“ONLY THE B.GINNING” OF THE NIGHTLIFE SCENE IN SCHAUMBURG

This week’s post is compliments of Tom Holmberg, one of my fellow Reference Librarians.  He did a bang-up job with this post on one of Schaumburg Township’s local nightclubs.  With Woodfield came the music and the night life.  Read on for a trip to the pop music scene of the seventies…   

Next to Poplar Creek in Hoffman Estates, the nightclub B.Ginnings was the Schaumburg area’s best-known contribution to the popular music scene in Chicago. Danny Seraphine, the drummer of the rock band Chicago, was one of the principals of the nightclub which opened in September 1974. Seraphine said that he was “dead set on opening a musical showcase where bands would be excited to play….It was important to separate B.Ginnings from dive bars and dead-end clubs” Seraphine’s bands had cut their teeth on. “I wanted it to be seen as the gold standard of rock clubs in the area.” (Seraphine, Danny. Street Player, My Chicago Story. Wiley, 2011. p.142)

B.Ginnings was located in what the Chicago Tribune called a “tacky” strip mall at 1227 E. Golf Road near Meacham Road near Turnstyle, Jewel Foods  and House of Brides. The name of the club was taken from one of Chicago’s best-known songs, “Beginnings”. Chicago played the first two nights of the club’s opening. According to an interview with keyboardist Robert Lamm, a founding member of Chicago and writer of many of their early hits, Seraphine asked the group as a favor to come and play at the new club, promising the band “a couple of grand” for the performance. After the rest of the band agreed, he told them, “I’m havin’ trouble gettin’ my bread together and I can’t pay you.” “He’s like a typical club owner,” Lamm joked. Seraphine remembers the story differently, stating that the band agreed to the back-to-back performances for the fee of one dollar, the band’s “lowest-paying gig” ever. The Chicago Tribune criticized the club’s bouncers (“arm-grabbing goons”) “disguised as ushers” at the club’s opening night. (The club was closed for a short period by Schaumburg’s liquor commission in 1976 after a number of incidents with the club’s bouncers.)

The club had a capacity of approximately twelve hundred according to Seraphine (or, according to the Daily Herald, 1,800 for concerts) customers.  The interior of the club was decorated by set designers to resemble the streets of Chicago street Seraphine had grown up on, with building facades, stoplights, ‘el’ tracks, and real street signs. A replica of the Chicago Theater marquee was backlit on the ceiling above the main bar, another bar was set up to look like an old-fashioned newsstand and one wall was painted with the Chicago skyline. The club featured three bars, a restaurant, a sunken stainless steel dance floor, and, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune (21 March 1975), “all seating was off the ground; bar stools surround high tables and bars.” The large stage was 16 feet by 32 feet and equipped with $50,000’s worth of professional sound and lighting equipment.  The stage had black velvet curtains and a 4×5 wooden sign with “B’ginnings” painted on it hung in the center of the rear stage wall.  A well-equipped, soundproofed dressing area (reputedly costing $20,000 to decorate) was supplied for the acts, with showers, lighted vanity mirrors, a phone and even a beer tap. The Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page however saw it as “nothing new in comparison to thousands of other roadside discotheques that dot the suburbs. All it needs is nude go-go dancers to complete its image.” (Chicago Tribune, 9 Sept 1974)

According to the Chicago Tribune, when the club opened it catered to a “chic, monied, suburban crowd, over 21.” In 1975 the at-the-door admission was $2 and beers sold for 20 cents before 8 p.m. and $1.25 for mixed drinks. Jam Productions did the bookings for the club and brought in many up-and-coming groups.  Seraphine wasn’t always happy with the bands that played at B.Ginnings, preferring jazz-fusion to unknowns like Cheap Trick. Many Chicago and Midwest bands such as Pentwater, Pezband, Skafish, The Boyzz, and the Cryan’ Shames played the club, as well as upcoming major bands like Van Halen, AC/DC, The Police, John Mellencamp, and Devo.

Mismanagement and employee thefts hampered the club at first. Seraphine couldn’t understand why the club wasn’t making money despite being packed night after night. There were also allegations of mob involvement in the club, which Seraphine calls “ridiculous.” Seraphine eventually bought out his partners and brought in new management, putting the club on an even keel. Seraphine at one point even considered opening a chain of B.Ginnings around the country.

