Music & Nightlife

The Double Door’s final weekend brings joy and tears

Gigi Dover, from her album release earlier this year.
Gigi Dover, from her album release earlier this year.

In early December, musicians and patrons – mostly Kickstarter backers – gathered at the Double Door Inn to watch the crowdfunded documentary about the venue, which closes its doors for good this week following the final edition of the weekly Monday Night Allstars jam.

It’s the latest local live music venue to shut down in little over a year. Tremont Music Hall closed in December 2015. Chop Shop a month before that. Amos’ Southend closes in March. The Milestone survives for now thanks in part to a GoFundMe campaign that allowed for much needed repairs to the West Charlotte building.

But the Double Door is the oldest and most fabled venue to close. It dates back to 1973, when owner Nick Karres and his brother Matt bought the former home and shop. It hosted Stevie Ray Vaughan and other notable acts early in their career. The night Eric Clapton played after an arena show is a local legend that many wish they’d witnessed.

“It was living history,” says photographer and author Daniel Coston, who co-wrote a book on the club and began shooting photos there in 1996. “You could always take people to that place and say, ‘This is where I saw Leon Russell in 1998,’ ‘This is where I hung out with (blues musician) Hubert Sumlin,’ ‘This is where Stevie Ray Vaughan played.’ 

“If you are a fan of a certain age, if you saw Zydeco, Americana, or reggae acts (in Charlotte), you saw it here first at the Double Door,” says Jay Ahuja, one of the film’s producers.

When Ahuja learned from Karres that the club was being sold to make way for Central Piedmont Community College’s expansion, he wanted to find a way to preserve it.

“I’ve lived here since 1986 and have seen too many things disappear and there be no preservation or documentary,” says the author and media veteran, who teamed with WSOC anchor Kim Brattain, her business partner Rick Fitts, and filmmaker Chuck Bludsworth to document the club’s history and final days.

The film covers the venue’s history, but also shares what the club meant to the musicians that played there, from national bands like the Nighthawks to local acts like the Gigi Dover, Bill Noonan, the Spongetones, and Randy Franklin, who wrote a song about the club that closes the film.

Veteran Charlotte rock quartet Leisure McCorkle rushed the release of its album – “5000 Light Years Beyond the Speed of Sound” – in order to hold its CD release show there Friday.

“I’ve been playing there since I was 14 or 15. It’s as important to me as the Milestone,” says the group’s frontman, Lee McCorkle.

Saturday, the Spongetones’ annual New Year’s Eve gig is sold out, as is Monday’s Allstars finale.

Sunday, the club hosts the Charlotte Blues Society, as it has for years. Although it was dubbed the home of the blues, it also nurtured rock, folk, reggae and R&B acts. It’s where the Avett Brothers recorded their second album, and where promoter Gregg McCraw launched MaxxMusic, which now books multiple venues around the city.

“They were more than just the blues. They were a home for music that wouldn’t have found a place in Charlotte otherwise,” Coston says. “They were bringing in Zydeco and roots. Bands like the Federal Brothers and Belmont Playboys and the Spongetones established a hub for themselves there.”

“If we are what we leave behind,” Ahuja adds, “Nick and his staff have left us a legacy of great music, a history of giving back and incredible times.”

“It’s more than just a local bar. It was a linchpin for the national and regional music scene,” Coston says. “It’s been recognized as the oldest blues venue this side of the Mississippi. It’s literally one of the oldest venues in the country, and the oldest with the same owner.”

Given Charlotte’s history of demolishing old buildings and building new ones, it’s important for those who frequented it to make sure the Double Door isn’t forgotten once the house is gone.

“I do understand that clubs and bars have to close and people change and need to move on, but I was born and raised here and have traveled around the world,” McCorkle says. “I see other cities protect their historic and cultural landmarks to the teeth. I wish Charlotte would do more for our culture here.”

Leisure McCorkle plays the Double Door’s final weekend.

WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave.

TICKETS: $10-$12