Winchester Club
Home Up Western Dancing

The Winchester Club

Written by Rick Archer,  1997
Updated January 2007

The Winchester Club is long gone. It closed in 1982. 

But during the time it was open, this classic honky-tonk played a huge part in the early development of SSQQ.   We danced hard, drank a lot, and made lots of friends. There were many romances and many heartbreaks.

Located only a few blocks down Bissonnet from the studio, we developed a tradition to go dancing at the Winchester Club once every 2 months at the end of our final class.  Known as Graduation Night, this event was an instant hit. 

Not only did our current graduates go, but many students who had finished taking classes would also drop by to join the fun.  The event grew so popular that we always had crowds well past 100 people.  In many ways, the Winchester Club was the birthplace of many important SSQQ traditions.

Our first story covers the humorous tale of how the Winchester Club helped give
SSQQ its name!

This is Caron Ireland at Talent Night. She won.

Note: The Winchester Club was famous for the Cotton Eyed Joe.  In the picture above, you get the idea that the floor was packed when this legendary song was played.  In this article you will out the reason why this song was so popular at the Winchester

How SSQQ Got its Name

This is the story of how the Winchester Club gave SSQQ its curious name.

Back in the Fifties w
hen I was very young, one of my favorite TV shows was the Lone Ranger.  My favorite episode was the first episode which explained how the Lone Ranger got his name, about Silver his horse, the Silver Bullet mythology, where Tonto came from, and, best of all, the reason why the Long Ranger wore his mask.

Believe it or not, the story of how SSQQ got its name is almost as interesting as the Lone Ranger story. I promise the goofy story you are about to read is absolutely true.

Back in 1981 the Urban Cowboy Western era was going strong.  Back in those days I shared the studio with the Glen Hunsucker Jazz Dance company.  His dance studio was called Dance Arts UnlimitedHowever I was independent of Glen's program. I sub-leased extra space at Dance Arts to teach my country-western classes.

My student count was
only one-sixth the size of our modern attendance.  Back in 1981 my 'studio' consisted of two small rooms (today's Room 2 and Room 3). Each night I would teach one class and either Victoria or Judy Price would teach the other.

I had moved to this location from Stevens of Hollywood in October 1980.  Since Dance Arts was the landlord, after-class dancing at the studio was not possible. The only room large enough was always used after 9 pm by the jazz dancers for rehearsal. In other words, if we wanted to practice our dancing after class, we had to go somewhere else. Fortunately we had an excellent option since there was an enormous Western club just down the street named The Winchester Club.

Due to the Urban Cowboy energy, in 1981 our two little rooms were packed with Western students. We taught practically nothing but Country-Western dancing every night of the week.  We got many people who had never danced western in their life.  By the end of their 8-week beginner class, they were itching to go dancing in the real world.  I figured the simplest place to take them was right down the street.  

You see, the Winchester Club
and Dance Arts were both located on Bissonnet about a mile apart.  Directions were pretty simple. "From the studio parking lot, turn left, go two blocks past Chimney Rock".  No one ever got lost, at least no one I know of.

The Winchester was enormous.  Their 6,000 square foot dance floor was about three times as large as our largest dance floor at SSQQ. 

The club featured a well-known local Country-Western singer named Isaac Payton Sweat.  He was accompanied by his back-up band known as the Cadillac Cowboys. 

Nicknamed Ikey, his major claim to fame was that he had recorded the most popular version of the Cotton Eyed Joe in Texas.  When he played this song at the Winchester, the whole place got out on the floor.  It was quite a sight to see 200 to 300 people Hook-Kicking their merry way around the floor!

Good band, big floor, and convenient - it quickly became a popular tradition for the entire studio to hit the Winchester on the final Wednesday night of each dance semester, especially since we only went once every 2 months. That made it special. 

Since we didn't go there every week, our visits became an "Event" as opposed to something you take for granted.  At first we called it Graduation Night.  In some ways that is exactly what it was. A lot of our Western students were going C&W dancing for the first time in their lives, so there was a lot of good-natured anticipation.

However, once our Wednesday trips became so popular, many former students, i.e. people who had already graduated, began to
join the new students for each event because they always had so much fun dancing.  Soon the veterans out-numbered the newcomers, so Graduation Night didn't fit any more.

A new name was adopted known as
Winchester Night.  

Not surprisingly, many friendships were formed and people began to look forward to seeing their friends again.  Crowds of oVver 100 students past and present soon became the rule.  And since it was "Beer Bust" night as well, many of our group quickly got wild and crazy (see picture at right for evidence). 

The Winchester Night Era lasted about a year, but it became a legend nonetheless.

Bob Job and Leanne

The Western Swing grows in popularity
at the Winchester Club

My friend Chuck Clayton displays the
potent effects of Beer Bust Night

         (Note: If you are a child, please Click Here to bypass this next section)

Crazy Jane Rocks the House

We had Winchester Night scheduled for a Wednesday late in February 1981.  But first I had to go to the studio to teach our final class of the 8 week series.  Back in those days, a dance semester consisted of 8 one-hour classes. 

I remember it was raining when I got to the studio that night.  I had just walked in to the room and I was looking for a place to put my umbrella when two people caught my eye.  There was something in the expressions on their faces that made me look twice. Jane's face was flush with excitement.  Her husband Jeff on the other hand looked like he was choking to death. He was pale white and looked very nervous. 

I was immediately on guard. Jane was the life of the party in our class.  A born extrovert, she demanded attention at every turn and always got it.  There were three other things I knew about Jane.  First, she was an elementary school teacher over in Alief.  Second, she had a very unusual sense of humor.  Whenever I danced with her in class, she kept up a running commentary on how well I was dancing.  Since her comments were usually positive, I smiled, but she always made me nervous.  Something else that made me nervous was her large chest.  She was so busty I had trouble getting my hand on her back without going chest to chest, a big no-no in my line of business.  But, given no choice, I did it anyway and tried to pretend not to notice.  I mention this because, well, uh, you'll see why in a moment.

Jane was obviously pleased that I had noticed her.  She yelled at me from across the room.  "Hey Rick, it's time for Show and Tell!"  If I hadn't been wary before, I was definitely on guard now.  But Jane was not to be denied.  The entire class was watching, so I told Jane to go ahead and make her presentation.

It was a chilly February night.  Not surprisingly, Jane had on a large overcoat.  Now that she had everyone's attention, she pulled off her coat. We all gasped.  No, Jane was not naked, but she still managed to shock us nevertheless!

Jane was standing there wearing a T-shirt with "SLOW SLOW" and "QUICK QUICK" written in huge block letters across her chest.   SLOW SLOW was on top  and QUICK QUICK was situated immediately below.

Jane's tee-shirt
was causing quite a commotion indeed.  As I said, this lady was quite busty. Seeing those letters stretched across her chest was definitely eye-catching, especially if you were a guy!  I know this to be true because I was not only a guy, but a young guy, and I can tell you I was totally absorbed!

Normally a gentleman tries to be discrete about taking a peek at a woman's chest, but in this case, Jane had more or less given the men complete permission to look just as much as they wanted. And yes, I admit it, my eyes were riveted.  Nor was I alone!  Everyone (women too) was staring at her message with their mouths open.

I can tell you from memory the picture on the right doesn't begin to do justice to the VISION we beheld. Those letters were BIG! And the breasts behind those letters were BIG!  I don't know if it was deliberate, but her T-shirt was also too small.

As a result, the block letters were more than slightly stretched.  Due to her ample bosom, the SLOWs were pushed out so far they looked like they were preparing to attack!

As long as I live, I will never forget this night's strange encounter with Jane's three-dimensional 'slow slow quick quick'.   

It took a while, but I eventually decided I had to get a grip and see what was going on. I took a deep breath and composed myself enough to ask her to tell the class what the story was.  I could tell by her grin Jane had something important to say. Believe me, she had our attention.

in front of the whole class, Jane said

"I know you are all wondering what this is about.  My husband Jeff has been having a lot of trouble with the rhythm of Twostep. AND since he never can take his eyes off my chest, I thought a little trick I learned teaching Kindergarten known as 'visual aid' might help him keep the rhythm better when we go to the Winchester tonight after class!" 

That took the cake.  Finally we understood what was going on.  Crazy Jane was playing a wicked practical joke on her husband... who didn't look very happy about it. Immediately the laughter intensified. My entire class was rolling in the aisles!!  This was a pretty funny moment for all of us.  The women were laughing right along with the men. 

I was laughing too.  In fact, I was grinning from ear to ear except that I was starting to feel pain. My side hurt from laughing too much and my eyes were starting to ache from staring at the 'Slows' so hard.

This lady had just finished playing the most bizarre practical joke I had ever witnessed. That's when I noticed her husband was miserable. The poor man stared at the floor and shuffled his feet nervously as he stood next to Busty Mama. Jeff had become practically invisible in the shadow of his wife's over-the-top personality.

I could see Jeff didn't think the joke was nearly as funny as the rest of us did.  You had to feel a little sorry for him. Jeff's face was crimson with embarrassment. He had obviously known it was coming.  Why did he allow this joke to happen?  And what sort of woman uses her breasts as props in a strange practical joke?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I would be better off not knowing.

Eventually we calmed down and I was able to start class.  I must say this lady and her notorious T-Shirt made it difficult to concentrate during class.  The atmosphere was electric. Due to careful maneuvering on my part, I was danced with her once that night. I swear I tried not to look, but those damn letters were hypnotic. As usual, Jane had something to say. "Oh, go ahead and look, Rick.  Everyone else does!" 

After the class was over, we headed over to the Winchester. Our Alief school teacher was quite the busy celebrity that night.  As her story made the rounds, every man in the club who had problems with his Twostep rhythm made it a point to ask Jane to dance.  Wherever she went, all eyes followed.  Jane was the main event.

Crazy Jane had a cheering section. There was a group of guys (not part of our group) who sat at a table next to the dance floor. As they got drunk, for entertainment they watched her breasts bounce up and down every time she passed by.  They would cheer and clap for her.  Was Jane embarrassed?  Are you kidding?  Heck no. Jane would smile, wave back, and blow them kisses.  The more she teased them, the crazier they got.  They did the Wave... each guy stood up as she passed by.

