Steve Martin: I flubbed at Hub Pub Club

“In June 1975 I was booked into the frighteningly named Hub Pub Club in Winston-Salem. Located in a shopping mall, it was trying to be a fancy spot for gentlemen, but liquor laws in North Carolina limited attendance at nightclubs to members only. About the worst things an entertainer can hear are ‘members only’ and ‘group tours.’ While I was on stage doing my act to churchlike silence, a guy said to his date, loud enough that we all heard it, ‘I don’t understand any of this.’

“My [diary] entry for the Hub Pub Club started this way: ‘This town smells like a cigarette…. My material seems so old…My act might as well have been in a foreign language.'”

— From “Born Standing Up” (2007) by Steve Martin

Within weeks Martin’s luck turned. He was booked into more appreciative venues, pulled together his stage persona and in 1976 made his first appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

10 thoughts on “Steve Martin: I flubbed at Hub Pub Club”

  1. I was at this show. I was a recent grad from Wake Forest University and the weel SM was at this club I was taking a night off from being a Youth Counselor at NC Boys State being held on the campus of WFU. I remember SM as being well received by most of us there and I had drinks with him after the show at the bar (I was a “member”) and we talked about his previous shows I had attended at The Great SE Music Hall in Atlanta and his days “opening” for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band eariler in the 70’s. The owner of the HP Club was a former WFU mascot, a “Demon Deacon” who later after closing down his club due to these insance liquor laws committed suicide. SM took the fans from the HP Club into the nearby mall men’s bathroom to perform part of his act which he did often during this time period, he would escort the establishment’s patrons to nearby shops, stores, etc and continue his act, usually terrorizing unsuspecting folks..yes, many did not “get” his humor, even in the town of Winston-Salem that smelt like a WAS the home of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company so during “processing” days/nights, it DID smell like an unsmoked cigarette. I even used one of his act’s quotes in the Boys State Daily Newletter..”I’ve Done Terrible Things To My Dog With A Fork”..I still have a copy of that newsletter…..

  2. Nolan’s story about Steve Martin and the Hub Pub Club brings back similar memories of the night Jimmy Buffett played there. It was about the time the Havana Daydreamin’ LP came out. Buffett did two shows that night and I caught the second one which started around 11 and went until well past midnight. We had started playing Buffett’s White Sport and Pink Crustacean record on the Wake Forest radio station (WFDD) program, Deaconlight and I was an early fan. That would have been around 1973. I want to say the Buffett show at the Hub Pub was in 1976. He was still a relatively small act, but his popularity was growing. I do recall he had a hard time getting to the stage. Someone in the band had to help him out.

    Doc Watson also cut a live record at the Hub Pub. It’s called “Doc and the Boys.”

  3. The Hub Pub Club was in the lower mall of Thruway Shopping Center on south Stratford Road in Winston-Salem. It opened in May, 1975 and closed in December, 1975. In addition to the acts mentioned, it hosted Frank Sinatra, Jr., Professor Irwin Corey, John Hartford, Paul Craft, the Kingston Trio, Jackie Vernon, Papa John Creech, Roland Hannah & New York Jazz Quartete, Peter Nero, Wendy Waldman, Dizzy Gillespie and others.

    The club was owned by Bill Shepherd, an R.J. Reynolds High School graduate who became by far the most famous of Wake Forest Demon Deacon mascots in 1957-58. Due to North Carolina’s bizarre liquor laws, his operation had to be a membership club. He needed at least 5,000 members to sustain operations, but barely reached 1,500. About 35 people saw Steve Martin open for Papa John Creech.

    For a brief look at Bill Shepherds reign as Demon Deacon, go here:

  4. I worked at the Hub Pub as a “Hostess” that summer and fall. Bill had us wear long, formal dresses, and was very protective of us as far as harassment, etc. It was a wonderful concept, but a little ahead of its time. The “listening” room only held 185, so all the performances almost seemed like private concerts. Jimmy Buffett was a hoot, drunk mostly. Steve Martin was a really kind man, but not really funny off-stage, just lonely. All in all, I grew up alot that year, and the acts were awesome!!!

  5. I was the General Manager and co-owner of the original Hub Pub Club, with my brother Danny, and Bill Shepherd. The club was located next to the entrance to Sugar Mountain Ski Resort, in Banner Elk, NC. The club opened in the spring of 1971. Danny was the bar manager and Bill was the director of entertainment. It was a “members only” club, since we were dealing with archaic liquor laws. The club opened with comedian Jackie Vernon and the Kingston Trio. Over the next two years we booked such acts as Michael Nesmith, Oliver, Doc & Merle Watson, Gove Scrivener, Jimmy Buffet and of course the Kingston Trio several times. We had booked the Kingston Trio, along with a rock & roll house band for the week between Christmas and New Years Eve, including the New Years Eve party. We had reservations for about 75 couples for the New Years Eve dinner, Trio shows and dancing. That week was always the best week for ski resorts and related businesses, but a couple of days before Christmas it warmed up, the snow melted, the ski areas closed down, and cancellations piled up. We ended up with about 20 local couples. They had a great time, and the Trio played rock & roll with the house band. On January 2nd Bill and had to get a short term loan from our bank to cover the check that we wrote to the Trio. Such was the business. I left in 1973 to paint full time, Danny went to Snowshoe Ski Resort as the Mountain Manager and Bill moved the club to Winston-Salem where he faced the same ridiculous liquor laws. As a result, the club was failing financially, when Bill locked himself in a closet and killed himself. Joe Seme 2017

  6. I was part of a duo named Jack Ross & Woody Bowles. We played at colleges in a 13 state radius from Nashville. Bill came to one of our shows and he invited us to the club. I had written a song that The Kingston Trio performed in their show titled, “you’re The Hangnail In My Life and I Can’t Bite You Off”. Bill invited us to the club after a show one night. The Trio had been at the club the week prior and Bill Introduced me as the writer of that song that they had sung. Oliver was performing that night. Bill was very kind to us.

  7. I am so happy to find this thread. I worked at both Hub Pub Clubs doing anything and everything including playing the piano. I knew Joe Seme who used to fix my drinks. Thanks, Joe.

    I knew Bill Shepherd quite well and I was also at the club when Steve Martin performed. His humor was great but probably not the best materidal for a Winston Salem audience in 1975. Bill had a company event at an apartment clubhouse and I shared a table with Steve for dinner. He was very quiet and I wondered how he could perform on stage. Turns out most comedians I’ve met are quite off stage.

    I saw Steve again in Nashville at the Exit Inn. At the end of his show he took the entire audience outside and continued to perform walking down the sidewalk.

    I really enjoyed Bill and admired his vision for brining entertainment to both the NC Mountains and WS. Those wer good times until Bill died. So sad.

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