The Red Rail, Nanuet NY

The name puts a sparkle in folks' eyes along the Rockland NY/Bergen NJ border. Back in the day The Red Rail was the suburban music venue in the tri-state area - big with bikers - happening with hippies. Today it's a hole in the block. After fire took it down it's never been replaced. CRAZY! My band LEGZ cut our teeth, chopped some wood, and aspired to play there as regulars. We made it - and here are a few memories I dug up. Forgotten fact - shown highlighted on our booking calendar - we opened for Mountain drummer Corky Laing!


What the Red Rail Means to Me - by Ken Frank

In Nanuet NY on Middletown Road stood an old restaurant. The two guys, Joey P. Joey Santos turned it into the greatest northern music honky tonk juke joint that ever was (and that's without exaggeration). The Red Rail gets the crown. Sorry to all those other killer music places around the country that were or still going strong. The Red Rail was the one. Sorry Bottom Line, Turning Point, Double Door Cellar, Veg. Buddies, Antoine's, Bluebird, Stanhope House, Lone Star Cafe, Stone Pony and all the other special music places in the USA. For the nine years The Rail existed, they somehow blew all the other clubs out of the water.

The people that went there were really heavy music lovers, real cool and super friendly too! All the musicians loved playing there, and it reflected in their performance. You could always see the band was having fun.

The place was run loose, but very cooly done. All the great people who worked there made the place run smooth every night. The folks that worked there, every single one of them was a character, let me tell you… and they all helped make it a cool place to go.

Fights? Never, ever saw one. It just wasn't one of those places. Always great vibes, just smiles and good times. And the shows there - WOW. Just hot stuff.

How could it not be when masters like Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Steve Goodman, David Bromberg Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, Peter Rowan and the Rowan Bros., Papa John Creach, Vassar Clemens, Dr. John, Albert Collins, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, John Lee Hooker, The Dillards, Frank Wakefield and the Good Ol' Boys… and hundreds more on any given night could be seen through the years there.

Yes, the Red Rail was the most special place for music I've ever had the honor of going to. I, along with hundreds of other people that went there, will never forget the soul of the club. Going to the Red Rail was like stepping into a bluegrass festival, a Chicago blues bar, and a private party all rolled up into one. It was a swinging time with the greatest music in the world. Everyone pretty much knew each other from all the years of music shows there (always fun, fun, fun, intimate like family). …and to have this down home juke joint (figuratively) down the street was mind boggling.

When I think of the shows I made it to… yes sir, a lot of memories, lots of stories that could fill up books. …like the time when Albert Collins lived up to his nickname "The Iceman" one night in the middle of a big ass snow storm, he slowly crossed the street blocking traffic both ways, with 30 people cheering him on, as he had three shots at the bar across the street, still wailing that Strat guitar, with everybody screaming, including all the people in the cars. Albert came back to the Rail, covered in snow and continued to playing. Totally cool.

I loved going there. I still miss the place. When the Red Rail closed, everyone was bummed out. Lots of people flipping out, oh no!

So I picked up where the Red Rail left off.

For the next twenty five years I hosted music performances: in Sherwood Forest, Upper Saddle River NJ. (77-86), at Busters Blues Bar, Suffern NY (w/Uncle Don Gaess, 87-90), at the Carlough Road "Hotel" USR NJ (86-2005). I proudly presented every show Red Rail Style. That's why it worked for all of those years. So - Thank you J.P. and Joey Santos. What you guys created was legendary, and will live on in our minds, hearts, and souls forever! Thank you for having the Babe Ruth of all music clubs. Hail, Hail J.P. and Joey S.. Hail, Hail, Hail, Rock n' Roll. Hail, Hail, Hail, Hail, - The Red Rail Forever.

- Ken Frank 2013



Yeah- The Red Rail was infamous, notorious and legendary. I went to Woodstock between freshman and sophomore years in high school. I returned to class as a student of the arts rather than sports and heard about The Rail from my sister who was four years older. The national psyche was fried from Vietnam, the Draft, The Assassinations, Woodstock, Sex, Drugs and that too damned loud Rock & Roll. The Rail welcomed bikers, harbored runaways, and served beer to underage drinkers who came a few miles over the state line to NY from NJ. The two brothers who ran the place were known as outlaws and they had a picture hanging of them in sombreros and bandoleers, the image ended up used for a mexican restaurant down the road - El Banditos. The Rail booked national acts and the place was packed. Vassar Clemens, Papa John Creach, Jorma Kaukonen, Aztec Two-Step and we once opened for Jerry Jeff Walker. Oh man, I could go on. Here're a few more pictures in the mean time.


Onstage at The Rail


Onstage at The Rail


Sent by Phil S., bartender in the early 70's (and el bandito on the right) with the late, great, Joe Santos (cartel honcho) on the left, this is the mural/wanted poster that hung behind the bar at the Red Rail.