As you might guess,
Mrs. Visual Aid was on the floor most of the night doing her breast effort, uh, make that 'best effort' to help her partners improve their rhythm. As the story goes, each of Jane's partners saw their timing improve, but found it hard to get rid of the mysterious head-bobbing motion caused by watching Jane's 'message' while they danced. By the way, I never saw Jane again after that night.


More Cotton-Eyed Joe

Carl Hruska, Margie Saibara, and Jim Barrett


The story of this event made the rounds at lightning speed through the studio grapevine. Jane's stunt became famous.

it became common to say, "Hey, you want to go slow-slow-quick-quick tonight?" whenever someone was rounding up a group for a night of dancing or calling someone to invite them along.  

Let me add that the 'non-dance' meaning of "slow slow quick quick" was picked up by everyone.  The tacit acknowledgment of the double meaning of slowslowquickquick never ceased to be amusing.

"Are you asking me to dance or go do something else?"

We were proud of ourselves for cleverly adopting this naughty slogan as both a call to dance and a call to mate. 
It was like a secret language where only a select group knows the meaning.

Back in this era before email lists, answering machines were the technology of the day. Jann Fonteno was our mover and shaker. She enjoyed organizing groups to go dancing several nights a week.

A veritable social butterfly, Jann trained everyone to call her phone day and night to find out where the group was headed each evening.

This was a pretty clever ploy since it meant that men as well as women would be calling her phone all the time!   Jann quickly became very popular; she was our first studio "It" girl.

When Jann was in a good mood she would answer the phone herself and have fun chitchatting.  Otherwise she
would simply leave a message on her answering machine to let her friends know when and where to meet her for dancing each night.

After the Alief school teacher incident, Jann added the new catchphrase to her phone message. Jann's message went like this,

"Hello, this Jann Fonteno. You have reached the notorious Slow Slow Quick Quick Hotline.  Let me tell you where you can go dancing tonight for a real good time!"

Jann's "Slow Slow Quick Quick Hotline" made her quite the celebrity in dancing circles.  Her popularity was immense.

About two months after the Winchester T-shirt incident, Jim Garrison shortened the longer phrase down to "SSQQ".  He laughed and said the original phrase took too long to say.  This initialization made the phrase even more 'secretive'. It quickly replaced the longer slogan as the slang of the day.

Now the phrase for to ask someone to go dancing became, "You wanna go SSQQ tonight?"  And of course Jann renamed her phone to "The SSQQ Hotline".


Up to this point my little dance program had no name. 

When I first started teaching in the back rooms at Dance Arts in October 1980, I was the only teacher.  So people would say 'I take classes from Rick Archer'.  

However as I started to add other instructors and our trips to dance clubs began to attract serious crowds, the growth made it obvious the dance program needed an identity.

In April 1981, I mailed out our new schedule of dance classes with SSQQ Dance Club in the heading.

My studio had a name. What other choice could there be?

In this picture, you can see me taping a poster at the
Winchester Club.  If you look closely, you will see
"Sponsored by Rick Archer and the SSQQ Dance Club".
This was the first Graduation Night under our new name.

Jim Garrison, Debbie Oswald,
Jann Fonteno, Bill Stumph.
Jim and Bill were the Waltz Kings

Bill Sampson and Judy Price.
Later on they both taught for me.


Bill Blummer and Gayle?

The Era of the Winchester Club

Crazy Jane's big moment in the sun occurred on our second group visit to the Winchester Club.  I had been teaching at Stevens of Hollywood (corner of Westheimer and Shepherd) for the previous two years.

Due to an odd arrangement with Mr.
Lance Stevens, the owner, I had permission to both teach classes for him and teach classes for myself.  In other words, although I worked for him, I also worked for myself.  This agreement eventually created two studios under one roof. You will have to read the story to understand how this odd arrangement came about. 

If this sounds like a conflict of interest, I suppose you would be right.  There is an old saying, 'Never look a gift horse in the mouth'.  I took advantage of this opportunity and began to create my own dance program.

Thanks to a lot of hustle on my part and some good breaks, my program grew and grew. However, Mr. Stevens was angry with me. My program was larger than his.  As far as he was concerned, this situation was intolerable.  In September 1980, Mr. Stevens decided it was time for me to go. 

Thanks to
Glen Hunsucker, owner of Dance Arts, I landed on my feet.  Glen was my dance teacher. By coincidence, he had recently moved to his new Bissonnet location and had twice as much space as he needed.  He was pleased to fill the space and I was thrilled to be on my own.  This was an excellent move for both of us.

I was definitely on my own now, so I moved quickly to create adventures to grow my business.  Moving over to Dance Arts on October 20,1980, we had just enough time to throw a Halloween Party at his place that year. There's my Halloween picture from our 1980 Party.  I decided to come as a Cowboy.  Pretty original, huh?

We did have a problem though - it was impossible to dance at the studio after classes because the only room large enough for dancing was used for jazz rehearsals.  We needed a place to go dancing.  Late in December 1980, someone suggested we celebrate the final night of Wednesday Western classes by going down the street to the Winchester Club.  Sounded like a good plan.

However we were an amorphous group.  We had a leader, but no name. People referred to our group by using my name, but I wasn't very comfortable with that.  Therefore Crazy Jane's SLOWSLOWQUICKQUICK inspiration came at just the right time.  Our SSQQ identity kicked in just four months after my Exodus from Stevens of Hollywood. 

Did I say I was on my own?   Well, not completely.  I had a business partner named Victoria.  This beautiful woman had been instrumental in helping me with the early growth of my dance program during late 1978 and throughout 1979 and 1980.  I will always owe her a huge debt of gratitude for helping my business surge during the Saturday Night Fever Disco Era.  Our business relationship was excellent, but our personal life was tempestuous.  (See
Risky Business). 

The Winchester Era coincided with a period where Victoria was growing less and less involved in the studio affairs.  Even though I was technically her boyfriend, the truth was that Victoria was growing more and more interested in repairing and restoring her relationship with her former husband.  However she kept me under lock and key as her backup option just in case things didn't out with her husband.   Selfish?  Yes. 

So why didn't I tell her to take a leap?  Because Victoria threatened to ruin the studio which she had helped me build.  In the face of this blackmail, I decided it was easier to knuckle under and wait her out.  Since she was clearly losing interest in the dance world, the conservative approach on my part was to let things run their course.  It took two years to wait her out, but in the end it worked.  In 1982, Victoria returned to her husband and relinquished any claims to my business.  Now I was completely on my own.

One upshot of this personal limbo period was that I decided it was prudent to behave myself and not secretly pursue any other relationships while Victoria was making up her mind.  I had made this mistake once before with Madame X and it almost ruined my life.

Since Victoria and I spent little time together at this point, I had all the energy in the world to concentrate solely on my business.  I pursued Western dancing with a purple passion.  With plenty of time on my hands, I set out to learn the secrets of a new dance that combined Twostep and Double Turns.  Soon I had learned the rudimentary moves to a synthesis of Disco Dancing and Western Dancing that I called "The Western Swing."  

I did not invent Western Swing.  I was more of a 'pioneer'. I simply paid attention as the dance took form in the clubs in late 1980.  My contribution was deciphering the footwork and the leads to become one of the first teachers of this new dance.  With the help of my friends Bob Job and Bill Sampson, I am proud to say I got it 'right' from the start.  The Western Swing system used at SSQQ in 2007 has changed very little from the initials patterns I created in 1981.  (
History of Western Swing)

Permit my lack of modesty, but I firmly believe that SSQQ was instrumental in popularizing this new dance.  I doubt seriously anyone was teaching the dance to large groups of students before I did.  Marilyn's Dance Studio, Exclusive Dance Club, Hoy Austin's Dance Studio all came into being in 1981/1982 as the Western dance energy exploded, but SSQQ preceded every one of those programs.

SSQQ students loved learning the Western Swing and they loved dancing it on the huge floors of the Winchester Club throughout 1981.   Disco on the Run.

Further Memories of the Winchester Club - 1981

As I wrote earlier, The Winchester Club was an enormous C&W dive that was located on Bissonnet just two blocks west of Chimney Rock a mile down the road from SSQQ.  It closed sometime around 1982.

Although the Winchester Club was only an SSQQ hangout for about a year, that was enough time for all sorts of funny things to happen at the Winchester. 

Although I was pretty mad at the management at the end of our relationship, at this point I only remember the good times.  I can honestly say I miss the place. The Winchester was Houston's answer to Gilley's in Pasadena. It had an enormous dance floor about 6,000 square feet. To put that into perspective this floor was about three  times the size of our own studio's big room.  There was so much seating our group of more than 100 people took up only a quarter of the seats.

The house band was known as the Sweat Band. The band was headed by lead singer Isaac Peyton Sweat.  Back in the days of the Winchester, Isaac Peyton Sweat was famous as the singer of the most popular version of the Cotton Eyed Joe.   Consequently, when the band started to play their best-known song, the whole building got out on the floor to participate.

During his heydey, I P (Ikey) Sweat was one of the best known country singers in Houston.   Ikey Sweat was the Prince of the Winchester, singing, emceeing, keeping the pulse of the evening's activities. 

SSQQ went to the Winchester about once every two months.  We always went on a Wednesday Night.  Wednesdays were special because it was 1) Beer Bust Night, 2) Talent Show Night, and 3) Ladies Night. 

Beer Bust Night was all the beer you could drink for $5. The waitresses would set enormous pitchers of the stuff on the tables. Sadly, it wasn't at all unusual for some of us (yours truly included) to get pretty smashed. I really got schnockered on more than one occasion.  I was young, so what?  I still had brain cells to burn.

