Much has been written about Staples High School’s rich rock concert history (you know — little acts like the Doors, Cream, Byrds …)
Mark Smollin wrote a book about it. Fred Cantor followed with a movie.
But for a few months in 1967, another Westport venue booked some of the biggest bands of the day too.
The Nines Club was the brainchild of Lester Lanin. Somehow, the nationally known orchestra leader heard about an abandoned skating rink on the Post Road, next to a mini-golf course and driving range (today, the site of Lansdowne condominiums).
He converted it into a “discotheque.” There were 3 stages; when one act finished, the next immediately began.
Among the groups that played at the Nines Club: ? and the Mysterians (“96 Tears”), the Left Banke (“Walk Away Renee”), Youngbloods (“Get Together”), Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Vanilla Fudge, Blues Magoos, Blues Project and Vagrants (with guitarist Leslie West).
I don’t know how Lester Lanin got the idea to open a dance club in Westport. I don’t know why it lasted less than a year (though targeting the less-than-lucrative teenage market may have played a part).
I remember it only vaguely. I was in Long Lots Junior High at the time. Some friends and I were hired to help “build” it, though our contribution consisted of a few days of moving sheetrock and cinder blocks.
We were excited though: We were promised that — in return for our “work” — we would get free admission to the Nines Club.
It never happened. It’s easy to stiff 8th graders.
But I did hear ads for all those great bands on WMCA.
A friend and I (also in 8th grade) snuck out and got in (I think you had to be 16 or ?) but we got past the front door anyway. First stop was the restroom. There were a few “greaser” girls in there and I guess I was staring at one because she grabbed me by the neck and pushed me into the wall. “What are you looking at?” We left there (scared s..tless) so fast never to return!
Lester or an associate of his were renting a house on Bauer Place. Walking by one day, Ed Locke and I spoke with the tenant about employment at the nine’s. I valet parked some very nice autos, despite being underage for a driver’s license. I also humped equipment to the stage for the Youngbloods and spoke with the drummer (Big Hair, forgot his name). Lots of fog machines that night! Anyway, filled out a time card for hours worked and never got paid.
Wow, I wish place was still here!
Any entrepreneurs listening? To go with that new movie theater!
I remember Mark Kaufman doing the same thing when he opened Mark’s Place upstairs, where Pancho Villa’s was years later…He got a bunch of kids to paint etc. and then opened his club where we couldn’t come in because we were underage…
I have heard from mutual friends that Ginger Baker will not last another 24 hours. RIP!!
I remember seeing Question Mark and Mysterions and the Youngbloods there. Also saw the Association and the Cyrcle at the Playhouse. Remember Along Came Mary and Red Rubber Ball? Good memories. Like they say, “The older I get, the better I (it) was”.
I saw the Critters (“Younger Girl”) at the Playhouse too. At least, I think I did.
The first concert I ever attended was The Dave Clark 5 and Mitch Ryder and Detroit Wheels. It was in either Westport or Norwalk in 1966 or 67. If anyone remembers any details I’d like to hear them. I have vague memories of the show but not where it was. My mom drove me and my buddy Danny Smith there and then picked us up after, we couldn’t drive yet.
I was among a group of “leaders” at Staples who were called in by the Nine’s management and given a sales pitch with the idea that we should get thrilled about the place. That didn’t happen. The sorority girls were actually openly hostile to the place, maybe feeling the supremacy of Staples would be threatened. I didn’t care one way or the other, but I did note that most of the early Nines headliners had already appeared at Staples and i did feel that the smoke was a bit ludicrous. The business plane seemed to require a nearly full house on weekdays, and that just wasn’t going to happen. I expected it to fold even more quickly than it did.