By Lisa Morgan
It would be impossible to talk about the wonderful evolution and magic of the now world renowned Pappy and Harriet’s, recently voted “Best Live Music Venue” at the Coachella Valley Music Awards, without mentioning its equally beloved “Teddy” Quinn. Monday nights were handed over to him to try and build up what was once a slow night for the venue. Fast forward to his ninth year hosting the open mic, that over the years has been attended by the likes of Robert Plant, Jessie Coulter, Shooter Jennings, among others famous and yet famous, reservations have to be made over a month in advance to secure a table near the stage.
Ted Quinn began his career at the age of 3 on a television commercial. He has contributed stories to KCET’s “Artbound” series, and has been profiled in Ruben Martinez’s “Desert America.” He’s made a dozen albums, several with Fred Drake at the legendary Rancho de la Luna. He also curates the Beatnik Lounge in Joshua Tree, where he also produces Radio Free Joshua Tree.
CV Weekly was honored to interview Quinn regarding his announcement that he was stepping down from the open mic night that he built into a huge success after almost a decade:
CVW: “What prompted you to run the first open mic? How did it all start?”
QUINN: “I had been doing an open mic at the Beatnik Lounge for several years already, and Robyn, who I’d become friends with when she and Linda took over Pappy’s, called to ask me if I’d try doing one there.”
CVW: “What prompted you to retire from something that you have built into such a huge success?”
QUINN: “It seems counterintuitive, but 9 years is a good run. That’s how long Fred lived at the Rancho. It’s a year longer than my longest relationship! My son is ten, and he’s grown up with me there. His first public appearance was there at ‘Sage Fest.’ I’d been wanting to pare down my schedule and spend more time working on a new record and my book.”
CVW: “What were some of your most memorable moments from the past 9 years?”
QUINN: “The other night, First Aid Kit, from Sweden, signed up and ended up backing a little girl from Canada, their biggest fan, on their song, “Emmy Lou.” That was a rock dream come true, as was hosting Ke$ha, who played a few years back. I had no idea who they were until later.”
“One night, the amazing, late folksinger, Judy Van Ruggles, was up there with her banjo, telling stories. She inspired Leslie Feist (pop artist also known as “Feist”) to get up and perform. Feist said she hadn’t heard anyone tell stories like that since she lost her grandmother.”
“I gave Dave Ryan his nickname, DER, after he signed up, using only his initials. A great drummer, Jeff Boaz, returned to playing after a 20 year gap. He was brought by Jamie Browning, a descendent of the poets, who had played the opening riff on “Last Train to Clarksville.” I was intimidated by her at first, but I soon found that cellist, Jennifer Irvine, was an exceptionally gifted improvisational player. I met one of my best friends, and a great musician, Leslie Mariah Andrews here, on Jagger’s birthday six years ago, and we’ve been playing together since.”
“Jeff Boaz (drummer) and I had just finished playing the song, “19th Nervous Breakdown,” when I heard that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ daughters were there. I went to them and apologized. Thea Richards smiled and said, ‘It was fucking magical.'”
“Every week had surprises. If I had a label, I’d sign singer/songwriter, Nigel Roman, immediately. The Castagnes were the most exciting band I’d seen in years; their mom had driven them cross country from Montreal to record with my old mate, Tony Mason. They should be world-famous.”
“Putting up a microphone for Jessie Coulter and her son, Shooter Jennings’ after-wedding dinner on a slow Monday night is one; it felt sacred to me. Another night was when the author and star of “Hair,” James Rado, was there. I’ve been obsessed with that score since I was a kid, so I stood on stage and sang half the soundtrack to him a cappella.”
“A pivotal experience was meeting Andre Gregory, who came for dinner with artist Randy Polumbo. My Dinner with Andre, is my favorite film. He was as kind and wise as I’d imagined. He kissed my hand and said, ‘Live a great life.’ It was right after Bowie died, and both of those things made me realize I had some work to get done.”
CVW: “What will you miss the most?”
QUINN: “Hanging out with Robyn in the sound booth, laughing, sharing stories. I’ll miss Linda, Cody, Dave and Stacy feeding my dog scraps at midnight.”
CVW: “What is going to happen to the open mic after you leave?”
QUINN: “It will keep going – there and in venues all around the desert.”
CV Weekly was also able to talk to Robyn Celia, co-owner of Pappy and Harriet’s about Ted Quinn, a personal treasure to the entire staff, and his departure. She responded with love and optimism: “We will miss Ted terribly. He has stuck by Mondays, and has been our fearless leader through thick and thin. He has put his heart into this night, and we will try our best to keep it going. Ted cannot be replaced, so we are going to have guest hosts every week. My hope is I can talk him into being one of the guests hosts once in awhile!”
It is certain that Ted Quinn will continue to be a force of light and love in the high desert. Like all of those who have regularly been blessed by Quinn’s gifts, CV Weekly would like to wish him all the best in the endeavors of his heart as well as thank him for giving a spotlight to the musical heart quests of so many others.