BY NORBERT RUG
In the 60’s and 70’s, the drinking age was 18 in New York, which meant I was sneaking into bars when I was 16, and I was not the exception. Live music was everywhere. I learned a lot about life, love, music and myself in places like the Inferno, and other bars long gone.
On a Saturday nights in Buffalo, New York there were several discotheques where young adults would go. The crowd headed to The Club 747 a disco in what looked like a Boeing 747 jetliner. This was situated right across Genesee Street from the Greater Buffalo International Airport.
WKBW Radio disc jockey “Super Shannon” was “in the cockpit” playing records and bringing plenty of energy to the microphone and atmosphere. The Club 747 was so trendy that it was written up in Billboard magazine in 1978. It became the blue print for quite a few discotheques throughout the country.
Up to 5,000 people a week were hustling their way through this airplane-themed club. In the first three years it since it opened, it had already been renovated to the tune of $100,000. This was done by the exact same lighting crew that did the lighting in “Saturday Night Fever.”
In the late ’70s, you would buy a “boarding pass” to gain entrance to the club. This cost $1 or $2 on Saturday nights. This sounded better than a cover charge. People were expected to be properly dressed. Dancers were expected to be dressed appropriately, no sneakers, sweatshirts or “non-dress jeans” (remember, this was the ’70s) were allowed. The men wore dress shirts and pants and the women wore dresses.
Club 747 was a part of the Executive Inn complex. This also included a Playboy Club (yes Buffalo had a Playboy Club). It was renamed Kixx Nightclub throughout the 1990s and was torn down to make way for a Courtyard by Mariott hotel in the mid-2000s.
One of Buffalo’s hotspots of the 1970s disco scene was Hertel Avenue’s, Mulligan’s. There was a little of everything there. The place was like ones recommended by Stefon on “Weekend Update,” a city correspondent of sorts who gave quirky recommendations about clubs and destinations in New York City. It was even the scene of a mafia hit in 1974. When a renovated Mulligan’s opened in 1975, it was billed as “a dancing and dining emporium modeled to suit the far ranging and capricious fancies of all who enter its doors.”
A trip to Mulligan’s might include a sighting of any number of national celebrities known by only their first names, like Cher or OJ, along with Rick James and his girlfriend Exorcist’s Linda Blair.
Today Uncle Sam’s is the name of a Buffalo surplus store, but back in the 70’s it was first a disco known for its reverse dance floor and later became one of the earliest punk clubs in Buffalo. Uncle Sam’s was on Walden Avenue. They actually booked some big name groups. The Pretenders, the Ramones and the Plasmatics played there. Uncle Sam’s was featured in the July 19th 1980 edition of Billboard Magazine
The Inferno was “the” premier place to go to hear music from 1965 until 1968. I spent many lost weekends there. My favorite drink there was a gin and tonic. Not because I liked it but because it glowed an eerie pale blue under the black lights they had. After about a half dozen, it didn’t matter what you were drinking anyway. Many was the morning I would wake up with my head pounding like bass drum at a rock concert.
On Wednesday nights, long lines of people formed through Glen Park and even over the Glen Avenue bridge, many of them waited for hours to get into the Inferno. The Inferno was formerly known as the “Glen Casino”.
The nightclub was noted for featuring the bands like Wilmer & the Dukes and Raven on a weekly basis. This would help launch their careers. Additionally, national recording acts like Ike & Tina Turner, Sly and the Family Stone, Wilson Pickett, Junior Walker & the All Stars, The Butterfield Blues Band, The Bob Seger System, The Esquires, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders, and Arthur Conley also played this famous nightclub.
Ironically on The Inferno, was destroyed by fire. The Inferno is one of the largest fires in Amherst in terms of equipment used at the scene. An estimated 13 fire companies and 200 fire fighters were there with 25 trucks before it was extinguished.
Norb is a writer from Lockport. Follow his blog at WhyWny.home.blog