Local Business

Published on May 3rd, 2013 | by Tom Speed


Proud Larrys’ in Oxford, Mississippi Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Proud Larrys’ in Oxford, Mississippi
Celebrates 20th Anniversary

by Tom Speed – from The Local Voice #178 – Download the PDF here

Oxford, Miss. (TLV) – Proud Larrys’ opened their doors 20 years ago in one of those places that seem cursed. The space at 211 South Lamar had changed hands often. The restaurants, bars, and retail shops that occupied the space there never seemed to find their footing or their clientele. Most recently, it had been a daiquiri shop. But the three would-be bar owners, fresh out of college and drunk on idealism and ambition, didn’t care. They had a simple plan to serve pizza by the slice, pour good beer, and attract good musicians to perform there.

Since then, as a music club, Proud Larry’s has undoubtedly helped to make Oxford a measurably cooler place to live. It has done so by helping to nurture the local music scene while at the same time attracting national touring acts to Oxford to make it the premier tour stop in the state. The proof is on the wall. Even though it hasn’t been updated in years, the glossy black and white promo photos (even now a relic unto themselves in the digital age) present an impressive who’s who of talent.

The original "Larrys": Jeff Bransford, Scott Caradine, and Darby in the early days. Photo courtesy of Anne Scott Barrett.

The original “Larrys”: Jeff Bransford, Scott Caradine, and Darby in the early days. Photo courtesy of Anne Scott Barrett.

Since the beginning, Larrys’ embraced a wide variety of music but also always had a strong tilt towards the jam band scene. Bands that would soon be filling larger theaters and amphitheaters have taken the small stage tucked into a front corner of the room. Bands like String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and Galactic played there early before outgrowing the confines. Local bluesmen found a home there too, though. Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and Kenny Brown shows were frequent from the beginning. The North Mississippi Allstars basically cut their teeth on that stage.

Prior to Larrys’ the music scene in Oxford was that of a typical college town. A few good local bands, some touring acts. Big concerts took place on the Ole Miss campus. But Proud Larrys’ worked to cultivate local musicians and fuel their aspirations. Soon it wasn’t just a few good bands. There was a scene. Musicians reassembling in different configurations to form new bands, expand their boundaries, and find new inspiration.

And soon, ambitious booking brought new artists to town, and one of the great things Larrys’ did early on and a tradition that continues today, is to have a few selected concerts that eschew the raucous bar atmosphere by placing chairs on the dance floor for a hushed, seated concert. This environment has yielded some of the most memorable performances at the venue. Whether it was Mose Allison in one of his many appearances, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Peter Rowan, or Michael Hedges, the venue has provided an outlet for experiences that are both raucous and reverential. For that, it has earned a reputation as a music venue that is legendary in its own right. When Elvis Costello and Modest Mouse were in town recording and wanted to try out their new material for a live audience, they chose Proud Larrys’.

Proud Larrys’ is now often cited in national publications as being one of the best college bars, the best music venues, and so on. The accolades are only limited by the number of magazine writers who have been exposed to the club.

Proud Larrys’ has become an integral part of the cultural fabric of the town—an institution as important to the town’s character as Square Books and The Hoka. On the best nights, Proud Larrys’ feels like a communal living room and the stage there is the fireplace where family and friends gather together to share memories and make new ones. So far, 20 years worth of them. Here’s to 20 more.

Music In The Hall released this cool video of several Oxford musicians jamming out to celebrate Proud Larrys’ twentieth anniversary. The video features the Kudzu Kings’ Tate Moore, Robert Chaffe, and Dave Woolworth jamming with Silas Reed, Tim Burkhead, Bill Perry Jr., Jeff Callaway, and Anna Donnell on Proud Larrys’ stage. Congratulations to Scott Caradine and everyone at Proud Larrys’ on 20 awesome years!

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About the Author

Tom Speed is a freelance writer and co-founder of Honest Tune magazine. In addition to contributing to The Local Voice, he is also a regular contributor to Blurt, Living Blues, Paste and Relix magazines. He once worked as record store clerk, where he subjected a woman to a 30-minute treatise when she asked which Led Zeppelin album she should buy for her son. Tom is a peanut butter enthusiast and amateur ukulelist.

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