Monday, March 24, 2014
To: Handlebar Friends
It is with great anticipation of new potential that The Handlebar announces today that it will close at its current location, 304 East Stone Avenue, in Greenville, on April 30, 2014.
The Handlebar will re-open September 15, 2014 at a new location. Between now and then, The Handlebar plans to pack so much talent and fun into its schedule that people will be talking about it until the unveiling of a new Handlebar.
Originally opening in September 1994, The Handlebar has become a premier concert venue in The Upstate — some would say in the entire Southeast — for entertainers and music lovers alike, those seeking excellent artistry, musical diversity, renowned acoustics and intimacy.
The Handlebar, with its bar and restaurant, is not new to moving and embraces the changes to come: the current venue on Stone Avenue, once an auto-body shop, opened in the spring of 2001 following a nine-month hiatus after leaving its first location, a 100-year-old textile mill on Mills Avenue, a sprawling building now converted to condominiums.
The Handlebar – and its dedicated and talented staff -- has brought to Greenville an infinite variety of music, from local bands, Four 14 and Milli Fungus, to cultural and musical icons Joan Baez and Nanci Griffith; from the respected and spirit-filled Mac Arnold and Plate Full o’ Blues to the awe-inspiring Robin Trower and late Nappy Brown; from The Craig Sorrells Project and local jam-rock favorite The Work (and the charitable giving of the Christmas Jam), to Preservation Hall Jazz Band and North Mississippi Allstars and JJ Grey & MOFRO; from the funk of George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and Tower of Power; to the beloved local singer/songwriters Niel Brooks, Kathy Hall and Shaun Williams today; from Tony Rackley and John Gorka, in our first years, to Eddie From Ohio, and to the enduring Arlo Guthrie and late Richie Havens, who will reign forever as giants. There have also been less known genres: Celtic (Gaelic Storm); electronic music (Big Gigantic); punkabilly (Cuthroat Shamrock); those who played the Texas sound that Greenville loves, Robert Earl Keen, and many others; to the equally great and also very great, but less known: Guy Clark comes to mind; rock bands from the local, Noxious (in all of its incarnations) and Kelen Heller, to Sevendust and Clutch; as well as musicians who played the venue before they were famous (local hero Edwin McCain, John Mayer, Corey Smith, Sugarland, Zac Brown Band, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Derek Trucks, Parmalee); to those who performed merely for their own satisfaction.
Several dozen Grammy Award winners, countless Grammy nominees and a handful of Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees have played both Handlebar locations. The Handlebar has hosted classic rock from Dave Mason of Traffic and Leon Russell; blues from Johnny Winter and the late greats Junior Wells and Koko Taylor; jazz from Pat Metheny, Leo Kottke and Bela Fleck; reggae from Bob Marley’s Wailers and Toots & The Maytals; bluegrass from Ricky Skaggs and the late Doc Watson; hip-hop from Nappy Roots; and the biggest show of all: The Roots, famous on late-night TV.
The Handlebar also spawned a memoir, ROCKIN’ A HARD PLACE, written by co-owner John Jeter and published by Spartanburg’s Hub City Press, as well as a TV pilot, still in development. John Jeter and his wife, Kathy Laughlin, opened the original Handlebar in 1994 with John’s brother and sister-in-law, Stephen and Melanie Jeter. The venue was named for the mustaches the brothers grew.
"John and Kathy Jeter are trailblazers in the truest sense, and anyone who has read John's book Rockin' a Hard Place knows they are music industry warriors of the highest order," said Betsy Teter, director of Spartanburg's Hub City Press, which published John's non-fiction book about The Handlebar in 2012. "What an incredible gift they have given to the Upstate for 20 years.”
The Handlebar also has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities, including Compass of Carolina, Ronald McDonald House, the Red Cross, Susan G. Komen Foundation, American Cancer Society, the Humane Society and dozens of individuals in rough straits.
“Over the past 12 years, The Handlebar has been an invaluable partner to Compass of Carolina, providing support and a wonderful venue for our signature fundraiser Chase Away the Blues as well as staff events. John and Kathy are faithful advocates to Compass and the Upstate nonprofit community. We are proud to call them friends,” said Andrea Bennett, chief operating officer of Compass of Carolina, which provides counseling services, with its fees based on a sliding scale according to clients’ income.
The Handlebar has never lacked for friends, partners, advisors and customer-friends – bands, businesses, radio stations, promoters: neighbors who spread the word about shows, shared their parking lots or put time and money on the line: Palmetto Music, WNCW public radio, Earshot, Tony Parks, Janet Archer, Charlie Jennings, Guitar Center, Eastside Guitar, Horizon Records, Paul and Ansley Hoke with their popular Tuesday Swing Dance, Gene Dillard and his buddies with their enduring Bluegrass Jam. To name names is to leave some out, and The Handlebar values every person who bought a ticket or a burger or a beer, handed a calendar to a friend, worked a shift that needed filling, hung a poster, or chose the venue for their party or wedding.
The Handlebar is “one of our region's most respected venues to hear live music from those who have made it and from those on the rise,” said Dr. Roy S. Fluhrer, director of the Fine Arts Center, Greenville. “A place where for those brief hours that we were thrown together, shoulder to shoulder, a real community was established, and for that time, we breathed as one.”