The Rice Hotel Speakeasy: Houston Music During Prohibition

Note: This is Part 2 in a series that timelines through bits of the first century of Houston's nightlife until about the start of what was found to be Houston's oldest running bar.

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Rice Hotel dining room
The Rice Hotel (now the Post Rice Lofts) is located where the first capital of the Republic of Texas once stood. The Rice Roof at the Rice Hotel was one of Houston's top dance clubs among local elite and whatnot for some time.

By the time Prohibition came about in the early 1920s, the Rice Roof was where much of Texas' elite supposedly kept their private stocks of alcohol in individual cabinets. The Rice Hotel Dining Room Orchestra played here as well as several jazz "territory bands." One such group was Peck's Bad Boys, an influential local group led by Houstonian John "Peck" Kelley. They never recorded, though they were said to be largely popular while remaining generally ahead of their time. They possibly played at the Rice Roof and at college nights at the Lamar Spanish Dining Room, too.

Prohibition-era nightclubbing in Houston was said to happen in speakeasies made out of houses located in the Neartown area along present-day Westheimer, better known today as Montrose.

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Negative Approach & the Casualties at Walters, 11/2/2013

Photos by Nathan Smith
Negative Approach
Negative Approach, the Casualties, the Krum Bums
Walters Downtown
November 2, 2013

Now that virtually every hardcore band that ever pushed a van in the early '80s has reformed for a trek or three around the country, it's fair to say that Detroit's Negative Approach stands out as one of the best. A lot of their peers are coasting, playing old favorites to old fans. But NA's performances still crackle with malice, and they still inspire wicked pits.

Their trip to Warehouse Live with OFF! last September was one of the gnarliest shows of the year, so I was especially interested in seeing what they could do with a headliner's slot. All the better that they were bringing along the Casualties, the long-running NYC street-punk band that always draws a crowd dressed to kill.

When I got to Walters, the floor was already crowded with colorful mohicans, liberty spikes and tattoo ink for the Krum Bums, the Austin punks well-known around these parts for their silly hair and shout-alongs. A big, energetic mosh pit roiled up front as the band egged everyone on with their metallic, twin leads.

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Social Media Summons the Ghost of Gilley's at Urban Cowboy Reunion

Photos courtesy of John Schubert
A patron rides El Toro at Gilley's, late '70s
In the late '70s, New York City had Studio 54. Pasadena, Texas, had Gilley's. The massive honky-tonk nightclub, which was the real star of the 1980 John Travolta flick Urban Cowboy, was an entertainment mecca in the booming chemical-plant town -- a place where plant workers could catch big-name country music acts, dance with somebody special or just get completely shithoused with friends after work.

It's safe to say that the joint made an impression. More than 30 years after Urban Cowboy's premiere and more than 20 since Gilley's was destroyed by a suspicious fire, hundreds of the club's old regulars -- now scattered to the wind -- are getting together this weekend at Pasadena's Texas Saloon for an Urban Cowboy reunion to catch up, reminisce and sip a few longnecks.

It's the third time in as many years that the now-annual reunion will take place, bringing together ex-Gilley's staff, performers, plant workers and Urban Cowboy extras from near and far. Deer Park resident John Schubert unwittingly kick-started the whole thing back in 2011 when he joined Facebook and began uploading a few old photos he took back when Gilley's was one of the biggest, hottest nightclubs on the planet.

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Black Flag at Walters, 8/26/2013

Photos by Jim Bricker.
Black Flag and Good for You
Walters Downtown
August 26, 2013

News that hardcore punk legends Black Flag were heading through Walters on their current tour of the U.S. and Australia inspired no small amount of excitement around these parts. After all, the band hasn't played Houston (or much of anywhere, really) since at least the mid-'80s. But it inspired a lot of questions, too.

Namely, why now? Was guitarist Greg Ginn getting the band back together (or some new-fangled version of it, anyway) just to show up Keith Morris' competing troupe, FLAG? Where, exactly, did he dig up long-lost singer Ron Reyes, and who were the new guys in the rhythm section? Were they in any condition to do proper justice to the angst-riddled anthems that once caused audiences to degenerate into violent mayhem?

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people wanted to see those questions answered live and in person on Monday night. Weeknight or no, Walters was as crowded as it's perhaps ever been, with several generations of punkers showing up ready to see if this new Black Flag was worthy of name.

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Black Flag and the Five Most Insulting Punk 'Reunions' of All Time

Categories: Old People

This is what Black Flag looks like in 2013.
On Monday, a band calling itself Black Flag is going to set up and play some tunes at Walters Downtown. For some of us, this is a pretty big deal. If you were too young or two fucked-up to remember the legendary L.A. punks' storied early-'80s heyday, this gig likely represents your most legitimate shot in 30 years at catching the band that launched 1,000 tattoos.

