During the late 60’s and early 70’s there was an enormous amount of unknown and known musicians making music in the Boston area. I was personally involved in this movement for years. Although there were many nightclubs throughout Boston, I would like to touch on the one place I considered one of the best for music, entertainment and fun: “Brandy’s I.”
Brandy’s I, was located in the Packard Square area of Allston, Massachusetts at the corners of 1110 Commonwealth Avenue and Fuller Street. The actual club was in the basement of the Hamilton House (a former hotel converted to apartments, with a drug store on the first floor). Some people will also remember that there was a Brandy’s II on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Harvard Avenue, as well as a Brandy’s Cape Cod and two Brandy’s N.Y.
Brandy’s I was owned by Jack Kearney and Doug Thayer and opened in 1968. Jack would later go on to the famous Candy Store and Squeeze in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Doug would go sailing the waters of St. Thomas. Jack was a character out of Playboy magazine. On any given day, you could see him wearing a colorful ascot and smoking his cigarettes with a long black/silver holder. I will never forget the first time I went to a house party of his, and I sat in an egg-shaped chair with the stereo music playing thru it. Doug was a simple man who really like sailing more than owning nightclubs.
Management involved Carl Maranda, who later left for his own clubs (Harbour Club, Chevy’s Bel Air Cafe, and Pat Flanagan’s). Walter O’Halloran took over for a while and left for the Full Sail in Plymouth. Billy Couch then took over until Brandy’s I closed. Billy then went on to Bunratty’s, Steve’s Place, Nickerson’s Post, before finally moved to Boca Raton, Florida.
Brandy’s I entertainment was a mixture of local bands, some of who went on to become famous, as well as some well-known musicians sitting in on sets time to time. Some local bands that kept the club rocking included the Allston All Stars, Moon over Miami, Chris Rhodes, Hummit, Powerhouse Blues Band, Fat, Room Full of Blues, James Montgomery, Barbara Holiday, Big Screamin’ McGrew, Orchestra Luna, Alex Taylor, and many more. “Happy Hour Bands” consisted of Harry Sandler’s Circus and John Morgan’s X-Rated Show. These two would have some of the best “sit-in” entertainment you could muster up. Music sets that I wish I had recorded, truly some of the best. Some out of town greats including Radio King & His Court of Rhythm and The Fabulous Thunderbirds assisted in our entertainment.
Talking about sit-in music, Brandy’s I had a 2:00 a.m. license and two large 2” thick oak doors that helped our secret After Hours Parties go all night. These two factors allowed us to have some of the great Cambridge “Speakeasy” entertainment come over the river, as they closed at 12:00. Thanks to Peter Kastanos (owner of Speakeasy), Barney and Paula, by the likes of James Cotton, Koko Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, John Lincoln Wright, Billy Colwell, Rosie Rosenblatt and Pierre Beauregard to name a few musicians.
Brandy’s I could be entered either from an elevator near the drug store or a side entrance on Fuller Street. The side entrance actually was the most frequented. I would say that Brandy’s I was sort of a catacomb type of place and as you descended the stairs you would pass both the restrooms followed by an intersecting hallway, left was the club and right were doors that we do not speak of. Straight ahead was the coatroom and a wall of mirrors (used frequently by the doormen to look good for the ladies).
Once you entered the club, Lady, a Greek statue that appeared to hold the ceiling up, would greet you. Floors were dark, old dirty pine throughout. The bar was a L-shaped bar that handled four/five bartenders. The décor was filled with the most eclectic memorabilia: a Howdy Doody puppet sitting on an old radio; a deer head (known as O’Deer on wall by the service area; the ceiling covered with customer, employee and band pictures. The stage was raised with the famous Brick Wall, that was autographed by every band that every played or sat in. Past the stage was a back room bar with more memorabilia, pinball machines, a foosball machine and maroon velour seats that were brass numbered and from The “Old Howard” in Scully Square.
Brandy’s I would have nights that 300 people would pass thru the club and this controlled madness continued thru the late 70’s, when both Jack Kearney and Doug Thayer left the scene. It was a good run at a great club, that will always be remembered by “Incredible Friendships Begin” at BRANDY’S.
(by Billy Couch)