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Rich and Johnny's Inzane Michigan

Feb 18, 2021

Rich & Johnny return in 2021 with a lengthy chat with Michigan poster/flyer historian legend Jack Bodnar. Intense insight to a heavy scene! Here are some post scripts from the talk via Jack himself:

Jack Bodnar talks more about The Brewery days in Lansing
By Jack Bodnar, January 18, 2021


I don’t know about you but when talking about the past, especially personal events that happened nearly 50 

years ago, I often walk away wishing I had said this or that instead, and that I had been clearer. In my

conversation with Rich and Johnny, I think I got most of it right but what follows are additional insights that 

might clarify a few things.


  • Terry O’Connor was the (brilliant and whimsical) Brewery graphic artist…he died of cancer in the Florida Keys a few years back. Even though he spent his career as a graphics artist, mostly for Michigan State University, his three-year Brewery and Brewery-related output (1972-1975), which came at the end of the Classic Rock Art era (1965-1976), easily puts him in the Top Four pantheon of Michigan superstar rock artists, joining Gary Grimshaw, Carl Lundgren, and Ozone (Chris Frayne, Commander Cody’s brother). 


  • O’Connor created 30-35 Brewery concert posters. No one knows for sure how many, not even Terry when he was still alive. Many of the posters were printed in ridiculously small print runs of 50-100, which is why most people at the time and post-1975 have never seen them. This was compounded by the fact that shortly after The Brewery changed concepts to the Silver Dollar bar in April 1975, Terry’s basement, where he stored his Brewery original art and “reference” posters, was flooded and all was lost. A true tragedy.  


  • Terry never realized how great his Brewery art was. It was just a blip on his radar, something he did for a short time in his youth. Even though his output was low compared to the likes of Grimshaw and Lundgren, Terry’s consistent, eye-popping creativity and use of vibrant color would rank him high on the national rock art scene if people could see his work. Hopefully, this will happen eventually, thanks to the twenty-some-odd O’Connor posters that are part of my collection at Michigan State University.


  • I referred to Sloe Gin and Blue Motorcycle (the latter sometimes called Blue Hawaiian) drinks at The Brewery. The latter was basically a blue Long Island Iced Tea…blue curacao, gin, vodka, and rum. Many of the female patrons ordered them and they were deadly. On Tequila Nights, The Brewery sold a lot of Tequila Sunrises, yet another powerful drink that was ordered predominantly by the ladies. The guys tended to order straight tequila shots, as well as Tequila Sunrises on Tequila Nights.


  • In our conversation, we kept referring to “Goose Lake.” Hopefully, most people know we were referring to the 1970 Goose Lake International Music Festival (7-9 August) in Grass Lake, MI, which attracted more than 200,000 mostly-stoned fans. It is recognized as the last great rock music festival of the Sixties Rock era. 


  • During our conversation, I offered a couple of unfortunate exaggerations when referring to multiple items in my collection. For the sake of hyperbole, I said I might have 5,000 Goose Lake Festival poker chips, which were the festival entry tickets. This is not true, though my collection does have close to a thousand of them, which is still a lot given they don’t turn up very often. 


  • Also, when referring to multiples, I said I had 30-40 copies of some underground newspapers (like the seminal and tough-to-find Warren-Forest Suns), which is true, but many of my underground issues number only in single digits. For instance, my collection has only one of Creem #5 (only a handful exist for some reason), plus the original cover art by Detroit artist Matthew (Matthew Radofsky).


  • Rich referred to a Brewery Seger poster at East Lansing’s The Curious Bookshop, something he had mentioned to me when he interviewed me for a Lansing City Pulse article on the Brewery a few years back. However, I think at the time Rich said it was a Brewery Iggy/Stooges poster. I assumed Rich were homing in on it, so I butted out, which is what I normally do/did when somebody mentions something to me and they are still “working on it.” I wonder what became of that poster, Rich? 


  • Rich also told me about some other Brewery posters that were on display for a short while at East Lansing’s Flat, Black & Circular record store. Because Rich said he was not in pursuit of these posters, I was able to acquire seven Brewery posters, six of them I did not have. Two of the posters were badly wrinkled from a poor mounting job, so I sent them to a reputable poster restoration house in Brooklyn, NY. Of course, shortly after receiving them, the restorer went belly-up and it took me a year of pleading to get them back. The posters were indeed restored (nicely) when returned, thankfully. 


  • And yes, in hindsight, The Brewery did do a lot of very effective print advertising, especially in The State News, Michigan State University’s campus newspaper. Among other ad placements, Brewery co-owner Paul Kacer and Terry O’Connor somehow came up with the brainy idea of running vertical 2”-wide one column ads (white Brewery-logo typeface on distinctive black background) that ran the entire margin of a page. These ads absolutely popped off the newsprint. 


  • Also, in our conversation, I said that word-of-mouth was the most effective form of advertising for the Brewery once it hit full steam but Kacer never relented on covering all his bases through print and radio. I just wish he had let O’Connor create more posters with bigger press runs. Paul didn’t realize how significant these posters were and that it would have cost only a fraction more to print 200-500 posters instead of a paltry 50-100. No one is brilliant across-the-board.


  • After their three-year Brewery stint, two of the three Brewery owners, Paul Kacer and Bruce Wahlin returned to their “straight” restaurant business roots for the rest of their careers, where they were quite successful (again). Pre-Brewery, they had been partners in the very profitable Grand River IHOP and not-so-profitable Stables bar/restaurant operations across the street. Then post-Brewery, they created the Pantree breakfast-centric restaurant in the old East Lansing post office building on Abbot (now Dublin Square Irish Pub) and at a second location in Ann Arbor on Liberty Street, before finally going their separate ways out-of-state. 


  • The third Brewery partner was Rick Becker, who bought out Kacer and Wahlin in April 1975 and repurposed The Brewery as the Silver Dollar bar, which ran for 20 years. The building was demolished by 2000, replaced by a bagel store.


  • Dave DiMartino and I split The State News concert review scene in 1973-74. Dave would go on to be editor of CREEM magazine and has been a legendary music writer for decades. I also made writing my career after I left East Lansing but not in the entertainment field. I gravitated to public relations, advertising, and training instead.


  • It was daunting to cover all the great acts that came through East Lansing on a weekly basis while I was at MSU. DiMartino covered most of the big venue rock gigs and did the record reviews, while I covered most of the blues, jazz, and folk acts, as well as the exploding bar scene. The Brewery alone usually brought in one to two name bands a week. I wound up having an “On Tap” column at The State News and moonlighted at the Lansing State Journal, supplying local entertainment coverage.


  • Sonny Terry (harp) & Brownie McGhee were the two bluesmen I couldn’t remember when talking about East Lansing’s Alley Eye bar.