Promoter Scott Carswell Reflects on The Moon, Showbiz and Finding Joey Ramone Sleeping Under a Table
A Self-Made Niche
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Scott Carswell looked around Jake Gaither Auditorium. Nearby, girls from Florida A&M University were falling like logs at his feet. But it wasn’t the 16-year-old’s charm and good looks causing the mass swooning. No, it was the crazy dude on stage, a guy named James Brown, streaked with sweat, shouting into the microphone and doing his trademark splits that drove the ladies wild.
It was 1967 and Carswell was at his first concert ever, in a packed college auditorium with no air conditioning. He remembers the scene vividly to this day, 48 years later.
“It was hot, women were fainting everywhere — the only security issue I had being the only white guy in the room was dodging these women who would faint when James did his split,” he said. “They’d come down like a live oak. When James hit the stage, nobody was sitting down. It was a great show, and I’ve been a James Brown fanatic ever since.”
Since then, it’s been a long and winding road for the man who runs The Moon, Tallahassee’s premier music venue, which first opened its doors 30 years ago in 1985. Although a music lover who’s played in his share of small bands and brushed shoulders with some talented entertainers over the years, Carswell didn’t exactly chart a clear course in that direction. Nor did he actually plan on making a big impact on the cultural landscape of Tallahassee. It just sort of happened that way.
“It provided me a job doing just what I wanted to do, but I kind of fell into it and just invented my own job. But in terms of the town, I just filled a niche,” he said. “Anyway, I’m just thankful Tallahassee has supported us for 30 years. There’s been some highs and some lows, that’s for sure; but all in all, we’ve been very lucky and happy to be doing what we’re doing.”
It was little experiences here and there that led to the creation of The Moon. In his early days, the Tallahassee native and Florida State University graduate worked as an accountant for a Nashville nightclub owned by renowned saxophone player Boots Randolph (of “Yakety Sax” fame), recorded ambient sounds for Walt Disney World, ran his own recording studio in nearby Monticello and enjoyed playing R&B. His biggest inspiration, though, has to be his involvement with Boots Randolph’s venue.
“By virtue of doing that nightclub, I always wanted to have a music room,” he said. “I think another thing that really influenced me was Studebakers,” a large, popular nightclub on Apalachee Parkway located where Olive Garden now stands. “A friend of mine here in town was very instrumental in all the Studebakers, and they had this (’50s and ’60s music) theme, and I wanted to have the opposite of that. I wanted something that was not the same every night.”
But back then, that just wasn’t done. Every “music room” was themed. Venues either had a ’50s theme or catered to disco or the country music crowd. None of them flipped back and forth. Carswell challenged that conventional thinking.