Countless stories revealed in Toad’s Place’s new book

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NEW HAVEN – If walls could talk, a lot of people – and not just in New Haven – would love to hear the stories Toad’s Place has to tell from its decades of hosting surprise shows from the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan on Muddy Waters, BB King, David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash.

Even the star-studded walls have their secrets.

But longtime owner of Toad’s Place, Brian Phelps, with New Haven journalist, writer, and former New Haven Register columnist (and former music writer) Randall Beach, are about to fly a book that puts many of those stories in a few will bring cases to the public for the first time.

“In the past five or ten years there have been a lot of people I’ve told stories to … and they came back to me and said, ‘You should write a book,'” said Phelps, in whose voice the book is written. “Enough people have told me it finally arrived.”

Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps (right) and journalist Randall Beach, authors of the new book “The Legendary Toad’s Place: Stories from New Haven’s Famed Music Venue”.

Mark Zaretsky / Hearst Connecticut Media

“The Legendary Toad’s Place: Stories from New Haven’s Famed Music Venue,” which Globe Pequot Press, based in Guilford, will publish on October 8, guides readers to Toad’s beginnings in 1975 as a French restaurant owned by Phelps’ former business associate ” Big Mike “opened” Spoerndle – “the soul of Toad” – and two long-gone partners, about his transformation into a music club a year later and all the chaos that followed over the years.

Phelps, straight out of college at the University of New Haven, joined Toad’s in 1976 as a manager. Yale, Southern, Quinnipiac, and UNH came together with music-loving locals – and still do.

The book cover of

The book cover of “The Legendary Toad’s Place: Stories from New Haven’s Famed Music Venue” by Brian Phelps and Randall Beach

Contributed

Early on, with local musician Peter Menta, later famous from Washboard Slim & the Bluelights, who made the first booking, they brought bluegrass acts and top-notch blues acts with them that were playing an hour away at the Shaboo Inn in Willimantic – starting with blues greats Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters. The latter has returned to Toad’s many times over the years.

This was soon followed by shows by Meat Loaf, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, bluegrass banjo player Earl Scruggs and often NRBQ, Roomful of Blues and Tower of Power – along with big stars like Springsteen and Bob Seger for “encores” at Toad’s after playing shows at the much larger New Haven Coliseum.

(In Springsteen’s case, The Boss, Clarence Clemons, and Steve Van Zandt joined beach rockers John Cafferty and the Rhode Island Beaver Brown Band in a now legendary half-hour jam in 1975.)

Mike Spoerndle (top left) and Brian Phelps (bottom left) with Bon Jovi at Toad's Place in New Haven in 2011.

Mike Spoerndle (top left) and Brian Phelps (bottom left) with Bon Jovi at Toad’s Place in New Haven in 2011.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut media file

Many, many acts followed over the years, including national, international and many local bands.

These included BB King, Albert King, Iggy Pop, Santana, John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Greg Allman, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker, Gil Scott Herron, Run DMC, Dickey Betts, Buddy Guy , Koko Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Dick Dale, Joan Jett, The Wailers, Ziggy Marley, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Cockburn, Sheryl Crow, Burning Spear, Yellowman, King Sunny Ade, Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens, Third World, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, B-52’s, REM, Black Crowes, Billy Joel, Camper Van Beethoven, Neville Brothers, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Joe Walsh and Joe Cocker.

Phelps has been to virtually every show – including the Rolling Stones’ surprise show on August 12, 1989, Dylan’s surprise show on January 12, 1990, and Springsteen’s jam with Cafferty on August 25, 1978.

A photo of Bob Dylan by former New Haven Register photographer Peter Tobia, taken January 12, 1990, hangs in Toad's Place in New Haven on February 1, 2018.

A photo of Bob Dylan by former New Haven Register photographer Peter Tobia, taken January 12, 1990, hangs in Toad’s Place in New Haven on February 1, 2018.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

And during the years that he covered music and in the years after that, Beach was there for many of them – and as a bit of a pack rat who saves everything, he could use his own columns and notes to add to Phelps ” Memories.

“I think it’s a good story. Randy and I worked hard on it for a long time, ”Phelps said. The book has “tons of things you will never hear of,” he said. “… I was really happy with it and I was really happy with his writing and he really seemed to see things the same way I do.”

Phelps originally hired a company that specialized in “ghost writing” to do the book with him. But the India-based company couldn’t get some of the American cultural nuances right.

“They spoke English but not American,” he said. “They just couldn’t synchronize with my plans.”

