Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Merrimon Avenue Then and Now

    I'm back after having breakfast at the Atlanta Bread Company on Merrimon Ave (Asheville), which has been there about 3 years now. Actually, some people who've left Asheville would be surprised to see how little Merrimon Avenue has changed. Years ago on this corner of Merrimon and Edgewood is where the Brass Tap, Caesar's and the Human Factor once stood. All the same place, just different ownership.

    It was a laid back bar with live music. You could walk in with your guitar and get called up to join the band or get asked to come up and sing harmony.

    It was an intimate musician's place where single pickers and bands came to play on Open Mic nights or were booked for a set. Guitar builders, songwriters and wicked blues musicians were showcased all the way to New York and Nashville.

    Local heros like Malcolm Holcombe, Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule), Ray Sisk, Joey Freeman, Bruce McTaggart, Steve Cook and a few others. Ronnie Burgin, who has since passed on, may have been the best blues guitar player/singer I ever did see. Sober or not.

    But back to Merrimon Avenue. It is still the same small 4-lane road with a few new banks and restaurants, but Merrimon Avenue basically looks the same way it did 20 years ago when I met my husband at The Brass Tap.

    x-posted to Easy Bake Coven


    Tom said...

    Thanks for helping me rediscover the Brass Tap. I can remember many years ago going to there with Malcolm Holcombe after he finished playing at the lounge in the Holiday Inn on Tunnel Road.

    I have often wondered what happened to that place. I have since moved to Greenville and heard some of Malcolm songs on WNCW and started thinking about those days in the early 80's. Thanks again for helping me remember.


    mike gaffney said...

    Yeah, I remember Caesar's Parlor (Seisures) back when Wally and Haita owened it. I hung out with Malcombe, Ray, Dallas, Joey and Dan Lewis. Quite a few brews down the tubes since then. Also, I do recall a few night when we'd run over to the $29 a night motel to play a set for the free beer. Been a while, Tom. Maybe we can remember each other if we try. Cheers.
    Mike Gaffney

    Joan said...

    Where is Joey Freeman? I believe he is the best banjo player I've ever heard. I would love to hear him play again.

    Sude said...

    Hi Joan. Great question. Joey is phenomenal. At picking and at building instruments, too. He truly has a gift or two. My husband, Steve Cook, has known Joe for ages but hasn't seen him in years now. He may still be in Naples, NC, outside of Hendersonville. Where did you see Joey play? So glad you stopped in.

    Sude said...

    Tom and Mike Gaffney, I neglected to thank you for your comments. Good to know that together we have The Brass Tap (Or Caesers, or The Human Factor with Doug) in our hearts to live on. Along with the stories that came out of there.

    If anyone else has a story about this bar, PLEASE leave us a comment about it. =)

    Anonymous said...

    Just how many stories would you like to hear? About the eccentric owners, the talented musicians, the great songwriters, the crazy things that happened there on a regular day-to-day basis, or the amazing and varied group of people that once gathered there in the early days of Ceaser's, before the barbarian hordes took over in later reincarnations of the bar?
    Do you want stories about Ray and Joe, Larry Rhodes, Dan Lewis, Mike Gaffney, Dallas Taylor, young "Milkum" (as he was known in those early days, because he drank only milk, no caffiene or alcohol) tales about Ironin' Board Sam, Walt & Ethel Phelps, Smokey Joe, Loafer's Glory,
    songs about gamblers, stray dogs, rainbows, romance, fate & destiny, smilin' tennis shoes...
    Anytime you gather that much talent, insanity and a non-stop floating party together during the post-hippie era of 1970s, you can be certain of more tales than any one book could hold. It was a golden age in a curious way, sort of like Camelot...only it was Caeser's.
    Dan Lewis

    Sude said...

    Hey, Dan, thanks so much for your comment on Caesar's.

    To answer your question, I'd love to hear tons of stories about the place. I can't get enough of them and I probably knew you back then, too.

