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2011 annual report 40 years of music and beer

6 This is a story about a space and the people who helped create it. Stripped of its name, and stripped of the memories associated with it, the Exit/In is little more than a block of real estate where–thanks to the imagination and good taste of a handful of determined people– some amazing things occurred. But those moments might’ve happened

Liz Thiels, who was one of the club’s co-owners from 1972 to 1976, probably knows more about the Exit/ In than all but two or three others. She came on board during the club’s second year and maintained a periodic association with it even after she ceased to be a partner. More importantly, Thiels kept a scrapbook, full of old menus, news items, advertisements and photographs.

anywhere, and when asked about

The story of the Exit/In’s early days is



in that scrapbook, and even though

former patrons and employees to

Thiels let the project lapse when her

misremember, to put dates in the

ownership interest in the club did, if

wrong order or to recall shows that

there’s any way to understand what’s

actually happened elsewhere. And

so special about the old room, it’s

most local musicians will admit that

in the accumulation of images and

as a performance space, the Exit/In

mementos that keep the legend alive.





is far from the best in town.

A word that almost everybody uses

But people remember the nights

when talking about the Exit/In is

they spent there, and the nights

“vibe.” It’s a touchy-feely word born

they only heard about. That’s the

of the hippie era from which the

nature of live music. It tends to linger,

club emerged.

starting with the low buzz in the ears the morning after, and the smell of beer, sweat and cigarettes clinging to last night’s clothes.

Thiels remembers that time vividly. When the Exit/In opened in 1971, she says, “It was a forum. The Vietnam war was still happening; the whole

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

women’s lib thing was just getting

Walter Carter worked at Friday’s in

hot. No self-respecting woman in

those days and eventually migrated

that group down there ever wore

over to the Exit/In. “I got into town

underwear. It was radical, it really

in 1971, probably weeks after they

was. It was a real San Francisco-

opened. That was just the only area

inspired, kind of Haight feel. Long

of town that was really hip at that

hair, beads, peace signs. A lot of what

time. I was a patron when it was just

people think of as the ’60s was really

the little, single storefront lot with

the ’70s.”

the entrance really in the back, in the

Owsley Manier and his partner Brugh Reynolds opened the Exit/In in 1971, a time when big cities on both coasts were home to legendary venues for

alley. By the time I started working there, they had doubled the size and put the entrance in the back corner and were serving vegetarian lunches.”

rock ‘n’ roll and the counterculture.

Thiels entered the picture at that

In Nashville, there was nothing to

point. She had been in Nashville

speak of–no “listening room,” per se.


Manier and Reynolds spent about a

Kennedy public relations, and had

year-and-a-half looking for the right

left that job not long before her first

place to open one and settled on

visit to the Exit/In. “I went there first

what was then Elliston Place Village

as a customer and was just blown

because the proximity to Vanderbilt

away by the place and by what they



were trying to do,” she says. Thiels

neighborhood was showing signs

befriended Manier and Reynolds,

of becoming more youth-oriented.

and in 1972, when the club expanded,

On the day the Exit/In opened,

she bought out one of their original

T.G.I. Friday’s opened a couple of

partners, Harvey Magee.


doors down.






8 “At that time, there were five partners:

fresh from the college circuit and ready

Owsley and Brugh, Brugh’s wife

to start a run as one of the Exit/In’s first

Alice, myself and Owsley’s cousin Bill

hot young acts.

Manier,” Thiels continues. “We were all like a little family. I was vice-president of the club and my responsibilities were to do the advertising and the PR. I also ran the dishwasher, was a hostess at lunch and a ticket-taker at night. For a long time, it was kind of a 24-hour-a-day job.”

Over 15 years later, Ned Horton–who would take his turn as an Exit/In owner starting in 1997–walked into the club hoping to get it to advertise on Rebel 100, the radio station he had just moved to Nashville to start. As Horton pitched his ideas to the owner, Steve Forbert walked in, toting

Talk to anyone who’s ever been

a guitar and some equipment. “I had

involved with the Exit/In for any length

his albums in college,” Horton says,

of time and you’ll hear echoes. Owsley

“So I thought that was kind of cool.

