Saturday, February 23, 2008

Malcolm Holcombe - Malcolm Holcombe

I was reading one of our local Asheville blogs today and ran across a video featuring Malcolm Holcombe, a singer-songwriter from this area. I checked out YouTube and discovered quite a few more by this local legend. It brought back memories.

Back in the mid-80’s, a partner and I opened a small restaurant called the Jersey Shore Deli just north of Asheville. When I say small, I mean small! We had a seating capacity of 40 people.

Our lunch business was great, but our dinner traffic left a lot to be desired – even with our beer and wine licenses. We needed something to draw people in on weekends so they’d see the place, taste our food, and come back during the week. The answer was live music and our first performer was Malcolm Holcombe, probably the most well-known and well liked singer in the area. He had a huge following, and our weekend business exploded. Eventually, we had a rotating stable of about 5 or 6 performers, but our biggest draw was always Malcolm. Check out the link below to see why.

(could not get link to embed – sorry. Just go to You Tube and search for Malcolm Holcomb – you’ll get the idea)

Malcolm was still pretty much a local phenom back then, even though he had performed in Nashville and gotten good reviews there. Somehow we managed to book him for New Year’s Eve, 1985 and we threw a huge, sold-out private party.

Back then, Malcolm loved his beer and we made sure that all our performers had as much of that free lubricant as they wanted. New Year’s eve, being what it is, Malcolm imbibed far more than was his norm and by midnight he was RIGHT – hammering that guitar and belting out some great music.

Our stage was small and on it we had a stool for the singer and a large potted plant (a ficus tree if I remember correctly.) Malcolm was sitting on the stool belting out his rendition of James Taylor’s “Steamroller” and just rockin’ back and forth. Next thing we knew, Malcolm went ass over tin cups backward into the plant – but he never missed a lick. When he finished the song a couple of people went up on the stage and picked him up out of the plant, sat him back on the stool, and he went right into his next song. What a fucking show!

Here’s another link to Malcolm. I don’t know how much he’d been drinking the night this was recorded, but you’ll get the idea. He’s rockin’ the shit out of that chair.

(Again – would not embed. Check out the song where he starts off talking about how good the potato salad is)

Enough of this memory lane crap. Malcolm – if you’re out there – cheers. I’ll have a beer or 6 for you tonight.



Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Three-fingered Henry and the Windsor Canadian

I stopped by the local ABC store today (just to see if it was still there, you understand) and spotted a brand of liquor I haven’t had since I was in college – Windsor Canadian.

Back in the day – the early to mid-60’s – we had a bar just off campus called Frank & Wally’s. Their clientele was comprised mostly of students from Duquesne, but it drew a fair share of business people from the downtown area too.

It was a family run business owned by Frank and his wife Wally (Walenda to be accurate) and the daytime bartender was their son, three-fingered Henry. I never did find out how Henry lost all those digits, but it didn’t slow him down behind the bar.

Besides pouring beer and liquor, Frank & Wally’s served sandwiches and burgers complimented by homemade French-fries. None of that frozen shit that passes for fries today. This was the place to go for lunch.

And go we did. At least three days of the week found our usual cast of characters lined up at the bar drinking draught Budweiser and chowing down on Wally’s great food.
One day after we had eaten our fill, it was firmly decided that this was a drinkin’ day not a classroom day. In those days draught beer was .25 cents, but liquor was still expensive – at least .50 cents a shot – and, being college students, we never had much money.

Enter good ol’ Henry.

“Y’know guys, we just got a new brand of whiskey in called Windsor Canadian,” said Henry, “and the liquor rep gave us a few bottles to use as samples. Anybody want to try a shot?” What a stupid fucking question. All our hands shot skyward.

After the sample shot Henry asked how we liked it. The consensus was that it was good – very smooth. “We got a special price on it too. Only .25 cents a shot.”

Thus began a story that lasted about two years. Now we could afford to buy that good St. Louis Bud (the bottles with the blue caps) and top them off with a shot of Windsor.

And people wonder why I went to college for 4 ½ years and never graduated.