The roaring twenties club kept the sound of the popular big band


Please offer a brief article on the Roaring 20’s club on Blanco Road. The children of NESA (North East School of the Arts) spent time here in the late 1990s, enjoying swing music that could not be found anywhere else at that time. When did the club open, what kind of clientele did it have, someone famous dating and when did it burn down?

Larry Herman’s Roaring 20 dinner and dance club on Old Blanco Road picked up where Shadowland (covered here last Sunday) left off. Shadowland, sometimes described as “the largest casino west of Reno”, opened in 1927 in a secluded location advertised as “10 miles on Blanco Road”. Searched for alcohol offenses by federal ban officers and the Texas Rangers, it was a chic and glamorous nightclub that operated in a gray area between legal offerings (chicken dinners and dancing on hot jazz bands) and the extra-legal entertainment (booze and questionable gambling rooms which rewarded the house with tens of thousands a night).

It was long before Herman’s time.

The pianist and conductor purchased the 12,000 square foot building in 1961, after serving for a decade as an event venue. Renamed Larry Herman’s Roaring 20’s and refreshed with a new maple dance floor and a 60-ton commercial air conditioning unit, the legendary club had its grand reopening on April 15, 1961 – still generally referred to as “formerly Shadowland” for the first couple of dancers. ‘years but re-identified for mid-century as “3 miles north of the loop (410”).

Herman didn’t need to present the kind of clientele he hoped to win back. During the 1940s he conducted the Kit Kat Orchestra to dance at the eponymous club on Fredericksburg Road and, during the following decade, performed at the Peraux Ballroom at the St. Anthony Hotel and provided music for special events of the German club San Antonio, Junior League. and Order of the Alamo. Its groups of eight or nine musicians performed regularly to dance at private parties at country clubs in San Antonio and Oak Hills. At the same time, his Over 29 Club dances were open to the public at the Hermann Sons Pavilion and other downtown ballrooms.

In 1985, Taddy McAllister celebrated his 40th birthday at Larry Herman’s Roaring 20’s. She is shown with her mother, Edith McAllister, at the party.

Express-News file photo

As a house band in Herman’s own club, some of the city’s top musicians have come together to perform for public dances on Wednesday, Friday – for the weekly live broadcast on KBAT radio – and on Saturday evenings and for private parties at other times.

Trumpeter Robert Fox Landholt, a former student at Juilliard School and former instructor at the Oberlin College Conservatory, moved to San Antonio in hopes the climate would improve his asthma.

“He traveled with a few jazz groups in the 1940s,” said his daughter Christine Landholt Spencer. His father performed with the San Antonio Symphony under the direction of Victor Alessandro (discussed here October 5, 2019) and with Herman for many years in the 1960s. “I have fondest memories of my father putting on his white tuxedo, warming up with his trumpet in the master bedroom of our house, then heading to the club. ” Members of the Moonlighting group included teachers and a principal, a civil insurance broker, a grocer, and other business owners.

The hard-working house group, which performed to dance from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., had some free time when large, well-known bands came to town, including one-night stands or longer appearances by the band. Tommy Dorsey, Harry James’ orchestra featuring star drummer Buddy Rich, Woody Herman (unrelated), Pete Fountain and his New Orleans Jazz Group, Guy Lombardo and Glenn Miller orchestras. They played well-known songs from their heyday or adapted contemporary songs to their style.

In newspaper entertainment guides, the Roaring 20’s has been described as playing the favorite tunes of decades, with a “sweet sound” that drew adults in days of dancing follies like the Twist, the Frug, the Pony and the Watusi and inaugurated contactless free-form gyrations.

During the 1960s and 1970s, when other local clubs filled their dance floors with teens and young people in their twenties who enjoyed new styles of dance and music, from rock to disco, the Roaring 20’s – who had even theme nights focused on year-round successes in the 1920s – continued to demand a dress code (men’s jackets and ties, long dresses or women’s cocktail dresses). At that time, people who remembered dancing to the great orchestras of the 20s, 30s and 40s were in their middle age and flocked to the 650-seat club to enjoy the music of their youth.

The Roaring Twenties were still strong in 1985 and hip enough for then restaurateur / socialite Taddy McAllister to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Larry Herman is shown playing the piano at his Roaring 20's nightclub.

Larry Herman is shown playing the piano at his Roaring 20’s nightclub.

Photo file

His mother, Edith McAllister, “had her first date when she was 12 in Shadowland (and had been allowed to date a boy who was friends with his older sister because his father was a pastor.” It was the first of countless trips, she, my dad and all their friends chose Blanco Road to dance for the next (several) decades.

Herman “was a great conductor,” and the cork-lined dance floor was where “you could dance for hours without collapsing. I found out when I celebrated my 40th birthday there and danced mindlessly for four hours and then couldn’t walk when the music stopped. The dance, she said, “was heavenly. It was a sad day when it closed.

As Herman’s main clientele – most over 40 – dwindled with the passage of time, the building also began to show its age. When Herman transferred ownership to his son Craig Herman, the action sparked a series of unfortunate events, starting with an inspection that revealed serious safety concerns. The family did some repairs and hired off-duty firefighters to stand by when the club was open, but it would cost $ 100,000 to bring the wiring up to standard. The club closed in 1998, and the property was sold in 2003.

A fire of unknown origin that brought as many as 20 fire engines to the famous monument at 13445 Blanco Road destroyed the vacant building on July 4, 2007.

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