The Palomino Club:”Country Music’s Most Important West Coast Club”

For most, the building located at 6907 Lankershim Boulevard means nothing. Situated in North Hollywood, it’s home to a banquet hall, specializing in Persian and Armenian delicacies. To anyone familiar with the history of country music, it means much more, whether they know it or not. From 1952-1995, 6907 Lankershim was home to, as the LA Times once put it, “country music’s most important west coast club”. Anyone who is familiar with Buck Owens or Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis or Dwight Yoakam, owes much to that piece of real estate, once known as The Palomino Club.

The Bakersfield sound began with a group of musicians in and around Bakersfield, CA. There, they traded drawling fiddles for driving electric guitars, mingling with the familiar sounds of steel guitar. Musicians such as Lefty Frizzel, Buck Owens and Hoyt Axton contributed to the new style, and all of them made regular appearances at The Palomino. It all began in 1952, when Indiana transplants Bill and Tom Thomas and Amos Emery “Pat” Yeigh began renting the rowdy beer bar. The Thomas’ had come to California with the notion of starting a night club. They chose the Palomino because of the low rent. They built it up over the next four years to be the biggest western club in the San Fernando Valley, attracting the biggest stars of both television and radio. Yeigh sold his interest in 1956 and when the building’s owner ran into financial trouble, he sold it cheap to the Thomas brothers.

During the 50s, the only competition the Palomino had to deal with was the Riverside Rancho, a big country music showcase that hosted the biggest stars of the day. When that closed down in 1959, it made all its stars available to The Palomino. Throughout the 60s and 70s, it’s popularity continued to grow. Aside from the ┬áregular performers such as Buck Owens and Patsy Cline, and stars that just came to hang out, the club was just another neighborhood dive. Opening at 6am everyday, happy hour ran from 8-10am, and continued to be open throughout the day during soundchecks for the evening performances. Patrons could sit through soundcheck and chat up the bands, often getting off-the-cuff performances for free. The dressing rooms carried an open-door policy and almost everyone was up for having company and signing autographs.

As the 60s bled into the 70s, country music bled into long-haired rock. Gram Parsons brought his Flying Burrito Brothers to The Palomino, and other rock acts followed. The Cow Punk movement of the 80s found its home at The Palomino; Rosie Flores, The Long Ryders and Dwight Yoakam helped usher in a new sound, with strong ties to the old days. Sadly, after 43 years of business, The Palomino Club closed it’s doors in 1995. The deaths of the Thomas brothers and other financial struggles brought an end to the club’s illustrious career.

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Though Nashville has always been known as the hub of country music, Bakersfield and clubs such as The Palomino gave the smooth countrypolitan capitol an edge of competition. They were vastly different and yet shared similar roots. The Palomino was as important as Tootsie’s and just as rough around the edges. If not for the small neighborhood clubs, country music wouldn’t be what it is today.

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17 Responses to The Palomino Club:”Country Music’s Most Important West Coast Club”

  1. Shari Penny says:

    My late husband, Hank Penny, and Armand Gautier, opened the Palomino in 1949. Hank was on the Spade Cooley Show at the time. He kept the club open 7 nights a week, with black eyed peas and buttermilk served after closing on Monday nights. Every jazz musician in the county would come to the Palomino and jam after hours, and eat black eyed peas! There was no liquor served. I have newspaper clippings if you would like to see them. The Thomas brothers bought out Armand Gautier after Hank sold his interest in the club. By the way, he (Hank) chose the name for the club from a logo in the neck of a new shirt he had just purchased prior to the opening of the club. The sign was made in record time, and installed the day of the opening.

  2. Shari Penny says:

    The sign ou show on the website is NOT the original sign. I was of a beautiful palomino horse, rearing! I don’t know when the sign was changed.

    • Shari,
      Thank you so much for the post! THis is information I couldn’t find in my research, so I’m so happy you found my blog! Yes, I’d love to see the clippings you have, and know more about the Palomino. My knowledge of it is very recent and I look forward to hearing more from you! Thanks again!

    • Shari Penny says:

      Send me your email address, and I’ll scan and send you some interesting articles when I get the chance. Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. Enjoy the website.

  3. m. j. dorn says:

    I have fond memories of The Palomino. When I moved to LA in the mid-70’s, I often went to “Talent Night” (I think it was Tuesdays, but I’m not sure. The house band was fantastic and the performers were all over the map (Imagine the first week of “American Idol” but all country singers).
    David Allan Coe’s song “Longhaired Redneck” described it perfectly:
    I would have been in the latter category.


  4. Eric J says:

    A family friend of mine used to go there 5 days a week. Del Shannon. He discovered “The Smith” there are helped them get a top ten hit with “Baby it’s you’ in 1969. He also discovered “Johnny Carver” there in 1966 and got him signed to “Imperial records.” johnny went on to have many top 20 hits including “Tie the yellow ribbon” at the same time as Tony Orlando. Johnny’s version went to number one. Del Shannon always raved about the Palomino club. I just talked to Carver the other day and he also raved about the club and Shannon. Shannon was a regular from 1965-1990 when he passed (although he quit drinking in 1978).

  5. Dan Jones says:

    I worked at the Palomino in the 80’s and was a regular until it closed in 1995. I have great memories of seeing Dwight Yokum before he made it big, and was working there the day the Red Hot Chili Peppers caused a near riot. I loved that place!

  6. Redd says:

    Had some damn great times at the Palomino in the 70’s. Sorry to hear is closed. A real loss to Americana.

  7. Michael Painter says:

    I “discovered” the Palomino by accident when I stopped in there for a beer after working on ‘Mainframe’ computers in the valley in 1981. In those days we wore White shirts and Three-Piece suits, so got lots of stares from the ‘locals’. Was fortunate to attend -many- ‘mini-concerts’ when whoever was performing did their soundchecks and Talent Night was legendary in that you never knew who was going to show up. There were pictures on the walls of everyone who had played there…what a gallery! One of my fondest memories is sitting on the steps of Loretta Lynn’s Tour Bus in the parking lot at night and talking to her while she gave me her autograph. What a beautiful person.
    Thank you for the wonderful memories.

  8. Deanna says:

    I remember the Palomino Club well. It was so much fun and so rich in talent. I was saddened to learn of its’ demise.

  9. Jason Odd says:

    The pic of the sign from the top of the page is a still from a 1967 film starring Marty Robbins.
    In the film he finishes a car race at the Nashville speedway, then appears at the Pal’ that night.. obviously in the film, the club wasn’t located in Nashville.

    The Flying Burritos logo was added by me for a blog post on the bootleg recording issued from some legit tapes made at the Pal when the Burritos were the Monday band, June of 1969 for the live recordings.

    That pic has been lifted so many times now, but it is essentially a fake, but it did the job.


  10. jayne says:

    I acquired dozens of deadstock t-shirts and tank tops from the Palomino club that were available for sale in the late 70’s, as well as a silk embroidered palomino club jacket and some various tour tshirts of artists who played there in the 70’s and 80’s like jerry lee lewis, bobby bare, etc. What kind of value would these items have to a collector? I got them from someone who worked there and the stories were amazing…

  11. Jason Odd says:

    Jayne, it’s a tough call placing a price on such things, everything that’s a type of music or entertainment memorabilia is worth something, but you need a buyer!
    I’d suggest comparing similar items on sites like ebay.

    If you are on facebook, check out the Palomino Club fan page, it’s worth a look and you can ask much the same question.


  12. Bobby says:

    I would like to know more about Pat Yeigh’s involvement — I updated the Wikipedia entry a couple of years ago after coming across the 1956 Valley News article, but I haven’t found anything since.

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