Tommy Stinson, bassist for the Replacements, talks about the CC Club

The Replacements in 1989, with Tommy Stinson at front right.
The Replacements in 1989, with Tommy Stinson at front right.
photo by Bonnie Schiffman

Tommy Stinson learned to play bass at age 11, and just a year later started strumming with the musicians, including his brother Bob, who would make up the Replacements. For this week's cover story on the CC Club, Stinson -- who now juggles multiple projects, including solo albums like 2011's "One Man Mutiny," the recent "Songs for Slim" release, and a "day job" as the bassist with Guns N' Roses -- shared some of his memories about the days and nights he spent inside the bar.

For all the Stinson fans out there, here's the full conversation Gimme Noise had with the lifelong bassist about his years as a CC Club regular.

Gimme Noise: The French Meadow's owners are taking over the CC Club on May 1, so we figured it was a good time to look back.
Tommy Stinson: Yeah, what's the deal with that, they're going to turn it into another bakery?

See Also:
- COVER: Here Comes a Regular: An Oral History of the CC Club
- Contest: We want your best CC Club stories
- An oral history of the CC Club jukebox
- Slideshow: Tommy Stinson at First Avenue
- Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg plan studio time later this year

GN: They say they're going to keep it the same.
TS: Wow, huh. Well the only thing I can say about that is hopefully they can just clean it up a little bit and serve some good food.

GN: When did you first start hanging out there?
TS: When I was of legal drinking age. I got away just under the cusp when they changed the drinking age to 21. I had just been legal at 19 and it was too late for them to pull that back. So I guess, do the math, I'm 46. Actually, they were serving food. I might have been in there before. Yeah, there's a good chance I was in there before.

GN: What attracted you to that particular bar?
TS: At that time they still had 8-ball deluxe, the pinball machines that I loved, and I used to go in there, I think I would go in there with Peter, and the guys from Oar Folk and we would just have the 8-ball deluxe championships, and I would just be pounding on that thing. I don't think I ever really ate there. I think their food was always a bit dodgy, but that's just a recollection. I might be wrong about that. I wouldn't want to besmirch their name for the food.

And they always had a pretty good jukebox. 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 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 is probably in that mix too; they seem to be in every jukebox that I've grown up around, you know. Yeah, I think that's part of it.

GN: Was it a place you knew about before you started hanging out there?
TS: I only hung out there because that's where everybody kind of gravitated from the time that we hooked up with Peter and stuff.

GN: Did you meet Peter there?
TS: Well, I think we did all our business there. Pretty much. It was either there or the Uptown. But we hooked up with him at Oar Folk, and at the time we hooked up with him he kind of signed the Replacements and all that to Twin/Tone, and then we spent countless hours in there talking, doing business, drinking and just general tomfoolery over there. We kind of lived there through the '80s. It was the place to go and meet and do the crap we were into.

GN: What was that?
TS: I can't really speak to that [laughs]. Oh, you know, just general goofing off. Wasting time, wasting precious time and brain cells.

The vibe was pretty easy to walk in there and get a drink, also pretty easy to get a free drink or one that you could pay later. I think several of us had running bar tabs that spanned a few weeks at a time at the height of it. It was kind of the home of all the rockers around there. Because it was across the street from Oar Folk, and ev-er-ybody, everyone that was in the Minneapolis scene back then went through Oar Folk or the CC Club. They were kind of one and the same in a way. That corner was -- if you went through there, the only way you wouldn't go to the CC or Oar Folk is if you weren't part of the scene.

GN: You were saying you kind of lived there. How much time do you think you spent there?
TS: Oh about a quarter of my life probably [laughs]. Pretty much. It wouldn't be so uncommon to go there in mid-afternoon and end up walking out at closing.

  GN: Do you remember any band decisions that happened in the bar?
TS: Well yeah, we hired Slim Dunlap there I think, and we hired Steve Foley right out of there, because he happened to walk in the door right as we were thinking, "Oh we need a drummer." He walked right in the door as we were thinking that, and we said, "Oh, there you are. You're the drummer." It happened like that, it was kind of a funny fluke.

