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

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When I first came here for my cousin's wedding, we were going to open a restaurant. We got a hold of this realtor guy and we looked everywhere. There was a restaurant called Chez Nous, we were going to buy that. We were real close. Then they refused our offer, and then it was a Sunday, and Steve the realtor says. "You wanna check out this place called The Mason Jar?" So we go there all dressed up in tuxedos--

You went straight from the wedding? No I always dress up when I go out. They had this band, the Urge. First punk band [I saw] I guess. They're playing there, and they're smashing their heads against the poles. So I'm going, what the fuck is that?

And they go, "Oh, that's moshing." And the place was packed. The only thing I was watching is the register ringing.

I didn't know anything about the rock and roll scene at this point, but I know that every place else on a Sunday night was dead. So we made them an offer, and they accepted. I had this girlfriend at the time, and told her, "I just bought this punk bar."

She said, "Are you crazy? Do you know what you're getting into?" I said, "No, the only thing I know is that it's making money."

The reason we're doing a Legends of the Mason Jar [show], and not a Mason Jar Reunion, is I have to be fair--like, [I don't want to hear] why are you doing this band or that band. When I do a Mason Jar reunion I don't want to leave anybody out. I'll show up, introduce the bands, give away 75-cent Kamikazes.

So the bands you'll be introducing, they predate you at the Mason Jar. There was The Urge--we used to book them for two weeks, Monday through Saturday, The Schoolboys and The Urge. Then they take a day off. When they take the Sunday off they play The Whiskey River, Edsel's Attic. And Mr. Lucky's; we used to rotate bands and everybody drew fine. The Urge was the first punk band in Phoenix. They used to be called The Spiff. The Schoolboys were the bomb--they used to draw great. Great rock band; they got signed to Capitol.

We had a band called Blue Shoes, and they were drawing decent, but not like Schoolboys or Raven Payne, so they were playing at Mr. Lucky's. So I asked Raven Payne to play Mason Jar the rest of the week, even though I had a contract with Blue Shoes. [Laughs] So Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday they play, but they're not bringing anybody, so I told them I was canceling their week and they said, "We still have a contract! We're gonna sue you." We went to arbitration; in those days we paid eight or 900 for the week.

The Jetzons never wanted to play at Mason Jar. They just wanted to play Merlin's. But me--I was persistent. I never give up. They used to make like $1000 at Merlin's for a week. So I said, dude, I'll give you double. So Larry Davison, their manager, said, "Yeah right, you never pay the fucking bands."

I said if you want I'll give you the money right now--just play for a week. I never signed a contract, maybe because of the Blue Shoes incident. So they ended up playing The Mason Jar, and we used to rotate Mason Jar and Merlin's. I used to give bonuses to them and The Schoolboys.

Meat Puppets used to play Merlin's, also. The Jetzons only wanted to play one set a night, and they wanted only one band. That's when I started to book two or three bands.

When did you become the sole owner? My partner Joe got cancer and passed away two years after we bought the club. To make a long story short, between hard times and easy times I had to take the place myself.

We were supposed to pay Clyde in ten years; we paid him off in five. We did a lot of cleanup. I had to take care of the bathroom, 'cause when I have to go to the bathroom, I have to be able to go. I don't know what magazine it was that named us "Cleanest Bathroom, even cleaner than the Biltmore." I remember in those days, in the ladies room, we had Aqua Net.

Are you sure it wasn't in the men's room too? We had it in the men's room too because the guys had long hair and they'd spray it, blow-dry it. We kept it pretty clean. I did a lot of cleanup, and I remember Andy Van De Voorde from New Times wrote about how smoky the Mason Jar was. I had to get the smoke-sucker.

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic