Archive for the ‘Venues’ Category

The Mitch Ryder Show : Courtesy of George Shuba

March 14, 2015

In late 1966, Mitch Ryder broke with the Detroit Wheels and formed a 10-piece back-up band in the style of Wilson Pickett and others. This band, which included 5 musicians from working Baltimore bands, toured behind Mitch’s hit record, “Sock It To Me Baby” under the name emblazoned on the tour bus: “The Mitch Ryder Show.”

Ultimately, this was not a happy period for Ryder who suffered under the heavy production hand of star NY producer, Bob Crewe. Crewe gave the Michigan band their name (they were formerly Billy Lee & the Rivieras) and their access to Billboard’s Top 10 — “Jenny Take A Ride” made #10, “Little Latin Lupe Lu” hit #17, “Devil With A Blue Dress” his best at #4, and his final Top 10 entry with “Sock It To Me Baby” at #6 — but after roughly 2 years the ride was over for Ryder. This is how that period is described on the official Mitch Ryder website (

Divorced from the power drive of The Wheels, swamped by saccharine strings and pompous pretense (poetry by Rod McKuen and music by Jaques Brel on a Mitch Ryder album, for Chrissakes) … It was the final straw- Ryder bailed out of his contract with Crewe …

After the split, the liner notes on Ryder’s next album, “The Detroit-Memphis Experiment,” included phrases like …

“After being raped by the music machine that represents that heaven-on-earth , New York b/w Los Angeles” and “Mitch Ryder is the sole creation of William Levise, Jr.” [Ryder’s given name]

… leaving little doubt about his feelings over the Crewe experience.

Because of the short duration of this band and Mitch’s bitterness over where Bob Crewe took his career, there is very little untainted information about the band and very few photographic remnants floating around. That’s where George Shuba comes in.

George Shuba’s own website [] calls him “Cleveland, Ohio’s 1st Rock-N-Roll Photographer!”, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that he is one of the first anywhere—48 of George’s prints hang in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

George began his rock photojournalism with his first assignment—the Beatles 1964 U.S. tour appearance in Cleveland. Over the next 20 years, through thousands of photographs, he documented virtually every act to appear at the Cleveland Arena, from Aerosmith to the Zombies. This just happened to include the April, 1967 appearance by The Mitch Ryder Show. The  photos here, courtesy of George, are the only ones I’ve ever seen of the entire band with all 5 Baltimore musicians. These photos are also posted on the BaltimoreJam website.

For anyone interested in the development of rock & roll and the emerging rock concert experience through this intensely creative period, the professional photos of George Shuba are priceless. They capture the spontaneity of these performers better than any album cover, publicity shot or concert snap shot you’ve ever seen. Many of his photos are available directly from George through his website and eBay store. Here are links to George and his work:

Photo #1:
The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH – April 1967

The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH - April 1967

L to R: Jimmy Wilson (trumpet), Andy Dio (trumpet), Chuck Alder (bass), Don Lehnhoff (trombone), Mike Maniscalco (guitar), Bob Shipley (tenor sax), Mitch Ryder (vocals), Jimmy Loomis (tenor sax)

Photo #2:
The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH – April 1967

The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH - April 1967

L to R: Jimmy Wilson (trumpet), Andy Dio (trumpet), Don Lehnhoff (trombone), Chuck Alder (bass), John Siomis (drums), Frank Invernizzi (organ), Mitch Ryder (vocals), Bob Shipley (tenor sax), 1/2 Jimmy Loomis (tenor sax)

Photo #3:
The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH – April 1967

The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH - April 1967

L to R: Don Lehnhoff (trombone), Andy Dio (trumpet), Mitch Ryder (vocals), Chuck Alder (bass), Frank Invernizzi (organ), John Siomis (drums), Mike Maniscalco (guitar), Jimmy Loomis (tenor sax)




R.I.P. Michael G. Athas

July 10, 2013
Michael G. Athas obit photo

Michael G. Athas (Baltimore Sun / June 8, 2007)

From the Baltimore Sun Obituaries …

Michael G. Athas, owner of Club Venus
His nightclubs attracted some of the biggest names in entertainment

Michael G. Athas, who during a more than 30-year career in the entertainment business established some of the Baltimore area’s most memorable and legendary nightclubs, died Monday from a glioblastoma at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was one day shy of this 87th birthday.

