The Draught House – A Pre Silver Laughter Hang Out

Hendrix at Col Ballroom

Hendrix at Col Ballroom

I had a memory get jogged this morning as I took my shower about all the great times (and some not so good) at the local hangout, The Draught House. In doing some research I found this excerpt from the Night People’s website:

“The Draught House opened in June 1965, after the ’65 flood wiped out the Prongers Restaurant.  Gene Walters and his son Jeff, along with other investors, joined forces with the Night People and cleaned the venue up to make ready a nightclub for Quad Citians who wanted to rock.  The Draught House became the place to go for young adults and teens in the late ’60s, where the Night People performed, personifying the English movement (the Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc.) in rock ‘n’ roll  prevalent in the ’60s with heart and exceptional talent.  Each musician brought his unique personality to the music they performed and made it better for it.  It fact, in 1968 the night people opened for Jimi Hendrix, who played at the Col Ballroom.  It doesn’t get any better than that…” – Excerpt from the River Cities’ Reader, October, 2003

It got me thinking about the piece I did on Jimi Hendrix. Was I wrong? Did Soft Machine open for Jimi or did the Night People (who had been renamed The Pre-war Movement)? So I looked some more and found a website advertising reproductions of the psychedelic poster done for the gig. Apparently I was right that Soft Machine did appear before Jimi, but so did the Night People. According to the artist, Leslie Bell, here is how he remembers it:

“This poster was originally drawn in my dorm room at St. Ambrose College in 1968 using the picture window as a light table to do the color key drawings. It was my first real commercial art job other than the odd portrait of classmates’ girlfriends and magic marker posters for student council candidates. The original ink drawing is in the collection of Jacaeber Kastor in New York, an expert on Psychedelia related to the Rock scene. Mr. Kastor recently lectured on Rick Griffin’s rock posters of the 1960s at the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California.

“A fellow St. Ambrose student asked me to create a poster for a concert at the Col Ballroom in down-town Davenport, Iowa that was to feature the Jimi Hendrix Experience as the headliner. Opening for the Experience: the British progressive band The Soft Machine and local favorites The Pre-War Movement (Night People). I had a chance to meet the trio and spoke very briefly with Jimi Hendrix about the poster. I had no idea at the time that the printed poster would be worth $5,000 or more 40 years later.”

Draught House Decal

Draught House Decal

Okay, so not all of my memory has been lost. But it took me off the topic of the Draught House. Jon and I (probably Ken and Paul too) used to spend our pre-Silver Laughter days there every weekend watching and learning the same songs that the Night People performed to work into our own repertoire. I am sure other bands were there too, watching and learning. After all, they were the Quad Cities version of the Beatles, though at the time they had no original music of their own… at least not that I remember. It wasn’t until they let Gary Pearson become the “lead” singer and started modeling themselves after Soft Machine.

Occasionally there was the odd fight between greasers and long-hairs, but mostly people came to dance and watch the band. I was knocked down in a tussle while protecting a friend from some bully. I was hit from behind and knocked down which ended the melee. Peace, brother!

The back of the club was open to the over 21 crowd to drink alcohol while the front where the band played was open to everyone. There were other bands who played there, but The Night People were pretty much the house band… Little did I know that they were also involved in getting it opened!

Located right on the levee just off River Drive in Davenport, the building still stands (I think… at least it did the last time I was in Davenport). Next to it is a big riverboat gambling casino in which my mom used to frequently spend time when she was alive.

Mick Orton



Categories: History

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3 replies

  1. I was at the Hendrix concert and spent time at the Draught house – {saw the contents are there} and yes I was with there with my band, checking it out. Way cool – in fact if you talk with Les Bell {probably doesn’t remember me, but I jammed there with Dan Draily ‘piano’ and Les and some people I brought with me at the Orphange by Dewitt. I played Sax and guitar and years after I played music with John Burchett (great bass player) and jammed with The Orphange at an outdoor concert at the Clinton bandshell. Great years! I also have some Super 8mm tapes from Kickapoo Rockfest in Kickapoo IL in 1970… Dan Draily passed, but please tell Les I said hi and great memories. Loved your piece on Hendricks and the days past.

  2. The Soft Machine set from the Col (Aug. 11, ’68) is on the CD “Soft Machine Turns On Vol. 2” on Voiceprint. Brian Hopper (Hugh’s bro, who occasionally played alto sax on some of their earliest recordings) helped coordinate the release. At this time the Softs, a guitar-less trio, were conceptually further out than any band and this Col concert recording (despite its limited quality) is Exhibit Numero Uno. Starting out with incredibly loud, sustained doom-laden bass tones courtesy of Kevin Ayers backed with thrashing arhythmic drums provided by the gentle Dr. Wyatt and Herr Ratledge stirring up some slow boil sonic brew on his organ (the one with the keys), the band climaxes and vaults into Lullaby Letter, playing with total abandon, an energy level like Ayler, Trane or the MC5.

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