The Legendary Toad's Place: Stories from New Haven's Famed Music Venue

The Legendary Toad's Place: Stories from New Haven's Famed Music Venue

The Legendary Toad's Place: Stories from New Haven's Famed Music Venue

The Legendary Toad's Place: Stories from New Haven's Famed Music Venue


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Anyone who has lived near New Haven, Connecticut, in the past 40-plus years has surely heard of Toad’s Place. With a capacity of 750, Toad’s has served as the perfect spot for musicians who prefer smaller venues. U2 played one of their first US concerts there, on their Boy tour. In 1978, Bruce Springsteen was in New Haven and arrived at Toad’s unannounced, and got up and played. The surprises kept coming and the club was attracting big names, as well as up-and-comers. In 1989, the Rolling Stones played a surprise show on a Saturday night, giving 700 fans the night of their dreams. Nothing could have been better—the Rolling Stones in downtown New Haven was unimaginable! That is only a taste of the stories that are uncovered in this book. Randall Beach and Toad’s owner Brian Phelps recall the legendary shows and behind-the-scenes stories.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493058600
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/08/2021
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 323,546
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Brian Phelps was born in New Haven, Connecticut. His music background was nothing more than listening to AM radio or watching an Elvis Presley flick. He had no idea where his path in life was about to lead. Brian met Mike Spoerndle, owner of the new Toad’s Place in 1975. One year later Big Mike invited Brian to start working at the club, following college. Several years later, Mike made Brian an offer to become business partners. In January 1995 Brian took control of the company and bought the rest of the business in 1998. Brian later met with longtime associate Randall Beach and decided to write a memoir. He took “a road less traveled,” but one we think you will enjoy reading about.

Randall Beach was the rock music critic for the New Haven Register from 1978 to 1984, covering many shows at Toad’s Place. He later wrote about rock music for the New Haven Advocate, the HartfordCourant, and Billboard magazine. He was also a reporter and columnist for the New Haven Register from 1997 to 2020. In addition, he writes the “Beachcombing” column for Connecticut magazine. He lives in New Haven.

Table of Contents

Brian Phelps's Preface xii

Randall Beach's Preface xiv

Chapter 1 The Toad Is Born 1

Chapter 2 Toad's Goes National 10

Chapter 3 Billy Joel, U2, and Much More 22

Chapter 4 The Stones Roll In 60

Chapter 5 Bob Dylan, All Night Long 78

Chapter 6 Bowie, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, and More 85

Chapter 7 Playing into the Twenty-First Century 101

Chapter 8 The Local Bands 118

Chapter 9 The Celebrities 129

Chapter 10 The Bouncers: Tank and Whiskey 142

Chapter 11 The Crowds 150

Chapter 12 "Big Mike" 159

Chapter 13 The WPLR Connection 173

Chapter 14 The Yale Connection 180

Chapter 15 Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll 187

Chapter 16 The Road Ahead 193

List of the Bands Who Have Played at Toad's Place 202

Acknowledgments 231

About the Authors 240

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“What I loved about Toad’s Place is that they let you do more than just show up and set your band up and play. You could actually curate some kind of show that was interesting to people, different.” ––Cyndi Lauper “I have fond memories all around of Toad’s Place. We always loved playing there. It seemed like every show we did there was great. It’s a great club.” ––Al Anderson of NRBQ “I’ve always said that the best way to tell if a band is any good or not is to hear them in a club like Toad’s Place. We love that joint!” —Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News “I loved Toad’s Place! It gave aspiring artists and musicians in Connecticut a chance to discover who they were musically and the freedom to strengthen what they would need in order to have any chance of having a career in music. Looking back, I can clearly see that Brian applied the same kind of commitment, veracity, and focus that he did when I used to see him in the dojo (karate school). Long live Toad’s!” ––Michael Bolton “There was always a heightened sense of excitement when you played at Toad’s. Everybody knew it was the best place to play. And Toad’s has this active roster of national acts coming through, which is very attractive. A great place to see a show and hang out.” ––Christine Ohlman “When you play at Toad’s you feel like you’ve hit the big time. It has that aura.” ––Cynthia Lyon, Eight to the Bar “I couldn’t say enough about Toad’s Place. It’s such an important piece of American music history! Soul is one of those things that’s impossible to describe, but you know it when you feel it. And Toad’s Place has it overflowing out into the streets.” ––Zach Deputy “Those days at Toad’s were a wonderful part of my life.” —Frank Simms, the Simms Brothers Band “From my perspective, it’s not difficult to get lost like a sock in the spin cycle of traveling and touring. Cities, dates, and venues begin to blend together to create one larger experience, until you’re left arguing with your tour manager about which way is north. But there are a few places that care so much about our experience that they will stand apart from the crowd forever. Toad’s Place is that. Caring, friendly, helpful staff, creating an environment that I’m proud to create within. I’m thankful for Toad’s Place.” ––Slug, the singer for Atmosphere “Toad’s Place has been a Tower of Power favorite for over four decades. We played there too many times to count and always loved it. We became personal friends with the owners over the years and have many, many friends who we met at Toad’s still to this day. We always walked over early, before sound check, just to see and hang out with our dear friends there. The gigs were always really exciting, ’cause the place was packed to the brim and the crowd was super energetic and loud. We got several encores every time. Afterward in the dressing room, the owners would have a huge stack of Sally’s pizzas waiting for us (famous as the best pizza in the country). We’d wind up hanging out ’til the wee hours and never got tired of it. Toad’s set the bar for all other rock nightclubs. If those walls could talk, we’d all be in big trouble!” ––Emilio Castillo, bandleader for Tower of Power “It’s the stage itself that makes Toad’s a great place to play––wide, deep, and the people are right there next to you. The Christmas shows! OMG! The energy in that crowd is inspiring. I especially remember right after 9/11, I had a show at Toad’s and the American pride and resilience and patriotic fervor was heartwarming and goose bump–inducing! But my favorite Toad’s story is this: On the souls of my grandchildren, I swear I played the night after the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. It’s the stage! Enough room and yet an intimate place where you get feedback from the people––not like huge venues. That’s why the big guys went there. I love Toad’s and I want to go back!” ––John Valby

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