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

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The smoking laws hurt a lot of clubs' draw. But you were smart to keep those matinee shows on Sunday going because you always had a crowd in waiting when the previous crowd got more domesticated and moved on. We were the first club in Phoenix to give a chance to the kids with the matinee shows on Sundays. Eight, ten and twelve-year-old kids.

Did any of those bands play the rest of the week when they got older? Lots of them. Chronic Future. I used to book three bands in the afternoon. Doug Hopkins' band before the Gin Blossoms. Steve Larson used to play the matinee. Flotsam and Jetsam, they used to be called The Dogs, they played The Matinee. They were so loud the neighbors complained.

Do you remember the dressing room?

Near the old north-side entrance? Yeah, it had all those names on there. I never should have painted it. Pearl Jam played there, I Love You headlined. They were a band from Hollywood Geffen signed in 1991. One of those bands [where] either Nirvana or Pearl Jam said, somewhere, "I wish we someday could be as big as I Love You."

What other national acts got an early break at the Jar? In 1986, we went to New York Music Seminar. We saw a band playing on the side stage--Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone--and no one knew who the fuck they were. I told the singers of both bands, "If someday you go to LA, call, you could play the Mason Jar."

The Chili Peppers called saying they were going to LA, they might get signed, they asked, "Can you book us for a couple of hundred dollars?" I gave them 250 and paid for their hotel. Same thing with Fishbone. I think they both got signed at the same time.

You had some established legends at the Jar as well. John Entwhistle, Johnny Lee Hooker, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Ko Ko Taylor, and the first time I paid over $2000 for a band was Ko Ko Taylor. The first snow in 100 fucking years we had in Phoenix, it was that night.

The marquee outside was full of snow. We sold maybe 30, 40 tickets. I lost my pants on that. We had Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, separately, when they were doing solo tours

I remember a night you had The Bay City Rollers! Or what was left of them. There was nobody there! There was almost a riot there. They were terrible. When I booked a band like The Coasters and it's only one guy from the band, [or] Buffalo Springfield but it was just the drummer. They were supposed to play an outdoor show in Scottsdale, but it was raining like crazy so the show got cancelled.

So in the morning I got a call. How much do they want? "We'll play for a bottle of whiskey and $500." So what do I say, no? They were just super-drunk, and I had to get them hotel rooms.

I get a call from agencies that heard I was a softie. I'll never forget Bo Diddley--two shows. That's the only way I could pay him that kind of money they were asking. He had never played in Phoenix before that. We had JJ Walker. Somebody told me, "What are you doing, digging graves?" [Laughs]

I remember opening a show for Jonathan Richman. Jonathan Richman--he rocked. He speaks Italian very well, He can write a song in two minutes. He says to me, "Franco, I got a special song for you and your girlfriend." And he sang it in Italian. He stayed here at my house. Do you remember when the Beat Angels opened for Tiny Tim?

Yeah, I have an autographed flyer he signed for me. While he was in your office getting paid. Tiny Tim, he stayed here in my house.

Did you have to make special provisions for him? He was quite a clean freak. Lots of hand sanitizer, tissues... Yeah, well, that's confidential.

Watching the Beat Angels playing behind Tiny Tim was surreal. Do you remember that one time you and Brian Smith had an argument from the stage? Never. Never.

Yeah, they didn't set foot in the Jar for a few months. I never remember an argument with anyone. They were all my buddies.

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic