When I was in high school in Columbus Ohio in 1968-1970, the happening bar to go to was The Castle. It was on the Ohio State campus on the main drag, High Street. If you were in high school and had a fake ID, that’s where you tried to get in. It was a huge three story building which had a lighted dance floor and a big stage for all the major rock bands in the area. You could even pour beer on people below from the third floor, which meant lots big big bouncers kicking drunks out all of the time.
After high school I spent one quarter at Ohio State and then went down to southern Ohio and attended a technical school with my buddy Julio called Hocking Tech and we took classes to learn how to be a forest ranger. It sounded like fun at the time but not a great idea. What it did to though was introduce us to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
The previous year Ohio University won the award as the number one party school in the country, according to Playboy Magazine. We found our new home. I started playing solo at that time doing a lot of James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and lot’s of Beatle songs.
I was pretty good and played all the local clubs, street corners and I was big on the college green. At some point I was approached by this long haired hippie looking guy named Cliff Audreth. Cliff told me he was a consultant for a couple of nightclubs in Columbus, one being The Castle, and they were going to change it into a country rock club.
Cliff was one of the smartest people I ever met and he was a visionary. He had come from Battelle Memorial, a think tank for brainiac’s. Battelle is an international science and technology enterprise that explores emerging areas of science, develops and commercializes technology, and manages laboratories for customers. (Wikipedia). He also worked for the CIA as an analyst to stay out of the draft. Years later he was head of A & R for Sony Music in Nashville and was heavily involved in the careers of the Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Sonny Landreth and others.
This was 1976 and Country Rock was just starting to get big. The Eagles, Poco, Dylan, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band…and Cliff along with club owners Phil & Ellen Sue Traxler saw it coming and transformed The Castle into Zachariah’s Red Eyed Saloon. Out went the plexiglass, shag carpets that people have been spilling drinks and throwing up on for years and the neon light dance floor and up went the barn wood, farm yard antiques and Mexican styled food. They also built a nice big stage that would fit national acts like Jerry Jeff Walker, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Papa John Creach, Marshall Tucker Band and more. (To Be Continued…..)