Just like the engines that brought trains to Fullerton and then moved on, Steamers Jazz is permanently changing tracks Thursday. After a 21-year run that launched careers and crowded our streets, owner Terence Love is closing its doors for good.
Like many others in Fullerton, Steamers was home to me during the brightest times and some dark, dark hours. During its first few years, it wasn’t unusual to be one of three customers in the room, wondering how long it would last.
Those were special days. Terence and I became fast friends, not because I love jazz (I don’t), but because we both thrive on community. He was building his, I was finding mine.
In those days I curated and hung the artwork on the walls for him. We used the room for a couple of [legendary] art-and-music shows that brought in hundreds of new people. La Vaca Grande was the first one, El Perro Pequeno the second. Ask Terence about either one and I guarantee he’ll light up and smile.
But as a mutual friend of ours, David Styffe, would say, “sometimes something is so perfect you have to walk away from it.”
And in a town where community is everything, Steamers was perfect. Politicians held events there and young musicians learned their chops. Major stars got to play there out of the LA spotlight and others made the stage their own. The art that remains on the walls, albeit for only a few more days, is by legendary jazz photographer Ray Avery, who passed away at least then years ago. The photos are the stuff of legends and of a time that no longer exists.
They’ll be coming off the walls soon and the stage will be empty. Jazz won’t be playing over Commonwealth Avenue via the outside speakers anymore. There won’t be standing-room-only crowds hearing Barbara Morrison belt out the blues. Nancy Sanchez will have one less place to play, Pancho Sanchez and the Banda Brothers will have one less brother to hang out with, Terence told me once he had dinner with Elvis Costello when his wife, Diana Krall, played the club.
And now it’s time to walk away from it. While closing Steamers is sad, it’s also a new beginning. For me, moving on has dominated my thoughts all year, but I don’t have the acclaim that Terence does. His is a good anchor, certainly, and he’s worked it the best he could. I can’t imagine the dedication Steamers demanded of him, let alone his family.
Tuesday afternoon we had a long chat, the type that’s impossible if you catch him during business hours. His son Daniel joined us. I remember when Daniel was just a toddler. His mom, Christy, was an essential part of getting Steamers off the ground.
Daniel, is headed now to UCLA after his past few years at CSUF. For him the transition is a natural one, fueled by his love of film and a project he’s wrapping on Frank Zappa. Innovators, all of them.
Now is a good time for Steamers to change hands, to become something new. It’s a good time for Terence to do the same. He’s been captain of the ship and conquered new worlds.
Jazz always changes, and so do we. When we run out of notes we need to step off the charts to see where to go next. And when something is done to perfection, we have to walk away.
Story and photos by Nur Sattar/Fullerton News Academy -- Angie Chun’s next stop is Sweden, where she will compete for the international title, but for now, she is a barista at the Coffee Code Espresso Bar in Fullerton. Click on the headline to read the full story!
In January I announced that Fullerton Stories magazine would take the year off. FullertonStories.com will now join in its sabbatical. The site will continue to publish original photos and information as it is able to.
For now, please send announcements, press releases and other thoughts to email@example.com, or call us at 714-525-2671.
Look for something new in 2016.
Author Michael Oates, Jr. Read his 2014 bestseller Wade In The Water.