NORWAY — People say when one door closes, another opens. This is exactly what happened – literally and figuratively at Tucker’s Music Pub on Main Street in Norway.
Al and Anne Mallory have owned and operated the local bar and favorite music venue for more than a decade when it was in a smaller building across the street before Anne opened up Creative Media at Tucker’s current location of 290 Main St. But since Anne’s cancer resurfaced last year, the couple was forced to close her business about two months ago.
“Of course, now as a result of that, we had to be a money-making organization,” Al said from behind the bar at Tucker’s early Christmas Eve. “It’s music. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s what we want.”
Al said him and Anne marked their 39th anniversary this summer.
“I am Anne’s husband. Anne isn’t Al’s husband, it’s always been Al is Anne’s husband,” he said. “We’ve always reinvented ourselves every eight or nine years to do something else we wanted to do that was fun.”
And this is one of the reasons the Mallorys aren’t letting life kick them down. Al has been busy renovating the bar and expanding its days of operation. About five weeks ago he launched the blues open mic night on Thursdays, beginning at 7 p.m., which he said has gotten better ever week. This night of music doesn’t sport a cover charge – which is true for most nights at Tucker’s – and features drums and electric instruments, which differs from Friday’s acoustic open mic night.
And now on Sunday afternoons the walls of Tucker’s will also be filled with the sounds of music. The venue will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. and the shows will run from 2 to 4 p.m., with a $5 cover charge. Al has lined up some top notch local and world renown acts.
“I am really excited. There’s nothing to do on Sunday afternoon except watch the game or maybe ski. … We get a lot of really, really talented people who want to play because of the acoustics in the room,” he said. “Hopefully we can get enough people in here to pay the rent.”
Al warned his patrons he will have to raise the drink prices slightly, though it is not something he even wants to consider doing. But he has to make ends meet somehow and that’s one of the reasons he’s charging a small cover on Sundays.
He’s looking forward to welcoming more musicians into his space, which has opened up since the Creative Media equipment has been vacated. There’s more couches and places to sit and stand.
“We have a lot more room and it’s a lot more comfortable,” Al said. “We can have a lot more people in there. When we had a lot of people in there before, it was crowded.”
While Al can’t wait to start the new Sunday music series in January, he is most looking forward to hearing Blondel, Lopez and Thorton play on Sunday, Jan. 24. Blondel is a well known jazz musician from France, Lopez just graduated from college and Thorton is a nationally known guitar maker in Buckfield, he said.
“I cannot wait to hear these people play,” Al said. “I am literally drooling to hear these guys.”
He also can’t wait for his longtime friend Shawn McCole to return from Alaska to play on Saturday, Jan. 9. Al credits McCole and music with saving his right hand so he could be able continue to play, after McCole suggested he play bass to loosen up the arthritis in his hand.
“He’s a show in himself, by god!” Al said about McCole. “He is one of those people who should have been famous.”
Mary Hargreaves is a longtime friend of the Mallorys and patron of Tucker’s and recently began performing there. She has helped the couple with media outreach to help keep the pub open.
“It is very special, it brings in not only local people but anybody and it is all ages. … There is a feeling of friendship, of kinship,” she said, noting those younger than 18 can come and enjoy or play music, but must be accompanied by an adult. “They have great atmosphere. They have put up posters … of the performers who have been. There it’s kind of ’60s atmosphere now.”
And that atmosphere ties in well with Al’s house band A Bunch of Old Hippies. It’s mostly comprised of Rusty Wiltjer, Nate Towne and Bob Wallace, with many others playing with them over the years. On New Year’s Eve, a Bunch of Old Hippies and Friends will take the stage and Al promises to light up the night with their music.
Hargreaves noted how close she is with the Mallorys and loves that there is rarely a cover charge at Tucker’s, which is one of the ways the couple has given back to Oxford Hills.
“I admire both of them very much and they … have done a lot for the community,” she said. “I think the public would respect the fact he’s promoting youthful music.”
It is one of Al’s favorite things to hear young, local kids play on his stage. He said it helps inspire him and the rest of the older musicians in the area. The Younger Bloods and Singepole Mountain Band are two that frequent the venue the most. Kale Churchill of Singepole Mountain Band is 18 and Al said he’s been watching him play since he was 13.
“Their parents have told me … how glad they are he’s had a chance to come and play and perfect his craft. … Those young kids are so good. God they’re so good,” Al emphasized.
Hargreaves also offered to collect donations for anyone wishing to help with the pub’s operations. People can call her at 388-2669 or call Tucker’s Pub at 312-7203.
“Tucker’s is going to stay here as long as it can stay here,” Al promised.
For more information, visit http://creativemediaofmaine.com/.