Franco Gagliano Talks Legends of The Mason Jar, Past and Present

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We talked for about an hour about a lot of stuff that didn't make the print feature, stuff we thought you might enjoy reading in the context of a personal rambling conversation between old colleagues. Yes I worked for him, what musician in Arizona with gray hairs hasn't? But I've also been a writer for New Times during those years, and that relationship played out a little differently than that of a lot of other Mason Jar "employees."

If New Times wrote something snarky about the club or an act he was bringing to his place regardless of who wrote it, I'd get treated like the public face of the paper and have to endure a little good-natured abuse from him in his office. Like when my band didn't bring in a lot of tickets, which happened more often than not. But Franco continued booking me and a lot of other bands that were still figuring out what they wanted to do on-stage, and few other club owners would roll those dice year after year. The man is a true hero and a legend.

It's amazing how immediately we fell into our comfortable roles after 15 dormant years.

Your home office reminds me a lot of your little room at The Mason Jar where you'd have to go to get paid at the end of the night. Whaaat? You never got paid! [Laughs]

I know I never got paid! Easy now!

You would say, "You guys didn't bring any people. Here's six dollars." No, what six dollars? "Here's 20 dollars!"[Laughs]

Yeah, I'm just kidding. I think it was always 12 or something that you could easily divide between four people. You were considerate like that! Those were the days.

Do you ever miss it? Fuck yeah I miss it. Of course I miss it.

Did you ever think of going back and doing it? Who knows? What do you think? You're the expert on the music business?

I don't know. It's a tough business. Hard to say why a beloved place like Hollywood Alley doesn't stay open. Ross is such a nice guy--I love that guy so much. It's not easy business. They had a number six-license food and wine. It was never easy. I closed down in February 2000. I used to give a lot of chances to young kids. Then you get one guy from this band and another guy from that band from four or five bands, and you get one decent band.

Even when you closed, I never remember seeing The Mason Jar not crowded, not doing well. It's not a matter of doing well, I learned when I was a kid [that] if you want to do something, jump in and do it right. If you don't do it right, I'm not even going to think about it. If you make a mess, sooner or later you can cover it up, but you have to go back to clean up the mess.

So for me to do the business right, I had to be there all the time. I loved it, but I had to have some kind of a life. There was no weekends, no Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Christmas, or New Years. I had to be there all the time. Now I can just pack my suitcase; I got good tenants in the apartments, if something is happens, something's broken, I can call someone and pay the fee to have someone come and fix it.

When did you buy the Mason Jar? Was it called that originally? It was August 1980. It was me and my partner Joe Tomasselli. It was the Mason Jar before. It was owned by a guy named Clyde Shields.

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic