Thursday September 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD

George Frayne, known to the music world as Com mander Cody, remembers Woody's Road house well.

"Yeah it was this little joint stuck in the middle of nowhere out there in Western Massachusetts," he said of the legendary Route 9 club in the town of Washington that attracted scads of nationally known bands in its heyday.

Frayne, who still tours with his band, admitted that he didn't have any specific memories of the roadhouse. "But I had a girlfriend in the area. This was when I had a lot of girlfriends. We'd play there, and everybody got drunk and had a good time."
Commander Cody, known to many as the artist who covered the iconic "Hot Rod Lincoln" in 1967, will be one of four artists playing on Saturday night at the Woody's Roadhouse Reunion at the Colonial Theatre.

Besides Cody, other bands at Saturday's show include Burnt Bacon and the Home Fries, Fat and the Spampinato Brothers Band, featuring former members of NRBQ. Former owner Woodrow "Woody" Witter will also be on hand.

Witter laughed when a reporter suggested that he is an urban legend now.

"I guess so," he said. "I owned a club in the Berk shires for almost 30 years. Most clubs last three."

He admitted that he often felt uncomfortable when his bands would attract large crowds to his somewhat out-of-the-way venue.

"Yeah, I knew people were driving a long way to get there," he said. "I thought about it at times."

Promoter Vin Brandi said he had the idea of a Woody's reunion in the back of his mind for several years now.

"It used to be a great place in its day," said Brandi. "I talked to several of the bands, and they were all excited to do it."

The former Route 9 venue has been closed since 1997, although the building remains intact. In fact, Brandi said the iconic "Woody's Roadhouse" sign is also still up.

Although larger local venues including the Music Inn and Tanglewood are often touted as the principal Berkshire venues for national acts in the late 20th century, Woody's Road house, which was first opened by Ritter in 1972, had more than its share of major national acts.

Bands like The Cars, The Outlaws, Bonnie Raitt, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Blue Oyster Cult, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and a host of other top acts played there.

Big national acts

"Woody brought in some very big national acts," said Brandi, who, like most local Berkshirites, found his way to the Roadhouse often in the 1970s and 1980s. "He caught a lot of bands, like The Cars, on their way up."

The Roadhouse was also the site of countless fundraisers for the American Cancer So ciety, PETA, the March of Dimes, St. Joseph's Research Hospital and other nonprofit organizations.

There was also controversy. Witter battled, at times, with the town selectmen over allegations of underage drinking, noise and unruly patrons. Woody's was hit with sanctions on several occasions, including being shut down.

Burned in 1986

The club partially burned in 1986, and Ritter was indicted for arson, a charge he denied.

He briefly called the club Woody Guthrie's Roadhouse, much to the annoyance of the Guthrie family, who had no financial or professional in volvement with the business. Witter eventually removed the Guthrie name from the sign. There were no hard feelings.

Arlo Guthrie, Woody's son and an iconic performer in his own right, recalled in 2010 on a website that he "played there many times with many different bands. It was always a lot of fun."

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile



What: Woody's Roadhouse Reunion.

Where: The Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield.

When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 and $45 and available at the Colonial Theatre box office, via e-mail at www.berkshire theatregroup.org or by calling (413) 997-4444.