Ladies Night meant unescorted ladies got in free. Quickly we learned that if our girl friends came in with us, we had to pay another $5.  But if the ladies went in alone, we saved 5 bucks. As a result all of us guys, Prince Charmings to the core, would make the ladies go in ahead of us.  We would hang back in the parking lot telling jokes. No kidding!  If we couldn't trust our women not to get picked up for 5 crummy minutes, then this was something we needed to know anyway.  Naturally the ladies complained, but I don't remember any willingness to pay the $5 themselves.   The women who were really irritated were the married ladies.  Pretty soon, their husbands started to pull the same trick on them.  Why not?  $5 is a lot of money!

Our sneaky ways led to some pretty funny moments. Our studio only went to the Winchester once every two months, but there might be 100 or more of us. Since we sent the women in first, suddenly you have like 40 or 50 women casually strolling in by themselves. And to think we were surprised that the doorman always thought something fishy was going on. I suppose we could have disguised our ploy a little better. 

Well, the Winchester regulars certainly didn't know what was going on. They swarmed to our ladies like skeeters to some fresh campers.  When the SSQQ men finally got around to going in, there would be these actual Lounge Lizards trying to make time with these entire tables of beautiful, unescorted women!  And our girls would all be going "ick" trying to fend them off till their escorts finally got around to rescuing them.

The management eventually caught on. Many ridiculous arguments ensued. The people at the door would ask the ladies if they had a boyfriend waiting for them in the parking lot, but that made the girls mad so they enjoyed fibbing. An "Us versus Them" mentality developed.  Bouncers would walk through the parking lot scouting for men to accuse of sending in their girl friends in for free.  We reacted by getting a little cagier.  For example, we learned to stagger our entrance times to help fool the bouncer patrol.  What a farce!  

This nonsense went on for a long, long time. Maybe if we hadn't been so blatant in our manipulation of the rules, the tension wouldn't have built up.  Finally the management figured out we always came on Wednesdays.  Aha! They changed Ladies Night to took them a year to think of that solution! 

Their solution didn't do them any good. The next time we visited (October 1981), they refused to let in four of our students who were of Asian background.  I was hopping mad.  Here is the letter I wrote in protest

Thursday, October 29, 1981

Mr. Jim Moffett
The Winchester Club
5700 Bissonnet
Houston, Texas 77081

Dear Mr. Moffett,

I am writing in regards to two consecutive incidents involving the ladies who run your admission at the entrance to your club.  After discussing the incidents with a mutual friend of ours, Bob Arnold, he suggested I contact you because he was certain you would want to know how your customers were being treated in your absence.

Last night, Wednesday, October 28, I arrived at your club at 9:20 pm. I walked through your parking lot with three ladies – Victoria W, Diane U, and Alicia B. Ms W works for me, the other two ladies are friends and students of mine – I am a dance teacher. All three of these ladies were charged a $2.00 admission fee. I was quite upset because the stated admission policy is that unescorted ladies enter free. This is the advertised policy of your club on Wednesday nights and when I arranged this party; this policy was quoted to me by a lady working for you when I phoned. I personally have no control over how my students choose to approach this policy.  When the three ladies at the front door told me that several men had allowed their female friends to walk in unescorted, I did not doubt for an instant that this was correct. It is common knowledge among people who are long-time Winchester patrons that the ladies do not have to pay if they walk in alone.

Mr. Moffett, I do not condone this behavior, but I do understand it – why should any reasonable guy want to pay an extra $4 when they see 15 other girls not paying a cent?

From one businessman to another, you have a policy that is going to create headaches for you. You have established a system that encourages people to cheat. Then your front door people compound the problem by staring to charge all the ladies $2 on the same night that 50 other ladies have already gotten in fro free. Naturally some of your customers are not going to feel that have been treated fairly. Mr. Moffett, you know what the competition is like.  You and I together could name 25 other C&W clubs right off the top of our heads. I’m in the same boat – there are 25 other dance studios out there. If I alienate one student, I doubt I will ever see them again plus they may turn off some other of my students as well with their sour grapes. I feel the same principle will hold true four your business.

The situation that angered me last night was the attempt to start charging some women $2 after 50 or so women had entered or free. First of all, there wasn’t as much ‘cheating’ as they might think. My studio is for the most part attended by single people. They all know each other and of course some date. The fact is that the majority of the people attending our Winchester parties do not come paired off. The fact that a lot of guys held back in the parking is simply that they all came from my studio the moment class ended in their separate cars and showed up simultaneously. These guys may know the girls in dance class, but why should they shell out $5 just because they came at the same time?  Take my own incident for example. I date Ms. W. She shows up in her own car at about the time I arrive so I call to her and we walk up together. We are joined by two other ladies arriving. It is not coincidence – I knew about 80 women in attendance last night. The odds were good I would meet a few of them on my way there. Why should I pay $5 for each of them? It was strictly chance that I met Ms Be in the parking lot.  Why should I play a stupid game and ignore her?  We weren’t on a ‘date’ – I was host at a party of 120 people. If ms W had arrived two minutes earlier or later, no one would have said a word.

Two months ago, the last time I organized a Winchester party, there was another incident that upset me. I did not contact you at the time, figuring it was a random incident.

The couple concerned is Lorallyn Pang, her boyfriend Doc Ng, plus her cousin whose name I do not know. The date was Wednesday, September 2. All there were stopped at the door and an ID was demanded. Two of them presented a Driver’s License, but the cousin had not brought her pocket book. Based on the cousin’s lack of ID, all three were denied entrance, in a rather rude fashion from what I gather.

Two facts – all three are well into their twenties. We aren’t discussing a marginal, fuzzy-cheeked teenager here. You have my word on that.  Second, all three have an Oriental heritage. One of your front door people brought this up when cussing them out and demanding that they leave. These three were also threatened by the police who hinted at hauling them off to jail if they didn’t get out of there.  I was not a witness to this ugly incident so I won’t swear to the details. You can, however, reach Ms Pang by phone at her office (xxx-xxxx).  Why do these nice people have to be treated so roughly?  A simple solution would be to have one of the people at the door come to get me and I would have vouched for them. Instead, they were sent away humiliated while their were at a party inside your business

Mr. Moffett, I really feel our parties and the people that attend them should be treated with more respect. We started coming to your club once every two months last November 1980. We have shown up regularly every two months since – December 1980, February 1981, April 1981, June 1981, September 1981, and now October 28, 1981. We have another large party scheduled for December 16 and a smaller one on November 25. Our parties average well over 100 people. Last night for example, we had 120 and comprised over two-thirds of your crowd despite competing the World Series.  In addition, I give your club free advertising. I send out over 3,000 schedules to my dance students every two months. That adds up to 18,000 pieces of free advertising that your club gets each year. In addition, your club’s name is prominently displayed at the top of this schedule in question. In addition, I promote these parties at my studio for three weeks ahead of time. 500 dance students hear ‘Winchester Club’ three to four times a month. I do this free of any expectations. People who love to C&W dance are perfect customers. I have never asked for any financial kickbacks or special deals. I get to pay $5 just like everyone else.

After sending the Winchester Club this kind of business, I certainly don’t feel I am asking too much to have our parties treated as if they are special. Your door people might have collected an extra $50 by changing the rules last night, but what if our students get angry and don’t want to come her any more?

That’s when you have short-term foolishness jeopardizing long-term success.  Your front door ladies need to have a little more common sense. One lady, Janet I believe, even had the nerve to suggest if I didn’t like the way thing were going, I could head over to “Texas”. I assumed this was an indirect way of hinting I wasn’t particularly welcome here at the Winchester Club.

Mr. Moffett, I will put my address and my phone number at the bottom of this letter. I would appreciate your response to my letter so I can know where we stand in regards to the future. We enjoy your club – it is close to our dance studio, the floor is large, Isaac Peyton and his band are popular, and there is plenty of room to sit. I just want to feel that we are welcome.

I never got a reply.  The Winchester's management was self-destructive.  They couldn't even be bothered.  Truth is, they probably didn't like us.  The Winchester had been Country before Country was Cool.  The Winchester Club probably didn't even want us preppy kids hanging around.  

Thanks to Urban Cowboy, there were now a half-dozen Western clubs in the Galleria area competing with the Winchester.  All these places were catering to the new yuppie Western dancers while the Winchester stayed true to its blue collar roots.  After my Asian friends were bounced and the management offered no apology, I was so angry I started to look around.  We switched our allegiance to another Western Club.  Sayonara, Winchester!  

Something obviously wasn't right with the place anyway - The Winchester closed for good later the next year.

The Talent Show was another source of infinite humor for us.  The Winchester paid $100 to the winner of their Talent Contest. The winner was decided by crowd applause.

One guy named Yogi won several times. Yogi got his name because he would cross his legs Yoga-style, stand on his head, and play the fiddle all at the same time.  My friend Tom Easley (
Story #11), a pretty good Banjo player himself, entered the contest a couple times and finished second to Yogi each time. One night Tom complained to me, "I'm sick and tired of losing to a Freak Show".

I got his drift so the next time Tom Easley entered I lobbied everyone in the group to applaud wildly for Tom.  Our group of SSQQ Phanatics represented only 25% of the vote, but standing united we carried the night.  Yogi went down.  That was the breakthrough we needed.  Mind you, we only went there once every 2 months, but after Tom's victory someone from our group won the contest three straight times due to the SSQQ Get-Out-the-Vote Coalition.  Caron Ireland won a couple times and she deserved it - Caron was a good singer!

Our string of victories almost lead to fiasco. 
On the next visit, Tom came up to me and asked who was the designated winner for that night.  I said I didn't know if anyone was slated to enter. Tom laughed and said, "Hell, Rick, you could get up there and yell Slow Slow Quick Quick for a entire song and probably win."

A guy named Chuck Clayton overheard this and thought this was a great idea. He begged me enter the Talent Show. I said no, that wasn't a very good idea. Chuck enlisted the help of everyone nearby. Now I was being pestered by 30 people to enter. They all promised to cheer wildly for me and guaranteed my victory. Beer Bust Night was clearly having its usual effect on everyone.

