Brandy’s I

Brandy’s I

During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, there was an enormous number of unknown and known musicians making music in the Boston area and I was personally involved in that movement for years. Although there were many nightclubs throughout the city, the one I considered to be the best for music, entertainment and just plain fun was Brandy’s I.

Opened in 1968 in the Packard Square area of Allston, at the corners of 1110 Commonwealth Avenue and Fuller Street, the 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, a Brandy’s Cape Cod and two Brandy’s in New York City.

Ownership, Management

Brandy’s I’s owners were Doug Thayer and Jack Kearney, the latter of whom went on to run the famous Squeeze and Candy Store clubs in Ft. Lauderdale while Doug went sailing the waters of St. Thomas. Jack was a character straight out of Playboy magazine; on any given day, you’d see him wearing a colorful ascot and smoking his cigarettes using a long black/silver holder. I’ll never forget the first time I went to one of his house parties and sat in an egg-shaped chair with music playing through it – in stereo. Doug, on the other hand, was a simple man who preferred sailing to owning clubs.

The first Brandy’s I manager was Carl Maranda, who later left to start his own clubs (Harbour Club, Chevy’s Bel Air Cafe and Pat Flanagan’s). After that, Mickey O’Halloran took over for a while before leaving for the Full Sail in Plymouth and I took over until Brandy’s I closed. Then I moved to Bunratty’s, Steve’s Place and Nickerson’s Post before heading down to Boca Raton.

Notable appearances, Happy hour bands, After-hours parties

Brandy’s I’s entertainment was a mixture of local bands, some of whom went on to become famous, and some well-known musicians sitting in on sets from time to time. The local acts that kept the club rocking included the Allston All Stars, Fat, Moon Over Miami, Roomful of Blues, Hummit, Powerhouse Blues Band, James Montgomery, Barbara Holiday, Chris Rhodes, Big Screamin’ McGrew, Orchestra Luna and Alex Taylor, among many others. “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, sets that I wish I had recorded, truly some of the best. Some out-of-town greats like Radio King & His Court of Rhythm and The Fabulous Thunderbirds also assisted in our entertainment.

Speaking of sit-in music, Brandy’s I had a 2am license and two large, two-inch-thick oak doors that helped our secret after-hours parties go all night. These two factors allowed us to have some of Cambridge’s Speakeasy entertainers come from over the river, since that spot closed at midnight. Thanks to Peter Kastanos (owner of Speakeasy), Barney and Paula, we were joined by the likes of James Cotton, Bonnie Raitt, Koko Tayor, John Lincoln Wright, Billy Colwell, Rosy Rosenblatt and Pierre Beauregard, to name just a few.

Entrances, Interior, Stage, Back-room bar

People could enter Brandy’s I from either an elevator near the drug store or a side entrance on Fuller Street, but the side entrance was the most frequented. I’d call Brandy’s I sort of a catacomb-type of place since when you descended the stairs you’d pass both of the restrooms followed by an intersecting hallway; to the left was the club and to the right were the doors of which we do not speak. Straight ahead was the coatroom and a wall of mirrors (frequently used 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, greeted you. The floors were dark, old, dirty pine throughout and the L-shaped bar was manned by four or five bartenders. The décor was filled with some seriously eclectic memorabilia: a Howdy Doody puppet sitting on an old radio; a deer head (known as “O’Deer”) on the wall by the service area; and customer, employee and band pictures covering the ceiling. The stage was raised with the famous brick wall that was autographed by every band that ever played or sat in. Past the stage was a back-room bar with even more memorabilia, pinball machines, a foosball machine and maroon velour seats with brass numbers from Howard Athenaeum (“the Old Howard” in Scully Square).

There were nights when 300 people would pass through Brandy’s I and this controlled madness continued through the late ‘70s, 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 it famous slogan: “Incredible Friendships Begin at Brandy’s.”

(by Billy Couch)

Published On: March 15, 2024