The son of Greek immigrants George and Arhontoula Athanasakos, Michael George Athanasakos — who later changed the family’s name to Athas — was born in York, Pa.

“During the Great Depression, financial strain necessitated his father to send the family to Greece to live with grandparents while he pursued scarce job opportunities in the U.S.,” said a son, George M. Athas of North Potomac.

The family returned to Baltimore in 1938, where the elder Mr. Athas owned and operated the Capitol Grill on West Baltimore Street. Mr. Athas “worked long hours at his father’s restaurant” and on weekends sang with the church choir at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, his son said.

After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1944, where he had been valedictorian, he enlisted in the Navy. He was trained as a radio technician and served in the Pacific. At the end of World War II, Mr. Athas received a full scholarship to attend the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Mr. Athas, who first worked with Industrial Research Laboratories and later with the aerospace division of Aeronca Manufacturing Corp., decided on a career change in 1960 and entered the entertainment industry.


Past Jam Connections

May 5, 2012

I like connections … synergy … things that enrich or expand an experience. The Jams themselves are all about connecting — with old friends and musical experiences, but also with the atmosphere and locations where those experiences and friendships were created. In that regard we’ve always tried to make a connection with each Jam venue.

Jam 1 Friday night in 2001 was held at a small bar – because we’ve all played plenty of bars, large and small – and the connection went further because the bar, Stingers at 6900 Belair Road, was owned and operated by the cousins of keyboard player Mike Foreman, Jim and Joan Boyer. Mike was a key contributor to that first Jam. We packed a lot of people into that little place.

formerly Stingers Sports Bar, now Overlea Station

formerly Stingers Sports Bar, now Overlea Station

Jam 1 Saturday was held at what was once the Alcazar Ballroom – now a part of the Baltimore School for the Arts. Many of us had played at the old Alcazar, and Jam stalwart, Don Barto, was teaching a class there at the time of the Jam so he made the arrangements. Even the less-than-ideal acoustics couldn’t dampen the high energy of about 35 musicians plus about 50 guests.

formerly the Alcazar Ballroom, now part of the Baltimore School for the Arts

formerly the Alcazar Ballroom, now part of the Baltimore School for the Arts

Jam 2 Friday night in 2002 was again at Stingers. Jim Boyer, Elvis Impersonator, came to the party, and Trudy Morgal introduced us to Joe Vaccarino who was compiling band information for a book. The next day Jam was at Overlea Hall, another place of employment over the years for many Jam participants. It made for a higher priced ticket than we generally like to  have, but the food and OH staff were both outstanding and a great time was had by all — roughly 50 musicians and 250 guests. The Mello Men organized a “Reunion Within a Jam” and big band music was introduced into the mix.

formerly Overlea Hall, now The Overlea Event Center

formerly Overlea Hall, now The Overlea Event Center

Jam 3 in 2005 was a search for an intimate bar atmosphere with more room than Stingers. Joan Boyer had passed away and Jim sold the place, so our old bar was no more. We went with all one day instead of 2, and we did it at Bobby B’s on Turkey Point Road. There was a double connection at Bobby B’s. Proprietor Bobby Berger played tenor sax and knew some of the musicians involved – connection #1. The other connection was the club’s history, as it was once called Hoffman’s and was owned by singer and fellow jammer, Al Hoffman, whose own band, Charade, played there regularly. Many of us played at Hoffmans in the ’60s.

Bobby B's. the bar.

Bobby B’s. the bar.

Jam 4 in 2008 was back at Bobby B’s, but this time in the large show room instead of the bar. The connections were only strengthened with great music … and the bands play on.

