Private Eye

By John Saltas

Private Eye

Très Goodbyes 

Losing Dead Goat Saloon and Johanna's Kitchen means we lose part of who we are.

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My grandmother baked homemade bread. With each batch, she placed a bit of dough in the frying pan with some Crisco and fried it into what she said were scones. I think, though, and tasty as they were (made more so with slathers of butter and homemade elderberry jam) they were just fried dough. The next time I'd see anything like them was years later at the Utah State Fairpark where a food stand was selling Navajo tacos, which were nearly the same except for the slathering of beans.

In the early 1970s, I had my first Johanna's Kitchen version of a scone—a flying-saucer-size mass of deep fried dough, deep brown, light and airy, slathered in butter. Plus jam or honey, and you had room for all three they were so big. Back then, Johanna's Kitchen was sort of remote, a South State Street way-stop surrounded by beet fields and farmland.

Most everyone living in the south end of the valley ate at least one meal at Johanna's. It was homey. Breakfasts were filling and the coffee good. You could take a pie to go. I was there about two months ago (and ran into about three old familiar faces), but I didn't buy a pie. I should have because on Sunday night, Johanna's just blew to smithereens. A gas leak or something and next thing you know, egg cartons are landing half mile away, and the walls are caving in. It was quite a blast, captured by at least two security cameras at nearby businesses. I'm gonna miss those scones.

Over the span of two decades plus five, we've moved over 100,000 newspapers inside of Johanna's Kitchen. It's a real shame in my view. When we lose such homey artifacts, we lose more than buildings, we lose a part of who we are and how we became how we are.

Just a week earlier, a Cottonwood Heights home went up in flames, a 100-percent goner. The home belonged to Mike Ricks and his wife, Linda Steele. Mike was the bassist in the Rick Welter Band, one of the best bands ever to play in Utah. Rick Welter, a bluesman through and through hit Salt Lake City with his band, the Dynatones, and could really wail on his guitar. To his side, keeping beat and looking cool was Mike Ricks, as fine a bassist as you'll ever hear. When Mike's home burned down, it took more than memories but also the wood and steel that comprised his vintage guitar collection, the tools of his trade. It was Mike who coined the Dead Goat's bumper sticker phrase "Just a hop, skip, and a prayer from Temple Square."

Some years later, Mike became partner in the Dead Goat Saloon, paired with local legend, John Paul Brophy. John Paul has written for this paper off and on since the late 1980s, and no one in this town has ever matched his passionate style, breadth of knowledge and love of blues music. When the unsafe Arrow Press Square building that housed the Dead Goat was demolished last week (long overdue thanks to decades of abuse and neglect by former owners), a piece of this city's soul went with it. I remember my first visit, before it became a blues hall—the great hockey fans, the famous goat heads, the pool tables, the beer and, scrawled onto a brick in the men's restroom this: G. Cole. That meant my Bingham Buddy Gerald Cole had beat me there. He signs his name on everything, like Kilroy. I'd like that brick. And a Goat Burger, one of the finest old-style burgers anywhere, RIP.

"I salvaged the many goat heads and the extensive collection of autographed photos of the bands that played the bar that adorned the walls, along with the vintage cash register that was the centerpiece of the front bar," says John Paul. "That little bar was very much the highlight of my life."

Among the shows John Paul lists as his favorites are Mick Taylor (a Rolling Stone), Buddy Miles (played with Jimi Hendrix), Los Lobos jamming after a Fairpark show, Levon Helm (of The Band), Texas bluesman W.C. Clark (where Stevie Ray Vaughan got his start) and John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt band). Did you happen to see any of those? Among mine was Charlie Musselwhite. I'm a sucker for harmonica.

Per John Paul, "Carolyn Wonderland was one of my favorites when she used to play my club. I first heard the song Dead Goat Saloon on a live stream on the computer two years ago from a festival in Northern California when she played it in front of 10,000 people. I was doing some editing work and listening with one ear when I heard the line "Utah moon." That got my full attention, and it just went over the rainbow from there; I was overwhelmed with emotion. She sent it to me in August 2013—a timely tribute after exactly 10 years since the last live music was played in the bar."

If you can't find the song out there, I'd be happy to forward it to anyone who asks. Besides references to wall paintings, Commander Cody and Merle Haggard, Wonderland also bemoans that after John Paul and Mike, the Dead Goat became a shaker bar with pole dancers replacing the guitars. Progress? Not.

That was John Paul's house, that room was sacred,
Just too much soul to hide in a downtown bar.
We danced our cares away underneath a silver Utah moon,
All night at the Dead Goat Saloon,
Drank ourselves to death a thousand times before noon,
Another all-nighter at the Dead Goat Saloon.

Scones and guitars and music. The real treasures.

Editor's note: Visit the "Mom and Michael Ricks' rebuild" crowdfunding campaign at GoFundMe.com/momandmike. Send comments to john@cityweekly.net.

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