The Chukker, 1956-2003. Salve atque vale.

This won’t mean a thing to any of you who aren’t familiar with Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but after nearly 50 years, an era is ending, and maybe Dopers who love similar places can sympathize.

The legendary Chukker is closing its doors forever. The greatest bar in the state of Alabama, having hosted Jimi Hendrix, the Replacements, REM, the Allman Brothers, the Descendants, the Misfits, Sublime, Sun Ra, Dick Dale, and Ronnie Dawson, to name just a few, will capitulate to the forces of mediocrity and dumbassed city ordinances on Halloween night.

In a city full of frat rats, college kids, and rednecks, the Chukker was the only place where every type of person in the city could go and feel welcome. There were derelicts, lawyers, drag queens, punk rockers, bikers, rednecks, black, white, young and old. We all hung out there in the spirit of awesome music and great atmosphere. I can’t tell you the number of sunrises I’ve seen from the Chukker’s back yard, after having exhausted myself watching band after band play from 8PM the previous night until the crack of dawn.

It wasn’t a “nice place.” It was a total hole-in-the-wall, with a huge, obnoxious mural covering the outside proclaiming Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, and a fan vent painted to look like an enormous, staring eyeball. The pool tables were stained with beer, vomit, and God knows what all else. I made it a strict policy never to sit on the lumpy, smoky couches they had around the corner in the concert hall after I walked in one afternoon and caught a woman giving a 70-year-old man a very enthusiastic (and public) blowjob on one. The wall on the right in the entry hall was usually covered with a photographic art display from one of the local artists. Every other wall and ceiling was either matte black or covered in fantastic murals of fauns, satyrs, naked women, and in one case, over the bar, a life-sized neon reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel paintings fondly known as the Sistine Chukker.

The Chukker is (was) utterly unique. It is not a place with any pretensions. None. It exists exactly as it is, if that makes any sense. University professors, doctors, and politicians rub elbows with vagrants, freaks, and criminals. It always has music. Always. You could come in one night and see a college jazz band sawing their way through bebop as done on a theremin, a washtub, and a broom handle, then come in the next night, and catch R.L. Burnside in all his chaotic glory.

I’ll be there the final night, when the rumor is that they’re going to burn the place down. I don’t support random vandalism, but after the Chukker’s legendary history, it might be the only appropriate end.

Hail to the Chukker. Eat cornbread, raise hell, goddamn it.

Too bad, Jim. Never been to Alabama, but you made me wish I had. Sounds and looks like a real cool place.