Manier tells the story of getting the

This really is Music City, with Steve

club ready to open, before the stage

Forbert coming in for a gig at the local

was even finished, when it was just

club. That’s really my first memory of

“a couple of two-by-fours and some

the place.”

plywood.” A man walked through the street door–not the famous rear entrance that gave the club its name– and asked for an audition. He walked onto the half-finished stage in cutoffs, played a couple of songs, and Manier said, “That’s cool, you’re hired. What’s your name?” It was Jimmy Buffett,

Written on the Exit/In wall is a list of names of people who have played the club, but asked to name their most memorable nights at the Exit/ In, longtime patrons freeze, unable to sort through the highlights of hundreds of evenings.

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

Walter Carter says that the very first

unusual things happened on a near

week he worked, Doc Watson played

nightly basis.










Ronstadt. In those days, he says, the Exit/In would host Bill Monroe one night and Chick Corea the next. “And of course,” Carter adds, “if Bill Monroe was playing, we used a Chick Corea tape to clear the room between shows.”





profitable performer in the club’s first




Steve Martin.

to have honed his comedy act in Nashville during his frequent mid’70s dates at the Exit/In. According to legend, he would march the audience out of the club to create havoc on Elliston Place. Martin would head into the crowd waiting for his second show and jump from the bar into their waiting arms, swimming over their heads. “He did all kinds of crazy stuff and people just loved Liz


days read like a who’s-who of boomer singer-songwriters. Two of the most popular early performers were Jimmy Buffett and John Hiatt. Guy Clark and John Prine were regulars. So were jazz acts like Mose Allison and McCoy Tyner. Michael




Nashville music for various publications for almost 20 years and who started

In his autobiography, Martin claims


The other names from those early



also helped create the impression that the Exit/In was a place where

coming to the Exit/In in the early ’80s, remembers that k.d. lang’s first Nashville gig was at the Exit/In. “Such a big introduction to such a strong talent,” says McCall, who remembers seeing Bo Diddley, R.E.M. and the legendary




great rock hope of the ’80s, Jason & The Scorchers. The Scorchers actually only played one full show at the Exit/In in the ’80s, to celebrate EMI’s rerelease of their EP Fervor. Prior to that, they tended to play the now defunct rival rock club Cantrell’s and, after



13,000 different artists in 40 years.

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

More than


people attended Exit/In shows in 2011.

12 that, larger spaces. But they were

chunks, into little bricks of energy, it was

as much a part of the Nashville rock

so thick.”

landscape as the Exit/In, and it’s only natural for people to associate them with the club. (The band later fed that perception when they mounted a comeback in the ’90s, embracing the Exit/In like the old haunt of theirs it never really was.)

Other memories recur from patron to patron. Lucinda Williams’ New Year’s Eve show of 1998. A surprise R.E.M. appearance. (Former Exit/In owner Bruce Fitzpatrick, now an owner of The End, says, “They’re friends of mine and they were in town recording an album…

Jay Orr, a colleague and contemporary

just came in one night and used the

of McCall’s, was at the Scorchers’

band’s equipment that was up there

one Exit/In show of the 1980s; it was

and had taken a break.”) The Red Hot

actually his earliest memory of the

Chili Peppers on Thanksgiving night.

club, trailing his move to Nashville in

(Fitzpatrick: “We catered Thanksgiving

1983. “I was blown away and glad I

dinner for them.”)

had moved here from D.C.,” Orr says. “And I remember the magnificent Scorchers show in February 1995, during the annual Extravaganza. I think they had food for friends who lingered after the gig, and a lot did, pretty much stunned by the power of what they had just witnessed.”

John Lomax III, who ran the early alternative-press publication Nashville Gazette in the ’70s, once puked on David Allan Coe’s shoes during a Linda Ronstadt gig. “I had about two seconds warning when I knew the suds were making their run to daylight,” Lomax says. “Out it came,

Jason Ringenberg himself says that

all over a pair of Coe’s boots, made of

the Extravaganza night was “the finest

some fancy snakeskin or something.

