Free Download PDF The Legendary Toad’s Place: Stories from New Haven’s Famed Music Venue


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Anyone who has lived near New Haven, Connecticut, in the past 40-plus years has surely heard of Toad’s Place. With a capacity of 750, Toad’s has served as the perfect spot for musicians who prefer smaller venues. U2 played one of their first US concerts there, on their Boy tour. In 1978, Bruce Springsteen was in New Haven and arrived at Toad’s unannounced, and got up and played. The surprises kept coming and the club was attracting big names, as well as up-and-comers. In 1989, the Rolling Stones played a surprise show on a Saturday night, giving 700 fans the night of their dreams. Nothing could have been better—the Rolling Stones in downtown New Haven was unimaginable! That is only a taste of the stories that are uncovered in this book. Randall Beach and Toad’s owner Brian Phelps recall the legendary shows and behind-the-scenes stories.


From the Publisher

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“What I loved about Toad’s Place

is that they let you do more than just show up and set your band up and play. You could actually curate some kind of show that was interesting to people, different.”—Cyndi Lauper

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The story of Toad’s place is the story of two people.

“When Brian Phelps told me in the fall of 2019 that he was working on a book that would tell the amazing storied history of Toad’s Place, I suggested he bring me on board for a collaborative effort. I was gratified he quickly agreed to forming this partnership.

The Toad’s story is how two partners, Brian Phelps and Mike Spoerndle, used their passion and skills to make Toad’s nationally known as a major music venue despite holding only about 750 people.” —Randall Beach, Preface

Toad’s hosts music legends and local favorites alike

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Toad’s has a special energy to its shows

“When the big acts performed, I had developed a habit of scanning the crowd to see if people were excited and involved. If the performance progressed nicely with a slow but distinct build-up, I knew it would get people back in the club. At the end of a song with a long duration, if the band did it just right, and as the last note would play, the people would yell simultaneously. It would seem as though the crowd had synchronized with the performance. Whenever this happened, the show was a success.”—Brian Phelps, Chapter 2: Toad’s Goes National

Excerpt — Chapter 8: The Local Bands

Long before we imagined we could ever bring superstar acts like Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones to Toad’s, local bands were our lifeblood, helping us pay the bills and keeping us in business. Even after we began booking nationally known bands, we continued to offer our stage to local musicians, often as opening acts. We learned our audiences didn’t demand acts who were on the cover of Rolling Stone to spend an evening with us; they were happy to enjoy the homegrown talent we shared with them. Peter Menta formed the Ten Years Late Jug Band in 1975 (our first year), but he also booked bands for us from 1975 until 1978.

“We were the house opening act for Toad’s,” Menta said. “We got in from the ground up. We opened for the heavyweights of that time: Willie Dixon, Aztec Two-Step, NRBQ, and George Thorogood. In the early days, the local bands were important to the survival of Toad’s Place,” he recalled. “Local bands had draw.” The members of some of the first bands to perform at Toad’s laugh as they recall the conditions back in 1975. “We played on a stage that, to my memory, was plywood up on some cinderblocks, or some such primitive thing,” remembers Christine Ohlman, called “the Beehive Queen” because of her amazing tower of platinum blond hair. She was a founder of the Scratch Band, described by Dave Marsh in Rolling Stone as playing “contemporary rock R&B.”

Rob Jockel, co-founder and singer of Eight to the Bar, recalls the night Big Mike told the band, after they played their four forty-five-minute sets, that Toad’s was “closing for a couple of weeks to do some renovations.”

“We’re expanding into the back warehouse space,” he said. The bands had been using that area as a dressing room.

“When the doors closed and the patrons left,” Jockel adds, “we were all given hammers and large tools of destruction and told we could help tear down the walls and get them started on the new room. I have no clue why we were game, but we did chip in. There was plaster, wood bits, and dust all over the place. We stayed a few hours, drank beer, and left around 3 a.m.”

Publisher‏:‎Globe Pequot (October 8, 2021)
Language‏:‎English
Paperback‏:‎256 pages
ISBN-10‏:‎1493058606
ISBN-13‏:‎978-1493058600
Item Weight‏:‎1.23 pounds
Dimensions‏:‎7.07 x 0.56 x 9.06 inches
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