I’ve heard over the years that the band Van Halen performed at the old Walter Mitty’s club out in Pomona’s Westmont area before they got famous. The topic resurfaced when I interviewed the couple at nearby Westmont Hardware last month.
Van Halen is said to have performed at Walter Mitty’s Rock & Roll Emporium on six occasions in 1976: March 24 and 25 and April 7 to 10.
The site says of those days: “Their sets consisted mostly of cover tunes at first and they would sneak in originals as often as they could.”
The Pomona club rates an entire paragraph: “At Walter Mitty’s in Pomona, CA, which had a capacity of 300 (Van Halen was said have squeezed 1000 people into the place on some nights), the band witnessed a man die from stab wounds during an argument between two bikers about whose bike was faster while the band played You Really Got Me. After this incident, the band decided to move their amplifiers roughly one-and-a-half feet away from the wall so they could hide behind them when fights broke out. The club was reportedly closed a short time later due to an increase in violence.”
Besides its many L.A. dates, the band is also known to have performed at the Bogart in San Bernardino on two occasions, Sept. 18 and 21, 1976.
A 2012 story on music.MSN.com about the band’s reunion drew a comment from Leslie Ward-Speers, the daughter of Walter Mitty’s owner:
“…For a couple of years, you played several times at my dad’s small bar in Pomona, CA. My father’s name is Larry Ward and he owned Walter Mitty’s across from the General Dynamics Company on Mission Blvd. When ever you guys came to play a weekend gig at daddy’s bar, it was standing room only. The local college students from MT SAC and Cal Poly bombarded the bar to hear your outstanding and unique sound. All of the other bands that played in Daddy’s bar were playing what ever the current hits were on the radio. But not you guys. I knew then that you were good and that success was just around the corner for you.”
Did anyone happen to see them in Pomona, or remember Walter Mitty’s?