In 1977, The Wine Cellar booked Bill Ward for a Christmas night show. The Jamestown community thought the idea of a bar concert on the holiest day of the year would go over like a lead zeppelin.
Just like whoever first said that about a British rock band - reports conflict on who was the first - area residents were proven wrong. Ward's Christmas night jam session has become a tradition.
"When we first started doing the show, nobody was open," Ward said. "It turns out, by the time Christmas night comes along, a lot of folks are kind of tired of sitting around. Once they get up and get out, they have a blast."
Shawbucks will host a Jackson Rohm show on Sunday night beginning at 10. The bar will open at 8. The show will continue a tradition of Christmas night shows established by the bar and Rohm in the late 1990s.
P-J photo by Scott Shelters
Just minutes away from The Wine Cellar, Jackson Rohm's Shawbucks show has done the same.
In the 1990s, Shawbucks owner Kurt Johnson thought people would enjoy it when he began opening his new bar on Christmas night. He's not exactly sure when he first booked Rohm for a holiday show, but he thinks it was in 1998.
"People have spent a long day with their families. They just want to get out and relax and unwind with their friends," Johnson said of the night. "We've had some really big numbers here. It has been a packed house."
By 10 p.m. on Christmas, Rohm, a traveling recording artist who graduated from Southwestern High School, believes a lot of people feel the need to get out of their houses and see some familiar faces to relieve some holiday stress. He has lived in the Cleveland area in recent years and makes occasional appearances in Jamestown. His next show will be in March at Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, where he will drop a new pop/rock album.
"I really enjoy coming home for the holidays for the same reasons everyone else does: family and friends," he said. "I love to see friends who I only get to see on Christmas or the Fourth of July, when everyone seems to be at home. I always look forward to this show."
Ward, Johnson and Rohm noted they've seen some familiar faces at the shows each year. In fact, Ward's show is called the Wine Cellar Reunion.
"It's not the same people every year, but very early on it seemed to take on that atmosphere. We didn't really mean it to," Ward said. "We're always jammed in there; it's just a very nice place to be."
As time passed, The Wine Cellar's Christmas night crowd expanded. Ward said that although many of the faces have changed, the show has maintained its reunion-like atmosphere, where musicians and fans alike gather together for one night.
The Shawbucks crowd has changed somewhat over time, but Johnson believes those who come for Rohm's show do so for the same reasons they did in the late 1990s. "It's a very social event," he said. "Our atmosphere is very welcoming. It's a clean place, and we've got a nice staff."
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From Page D1
At The Wine Cellar, the faces in the crowd have changed and so have the guest performers. Ward said Amanda Barton, of Big Leg Emma, will join him this year. In the past, members of 10,000 Maniacs and Diamond Rio have taken the stage for a couple of tunes. Several other local musicians, including Charity Nuse, also of Big Leg Emma, and Cindy Haight have joined Ward in past years.
"You never know who will show up," Ward said. "I've had folks from all kinds of bands say they're stopping by."
The Wine Cellar show will begin at 9 p.m., and attendees will not be charged. Shawbucks will open at 8 p.m., and Rohm will take the stage at 10. Both shows are for people ages 21 and over.
Those who attend one or both of the shows might hear a few Christmas tunes, but probably not too many.
"I can't say that I do a lot of Christmas-carol type songs, but occasionally I'll work one in," Rohm said. "This show is typical of many of my other shows. I'll play a handful of my songs and a lot of cover songs that everyone knows. I try to keep the mood upbeat."
Ward wasn't sure what he and the guest musicians would play, but he noted he and Barton might break out a Christmas song or two. He doesn't know how much longer he'll keep up with the Christmas night tradition he helped create, but he does plan to play again on Dec. 25, 2012, on the 35th anniversary of the first show.
"If you had asked me (when I would stop playing on Christmas) 10 years ago, I would've said, 'No, this is my last year,'" Ward said. "It's something folks look forward to all year. Joel (Peterson, Wine Cellar owner) eventually gives me the call. Even though 'no' is in my mind, my mouth always says 'yes.' Who knows when the 'no' is going to come out."
Both Ward and Rohm respect the fact that many Christians don't feel comfortable going to a bar on Christmas. However, strumming a few chords and enjoying time with rarely seen friends on the holiday has yet to bother them.
"I know some people think Christmas is for the family only, and I respect that," Rohm said. "In my group of friends, when 10 o'clock hits, it's time to relax a little bit."
For more information on the shows, find Jamestown Wine Cellar and Shawbucks on Facebook. The Wine Cellar is located at 309 N. Main St. and can be reached at 483-0599. Shawbucks is located at 212 W. Second St. and can be reached at 487-2201.