Jazz Monthly: Excellent, man, excellent. Well, I certainly appreciate you keeping live music out there and expounding upon that through other cities that certainly welcome it and that’s a very cool thing.
SP: Well, the whole key is that in order for the artists in the jazz genre to make it, there has to be venues for them to play.
Jazz Monthly: Right.
SP: And so I’ve taken it upon myself to create the venues which help facilitate our growth because if we actually open up 20 locations around the country, then we can put together our own little tours within our own little network and they’ll keep the artists working and it’ll let the customers see the new artists and then they can further their careers, and it’s just a wonderful thing.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, it is. And by the way, before I forget, I want to thank you for having me on your first show in Houston, on the new Red Cat TV show. I want to thank you for having me on there, that premiere show. (Both laugh.)
SP: You got a chance to see that, right? How did you get a copy of that?
Jazz Monthly: Well, you know how it is, man. I have a way.
SP: You’re funny.
Jazz Monthly: Well, hey, Sam, seriously, talk about what some people that have come through the Red Cat Jazz Café as fans are saying that inspire you to continue to do what you do.
SP: Well, it is so mind blowing to have someone—for the most part, it seems as though every time there’s a major concert in town, after the concert’s over they beat feet it over here to come see my bands. I think Marion Meadows was one of the first ones. That’s how I met him. He actually came over after a show some five years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. Same thing with—and I think Jonathan Butler came over and some of the guys like Rayford Griffin, the drummer, Nathan East, Bob James. I can’t forget, and I’ll be remiss if I forget—I’m the number one fan of Frankie Beverly and he came over after one of his gigs and hung out with me and just likes the place a whole lot. I have no pictures in my building. If you notice, there are no pictures with celebrities because I want people that when you come here, there’s just no telling who you’re gonna see. I don’t wanna brag about it, but you just never know who you’re gonna see. I only have music artwork.
Jazz Monthly: That’s true, yeah.
SP: And we don’t like to—and a lotta people like to come only because they know that we’re not prostituting them. We’re not saying “Come to the Red Cat because this person’s gonna be here.”
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, you’re not pimping it.
SP: No, I’m not gonna pimp anybody.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and that’s cool, that’s real cool.
SP: We want people to come and enjoy themselves and be relaxed and not be bombarded by anybody, but if some customers wanna come by and say hello—because it does make their day if someone walks down and they say “Oh, that’s Michael Bolden! Oh, I never even knew he was there.” They say hello to him and they see that’s just a person, a real person.
Jazz Monthly: And I wanna say something about the staff that you have there. You have one of the most innovative and the most polite group of people working there as your hostesses. They’re just great people, they take great care of everyone in the club, they always know their business and they do their business and they do it well, and it’s just a wonderful thing to see that. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen everywhere else, but it really adds a great deal to the whole ambience of the club.
SP: And we can’t forget about the chef.
Jazz Monthly: Yes indeed.
SP: Is totally, totally awesome, Chef Ray. Chef Ray, he’s something else. He came from New Orleans during Katrina. I met him sometime ago. His brother is one of my good friends and told him to come down to see me, you know, it might be possible to get him a job and I did. He worked out wonderfully, he’s just a godsend.
Jazz Monthly: Well, I gotta tell you, when Donna Franklin first told me about you, she said “Smitty, you gotta come down to the club.” The first thing she said was “Smitty, you gotta taste the food.” (Both laugh.) Because she knows I love to eat, so she said “Oh, the food is unbelievable, Smitty.” And she was right. Everyone talks about the food, you know, the kitchen is the bump.
SP: The killer part is that we forget that it is a restaurant.
Jazz Monthly: Exactly.
SP: The music takes you so far away and then most people say “Oh, the club.” I keep saying it really is a restaurant that happens to have live music, but because the music is such a dominant force, it takes on the presence of being a club, but it’s really a restaurant and the food is good, and that was one of my main focuses. When I took over 100% ownership of the place, we actually decided to focus on the food being good so it wasn’t just microwave stuff. That was my goal and we’ve done okay with that.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and I gotta tell ya, I love the bar.
SP: The bar is good. The drinks are always good. I mean, you can’t mess that up. (Both laugh.)
Jazz Monthly: I love to come in and get my drink on, with in reason of course.
SP: Yeah, well, you know, I have been known to get my drink on too.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, man. And I guess what we talked about is what a complete establishment, complete venue you have, and it’s a one-stop. Customers can come in and fans can come in, they can have a drink, they can have great food, great live entertainment, a wonderful atmosphere, and then there’s always the element of surprise because I know the last time I was in there, I walked in and there were Ronnie and Hubert Laws sitting over there at the table. I was like, okay, Ronnie and Hubert’s in tonight, you know?
SP: Right, right.