Bobby B's Palace

Bobby B’s Palace

Club Venus Memories

June 9, 2011

Mark Mihalos has provided us with a wonderful video tribute to her late father George’s nightclub, Club Venus. Opened in May 1966 in the Perring Plaza Shopping Center by owner George Mihalos and  his partner, Michael Athas, Club Venus presented some of the top entertainment of the day — from Rodney Dangerfield to Marvin Gaye, from Totie Fields to Ricky Nelson.

The video was beautifully produced by Mark’s friend (name to follow). It opens with an ariel shot of the entire Club Venus staff on the parking lot, and in a slide show of stills presents photos, autographs, and ads from the club’s line up. The soundtrack tracks the talent, using the music of the acts being presented.

It’s on YouTube, but in the opinion of YouTube’s servers the soundtrack violates copyright law – so it automatically stripped it out. I think it’s fair use … but they didn’t ask me. We’ve made it available as a downloadable file in three standard formats from the Club Venus page at We thought it was important to make it available because it’s a great tribute to a great club and a significant Baltimore club owner, and on our site there’s no question that it’s not being used for profit. Many thanks to George’s daughter, Mark. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did.

Club Venus Memories

Them Changes …

November 14, 2010

Recent events have spurred some updates, upgrades and new additions at Here’s the rundown:


We were contacted recently by Markela Mihalos, daughter of Hollywood Park and Club Venus owner, George Mihalos. Mark has a collection of photos and autographs that her dad collected over the years, from most of the musicians and other performers who worked at Club Venus. It’s a pretty interesting compilation of history that fits B’Jam like a glove. She is generously contributing these images for addition to the website … they are in the process of being scanned.

In preparation for this new material we created a new section for the site headed “Venues.” This has been a missing piece in the Baltimore music puzzle for a long time. Without the places to play the music and musicians would have remained in a collection of basements and garages scattered around the Baltimore area. We show our recognition of this fact every time we hold a Jam, from the old Alcazar Ballroom, to Overlea hall, to Bobby B’s Palace on Turkey Point Road that we all remember as a club called Hoffman’s. Please check out this new section at and help us fill in the blanks with photos, stories, and the places you remember.


We have added a flash music player to the site to make it easier to post and play music on the website. There is a collection of sample music in this new player now on the Home Page, and a column of links to bands that already have music available on the right side of the Bands Page. As time goes by this player will be incorporated throughout the site, and new music will be added. If you have digitized music to share, send it along.


Don and John Armstrong of Hocus Focus Productions in Baltimore produced a nice video of the very first reunion Jam held at the Alcazar in 2001. VHS tapes were made available to all the musicians who attended. Now, with the digitizing help of Don Barto Sr. of Soundriven of Baltimore and Washington, DC, this video is available on YouTube in 3 parts, and we have the links embedded at the website. Part 1 is posted temporarily on the Home Page, and all 3 links will remain available on the J101 Page.

We hope you enjoy this new material and find it interesting enough to bring you to the website often. Your comments are always welcome, as are any additions of music, photos and information. Ours is an all-volunteer effort. The wheels of progress may turn slowly, but they never stop turning.


Bluesette Reunion 2010

October 21, 2010

In some respects I, and many of you, were living in a parallel universe in 1965 to the bands and patrons of the Bluesette. While we were sporting matching plaid tux jackets they were wearing random paisley frocks; while we were playing for the well-oiled crowd at Hollywood Park, they were playing it sober at the Bluesette.

Guy in front of the Bluesette

The Bluesette embraced a wide range of music, but they were clearly locked into the so-called “British Invasion.”  We all dealt with it in our own way, but whether or not you hated or embraced this musical wave one thing was for sure—it was not to be ignored.

I was in a 10-piece R&B band called the Dynamics when the Beatles landed. We didn’t fight it. We had 2 singers (Mike “Jones” Hodgeman and Jerry Treffinger). This made us able to mount a little Lennon/McCartney duet action, so we did a Beatlies set as a feature. It was great. No room for horns, so me, Buzz, Barto and Santo found a comfy spot to sit and have a smoke while the rest of the band worked harder than us.

