Breakfast at Sunrise Cafe on East 86th in the Castleton neighborhood. Another extremely hot day, mostly spent going around to record stores with posters and promos, listening to my Naptown Soul compilations. I was saddened to see that Joe Lee Records on Clifton Street was gone. Record stores close all the time nowdays, but Joe Lee was an old institution in Indianapolis.
Including the mall FYE stores, working Indianapolis took all day, so it was around 6 PM by the time I got to Greenfield. I stopped at a Culver’s there to get a chocolate-peanut butter concrete, and after dropping off posters at the local Karma Records, I drove the state highway south to Shelbyville, where there was another Karma location. I just barely made it to the Greensburg Karma store before they closed for the evening, and then, with the sun still bright, I headed on I-74 toward Cincinnati.
I headed straight for Mount Adams, my favorite part of town, where I had read about a place called the City View Tavern, that was said to have the best hamburger in town. I found it with some difficulty, and discovered that it was a typical dive bar with a couple of differences. One, it had an outdoor deck, and two, it had one of the best views of downtown Cincinnati. Being what it was, however, the place had no frills-no bacon, no french fries, but I will say that the burger was big, good and juicy, and, of course the Cincinnati Reds game was on the TV screen. I watched the sun go down over the city skyline, and then later, I called my friend Abdullah from the Elementz Hip-Hop Youth Center, and he told me that the young people would be doing a showcase Thursday night, so I made plans to be there.
Still hungry, I drove out Montgomery Road to a Fatburger location, which was still open, and ordered a burger and fries. The food was good, but the air conditioner had broken down, and it was unbearably hot. After that, with little to do, I drove to my hotel the Marriott Kingsgate Conference Center, which turned out to be on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and checked into my room.
With Jojo’s gone, I had few breakfast choices, so I headed to the First Avenue Diner. a former Steak N Egg Kitchen that had decent breakfast, and then I rode around to the FYE at the mall, where the manager let me put up posters. From there, I headed out of town along I-64, having trouble finding any gas stations along the way. I ended up having to pay $2.90 for regular at a general store in Sulphur, and then I headed north along Highway 137.
At English, Indiana, I was intrigued by the blocks of city streets with sidewalks that were completely bare and devoid of any buildings at all, and I wondered what kind of disaster had struck the little town. The downtown was old and largely abandoned, and the only buildings and signs of life I had seen were on the high hills at the southern edge of town.
In Bedford, I stopped at a Karma Music store there, and soon I came into Bloomington, where I rushed over to the Ars Nova antiquarian sheet music store. I bought a few pieces of sheet music there, and then I stopped by Tracks Music to drop off posters and promos. After a latte at Soma Coffeehouse down the block, I drove over to Landlocked Music, and then continued on toward Indianapolis.
When I got into Marion County, I drove over on Southport Road to a shopping area where there was a restaurant called Cheeseburger in Paradise, owned by Jimmy Buffett. Although the weather was hot, the restaurant was having a bikers rally, and everybody was sitting outside on the patio. I thought there would be quite a wait, but I managed to get right in, and had a delicious hamburger for dinner before heading around I-465 to Rick’s Boat Yard to catch the jazz trio there. There, in the lakefront setting, people were sitting out on the deck, watching the sun go down over the reservoir, but the recession had taken its toll there as well, with the trio reduced to a guitar and bass duo, and my drummer friend Lawrence gone. From there, I drove to my hotel, the University Place hotel on the campus of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, known as IUPUI. Although I had to pay for parking, the setting was close to downtown, yet quieter, and the room was quite luxurious.
I checked out of the hotel the next morning, and drove out to Charlie’s Pancake House in the town of Speedway, which literally sits in the shadow of the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The unpretentious little breakfast diner offered great food at low prices, and I asked the waitress if any of the NASCAR drivers ate there. “All the time, ” she replied. The rest of my day was largely spent driving around to numerous record stores, mostly Karma locations, although I also left posters at Vibes, Ear Candy, Extra Strength, City Music, Unborn Records, Joe Lee Records, Naptown Music and Dragged Up Music. It was nearly 5 PM when I left Indianapolis, and I stopped at Karmas in Shelbyville and Greensburg on the way to Cincinnati. I had called my friend Abdullah from Elementz Hip-Hop Youth Center in Cincinnati, so when I got into town, I drove into Over The Rhine, and after getting lost a few times, I finally made my way to the center. I was given a tour of the facility and met many of the young people, who were learning production, breakdancing, graffiti art, and most of all, respect for themselves and others. I wanted to eat dinner, but I decided to wait until the center closed so that Abdullah and some others from the center could go with us. We ended up heading out to the Cheesecake Factory in Kenwood, where we barely got in to order before closing time. The food was really good, and then I headed out to the Sheraton North Hotel in Sharonville, where I had reserved my room.
