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!