Let me tell you like it was. I was drunk and starting to bend. Peer pressure can be very powerful!  I was already listing 90 degrees to starboard from "Beer Bust Night". I was in no position to think this through carefully. Finally despite my misgivings I gave in. I walked up to the stage to register. But when Isaac Peyton Sweat looked me in the eye and asked what my "Talent" was, I sobered up just enough to have the sense to chicken out.  

Actually I am grateful that Sweat gave me a hard time.  Without his grouchy skepticism, I would have made a fool of myself. 
To this day I have little doubt I probably would have won unless someone intervened and rigged the result. Personally I am grateful I turned back at the last moment.  It wasn't necessary to mock the Talent Show however funny it would have been to our group.  Think about it - if someone with real talent had lost it wouldn't have been funny at all.

Indeed this exact thing happened to me about 7 years later (
Story #10).  This was a night when I entered a dance contest only to be humiliated to lose to some bubbas dancing the twist.  That 1988 defeat stung so badly that I am glad I never committed a similar crime at the Winchester.   I am grateful I sobered up enough not to enter.  Still, I coulda used the $100!

Beer Bust Night led to many embarrassing moments for me at the Winchester. Although I'm not proud to admit it, in 1979 I started teaching Western dancing before I had actually ever been to a Western club  (History of Western Swing). One night a couple of my students asked me to show them how to Western Waltz. I taught them the Box Step which was the only Waltz step I knew.  When I saw them the next week, they said people had run them down while they Waltzed. I didn't think much of it until a month later when I went to the Winchester for the first time. When a Waltz came on, I did my Box Step...surprise, surprise, my partner and I were nearly trampled to death by a herd of Waltzing buffaloes. That night I learned the difference between a Ballroom Waltz and a Western Waltz.  Western Waltz travels and mows down any obstacle in the way.  It dawned on me maybe things would have been better if I had actually gone dancing before I decided to start teaching.



The Waltz Trampling wasn't my only mishap that night.  I never had a teacher for Country-Western dancing for a simple reason - there weren't any Western teachers in those days!  I was forced to learn how to Western dance the old-fashioned way - lots and lots of trial and error.  

Not long after the Waltz mishap, I had the miserable experience of actually falling over backwards during a Polka. Yes, it's true. When they talk about learning things the hard way, my sore butt would agree.

Women always ask why they have to go backwards most of the time. My answer is usually that the men would go backwards if they could, but they don't because they can't. I use my own experience as testimony. Like any other beginner, the only Polka I knew how to do was the Skipping Polka. This style is characterized with a big first step followed by two short ones. The Skipping Polka works great for whoever is going forward, but the person (i.e. the girl) who gets the honor of going backwards hates it.  It is hard work for a woman to keep up with a long-legged man doing the Skip Step Polka.  Furthermore the Skipping Polka is useless for turns so it is a pretty limited dance style.  But how was I supposed to know this ? 

So back to the story . This night is only my second night to Western dance in the real world.  I am in a monkey see, monkey do phase.  After watching a few guys going backwards, I decide to give it a try.  Unfortunately like most beginners I was standing up straight.  Little did I know that standing up straight while going backwards pushes the man's momentum back over his heels.  No one had whispered a word to me about giving in to my knees a little.  I will never know whether it was the slippery floor, a little too much beer to quell the nerves, or my partner losing her balance, but after 10 steps backwards I lost control and keeled over! 

Timberrrr!  I was a falling redwood to be sure.  I landed right on my butt.  Gosh, that hurt!  And yet as the physical pain passed, the psychic pain lingered.  I left the Winchester soon after, slinking away from my group unannounced to go home and lick my wounds.  Thank goodness my disaster had not been witnessed by the group or they would have realized I barely knew more about Western dancing than they did.

The night I fell backwards wasn't my only embarrassing Winchester moment.  When I was a little boy, I subscribed to a Boy Scout magazine.  One of my all-time favorite jokes was, "What were Tarzan's last words?"  The answer was "Who Greased the Grapevine?"  

Here we are at the Winchester one night. I had just moved our studio to the Bissonnet location, so the time was probably around December, 1980. SSQQ was visiting the Winchester as a group for the first time, but our studio didn't have its name yet.  Brand new to the Winchester Beer Bust experience, I definitely had partaken a wee bit too much of the free brew.  While the Band took its break, unbeknownst to me someone had sprinkled the floor with a liberal overdose of dance wax.

Now the Band returned. The moment Isaac Peyton rosined up his bow to the familiar first chords of "Orange Blossom Special", I leapt from my chair determined to show my students an incredible demonstration of fine Polka dancing.  During the Break, a beautiful young lady had asked me to dance the first song with her.  After looking for her frantically among the crowd at our table, I spotted her standing out on the dance floor. She was looking for me too and went out on the floor to make it easier for me to finding her.  There she was waving to me to hurry up so we could dance. Her smile was like the call of the Sirens to brave Ulysses! 

Upon seeing her, I ran out on the floor as fast as I could to meet her.  Bad move!   My feet went flying out from under me!  I hit the floor with so much force that I actually skidded on my butt another ten feet.  Making things worse, I was the only person besides the lady on the floor...every student was watching me, every person in the joint was watching me, and even Isaac Peyton Sweat saw me... to complete my shame he inadvertently laughed at me over the loudspeaker.  How embarrassing.  I was crimson red at the time, but it never dawned on me this moment would be immortalized.

Most of our crowd of 100 rowdies saw at least part of my inadvertent slide across the floor.  Those who didn't see it got a heavily embellished rendition of the event.  Soon my mishap became the talk of the night.  I could not move sideways without being teased.  These people delighted in rubbing it in.  Now I knew how Crazy Jane's husband felt when the bosom joke was him.  Not fun.  Plus my butt hurt.

Not long after the my sliding incident, John Cowen showed up at the studio wearing a special T-shirt.  It had the picture of an Archer shooting a bow on it. The words underneath said, "Who Waxed the Winchester?"

It turned out John had asked a lady friend named Kathy to draw the picture. She was a professional graphics artist. And get this, John and his co-conspirator Kathy sold about 50 copies of the shirt, making a hefty profit off of my misery.

Thanks a lot.  And these were my friends?


Sadly soon after there was yet another equally embarrassing moment.

To understand the context of the situation, the Winchester Club was a serious dive.  Any cursory look at the adjoining pictures should verify this fact in the reader's mind.  The Winchester had been there serving its blue collar customers long before Urban Cowboy ever came along.  

The Winchester was definitely
not an upscale Yuppie Western bar in the Galleria with Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans like the western clubs such as Cowboy and Texas. 

With the exception of the SSQQ group, the crowd was full of rough and tough-looking characters. These were the days of "Disco Sucks". Outsiders like our group were treated with suspicion by the I-Was-Country-When-Country-Wasn't-Cool types all the time. As I mentioned earlier, this place was so redneck that people like our Oriental students were turned away at the door. Basically, the Winchester was Gilley's West.  It was filled with factory workers, construction people, plus anyone who you might say worked hard for their money.  

Well, here's the story. When I teach the Cotton Eyed Joe at the studio, I call out words like "Hook, Kick, Back it Up" that have some relationship to the footwork.  Of course we all know these are not the actual lyrics.  Thanks to IP Sweat, the words to the song at the Winchester were "Bull Shit, What you Say" or something close to that effect.  Little did I know my teaching phrases would someday come back to haunt me.

As I mentioned earlier, Isaac Peyton Sweat had gotten famous for recording the favorite version of the Cotton-Eyed Joe. So whenever Mr. Sweat, King of the Cotton Eyed Joe, announced it's time for the you-know-what, at the Winchester that was akin to playing the National Anthem.  Let's get up and salute!  Sure enough, everybody in the joint...waitresses, pool hustlers, lounge lizards, custodians, patrons...I mean everybody would get up for the Cotton Eyed Joe.  SSQQ donated a 100 for starters and even people who hadn't danced the whole night would get out there and lose themselves in the crowd.   The floor was packed - there might be 200 to 300 people out there!  

So here I am in a Cotton-Eyed Joe line with 10 Beginner SSQQ students.  We stand side by side and have our arms interlinked for our maiden journey across the floor.  For many of our students, the SSQQ visit to the Winchester is the first time they have ever been to a Western club in their lives. This is an exciting moment for many of them - their first Cotton-Eyed Joe in public!  Woowee!

The music starts.  Isaac Peyton starts singing his explicit lyrics:

Now what you say...(Bull -shit!)
Y'all say what...(Bull-shit!)
Still can't hear you..(Bull-shit!)
Ah, the Hell you say.

So we are out there dancing up a storm.  Then just about the time in the song where the "Bull-Shit" would be, something unexpected happens.  There is one young man in our group who is drunk out of his mind from too much Beer Bust Night. Suddenly this kid starts to bellow "HOOK-KICK, BACK-IT-UP, HOOK-KICK, BACK-IT-UP!!!" 

At first I was amused, but my smile turned to horror when this really big Bubba-type guy right in front of him turns around and glares at my student.  The kid is so drunk he doesn't even notice the guy glaring at him. Undeterred, our guy screams again "HOOK-KICK, BACK-IT-UP, HOOK-KICK, BACK-IT-UP!!!". He doesn't have a clue he is saying the wrong thing and he continues to scream it at the top of his lungs.

Now this time the big guy turns and screams equally loudly to our guy, "SHUT THE F... UP!"  Well, this does indeed quiet our young man.  I am cringing at the entire exchange.  For some psychic reason I knew it would get worse and it did.

So the song ends without any further problem, but before we can leave the floor the Big Guy turns around again and decides to make an issue.  He looks really mean!  He is wearing beat up boots with steel tips, a black hat with a feather in it, and a rattlesnake-skin belt with his name on it.  Now the Big Guy gets right in this poor guy's face and says with venom, "Where in the HELL did you learn to dance?" 

Without any hesitation the student turns and points his finger right at me. He says, "Gosh, there's my dance teacher right there!  His name is Rick Archer!"

Now the wrath of Big Bubba turns on me. He glowers. "I am so sick of these damn Yankees coming here and ruining this place.  Stupid northerners."  Then he turns and stomps away.

