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Beer, Pool, Bikers and Blues at Al's Place

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-04-08

"If you closed your eyes you'd swear he was black" says Al, of the blues band's lead singer. Clint Walker and the Groove Cats, including a musician who'd never played with them before, was delivering blistering electric blues into the Okinawa night. It was an hour before midnight. "This band have been doing their soundcheck since 8.30" said Al, laughing. The regulars were sitting round the bar applauding every number wildly. Guitars were slung from the dark ceiling. Neon beer signs faintly illuminated the gloom and Harley Davidson pennants massed at the edge of the stage. Al, tall, pony tailed and resident in Okinawa 20 years, retired from the Air Force in 1984. He opened Al's Place four months ago and specialises in live blues, Southern rock and light jazz. Plus the beer and free pool of course. The bar also does a sideline in T-shirts. One, draped at the side of the stage, had a picture of a 1950s babe, and the slogan: "Drink Till He's Cute". Another, picturing a nerdy, besuited individual brandishing a foaming mug has the caption "Beer, Helping Ugly People have Sex Since 1855".

Downstairs is a Harley Davidson motorcyle shop and lots of pictures of Harleys decorate the walls.

This is the sort of place that might attract the local Hells' Angels chapter, if there was one in Okinawa. As it is, anyone who likes good loud music ("red hot Texas blues" in the case of The Groove Cats) beer, pool and a bikers' ambience should make a date at Al's Place.

According to Al there are two other good blues bands on the island, Full Circle and B-Diamond. The bar has different groups all through the month, including local talent Katchan Kazufumi. David Ralston, who has a current CD out, is playing next week.

Al has been a music fan since way back. He remembers seeing Ray Charles play in Galveston in 1949 when he was a teenager. The quality of the blues on offer the other night held a candle to Charles. Japan Update wishes Al's Place all success.

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