GN: I actually heard a similar story from Dave Pirner. He said something like, after Mars left, you decided you would hire the next drummer who walked in the door.
TS: Pretty much, pretty much [laughs]. And it turned out that he was pretty good too, so that helps.

GN: That would have been in 1990, right? So were you hanging out at the CC for all of the '80s?
TS: Pretty much. I spread my time between CC and that mid-Lyndale, Uptown area and downtown. I had a rehearsal space downtown, and I used to spend a lot of my time at Runyon's and those downtown bars and that quadrant of downtown too.

GN: Do any other band conversations stand out other than Steve Foley walking through the door?
TS: Not at the top of my head, that was so long ago and many brain cells later. If you know what I'm saying. Not really coming up with anything for ya.

GN: How about parties, releases, celebrations?
TS: Not really. I probably spent a few New Year's Eves in there, but I can't remember them.

GN: Did you ever get to know the people who worked there, or the owners?
TS: A little bit. It seems to me we all had kind of a running rapport with them. I couldn't name them right now because it's been so long since I've been in there, but I think Sam was one of the ones who used to work there that my mom knew, but other than that, that's about as good as you're going to get out of me on that.

GN: One of the classic legends about the CC Club is that it inspired "Here Comes a Regular." What's your take on that?
TS: I wouldn't know. I didn't write it. But it wouldn't be surprising, I mean like I said, we spent countless hours and time hanging out there doing whatever.

GN: When you hear that song is that bar kind of what you picture?
TS: Oh sure, of course. Yeah, easily.

GN: As the Replacements started getting better known and attracting fans, did that change the kind of hanging out you could do at the CC Club? Would people approach you more, or was it still relaxed?
TS:It seems to me that toward the end it could get a little goofy, but for the most part we knew everyone in town, it's not like we were friends with everyone necessarily, but we knew everyone, and people pretty much left us alone, for the most part. Except for the once-in-a-while oddball that just wasn't privy to the manners of the CC Club.

GN: What was that code of manners?
TS:You just let people do their thing and you don't bother them if you see Soul Asylum or us or any of the other bands you might want to go see or whatever. People kind of left us alone, at least that's what I remember. I don't remember getting hounded there.

GN: Did that make the bar unique?
TS:Yeah. Minneapolis was unique in that way. I think it was more of a home. When I left Minneapolis it got to be more weird than that.

GN: When did you stop going?
TS: Probably when I moved. Early '90s, like '93 I think I moved. But you know, when I got married and had a kid and stuff, I probably stopped spending so much time up there. We spent most of the time, in the '80s, I think the majority until the late '80s we spent in that place, and then from there I think we kind of grew up and grew out of it a little, but still managed to go there once in awhile.

GN: Would you ever stay in the bar after closing?
TS: Not a lot, they were pretty strict about that as far as I can recall. I don't remember a whole lot of that going on because cops and stuff were pretty tight back then. I don't think I've ever seen live music there.

GN: When you think of the CC, what image is in your head?
TS: Just a dingy old working man's bar. They're littered all over the country, like where the blue collar guy goes to unwind and talk about his woes and watch whatever's on the TV above the bar.

GN: But then it also had the music thing going on.
TS: Because all of us kind of came from that. We all come from that sort of life, a bunch of crap working stiffs trying to get by. I don't really have any one outstanding memory. I spent too many years in that place to have one stick. When the first record came out I was 14, 15 years old.

GN: Was there a divide in the bar between working guys and musicians?
TS: What I recall is that everyone was pretty much at an even level of nothingness.

Check out our archives for more on Stinson:
- Tommy Stinson: A YouTube retrospective
- Tommy Stinson returns to First Avenue for one night
- Tommy Stinson at the Fine Line, 11/14/11
- Slideshow: Tommy Stinson of Guns N' Roses at Fine Line

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