A Place Called the Bla-Bla Cafe, Sandy Ross, SLR Productions, 2006, 237 pp
Sandy Ross is an acquaintance of mine from my singer/songwriter days. She is also a long-time singer/songwriter whom I met while I was part of the LA scene in the 1990s. During the 1970s she was the main talent booker at the Bla-Bla Cafe as well as a regular performer there. This book is her memoir of the place.
She begins with a history of the club, which began on Ventura Blvd in an area of Los Angeles called Studio City. She tells of her memories and experiences while working and performing there. It was one of those places with a very special owner who loved musicians and artists. Not much went on there during the day, but every evening was booked with songwriters, comedians and jazz musicians. After hours, it was filled with people who worked at the neighboring clubs, many of which were gay establishments. Lots of good food, beer and wine, acceptance of all kinds of people and good times without violence or trouble. Your basic 70s magic.
The middle section of the book is a series of pieces by other former performers, including All Jarreau, who got his start there. The last section is a chart showing everyone who ever performed there, including the musical credits of each. That in itself is a valuable piece of research and record keeping that belongs in anyone's library who loves or writes about pop music history.
The Bla-Bla Cafe was a unique blend of 70s elements which came together to create a place that was very artist-centered and free-spirited. The owners, who were transplanted New Yorkers, created a "family" there, out of all kinds of disparate characters; a phenomenon that occurred all over America in those days.
Sandy's book is intended mainly to preserve the memories of the Bla-Bla Cafe for those who were a part of the scene. But she has gone beyond that by describing the perfect atmosphere for developing musical performers. It could have been a lucky confluence of people and cultural phenomena that brought about the Bla-Bla, but there is no reason it couldn't happen again for a new generation.
A Place Called the Bla-Bla Cafe can be ordered through your local bookstore or online at http://www.bla-bla-cafe.com