EASTWOOD COUNTRY CLUB
EASTWOOD COUNTRY CLUB. Eastwood Country Club, a legendary club on St. Hedwig Road in eastern San Antonio, sometimes called Eastwoods, opened in 1954. The club, owned by Johnnie Phillips, was instrumental in helping young up-and-comers to practice their music, as well as giving well-known black performers a place to play. Eastwood was one of the major San Antonio black clubs during the "Chitlin' Circuit" era.
According to saxophonist Spot Barnett, Eastwood Country Club was one of the few places during the social unrest of the 1960s where blacks sat, drank, and danced beside whites in peace. Barnett observes that Phillips probably didn't realize the effect the club would have on race relations in San Antonio. As Phillips once said, "The Eastwood was one of the few places where people, no matter what color they were, were always welcome. Everyone from gamblers to politicians and Texas Rangersqv came there. We had the most mixed audience of any club."
Without regard to the cost, Phillips booked the top-notch black performers of the era to play Eastwood, including such musicians as Fats Domino, Pearl Bailey, B. B. King, the Drifters, Tyrone Davis, Ike & Tina Turner, Bobby Bland, Gatemouth Brown, T-Bone Walkerqv, Little Richard, Chubby Checker, Bo Diddley, Della Reese, and Big Joe Turner. Comedian Redd Foxx performed at Eastwood for two months and tended bar when he was not onstage.
Many talented local musicians were part of the various house bands that would open for major acts at the club. Those bands included the Fats Martin Band, Shake Snyder's Band, Spot Barnett's Band, and Curley Mays's band. Part of Curley Mays's act was to play the guitar with his toes. Some of the local musicians who helped to shape Eastwood were teachers as well as professional musicians; others were from local military bands. Some went on to international fame. The local instrumentalists and singers included Clifford "Honky Tonk" Scottqv, Bobbie June Parker, Cora Woods, Mary Parchman, David Hegwood, Jitterbug Webbqv, and Marcus Adams. A number of young white musicians from the San Antonio area, including Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, and Chris Holzhaus, patronized and performed at the club and were influenced by the venue's impressive lineup of blues and soul acts. A favorite of the Eastwood crowd was Miss Wiggles, a dancing contortionist whose act included standing on her head atop a spinning chair. There was also a popular dancer by the name of Vanilla Wafer. Phillips operated the Eastwood Country Club until his health began to fail him in 1978. The club later closed.
Estella Reyes Lopez, "The Chitlin Circuit," San Antonio Current, February 15–21, 2001. San Antonio Light, November 3, 1985.