The cinder block building that, 54 years or so ago, housed the Heritage coffeehouse, located at 3842 Mission Blvd. in Mission Beach, is having a reunion with a lot of the folks who used to play there (including myself) this month on October 14. The building now calls itself the Single Fin Surf Bar, but it’s still the same old place, and if you listen real hard you might hear Grady Tuck or Sam Chatmon or Bob Webb, Bob LaBeau, Corky Woerner, Sam Hinton, Zoya Smithton, Clair Hart, Big Joe Williams, Kathy Larisch and Carol McComb, Steve von Lutes, the Eddystone Singers, or maybe even the Krudd Family. You’d hear old time blues, bluegrass, old time string bands and all kinds of folk songs. The owner for most of its run was Bill Nunn who always had taste in both traditional and contemporary folk songs, giving each equal space. Lots of folks who started out working there serving coffee and cider or minding the door wound up as regular performers.
One of the regulars, Tom Waits, who started out as doorman at the Heritage, began writing songs and became a regular performer. He eventually moved on to L.A. and pop music history as a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
The Single Fin is now owned by Adolphus Davenport and Dominic Coleman from Orange and Ventura Counties, respectively. Three years ago they began refurbishing the yogurt shop, which had taken over the building that was once the Heritage. They decorated it with driftwood and an old bay barge that had been submerged off the coast of Mission Beach. They brought it up and salvaged the wood for the patio and inside of the bar. The recycled materials create a beautiful setting for traditional music.
It always takes a fan to get things going, someone who doesn’t perform as part of the show. That was the case with me in my run of music festivals and that is the case of Michele Janette who for a good time was a regular fan of the goings on at the Heritage. Michelle has gotten in touch with Ray Bierl, Martin Henry, Cliff Niman, Pam Ostergren, Curt Bouterse, Lou and Virginia Curtiss, Brian Steeger, Ted Staak, Mitch Greenhill, Mary McCaslin, and others. If you know the whereabouts of Doug McKee, Zoya Smithton, Clair Hart, Pam Baker, or any of the other folks that played on a regular basis at the Heritage, please get in touch with Michele at 4621 Dana Dr., La Mesa, CA 91942. Her phone is 619-464-6021. Don’t delay! Look up those addresses and get them to Michele. A couple more names of folks I remember at the Heritage: Bruce Frye, Rick Stanley, Jack Tempchin, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers (w. Chris Hillman), Dennis Squire, Don Brader and the Almost Mediocre Jug Band, Wayne Brandon and Clark Powell, Suzanne Shea, Pat Moss, Bob White, and others who I’m sure will come to me.
I’ve been in touch with Larry Hanks, who’d like to come, Brian Steeger, who used to play with me and Virginia (as the Krudd Family), and as you are reading this, we’ve been reminded of quite a few more folks (some of those flamenco guys like Dave Cheney and classial guitar guys like Joe Trotter, Scott Hambley-Bob Leech bluegrass band and on and on). And if you make connection with anyone connected with the Heritage please let Michele know. Come to the reunion and find out who’s picking what. Maybe we’ll finally find out “where we’ve been and who brought us along.” Those words were lifted from the sign that backed the stage at the Heritage. None of us knew what they meant and if anyone knew, they weren’t telling.
It might be nice if you have any old Heritage ads or posters, or flyers, photos or any memorablia connected with anything happening during the Heritage’s Golden Years. Also, if anyone has tapes of performances at the Heritage that we could include in our Library of Congress-sponsored Lou Curtiss Digital Sound Library project, it would ensure that the music made at the original Heritage are preserved for as long as a Library of Congress exists. This is going to be a very special night. I hope to see you there.
Suzanne Shea Remembers
I remember warm San Diego summer nights of the ’60s and folk music coming from the door of the Heritage Coffeehouse. From about 1961 to 1970, my family would rent a beach house on Mission Bay for a week (a very inexpensive summer staycation back in those days!). Around 1966 I was learning more and more songs on my guitar and just being at the beach and playing Hoot Nights was perfection to me!
By 1969 I was in a duo with Peter Varhola, who played guitar, upright bass, and banjo. We were getting a few gigs in shopping centers, pizza joints, and military clubs. That summer we got our first booking at the Heritage. We were booked three times in all: 1969, 1970, and 1971. A booking meant we played both Friday and Saturday nights for $25 bucks. Fine with us, I felt I was in the middle of this great music explosion and the Heritage embodied all
Pete and I would often rehearse our songs up on the Mission Beach seawall before our shows, That seawall was a “stage” in itself, everyone stopping by and adding a harmony etc. and many listeners would make plans to come hear us that night or the next.
Tom Waits was the doorman/ticket taker/bouncer/ performer at the Heritage a few of those years. He was SUCH a character; we all loved “rapping” with him while sitting outside tuning up our guitars. He wouldn’t remember me from Adam but he sure made an impression on all of us. I used to tell him my dreams and how determined I was to “play music all my life” (so far so good).
The Heritage was magical–the smell of bonfires and beach just up the way, the mysterious romantic dark interior, the mix of genres: bluegrass, folk, blues, the cast of characters… the whole thing was just perfect to me.
Many, many years later I hosted a year of house concerts in my home out by Grossmont College, I had 12 wonderfully talented performers/singers/writers booked each month. I wanted them and my guests to feel comfortable and relaxed and in a “memory” I hoped they’d never forget. I dubbed my house concert room Heritage East as my tribute to the real Heritage and my own music beginnings and impact that the Heritage had on me.”
Don’t miss the Heritage Reunion on Saturday, October 14, 7—11pm, 3842 Mission Blvd.
A couple of updates: The time of the reunion has been modified to be 6-11 PM on Saturday. Also, there are only 100 seats available at the venue and about 80 of them have already been reserved. Anyone wishing to attend MUST call Michele at 619-464-6021 and book a seat. There is an entry fee of $25 ($15 for performers) that includes admission, valet parking, light refreshments and one drink ticket. Confirmed guests are encouraged to send their check to Michele Janette at 4621 Dana Dr., La Mesa, CA 91942, but you can also pay at the door.