Showing posts with label Bookie's Club 870. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bookie's Club 870. Show all posts



660 W Baltimore
Detroit Michigan

Bookie's CLUB 870
Performance & Event Venue · Detroit, Michigan
Live music and historical artifacts from the Detroit rock music scene.

DONALD GARLAND RADER was Detroit's first rockabilly/rock & roll recording artist. Don kept playing and recording until his death July 4, 2004, at age 65

BEN WAUGH (Scott Campbell), singer, guitarist, drummer, and founder of Detroit Punk Band THE SILLIES, from April 1977 to present

THE SEATBELTS Great Detroit Retro/Punk Rock Band!


Special Guests MARCIE BOLEN and more!

Posters, Photos, Videos, Tee Shirts



Saturday, March 17, at the New Way Bar, Ferndale
And it's FREE!

On March 17, 1978, Bookie's Club 870 became Detroit's answer to New York's C.B.G.B., The Whiskey A-Go-Go in L.A., and London's Marquee Club. Bookie's hosted shows by The Police, Iggy Pop, J. Geils, The Damned, Ultravox, The Dead Boys, and many other international punk and New Wave performers.

It also served as a home base for Detroit area bands like The Sillies, The Romantics, former MC-5 and Stooges members like Ron Asheton, Michael Davis, Dennis Thompson and their then-current bands. At least three live albums have been released of Bookie's concerts and a new two-record set of Iggy Pop's five day residency is now being released in the UK.

The Bookie's 40th Anniversary Reunion will be held Saturday, March 17 (St. Patrick's Day) at the New Way Bar on Woodward, roughly 3 miles north of the original Bookie's. Admission is FREE. There will be posters and photos on display that night as well as live performances from The Sillies (who started the club) the ORIGINAL members of R.U.R., plus members of Coldcock, Flirt, The Seatbelts, and other guests.

The New Way Bar is at 23130 Woodward Avenue, 3 blocks north of Nine Mile (1/2 block north of Cambourne) in Ferndale.




Bookies was a gay club as far back as my dad could remember. The neighborhood had really gotten bad. Around the corner was a disco. DJs and discos were everywhere and clubs didn't want to book live bands. Bookies was one-of-a-kind club, it was the only club that had live punk. The neighborhood was rough so we parked between the two bars in the security lot.


The parking lot had half as many people partying as the club. The line was always out the door. The wait was long but entertaining because the crowd outside was as interesting as the bands on stage. Black leather was the common denominator among the club goers, more than the bleached hair, torn jeans, high tops, fishnets, leather pants, pointy toed boots.

Through the doors of bookies it was a big Native American bouncer was rumored to carry a gun. They collected money at the door and checked IDs. Inside the club was very dark but you could see it once had been nice.

  Whipping Boy Wash. DC

The high black diamond talk cushioned booths were the only place where doing lines was publicly ignored in Detroit. I long bar I'm one wall, the bartenders where from the day shift gay bar. The music they played before the show was always so new. 


Bookies with the first place you'd ever hear anything. I heard the cars there before they got airplay. Bauhaus, 999, The Police, Susie and the Banshees. I loved to dance before the show.

In the basement was the restrooms. They were brightly lit long bathrooms with little dressing stations. That's where I would pierce peoples ears with safety pins. You could listen to the bands through the floor, the stacks of blank the stage rumbled all the way down to the basement.

Upstairs in front of the stage it was loud between the stacks. It felt intimate. It felt as if Johnny thunders was standing there singing to me in my living room with 100 other people crushed against me. sweat and leather.




Sillies singer BEN WAUGH flies above the stage at Bookie's while Bob "Bootsey X" Mulrooney keeps a beat. PHOTO: Robert Matheu, Creem Magazine

One of the few outlets for original rock music in Detroit in the 70's were small theaters and auditoriums. The thriving ballroom scene and teen clubs of the late 60's and early 70's disappeared.

 The Hideout was a Harper Woods VFW Hall

The Hideout was a Harper Woods rental hall named Harper Hall which was leased weekends by Dave Leone and his partner "Punch" Andrews in the mid-60's and brought Bob Seger, Ted Nugent (Amboy Dukes), Grosse Pointe favorites The Underdogs, and many others their first taste of fame.

