Red Lion reopens in time for Monday Nite Club
The Monday Nite Club at the Red Lion in High Point gets rolling some time after 9 p.m. It’s pretty much all dudes in here at this hour ‘— there’s a few at the bar, a group in biker shirts at the stand rail, some guys at the tables with instrument cases at their feet and a couple of them in the pit near the front window, immersed in deep conversation with life-sized statues of Jake and Elwood Blues frozen in mid-dance just behind them.
The stage fills a corner of the room, bounded on two sides by a graffitied brick wall bearing the names of some of the luminaries who’ve played here, among them Roy Roberts, the Ladies’ Auxiliary, Wishful Thinking and Toni Lynn’… Washington? Hard to tell; a plastic beer poster obscures the last name on the wall.
The Monday Nite Club is an open blues jam, one of the better ones in the Triad, and right now onstage Mark ‘Buddy Ro’ Harrison, whose regular gig is guitar slinger for the Fairlanes, launches into a spirited intro. The bass player kicks in with a bottom end and some backup vocals and the tune, a classic laced with timeless themes of personal finance and doing what you gotta do, is underway.
‘“Shake Your Money Maker.’”
Two doors down in this little strip mall tucked off the corner of Eastchester and Main, Gary Redd, owner and proprietor of the Red Lion, shoots pool with his lady in his other club, the Lion’s Lair, a big, sports-bar type joint with walls the color of Astroturf and a long wooden bar.
The game is nine ball, and Gary’s made a good run of the table. He lines up the eight for a long bank shot but he catches a bad bounce off the bumper and the ball goes astray. His girl moves in, drops the eight and then kisses the nine into the side pocket. Game over. She chalks up a win, but Gary’s already racking the balls for the next game.
He’s like that ‘— Gary takes life’s stumbling blocks in stride, leaping with apparent ease over things like lost pool games and flat tires, and even clearing more formidable hurdles like diabetes, which has affected him for a quarter of his life thus far. The most recent obstacle he’s overcome is a bout with the taxman, which admittedly left him reeling.
In last week’s YES! Weekly, we ran a news story about tax problems that befell several Triad-area bars and nightclubs, forcing some to temporarily close their doors. Gary’s business, Manestream Entertainment, was named as one of the companies in jeopardy.
‘“My lawyer says that the less I say about that, the better it is for me,’” Gary says before circling the billiard table like a jungle cat.
He will say that his clubs closed their doors as a result of a tax inquiry. They closed for one day.
‘“I started to stay closed two weeks,’” he says, ‘“but I changed my mind. I got people who work here; I got customers who come here. I had to. I’m carrying the end in High Point.’”
According to NC Department of Revenue documents, the lien was estimated at nearly $30,000.
‘“I paid it,’” Gary says. ‘“Everything I got is for sale except for my woman and my dogs, [but] I did it. If they wanna buy it, they can try it.’” He says he’s been cutting lawns on the side this spring to help bring his financial ends together.
‘“I was made to work,’” he shrugs.
A strong current runs through Gary Redd, a hypercharge of energy that insists that he brings it ‘— ‘it’ being passion, energy and verve ‘— to everything he does. He doesn’t do straight question-and-answer interviews. To talk to him is to be enveloped in a maelstrom of ideas, concepts, laments, song lyrics and rhymes that I believe he makes up on the spot. An interviewer would be wise to simply buckle up and take notes as fast as he can.
‘“Look at that,’” he says, pointing to the cable radio display on the big video screen at the Lion’s Lair. The artist is named as Red Prysock, a Greensboro native. ‘“Look at that,’” he repeats. ‘“That’s Red Prysock. I used to date his daughter.’”
Meanwhile, over at the blues bar, the Monday Nite Club enters its last set. Gary walks over and then passes through the bar ‘— shaking hands, patting backs, spreading his electricity through the room until it glows more brightly.
Then he takes the stage.
As owner of the Red Lion and founding member of the Monday Nite Club, it’s his prerogative to close out the night with a tune. Usually he chooses a gutbucket romp or soulful rocker from the blues canon he holds in his head. Tonight, the mood is a bit more’… pensive.
Slow-burn bluesy intro and a methodical bassline, and then Gary’s got the mic in his hand.
‘“I been downhearted,’” he sings, bringing all the passion he can muster, just like he does with everything else (even, I suspect, the springtime lawns he tackles).
‘“What if I threw a party for all of my friends,’” he sings. ‘“A party’… that will never end.’”