Scorchers show we ever did. The energy

And of course, he had his jeans

in the room, you could almost cut it into

tucked inside his boots.”

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

Robert K. Oermann, a music historian

bass player would say the next line

who’s covered goings on in Nashville

in his ear and George would sing it.

for nearly 25 years, has an impressive

And then George started talking in

list of reminiscences, including Coe,

a Donald Duck voice. The audience

who would perform in a silver-studded

was just angry and weirded-out.

Lone Ranger mask. Oermann saw Hank

Finally, after about 10 minutes, he left

Williams Jr. play when his face was still

the stage. And there was somebody



with me from out of town, and he

and his eyes were in different places


came up to me and said, ‘This is the

on his head. He saw Johnny Paycheck

legendary Exit/In?’ ”

perform while wearing a T-shirt that said

“Nashville Can’t Take a Joke.”

The corner of West Nashville real estate that still means so much to a

“One extremely vivid night, George

lot of people bears almost no relation



to the original building known as the

remembers. “I went out back in

Exit/In. For most of its first decade,

the alleyway and he was sitting on

through expansions and renovations,

the ground next to the tour bus,

the Exit/In consisted of a bar and

incoherent. He was going through a

a listening room, the latter of which

very, very cocaine-crazed period in

featured a floor filled with enough

his career at the time. And I went in

tables and chairs to seat around 200

and the band played and the band

people. Owsley Manier had the acts

played and the band played and

he booked play two shows a night,

there was no Jones. He was still

and he kept the performance space

sitting out in the alley.

separate from the bar, though there



was a service window that patrons “Finally, they get him out there and

of the bar “could kind of sort of see

the bass player literally had to lean

through a little.”

over to him and say the line and George would sing the line, and the

When Nashville restaurateur Wayne Oldham got involved with the club in the early ’80s, he raised the roof and improved the sound and lighting; he also installed pew seating in the listening room. “ Wayne was the one that gutted it,” Walter Carter says. “He didn’t have any choice but to gut it. When they were renovating, the roof fell in.” Lomax was there on the first night of the short-lived Oldham era. Chuck Berry played and put on a solid show, but toward the end of his set, one of the club’s regulars jumped onstage to dance and was promptly booted out by the new management. “None of these people knew any of the music crowd or had any idea how the music world worked,” Lomax recalls. “ The club insisted on written guest lists to be provided to security and rebuffed any attempt by the label or ar tist reps to help. I remember seeing




Frank Jones refused entr y to an Asleep at the Wheel show he and the label he ran were sponsoring.

show diverisity over 40 years

16 Frank had been there for soundcheck

Michael McCall began going to the

but had left to eat. The label secretary

club while this evolution was taking

forgot to type his name on the list and

place, but he still says the Exit/In

the club security stood on ceremony

maintained its aura, if for no other

and refused him entry. Poor Frank had

reason than “you appreciate that you

to stay in the bar.”

can get a couple hundred people

Lomax adds that prices were too high, the new bar stools were wrought iron and very uncomfortable, and that with the pew seating, there was no place to set down drinks or purses. “I think this phase of the Exit lasted about six months,” he says. “People stopped coming because they didn’t want to be treated like burger customers.” The Exit/In gradually evolved into a “big box”-style club, more like the grubby, punk-friendly dives that were springing up in college towns throughout the ’80s. The club developed a reputation for bad plumbing–there was reportedly a junction where a big sewage pipe emptied into a smaller pipe, assuring back-ups–and inconveniently located bathrooms and dressing rooms. More and more, the performers made the night special, not the space.

in there and still have movement. The size worked in its favor because it was a little smaller than a real spacious room and not real cramped. Of course, I think if you could see somebody in a smaller space, you’d want to–and it always helps to be able to go to the bathroom without walking in front of the band. But the Exit/In always had sort of a mystique.” “It’s been my experience that nearly all the famous rooms in America are real dumps,” says Oermann. “The Troubadour’s a dump. The Bottom Line is a dump. And the Exit/In to a certain extent was a dump.

