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Sifting through Connecticut's rock 'n' roll past at Shaboo Productions

Host of Where Art Thou, Ray Hardman talks with David Foster, owner of Shaboo Productions warehouse.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
"Where Art Thou?" host Ray Hardman talks with David Foster, owner of Shaboo Productions in Willimantic.

If you are of a certain age, you may remember the old Shaboo Inn, where some of the most influential rock and blues acts of the 1970s came to perform. The unassuming warehouse on Natchaug Street in Willimantic turned out to be an amazing facility.

Not only did it contain multiples of practically every musical instrument ever invented (I counted at least six grand pianos), but it also served as an impromptu shrine to the late, great music venue.

I had the chance to talk with David Foster, owner of Shaboo Productions, the person responsible for getting the old Shaboo Inn off the ground while he was still a teenager. He talked about the venue, and how he managed to bring so many legendary acts to Willimantic.

Hall of fame wall of all the artists that have worked with Shaboo Productions, inside the Shaboo Productions warehouse.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
This "Hall of Fame" wall features artists who graced the Shaboo Inn stage. The pictures are inside the Shaboo Productions warehouse.

“In the summer of 1970, I started thinking, you know, ‘I want to have my own club.’ So, in the summer of ’71 I had picked the place and borrowed the money. I was 19 years old.”

“The second week I opened I had Aerosmith there. The same group of guys that are in the band to this day. I paid them $700 for four nights. It was a dollar to get in [The Shaboo Inn] and we bought you your first drink.”

Old pictures and newspapers of Shaboo's biggest moments line the inside the Shaboo Productions warehouse.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
Old pictures and newspapers of Shaboo's biggest moments line the inside the Shaboo Productions warehouse.

“We’d advertise in the rags, you know the Advocates - New Haven, Fairfield, Springfield, Hartford. The big agents in New York, that’s how they’d see who was doing what. They’d say, ‘Look at this place in Willimantic, they’ve got Muddy Waters, B.B. King is in there, James Cotton. Call ’em and sell them Tower of Power and Dr. John. And then, all of the sudden, the rock agents saw the same thing, and they’d say, ‘Let’s sell them some rock 'n' roll stuff.’ Pretty soon everybody’s calling.”

Old pictures and newspapers of Shaboo's biggest moments line the inside the Shaboo Productions warehouse.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
Old pictures and newspapers of Shaboo's biggest moments line the inside the Shaboo Productions warehouse.

“We opened Oct. 22, 1971, and we closed May 13, 1982. It burned to the ground on Aug. 13th – Friday the 13th – 1982. What it did was give me a license to sing them blues, because I really had the blues after that – I had to start all over again! Since then, I’ve done every side of the business. And then it came to production, and this has been the most successful thing in my life.”

Host of Where Art Thou, Ray Hardman talks with David Foster, owner of Shaboo Productions warehouse.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
David Foster, owner of Shaboo Productions.

Learn more:

Shaboo Productions in Willimantic is featured in the season finale of CPTV’s “Where Art Thou?” which premiered on CPTV on Sunday, July 31. Watch the episode below.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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