It was where Foreigner began its ascent. It was where the Democratic National Committee held a fundraiser. The Dave Matthews Band was a steady presence. And it was where visionary businessman Jack Boyle — think LiveNation — learned the ropes on his way to becoming a big-time promoter.
Two “Wild Bills” — Dixieland’s Whelan and jazz artist/cornet player Davison — played there. Joan Jett did, too. A young comic named Eddie Murphy had his audience howling.
And now, some scrappy locals are putting the finishing touches on a 90-minute documentary — tentatively titled “The Bayou: D.C.’s Killer Joint” — that they plan to broadcast on Maryland and Virginia public television stations. (Disclosure: My wife works for WETA.)
The film’s four creators have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars over the past 13 years to take on something that is going to earn them zip — except perhaps a lode of self-gratification.
It’s not how I would spend my time, but you have to respect people who shelve their TV remotes, get off their duffs and become entrepreneurs, especially when there’s no obvious payday.
The group, led by local freelance video producer Dave Lilling and C-SPAN’s Bill Scanlan, estimates $200,000 worth of their time and money has been spent. They know something about the craft. Lilling, 54, has been producing videos for companies, broadcasters and nonprofits for two decades. Scanlan was the producer for DC101’s Greaseman before joining C-SPAN.
Lilling and Scanlan recruited music consultant Dave Nuttycombe and former Washington Post sportswriter Vinnie Perrone.
The club’s long history
The Bayou began at 3135 K St. NW, beneath what is now the Whitehurst Freeway, as a barrel factory in the late 1800s. It was home to various clubs starting in the 1930s, including an after-hours joint called the Hideaway. There was a mob hit in the Hideaway in 1951, and the building’s owner — auto dealer Percy Klein— closed the club and padlocked the building. But it stayed in the family.
It reopened in 1953 as the Bayou, and two brothers from Virginia — Vince (a lawyer) and Tony (a dentist) Tramonte — leased the building with a gentleman named Mike Munley, who posted $15,000 upfront to turn it into a jazz and blues club. The Tramontes bought Munley out soon after.
The Tramontes eventually sold their interest to Cellar Door, Jack Boyle’s Georgetown-based concert-promotion company, which was looking for a roomier club to get the fire marshals off his back.
The Bayou “was a bridge between small clubs and big venues like the Capital Centre,” a since demolished arena in Landover, said Lilling. Under Boyle, the club forged its identity as a launcher of smaller acts such as Dave Matthews, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Blues Traveler.