As this is going on, the other 9 dance students all look away and pretend they don't know me.  Who's this Rick guy? 

Amazingly, the kid is so drunk he still doesn't know what happened. Meanwhile I look around for the nearest table to crawl under.


During 1981, I made many friends who would become my Second Generation of dancers.  "Generations" is my term for a large group of people who meet through dancing and have so much fun together that they all become best friends.  I have written about this phenomenon in two places:  The Matchmaker and Where the Creatures Meet.

Thanks to the fun we were having and the convenience of Jann's SSQQ Hotline, people began to build their entire social lives around the dance studio.  We became a Singles Group without the need to call it that.  Since I was in my curious state of romantic limbo, I turned my attention to being the leader of the Pack. 

With the headaches of constant tension at Stevens of Hollywood behind me, once I got my program established here on Bissonnet in late 1980, I had more free time open up.  I began to organize a whole series of events and Jann would publicize them for me. The turnout was great. A group spirit began to emerge as students would meet to go out to dance en masse at the Winchester.  Nor were our activities limited to dancing.  Sometimes we might go to the movies after class, play volleyball at some park, meet for a Labeling Party, or get together at someone's house for Charades.
As you can imagine, this group of people became very close friends and I was right there in the middle of it.  We had the tightest social network imaginable. We had a blast every time we got together. People really started to like each other. 

These were very happy times.

It was all buddy-buddy at first, then I started to notice that many of my students in this group were beginning to pair off and starting to date. These new relationships seemed vaguely incestuous like brother-sister at first.  It was funny how awkward it was for them to break the unspoken barriers.  It isn't always that easy to take things from 'friends' to 'lovers', especially when the whole group is watching and being nosy.

But it was inevitable. The birds and the bees weren't going to stay locked up forever.

As time went by, more boy-girl friendships began to develop. First they would date but not call it a date to the others. Then they would admit they were dating, but just as 'friends'. Then they would get a little more serious and go over the ground rules like whether to be 'platonic' or not, 'see other people or just each other' and all that stuff.

Eventually like a fire that simmers for a while, then bursts into flame, suddenly one day they began to look at each other in a different way. This was about the time that platonic stage burned off like a rocket booster dropping its first payload.  Now the rocket moved into warp drive. The bonfire was ablaze!

In the case of the Second Generation, they bonded like glue.  Many members of this wonderful group stayed with the studio long after they had taken every dance class I had to offer.  I would estimate over two dozen people put in five, six, seven years with SSQQ before finally moving on.  I formed many close friendships.  Bob Job, Rilla Ryan, John Cowen, Jann Fonteno, Jim Garrison, Debbie Oswald, Chuck Clayton, Bill Sampson, Judy Price, Tom Easley, Linda Ingalls, Chuck Gray, Margie Saibara, Bill Stumph... the list goes on and on.  After Victoria moved on, they became my best friends for most of the Eighties.
Besides my own personal group of friends, many romances and marriages developed from our days at the Winchester.  No wonder I feel so nostalgic about this place.  The Winchester Club is where my dance studio got its name, its traditions of social dancing in a group setting, and its spirit.  It all started here. 

Although Dance Arts Unlimited is the obvious birthplace of SSQQ, the Winchester Club is where we got our name and the social energy began.  The people who were important in 1981 provided leadership that lasted for the next six years.


As I said earlier, a lot of tension had developed when my students (and me too) began to abuse the Winchester "Ladies Night" policy.  The whole point of Ladies Night Get In Free is to attract single women for the Lounge Lizards to hit on.  It is sort of like stocking a pond with extra fish so the pond becomes the most popular fishing hole.  

But this strategy was useless where SSQQ women were concerned.  Our women showed no interest in fraternizing with the Locals.  Furthermore these women turned out not to be single at all... a tidal wave of vile male yuppies showed up five to ten minutes later to shove the blue collar Locals out of the way.  This developed into a nasty culture clash.  The regulars felt snubbed in their own castle.

Furthermore all the Winchester management could see was that our women had swindled them out of $250 (50 women x $5 cover), drank free beer all night and refused to have anything to do with the regulars.  Hmm.  The Winchester Club felt like we were a bunch of outsiders taking advantage of them and, now that I am older and wiser, I suppose we were.

But rather than deal with the problem directly by initiating a conversation, the people at the door simply grew more hostile.  We were made to feel very unwelcome at the Winchester.  For a while, our gigantic numbers kept them from being really ugly, but even that came to an end. 

The final straw was the October night when my Asian dance students were denied entrance.  They had finally crossed the line between impolite and downright ugly.

That is when I wrote the protest letter that was ignored.  So I talked it over with some of the leaders in our group and we all agreed to start going to a club called Texas.  

One of the ideas covered in Urban Cowboy was that it was acceptable for Urbans, i.e. professional people like my students, to dance the Twostep and embrace the C&W lifestyle.  However that was in the movies.

In reality, the culture clash between the original Country people and the neo Country people at places like the Winchester made people in our group very uncomfortable. 

Therefore our move to Texas came at the perfect time.  At Texas, we were dancing at a club that catered to the new Kicker Dancers like us.  Although the floor was smaller and there was no band, the dancers soon agreed that the up-tempo Western dance songs played by the DJ was superior to the old-time country licks of the Sweat Band. 

Our group was delighted to see the twang of Merle Haggard and Hank Williams being replaced by songs from George Strait, Reba McEntire, Clint Black, Roseanne Cash, and Randy Travis.  This new Western music sound was easy to dance to and fun to listen to.  In other words, Texas made everyone forget the Winchester in no time.  We had a new hangout.

Meanwhile, the SSQQ group weren't the only ones turned off by the Winchester's redneck ways.  Not long after we left, so did Isaac Peyton Sweat.  It was like turning out the lights - the place was deserted.  The Winchester Club closed in 1982.

After my anger cooled, I started to miss the place.  The Winchester Club was where I learned to dance and my tight-knit group began to form.  As you can see from the stories, I had a lot of memories attached to the place.  All I could remember was how much fun our group always seem to have at the Winchester.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end...

Gosh, I miss the Winchester.  We have a Sleazy Bar Whip Night at SSQQ.  Maybe we should have a Sleazy Bar Winchester Night too. Play some Hank Williams and the Cotton-Eyed Joe... What a Hoot !

The "It" Girl Jann Fonteno

John Cowen and Debbie Oswald

Rilla Ryan and Bill Stumph

Bob Job and Leanne

Most pictures were taken at the Winchester Club,
but some like the picture above
were taken at Dance Arts

Another Cotton Eyed Joe picture


Doug Humme and Jackie Jansen. 
Doug later met his wife - the lovely Ava King -
at the studio.  I was best man at their wedding.











Carol Brown

Chuck Gray and Chuck Clayton





THE CURIOUS STORY OF ISAAC PEYTON SWEAT                                                

Although the history of my dance studio has next to nothing to do with Isaac Peyton Sweat, I can't really complete the story of the Winchester Club without some more details about its famous lead singer.  Isaac Peyton Sweat was the face of the Winchester Club. 

When he wasn't there, the place was definitely not the same.  I believe that Sweat and his Cadillac Cowboys Band quit the Winchester Club not long after we stopped going there in protest for more money. 

If that's the case, I don't see how the Winchester Club could have afforded to keep him because things were going downhill fast the last time I was there. 

I don't know the details, but I do remember driving by the club one day.  Once I saw that his name was removed from the marquee outside the club, I lost all interest in visiting the club again. 

As far as I was concerned, Isaac Peyton Sweat was the Winchester Club.

And the Winchester Club was the home of the Cotton Eyed Joe.   The headliner and his club were closely linked.

Greg Liverman's Music Review on the Cotton Eyed Joe

I could never pass a honky tonk without stopping and since the Winchester Club was on my way home, I finished many a night there.

I heard Ikey and the Sweat Band play these songs live live, I have the vinyl, the CD and have had the pleasure of dancing to the recorded version of the Cotton Eyed Joe in bars from Texas to Ireland to Australia.

Ikey always folowed the Cotton Eyed Joe with the Schottische and I always feel something is missing when the two songs are not played together.

If you are looking for an authentic version of the Cotton Eyed Joe - the Isaac Peyton version is it. It is also a pretty decent recreation of the Sweat Band's nightly sets at the Winchester Club.

I'll keep looking for an honest bowl of red chili for inspiration. In the meantime - allons dancez!

At the time Isaac Peyton Sweat made his recording of the Cotton Eyed Joe, there were said to be a hundred previous recordings of the same song already in existence.  So how did his recording climb to the top?

I believe Sweat's recording became the most famous version for several reasons.

It is said that Sweat owed the success of his C-E-J recording to his off-color lyrics.  By adding the well-known naughty words into the lyrics, he definitely targeted his version of the song to serious hard-living Honky Tonkers.  

I am telling you what - sometimes those words made me blush.  I was asked to teach some Western line dances at my daughter's school when she was in the sixth grade.  I confess I had forgotten how rough the words were.  But when I turned on the only version of the Cotton Eyed Joe I had in my possession, I turned red with embarrassment as the teacher stared darts at me. 

However, Sweat wasn't targeting sixth graders.  Listening to him sing at the Winchester Club, his song appealed to the rough crowd that gathered there every night.  They liked his song and they liked dancing to it.  This was the second factor that helped spread the popularity of his version.

The third factor was the proximity of another Bellaire landmark - Don's Record Store.  This store was where all the action took place in Bellaire throughout the Seventies.   I knew Don's Records well because it was located across the street from SSQQ.  Don's Records got hold of IP Sweat's recording of the Cotton Eyed Joe and helped promote it and make it famous.  Indeed, any time I walked across the street to buy a new song, right next to the register would be Isaac Peyton Sweat's Cotton Eyed Joe record for sale on a Vinyl 45.   In other words, if you heard Sweat sing the song at the Winchester, the next day you could drive down the street and pick up a recording.

SIDE NOTE: Don's Record Store

Located right across the street from SSQQ at 4900 Bissonnet, Don's Record Store was so convenient to my studio that I became a steady customer.  The store was owned by Don Janicek.  The store closed sometime in the late 1990s.  I am sorry to say Mr. Janicek passed away in 2002. 

