Jazz Blues & Rock amidst the Jerusalem stone

If you were hanging out in Jerusalem in the early 80s with a yen for some rock and roll, JBRs was the place to go.

The Rolling Stones rolled into town last week and Israel got some long-awaited satisfaction at one of the best live concerts ever to hit the Holy Land. But back in the early 80s, if you were hanging out in Jerusalem with a longing to hear the Stones, you would stroll over from Richie’s Pizza to a small, hole-in-the-wall club called Jazz Blues & Rock — JBRs for short.

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Located on the corner of Mesilat Yesharim and Agrippas streets was founded by a group of New York transplants plus one Brit, who set up a company called Sugar Magnolia Enterprises. For anyone who follows the Grateful Dead, that name should be indication enough of their “Dead-ication”.

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Posters that were no more than mimeographed sheets of paper were hung up around town at places like Richie’s where English-speakers tended to congregate, notifying people that “the new JBR is open every night (except Friday) for your partying pleasure!” The proprietors were religious, hence the Friday night caveat, but dancing until the wee hours certainly took place during the week.  

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Sugar Magnolia had a sideline in t-shirts (“Place your orders at the King George Youth Hostel”) but the main business was the JBR club. The beverage selection was mainly beer and that was limited to Heineken, Goldstar and Maccabi, while the entertainment was recorded music — with the occasional live music gig. But the club’s specialty was nights dedicated to particular bands or events.

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For example, the death of Bob Marley on May 11, 1981, was honored with a night of reggae music.

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JBRs wasn’t fancy. The metal and formica tables and chairs were worn, the stuccoed walls were decorated with dingy camel bags from East Jerusalem, second-hand rock concert posters and handmade wall hangings — lovingly crafted by fangirls out of purloined dormitory bedsheets and magic markers — of the Rolling Stones tongue and lips logo and, of course, the Grateful Dead lightning bolt skull logo. But it had an intimate, clubby feel that, for Deadheads and rockers, made it a home away from home.

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And who knows? Now that the Rolling Stones have paid us a visit, maybe one day Bruce Springsteen will respond to the cry of desire — and the promise of one free beer — issued so long ago at JBRs!

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The posters and photos presented above come courtesy of one former fangirl (who happens to be my sister). It would be nice to know what has happened to the other people who, for a few short years, formed the JBR community. Those in the know are welcome to contact rachel@israel21c.org.

About Rachel Neiman

A veteran media professional who has lived in Israel since 1984, Rachel has been part of the ISRAEL21c organization since 2008. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Globes Online, the English-language edition of Israel’s leading business daily, and before that, at The Jerusalem Post, as a business reporter, feature writer, and consumer columnist. Rachel began writing about Israeli technology companies at LINK Israel’s Business and Technology Magazine and is a professional Hebrew to English translator. In her spare time, she is an active member of the Havurat Tel Aviv congregation, and the Holyland Hash House Harriers, part of an international running and drinking disorganization.
  • Josh Adler

    Hey Rachel,

    A friend just forwarded me your article in 21C about the
    JBR club (Jazz, blues, rock – or Jackie, Baruch, Ralph & of course Dave Club).

    I thought those great times in Jerusalem were lost in
    oblivion. I guess not!

    Thanks so much for writing about it and sharing with people
    those fun and happy times.

    Here’s a very brief history.

    Sugar Magnolia was formed by Stuie Wax, Saul Greenberg, and
    me – I’m the guy in the top left picture with the beard (no Brit involved). We did silk screening and produced the first Hebrew/English rock n’ roll t-shirts which remain a popular hit with tourists to this day. Stu came up with the idea for our most famous t-shirt “I Love NY but Israel is Home” which sold in the many thousands. We also produced music nights at several venues.

    The first venue for our music nights was actually the “Tuv Ta’am” café on king George, owned and operated by Dave Kiel, Alex Liverant, and Yak Goldberg.

    After a couple of months the JBR club was opened by Dave
    Malek, Ralph Beiber, and Baruch Adler (my brother), and the venue moved to that
    location.

    The highlight was always the “Dead” nights – when the place
    was packed to overflow with folks dancing the night away to Grateful Dead music.

    The people were great, the music was so fine, and the vibe
    was so good!
    Thanks so much for your nostalgic article!!
    Josh