The Alley is practically an institution in Sanford. Owners Chris and Michelle Johnson took over the space nine years ago, then in 2016 bumped out into the former Emerald Hen bar and Sanford’s old bus depot in order to build their award-winning Fuel Barbecue.
The Victorian-era building was built around 1905, and according to Johnson, it’s believed to be home to the oldest continuously operating bar in Seminole County.
Walking in, one is immediately struck by the charming, funky dive bar feel with historical features like pressed tin ceilings juxtaposed with tons of blues memorabilia and decades of graffiti on walls that ooze music history and atmosphere.
The nostalgia, acoustics, and unbeatable ambiance make The Alley a hot ticket for patrons and artists alike. “All the musicians tell us that the room has such cool vibe that they love to play here,” said Johnson whose venue is in such high demand, that he’s already booked out their national acts through 2019.
Enter to win a pair of tickets to see Paul Nelson at The Alley this Saturday, November 10th at 8pm by commenting below this article!
On their calendar this weekend, The Alley will host blues legend Paul Nelson for Saturday night and hold their first annual Rock for Food on Sunday, November 11th to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank. “Just in time for Thanksgiving we will feature four of Orlando’s top cover bands performing live on a large stage,” said Chris of the event whose cost for admission is a non-perishable food item.
Blues fans have been anticipating Saturday’s show with Johnny Winter’s main man Paul Nelson. Johnny and Paul toured internationally for over ten years and 180 dates per year and now Nelson has slowed down to a modest 150 to take things down a notch. “He’s a real rock star!” Chris said.
Paul Nelson and I caught up by phone last week while he was in New Jersey, preparing for the next leg of his tour.
“I miss Johnny, he was like a father to me. The blues world is so cool in that the players take you under their wing… they pass the torch and invite you onto their stage, and you turn around, and it’s huge [the number of people you have played with]. Now I have a lot of friends.”
Winters died in the summer of 2014 and Paul was rocking with the old man until the end.
“That was a high honor, I’ll always be Johnny’s guitar player. I was so close to him, we played together almost every day; it’s kind of like passing the torch. Johnny, he was like that with Muddy Waters; Muddy Waters did that with him: called him his son. And Johnny did that with me.”
The last project Paul worked on with Johnny was their album, Step Back, on which Paul both produced and played. They won the 2015 Grammy for Best Blues Album, and Paul accepted the award for them both.
Having built such an illustrious repertoire of collaborators, Nelson’s next step was to recruit them for his latest projects. “What I do is a Jeff Beck thing, and I grab the best musicians I can get ahold of. That means we are in constant rehearsals and always practicing, which is part of what keeps us fresh.”
Coming to The Alley with him this weekend, Nelson will play with Paul Loringer (of Poppa Chubby), Rico Amero singing, and Joe Randi on drums. “He’s the best shuffle drummer I’ve heard,” Paul beamed about his bandmate. “This lineup is especially good.”
Now that Paul has signed with Sony and released his latest album, Badass Generation, he’s excited to be touring through institutions like the Iridium, the Blue Note and Legends and almost more so to the intimate clubs where his heart lies.
“Small venues like this are where live music breeds, and you see the history of all the guys that have played there… I love this kind of atmosphere and closeness with the audience, those intimate places are where it really happens.”
Catch up with Paul Nelson at The Alley this Saturday, November 10th at 8pm. Ticket reservations can be made online, or for free to one lucky Sanford 365 reader and their guest.