While it was open, Don's Records was a Bellaire institution.  Here is a funny anecdote about Don's from Western recording star
Robert Earl Keen.  

"I grew up in Houston, on the southwest side. There's this place called Don's Record Shop in Bellaire. It was nine miles from my house. I heard a Spirit album that I wanted, the original Spirit record (1968).  Damn good album.  I took my money from my lawn-mowing deals, and I rode my bicycle down to Don's Record Shop.  It was an 18-mile round trip to pick up this record. Took me the entire afternoon for the round trip and I was soaking wet in the Texas heat.  But it was worth it!   I played it over and over. And then my sister and her friends got a marker – and they had the pictures of the group on the back of the record – and wrote 'gross' and 'fine' next to each one of them. It just killed me. My first real LP that I bought. 18-mile round trip and my sister wrote all over my album.  I couldn't get over it."

The closing of Don's Record's was a sad moment for me.  Don Janicek had thousands of old vinyl 45s and LPs in his store.  It was an enormous collection.  He had records you couldn't find anywhere else in the city.  But when CDs began to replace vinyl albums on the market, Don seemed slow to adjust.  He was caught in a time warp. 

Here is an item on the Internet I found. It was written by Charles Kuffner ("off-the-kuff").

(Case in point: Don's Records in Bellaire, one of the great places to buy music on vinyl in Houston, closed its doors within months of radio station KQUE changing its big band/easy listening format from FM to AM (and then eventually yanking it altogether) because the record store no longer had a place to advertise. Sales plummeted almost immediately, and they couldn't stay afloat.)

My interpretation of that story is that Don J. catered to his older customers (Big Band/Easy Listening) and failed to embrace the new technologies and the younger generations of music listeners.  It wasn't worth his effort to adapt, so he retired.

I think the fates of the Winchester Club and Isaac Peyton Sweat were closely intertwined. When he left the Winchester, his career began to flounder.  He never got another big gig.

And the Winchester Club closed not long after his departure.  They had never had any competition before, but thanks to Urban Cowboy, there were kicker clubs all over the place.  Whoever they hired to take Sweat's place obviously didn't work out.  So the twin combination of losing the star singer and all the competition forced this place to go under.

I researched the Chronicle Archives for clues to what happened to Sweat after he left the Winchester Club. The reports were few and far between and not very encouraging either.

Marty Racine
Chronicle Music Reporter

One wonders: Why did Jo-El Sonnier make it big and not Isaac Payton Sweat?   Oh well, idle curiosity, for Sonnier works the same Cajun-influenced country territory on this promising major label debut as Houston-Beaumont's Sweat.

Sonnier may have already made it, but Sweat is trying to get back in the game.

Houston singer Isaac Payton Sweat, alias Slim Beaumont, might have finally tired of the "Cotton Eyed Joe," but he breaks more old ground here with Golden Triangle favorites ranging from Cajun to swamp-rock to those grand old pop hits of yesteryear, "Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do" and "Lonely Days, Lonely Nights". 

With Sweat in strong voice and backed by a cast of good ol' boys from Texas to Nashville, the music swings, no more, no less, like any good jukebox or cover band back in Beaumont or Port Arthur, also including "Jole Blon", which Sweat performed at the recent Janis Joplin Tribute in Port Arthur; "Mathilda, I'm Not A Fool Anymore" and "Happy Cajun". Sweat kicks in with two of his own, idealizing our swampy heritage in "Crackers Cheese & Alligator Tails," and getting ribald enough for any bar in "The Joe Baily Roll".

There are a number of musicians back in the Golden Triangle keeping the area's music alive, albeit with little financial reward. Unlike the '50s and '60s, when this sound was plundered by record companies from afar for use in the pop marketplace, the music today, despite the trendiness of everything Cajun, sits in sort of a time warp, rusting in the Gulf Coast breeze. Sweat, therefore, is in no position to take it farther. But there's a certain honesty in that. If Sweat's about the only artist to get that isolated, pure sound on vinyl, more power to him. It might even draw attention to the home boys back in Orange or Winnie.

In the meantime, Sweat stays busy with whatever work he can find.  I recently noticed that Isaac Payton Sweat is pitching for a Texas dance lesson video on the Nashville Network. He moves into Burgandy's, Wednesday through Saturday, for an extended engagement.

This is the only extensive article I was able to find about Isaac Peyton Sweat's music career.   I also noticed a blurb that said Sweat had returned to the studio to record some new songs in 1989.

And then one day in 1990, I read the following story in the morning Houston Chronicle.

Date: THU 07/19/1990

Isaac Peyton Sweat Found Dead

`We're still trying to get some answers'/Doubts in singer's death linger as autopsy finds no gunpowder on hands

Chronicle Staff

RICHMOND - An autopsy on country singer Isaac Payton Sweat - known as the "King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe" - shows no evidence of gunpowder residue on his hands, authorities said Wednesday.

Though tests are incomplete, Fort Bend County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Gary Geick said the finding backs up his doubts that Sweat committed suicide.

Sweat, 45, was found dead in the garage of his Mission Glen home June 23, and investigators have not determined whether the death is suicide or murder. He died of a contact gunshot wound through the left temple from a .25-caliber automatic pistol.

Sheriff's Sgt. Jerry Clements said the autopsy does not narrow the scope of the investigation or lead to any conclusions. Authorities are awaiting test results on undisclosed evidence taken from the death scene from the FBI lab in Washington.

"It's still heavily under investigation," Clements said. "We're still trying to get some answers.' Sweat's wife, Sharon, found her husband on the garage floor between the couple's two vehicles about 1:30 a.m. after he had returned from performing at a Houston-area club. The gun, Sweat's keys and sunglasses were found on the floor near his left hand.

An autopsy performed by Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk showed no traces of gunpowder components on either hand. But Jachimczyk's report said other factors, including the ammunition and weapon type, must be considered when interpreting the tests.

"From the physical evidence and from the autopsy report, it supports my original belief that it wasn't a suicide," Geick said.

He added that he probably would "sign off' on the death as "undetermined pending investigation.' "I find the most unusual thing is that the gun, sunglasses and keys all were near the left hand," Geick said. "If he were to commit suicide, he certainly wouldn't use his left hand, holding the sunglasses and keys, if he were right-handed.' Friends and relatives said recently that Sweat, despite some regional success, sometimes was despondent over his failure to make it big in country music. But they said the 25-year musician would not have committed suicide.

"I don't know who fired (the gun)," Geick said. "But the report from Dr. Jachimczyk's office shows (Sweat) didn't.'

Date: TUE 08/21/90

Musician's widow is arrested/Sweat accused of killing husband

Chronicle Staff

RICHMOND - The widow of country musician Isaac Payton Sweat was arrested Monday after being indicted on a murder charge in his June death.

Sharon Suzette Sweat , 38, of Fort Bend County's Mission Glen subdivision, is charged with shooting the 45-year-old singer in the head shortly after he returned home from a nightclub performance in the early hours of June 23.

She was being held in lieu of $50,000 bond after authorities arrested her Monday afternoon at the home she had shared with Sweat , who was known as "The King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe."

The entertainer's son, Sean Sweat , 24, said the indictment restores his faith in the criminal justice system and proves his father did not commit suicide.

"He was stolen from us," Sean Sweat of Malakoff in northeast Texas said by telephone. "He didn't quit."

Sheriff's Detective Larry Nemec said a possible motive in the singer's slaying was the couple's pending divorce. He said Sharon Sweat had been served with papers but refused to sign them after her husband filed for divorce in April.

Sean Sweat said he believed shortly after his father's death that his stepmother was responsible.

"I believed it five minutes after I saw her," the college student said. "Financial gain is why she killed him. It consumed my whole being to prove this."

Nemec interviewed dozens of people during the two-month investigation leading to Monday's indictment. He said Sharon Sweat was invited to attend the grand jury session Monday but did not.

"It was a very complex investigation with a lot of evidence and interviews that had to be processed," Nemec said. "Once we had all the information together, we felt we had a good-enough case. She's the only suspect."

Although Isaac Sweat 's death was originally a suspected suicide, investigators said they were nagged by several discrepancies found at the scene. Nemec said they began investigating the death as a homicide shortly after the shooting.

He declined to discuss the evidence, but said the investigation indicated Sharon Sweat met her husband in the garage of their home June 23 as he returned from performing.

The entertainer was found lying on his back in a pool of blood, his car keys, sunglasses and a .25-caliber automatic pistol near his left hand. Sweat , who was right-handed, had suffered a contact gunshot wound to the left temple, meaning the weapon was touching him when it fired, investigators said.

Autopsy results found no gunpowder residue on his hands.

Sharon Sweat was unavailable for comment Monday. On July 12, however, she told the Houston Chronicle she had been cooking pancakes for her husband when she heard a noise and found his body in the garage. She said she could not talk about what happened after that.

"I know what didn't happen," she said, declining to elaborate.

Nemec said Sharon Sweat has continued to deny any involvement in her husband's death.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Follis, who presented the case to the grand jury, said no single piece of evidence led to the indictment.

"When all the information was put together, it simply led to the conclusion this was no suicide and no accident," Follis said.

In a separate civil case, Sean Sweat is contesting the one-paragraph handwritten will submitted by his stepmother. The singer's son alleges the document is a fraud.

As part of the civil case, constable's officers seized a 1982 typed will from Sweat 's home in which the singer's assets were left to his son. The will submitted by Sharon Sweat left everything to her.

Fort Bend County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Walter McMeans froze the estate and set a trial date on the civil case for December.

"She thought she could keep the estate if she killed him," said Sean Sweat . "But she didn't."

The singer's son said the 1987 marriage came about because of his stepmother's desire "for a gravy train ride. She had security being married to him."

Isaac Sweat filed for divorce April 17. In court documents, the entertainer said the marriage had become "insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities." The conflict, he said, "prevents any reasonable expectations of reconciliation."

