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The Double Door Inn

In 1973, an unassuming bar opened in an old clapboard house close to Central Piedmont Community College. It was called The Double Door Inn, and it would become one of the most revered and enduring music venues in the nation. It attracted the best blues, rock and soul artists, among them Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Drive-By Truckers and local legends such as The Spongetones and Blue Dogs. Eric Clapton sat in on an unforgettable set, and The Avett Brothers recorded their first album there. 

The documentary Live from The Double Door Inn explores this storied history. You can catch a special screening on Friday, December 22, at IPH in honor of the venue’s 50th anniversary. Proceeds support IPH’s nonprofit mission and programs. Jay Ahuja, who spearheaded the documentary, tells us how the film came together and shares some of his favorites performances at The Double Door.

What made The Double Door Inn special? 

It was a dump. It was a dive. And the place sounded amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a better place to listen to live music. There’s something about the room. It’s a warm, great sound, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.

What was your most memorable experience?

Koko Taylor put on an amazing show there. She was sort of a Blues diva. I thought it was amazing that they could even get her to play that room. Joe Ely played, and it was just him and another musician with an accordion, and I’m a big Texas Blues fan. That was my first and only time I ever got to see him play. In just the six months that we were doing the documentary, we saw 30 shows, maybe more. 

Was this right before it closed in 2017?

Yes. Double Door owner Nick Karres was a client of mine at The Charlotte Observer. We’d go to lunch, and he would tell me, hey, Jay, this is a band you probably want to come see. So I’ve probably seen upward of 200 shows there since 1986.

The Double Door Inn

Jay Ahuja at The Double Door Inn

Nick called me up and said he’d decided to sell the place. And I said, Nick, somebody needs to do a documentary about that. I was working at WTVI, public television, at the time. So I had been immersed in the whole documentary scene, not creating them but working with people who did. I went to the powers-that-be at WTVI, but they were all out-of-towners, and they just didn’t understand the history. They passed, and I pitched it to a couple of commercial television stations. Nobody bit. Then I said, well, I guess I’ve got to do this. And I had never done a documentary before, but I was stupid enough to try.

Who did you bring in to work on the project?

I recruited Rick Fitts. He would be the reporter and go out and get the stories. Rick loved the idea. I learned that Rick had played the Double Door as lead singer with three different bands. We brought in Kim Brattain, who is a great writer. We all got together at Whiskey Warehouse and hit it off swimmingly. When we started the project, it was obvious that we also needed a professional cameraman, and Rick and Kim both knew one, a fellow named Chuck Bludsworth, who came on board. The four of us went out there and beat the bushes, and Nick was kind enough to open up his Rolodex and give us numbers for all these musicians.

Who will be on the panel following the screening?

I will serve as moderator, and Nick and the three other producers will be on the panel. We’re also going to show a bonus feature that we’ve never screened before. It’s sort of a director’s cut, an 8-minute bonus feature. I think people are going to want to stick around to see that.


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