Saturday, January 04, 2020

The Cradle

My history with Cat's Cradle doesn't go back 50 years. It goes back around 38 though. I had seen the Fabulous Knobs on the lawn at Connor Beach during Springfest in '79 with a bunch of friends and one day a couple of years later, my friend Kevin Bruce suggested we grab dinner at Tijuana Fats and then catch them again at the Cradle next door.

I was hooked from night one. By the band, certainly, but by the vibe of the room and the people. I went on to see the Knobs at the Pier (I even got pulled on stage to dance with Deb for "Teenage Boogie" one night) and other venues but it was never quite as awesome as the shows at the Cradle. They were always on fire and the audience was too.

Then it was the dBs and the Pressure Boys and a bunch of other bands and I was in love. DR moved the club to Franklin Street (the location alternately known as the "long skinny Cradle", "the shoebox" and "the bowling alley") and Judy Hammond opened Rhythm Alley in the old location. While I spent a lot of time at the Alley (and fell in love there and got married there and bought the damn place with my bride), I never stopped going to the Cradle. I'd sneak out to take in a couple of songs from time to time and catch a show when we didn't have anything booked.

When we were a few months into our ownership of the Alley, in 1986, DR announced he was closing the Cradle. A number of folks coming to the next couple of shows commented that that was good news for us. But we knew it was not. What was magic was being able to plop down the price of an import beer at two different clubs a couple of hundred yards apart and catch incredible music in both places. The west end of town got lonely after the Cradle closed.

Later that summer, I was putting up posters on West Franklin Street when Richard Fox stopped me and introduced me to the new owner of the Cradle, some dude named Frank Heath. 33 and 1/3 years later, he's still running the place. That is clearly impossible - it just doesn't happen that someone owns a club for that long. Frank (and he will tell you, all the folks like Derek and Andy and the rest of the team) are the reason that the Cradle thrives, 50 years on. It's impossible, yet here we are.

The other thing that makes this work for local musicians, though, are the other clubs and venues that give bands starting out places to play, learn, and build an audience. So don't *just* support the Cradle (although support them with all your might!). Spend some dollars at the Cave and Local 506 and the Pinhook and Motorco. And I promise to take my own advice and do the same.

Cheers to Bill, Jim, Marsha, DR, Frank and all the other owners, managers, bartenders, soundfolks, stage managers and other folks that keep the Cradle rocking - thanks for 50 years and here's hoping for 50 more.