Van Halen at Walter Mitty’s

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.

A Google search brings up the online Van Halen Encyclopedia, which has an entry on the band’s club days.

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?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.e.nunez.1 Richard E Nunez

    Yea I was there what a great place to see bands before they went big. It was shoulder to shoulder, man they just rocked the house. It was a drag when we heard they had closed it, but what great times we had there.

  • Dennis

    Hi David,
    I was at Walter Mitty’s a couple of times in the mid-70′s. I don’t recall any big name bands or soon-to-be big names there, but it was packed. There was no actual sign on the front of the building, but painted in somewhat psychedelic black lettering on the white facade above the storefront was the full name of the place- “Walter Mitty’s Rock and Roll Emporium”.
    Dennis

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.maino.79 Anthony Maino

    I saw Van Halen at Walter Mitty”s I thought it was 1977. I got invited by a couple of guys from the band Stormer to see who they thought was going to be the next big rock band. I also remember the bass player was named Rudy, it wasn’t Michael Anthony at that time. I was only 17 at the time and I will never forget that night.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.maino.79 Anthony Maino

    I watched Van Halen perform at Walter Mitty’s in what I thought was 1977. I was invited by a couple of guys from the band Stormer, they thought Van Halen was going to be the next big rock band. I remember the bass player was not Michael Anthony but a guy named Rudy. I was only 17, but I will never forget that night.

  • Pingback: Jane’s Addiction in La Verne, 1987 | The David Allen Blog

  • Theodore Berhanu Levine

    I saw them at the cal.world music festival 3-they rocked!!!

  • larryprg

    In the mid-70s for a couple of years at Cal Poly Pomona, at noon on a Thursday now and then, a band would play on the quad in front of the Student Union. They were actually pretty good. They played at a lot of Poly dorm and frat parties. They called themselves, “Van Halen.”

  • Scott Hickey

    yes i went there got in with 50 cents thats all i had door man said come on in . i was 16 an it was packed

  • C Erickson

    We use to go to Walter Mittys back in 1976, 21 to drink, guys 20 could still get in and wear a wrist band so they weren’t served alcohol, girls 18 could get in. We just had someone who was 21 buy a pitcher of beer and bring it back to our table. I picked up a really cute girl and we went out to my van, she told me she was only 14! went back in with out her- good god she looked 19. I remember this huge biker looking guy who sat out on a stool at the door. Went to Hollywood in March and saw VanHalen at Gazarris.