By 1980, with the changing of musical styles and a raise in the drinking age, the club was falling on hard times.  While the club hosted many “New Wave” and “Punk” acts, the suburban location and lack of public transportation (and high gas prices) made B.Ginnings hard to get to for fans of this music and many of the local suburban fans had different tastes in music. Even Seraphine admits that the suburban location was “the one thing working against” the club. B.Ginnings dropped its rock and roll image to focus on becoming an “adult -orientated concert-style facility” with acts like Robert Palmer and Eddie Money and was renamed New B.Ginnings. (Billboard, 27 Sept. 1980) In that year the club was even hosting mud-wrestling shows to fill the venue. The 1980 opening of Poplar Creek in Hoffman Estates also helped to lead to the club’s demise despite a recent remodeling and attempts at innovations such as adding video.  The club was sold in early 1981 and renamed J Lennons, but was soon closed.  The space is now an Illinois Secretary of State driver’s license facility.

What do you remember about B’ginnings?  Were you fortunate enough to see one of the up and coming bands?  Was it really crowded on the weekends?  What was the restaurant like?  Please feel free to share your memories about this piece of pop culture in the northwest suburbs!

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21 Responses to ““ONLY THE B.GINNING” OF THE NIGHTLIFE SCENE IN SCHAUMBURG”

  1. Jon Martin Says:

    When it opened up B.Ginnings was the easiest place to do underage drinking. IDs were never checked, and is was not that bad of a walk from my house. I remember meeting most of Chicago/Beach boys there as they shut the place down for a private party and asked everyone to leave.

  2. dbshore Says:

    It was a great club…most notable memory – getting blown away by Tower of Power at B.Ginnings

  3. Roger Pritchard Says:

    It was a great club to go to see soon to be big stars. I saw Billy Joel and Michael Martin Murphy at B’Ginnings. All for a very low cover charge of about $5.00. It was a great place to be in the late 70’s early 80’s.

  4. Keth Nelms Says:

    Thanks for ripping off my Wikipedia entries, (but I guess it’s OK ,for your thinking, “If it’s on Wiki, it’s out there for everyone,, attitude);, you could have at least put my name on the top line as a substantial, “wiki-contrbutor”, for your bangup, copying & pasting job) !! I worked there, as stage manager/sound engineer, and those were first hand recollections ! (BTW,It was a stainless steel dance floor),{(Stainless steel polish was used to clean it} ! When it was sold, in early 1981, it was renamed,, “J Lennon’s”, after John Lennon ! Get your facts right , the Chicago Theatre Marquee replica, did not decorate the show area, it was above the main bar on the ceiling, across from the stage, and backlit, the stage had black velvet curtains, and a 4′ X 5′ , wooden, painted, “B’Ginnings” logo/sign, hung in the center, of the rear stage wall ! “

    • jrozek Says:

      I appreciate you updating the information we have on our posting. When this posting was written a variety of sources were used to put it together, i.e. articles from the Daily Herald, Billboard, Chicago Tribune, various blog postings, the book Street Player by Danny Seraphine and parts from the Wikipedia article. Any further details you have or, better yet, any photos you might want to contribute to the library’s Local History Digital Archive would be very much appreciated. See that at http://archives.stdl.org/digitalarchive/digitalarchive.asp. Thank you for reading the blog!

  5. John Harrold Says:

    I can testify to the “goons” at the place. Secondly, The Wall Street Journal once ran a story about mob involvement. I never saw a follow up, nor was there ever a mention of it after.

    However, in his book, Seraphine changes his tune. Start reading on page 145.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=30MSrII5ddcC&q=beginnings+schaumburg#v=snippet&q=beginnings%20schaumburg&f=false

  6. Anthony Martini Says:

    How about the Snuggery and Walter Payton’s 34’s – They were both hopping places !

  7. Paul K Says:

    Wow’ this brings back memories. I was there the first night it opened.I was a bartender when it first opened and then after a while became one the doorman . Like a lot of people in the Chicago area I loved Chicago the group. I could not believe I was about 60 feet from the stage serving drinks. It really is a night I’ll never forget .

    • Joanne Hickson Says:

      Hi Paul. I was also there and hired all the “servers” and worked with Ken Horbacz (who was in charge of security). John Brackomatis (sp?) hired me. Remember him? I remember so many of the groups that performed and I’m still personal friends with Tommy Shaw (lead singer from Styx). He performed there many times before he made it to the top! Hope you remember me. I was attending Northern Illinois Univ. and working at B’Ginnings for a long time. I’d love to hear from you!
      Joanne

  8. Kevin S. Says:

    I used to live about a mile down Golf Rd from there. I remember seeing bands like Stillwater, Michael Stanley Band, Savoy Brown, and Rory Gallagher around 1979-80. – Long restroom lines at the end of a set (they were really small)… And no in & out privileges, you had to pay the cover again if you went out to the lot and back in.

