SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Decades ago, there was a place on the riverfront, that when the sun set over Savannah, the sounds coming out of a small club were magical to some.
“It was about music,” Night Flight owner Tim Coy said.
Coy moved back to Savannah after serving in the Navy and opened the Night Flight in an old cotton warehouse, long before River Street became what it is today.
“When Tim started this place, River Street wasn’t really a place that, you know there was no Hyatt Hotel, and all of these really nice places down there, it was kind of a rough seedy little area,” Night Flight patron Tim Love said.
Coy began by booking local acts. His love of the blues led him in that direction, and then started getting groups from around the region. The scene in Athens is well documented, and Coy was able to get in on that, post B-52s.
“That road from Athens was well traveled, REM, Pylon, Phil In the Blanks, Love Tractor, Dreams So Real,” Coy said.
“It was always like the quality of music was important, it wasn’t like just crazy, I mean it got a little crazy sometimes.”
From there, Coy started getting national acts, some that had broken away from their groups like Roger McGuinn of the Byrds and John Cale of the Velvet Underground.
“It worked both ways, we had terrific people who were on their way up, and unfortunately in a lot of cases, we didn’t have very many people in there. I remember we had Steve Earle a number of times, when we had six or eight people in the audience because nobody knew who Steve Earle was at the time. Robert Cray, we had him, and he had just a handful of people and a year later Robert Cray was playing the Civic Center,” Coy said.
“I don’t know how Tim did it but, he kept a menagerie of great, I mean the Red Hot Chili Peppers played in this place, and it was tiny, it was like a small little club, but it worked,” Love said.
Many of those group that played in from of the Blue Night Flight sign did go on to great things. Coy had REM in his club, long before Rolling Stone deemed them America’s Best Rock and Roll Band.
“I remember that they, I felt that there was something really working there with them, I couldn’t put my finger on it, unlike when Ten Thousand Maniacs played for us the first time, I was just like, ‘Oh my God,’ who are these people. REM didn’t hit me quite that strongly, but I knew that there was talent there.”
And Coy did help a lot of talent come through Savannah. The Night Flight did have to move from River Street after the building was sold, as it would up on Congress Street, but that came to an end in 1988.
“Mixed emotions, it ended when I was in my late thirties and I was about to hit the wall physically, keeping those hours, eleven in the morning until four the next morning six days a week. When I was in my twenties and early thirties it was fabulous, and then I got to the point I was about to slow down and I couldn’t quite handle it so, it was time.”
“Yeah, sometimes I wonder if I would have been happy staying in the Navy, but when I think back on what Night Flight meant to so many people, I think I did the right thing.”