 Cinderella Theater on Jefferson

Concerts at the Cinderella Theater on Jefferson (where J. Geils recorded a live album) and the Eastown Theater in the early 70's just ceased to exist. After two concerts in 1977 at The Kramer Theater on Michigan near Livernois, a concert at the Trenton Theater downriver, and an abortive attempt to lease The Ramona Theater, I was looking for some way to play without losing any more hard-earned money I'd made on the Chrysler assembly line.

 In January '78, a boarded-up gay bar at John R and Seven Mile was made available to us as long as the owner got ALL the door receipts (or so I was told). A couple of those shows in January and February were packed houses, but I wasn't interested in continuing to make money for everyone else.

Sam "Bookie" Stewart offered us a weekend in March at his club and we agreed as a band to do it. The original bill was The Sillies, Coldcock, and Curly's Convicts, a Windsor band. The Denizens (from Livonia) ended up as the opener, which was fortuitous as they became a mainstay at Bookie's for the next two years as did Coldcock.

Much to my surprise, Don Fagenson (a.k.a. Don Was) brought the new MC-5 into Bookie's three weeks before our date in spite of the fact that the room hadn't had live music since band leader Frank Gagen ran the place back in the 40's or 50's.

The following week was Fagenson's "Motor City Revue" with The Traitors (Fagenson's "punk" band", The Niggers (a black concept band he had assembled), and The Pigs. Word was the turnout for both shows was less than hoped.

The following week, Sureshot Productions hastily assembled a few bands to fill in the night. The Sillies were asked to play, but we deemed it safer to wait until out own headline, which had been booked six weeks before.

The crowd for both March 17 and 18 were such that Bookie offered us the room to book from there on in. Ironically, I didn't WANT it! Bookie kept half the $3 a head admission price. Other bars would give you the ENTIRE door PLUS 10% of the bar receipts. My rhythm guitarist begged me to partner with him on the room and, being my best friend, I reluctantly agreed. I had no idea that it would change the live rock scene in Detroit for the next 35 years.



The Mutants at Bookie's Club 870, 1978. 
Photo Deanne Nichols

Scott Campbell
March 10, 2014
The Detroit original rock scene had fallen on hard times in the 70's. In the mid-60's, Mitch Ryder, Bob Seger, The Amboy Dukes, The Rationals, The MC5, and numerous other bands got record deals and radio airplay. By the mid-70's, new Detroit acts were frozen out of airplay with the death of underground radio and record labels weren't signing. A band could earn a living playing five 45 minute sets per night but they had to be AOL radio rock hits. Typically, a band would get a song list from the bar owner and NO original songs were allowed.

By early 1977, new bands such as The Sillies, The Romantics, and a new MC5 fronted by original singer Rob Tyner were looking for anywhere to play original sets of their own music. The Sillies rented The Kramer Theater on Michigan Avenue east of Livernois to do a real concert with themselves in between the new MC5 and an opening set by Destroy All Monsters with Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and original MC5 bassist Michael Davis. The show drew 1,000 people but most of the money was mysteriously missing from the till, leaving Sillies founder Scott Campbell $1,000 in the hole.

Much as bars were a step down from theater concerts, a nightclub that would host original concerts in the style of NYC's Max's Kansas City or the Whiskey A Go Go in LA was needed for Detroit. The trick was finding a place and making it successful.



We have a BOOKIE'S ANNIVERSARY show on Monday, March 17, 36 years after the first show. Scott Campbell intended to have this at the "new" Bookie's but he hasn't been able to do all the improvements.So it will be at the Perfect Pitcher on ST. PATRICK'S DAY

12900 Beech Daly
Taylor 48180
21+ $5
3:00 - The MOD
4:00 - The Porcelain Doll Collection
5:00 - Pick Axe Preacher
6:00 - Christy & The Professors
7:00 - Dirty Mind In Detroit
9:00 - Bloodline
10:00 - Saturnine Hello
11:00 - The Sillies



BEHIND THE ART "Bookies, Detroit 1979" Is a new drawing by Kent Myers, a rendition of the scene at Detroit's famous early punk rock nightclub (and parking lot) at the height of the era.

