Dee Ford’s – South Side Party Bar

Dee Fords was a night club in the Stewart Lakewood Shopping Center (now “Crossroads Shopping Center“) located next to the Jolly Fox strip bar that was owned (co-owned ?) by Dee’s brother Jerry or so I was told. My dentist, Claude D. had his office located next to the Jolly Fox although he started his practice long before the decline of Southwest Atlanta.  He was generally a good guy but thought anyone with long hair was a dope fiend – an idea confirmed by his refusal to provide a script for pain medications following the difficult removal of an impacted wisdom tooth. To complete the work, he used my forehead as a fulcrum to generate the necessary extraction force but that didn’t work so he broke the impacted tooth in two for easier removal – well at least for him.  I half expected him to ask, Is it safe? This whole scene prompted an inquiry about post extraction analgesics to which he curtly replied, “aspirin should handle it just fine, don’t chew on that side of the mouth for a few days“.  “Wow. Thanks Doc. That never occurred to me. I was gonna go out and eat a T-Bone“. Anyway, he had been liberal with the numbing agent but it wore off a few hours later leaving me with raw pulsing pain the likes of which could motivate a deal with the devil.  I wanted to tell Claude that if I really wanted drugs I could walk out the door and score more quickly than going the whole pharmacy route –  not that I wanted to score anyway. I settled for slamming a couple of Big Mouth Mickeys down at Brothers Three and waiting it out.

You can jail the Revolutionary but you can’t jail the Revolution

Dee Ford’s occupied the spot previously occupied by The Paint Store lounge which itself was previously a Pittsburgh Paints store. A band called “Mighty Joe Young” played at the Paint Store lounge though I was too young to get in but my older friends raved about them. I don’t remember exactly when it turned into Dee Ford’s but almost immediately the club became a seedy destination for 70s party types, would be rock stars, fledgling drug dealers, and the occasional older guy looking to pick up a “foxy chick“. There was also a lot of redneck drama. To wit, there was a sinewy recidivist hick who would go around asking “Who was it that Cain married if not his sister or some very close blood relative?” (An ongoing conundrum for many Christians). Given his Hillbilly background it occurred to me that it might have been an attempt at rationalizing some Jerry Lee Lewis style familial fraternization. And if enough people seemed to accept the idea, hopefully without significant negative reaction, then maybe his conscience could rest a little easier at night.  Then again maybe he just wanted to be viewed as Cell Block D’s most accomplished jail house intellectual. While he had a lot of “wisdom” on offer his flow was suspect. “You can jail the revolutionary but you can’t jail the revolution” followed up by ” The powdered eggs in Fulton County ain’t half bad“. Uh okay…. Wait ! What ?

Let’s go to the Twilight Club and meet some REAL men“.

The women could be scary and sleazy. They weren’t bashful and frequently made the first (and second and third) moves which wasn’t always welcomed as many of them weren’t attractive and well known to get around.  At the time, sexually transmitted diseases were colloquially known to the layman (no pun intended) as “VD” (Venereal Disease) with most people thinking that the only two possibilities were “The Clap” or “The Crabs“.  Many felt such afflictions to be the inevitable result of the promiscuity so common to the 70s. Some of the more extreme felt VD to be evidence of accomplishment like a merit badge or rite of passage. In the early 70s the tenants of the North side Riverbend  apartment complex (featured in the 2002 “Catch Me if You Can Movie”) became well known for its infamous nude pool parties and even more more so for reliance upon penicillin. Condom use was not then prevalent and though we offered them for sale at Bros Three, the only people who bought them were patrons of the street walkers. One guy would walk in and loudly request a pack of “Sultan the Man Protectors” as if he were a compensated spokesperson. However, that didn’t deter most guys. The Silver Ribbon down the street was a Country and Western bar (no one includes the Western anymore since the Bakersfield scene was so long ago).  I was in the parking lot drinking beer with a friend when two massively intoxicated cow girls staggered towards us as one of them let loose with a stream of projectile vomit. She never broke stride. As she wiped her mouth she gave me the once over and told her friend, “Let’s go to the Twilight Club and meet some REAL men“. Guess I wasn’t her type.

Who was it that Cain married if not his sister….”

Dee’s was well known for “Nickel Beer Night” and “Drink and Drown“.  There was usually some violence resulting from unintentional body contact between men whose only way to distinguish themselves was through violence. The women could get in on the action too with crude exhibitions of primal jealousy leading to hair pulling, biting, and drink tossing that in turn triggered more action. It certainly wasn’t always a fight scene but anytime you have that much alcohol someone is going to get upset. The bouncer, a guy named Reed if I recall correctly, could handle things so it was far from being a roadhouse. Any place on The Avenue had a capacity for alcohol fueled fights – it was just part of the scene. The thing for us was to hit Nickel Beer Night and after a few hours of that then stumble over to the “buffet” at the Jolly Fox to scarf down some buffet baloney while we watched the dancers work through their set. They had this one very statuesque blond whom the DJ called “Jean, Jean the Dancing Machine” though as it got later it became “Jean Jean The F*****g Machine“. I recall one night being paralytically drunk while this dancer, “Little Bit“, did her dance for me and misinterpreted my stare as a form of interest. She had a really big “smiling” C-Section scar which I found amusing. After her dance, she came over to see if I was willing to share any money though stalked off in disgust as she realized I was incapable of any movement so there was no way I could open my wallet.

