An oral history of the CC Club jukebox

The bar back in the 1950s, when it was still the CC Tap and offered live music and dancing.

The bar back in the 1950s, when it was still the CC Tap and offered live music and dancing.

When David Prass bought the CC Tap in 1974, it was a 3.2 beer joint that had live music and a stage. Prass re-named the bar the CC Club, and transferred the liquor license over from his father's old bar. Along with the booze came new restrictions on the kind of entertainment the CC could offer, including no more bands. But the bar could still have a jukebox.

Over the next decade-plus, as the CC Club became the center of Minneapolis's rock scene, its juke became legendary. The employees at the record store across the street would walk over with new records, and the bands who hung out there, including the Replacements and Soul Asylum, would drop off their singles to be added into the rotation. The juke became symbolic: If it was still playing, the bar was still swinging (several stories begin with some variation on, "It was like 1 o'clock, the jukebox hadn't been turned off yet..."). And if a local band's CD showed up in the juke, it was a sign they had made it.

About two years ago, the CC traded its carefully curated old jukebox for a digital one that can play thousands of songs. The greater catalog has meant increased revenue for the bar's owners, but also the feeling that, as Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner puts it, "That era is gone."

Moe Emard, current co-owner of the bar: When [Prass] transferred the license, it was what you call a class E license, and that's just a jukebox. So they didn't have a license for a band anymore. When we took over and business was slow, the jukebox was a big thing. We had a good jukebox because we had a lot of local bands on our jukebox, and that helped a lot.

Paul Metsa, musician and author of Blue Guitar Highway: It was kind of a legendary jukebox. That was part of the allure and the charm was to be able to have a cheap jukebox that was the soundtrack of your afternoon or evening. They had local stuff, you know, classic R&B and rock 'n roll. And it was well used. It was a well-oiled machine, let's put it that way.

Peter Jesperson, manager at Oar Folk record store and co-founder of Twin/Tone Records: In the early days, us Oar Folk guys fed them stuff. No offense to anyone at the CC but they didn't really understand their clientele and we kind of were their clientele so we gave them stuff to put on that we knew would be popular. Then later on when Kim Laurent started working at the CC, she was a lot more savvy and she would ask both the jukebox dealer and us for specific stuff as well as taking our suggestions.

Kim Laurent-Lusk, weeknight waitress since 1987: Tommy Stinson came in here once, and he went up to the jukebox and put on a song, and then he just danced, he did a little dance alone. And then he left.

Tommy Stinson, bassist for the Replacements: I think what was cool about it if I recall is that they had a lot of local stuff as well as stuff that we all wanted to hear. I think there's a good amount of, if you're going to go bar music and you're going to go for country tunes, I think they had the right kind of country tunes. Like less Travis Tritt and bullshit like that and more of Hank Williams and stuff like that. It seems to me they had a pretty wide jukebox of good stuff. I think Aerosmith was probably in that mix too -- they seem to be in every jukebox that I've grown up around.

Curt Almstead, a.k.a. Curtiss A, musician: There was all kinds of good stuff on the jukebox, and I think they did that as sort of an homage of the musicality of the place.

Dave Pirner, lead singer of Soul Asylum: The jukebox was great. Just that it was a real jukebox, and the songs in the jukebox were selected by the people who work at the club. And it was really cool, because suddenly, you'd walk in and there was a new Replacements single in the jukebox. That part of it was just another really personal touch. Somebody who was coming from out of town could listen to local music and listen to the music that people in town were listening to and listen to these bands that people were talking about, and possibly hanging out in this place.

Hugo Klaers, drummer for the Suburbs: I remember music being played all the time but I don't think I ever pit a quarter in that jukebox because there was always somebody playing it.

G.R. Anderson Jr., Twin Cities journalist and musician in the band Rex Daisy: I swear to god, there's no better place to drink during the day than the CC Club. Part of it is because you can commandeer the jukebox. Shit man, I just loaded it up $20 at a time, and just sit there hours at a time listening to the jukebox and drinking.

Fuck, the jukebox is worth a story in of itself. That's why I went in the afternoons, because you could play the jukebox. It wasn't just that they had hometown heroes -- and they were heroes to us -- it wasn't just that they had the Mats and Soul Asylum and Trip Shakespeare and the Gear Daddies and stuff. And that was all great. But they had other stuff, they had cool music that you wanted to play.

We, Rex Daisy, we never got our CD in the CC jukebox, and that still bothers me. That was a sure sign you made it. If your CD was in the jukebox of the CC, that was it, man. And it never happened to us.

Tom Arnold, actor and comedian: It had a good jukebox, as I remember. And occasionally you could go in there as a human being with a date and sit there and have a couple drinks like human would. And you say to yourself, "Yeah this is how, I'll do this from now on." But by the weekend it always became something else.

Jesperson: One memory was closing up the record store one night in 1980 and getting a call that John Lennon had been shot. We went over to the CC and of course the whole place was filled with people who were not talking. It was very strange, I don't even think they had the jukebox on, it was completely packed with people and it was very quiet and very somber and very sad as you can imagine.

Pirner: Everybody lobbied for certain things, and you could tell it was a jukebox that was built by, the repertoire was built by the people who came and worked at and patronized this place. To me, traditionally, that's what a jukebox is supposed to be. When there's nobody in the bar the employees got to play their songs. That era is gone. It's all a million miles removed from, "Hey here's a satellite jukebox where you can play whatever you want and you have to listen to everybody playing whatever they want."

About two years ago, the CC Club replaced the old jukebox with a digital one.

Bobby Bell, day bartender since 1978: We took it out. It was a CD juke, but it was still all these local bands, you could put their CDs in it. I missed it because you didn't have the local stuff, but on the other hand you had access to so much more old stuff. It's a bittersweet thing. Not having the jukebox there sucked, especially since that year, I think we'd been voted best jukebox again. They came in to take a picture of it, and it wasn't there.

Emard: With everything digital, the jukebox does a lot better, because you've got 3,000 songs you can click through and click whatever you want, and if you want to go on YouTube, or whatever. Our income from the jukebox has almost doubled.

Lynn Gordon, president of the French Meadow Bakery and Cafe and new owner of the CC Club: We're going to be listening to the customers. I think it's going to be same-old, same-old. But things like the jukebox, we heard that they'd like the local music in the old jukebox. We're searching for a CD jukebox, we have feelers out, and we're going to encourage local artists as they did before to drop off their CDs. And they'll play them.

Bell: Whatever happens, happens. I know obviously too when they switched it over the amount it got played skyrocketed, so they made a lot more money on it. But it shouldn't always be about money.

With additional reporting from Andy Mannix