The Bayou was a great music club, and Dave Lilling made the documentary to prove it

My college colleague Dave Lilling, happy to be working hard in the TV business.

My college colleague Dave Lilling, happy to be working hard in the TV business.

I know a guy whose company produced a documentary about what might be the coolest music club I ever experienced.

A million years ago, Dave Lilling and I used to cover the same events.

OK, it was only 36 years ago when we both were students at the University of Maryland, covering Terrapins sports event. He was a radio guy for the campus station, WMUC. I was a newspaper guy for the campus daily, The Diamondback.

Thrown together in Atlantic Coast Conference fields, stadiums and courts witnessing Maryland road games, we got along. Sometimes he’d even pull me into the booth, along with his co-commentator Bruce Roberts, to talk about Terps lacrosse games.

No, I wasn’t exactly part of the “MUC Farm,” as Lilling called the radio station crew while we ate breakfast this morning at Stella’s Diner in Syracuse, but I was part of the Terp network, with a little ‘n.’

A while ago, Lilling hunted me down while I was writing about music for the Syracuse daily. He wanted to pick my brain about what I remembered about The Bayou, a Washington, D.C., music club that hosted top acts from around the world.

In the four years that I worked at a suburban Maryland newspaper after graduation, I indeed went to a bunch of shows at The Bayou. My job then was still covering sports, buy music was forever in my heart.

So I told Dave about seeing Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at The Bayou, the club full of sweaty, singing fans, and how the sight lines from the balcony above were just perfect. I related the story of how I was there the night when Maryland’s favorite blues band, The Nighthawks, filled the club for two shows, and how I was waiting for show two when guitarist Jimmy Thackery marched out side the bar, still playing for those inside for show one, amazing everybody, inside and out.

I related the story about how Billy Joel put out an album with a live song recorded at the club incorrectly listed on the cover as The Bijou.

He said thanks and went on digging with the small, enthusiastic crew making the documentary.

It came out, designed for National Public Television. The 87-minute piece was broadcast in 75 markets.

Lilling told me all this as we caught up over eggs. He had been in town to work as an assistant director for Showtime’s live boxing show, which this Friday night broadcast fights from the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y., just up the Thruway from Syracuse.

We hadn’t seen each other since 1978, when he graduated Maryland a year early, one year ahead of me. Names were dropped, questions were asked about mutual friends from the wayback machine.

Dave told me that indeed the Bayou documentary was a labor of love. It was a success artistically. Joe Perry of Aerosmith was one of the big names they convinced to go on camera. They had great footage because they started filming the documentary one month before The Bayou closed for good, to be knocked down to make way for one of our society’s mega movie theater complexes in the Georgetown section of our nation’s capital. He talked of how they rented a crane for great exterior shots, and how they tried mightily to get Bono for in interview because the Bayou was the site of U2s second American show.

Released last year, the documentary was well-received. You can read about it on the blog site for Lilling’s company that put it out, MTITV.

The other side of the coin, though, is that the company is still $10,000 in debt for the documentary. The $27,000 they raised in a Kickstarter campaign didn’t stretch far enough.

Lilling shrugged his shoulders. He loved making the piece. No regrets. Donations are still being accepted if you poke around on the site linked above.

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15 thoughts on “The Bayou was a great music club, and Dave Lilling made the documentary to prove it

  1. i love these clubs and love the project and i love the story about that club in your post. how lucky you crossed paths again, and you never know who could help, he may be surprised, how it all comes together, and he sounds happy just to have done it. ) bk (not bobby knight, i’m the other one without the crazy temper)

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    • I am glad to have met up again with somebody I hadn’t seen in 36 years. And we talked as if it were just yesterday that we were in college together. Funny how life is. And I am very glad that you do not have a Bobby Knight temper, Beth. I would have to duck reading your comments in my living room …

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      • that is great, and i love that about certain old friends. it is magic like that. yes, no fear of flying chairs coming from my direction, maybe only bad jokes )

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  2. Love the story Mark. My problem with meeting old friends is that I remember the faces but not the names. It gets embarrassing at times, but then I find they are having the same problem, so we each pretend we remember and go our merry old way. They have to admit it’s due to age. Me? I have MS. That means no brain cells left, so I’ll never just lose it like they have. And if you buy this big, freshly painted blue bridge I have for sale, I’ll donate the entire $10,000 for the documentary. Of course, that means I’ll have to raise the price of the bridge.

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    • No bridge buying here Angie, nor bridge burning, for that matter. I think he’d welcome one contribution of the whole 10 large, but more likely expects numerous small donations.

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      • Well darn, I just had it painted for you. Only reopened last month. But I can probably send a small one, since I seem to be stuck with the bridge. Wouldn’t want to burn it, since it’s the closest way to Indiana from here. Not that I spend that much time in Indiana any more, but once upon a time there was this nice little road by the river…..

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  3. I love music but was never part of the club going, concert attending bunch. Not sure why. Guess I just never did. However, I have another fifty years to fill. I could squeeze some more in. I’ve been to a few. And laughingly, but happily, remember my first concert. At the State Fair. To see Sha-Na-Na. 🙂

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  4. Hand Jive…now you are dating yourself, Chatter! Interesting post, Mark, you sure have a lot of connections and stories to tell. Music is the best to jog memories of days gone by… like the Santana concert in Saratoga in the ’70’s. The best guitarist ever.
    What an accomplishment it is to make a movie, and we learn a lot about people and places from documentaries. Thanks for sharing this, Mark. 🙂

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    • How about Carlos at the state fair grandstand, Ermi? Early ’90s, as I recall. He is one of my favorite guitarists, so we agree on that. My friend Dave said he indeed learned a lot from making that documentary and is glad that he, Vinnie Perrone and Bob Scanlan kept at it for a decade to get it done.

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