Sharon Sweat , in the earlier interview, said she knew of the divorce petition but denied she had been served with papers. She said she and her husband had "the most beautiful relationship" despite her knowledge of his affairs with other women.

Isaac Sweat , best known for his recording of the Cotton-Eyed Joe, achieved regional recognition in the early 1980s. He never fulfilled his dream of a major record contract, however.

Friends are organizing a benefit to raise funds for a headstone for the singer.


Date: THU 07/19/1990

`We're still trying to get some answers'/Doubts in singer's death linger as autopsy finds no gunpowder on hands

Chronicle Staff

RICHMOND - An autopsy on country singer Isaac Payton Sweat - known as the "King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe" - shows no evidence of gunpowder residue on his hands, authorities said Wednesday.

Though tests are incomplete, Fort Bend County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Gary Geick said the finding backs up his doubts that Sweat committed suicide.

Sweat, 45, was found dead in the garage of his Mission Glen home June 23, and investigators have not determined whether the death is suicide or murder. He died of a contact gunshot wound through the left temple from a .25-caliber automatic pistol.

Sheriff's Sgt. Jerry Clements said the autopsy does not narrow the scope of the investigation or lead to any conclusions. Authorities are awaiting test results on undisclosed evidence taken from the death scene from the FBI lab in Washington.

"It's still heavily under investigation," Clements said. "We're still trying to get some answers.' Sweat's wife, Sharon, found her husband on the garage floor between the couple's two vehicles about 1:30 a.m. after he had returned from performing at a Houston-area club. The gun, Sweat's keys and sunglasses were found on the floor near his left hand.

An autopsy performed by Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk showed no traces of gunpowder components on either hand. But Jachimczyk's report said other factors, including the ammunition and weapon type, must be considered when interpreting the tests.

"From the physical evidence and from the autopsy report, it supports my original belief that it wasn't a suicide," Geick said.

He added that he probably would "sign off' on the death as "undetermined pending investigation.' "I find the most unusual thing is that the gun, sunglasses and keys all were near the left hand," Geick said. "If he were to commit suicide, he certainly wouldn't use his left hand, holding the sunglasses and keys, if he were right-handed.' Friends and relatives said recently that Sweat, despite some regional success, sometimes was despondent over his failure to make it big in country music. But they said the 25-year musician would not have committed suicide.

"I don't know who fired (the gun)," Geick said. "But the report from Dr. Jachimczyk's office shows (Sweat) didn't.'

Date: SUN 07/15/90


Chronicle Staff

In the honky-tonks and smoky barrooms where Isaac Payton Sweat played, he was the "King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe" - a performer who tasted regional success but dreamed of making it big.

He died before he got the chance.

His 25-year career in county music ended when Sweat, 45, was found in the garage of his Mission Glen home early June 23 - a gunshot wound through the left side of his head. County authorities don't know whether the death is suicide or murder.

"We have pretty much ruled out accidental," said Fort Bend County sheriff's Detective Larry Nemec.

"We're determined to get to the bottom of this," said sheriff's Sgt. Jerry Clements. "It's been an in-depth, exhaustive investigation. We're not through with it yet.'

They won't disclose details, but investigators said they are not satisfied with the death scene and are awaiting test results from evidence sent to the FBI lab in Washington.

Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Gary Geick said he's considering calling a public inquest if the investigation fails to determine whether the death was suicide or homicide.

For the last three weeks, relatives and friends have exchanged theories about how the man they called "Ikey" died at a time when things seemed to be looking up. His version of the song A Redneck is the Backbone of America had attracted attention from a major record label.

"I don't see him killing himself," said Sweat 's 24-year-old son, Sean. "He was frustrated about not making it real big. But he had such a fierce determination. It wasn't in his blood to quit.' Sweat 's second wife, Sharon, called Fort Bend authorities at 1:32 a.m. June 23. She said she was in the kitchen of their home at 15502 Wildwood Lake Drive when she heard a noise in the garage and found Sweat 's body on the floor by his truck, a bullet from his .25-caliber automatic through his head.

Sharon Sweat , 38, said she was making pancakes for her husband and waiting for him to return from a club performance when it happened.

"I can talk about anything and everything until what happened," she said. "I just can't deal with that right now. I know what didn't happen.'

She acknowledged her husband had filed for divorce - although she said she was never served divorce papers - and there had been other women.

"But I know for a fact he loved me," she said.

"And that's all that mattered.' Her husband, she added, told her "we were going to make it" before he played his last gig.

She said she's not going to worry about the investigation but intends to focus on other things - like her husband's unfinished autobiography and four recordings that might still have a future.

Other friends and relatives want the investigation wrapped up quickly and the mystery solved.

"It's torn me up," said Dawdie Sweat, the singer's 83-year-old father who lives in Groves. The retired pipe fitter and former banjo player recently sifted through a box of pictures, tapes, posters and 45 RPM singles cut by his son. He can't listen to the records just yet.

"Ikey totally trusted everybody," Dawdie Sweat said. "He wouldn't hurt nobody's feelings to save your neck. That's why he had too many girlfriends - he wouldn't say no. He was a handsome man, and I think that was his biggest problem: he couldn't say no.'

Isaac Peyton went to Lamar University and studied to become a medical lab technician. But singing and playing took over. Ikey joined bluesmen Johnny and Edgar Winter of Beaumont and the Cosmic Cowboys produced by Kenny Rogers. He eventually formed his own bands, including the Sweat Band. He rejoined Johnny Winter briefly as a bass player during a late '70s national tour.

"He turned into a real entertainer as soon as he stepped up behind the microphone," said Sean Sweat, the singer's only son from his first marriage. "It's like something clicked in him. It was a gift.  He always said he was never happier than when he was playing and making other people dance and carry on and have a good time. That's what he was meant to do in his life.'

Since his father's death, the Trinity Valley Community College student has traveled between Houston, Groves and his home in Malakoff. His father's estate remains unsettled.  Sean Sweat adds that his family wasn't close to his father's second wife Sharon.

From his hometown of Nederland to the clubs in Houston, Sweat attracted a loyal following. His recording of Cotton-Eyed Joe earned Sweat regional recognition in the early 1980s and the moniker "King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe.'

In brochures carried in Sweat's guitar case, he described the song as "an old Irish air to which I wrote some lyrics. There are hundreds of versions of the song. I just happen to have the one that was a hit.'

But Sweat had trouble with his contract. He unsuccessfully sued his former manager in 1984, and, according to those around him, never made more than a couple hundred dollars in royalties off the song.

When the 1987-88 Houston Southwestern Bell telephone books pictured people in the traditional Cotton- Eyed Joe dance, Sweat took two copies to his father.

In his music room at the Mission Glen home his father bought for him, Sweat kept meticulous scrapbooks of his career, including one of his first Cotton-Eyed Joe royalty checks from Broadcast Music Inc. The grand total: 86 cents.

Sweat cut several singles and a few albums on small record labels, but he never got the major label deal he coveted. About a year ago, he checked himself into a hospital for what he later told friends and relatives was exhaustion and frustration.

With his dark good looks, Sweat attracted his share of attention from women over the years. Some say they still love him.

For example, Nancy Nettik, 47, lived with Sweat for nearly five years in the mid-1970s. She is one of at least two women with a sweat drop and the name I.P. Sweat tattooed on her body.

"I still love him," Nettik said. "He was one of the best men in the world." The two talked and exchanged cards after their break-up, and occasionally Nettik would catch one of Sweat 's club performances.

She said Sweat called her the Thursday before his death and said "he couldn't stand it anymore" at home. A few days later Nettik was thawing pork chops for dinner for him at her Houston home when a friend told her of his death.

Rumors of marital problems add a dark backdrop to the singer's unexplained death.

A Houston man said he worked with Sweat as manager with no commission since the beginning of the year. Clint Byrne of Quadrastar Entertainment Ltd. in Houston said he was negotiating with Capitol Records about a contract for Ikey. 

Byrne said that Sweat's marital problems bothered him heavily. Byrne added the singer "couldn't get any peace of mind.'

"I want the truth," Byrne said of Sweat's death. "This is such a loss of talent. He was right on the verge of getting everything he wanted. The only thing I can say is the man did not do himself in.'

Byrne said Sweat never carried a gun. And the performer was looking forward to a July 4 gig at George Jones Country Music Park in Colmesneil, he said. 

Instead, musicians who played with Sweat performed several of his songs and started fundraising to get him a headstone on his grave at the Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery.

"I just let it be known that Ikey was ripped off," said fellow musician Denny Graham, 33. "I asked people if they would make a donation because Ikey died poor.'  Sweat 's father said he planned to get his son a headstone but will contribute toward Graham's project.

A poem written by singer and songwriter Gene Kelton of Baytown will be engraved on the headstone, said Graham, who works as a draftsman for an offshore marine engineering firm by day.

Kelton read his poem "King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe" at Sweat 's funeral, attended by an estimated 500 mourners. Sean Sweat read it at George Jones park July 4.

He was a favorite son of the mighty Lone Star State

He made Mother Texas proud

everytime he played and sang and everytime he called,

`Grab your partner, do-si-do!'

We would dance for the King

King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

Kelton remembers the first time he heard Sweat 's voice over the radio. He was driving down Texas 225 in Pasadena.

"I'm listening to this powerful voice and I pictured a 350-pound Cajun wearing overalls and about 50 years old - someone who'd been calling hogs all his life," said Kelton, 37. When he was a disc jockey for KBUK in Baytown in 1984-85, Kelton played local talent and interviewed musicians on his show.

"He didn't sound like anybody else," Kelton said. "That made him so unique.' Sweat fought for years to get airplay for local musicians on Houston radio stations. While it might have been possible a few decades back, regional musicians on small independent record labels didn't fit into strict, slicker playlists.

Sweat found himself an outsider. In the mid-1980s, he tried unsuccessfully to file an antitrust lawsuit against stations. Channel 13's Marvin Zindler did a story on Sweat's attempts to get air time. That backfired, said Graham and Kelton.