ABOUT THE PRINT For a limited time I'm offering this outstanding museum-quality fine art giclee print for sale. Archival to 200 years. Super heavy 100% cotton paper and archival inks. The image is 16 x 24 inches on paper measuring about 20 x 30 inches. Amazing detail and colors. Price includes shipping within the US.

 16” x 24” FINE ART GICLEE $100




Back in the mid-70's, Detroit was a vast arid wasteland for bands playing their own music. The coffeehouse and ballroom scene of the mid-60's had disappeared. No band got a bar gig without five sets of Top 40 mainstream radio covers. Bar owners would actually give song lists to bands with the condition that they had to play those songs if they were going to play at all. Stages were short and tiny or nonexistent and no bar had it's own PA.

Then, disco reared its ugly head. It was cheaper to hire a deejay than a band and bar goers seemed to like it. Original rock bands had nowhere to play unless they were huge national acts. Even mid level bands from outside Detroit had nowhere to play if they couldn't pull in 4,000 people. One band that was willing to do something about it was The Sillies.

They formed in 1977 and did their first show second-billed to Rob Tyner's new version of The MC5, renting a theater for the show. The crowd topped 1,000 but the band lost money due to a curious lack of money at the door. Something smaller and on a weekly basis was needed to kick start the local music scene again. By early 1978, The Sillies did a few shows in closed bars that were open one night for the event. They soon got an invitation to play Frank Gagen's, an old supper club on West McNichols (Six Mile) that was operating as a gay disco.

The bar down the street (Menjo's) had taken most of their business and the owner Sam Stewart was willing to try anything. Though the sign said "Gagen's", the place was known as "Bookie's Club 870" after Stewart's nickname and the address, 870 W. McNichols. Two weeks before the scheduled show, Don Fagenson, better known now as producer "Don Was", came in with his Motor City Revue and his attempt at a punk band, The Traitors. The Sillies bided their time and did their scheduled shows on March 17 and 18. By the end of the second night, Bookie handed the bar over to The Sillies to book as they chose.

After that, every weekend was a concert with three bands doing a set of their own music instead of one band doing five sets of radio hits. Detroit acts like Wayne Kramer, The Romantics, Destroy All Monsters (with Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, Niagara, Rob King and MC5 bassist Mike Davis) would headline some weekends while bands such as The Police, The Damned, Ultravox, The Cramps, The Dead Boys, and many others made Bookie's their one and only Michigan tour date.

Bowie parked outside the front door in his limousine the night he played Detroit in 1978, but only his band actually came inside to hear "punk rock disco" for an admission price of 50 cents (it was a weekday with no live band).

The music before and between the live sets was the only place people could hear the latest punk and New Wave records in Detroit as no radio station would play them. Sillies vocalist Ben Waugh would bring his own records from home or borrow others from friends and bar regulars, then stop the music and run to the mixing board to run sound for the live band.

Radio deejays like Sky Daniels of W4 would occasionally come to the club and hear "Roxanne" by The Police before it was ever released in the U.S. Eventually, Bookie's was a victim of it's own success. A concert promotion company took over the club and The Sillies concentrated on touring the U.S. and Canada.

A succession of promoters ran the room for varying periods of time until Bookie sold it to someone who thought it would be a good idea to turn it back into a drag show bar. The building mysteriously burned to the ground in 1991 and was torn down. Now only a parking lot exists where J. Geils played to a packed house after a three day sellout at Pine Knob.

A handful of unreleased recordings, videotapes, and photos are all that is left of that brief moment of creativity and originality. On the other hand, Bookie's inspired the opening of Lili's, Paycheck's, and an endless stream of like-minded clubs that exist to this very day. Bookie's itself disappeared before its ashes were cold, but its legacy as a showcase for Detroit music continues to this very day.

"It wasn't huge, but it had a faded elegance about it that gave it a lot of character. After I left in late 1979, they gutted it to shoehorn as many people as possible. It was awful. It was like they stuffed and mounted Syd Barrett and put him on tour. I saw what they did to it and it almost made me cry."

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