It was who was there and the music that was made. It wasn’t the club itself, although it was a good room. The Exit felt like a hundred-seat room even with 300 people in it.”

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

Still, Manier misses the elegance

is held by the music journalists who

he tried to bring to the old dump.

spent the bulk of their nights there

The tables


in both a professional and personal

the waitresses weren’t allowed to

capacity. John Lomax III camped

let glasses stay empty for long.

out there, because, he says, “It was

“There’s no such thing as service at

the only showcase room for a couple

a club these days,” he says. “Most

hundred miles, Printers Alley having

clubs these days, you’ve just got

lost favor once Nashville passed

a shitload of people standing–and

liquor by the drink.”



that’s cool–but if you’re going to see something that’s avant-garde, esoteric or whatever, do you really want to stand up?”






Nashville in 1978, he had a job in the library of the Country Music Hall of Fame and was writing for fan

Thiels concurs: “The truth is I never

magazines and alternative newspapers

thought that once they changed the

like the Nashville Gazette. His wife,

shape and the seating arrangement


in the room that it ever, for me,

anthropologist Mary Bufwack, still

worked as well as it had in the old

hadn’t made the move. “I was kind

place. To me, listening to music is

of on my own and I didn’t know

a communal experience that you

anybody in town,” Oermann says.


“That, and the Gold Rush across the





sitting side-by-side instead of across the table with somebody else. The original Exit/In of the ’70s? There won’t ever be another place like that.”




street. That was the hangout.” Michael McCall moved here from San Francisco in July 1984 to write about rock and the music business for

Almost more than the people who

the Nashville Banner. Back then, he

had an investment in the club, the

says, “I spent more time at the Exit/

strongest attachment to the Exit/In

In than at home. It was the center of

18 the rock scene outside of the more

great-sounding room; it’s got a good

underground places like Cantrell’s.”

stage. They always had a good P.A.

He describes those days as “a big

system in there. The atmosphere in

whirl of great music and friends and

and of itself wasn’t all that special; it

the social activity that goes into it.”

wasn’t any different from a lot of other


E xit /In




locus for the kind of local music scene




days ,

at least in Nashville. In the ’ 80s , bands hung out together more, suppor ted each other more and

mid-sized rock ‘n’ roll rooms across the country. But I think because it had such a history of playing great music before the music broke, there was a certain feather-in-your-cap if you played there.”

writers tracked their movements

In recent years, Kim Collins of the band

as the musicians made their way

Kim’s Fable carried on the tradition

up the club ladder to the E xit /In .

of local bands drawing crowds at

“ It was the place you aspired to

the Exit/In (even though in her day

play,” McC all remembers . “ So early

job, Collins works for competitor 12th

on when you had people like The

& Porter). “We didn’t play there for

Ner ve, Af rikan Dreamland , they

awhile because we just didn’t get

would pack the place out without

the crowds,” Collins says. “When T.C.

having any national at tention at

started doing the booking, his first

all. [I watched] bands like Walk

focus was on local bands and we

the West or Raging Fire or The

started playing again. We had a big

White Animals get big enough

blowout show–like 400 people–and

You played the Exit/In, you’d made it.”

it was great. So we started playing

to play the E xit /In .

“It has all the stuff that you need to

there more often because we were able to accommodate more fans.”

make a good show in a mid-sized venue,” says Jason Ringenberg. “It’s a

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

The biggest show of the year.


Also in the last couple years, Billy Block’s Western Beat Roots Revival, a weekly showcase of country and roots music performers, served as a mini-reunion for some of the old Exit/ In gang. One reason is that Western Beat had a definable musical link to the early days of the club, when it was a haven for singer-songwriters who straddled the line between country and rock. When they had no home, the Exit/In provided one, so it was only natural that fans and musicians alike would be drawn to the Western Beat’s twangy music and communal vibe. (The showcase has since returned to the reopened Exit/In.) T.C. Weber may be cynical about the future of live music around the country, but he remains committed to the belief that a local club should support a local scene. “I think the importance of a rock ‘n’ roll club above and beyond bringing in traveling stuff is to be a part of the community and the local music community. I’ve got a lot of great memories of seeing a lot of great bands who have gone

22 on, from the Matthew Ryans to the

on any given night there was going

Boneponys and Fleming & Johns.”

to be something incredible there.

