Myrtle Beach Gets the Blues

By Jae-Ha Kim
Cleveland Plain Dealer
July 6, 1997

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Golf tees may seem like a strange souvenir to hawk at a rock ‘n’ roll club.  But when the nigthclub is nestled in the heart of Myrtle Beach, S.C., it makes sense.

The House of Blues chain–which has built entertainment complexes in Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans and Cambridge, Mass.–opened the doors to its fifth restaurant/nightclub in April in north Myrtle Beach, a city that boasts some 100 golf courses. Besides a 500-seat restaurant (inside and outside) and a 2,000-capacity concert hall, the 57,000-square foot entertainment center has the added bonus of year-round fair weather.  As such, it is the first House of Blues to offer a quaint outdoor patio where patrons can take a break from the live music inside.

(The House of Blues will open its sixth complex in Orlando, Fla., this September, followed by sites in New York, London and Tokyo.)

“The thing that’s so great about Myrtle Beach is that everyone is so nice,” said actor Dan Aykroyd, a House of Blues partner and the star of “The Blues Brothers.”  “And we try to get that across with the House of Blues.  It’s really important to us that everything from the entertainment, to the food, to the service is first rate.  There are so many options for people to spend their money on and we want to make sure that when they come to any of our [clubs], they’re treated well.”

For such a behemoth of a club, the House of Blues has a surprisingly homey feel to it that can be attributed to the charming Southern accents as well as the eclectic folk art and vibrant colors that fill the rooms.

The Myrtle Beach complex is located in Barefoot Landing–the city’s waterfront shopping, dining and entertainment complex–several miles away from where the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood compete for each other’s clientele. But unlike these restaurants that boast little more than varying themes (rock ’n’ roll memorabilia at the Hard Rock; movie collectibles at Planet Hollywood) and T-shirts,  the House of Blues has live music and tasty ribs.

Designed to look like a run-down Mississippi juke joint, the venue’s shabby exterior belies the awesome technology inside.  Not only is the concert hall acoustically sound, but there is Internet access in the facility for office freaks who feel naked without linking to their jobs.  Patrons may check their e-mail or participate in a video-teleconferencing meeting.  (“Hey Bob, this sandwich is out of this world!  Wish you were here.”)

Ironically enough, this branch has attracted a stronger lineup of bands than either Los Angeles, where half the major record labels are based, or Chicago, which is regarded worldwide as the home of the blues.  Scoring the platinum band the Wallflowers–fronted by Bob Dylan’s kid, Jakob–was a major coup, as was nabbing movie star Keanu Reeves’ vanity band Dogstar.

The House of Blues’ flagship Los Angeles branch may have a higher flow of celebrities lounging in the plush Foundation Room (i.e. V.I.P. area), but Myrtle Beach gets its share of famous faces as well. Blues legend James Brown has been known to squire his sweetie, ex-talk show hostess Rolonda Watts there.  And alternative rock star  Duncan Sheik (“Barely Breathing”), a South Carolina native, took a breather from touring to fly in for an all-star golf tournament sponsored by the House of Blues, and then check the hot spot out with his girlfriend.

Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses signed autographs for fans one night while actor Alan Thicke hastily gulped down one of the restaurant’s famous catfish bites before posing for photos with well wishers.

Aykroyd acknowledged that tourists will make up a large percentage of their Myrtle Beach clientele.  But the club also is counting on its popular Sunday Gospel Brunch to keep the natives coming back for more.  Two-hour gospel fests are combined with a heavenly menu that includes corn bread, omelets, barbecue chicken, catfish, shrimp.  Take this hint to heart:  There’s always a line, so make a reservation first.

The House of Blues is at 4640 Hwy 17 S, N. Myrtle Beach, S.C.  For more information, go to their website at http://www.hob.com or phone (803) 272-3000.

 

Kim is the pop music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times and has eaten her way through all five House of Blues in all five cities.

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