The famed music venue My Father’s Place in Roslyn, NY is forever attached to its founding father Michael “Eppy” Epstein. Both, the man and the club, share the limelight of historic proportions in the world of music’s past and present – and the future.
The 70s Birthed My Father’s Place
The early 70s was all about the music and antiestablishment – singing of ending the war and bringing peace. At the same time, major corporations were taking over building malls and chains that were slowly knocking out family-owned businesses.
The Roslyn Bowl was in drastic need of encouraging business before it was closed permanently. It’s owner, Jay Linehan, saw its potential for providing a large space for music and dancing. Soon the bowling alley was being touted for having Long Island’s largest dance floor as the owner booked and advertised country music acts. Linehan’s son suggested the idea of renaming the new business – calling it My Father’s Place.
The same year The Roslyn Bowl turned into a dance haven, Eppy opened a head shop with Richie Hersh in Roslyn – where they had a vision of it becoming a coffee shop with music. With the village saying no to the coffee venue the duo looked elsewhere to book music bringing them to Linehan. On May 31, 1971, My Father’s Place officially had their first rock show with Richie Havens as the opening act. History was born with a sold-out audience.
Instead of the rolling thunder of balls hitting pins – Eppy’s vision brought the storm of thunderous applause and accolades. His passion for music drove My Father’s Place into the limelight as a top venue on the East Coast.
Eppy’s innovative thinking advanced My Father’s Place – along with making music legends. In 1972 Eppy forged a deal with the Long Island radio station WLIR to have broadcasts from the club. This was the beginning of the term alternative radio and made the station nationally recognized.
My Father’s Place as Pure Music Madness
My Father’s Place was always purely about music – not the bottom line. Eppy’s vision was to have a variety of harmonious sounds that fit under the rock and roll moniker. Reggae found a home at the venue, as did country, bluegrass, and jazzy blues. As the years changed so did the music with Eppy welcoming punk and new wave into his home.
Fans of music quickly grew to know both Eppy and the renowned location. All who were teenaged and above knew the club that had a mesmerizing pull for talent and audiences.
The 70s brought nights of music madness with the venue’s fans pouring out onto the street stopping traffic. It was a sign and calling of the times. In the late 70s and early 80s, while disco was playing down the street, My Father’s Place brought a haven of rock and roll happiness.
The Rebirth of My Father’s Place
The birthplace of famed performances was forced to close after 16 years in existence. Tower of Power took a bow for the club’s final act on May 3, 1987. Although the physical manifestation of his dream was closed, Eppy did not lose faith that he would open elsewhere – as My Father’s Place lived on in his spirit and in all that the man and venue had touched.
Eppy stayed in the spotlight – well respected in the music world as the man who made musical visions come true. Continuously he searched for just-the-right place for a new home. It took three decades until the endearing music-maker man found another residence – and in the quaint Roslyn village.
The Roslyn Hotel luckily had new owners who liked the idea of turning the old Roslyn Claremont Hotel ballroom into a nightclub. November 2017 was the beginning of Eppy’s second act for My Father’s Place. Work began to ready the new incarnation for its tremendous opening night featuring Buster Poindexter on June 29, 2018.
Although the club has a new vibe to match a new century it still has the same essence. Original fans have found their way back to watch shows – sharing the music with their children and grandchildren. Once again the sounds of music from old favorites and new artists are singing to the souls as Eppy proudly beams.
Even a pandemic cannot stop Eppy from reinventing and developing his never-ending vision. With My Father’s Placed forced to temporarily close to live audiences by state mandates, Eppy turned to technology.
While waiting for a safe ending to the health crisis Eppy found a way to bring the club to fans with Pay-Per-View events. He also is using the location for video shoots.
“We’ve established a production facility that can accommodate up to 5 cameras; the venue already has an extensive lighting rig and the sound is acoustically balanced to accommodate hard rock; jazz; solo-guitar; and, classical. Every act we’ve had, be in Micky Dolenz or David Johansen, has complimented us on the sound. It’s exceptionally good.”
Interview with Michael “Eppy” Epstein
Eppy is the life-force of My Father’s Place – the two are interchangeable and could not live without the other. Those of us who know and love Eppy would describe him as a visionary with the soul of an excited child always ready for a new adventure – and ready to tell everyone about it.
Carol Ruth Weber: Did you ever think your first vision of a coffee shop would turn into a major venue?