The Bluesette was a non-alcoholic night club in central Baltimore City at 2439 North Charles Street, near 25th St., Charles Village that clearly embraced the new music. In operation from 1965 to early 70’s, the Bluesette was more than just a music venue—it was a significant part of the youth culture at that time. You can read more of the Bluesette story here. For more info and participation, there’s also Bluesette on Facebook.

The Bluesette is mounting a reunion on November 14, 2010 … just a few weeks away. It’s being held at Frazier’s On The Avenue, 919 W. 36th Street in Baltimore, MD, starting at 2:00, and I have no doubt that it will be as interesting and musical as other musical reunions with which we’re familiar. You can learn more at the Bluesette Reunion on Facebook.

Bluesette Reunion flyer

A Lesson in Humility

September 19, 2009

In late August of 1965, a couple of weeks after our rise and fall from stardom (see the previous blog, “Dennis Wilson’s Drumsticks“), Danny and the Elegants did a live Saturday night audition for George Mihalos at Hollywood Park.  Hollywood Park, we learned, always had two bands playing so there was never a lull in the music – 50 minutes on, fifty minutes off with each band playing three sets per night, 9 PM until 2 AM.  Tommy Vann and the Echoes were playing out that weekend so we were to play opposite some other band.  Our group, Danny and the Elegants was a young group of players, mostly from the Towson area (except for Tommy Thompson, hailing from Rosedale) and all of us had brand spanking new state-of-the-art musical equipment.

When we arrived at Hollywood Park that afternoon to set up, the other group’s equipment was already there. They had played the night before and would play tonight too.  Their equipment was junk!!!  We laughed and jeered at the stuff set up on the stage, amps and drums that looked as if they had been through a war!  Did that stuff even work?  No wonder Mihalos was looking for another band! Chuckling from time to time, we set up our new equipment on the stage, giving a wide berth to the other bands gig stuff, acting as if it might be contagious.  We left the “Park” in a good mood, looking forward to the night to come.

Danny & the Elegants -  in August of 1965Danny & the Elegants as we auditioned at Hollywood Park

As the auditioning band that night, we played first.  The other band wasn’t there as we began to play. It was a decent first set, for us. Then the other group took the stage;  It was a group that somehow, as an inexperienced nightclub band, we had never heard of – all black guys except for a white tenor sax player.  Yep – you guessed it.  THE VAN DYKES!!!!!!  I was personally so transfixed by the magnificent sound that came off that stage when they kicked off their first set that I didn’t notice any of the other Elegants.  For my own part, my mouth hung open, I no doubt drooled, and to sum it up, could hardly believe my ears!  Totally chagrined, we, the Elegants went up for our 2nd set. At that point, I felt embarrassed because of our brand-new amps and guitars.  We did well as we could but, well – com’on – THE VAN DYKES!  Really now.

The Van DykesThe Van Dykes


July 31, 2009

Somewhere around 1963 0r 1964, Gary Chalmers, Mike Hodgeman and I (and some other guys) had a band.  It may have been the forerunner or after-runner of Gary & the GTO’s, or maybe even Gary & the GTO’s; I’m just not sure.  Anyhow, one of us (probably Gary Chalmers) booked a month-long gig at a club named Cicero’s, located down around the Maryland State Penitentiary.

When we got there, most things seemed normal – the hours, songs requested, level of violence – everything was much like the other clubs we were used to playing. Before long, we began to notice that the guys looked a little different – tough in a different way than we were used to seeing.  As the time there rolled on, we noticed two things, back to back.  First of all, we noticed that the men’s room was spotless – absolutely the cleanest that any of us had ever seen at a bar.  They’re usually beyond scummy; and the smell! Secondly, the reason for our first realization became clear.  Besides us guys in the band, nobody else used the men’s room.

Right about that time, one of the regular patrons at Cicero’s (Marge- I’ll never forget her name) notices our perplexed attitudes and, taking pity on us, sat us down and explained a different set of the “Facts of Life” to us.  Keep in mind, we barely had our driver’s licenses yet and were still in high-school!

The gig sure does mature one very quickly, doesn’t it?

Did anyone else out there ever play at Cicero’s?  If so, leave a comment and tell us about it.