    I moved back to Asheville in 1986 and started working as a bartender for Doug. The people that stopped by for a drink or conversation or to play and sing were all fascinating and fun people.

    I also worked with Rose, who was such a blast. Everyone liked her. This guy named Jerry stopped in and always made me laugh with his dry wit. Then there was Mike McClure. What a character. Everyone has a McClure story. Ronnie Burgin had just left his woman (again) and crashed with me for awhile. Did you know Ronnie Ledford? He sadly passed away a couple of months ago.

    Until there becomes a better place online I'd like for everyone to pitch in and write down their memories here. As much and as often as you like.

    Again, Dan, thanks for stopping in and I look so forward to more stories from you.

    Anonymous said...

    JC told me about this site. I'm happy to see that I am not the only person to remember those good days. Remember the story Wally Libby told about the plane crash? Of course it was one of his flights of fancy, but he told a grusome tale! JC said that someone had pictures of Frank Brown. Sure would love to see them. I loved Frank. Margie Ann

    Sudeaux said...

    Hey Margie Ann. Thanks for your comment. I would love to be able to post photos of the old Brass Tap/Caesar's crew here. Frank Brown was one of the first heads I met when I moved here at 17. I had weed; he had some rolling rock. Ha! And JC... would that happen to be the wild and crazy Jim/Jimmy Cole? thanks again and please feel free to add your old AVL memories here.

    Anonymous said...

    Hey Sudeaux. Yes Jimmy. Love him too. Doug Campbell and Roger, Wally and Philip, they were all older then me , I went to David Millard with Danny, Marilyn Hamilton and "hairy" Patty Jones. Cosmos for french fries after school. Does anyone know where Gorden Hurst is nowdays? Peace.

    Doug Hughes said...

    Wow I was looking up to find Ronnie Burgin , but found this ... I was one of the gang at the Brass Tap and would remember Ronny , And Warren playing on jam night . I was there that night that warren got offered the job to play lead for David Allen Coe .. Wow that was a very great time in my life .. being Wild and free in Asheville working at a Photography Studio. on Pack Square. I would love to here from any one that hung out at the brass tap at this time.. I don"t party any more and live out west. But you can contact me through my website please.. WWW.
    Remembering the good old days..

    Douglas Hughes!

    Bndtrider said...

    Hello I live in NA back in the day and I would have never thought there would be a site talking about the Brass Tap / Caesars. I spent many a good time there, my running buddy was Earl Johnson he went to school with "Fatty" Burgin. Some of the other guys I hung around with were Gary Erwin, B.L. (Bobby Lewis), John koulakis (Greek) man and so many others.

    I still think that Ricochet was one the best bands ever to come out Asheville. Do you guys remember Matt Sluder he got his start playing at the Tap also and became a very good guitar picker too. The Tap had a hand in developing a ton of local guys, the Mascari's Jimmy and Jack, Jimmy Black, Jeff Anders ran with those guys and he is a great guitar player in his own right.

    Great blog, thanks for the memories and I always raise a glass to Ronnie every time I hear Marshall Tucker do Can't You See.....he and Matt left us too soon.....R.I.P. Brothers

    Lary Hooker

    Wretched Excess said...

    Yow, was that place too much fun or what? Around the time that Warren got tapped to play with David Allan Coe, I was hanging there a bunch, guzzling beer and howling at the moon to Loafers Glory ('76 - '77? hazy memories). One of those nights four of us got a pitcher of beer apiece to go out and moon the intersection in all four directions. Standing ovation from the bar and lots of honking of horns on Merrimon Ave.... Somehow, I think that LSD and 'shine played a part in our collective craziness.


    Lidia said...

    I’m sitting here watching Star Wars. Episode IV which I still feel was really the first. The bar scene came on, and I remembered the first time I saw that scene and thought “wow! Look! It’s Ceaser’s!! On a whim, I searched Ray Sisk and Joey Freeman and this conversation came up. What a surprise. I feel so privaledged to have been part of that era.

    ICUBrother said...

    Hey Larry, Mike Lytle here, hope all is well!!!