Posted On: 08/04/2001
Fredrick's Music Lounge is what you could think of as a real find. The bar is hidden and has a mysterious aura, with traits similar to that of a speakeasy. The bar is an actual lower level addition in an unassuming residential home on Chippewa just east of Kingshighway in South Saint Louis.
The entrance itself is arcane with a buzzer at the door. Patrons are required to identify themselves before entering. Most would think that the buzzer is for safety precautions, but the reason is far more complex than that. Rumor has it that the door buzzer was installed when Fred Senior had gambling machines. The tavern was busted in the '80s along with many bars in Saint Louis with these payout machines.
The bar has always had an exclusive underground (and almost literally underground) stature, from when the late owner Fred Boetcher Senior ran the tavern to the current owner Freddy Friction (Fred Senior's son). Freddy Friction inhabits the house to which the bar is attached. Fred Senior passed away last spring, but his legacy has continued on at this southside pub.
Fred Senior, a lifetime salesman of all trades, was a very outgoing character who had played crooner style music back in the old Gaslight Square and continued this tradition when he opened Fredrick's Music Lounge in the early 1980s. Fred Senior had live entertainment and would often wow the crowds crooning along with his piano. The place was open for lunch and dinner and had kitschy cocktail waitresses that would wear harem pants. Semi-formal wear was required at this time when it was known as a media hangout. This continued on until the late '80s, when Fred Senior became ill. He pared back the operation and only opened in the evening. He then introduced "membership" cards around 1990 for his regular customers. The "members" would be able to take advantage of such bizarre perks as a cold cut buffet dinner.
Fred Senior had what can be kindly described as a "way with the ladies". His magnetic charm won him a loyal following, but some people were not tolerant of his strong personality. Fred Senior was married five times. He always had a dirty joke or story to tell with a wink in his eye. He was never shy to ask a female patron to dance. Fred Senior won Bartender of The Year for Saint Louis Magazine the year before he passed away.
The bar itself is below street level with a decor that can only be described as unique. The darkly lit bar is made of trees, and resembles a hut. There is a tree inside at the entrance with an old bee hive hanging from it. The walls are painted with women that Fred Senior had admired/married/employed at one time. A tiny stage is backed up to the entrance steps with a low wooden railing and the lights are activated by sound. The entertainment is quirky with a bumper pool table and a Ms. Pac Man machine.
Outside is an equally as unusual courtyard that is larger than the area inside the bar. The courtyard doubles as the backyard of the house. An unusual water fountain with a miniature wooden bridge is at the center of the courtyard. Unusual love seats with hutches and picnic benches are scattered about the courtyard. The area outside is usually quiet and is where most patrons go to have a conversation when the bands are playing or to get some fresh air.
Freddy Friction has gained a legendary reputation on his own. Friction has established himself as one of the many unusual characters that make up our city. He is known for his spoon playing, and he is often wearing a shoulder holster with his spoons tucked inside in case of an emergency spoon playing session. He is currently the drummer for the very popular Highway Matrons and Fred's Variety Group. Friction hosts an alt country show, Fishin' with Dynamite Thursdays on 88.1 KDHX. Like his father, Friction also can tell a story and has a way, but his own way, with people. He is a charmer and a professional drinker.
A new underground scene has been created in the last year at Fredrick's Music Lounge. Fredrick's is now frequented by music scene hipsters that are often found at the Way Out, Rocket Bar and Hi Pointe. Many in the bar industry frequent Fredrick's as their off-night neighborhood hangout. The bar now hosts music nightly with the exception of Mondays.
Mondays are movie nights, similar to the popular "Brew and View" found in converted theater bars. Fred's has three large televisions that show films such as Escape From New York and Clerks. They also feature shorts and unusual television shows like Pee Wee's Playhouse and Chris Elliott's Get A Life. They play these shows from DVD and widescreen whenever available, which is a nice touch. There is always free popcorn on these popular evenings.
The music at Fredrick's is now a jumping. It is not a normal venue due to its small size. The bands usually play for tips. Instead of an entrance fee, the bar encourages an exit fee. There is a small box at the door to drop in a few bucks to show your appreciation for the band. A bucket for tips with a clever picture and the words "show us your tips" is placed in front of the band while performing. The music is from many different types of genres, but there is a dominance of alt country bands and acoustic artists. The signature music night is the very popular Hootenanny on Thursday evenings. Musicians come from all over to this acoustic jam session which will often have a celebrity drop in for the jam.
Drinks are always cheap, with pro drinkers in mind. Draft Stag is available for a buck and a quarter and Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle is only a buck fifty. Erica, Kathy and Freddy are behind the bar, each one with their own charms. Erica can be resplendent with her outgoing and direct manner not unlike Carla from Cheers. Kathy is a sharply dressed hipster that handles the often difficult bar crowd with ease and is always quick to serve thirsty patrons. Fred has his own charm that pulls in those that sit on the bar stool. He will try to talk new folks into joining Alcoholics Unanimous, a wild pyramid scheme that is meant to get him free drinks. He may also try to talk an unsuspecting patron into ordering his own concoction called "Cock Soup". The actual drink can be ordered but is not meant for human consumption. The ingredients are a somewhat secret, but it does contain a chicken bone.
Fredrick's is one of the kind of places that people like to think of as their regular bar, and for many it is. The atmosphere is definitely funky, but it is also very inviting and homey.
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