Long before Jim Dalton formed the Railbenders in 2000, he’d already had a long history with Herman’s Hideaway owner Allan Roth, who died in May at the age of 79. Dalton started playing at Herman’s in the early ’90s with the alt-rock group the Simpletones and in the late ’90s with swing band Shaken Martinis.
The Railbenders — who will perform at a memorial show for Roth at Herman’s on Friday, July 26, with Reno Divorce, Carolyn’s Mother, Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, Irie Still and Mike River — started playing at Herman’s in the early 2000s after regularly packing Lincoln’s Roadhouse. Dalton had called Roth and told him he’d formed a “’70s kind of outlaw country band,” and Roth offered the group an opening spot and loved the band immediately. After the set, Dalton remembers Roth telling him, “I want you guys to be a regular thing here, and I want to help build you up You’re going to be headliners, in my opinion, in no time, and we can make this thing happen.”
And he helped the Railbenders and many other bands over the years do just that.
“He gave us regular gigs at Herman’s Hideaway, and that helped kind of get us exposure, and then all the other clubs started calling, like the Bluebird Theater and the other places,” Dalton says.
Dalton recalls Roth always being jovial.
“We always laughed,” Dalton says. “We always cracked each other up. He was just a happy guy, like he was constantly happy in my dealings with him. He was just one of those guys that don’t come along too often. He was a one of a kind.”
Dalton says Roth would always light up when he would talk about bands that played at Herman’s over the years, like when the Beat Farmers would play, and the speakers would have to be covered with garbage bags because the band would spray beer all over the crowd.
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“And he loved it,” Daltons says. He’s like, ‘We’d have to clean up that mess, but it was the greatest time.’ He was always just so accommodating.”
Dalton, who has played at many different venues over the past two decades, says he’s never seen staff members stay at a place as long as at Herman’s, something that’s a testament to what kind of person Roth was.
“We played there for years,” Dalton says. “And year after year, I would see the same faces and same friends. That says a lot right there. They love to work at Herman’s Hideaway, and that comes from the top down. That’s one thing that always stood out to me, like these people love being here. They’re still here. We’re talking years and years. The bartenders, the door guys, the security. It really says something.”