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Remembering Judge Roy Bean

Locals gather to reminisce about the beloved Daphne watering hole, with its bushwackers, great live music and a goat named Billy. Founder Jack West would be proud.

ABOVE The front entrance of Judge Roy Bean had the character of a western saloon, inspired by a real judge who called himself “The Law West of the Pecos” in Texas in the 1800s. The bar and music venue burned to the ground in 2005. Fans are planning a reunion and fundraiser.
 

Jack West told me once, “If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked me if I was going to reopen Judge Roy Bean, I’d be paying somebody to take me fishing instead of the other way around.” I guess it’s just human nature for us to want to rebuild and relive those places and times that meant so much to us.

Not too long ago, I was guilty of the same crime. “It’s like trying to catch lightnin’ in a bottle — wouldn’t be the same thing” he would say. He was right. Funny how the place burned down and he never looked back, and the rest of us were left with a gaping hole where the Bean — and Billy, the resident goat — once defiantly stood.

He went on, “But maybe we could get all the people who met up and got married out of that place together for a reunion — wouldn’t that be wild.” He thought about it for a minute and then laughed. “A lot of those people probably haven’t seen each other in a while — that place caused a few divorces, too!”

The Good Times

Richie Havens, the opening act at Woodstock, played inside. I was three feet away from him when he belted out “freedom.... freedom...... FREEEEDOM!” Mac MacAnally, who has written songs that Jimmy Buffett’s made famous, played several times there. It got to the point that Jack had to hire a bouncer to manage the door — well, Randy Niemeyer. Randy kept the peace and had a way of smoothing out the drunk wrinkles.

And it didn’t hurt that Jimmy himself showed up from time to time for an impromptu concert. Jimmy’s folks lived right up the road and every now and then the rumor mill would start churning and the bar phone would start ringing. “Is Jimmy Buffett coming to the Bean tonight?” We always had the same answer. “We don’t know, but maybe?” And we never did know, but on those nights, the place would be packed! Buffett showed up just often enough to make people believers. I’m not sure Jack and Phillip didn’t start the rumors themselves on more than one occasion. Buffett did play one actual concert there, inside the Bean to a small fortunate crowd. Jack called it, The “I Heard I Was in Town” Show. Naturally.

The  “Judge Roy Bean Amphitheatre” was built out back because the Bean was getting quite a reputation for musical talent and it was time to take the events to the next level. Being able to accommodate a larger crowd, Jerry Jeff Walker, John Prine, Delbert McClinton and so many more took the stage. Wet Willie kept us smilin’ and George Thorogood was bad to the bone. Emmy Lou Harris was less than thrilled at her first impression of the Bean as she stepped out of her limo with some less-than-ladylike words to say about it. But that night when the crowds showed up and the lights came on, she felt the magic and put on a great show.

There I was, working the bar, the place was hopping and my ears were ringing. The concert on the backyard stage of Judge Roy Bean was over and it had been spectacular. Jack found me. “Hey, you got a minute? I got somebody you need to meet.” We made our way through the crowd, across the volleyball court and along the side of the stage into the darkness. Jack had moved an old Winnebago into the woods behind the stage. It became the “stars” dressing room and was strictly off limits to the unwashed masses like myself. This was my first, maybe only, visit inside the sanctity of the bus, but by all accounts (that we can’t get into here), that thing completely redefined the term “recreational vehicle.”

We go inside and sitting there are my brother Phillip and the Creole King of Cool himself, The Night Tripper, Dr. John, kicked back and drinking a Heineken. “This is the guy who did your poster,” Jack said pointing to me. “Aw man, it’s beoootiful, I really dig it,” the Dr. said. Phillip had a way and it was like he and the Dr. were lifelong friends. I, on the other hand, was starstruck and dumbfounded. I’m sure I said something stupid; I blacked out in the moment. But I did manage to ask him to sign a poster for me. It was quite obvious to everyone that I wasn’t going to add much to the party and was quickly shooed away from the bus, but I didn’t care. I stumbled back to the bar and showed off my prize.

Reunion

As Jack’s health faded last year, there was lots of talk about a reunion. Some of the biggest events at the Bean back in the day were to benefit charities. We never needed an excuse to throw a party, but Jack always had a cause in mind when we did.

So now, what better way is there for us to remember Jack than to give to causes that helped him in his hour of need and ones that will continue to help save lives? Pilots for Christ gets them where they need to be and Anchor Cross takes care of them when they get back — good stuff.

And while we can’t fill the hole that the Bean left, we will auction off some momentos that might just bring back some memories for you to take home and fill your wall. As Phillip would say, “Its only a silent auction ‘til the fight breaks out!” Just try not to get any Piggy Park sauce on the merchandise. mb

Judge Roy Bean Reunion

Saturday, June 9, 2018, 3 - 9 p.m. // Daphne City Hall and Grounds
Tickets $50 (includes 4 drink tickets) // Benefiting Pilots for Christ and Anchor Cross

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