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Down in the Longhorn

Interviewer James Joyce, Literary Hub, New York

Arlo Hennings - musician, author, music business shaker remembers Jay's Longhorn

Vitamin Q 1979 Jay's Longhorn.

Arlo Hennings (left guitar) Michael Gacek (drums) Steve Knaeble (bass) Anita Kozan (keys) - Photo unknown

About Jay's Longhorn

Jay's Longhorn was a underground music venue that gave birth to many local, national, and international artists in the late 70s and early 80s. The venue has been compared to places like CBGB's in New York. A recent book called, "Complicated Fun" and a documentary by Mark Engergretsen "Jay's Longhorn Film" as well as several reunion concerts has shined new light on that music scene.

JJ: Arlo Hennings started into the music biz as a teen in 1968 selling pop in a dancehall. 22 years later he was a local A&R rep for a major record label, and in between, traveled the road from Woodstock to performing in Jay’s Longhorn, managed his own venue, recording studio, record distribution manager, live musician, and artist manager.

JJ: When did you first play Jay's Longhorn?

AH: It was 40 years ago in 1979 when my Neo-psychedelic Vaudeville band "Vitamin Q" played the Horn (1979-1983). As Hugo's roommate (drummer of the Suburbs) and part of Bruce Allen's (Guitarist of the Suburbs) pre-Suburbs experiment "The Tsetse Flies" the Q mostly opened for the Suburbs. Later there were member changes and the band went on to perform many venues until 1985.

JJ: Can you tell me a little more about the Tsetse Flies?

AH: In 1977, I was introduced by Steve Knaeble (roommate and co-originator Vitamin Q) to a visionary guitarist named Bruce Allen. The short, self-effacing, MCAD art student was starting a punk band he dubbed the “Tsetse Flies.” As Hugo Klares roommate and friend of Bruce Allen and Michael Halliday, I was asked to join the fledging group as the rhythm guitarist. The line-up at that time consisted of Bruce Allen, (lead guitar/vocals), Michael Halliday, (bass) Hugo (Huck) Klaers, (drums) and myself, rhythm guitar. We practiced in the living room and basement of a house rented at 3545 Minnehaha Ave for about 6 months, not Podanys as was believed. Checking on our progression now and then was Chris Osgood. At the time Hugo and Michael worked at Pracna & Main, I did odd jobs, and I can’t remember what Bruce did - probably graphics stuff. When is a band a band? The Flies never performed live or recorded but the songs we jammed on were penned by Bruce Allen. I wrote one of them down called “Do Right,” which I taught to my next band Vitamin Q and performed my version of it to Bruce’s liking at the Longhorn in 1979. Bruce asked me to leave the band and later Steve Knaeble’s brother, Johnny Knaeble, might have jammed on guitar for a short while before Hugo left for California.

The song "Do Right" as charted by Arlo.

Songs by Vitamin Q




JJ: Can you share your favorite stories at Jay's Longhorn?

Listen to Hennings Story on YouTube

AH: Highlights were getting paid $50 by Hartley Frank for playing my own music. Even though he grinded me into the floor like a cigarrette to get the money, I was estatic. It was my own music. A first. A dream. Another time was witnessing Hartley Frank stand in front of the stage while Husker played and demanded they turn it out. I don't think Bob Mould could hear him or cared. He was playing a solo. Frank unplugged him. Another time David Johansen played to a near empty house and I stood in front of the stage by myself. He came by me, made shoulder contact, and gave me a nod. It was the closest I had ever come to a rock star. My second rock star encounter happened when Elvis Costello was dating Steve Knaeble's (my roommate) sister, Katie Knaeble. He would come to her apartment late after the gig.

JJ: Did you know Jay Bernie?

AH: No. I only saw him once leaving the building one time. My cousins, Billy Peterson and Bobby Peterson played in Natural Life before the venue switched music direction. When Hartley took over there was this band war between the Horn and Duffys. I think Duffy's started it with demanding exclusivity. I don't know if Jay worked at Duffy's then.

JJ: What do you take away from the Jay's Longhorn experience?

AH: It was where I cut my music business teeth. It was Rock n Roll University 101. I don't put the Horn on the same level as my experience as Woodstock. However, both did impact the national music scene in unique ways. I feel fortunate that I got to partake. In all the excitement, I was inspired to record "Down in the Longhorn," which is based on the Animals "Down in Monterey."

Down in the Longhorn