Michael “Eppy” Epstein: Never had any idea that this would happen. What happened was that I was so taken by Harvard Square and the shops and the scene all under one roof in Boston I didn’t want to leave Boston and Cambridge. I was going to Berkley School of Music learning music and business.
The summers we would have a head shop in Cape Cod and I was very happy being a Merchant. I left because Richie Haven said to come home to help all the kids on Long Island.
There was a house for sale in Roslyn at number 4 Main Street. Our rich parents wouldn’t buy it for us. We couldn’t buy the place but we could pay rent. The real estate agent found a buyer and we agreed to rent. We teared the place apart painting it purple and wild colors. We built Never When. The town was not happy that we were messing with one of their landmarks.
All I wanted to do was take this little area in Never When, which was a kitchen overlooking a patio, and build a tarp and let people lay music. I wanted to name it Phantom Duck Coffee House. [Eppy stopped to wonder out loud – “What would have happened to Eppy if Roslyn let him build the Phantom Duck Coffee House?”] If they had let me have my coffee house I probably would have built a bigger place where we could sell beer as well as cheese boards. We would have had hippies and folk singers.
We still wanted to do a coffee house so we were looking for a place. We had already made a deal to go into the Roslyn Bowling Alley at the same time we were trying to rent another place. The other place wanted to sell but we could not afford it.
We made a deal with Jay Linehan because his bowling alley was struggling and he needed money to pay his liquor license. We took the money out of Never When and made a deal where we would get 49 percent of the stock in Brian and Rose Incorporated – which had been running the bowling alley since 1952.
I said to Jay if I can fill your bowling alley up on the worst night of the year, you pick it, would you give me 49 percent of the club for one dollar. He said okay and picked Memorial Day weekend and we had Richie Havens. The next day he gave me 49 percent.
At that point we tried to downplay it and make it a folk coffee house that also had a liquor license. The beauty of the old bowling alleys was they all had a bar.
CRW: Did you ever personally want to be a musician?
Eppy: I played guitar, bass, violin, cello, and piano. I had two bands. Before I went to music school in Boston I had a band Vibratones when I was 13, 14 years old. We played the Borscht Belt. I had the Vettones (like corvette – meaning fast tones) when I was in my later teens. We were playing a teen club called My House on Long Island where I met the Phaetons. I also met the Hassles.
The club was in an old health club – Vic Tanny. We would go skinny dipping in the pool. I became obsessed with Phaetons and would go to their gigs. I was at a gig working as a roadie and this guy comes in and introduces himself to me as Don Kirshner. He was trying to get Gerard Kenny of the Phaetons to be on a show called “The Happeners.” Gerard turned them down – “The Monkees” instead hired Mike Nesmith. I will never forget that.
CRW: What kept you going searching for decades to find a new home for My Father’s Pace – never giving up?
Eppy: I never wanted to close the club. I did say I would never open another club except in Roslyn.
CRW: How do you find ways to continue to reinvent My Father’s Place?
Eppy: During this pandemic, we are started to use the club to do streaming pay-per views. People pay into it. We put an act in but there is no live audience. I have just the monitors on. When we built the club, we built it look like a TV studio so the cameras love the stage.
We use veeps.com. I can have other promotors and charities go in there with me. I can give them 30-percent of what they sell. I give them their own code so now I don’t have to promote all by myself. I don’t have to worry about competitors. I can have promoters from all over the world promote along with me. So, it’s just a matter of putting acts in the hotel rooms upstairs. They take the elevator downstairs and get on stage and play and then they can go.
I don’t know how long this will last but while we are having this pandemic I am selling seats all over the globe. I am trying to get bigger and better acts to play. I have members of Aerosmith coming in. I am having Jimmy Webb come in. Richie Cannata is coming in with his band, The Lords of 52nd Street – and promises Billy [Joel] will sit and play piano for at least one song. I’m looking to get big acts – I asked Joan Jett to do one.
Whoever is in the North East they can drive to the hotel, get a room upstairs, and come on down and use the club to entertain to 100s of 1000s of people. One of the members of New Direction played. He had 170000 people pay 15 bucks. So, it could be good money. Once the pandemic is over we can fill the club while still having the live streaming
The wonderful Eppy can be serious while also being humble and silly – his excitement is infectious. Only a person like Eppy could make an entity more than just brick and mortar. My Father’s Place has a soul that forever will be eternal.