Another link to Riverbank’s past was discussed at Thursday’s Memories Day presentation at the Riverbank Historical Museum.
Local historian James McAndrews Jr. spoke about the origins and operation of the Riverbank Clubhouse, a popular country music concert hall here. The venue was located on Sierra Street downtown, between First and Second streets. Homes are there now.
Country stars like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Ferlin Husky and Ernest Tubbs all have performed on the stage here, McAndrews said.
He said the legal capacity of the building was said to be 300 people, but performances routinely drew as many as 2000 folks, coming from all over the valley area. McAndrews said concerts often drew audiences from the south valley, following performers of the ‘Bakersfield Sound,’ as it came to be known.
In the ‘40s and early ‘50s, country artists and their bands would travel the circuit, with fans following, to hear them play.
McAndrews mentioned the problems the City of Riverbank had with the discord generated when so many fans crowded into such a small space. He said fights would routinely break out, taken care of outside, with the combatants then going back inside after, to hear more music.
For a time, dancing was banned in Riverbank. A sign on the front of the Clubhouse read: “KEEP OUT if you don’t want to have fun.”
McAndrews is a 1984 graduate of Riverbank High School, the same year the Clubhouse hosted its farewell concert, the same month as commencement exercises.
He received an AA degree from Modesto Junior College, a BA in History with a minor in Political Science, then a Masters in History, both from Stanislaus State University. He has taught at both Modesto Junior College and UC Merced. As an author, he has been writing on local history for 15 years in a local newspaper and has been a docent and member of the board of directors at the Great Valley Museum. McAndrews said he’s working on a novel about Riverbank and recently wrote an article about the clubhouse that was published locally.
The Riverbank Historical Museum, 3237 Santa Fe, is owned by the city and is staffed by volunteers of the Riverbank Historical Society.