedicated to his bride, as they were celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Typically, tragically, Mr. Horn couldn’t find the requested love ballad, so he said: “Here’s one I hope you like” and played on this occasion dedicated to committed, Christian, eternal love, the melodramatic, beer-guzzling, second or third time-around anthem: “It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad.” The inspired chorus is as follows:

    No, It’s not love, not like ours was.
    It’s not love, but it keeps love from driving me mad,
    And I don’t have to wonder who she’s had.
    No, it’s not love, but it’s not bad.

    Source: http://www.serifwebresources.com/control.php?uid=4fea86e42993fbc9aa2c0626f2ae3905311729d0&comments=102085

  22. Dave Smith says:

    who owns the building now? what would it take to have an event there?

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  24. Carolyn Lister Fuller says:

    We loved them all & spent many a night, dancing the night away—Great Memories–alot of weeks it was Wednesday-Friday & Saturday night!!!! May have read it too fast, but didn’t notice Ken Owens & the DelRays mentioned. We loved when Ronnie came in from Canada, but never heard a bad band play there!!! Thanks for sharing the memory!!!!

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