Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 12 November 2010 00:00
A figure from Roslyn’s cultural past will be back in the news next week as Michael “Eppy” Epstein will be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
On Tuesday, Nov. 16, Epstein will be inducted in a ceremony at Oheka Castle in Huntington. Other inductees include Lou Reed, Al Kooper, The Shangri-Las, Eddie Palmieri, and Oscar Brand.
From 1971 to 1988, Eppy ran My Father’s Place, Long Island’s most popular venue for cutting edge music and comedy. From the late 1960s onward, there wasn’t any figure in the music industry that Eppy wasn’t friends with and so the club attracted established acts and those who would cut their own path in the music world. On Nov. 16, Eppy will be inducted into the Hall of Fame for helping to introduce such talent to the music world.
It has been nearly 25 years since Eppy left Roslyn, but this current resident of Glen Cove still regards those years as the best ones of his still productive career.
A native of Rockville Centre, Eppy left the island after high school to attend college in Boston. In that city, he discovered various nightclubs and music shops, all of which, as he noted, changed him from a “suburbanite to a city boy.” And so, after graduation, Eppy returned to Long Island with a goal of bringing a more cosmopolitan culture to the island.
Roslyn, as it turned out, was the village where he made his mark. In 1969, Eppy chose the village as the home for his first business, I Never Went, an alternative cultural retail store, located on Main Street, across from the Jolly Fisherman. He also wanted to bring some live folk music to the store, an idea that was scotched by village officials, thus starting a sometimes-acrimonious relationship with the village that ended in the late 1980s.
In the meantime, one of Eppy’s business neighbors was a bowling alley on Old Northern Boulevard. This establishment played country and western music on weekends. Eppy, whose contacts in the music world were already growing, told the owner that he could “fill up” the bowling alley with music fans on “any night of the week.” The owner took him up on the boast and on Memorial Day weekend, 1971, they booked Richie Havens, the folksinger still riding high on fame gained at the 1969 Woodstock concert. In time, The Roslyn Bowl became My Father’s Place and by the mid-1970s, it was one of the most popular—-and publicized—-clubs on the island. The club’s intimacy, it was located under the viaduct on Old Northern, made it popular, as did the amazing number of acts who played there, itself a virtual Who’s Who of the music world in the 1970s and ’80s.
My Father’s Place also benefited from the local FM radio giant, WLIR. On Tuesday nights, that station would broadcast live music acts. On Saturday night, those same acts would come to My Father’s Place for more live performances.
During the early 1970s, the pop music world was still living in the shadow of the singer songwriters of the 1960s: John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Paul Simon and others. And so, the music world was constantly on the lookout for “the next Dylan” or someone who could match the songwriting abilities of that decade. As it turned out, there were plenty of candidates for the title. Plus, there was the emphasis on producing first-rate, creative albums rather than just AM music hit singles. All this also benefited the club, as it would showcase both new and existing talent. Finally, Clive Davis, the famed Columbia Records talent scout, lived in Roslyn at the time. That gave the club more favorable publicity. Davis was probably the most famous executive in the business at the time. He would often drop by the club to listen to new acts. So, naturally, every band with stars in their eyes would want to play at My Father’s Place just so they might get lucky and be there when Davis was in the audience.
Indeed, the lineup of stars who got a start at the club or who played there once they were established is long and impressive: Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, The Ramones, John Prine, Elliot Murphy, Linda Ronstadt, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, U2, Eddie Murphy, Meat Loaf, Peter Tosh, Loudon Wainwright, Dave Van Rock, Mimi Farina, Janis Ian, Emmylou Harris, Maria Muldaur, Steve Goodman, and many others.
Long Island and the New York area were magnets for such talent. The area also produced its share of stars. Billy Joel and Elliot Murphy were natives of the region. So, too, were bands that Eppy showcased. One of them was Soft White Underbelly, a Port Washington-based band that became Blue Oyster Cult, and Bloodless Pharaohs, a Massapequa-based band that hit it big as the Stray Cats.
Springsteen first played at the club in 1972, the same year that a band from Milton, MA came down the turnpike to audition for Davis. Eppy said he never cared for their name—“Aerosmith”— but by 1974, band members Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were playing at the club again, this time with a record contract in tow.
“I gave success to the sleepy little village of Roslyn,” Eppy said, looking back on My Father’s Place golden era.
Needless to say, Eppy’s time at the club produced countless memories and incidences. The most famous was the night in 1978 when The New York Post, now under ownership of tabloid chieftain Rupert Murdoch, ran a story claiming that The Rolling Stones were to play a concert at the club. That evening, the streets of downtown Roslyn were packed with a good portion of Long Island’s young people and it took Eppy some convincing to get the crowd to go home.
Eppy also recalled a Linda Ronstadt concert from the mid-1970s. During the show, Ronstadt’s audience kept demanding encores. Finally, the singer told the crowd that her band had no more material. Backstage, Eppy asked her to play Heat Wave, the hit song from the 1950s. Ms. Ronstadt claimed that she didn’t know the song. And so, Eppy, a former guitarist, got an instrument, played some chords and wrote down the lyrics. Ms. Ronstadt and her band went ahead and did the number, which she later recorded as her top selling single. “All I got out of it was a ‘thank you’ and platinum record,” Eppy laughed, recalling an event from over three decades ago.
It all ended in the late 1980s, with a costly dispute over a parking dispute. Eppy tried fighting the case through legal means, but it proved too costly to him, both financially and mentally. He was forced to close the club and to this day maintains that if not for the legal problems, he would still be in the village he had hoped to call home forever.
Eppy is still active in the music world, producing acts for his new company, RoadWarrior Entertainment. In addition, he has a new book, Fun and Dangerous, coming out, one that tells the “untold stories” of My Father’s Place. A decade ago, Eppy even tried to make a return to his favorite village, booking such acts as Dave Mason and Mick Taylor, a former guitarist for The Rolling Stones, at Mim’s Restaurant.