“In ’72, when we got larger, we started doing some name acts and we just started




mean, we kept playing Hiatt because he had a following, we kept playing Coe–but





then to play showcases. I remember Willie [Nelson] played there when his Red Headed Stranger album came around, when he started happening in a large way. [Dan] Fogelberg was hanging around here a lot then and he

And there was, and across a range of artists. [John] Hartford played there once, and Vassar Clements. Sam Bush, when he was with New Grass





Tyner would be there after that. It was absolutely, totally eclectic.” Manier even programmed a film series focusing on obscure African American movies. It was all part of his plan of catering to the complete spectrum of Nashville audiences.

played. We played Prine and Emmy

Thiels says that one of her fondest

and people like that, started doing a

memories after she became a partner

lot of jazz, started doing everything,

in the Exit/In happened when she

started doing comedy–Steve Martin,

and a friend “were roaming around

Martin Mull, Billy Crystal.

on a Saturday afternoon and we felt

“I was essentially trying to balance it and figure out what we could do business with and what was cool,” Manier continues. “It was my call. I played some stuff that was just phenomenal but no one came, and that was always a drag. Because I

like we needed to just go hear some good blues, but we couldn’t figure out where to go. So we went over to Mary’s Barbecue on Jefferson Street to find out if anyone over there could tell us where to go. And they said, ‘You need to go down to the Exit/In, man.’ ”

was hoping to get established to the

According to Manier, there were

point that people would know that

some nights when 80 percent of

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

the Exit/In’s clientele was black. He

droves. “If there’s a band that I like,

also brought in jazz acts like Roy

I’ll go ahead and do the show even

Ayers and Weather Report, and

though I’m going to lose money,” he

even ventured into avant-garde jazz

says. “I just want to see ‘em, y’know?”

players with a political agenda. The diversity of bookings was designed to prevent burnout from any one customer base. Nevertheless, Manier says, “We had people who showed up a lot, because they got it. They knew that there was something very cool that was eventually going to happen there.”

The chain of ownership of the Exit/ In is so kinked that no one person can chart the complete sequence of rises and falls. Owsley Manier tosses out some names: “The last incarnation that I was involved with [included] Wayne Oldham, who was an old restaurateur who has since passed away, and Joe Sullivan, who

That aspect of entertaining crowds

was Charlie Daniels’ manager at the

and seeing exciting new talent

time, and I think Charlie Daniels as

tends to trump the making of

well, and Steve Greil, who’s now head

money– other wise

of TPAC. They bought the club from




E xit /In



whoever had it before them, which I

long time ago. “I get as much of

think was Nick Hill and Nick Spiva of

a kick or more of a kick watching

Spiva/Hill investments.”

the crowds enjoying themselves– kind of as a social chairman, just watching




their dancing or whatever,” says late ’90s Exit/In owner Ned Horton.

Did any of them make any money? Manier sighs. “To kind of give you the overview of it, the total amount that’s been lost in that place, if you adjust it for inflation–way over half

Over at The End, Bruce Fitzpatrick

a mil, maybe 700,000, maybe more

says that a great show is almost worth

has been flushed down the toilet in

it even if the crowds don’t come in

that place.”

24 Manier


partner] Jay [Langford] or I,” Horton

strongly associated with the club,




says. “He wanted to do it, and I was

even though Fitzpatrick may outstrip

all for that. So he bought me out at

him in total years there. Ned Horton

that point. He took all the stock and

had the most recent tenure as a

ran with it.”

public face of the Exit/In, and if he hadn’t overextended himself and his partners, and if he hadn’t burned out on the whole experience, the club might not have closed up a few months back. He enjoyed the process, but he stepped away from the Exit/In because “the part that I loved [was]–the marketing, the retooling,





venue. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of managing bartenders and stocking inventory, that’s not my background.” Horton became a silent partner in the club when the Exit/In was bought into





management group with restaurant and bar interests throughout the Southeast. “Essentially, a year later, they weren’t fulfilling their obligations and we had to get divorced from them, which meant somebody had to go back in and run it, either [my

