Jimmy Doyle's, a clumsy tonk located off Interstate 40 in North Little Rock, will be closed on Saturday, November 13. The House musicians of the Arkansas River Bottom Band-Michael Heavner, Bruce Hearon, Joseph Logue, Ritchie Varnell and Freddie Martin-played a farewell party. The door opens at 7 pm "This is not the end of the matter," said a post on the club's Facebook page yesterday. "For The Doyle's, this is a new beginning. Continue their work on country music in Arkansas! Just watch it."
To pay tribute to the cigarette smoke and legends in the dance hall for nearly half a century, former Arkansas Times culture editor Will Stephenson beautifully captured this in his club profile in 2014:
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, I met Jimmy Doyle, 78, himself in his bar, a place that few people see during the day. Originally built by Iranian immigrants from a grocery store family, this building is huge and eye-catching. The concrete walls are 18 inches thick, the artificial marble bathroom (with ashtray), and the gorgeous Middle Eastern design metal door on the front door. In the nearest building, if you forget to bring cash (they do not accept cards), the place they will send you is a liquor store, ominously called First and Last Chance. We met at the back, and the remnants of the old sign — huge wooden letters spelling "Jimmy", "Doyle" and "Club" with 255 light bulbs on it — leaned against the side of the building. A tornado blew it away ten years ago, although you can say it must be an impressive sight. Jimmy Doyle himself stood on the gravel and smiled with his arms outstretched, as if to say, that's it. He is wearing tight brown slacks, cowboy boots and a short-sleeved button-printed shirt with antique prop airplanes. "Come in, I'll show you around," he said.
It should be mentioned that Jimmy Doyle is not a first name and a last name-it is a double name, such as Mary Catherine or John David. His last name is Brewer, just like in Brewer Bordens, he was born in 1936 in a small town 15 miles below Stuttgart. He is the son of a nurse and a sommelier. In his words, "Agree or disagree." When he was a toddler, Jimmy Doyle was shaped by this place. A 12-mile swamp circle along Bayou Meto. After his mother left, he helped his father make whiskey in the woods, pumped water, and drove a small red carriage to deliver it. His favorite story when he was a kid was escaping from the "income earner" on horseback. "This is the only way we can make a living," he said, even though they often don't seem to have it. He said that before he went out, the situation got so bad that their kitchen was a 10 x 12 foot tent, and they mainly depended on bark and "possum grapes" (similar to blueberries) to survive. He still remembers the day he joined the navy-December 6, 1954.
He wanted to show me upstairs, except for a place he almost no longer uses as a storage room, so I followed him up the back stairs. The place is airy and empty, with souvenirs, holiday decorations and various memorabilia of his career scattered on the concrete floor. This is a junk autobiography: there are photo albums, handwritten lyrics books, piles of records, plastic Santa Claus. He showed me the radio cameras he used for the public television show "Jimmy Doyle's" in the 70s and 80s. He said that for a period of time there, performance has always been the core and soul of his career and the thing that inspired him the most.
A room was filled with small porcelain—I counted four unicorns. As an explanation, he simply said, "We have been to Mexico a few times." Then he showed me his old recording studio, which contained vocals and drums, a 32-track mixing board, and an old Fostex recorder. A brown shag carpet was spread on the floor, scattered around with broken musical instruments and boxes of unlabeled tapes. There are live wires hanging from the ceiling. I asked him when he last recorded there. "Damn it, I don't know, ten years ago?" he said. "I can't keep up with time."
The independent news that supports the Arkansas Times is more important than ever. Help us provide the latest daily reports and analysis on Arkansas news, politics, culture, and cuisine.
Founded in 1974, the Arkansas Times is a lively and distinctive source of news, politics, and culture in Arkansas. Our monthly magazine is distributed free of charge to more than 500 locations in central Arkansas.