REO’s 157 Riverside Avenue

Westport’s Historic District Commission reviews the proposed teardown of any home over 50 years old.

Sometimes they’re lovely, architecturally significant treasures.  Usually they’re outdated, 51-year-old split levels.  Almost always, the commission says “yes.”

But what will they say when REO Speedwagon fans learn that 157 Riverside Avenue is may be bulldozed into oblivion?

The ’70s rock band — best known for “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It on the Run” — released their 1st album in 1971. The most popular track was “157 Riverside Avenue.

Yes, that’s our 157 Riverside Avenue.  REO Speedwagon stayed there — directly across from Bedford Junior High School (now Saugatuck El) while recording in Bridgeport.  According to Wikipedia, that song “remains an in-concert favorite.”

(They’re still touring.  On September 15, you can catch them at the Kansas State Fair.  Little River Band too!)

But back to 157 Riverside.  Nick Thiemann — an attorney who lives next door — recently wrote to the Historic District Commission.

He does not object to the demolition.  However, he said:

While it would not appear that Washington slept there, it does seem as though someone did.  Whether this historical significance is relevant to your deliberations is a question you must determine.

Over the years that I have lived here (since 1968), I have been asked periodically if this is “really the REO Speedwagon 157 Riverside Avenue.”  Not often to be sure, but probably more often than neighbors of many the other houses you have designated as historically significant.

Okay.  It isn’t Big Pink.

But its ours.

And REO Speedwagon’s.

“06880” readers?

157 Riverside Avenue -- hidden by trees, like a true celebrity house.

We flew into town on Sunday, had to find a place by Monday
Tried Bridgeport and Westport, ’til we found a place that we thought would do
157 Riverside Avenue.

Saugatuck River’s flowin’, mother nature’s colors were showin’
So cold, so rainy, we couldn’t help feelin’ blue
Not enough time, too many things to do.

We met a young girl on Main Street, wanted to just pass her by
She was homely, so lonely, she said, “can I make love to you?”
We shouted 157 Riverside Avenue.

It’s over, Miss Lena, we’re leaving, such a pleasant stay, I must say.
So nice, so easy, we hate to say goodbye to you
At 157 Riverside Avenue.

38 responses to “REO’s 157 Riverside Avenue

  1. This is new to me. I did not know this part of Westport rock history.

  2. Sounds like they weren’t there too often? This is a first. Never heard they were there. Dang, another Westport exploitation. Such an injustice on the town! Tear it down I say! (we had to take one side of the opinion, right?)

  3. Here’s a burning question …. who is “Miss Lena”?

  4. Excellent Westport history. And a great toe-tapper.

  5. Is that the same Nick Thiemann who once ran for CT State Senate, I believe in 1972, with the motto “Pick Nick”? Now that would be some obscure history!

    As far as the house goes, while I have no affinity for REO Speedwagon anymore (they were the first rock band I saw live) I did vote yes.

    • Yes David the very same. Regrettably to few picked Nick. But “obscure history”? Please! How many other losing state senate candidates can you remember from the ’70s?
      Nick Thiemann

      • Well I suppose I have to give him (you?) credit for the catchy slogan, but I am afraid few other people would remember. Many people saw me with that button (I got it at the McGovern Headquarters that was later moved behind where Ed Mitchell’s is now) and asked me if it meant “Pick Nixon.” When I explained it to my fellow grade schoolers I got a lot of puzzled looks.

  6. Great local history… but if this town wasn’t going to save the Paul Rudolf designed masterwork of modernism, 157 Riverside probably isn’t long for this world.

  7. Usually don’t post but wanted to clear something up: The Historic District Commission has no authority to stop the demolition of any building outside a designed historic district. All they can do is require a six month waiting period before the demolition can proceed to give interested parties time to come up with an alternative. Once the six months is up, all bets are off and they can’t stop anything.

