R.I.P. Lovable Curmudgeon Tad Gaither
Former proprietor of both Black Dog Taverns, Gaither passed away recently of unknown causes. Folks who knew him will remember a little guy, no bigger than about 5’-7’’ and a buck-fifty, with a non-offensive, successful, salt-and-pepper combover, some form of salt-and-pepper hair on his face, and a twinkle in his eye that let you know that, while he may not look like much, he could be as sharp and witty as any heady Harper’s columnist. He was always a breath of smoky air. Never stayed out later than about 8 o’clock. Always had to go home and “roll a fatty with the dogs. ”
A graduate of Bowdoin College who served his country in Korea and lived for about 20 years in the Big Apple, Gaither — a lifelong bibliophile (who turned me and who knows how many other people on to German author Gunter Grass) — spent many years in Fort Worth working for Harcourt-Brace, an international publishing company with offices in Fort Worth. Gaither opened the original Black Dog, on Throckmorton Street in the basement space currently occupied by Paddy Reds, well over a decade ago, inspired by the groovy clubs of Greenwich Village (circa the 1970s). The Black Dog’s busiest nights were probably Sundays, when jazzbos from all over North Texas –– and some national jazzbos just passing through –– would gather and play until close, attracting what probably remains the most diverse crowd ever seen in a Fort Worth club. Black, white, rich, poor, artistic, athletic, you name it –– everyone went to the Sunday night jazz jams. But neither Black Dog stage –– neither the original nor the second one, in the West 7th Street corridor –– was limited to jazz. Fusion, funk, and rock outfits such as Pablo and the Hemphill 7, Confusatron, and Bertha Coolidge also regularly played the Dog. Bertha, in fact, only played the Dog.
Though his business acumen is still up for debate — the sudden closure of Black Dog II was news to his employees — Gaither was a helluva guy and will be sorely missed by a lot of folks. A memorial get-together for Tad’s family and friends will be held on Sunday at 3 p.m., according to The Stash Dauber, at Lola’s Saloon-Sixth (2736 W 6th St, in the West 7th corridor, 817-877-0666). Date and time subject to change. Stay tuned for more info.