While this group has got the name and the founder -- the incendiary, priggish Greg Ginn -- in place, they're not the only loose nuts banging out Black Flag's damaged anthems on tour these days. Another group of SST expatriates calling itself FLAG is also traveling the country, offering up its own version of punk nostalgia. After three decades of nothing, why are we now getting not one, but two Black Flag reunions?

Put simply, it's because a lot of people are ready and willing to trade fistfuls of cash to see them again.

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Songwriting Great Eric Taylor: "Houston Is Still a Real Music Town"

Photos courtesy of Eric Taylor
Rocks Off hadn't seen Eric Taylor, once a contemporary of Townes Van Zandt, since his last Houston date at 14 Pews in January 2012. But with the release party for Taylor's latest CD, Studio 10, this Sunday at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, we caught up with the veteran Texas singer-songwriter behind "Shoeshine Boy," "Whooping Crane" and Nanci Griffith's "Dollar Matinee" (among many others), from the road.

Rocks Off: I think we have something in common in that Facebook seems to make us both angry. I'm not sure I ever enjoy that Web site. Do you?

Eric Taylor: The Facebook thing is a double-edged sword. Perhaps a necessary evil for some. There are times that it seems a conduit for race-baiting bigots, and there are times it becomes a way for pictures to be shown of little kitties or something someone ate for lunch.

It is supposed to be social networking, and if you can't be somewhat angry about that, then you're not breathing. That being said, it's good to talk to some of my friends.

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Well, It's Official: Ozzy Osbourne Can't Sing Anymore

Photos by Groovehouse
Thursday night at the Woodlands was the first night of the reunited Black Sabbath's world tour, and to say that anticipation was running high would be underselling it a bit. The band is fresh off the release of its first new album together in 35 years, 13, which went straight to No. 1. Clearly, fans were ready for another go-round with the godfathers of metal.

But to add to the intrigue, Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath's legendary guitarist, has been battling lymphoma for the better part of a year now. Iommi's not a young man. For perhaps the first time, his assumed immortality appears in doubt. Long history of retirement fake-outs aside, this could very well be Sabbath's final trek around the globe. Miss this tour, and you might not get another chance.

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30footFALL at Fitzgerald's, 7/20/2013

Photos by Francisco Montes
30footFALL, Bickley, the Smiffs, Skeleton Dick
July 19, 2013

What exactly does it take to keep a punk rock band in Houston, Texas, together for 20 years? Well, delivering the goods onstage year in and year out is certainly one crucial ingredient. That's what has kept 30footFALL fans coming back Christmas after Christmas, and it's what packed 'em in at Fitzgerald's on Saturday to celebrate the local punk troupe's 20th anniversary together.

In When We Ruled H-Town, last year's excellent documentary on Houston's '90s rock scene, a shot was taken at 30footFALL by one of their peers over their perceived booking of inferior opening acts -- ostensibly to make themselves look better by comparison. Nobody could have levied that claim with a straight face on Saturday. In addition to current faves Skeleton Dick, 30FF also managed to corral fellow '90s mainstays Bickley out of super-extended hiatus and even brought along front man Butch Klotz's Smiths cover band, the Smiffs, from Charlottesville, Va.

If that lineup did nothing for you, it's highly possible you have never been nor likely shall be punk, sir.

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Shine a Light On Me: 40 Years of The Midnight Special

Recently, I was swallowed under a wave of memories while channel surfing. Thanks to some infomercial hustlers who were selling a DVD collection, I was spending the first moments of a new Saturday watching scenes from The Midnight Special for the first time in more than 30 years.

My eyes were fixed to the screen, which was now 52 inches wide and not bound by Curtis Mathis' carved wood. It didn't matter. I was eight years old again, watching Wolfman Jack howl and introduce music's biggest acts.

Pop-music-history stuff: The Midnight Special was a television program on NBC. In the 1970s and '80s, it aired after Johnny Carson's Friday-night episodes of The Tonight Show.. Its producer, Burt Sugarman, created a show that featured many of the era's biggest or most promising music and comedy acts. The show debuted 40 years ago this year.

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Boogie Nights: How Surviving Disco Helped Me Understand EDM

Photo by Victoria Pickering
Some kid I know asked me if I ever plan to write an article about electronic dance music. I told him yeah, probably I would.

I guess that seemed too cavalier an answer. He wanted to know if I had something against EDM.

Naw, it's all right, I told him.

What was I, he wanted to know, some kind of music snob?

I assured him I was not. Plenty of room for the Skrillexes (Skrillices? Skrilli Politti?) of the world, as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe. But you don't care for it, do you, he asked.

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