  8. As probably the only 06880 reader who has seen REO 4 times in the last three years– and will see them again in a couple of weeks in Las Vegas (with Styx at the Hard Rock)– thank you Dan for publishing this! (By the way, REO played the Durham fair last year in September. It was a great show. I saw Survivor at the casino in the same month).

    • We saw them last year, even said Hi and told them that I’d gone to school across the street. Mark – did they play “157” at any of those shows? I think they’ve dropped it from they’re set list.
      The scat solo that they put into most live versions is very cool. They go into this story of how they had to wake the lead guitarist who’s sleeping with Miss Lena, he rolls over and answers the phone with a screaming guitar bend. The vocalist says “You just have to know how to talk to him,” and they start trading licks, vocal vs guitar. It’s a very fast blues shuffle with mediocre lyrics, unless of course, they’re referring to your/my hometown.

  9. Why must Westport tare down another house that has been there forever? What are they going to put there another bank? pizza place? or just another new multi million dollar house that no one can afford to buy?

  10. Should one think of a small town as having flavor, once Westport was the candy jar of Connecticut. The bent and multi-level Pink Remarkable Book shop left us and then Klein’s Department store disappeared. Schaeffer Sporting goods sold me, my first Slaezenger and Onion Alley supplied the best hot soup on those crisp and crimsom Autumn weekends. Softball was enjoyed against the bank on the corner as the officers would don their rubber spikes and laugh and cheer on the Compo Beach field. Movies at the theater were just a walk away from Parker Harding with evening sunsets remembered forever.
    Max’s Art Supplies gave me my first credit account and the library was on the corner.
    The book shop, Klein’s, Onlion Alley, Theater, bank is gone, what next? The flags on the bridge? Westport is now a stale cracker, no charm, no flavor, only, well, nothing left but memories.

    Keep this memory

  11. Here is a rundown of all the other significant rock music trivia I know about Westport–feel free to add more if you know of something I am omitting (yes I grasp the irony of “significant trivia”):

    Major rock artists The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Peter Frampton played the Staples auditorium.

    Lesser-known bands headed by Charlie Carp (White Chocolate, The Dirty Angels) also played Staples auditorium (?).

    The following artists lived at one time or another in Westport:
    Edgar Winter
    One of the members of Grand Funk Railroad
    Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads
    Dan Hartman
    Ashford and Simpson (pushing the definition of “rock” but OK)
    At least one member of Kiss(?) (Ace Freeley)(?)
    Charlie Carp (previously mentioned)

    Jeff Beck had a recording studio there that hosted the likes of some big names, including Mick Jagger.

  12. The Yardbirds, Cream, the Rascals, and the Animals also played the Staples auditorium

  13. Just an average blues tune by a mediocre band that mainly plays at state fairs. Tear it down.

  14. Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs of The Remains grew up here and attended local schools, as did Charlie Karp.

  15. great piece of Westport lore- I would bet miss Lena is the homely girl on main street.

  16. Great Westport lore!- I would bet Miss Lena is the homely girl on main street.

  17. Look at the picture of the house. It is crossing the line between civilization and nature. Let it die. A plaque for REO Speedwagon fans seems appropriate. Would they spring for the cost of the plaque?

  18. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Has anyone tried to contact REO Yo let them know

    • I went to their website to try to e-mail them about it but there is no e-mail link there. They do have links to their facebook and myspace pages but I am not registered with either of them, and while I feel the band members at least deserve to be notified about this, I am not compelled to join either network for this reason.

      Anyone who has an account on either (I’ll hazard a guess they are more likely to see it on facebook) may want to pass the word along, in case they don’t know already.

  19. Virginia Gilbertie

    I think the Stones also played at Staples.

  20. Along with Keith Richards, it is almost too much to handle.

  21. I think it’s cool that this song was written about Westport. I’m not a big REO fan, but I think a plaque would be appropriate. Are there any other rock songs written so specifically about our little town?