"It made Ikey look like a fool," Graham said. "And it stayed in everybody's mind.' "From then on, he was considered the radical black sheep in the music scene," Kelton said.

Graham said the mystery of his friend's death is as disturbing as the mystery of his life.

"How can a guy that was that well known be so damn poor?" he asked. "The guy was made and destined to be a star. He had it in his voice. He had it in his personality.'

Sharon Sweat contended she was her husband's only manager at the time of his death.  Sharon Sweat said she and her husband spent any money they had to further his music career. She said she wrote nearly $10,000 in checks to cover the funeral without money in the bank to back them.

She added that around the time of Sweat 's funeral, his oldest bass guitar - one he wanted Johnny Winter to have - disappeared from a shed outside their home.

Sharon Sweat said she's devastated by her husband's death and doesn't understand the talk that he was about to make it big. "We were working toward a lot of stuff, but, like Isaac would say, that's bull----.

Was he destined to be a star?

"I'd rather just not say, not at this time," she said. "Isaac had everything as far as a singer, a performer. He just didn't have the right people that could've helped him.

"There'll never be another man on earth like him.'


Date: THU 03/05/92

Court dismisses murder charge in Sweat death


RICHMOND -- A murder indictment against the widow of the singer known as the "King of the Cotton-Eyed Joe" was dismissed Wednesday for lack of evidence.

Sharon Sweat , 40, said she was in shock after her attorney told her of the dismissal, sought by Fort Bend County prosecutors and granted by state District Judge Brady G. Elliott.

"It's about time," said Sweat , now living in Houston and working as an assistant manager at an apartment complex. "I think it's great.

"I've been working and just going on with my life and knew I was innocent all the way through -- and just trying to survive," she said.

Her husband, Isaac Payton Sweat , 45, a musician who had gained regional recognition, died in the garage of his Mission Glen home June 23, 1990. Although his death was first considered a suicide, investigators later said evidence pointed to murder.

She declined further comment Wednesday, saying she wanted "to absorb what's happened to me."

"Right now, I'm just dealing with it," she said.

Sweat told detectives she found her husband dead on the floor of their garage shortly after he returned from playing at a local bar. He died of a gunshot to the head.

Assistant District Attorney Fred Felcman, who sought the dismissal, said in an earlier motion that Dr. Aurelio Espinola, deputy chief medical examiner for Harris County, would testify that Sweat 's death "within reasonable medical probability, was suicide."

"There was a lot of speculation and conjecture," said Felcman, "You can't put people on the stand and have them say, "I think she did it.' It's a matter of whether you have the evidence to prove it up."

Fort Bend County Sheriff Perry Hillegeist, who agreed to the dismissal, said his department will continue investigating the case and has contacted an expert to reconstruct the death scene.

"When we get enough evidence, we'll go back to the DA's office," Hillegeist said. "We are talking about alleged murder."

Possible murder motives that were cited included a divorce petition Sweat filed against his second wife weeks before his death, as well as a longstanding affair he reportedly had with a younger woman. Investigators said they hope to get enough evidence to make a grand jury reindict Mrs. Sweat .

But her attorney, Norman Jolly, said pursuing the murder probe would be a mistake.

"We consider this (dismissal) to be equivalent to vindication," Jolly said. "It goes to show you when someone is innocent of a crime, the system works.

"It seems to me like it would be kind of a foolish idea to try and get her reindicted after their own expert witness told them it was suicide."

Jolly commended Felcman and District Attorney Jack Stern for investigating the case before trial and doing "the right thing."

But Sweat 's 26-year-old son from his first marriage said a former prosecutor under the previous district attorney's administration told him he was confident a conviction could be won.

"Everything pointed to her," said Sean Sweat , a college student and a waiter who lives in a small town in northeast Texas. "I have reason to be suspicious and doubt the decision of the DA to dismiss it. I don't think they ought to do this."

Still pending is a civil lawsuit the son filed contesting his father's one-paragraph will leaving everything to Sharon Sweat . Sean Sweat contends the document is a fraud, and that a 1982 typed will leaving the singer's assets to his son is the real one.

The 1982 will was seized from the Sweat home -- which has since burned -- after Isaac Sweat 's death, and the estate was frozen pending the outcome of the criminal case.

Neither the late singer's son nor his father believed Sweat would commit suicide. Reached at his home in Groves, Sweat 's father, Dawdie Sweat , 84, said he had an unexplainable feeling that the murder charge would be dismissed.

Rick Archer's Note: 
I don't know about you, but I think someone got away with murder.  Someone dropped the ball here.

"An autopsy performed by Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk showed no traces of gunpowder components on either hand.  But Jachimczyk's report said other factors, including the ammunition and weapon type, must be considered when interpreting the tests.

"From the physical evidence and from the autopsy report,
it supports my original belief that it wasn't a suicide," Geick said.

He added that he probably would "sign off' on the death as "undetermined pending investigation.' "I find the most unusual thing is that the gun, sunglasses and keys all were near the left hand," Geick said. "If he were to commit suicide, he certainly wouldn't use his left hand, holding the sunglasses and keys, if he were right-handed.' Friends and relatives said recently that Sweat, despite some regional success, sometimes was despondent over his failure to make it big in country music. But they said the 25-year musician would not have committed suicide.

"I don't know who fired (the gun)," Geick said. "But the report from Dr. Jachimczyk's office shows (Sweat) didn't.'


In an attempt to capitalize on Sweat's new found notoriety due to his death, those four songs Isaac Peyton Sweat recorded in 1989 were hurriedly released in hopes they might catch on before Sweat's name faded into the sunset.

His new manager, Danny Coker, had this to say.

"I think "Redneck" will definitely be a hit," said Danny Coker of Katy, partner in a used-car business who helped set up Sweat's Nashville recording deal.

Sweat did not write the song, but his deep voice gives it a catchy spin. The song is about the common man who would "never let Old Glory fall" and who's "at his best up against the wall."

Coker said he still can't believe Sweat is dead. Under Telstar Records label, he recently put out Sweat's final four songs in a cassette titled "The Day the Music Died."

In a tribute on the inside cover, Coker wrote that Sweat was obsessed with these songs and felt both excitement and frustration over their future. He was frustrated, Coker wrote, because a major label couldn't be enticed to record them and because big-city stations wouldn't play them.

"Ikey had come to a point in his life where money was secondary," Coker wrote. "What he really wanted was to make his family and friends, especially his father, proud. Isaac just wanted to play his music, be recognized for his achievements and be happy.

"Unfortunately, the latter two of these eluded him largely in his last years."



Rick Archer's Note:  In May 2008, I was researching on the Internet and I ran across this excellent insider's tale about Isaac Payton Sweat.  I do not know who wrote it, but the anonymous writer was a big fan of Johnny Winter.   Ikey Sweat actually began playing with Johnny Winter, the famous Texas blues singer.  I can only assume the writer knew Sweat personally from those days.  This article has an insider's feel for the frustration of Ikey Sweat and his music career. 

Isaac Payton Sweat was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1945 and moved to nearby Nederland at a young age. Ikey's(as Isaac was called) father was a professional musician and traveled the road playing dance halls, but none much farther than 100 miles away. Ikey played the banjo at the age of thirteen, and then played the guitar in several high school rock bands. During that time, Country Music was not popular with high school kids, and most bands played rock music. Although he learned to read music, he always played by ear.

Ikey played in a group called the Continentals, where he made $8.00 a night, but they only lasted a year. He than enrolled in Lamar University's pre-med school and minored in music. But playing at night and attending school during the day was too much, and he dropped out after only a couple of months. Johnny Winter and Ikey had attended different high schools, but had known each other through their band activities. Ikey joined Johnny's band, the Crystaliers, later named the Coastliners. They had a number 1 regional hit titled "Eternally".

The band toured for three years, traveling in an ever widening radius, which eventually went as far as Georgia. Ikey played bass on Johnny's "White, Hot, & Blue" album. then he went "psychedelic" in the days of blacklights, posters, and long hair. When he switched to Country Music, he considered himself the original Country "outlaw", when he had a beard and Willie Nelson was still in Nashville with a military haircut. Ikey cut his hair and began playing conservative Country Music. He cut a vocal version of the Al Dean instrumental standard "Cotton Eyed Joe", which became a big regional hit. In 1980 everyone was doing "The Cotton Eyed Joe". Isaac Sweat WAS "MR. COTTON EYED JOE".

Ikey did not like, or understand the business side of the record industry and felt that he didn't get what he deserved from his best selling single. However, it was said that he had recorded "Cotton Eyed Joe" for a flat fee, therefore no royalties were due. Without a valid contract, he was free to re-record the song for Paid Records in 1981. When he got his first royalty check from Paid Records, he said that out of all the recordings he had made, that was the first time he had ever received any royalties.

Ikey became disgusted with local radio, for as hard as he tried, he could not get them to play any of his records since "CottonEyed Joe". Most stations at the time had quit playing local records and were playing national hits. Ikey achieved opposite of the desired results with local radio personnel. He went from manager to manager. He seemed to leave the good one too quickly, and stay with the bad ones way too long. But he was working steady and had gone to Nashville, where he recorded "A Redneck Is The Backbone Of America", for which he had high hopes, and three other songs for Telstar Records, the last one being "The Day The Music Died".

He was found dead of a contact gunshot wound at 1:30 AM on June 23, 1990. Ikey's wife discovered his body in the garage of his Richmond, Texas home. A 25 caliber automatic pistol, keys, and sunglasses were on the floor near his left hand(Ikey was right-handed). He had just returned from a performance in a Houston area club. The Justice of the Peace said the findings did not back up the theory of suicide. No traces of gunpowder were found on either hand. The circumstances surrounding his death are still not resolved.

Isaac Payton Sweat had enough success to feel fame was within his grasp, which would make any performer frustrated. He did achieve fame with an old folk song done many times before and kept alive by Al Dean, until Ikey could write lyrics and create a new hit. Years later it is still selling, and people are still dancing to Ikey's "Cotton Eyed Joe".

Here is the link to the original article: I P Sweat

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