Thursday, April 20, 2017

Slug's, a legendary jazz bar

In the fall of 1971, I returned to the States after a three month seat of the pants cheap and wonderful vagabonding trip around most countries in Europe with two friends from college.  They lived in New Jersey and went straight home.  Being in New York City upon arrival and with no reason to head back to a hometown in Virginia, a call to a Manhattan born and raised college friend led to an invitation to visit.

There had been several visits to New York with him while in college but just for a night or two.  This time he welcomed me to settle in at a sub-floor in his parent's high rise building where they had a massive apartment with large window views of the East River.  Where I stayed was a combination storage area and servants quarters, perfect.

He was adrift like me, and had decided to got to law school.  He had time.  One of our night's outings included a trip to Slug's, a jazz bar downtown, very downtown, on East 3rd Street between Avenues B and C, alphabet city.  At this time there were no streetlights in that area, few cabs dared go there, and street traffic was minimal(it was still that way in the '80's when I moved here but somewhat accessible to A).  The walk there was a bit unnerving with no pedestrian traffic and no cars around.  It was a place where only people who knew what they were doing and where they were going had a chance of being safe. Looking a few yards short of being a homeless person could be helpful.  That may have been me after that long trip.

How my friend Scott knew about this place so well is unknown.  He was completely comfortable there, even known, as I was soon after the music took hold.  We had arrived at around one in the morning and left at near daybreak.  It is an experience long remembered.

Today that club is much more than a footnote in jazz history.  It opened in 1964 and closed in 1972.  I have no idea who was seen the very late night that we were there, but during the club's time everyone, important including Miles played there.  It can be thought that I went to Joe's Palm Room, Chez Allard, Fillmore East, the 17th street Tramps, Pete Fountains, the Dragonette, the first Quattorze, the Cellar Door, and many other fine intimate places, but Slugs is perhaps the most unlikely for me and the one that is still vibrantly alive in history today, as it will stay.


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