But Langford was doing all this from a distance, never having moved to Nashville from his home base in New England. Money dried up, and according to frequent visitor Bob Oermann, “It got horrible there at the end. There was no air-conditioning.” From his perspective across the street, Fitzpatrick sees the collapse from a practical standpoint. “Maybe some shows didn’t have the turnout they thought they were gonna have. You know, that sales tax is due the 20th of each month for the previous month. It’s basically 8.25 percent of your sales. They’ll let you get behind for a little while, but at some point, they come after you.” Rick Whetsel came into his new position as owner of the Exit/In almost by accident. He had just taken command of 328 Performance Hall before its closure. As he and his

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

team looked for a space to replace

Big Shows promotion group, he’s

328, the Exit/In closed. “We just kept

worked with just about every club

waiting and waiting for somebody

owner in town.

to open Exit/In and then it never happened,” he says. “So we just kept talking to other people and they kept talking to us, and finally we were like, you know what, let’s see if we can’t get this thing done.”

Mike Grimes is excited about his new competitor. “I love Rick,” he says. “Rick, myself, John Bruton–all the promoters in town work with each other. It’s not as cutthroat as I’m sure it is in bigger cities. We actually

Whetsel comes in not so much

check with each other about gigs,

as a visionary savior, but as an

so we don’t book the same kind of



band on the same night. I think the

businessman who thinks that the

competition will be more between

Exit/In still has a place on Nashville’s

12th & Porter and Exit. That size

live music landscape, as foggy as

venue is a step up from 12th & Porter.

that landscape may be. He plans to

It’s much needed.”


keep the names on the wall and to install new lighting and sound. “We’re going to make some minor changes cosmetically to the front of the house,” he says. “Most of our changes are going to occur in the way of artist hospitality. The dressing rooms and such need a little help.”

As for Whetsel, when reminded of the past problems that club owners have encountered, he stays calm and points out that he’s been involved with the Exit/In before, and that he’s not planning any big, risky projects. “We know what we can afford and we will spend accordingly,” he insists.

Another in a string of out-of-towners

“That said, if people don’t come to

to be involved with the Exit/In,

shows, I’m in big trouble.”

Whetsel moved to Nashville from Pittsburgh in 1992; through his Great




Exit/In 2011 Annual Report



brought in a chef who just looked at

Liz Thiels comes upon a July 1976



the figures and looked at the food

clipping from the Nashville Banner

and said, ‘You guys are losing money

that reported the club filed for

on every meal.’

Chapter 11 on Nov. 28, 1975. “It says here that our debts at that time were $123,558, and we had assets of $47,503. We had tried the benefit concert route and we had tried other investors and we had tried everything we knew how to do to hang onto it ourselves. But the day just came where we had to say, ‘OK, it’s for sale.’ Owsley and I, the court named us as the managers, and we worked there for more than a year with no salary, nothing. I don’t know really how we did that.” Walter

“Right before the bankruptcy, they showed the employees the balance sheet for the past couple of months. The club broke even, and probably could’ve made money if they hadn’t been in such a hole already. It was pretty loosely run. A lot of people knew their way through the kitchen. We did our best to put a stop to that, but never really controlled the ‘brother-in-law’ entrance.” The experience was crushing for Thiels. At the time of the bankruptcy,





perspective on that era–a bartender’s perspective. “They really didn’t know anything about the restaurant and bar business. They started selling liquor, but they had only call brands, so if you ordered a bourbon and Coke, you got Jack Daniels, Smirnoff Vodka for a Vodka Collins. They were trying to serve vegetarian, and one of the guys from the bar business

the Exit/In was as popular as it had ever been, and Manier’s booking bravado was starting to pay off. “At nighttime, when the music was there, it was truly a magical place,” recalls Thiels. “When you got up in the morning and you had to, y’know, meet the creditors, realize you didn’t have the money for supper, didn’t have your rent check, didn’t have enough reservations to feel like you

28 were going to have a show–the days

Similarly, Manier emerged from his

were black, the nights were white.”