A de-commissioned hearse makes for an excellent band vehicle

Sylvan Hills, East Point, and College Park had a wide variety of musicians many of whom were good with a few being exceptional if only in a well-rehearsed, copy band kind of way.  Dee hired many of them to grind through sets till 2 a.m. when they might try to work in an original song or two. Dee always wanted to sit in with the band (an imposition I think) and offer up such classics as ”Standing on Shaky Ground” though he developed some originals such as ”I Want to do Beautiful Things to You in the Morning” which, after a night at Dee Ford’s couldn’t have been possible.  One of the better house bands was an ensemble named Glyder fronted by male and female singers which gave them an edge over other bands. I recall the guy singer (Kevin?)  being really short. I’m sure that wouldn’t make him feel good to know that’s how some might remember him. The wildcard was the guitar player Nicky who was a pretty good musician who used to drop by Brothers Three in a hearse that the band used to haul around their gear. This was interesting as I had another friend who interned at a funeral home who also used an older hearse to haul around band gear. Nicky had an unusually optimistic outlook (perhaps chemically assisted) to the extent that we nicknamed him “Mr. Wonderful” – not to be confused with wrestler Paul Orndorff who operated under the same name and could also sometimes could be found in Stewart Avenue bars. When I was too lazy to learn how to play a certain song I would just go to Dee’s, sit at the bar, and cop the chords by watching Nicky (and other guitarists) play. It was dead easy and I probably learned like 90 songs that way. You gotta be a visual learner for this approach to work though.

Note to cover band singers: Dressing like Freddy Mercury will not turn you into Freddy Mercury

Another band that setup shop there periodically was Alien who had a variety of members over time (like many bands) before settling into a configuration in the 80s when they made a serious bid towards getting a record contract although I don’t think it worked out for them at least at the national level. Most bands Dee brought in were pretty solid with some bands being very meticulous to a point of being obsessive. One such group rolled in and the singer wore a leotard similar to the kind favored at the time by Freddie Mercury. I mean he wore it the entire night which was odd because if you saw Queen in concert then you know that Freddy would switch up his wardrobe several times during the show. But the cover band singer was quite comfortable wearing his leotard even if no one else was. In any case, they really nailed the tunes but ran out of songs midway through the second set which was awkward since it meant they had to repeat themselves way too soon in the evening. Oddly, they had no apparent ability to jam or improvise so filling up some time wasn’t a possibility. I noticed that there were several bands back then who couldn’t play outside of the parameters of the song they were covering at least in a way that was interesting. So their careers were pretty much restricted to the cover band circuit since writing songs was probably out of the question. Or maybe not. The band U2 got it’s start by writing original material almost immediately as they had little inclination (or talent) for covering songs by existing artists – but then U2, and bands like them, came of age a few years later when groups no longer needed to first prove themselves on the bar circuit before getting the attention of a record company.

On the cusp 80s, Atlanta became saturated with rock cover bands and it got to be competitive and very boring since they were playing mostly for each other. There was a band who offered a note perfect rendition of Elton John’s “Funeral For A Friend” and yet another group prided itself on their faithful reproduction of “Roundabout” by Yes. And while the crowd might have been impressed, (more likely the musicians in the crowd), the bar patrons always preferred something more “common” and dance-able such as “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” or maybe a Lynyrd Skynyrd or Rolling Stones song. Dee brought in another regular band called Nightflight who wisely chose tunes that the crowd could move to. On occasion they would throw in a ballad such as Gino Vannelli’s “The Wheels of Life” which seemed out of place until I realized that it was a good slow dance number liked by the girls.

688 provided a refuge from the hyper competitive cover band scene

I started going to places like 688 to get a break from all the wannabee guitar heroes, stratospheric singers, and would be Keith Emerson style keyboard wizards of the cover band world. And even if some of those 688 bands weren’t that great from a musical standpoint it was still refreshing to hear original music at the start of the “New Wave” era. There were still places like Uncle Tom’s and C.W. Shaws which hosted top tier, original rock bands poised for a record deal. However, as would become a general life pattern I always found myself out of step with both the South and North sides of Atlanta since I didn’t blindly accept various bands being offered as the “the best in Atlanta” or  “the best in The South” which was a term bandied about so much then. I mean you could drive to Birmingham or Florida and see some pretty good bands also. I got called a “snob” a lot when that really wasn’t the case. My wanting to check out something new shouldn’t have been interpreted as a betrayal simply because I did not want to go see the same ole bands even though many of them were my friends – some of whom, 40-45 years later, are still playing – God Love’em !