When I awoke the next morning, I checked out of the hotel, and then drove down to the Pie Pantry on North Park Drive for breakfast. The restaurant was a local favorite, and rather crowded, but I had a delicious breakfast and then I drove downtown to the Evansville library, where I used old phone books and city directories to research the city’s music history. Through the 1960’s, there had been a couple of recording studios and record shops in Evansville, as well as a number of night clubs on Lincoln Avenue, which seemed to be the center of Evansville’s Black community then. In the early 1970’s, there was a Black record store called the Soul Shack at 765 Lincoln Avenue, and a couple of night clubs. The Outta Sight Lounge was at 229 Canal Street, which was actually the address on one of the Pure Love Records 45s, and a yellow pages ad for it in 1974 stated “Top Flight Entertainment” “New Modern Off Street Parking” “Air Conditioned” “1 PM to 3 Am” “dancing”. An advertisement from 1976 touted Mr. B’s Checkerboard Lounge “Top 10 Soul Entertainment Dancing”. The club had been at 800 Lincoln Avenue. I learned that the 10th Street address on some Pure Love 45’s was John L. Robinson’s house, and I assumed that John Robinson might have been Johnny Soul. The last Rock Steady 45 had an address on Washington Avenue that a recent directory listed as the address for a Sidney Scott, so apparently Steady Wailin’ Sid was still living at that address some 30 years later! Somewhat enthused, I headed down into the Lincoln Avenue/Canal Street area to look for landmarks, but I was soon disappointed. Although Canal Street appeared on my iPhone, it didn’t exist anymore in real life, having been disrupted by some sort of new housing development. Barely a block of it remained, and no commercial buildings that may have once lined it were still standing. The same had largely been done to Lincoln Avenue as well, with no trace of the Black business district remaining except a large brick building that once had been Club Paradise and now was a daycare center. Johnny Soul’s old house on 10th had evidently been torn down for a parking lot, and 800 Lincoln Avenue was a vacant lot. 765 Lincoln, where the Soul Shack Record Shop had been, was still standing but now contained a barber and beauty salon. Stopping at Uptown Music on the corner of Washington and Kentucky, I mentioned my interest in Steady Wailin’ Sid to the owner, who said “Sid that lives down the street here?” He called him and arranged for me to meet him after noon. From there I headed over to Coconuts Music near the mall and left posters there, then browsed at the Book Broker until it was time to meet with Sid Scott. When I called him, he invited me down to his house, and talked for some time about his dual careers as Black journalist and soul singer. I discovered that he owned the Black weekly newspaper in Evansville nowadays, and he talked about his experiences at Stax Records in Memphis. He also told me about the Kitty Kat nightclub he used to own on Riverside Drive in Evansville, and finally, he sold me copies of his 45s and LP. By now, I was really behind schedule in heading north to Vincennes, and, when I got there, the record store there seemed to be closed. I called the Ars Nova sheet music store in Bloomington and learned that they closed at 6 PM, but an employe agreed to stay open for me to make it from Vincennes, so I headed out quickly, noticing the massive, abandoned hulk of an Executive Inn on the north side of town. I had often wondered about that rather strange hotel chain that seemed unique to the Ohio River valley, and noticed that its hotels seemed to be falling on hard times. Rushing into Bloomington, I headed straight to the Ars Nova store, where I purchased a number of piano scores by Joseph Achron, Elie Siegmeister, Virgil Thomson and Frederick Delius. Thrilled with my discoveries, I headed on into Indianapolis, where my jazz drummer friend Laurence Cook was playing at Rick’s Boatyard Cafe on the westside. The restaurant was built beside a reservoir, and the last daylight was fading as I sat at a windowside table. There was an outdoor deck and bar that was a little more rowdy, but I sat indoors, enjoying a seafood dinner and the live jazz group that was playing. Afterwards, I drove downtown and checked into the Marriott Hotel.