‘Mike on the Barroom Floor’


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

November 6, 1957, Vol. III, No. 2

Mike on the Barroom Floor

If Saroyan didn’t write the script for this one it’s only because no one ever told him where Little West 12th Street is.

“There I was, walking through the meat-packing district near the river,” says Ben Hall, explaining how he produced a recording called “The Mike on the Barroom Floor,” “when I saw a girl in a very pink dress through the window of a little bar. She was dancing like Saturday night at Roseland, and while she was dancing she was singing ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ and really putting her heart into it. So, naturally, I went inside.”

The girl was Molly Duffy, the place McCarthy’s Bar and Grill, the customers convivial and musical. Four beers later, Ben Hall dashed home, snatched up his recorder, and returned prepared to make the McCarthy “regulars” immortal.

His idea was to capture some of the rowdy fun on tape. The mechanical intrusion put no damper on things, says Ben. Frank the piano player outdid himself on the battered half-size upright. Dolly and her crew — brothers Francis and Bobby, sister Marion, nephew Donald — had the glassware jumping. Even bartender George Donnelly got into the act with a couple of ballads. And from a wobbly perch on a stool at the far end of the mahogany, Robert “Rubberlegs” Rittenhouse, Poet Laureate of McCarthy’s, kept up a running fire of wry quips, sprightly verse, and occasional song.

All of which explains why Westchester Records threw a party last week for the McCarthy “regulars” in their hideaway on Little West 12th — not to be confused with Big West 12th, a few blocks to the south. They really have been immortalized — on an LP tagged WF 6056.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]