Grimm’s Light Bus, Woodstock Icon

July 5, 2009

Whether or not you know what it was called [the Light Bus], or why [named for the Baltimore band “Light”], or who painted it [Dr. Robert R. Hieronimus] or who actually owned the famous 1963 VW Bus [Bob Grimm], you have undoubtedly seen it. It would be almost impossible to avoid, for as much as the music and history of that legendary festival of hippie yore and lore, this iconic photo of the vehicle and its Baltimore passengers [Ricky Peters and Trudy (Cooper) Morgal] on the roof, has evolved as the media’s go-to symbol of Woodstock. Don’t believe it?

The 40th anniversary of Woodstock is on this summer’s calendar, and here’s how Yahoo!News presents its announcement of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s commemorative exhibit. Need more evidence?

The Light Bus has reached the kind of status where a detailed replica can now be purchased directly from the artist’s website. (I just hope Mr. Grimm is getting a royalty on each one sold … it was *his* bus after all.)

If you still need convincing, check out the cover of this interesting new anniversary book on Woodstock. Along with generic images of the ticket and the crowd you’ll see the “BIG 3” of Woodstock iconography: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Light Bus.

This book is unique by virtue of its claim as the story of people who were actually there. Following are excerpts from the contributions of Bob Grimm to this eye-witness account, and the story of the Light Bus’ journey to Woodstock:

“Light” was my Baltimore rock group in the 60’s.  We were the proverbial big fish in a not-so-little pond; stars on the smallest of scales!  In those days we had a full time house gig at the “Mardi Gras” on Harford Road and became well known for our original music and long, self indulgent jams.  We were pleased to take off for a week in August to attend the Woodstock Rock Festival.

Our painted VW bus was a truly inspired work of mystical and esoteric symbols, and we believed it probably had an esteemed destiny in the company of our generation’s musical heroes.  The artist, Bob Hieronimus, had planned to be at Woodstock but was ultimately commanded by a busy schedule not to attend.

It was the day before the first performances and we discovered that we might not be able to get in!  Approaching the access road, a policeman said, “You can’t drive in, you’ll have to walk!”  Thinking quickly I said, “We’re taking this bus to the art exhibit.”  He paused momentarily and said, “OK, go ahead.”

And the rest, boys and girls, is history.

Thanks to Sam Towers for the post topic, and to Bob Grimm for this photo and his personal account.

Thanks to Sam Towers for the post topic, and to Bob Grimm for this photo and his personal account.

Remembering Hollywood Park

June 3, 2009

What a dump … and what an incredible place for music. My personal association there was limited, and yet on those few nights I heard the Temptations just breaking out with My Girl (and watched these sartorial giants do their last show of the night in sweaters and big-foot slippers); I sat enraptured with the beauty and elegance of The Platters; I backed up The Drifters with The Majestics and their ever-present music director/guitarist, Abdul; I used the privilege of being known by the club’s owners to gain access to the dressing room where I secured the autographs of all 3 Ronettes (it’s no wonder Phil Spector was obsessed); I witnessed one all-out dance floor brawl from the stage, complete with flying beer bottles.

The national acts were many and great, but Hollywood Park presented, night after night, the best house bands in town (no offense to anyone with a fondness for other venues). Tommy Vann and the Echoes, Danny and the Elegants … these guys were so damn good.

Thanks to Sam Towers for this pic that paints the picture better than any I’ve seen … TV & Echoes on stage, the crowd on the dance floor …


This club ad gives a great snapshot of what went on there, week after week … the Fugitives, Tommy Vann and the “fabulous” Echoes, the Elegants … and in the little box we see that coming soon is The Coasters and Patti LaBelle & the Blue Bells … I mean, come on. Are you kidding me? The parking lot wasn’t paved and the building leaned to the east – to call it a “joint” would be an upgrade – but it was just one of those places.


Don Barto wrote and produced a musical homage to HP that bears a listen here. It really tells the story and catches the vibe.



It is said that there’s a time and a place for everything. In my memory of that time, Hollywood Park was the place.