Remembering My Father's Place in Roslyn
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It seems almost impossible now.
The nondescript brick building at 19 Bryant Ave. in Roslyn is currently home to office space and a fabric store. There's a cafe next door, a tailor shop and antiques store across the street. It's quiet throughout the day with hardly a soul walking past.
There is no outward sign of what took place there, few remnants of the sweaty, intimate concerts from Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Bob Marley, The Ramones, U2 and so many other influential artists between 1971 and 1987. The only proof of the historic My Father's Place comes from those who lived it, from the thousands of photographs, hundreds of hours of tapes of WLIR concerts recorded there and the countless memories of those who caught a show there, 400 or so at a time.
On Tuesday, there will be more proof, when My Father's Place becomes the first venue inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and the book "Fun & Dangerous: Untold Tales, Unseen Photos and Unearthed Music From My Father's Place 1975-1980" by photographer Steven Rosenfield and Michael "Eppy" Epstein, the founder of My Father's Place, is published. "I was nuts," says Eppy, 61, who is known in the music industry by that single name, like Bono or Cher. "I came to Roslyn, and I wanted to build a cultural milieu in a nouveau riche ghetto. . . . I was going to try to build [a scene like] Cambridge in Boston without Harvard, without BU, without MIT."
In other words, Eppy wanted to build a haven for young people without having a large supply of them nearby. "I didn't think of those things," he says, laughing as he leans back in a booth at Henry's Confectionary in Glen Cove. "My idea was that if I made My Father's Place a great destination, then the kids would come."
He turned out to be right.
Between his partnership with WLIR, whose hit-making clout offered up-and-coming acts a reason to make the trip out to Long Island, and his knack for finding and developing talent, Eppy soon had hundreds of music fans lining up for hours to get a prime space in the club. My Father's Place also quickly developed a reputation for memorable shows, which led to The Police name-checking the club when the group played Nassau Coliseum, or Meat Loaf calling the show he played there one of his favorites and making a recording of it available to radio stations around the world.
"That was the hot place," Billy Joel recalls. "When acts were just heating up, outside of Manhattan, where would they all go? My Father's Place."
Joel says that he regularly played there in the early '70s, when his career was taking off and he was on the club circuit. It was a memorable stop because it was close to where he grew up. "It was the Long Island club," he says. "A lot of our friends would come and hang out backstage, so it was fun for them, too."
That atmosphere hooked Rosenfield pretty quickly. "I was escaping my conventional, middle-class Queens, suburban-tortured life as a teenager, just like every other teenager," says Rosenfield, who began documenting his My Father's Place adventures with photographs. "It was the chance to be a few feet away from incredibly talented people. I was lured in by the WLIR concerts, but once I saw you could get a chance to get so close to the artists - for a photographer, close is good."
Rosenfield also enjoyed the scene that the club spawned. "It was a different era," he says. "There were just a lot of people there enjoying themselves and hanging out, and they would be happy to see you. Once you got there, it was a very comfortable place. And there was no better host than Eppy. It was positive reinforcement. He nurtured people like me."
James Faith, chairman of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, says it was that feeling of belonging that made My Father's Place special, and Eppy was responsible for that.
"Eppy is My Father's Place," Faith says. "He has personality that's off the charts, and his approach to the artists was very important to the success. The artists really liked him - and that's not typical for artists to like the promoters. Artists hung out there even when they weren't playing."
It's the kind of scene Eppy traces back to his time in Boston, where the Rockville Centre native went to college. "I wanted to bring a bit of that magic here," he says. "I wanted Long Island to get a taste."
Though hard work and bright ideas certainly played a role in building a scene in Roslyn - or "Roz," for short - around My Father's Place, Eppy mainly succeeded because he believed it was possible.
"People would say, 'I love going to the club because you get off the expressway, and you go down into this valley and all of a sudden you're in Oz'," Eppy says. "Or Roz."
Faith says the Hall of Fame was interested in inducting My Father's Place as a venue because the organization wanted to broaden the possibilities of what would be part of the hall. "Any entity that helps Long Island music is a possibility," Faith says. "But we see this as a way to honor both My Father's Place and Eppy."
After all, Eppy would certainly be considered for induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame for his other contributions to music outside of My Father's Place - for his work to launch reggae in America in the late '70s and early '80s alone, not to mention the area acts he has taken under his wing, including Barnaby Bye. But he says he's not ready to accept that honor just yet.
"It kind of feels like a gold watch, and I'm not ready to get a gold watch," Eppy says. "My work's not done yet."