What's in a Name?

Sammy's at 2016, now with less Sammie

The size of a man's hands and feet is related to the size of his, er, penis, if you catch our drift. (Wink.) Or so claims singer Faye Robinson.

"If a man has fat hands and long ol' feet," bellows Robinson during a Saturday-night performance of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" at Sammy's (2016 Main), "he might have a chance to get with me." Having coerced a man onto the stage to sing the chorus, she's now taken to examining his hands and feet. To the delight of the crowd, she's deemed the unsuspecting suitor to be worthy.

Sammy's female patrons beg for the privilege of shaking their tail feathers with Faye Robinson.
Larami Culbertson
Sammy's female patrons beg for the privilege of shaking their tail feathers with Faye Robinson.

Most Friday or Saturday nights when Faye and the Mid City Players (J.J. Davis, Greg Sims, Milton Comeaux, John Davis and Ronald Dorsey Jr.) call someone up to the stage, it ends well for all. A budding "superstar" gets training-wheeled by the band through some Motown classic and gains the adulation of a mostly friendly and/or inebriated crowd. (Misstep and get cocky, and you'll be greeted with a hearty "Sit yo' ass down," from Robinson and a definite laughing-at-you feeling from the crowd.) Still, it's a coveted opportunity at Sammy's.

"I have women fighting to get on the bandstand to do the skit with us," says Robinson of her nightly butt-shaking contest, held to the backdrop of Tina Turner's "Proud Mary."

Calling on the crowd is a staple in Robinson's bag of tricks; she loves to lather the swarm into a howling (and occasionally dorkily dancing) frenzy. It's one of the reasons that Sammy's has maintained its status as an enjoyable Midtown live music venue, despite the departure of the club's namesake, local R&B/soul-blues marvel Sammie Relford, about a year ago.

"It's so much fun here," says Sydney Collins, who's been a Sammy's regular since its 2005 opening. "I came when Faye used to open for Sammie. He was good, but Faye is great. She's so funny."

Given Relford's onetime cult-like status among the young white professionals who frequent Sammie's (misspelled) namesake club Sammy's, it once seemed impossible to imagine that a place built by and around the aura of the Gallant Knight veteran could prosper without him. But that's exactly what the club is doing. When asked if she missed seeing Sammie perform, native San Marcos photographer Bridgette Cyr dropped a surreal "Who?" in response.

Most of the credit for 2016 Main's continued prominence should be directed towards Robinson and her bandmates, as not much else has changed since Relford left. (We'll get Relford's side of the story in this space next week.) Sammy's is still open three nights a week — the geeky '80s Spazmatics franchise holds down Thursday nights, and Robinson takes over the weekend nights. The cover is still $10, the dress code is still casual and the $6 valet service is still among the quickest and most cordial in Midtown. The drinks are still reasonably priced ($5 for wells, $8 for Rémy-type drinks), the smokers are still relegated to an outdoor backroom and the VIP rooms are still there for those who prefer bottle to bar service.

The only difference, detectable to a discerning few, is in the ambience.

"The excitement and energy is as high as it ever was," says Artis Gonzalez, another Sammy's regular. "The attitude is different, though, without [Sammie], and that's not a bad thing."

It remains to be seen if Relford's new downtown venture — the aptly named Real Sammie's (711 Franklin) — will garner the same response when it opens later this month. Relford's reputation as a live show fabuloso remains undiminished, but for the time being, Faye Robinson's ­Sammie-less Sammy's is more than acceptable. How many of Relford's fans will make the trek under the Pierce and up to the banks of the bayou? (We'll tell you in an upcoming installment of this column.)

"We wish all the luck to Sammie with his new business," says Susan Butos, Sammy's general manager for the past three years. "But this Sammy's is a great place, our atmosphere is [familial] and Faye does an exceptional job."

That's all well and good, but perhaps a name change is in order?

Last Call Quick, name the most manly sport there is. Did you say football? Wrong. Rugby? Lame. Hockey? Pfft, whatev. Everyone knows the most physically demanding sport is pool. And the next time you run into a defensive end from the New England Patriots or goalie for the Detroit Red Wings or, or, some guy who's good at rugby, you should definitely tell them so. Once you've made your point, head down to one of these pool halls to unwind: Cue and Cushion (510 Shepherd) — Half-price pool on Mondays means you can play terribly for twice as long as normal. Slick Willie's (3895 Southwest Fwy.) — We always wanted to walk in a pool hall carrying a case for a pool cue like we were all bad ass or whatever, and then open the case and take out a long sandwich. That would own. Tejas Billiards (1418 Spencer) — Don't forget your super-cool billiards glove, because they are totally cool and not stupid at all. Not. At. All.
 
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