  9. Matt Arado Says:

    Hello, B’Ginnings fans! I’m a writer with the Daily Herald, and I’m working on a story about long lost suburban rock clubs. I would love to talk to folks who remember B’Ginnings — who worked there, performed there or just listened to bands there. Feel free to email me at marado@dailyherald.com or call me at (847) 427-4522. Thanks!

  10. B Strelinsky Says:

    We saw the best acts at B’Ginnings in the day.Elvis Costello,Off Broadway,The Hounds,Cheap Trick. Our band ‘Orchid’ played there 3 or 4 times.Truly the greatest memories.

  11. J. Osborne Says:

    I ran the board for many acts in the early 70’s . Anybody remember Deano…lol. Also ran sound for Street Player , one of Danny’s build a band ventures. They were good! Fun days in deed. J.O.

    • L Frick Says:

      Sure I remember Dino, don’t forget Buffy he ran the board in the late 70’s. Nick, Chris W, Joey T, Paul, Hector and all the great waitresses Chissy, Fran, Judy I was there too tending bar and working the floor. Those were great times and great bands.
      L Frick

      • Keith Nelms Says:

        I went in to the DMV(B’Ginnings 1227 E Golf Road Schaumburg, Illinois, 882-8484), back in August, the manager allowed me to take some photos, after I told him who I was, and told him who played, on the stage (right where we were standing!.
        talked with the security guard, he told me he knew all the guys from Chicago, (from De Paul), especially Terry Kath,
        I worked there with Mikey Vitone, from late 1975-1977, I was stage manager, Sound / Light engineer, DJ and Announcer after Mikey had to leave (because of illness),
        I remember the “Crew”, Peter Schivarelli, Chrissy, Fran, Judy, Cindy, John Fornari, Ghost(Ron).and many others
        Dino and I, along with our girlfriends used to go to JoJo’s for breakfast, after counting, cleaning up and wrapping up after our long nights there.
        I worked with Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Rush, Angel, Atlanta Rhythm Section,, Ambrosia, Cheap Trick, James Gang, and so many others !
        I met Chicago in December 1976(they flew in from a show in Southern Illinois, for Streetplayer).
        I will recite, the B’Ginnings greeting I used to air(as DJ) at 9:00PM every night;
        “Good Evening Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to B’Ginnings,
        the Concert Club of the Midwest, featuring the best in live entertainment 7 nights a week !
        Sunday Tuesday & Thursday’s: .25 Cent beer & wine nights,
        Monday: Battle of the Bands,
        Wednesday : Concert Night (Windy City & Jam Productions)
        Friday & Saturday: Early Bird special, No Cover for women before 9:00PM,
        I hope you enjoy your evening, don’t forget to tip the bartenders, waitresses, & coatcheck girls”
        I would recite that to the horn instrumental portion of “Introduction”, from “Chicago Transit Authority”
        “Those Were The Daze” ! !

  12. P Says:

    What stands in the place of where this would have been today? I’m really curious about the local music scene!

    • jrozek Says:

      B.Ginning’s was in the same spot where the current Illinois Department of State’s Motor Vehicle office is on Golf Road. The DMV office has been there for years. Hope this helps!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  13. Keith Nelms Says:

    Also Jay, a doorman, (worked at Schaumburg Datsun)
    Funky’s Pizza Barry Solomon, and Jay,
    a few more bartenders Larry, Mike, (I think I remember Hector),
    Yes,, Scott Loftus WMET DJ helped me out as weekend DJ,
    Danny, a
    lso helped me out with the stage
    Windy City / Jam Crew:
    Fred Ordower, Ron Stern, Steve and Danny D

  14. Michae May Says:

    Great place. I was in a band named “Kashmir” in the 70’s and played there more times then I can remember. The Chicago city decor was fantastic. The dressing room had it going on. The lighted mirrors, couch and chairs, drinks, and shower. A great atmosphere. A dance floor directly in front of the stage. The stage was setup nicely with the drop curtain. A well put together place. Really enjoyed playing there. But the drive was indeed a bit of a drive from Chicago. Went to quite a few of the concerts there. The Atlanta Rhythm Section rocked the house. The guy that managed it, I believe his name was Dean,If I recall correctly. He hired us quite often to play there. Nice guy. For those who had the pleasure of being there. I’m sure you have to admit. Spectacular place. Just a long drive.

  15. Ed kennedy Says:

    I’m a trumpet player and played the circuit with the band C.W.Moss. Our claim was covering Chicago songs. Honestly don’t recall if we played that particular club. We played Mothers on Rush street and Godfathers on the SW side, among others.

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