Birmingham’s Rojo continues to foster musicians 10 years after Bob Dylan recommended the neighborhood restaurant

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Dead Fingers performs at Rojo’s 16th Birthday Party this summer. Photo courtesy of Rojo.

Where the Music Begins….

“Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it’s like they didn’t fade away at all.” – Bob Dylan

Nearly 10 years ago, music icon Bob Dylan gave a shout-out to Rojo, the popular Highland Park neighborhood restaurant and bar, during his weekly satellite radio show.

restaurant week
Photo courtesy of Rojo

During Dylan’s show, “Theme Time Radio Hour,” which highlighted his observations about the tunes of the day, Dylan made this comment following a song by the band NRBQ called, “12 Bar Blues”.

“That was a song about 12 bars. Here’s four more that I like. If you’re in Birmingham, Alabama, stop by the Rojo. That’s Spanish for red.”

He went on to talk about bars in Burlington, Vt.; Providence, R.I.; and New York City.

Bob Dylan and The Band touring in Chicago, 1974. By Jim Summaria – via wikimedia  commons

Mysteriously, no one ever witnessed the man, who has been called “The Voice of a Generation”, at Rojo. But somehow, Dylan recommended the place to a national audience.


Rojo, a haven for local musicians

“People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around – the music and the ideas.” – Bob Dylan

But maybe it wasn’t too weird. Almost a decade later, one thing is clear about Rojo: some of Birmingham’s best musicians have worked there during the past 16 years.

We recently tallied 17 musicians who have called Rojo their place of work, (plus owner Clark Lopez, who also enjoys playing music).

“Clark and I have tried to let our employees pursue their music by giving them flexible schedules and working with them when they need to go on tour.  We believe it is important for people to be able to follow their dreams,” said  Rojo co-owner Laney DeJonge.

For fun, we have compiled a list, which includes musicians who have played on the national scene, including “Late Night with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show,” as well as local festivals such as Sloss Fest.

Here is our list of current and past Rojo employee musicians.

Current employees

Taylor Hollingsworth– Taylor and the Puffs, Dead Fingers, The Dexateens, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Wild Sweet Orange, Maria Taylor Band, Spidereaters, sdx, Verbena, Cutgrass, Taylor Hollingsworth Country Western.

Hollingworth has appeared with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band on the David Letterman Show and most recently James Corden’s Late, Late Show.

Kate Taylor Hollingsworth– Dead Fingers, ¡ghosts!, Wild Sweet Orange, Maria Taylor Band

Kate Taylor Hollingsworth and her husband Taylor Hollingsworth have been called by some local fans, “The first couple of the Birmingham music scene.” The duo now make up Dead Fingers, (also featuring Rojo employee Garret Kelly) which played at Sloss Fest this July.

Garret Kelly– Wild Sweet Orange, Red Harp, Dead Fingers

According to their Wikipedia page, Garret Kelly, along with Taylor Shaw played with Wild Sweet Orange when the band’s song “Land of No Return” was featured on Grey’s Anatomy. The band performed the song “Ten Dead Dogs” live on the Late Show with David Letterman on June 23, 2008.

Breely DeBalsi– The Old Paints

Rojo’s  Breely DeBalsi on drums with The Old Paints playing “Girl”.  The song  recently won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

Clark Lopez– 231 South
Ken Moore– T-Minus Band, Ferocious Bubbles
Pete Szelenbaum– Ferocious Bubbles, Trees with Bells, The Cyanotics
Belinda Hyatt– Escape Goat UK
Eileen Barry – Shocks
Katie Ford Kelly – Red Harp

Past employees

Matt Patton – Model Citizen, T-Minus Band, the Dexateens, Drive-by Truckers

Patton plays bass guitar and back-up vocals for the legendary Drive-by-Truckers. He joined the popular Muscle Shoals based band in 2012.

Blake Williamson– Lee Baines III and the Glory Fires, Black Willis Band, Vesper, Taylor and the Puffs
Erika Pipkin – Waste Band, Lite Brite,
Troy Thompson– Kilgore Trout, The Nooners, T-Minus Band
Taylor Shaw– Wild Sweet Orange, The Great Book of John
Lauren Strain – Grenadines, Lolly and the Pops
Thomas Mimikakis– Stateside, Through the Sparks
Sarah Green– Sarah Green and the Sunday Lovers, The SBG’s

“Look, when I started out, mainstream culture was Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Sound of Music. There was no fitting into it then and of course, there’s no fitting into it now.” – Bob Dylan

Photo from Bham Now.

Ten years after Bob Dylan’s endorsement, it’s great to have a place like Rojo here in town. Everyone has a song in his or her heart, and looks for a way to share it. For a lot of people, it starts here.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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