Luther Allison

CD relives memorable night that bluesman Luther Allison put Howard’s on the map

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Back before Howard’s was Howard’s Club H. Back when it was on the west side of North Main Street. Back when it served liquor, beer, wine, and sandwiches prepared upstairs, and it also served a lot of colorful characters, some of whom lived in the rooms out back. What it didn’t offer was live music. That is except for when a college professor assembled friends and guitars for an impromptu hootenanny singing folk songs, some with decidedly blue lyrics. When the Wood County District Public Library bought the property in the late 1960s as a site for its new facility, the bar was displaced across the street to the former Modern Heating storefront, and then to the room next door. For Charlie Davis the long-time manager this was an opportunity. Yes, the place that opened Feb. 14, 1973, was nicer. The floors were level for one thing. “It was supposed to be more of a club atmosphere instead of just a watering hole,” remembers Tom Lambert, who had worked at the bar since returning home from the Army. It also had room for live music. Davis had been wanting to host bands, especially blues bands, for a while, and now he had his chance. He started booking acts including J.B. Hutto, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Dawkins, as well as locals including Diamond Reo (not the 1980s national act with a slightly different spelling). The music drew decent crowds until about 18 months later when Chicago bluesman Luther Allison came to town for a September weekend in 1974. Lambert was manning the sound booth. He brought along his reel-to-reel tape recorder and jerry-rigged a connection. He caught local history on tape. The first night’s crowd was modest, Lambert remembers. Allison came to party, and the room could hardly contain his energy. Davis remembers Allison getting up on the bar and walking down in true blues fashion, jangling the lights as he went. When he got to the end he didn’t stop. Trailing a long cord…