Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
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It’s an Indian restaurant today, but on that spot in Teele Square once stood The Jumbo Lounge. They took the name from P.T. Barnum’s infamous circus elephant who became Tufts University’s mascot.
The tales of drunk brawls and loud music are as massive as the pachyderm’s hide was. Upstairs or downstairs, there was always drama at The Jumbo. The bands played on the lower level. If the new breed of Somerville bar patrons were magically transported back to the heyday of The Jumbo, they would be shocked.
Before the days of a hundred micro brews were the 25 cent drafts at what some have called “a bucket of blood.” I have my own memories of the place and I have gathered a lot of other former customer’s thoughts about the joint.
Many people remember it for the music. Some remember it for the fights and others had their first taste of booze there. There were pitchers and pitchers and pitchers of beer flowing at The Jumbo. It was also called The Brothers Four at one time or another.
One thing I remember was the wood paneling that covered the walls. I also recall seeing a few heads bounce off of those walls. Some of the brawls spilled out into the streets of the square. The Jumbo Lounge is definitely a memorable part of Villen history from its peak in the crazy 80’s, as alcohol soaked as it was.
Let’s talk about the music. Aerosmith tribute band Last Child opened for Leslie West and Mountain there. My band The Echoes opened for The Grass Roots and Peter Tork of The Monkees. Charlie Farren played The Jumbo with various bands, as did the pantomime group The Fabulous Pharaohs.
On the night The Fools performed there was a huge brawl. But then again there was always a drunken fool or two at The Jumbo (I know I was one now and then!). Stevie Ray Vaughn, Golden Joe Baker, The Reminisents, and The Guess Who also performed at The Jumbo. Our dear friend, the late great Mickey O’Halloran, Jumbo booking agent among other clubs, gave lots of bands the chance to play there. He was a sweet guy and is deeply missed. I wonder if that larger than life bouncer is still around? It was more of a shocker if there wasn’t a fight at The Jumbo on any particular night.
There were battles of the bands and battles of the drunks! Someone told me they lost two teeth at The Jumbo. A lady I know once got punched in the face by accident when she was too close to a fight one night. The regulars used to go at it a lot too. So basically there was always entertainment at The Jumbo.
My pal Tim had a Comedy Showcase there in 1982 every Wednesday night. Gary tells us, “I Played on many teams sponsored by The Jumbo. Men’s basketball, softball and flag football teams. We won a lot of championships with the players assembled during the late 60’s and 70’s.” The former owners of The Jumbo eventually bought The Palace in Saugus, which is another story for another time.
On Thursday nights, the last song of the night was Donna Summer’s Last Dance. The last time the doors of The Jumbo Lounge were open are vague. We have rounded it off to the late 80’s but it may have seeped into the early 90’s. A lot of Somerville kids remember getting served at The Jumbo when they were underage with phony IDs. Others remember a place where you were pretty sure to see a good old fashioned bar fight, and occasionally hear some pretty good music.
Some still cringe when the words The Jumbo Lounge are uttered. If you were there, you no doubt have some of your own memories of one of Somerville’s lost, decadent, inebriated treasures. What a wild time!