It was hard at the time, but rewarding in the long run. When Thiels left the Exit/In, she eventually took a job with Sound 70 music promotions, the first big rock promoters in town, who later bought into the Exit/In and enabled her to work with the club again. Thiels left Sound 70 in 1979 and formed her own PR firm, Network Ink. One early client: the Exit/In. Network Ink closed up shop last December when Thiels became the senior vice president for public relations at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Carter didn’t lose any money, but he also turned his years on “the rock block” into capital later on. “There was a street magazine called Hank that Harvey Magee had started,” he says. “I wrote a couple of things for that, just because I had criticized it and Harvey challenged me to do better. That became my portfolio, that got me on at The Tennessean.” (Carter worked at the paper from 1978 to ’82 and currently is an in-house historian for Gibson Guitars.)








“Everything I’ve done since then has been because of that,” he says. “I’ve salvaged a great reputation as a straight-up guy. I’ve had two record companies, management of artists, published




videos, still do radio production; everything I’ve done since then came from there, but it has nothing to do with that. People remember me for that, but that’s ancient history. I’ve done a million things since then.” Was it worth the money lost? Thiels exhales for a long time before she answers,






education, it certainly was. As a life experience it certainly was, just as a musical experience. Absolutely. It truly was a college education in how the music business worked. A real education in the psyche of artists. To have seen them perform in such an intimate setting and to have the opportunity to converse with them, observe them closely, hear them take a kind of mentoring attitude. A lot of

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

artists and their managers and agents


became our mentors. If I had it to do

not much permanent record of what

again, at that age, I’m sure I would do

happened at the Exit/In in those early

it again.”

days. Manier oversaw a string of live

Pop in the DVD of Robert Altman’s Nashville, jump to chapter 13 and there’s the Exit/In listening room in all its tablesand-chairs glory. Jump to chapter 14 and there’s Keith Carradine, singing the Oscar-winning song “I’m Easy.” Manier claims that the idea for Joan Tewksbury’s screenplay for the movie came to her while she was sitting in the bar at the Exit/In. “The cachet was already there,” he says. “There was some poll that did top clubs in the world and we were always Top 10 in the planet. I mean, it was a huge hangout. I can




recordings, broadcast on WKDA and WKDF, but out of 150 reels of tape, 120 burned up several years back. “It was a huge chunk of my life,” he moans. “The quality of some of the stuff that I’ve been able to salvage–I might’ve been able to recoup some of what I lost [financially]. It’s a shame, because not only did we get the moments, but the quality of the recordings was quite superior. It wasn’t bullshit.” “I wish I’d kept a diary,” says Oermann. “It was a very nice club. It was a very cool place to go.”

remember standing at the bar next to

One who did keep a diary of sorts

George Martin, the Beatles’ producer,

was Thiels, with her scrapbook. But

any number of times. It was like that. All


the time.

itself is complicated by the fact that

“There was something serendipitous about that, and that happened a lot. Magic had the possibility of happening there all the time and it did. There was some creative thing going on there that was pretty intense.”





she put it together as an exhibit for bankruptcy court. The book made a case for keeping the club alive, even as it documented why it wasn’t going to make it.

30 Does Thiels wish that the club would’ve closed for good when its golden era ended? “I never have thought about that,” she says. “I don’t know. The more time there is between that time and my life now, the more I realize how much it meant to people. “I still, everywhere I go, every time I meet somebody new, if they find out that I ever had anything to do with that place, that’s what they want to talk about. To tell me about their experiences there and who they saw there, who got engaged there–those kinds of stories. People hold it very dear. But I think, for me, as a matter of survival, it was just something I had to give up. I had to go on. It was necessary emotionally to just surgically remove it.

“[The Exit/In] was about music, it was about good wine, it was about good food, it was about comedy,” adds Thiels. “It was just a real center. A forum. It was really democracy at its finest.”

Exit/In 2011 Annual Report

Exit/In Annual Report