Brian Phelps, the owner of Toad's Place in 2011.

Brian Phelps, the owner of Toad’s Place in 2011.

Mara Lavitt / Hearst Connecticut media file

At one point he emailed Beach, who was retiring from the New Haven Register late last year, about the project. When Phelps expressed his frustration with the ghostwriters he employed, Beach suggested himself as a co-author.

At this point, “he had about 100 pages of notes,” but complained that his ghostwriters “didn’t really understand American music,” recalled Beach.

Then he suggested, “Why don’t we do this together?” He said. “I’ve been to a lot of these shows. … I’m still in New Haven and have a peach box with the original stories I wrote. “

After they agreed to do it together, they introduced the book to Globe Pequot.

While Beach was very involved in the writing, “I wanted to keep his voice … so I kept that voice while I was telling the story,” he said. “In all honesty, he had spent so much more time there than I did and he talked about so many shows that I wish I had been to. “

Together, “we had a good working relationship,” said Beach. “We both wanted it to work and make a good book. … We were sitting on my deck in East Rock, New Haven, and I asked him to put these stories into concrete terms. … I just made the extensive notes and wrote the book. “

A Dimo ​​Safari photograph of the Rolling Stones, which performed at Toad's Place in 1989, hangs on one wall of the club as a tribute to the legendary concert.

A Dimo ​​Safari photograph of the Rolling Stones, which performed at Toad’s Place in 1989, hangs on one wall of the club as a tribute to the legendary concert.

Arnold Gold

There’s a whole chapter on the Stones show – one of Beach’s favorites – and another chapter just about Spoerndle, who for many years was the creative force that drove Toad’s Place. But over time, he became a victim of substance abuse, leading to his handing over control to Phelps in 1995 and dying in May 2011 at the age of 59.

“I am really indebted to Mike Spoerndle’s brother,” said Pat Beach. “He told me about the really sad upbringing in Ohio. He was also grateful for interviews with Spoerndle’s first wife, Joan Mary Spoerndle.

Spoerndle, who moved to New Haven from Ohio to attend the Culinary Institute of America, and his original partners Mike Korpas and Chuck Metzger had something different in mind from what Toad’s Place eventually became when they first opened the store former Hungry Charlie’s opened place, said Strand.

“They really wanted to be chefs – and Toad’s wanted to be a French restaurant,” but “didn’t make it,” said Beach. That’s when Phelps came into play in 1976.

“Mike had the charisma and personality … and Brian loved the music too. But he was more of a businessman, ”said Beach.

Beach’s other favorite part of the book was the research and interviews he did about the Sons of Bob – the local band made up of boys from North Branford and Branford that started the Stones show, which was the birthday party for promoter Jim. Billed to Koplik, who is responsible for bringing the Stones and many other big acts to Toad’s.

Toad's Place owner Brian Phelps, left, and journalist Randall Beach, authors of the new book,

Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps (left) and journalist Randall Beach, authors of the new book “The Legendary Toad’s Place: Stories from New Haven’s Famed Music Venue”.

Mark Zaretsky / Hearst Connecticut Media

“It was just a wild story – how these four kids from Branford and North Branford found themselves in the middle of this whole experience, reassuring even members of the Stones who were” a little nervous about Toad for not putting on a show. ” in eight years, ”said Beach.

The price to see the Sons of Bob – and the Rolling Stones?

$ 3.01.

Both Phelps and Beach believe the book has broader interest than just New Haven. Phelps, for example, reached out to the Rolling Stones fan organization on both sides of the Atlantic – and Beach said there is a natural market because of all of the Yale students who have walked through New Haven over the years.

Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan paintings hang at Toad's Place in New Haven on February 1, 2018.

Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan paintings hang at Toad’s Place in New Haven on February 1, 2018.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

“Yale Alumni Magazine gets it on its December cover and publishes an excerpt from the Stones chapter … so that’s across the country,” Beach said. “These are their formative years” and the book will “bring back vivid memories of people” who they knew then.

The book is available through links on the Toad’s Place website at www.toadsplace.com and in Barnes & Noble stores and online from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop.org and Rowman & Littlefield.

Phelps and Beach interviewed on WPLR’s Chaz & AJ show and will be promoting the book on WTNH News 8 on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

They will be holding readings at the Barnes & Noble Store in Waterbury on October 16 at 1 p.m., at a Zoom presentation on the RJ Julia Booksellers website on October 18 at 7 p.m. and at the Yale Bookstore operated by Barnes & Noble , on October 28th at 7 p.m.

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