Anyway – back to Dee’s – a lot of the people “action” took place in the parking lot with people going to the car to “burn one” or randy couples looking to engage in some quick backseat action. You should remember that this was the age of large pimp style gas hog automobiles with enough room to host a church barbecue. Some people lived in these cars and even hung curtains or blankets in the windows whereas others didn’t mind being seen. Customized vans were also a big thing then and they always attracted since everyone assumed nefarious activities were taking place therein. This was the era of “If this van’s a rockin’ don’t come a knockin'”. Many Avenue bars had as much action going on in the parking lot as was going on in the club. In fact some nights I might not even go inside if the scene was happening in the parking lot. I mean if the band wasn’t that good then why bother because you knew that there weren’t any pretty girls inside. Plus you could drink out of your own trunk  (everybody had colors of beer in the trunk back then).

I don’t recall exactly when I stopped going to Dee’s nor am I sure when it closed. Maybe somewhere around 82 ? At some point, the City of Atlanta Police started visiting some of the South side bars with teams of menacing cops looking to uncover whatever they could. They would  demand identification, look in the bathrooms for active drug use, and generally come on real strong as a means to intimidate customers as well as the club owners. Then again maybe they were just looking for a payoff. Anyway, they would sometimes find some unlucky soul with an open warrant. I’m not sure that these “raids” accomplished much of anything in terms of reducing city crime. I recall hearing that Dee opened up a club in Columbus at some point. I don’t know if that was actually true but I know that I heard that from more than one person.  There might have even been some overlap between the two locations but once I got busy with other things I just left it all behind and had expanded my game so to speak to include other venues and bars. In any case, from what Google tells me, Dee is apparently still at the bar and music game over in Anniston Alabama still going strong. I don’t know if he still wants to “do beautiful things to you in the morning” but he should get a longevity award for being in the night club business for as long as he has. © 2018 The Stewart Avenue Kid.

10 responses

  1. Good to see you back on the blog. I did some Google searching and found that Dee Ford’s has a Facebook site and apparently has a handful of pictures from their Atlanta days in an album on their site:

    Man, those 70s and early 80s styles were something else.

    Like

  2. Let me try this again, as it apparently didn’t like my link:

    Images from Dee Ford's Atlanta Club in the 70's!!

    Posted by Dee Ford's Bar & Grill on Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Like

    1. Thanks for the link – I wish there were more pictures. I remember the angle from the bar looking at the stage. I wish I had been more of a “camera person” back then. It never occurred to me to want to take pictures. I don’t know the name of the band that was on the stage. I knew most of them but of course there was always a new one coming in.

      Like

  3. Debbie Herrington Dyal | Reply

    Hey guys – we would love to have anybody come over on sat. This weekend to help us celebrate Dee’s birthday! And – send us pictures from the day! Dee Ford’s West In Lincoln Alabama on FB! (He still sings “Beautiful Things”.

    Like

  4. WOW 😲 you all have such great info on Dee . I didn’t know Dee that far back. I met him when he owned Club 112 located on Piedmont rd next to Rupert’s which use to be”The Limelight”. Boy were those the days. It used to crack me up when I would go to Club 112 cause it was pretty much a chocolate club but there were plenty white people there including me, and there is Dee wearing his big ole cowboy hat, boots 👢 and belt buckle…LOL 😁 He was so funny and crazy. He told me all about his career and his previous club Dee Fords. And yes he had a couple of clubs in Alabama. When Rupert’s closed its doors and that wild club opened across the street Dee sold Club 112 to Jack Galardi, who owned most all the strip clubs in Atlanta minus the Cheetah 3. Eventually Jack moved 112 over off Cheshire bridge Rd. I was a pool 🎱 shark as well as a club goer so you could also find me at McGruders or ?? the club off Roswell Rd next to the Beef Cellar. Hmmm can’t think of the name but I loved that place. If anyone knows the bar/club I’m talking about please comment here or email me at eccmce@yahoo.com tyvm 😊 Mel

    Like

  5. I need to make a few corrections to my previous post. I didn’t mean the Beef Cellar, I meant next to Kobe’s at the Prado. It did move down the street from the Beef Cellar on Copeland Rd. Sorry about that. It’s been a while and I’m having to go to the far regions of my mind and try to pull out all those memories. I could talk about so many more clubs and /or bars that were popular and I enjoyed and was a regular like Johnny’s Hideaway. Awesome atmosphere and music 🎶

    Like

  6. […] I pointed out in this post, there were many cover bands in the East Point, College Park, and Sylvan Hills areas with most of […]

    Like

  7. Would like to set up a meeting.

    Like

    1. Thanks. Could you perhaps provide a bit more context ? Feel free to send email to stewartavekid@fastmail.fm

      Like

  8. I remember deefords well I loved to go dance but left before 2am but glyder the band I loved to listen to Joe,and hilt I think bass guitar player and all use to hang out their were a lot of drugs being pushed but never did any knew a lot of people who hung out their who did it’s was a great place to hang out on a Friday are Saturday night then had friends who would leave their after they closed and went to the crystal palace never went their

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: