Antone’s is Austin’s internationally renowned “Home of the Blues,” but from 1978 until its final blowout on April 20, 1980, the Rome Inn had the hottest blues scene in town. SRV played every Sunday and Paul Ray’s Cobras had Tuesdays, but the hottest night was “Blue Monday,” with the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Billy Gibbons would take a busload of Houston friends to the Rome Inn on Mondays and immortalized the “fiend scene” on “Lowdown in the Street” from ZZ Top’s 1979 album Degüello: “So roam on in, it ain’t no sin to get low down in the street.” That same year, the T-Birds paid tribute to the lovable man in the sweat-stained blue T-shirt with slow harp instrumental “C-Boy’s Blues” from their debut LP Girls Go Wild.
C-Boy Parks, a hard-working old black cook with a love in his heart for people, is what made the Rome Inn special. His protégé was a white accounting student who lived in the neighborhood named Steve Wertheimer. Parks didn’t own the Rome Inn, where he came to work in the kitchen in 1967 when it was an Italian restaurant. But after it changed to a live music venue, he was promoted to manager because all the musicians loved him.
The blues scene integrated Austin like nothing before it, with UT students going to Charlie’s Playhouse on East 11th and bands like Clarence Smith & the Daylighters backing white singer Joyce Harris. White blues musicians like Bill Campbell, the Vaughan brothers, and Angela Strehli sought out obscure Eastside blues players. Running the place, C-Boy gave the music a lift of authenticity.
Parks died in 1991 at age 66, but not before he saw his student flourish in the club business with the Continental. Then, in 2014, Wertheimer fulfilled a longtime promise to himself by opening a soul-themed bar seven blocks up South Congress from the Continental. It’s called “C-Boy’s,” of course, after the man who worked two fulltime jobs a day (including fry cook at the Nighthawk), but always came from back behind the bar, no matter how busy he was, to dance to “Mathilda.”
After the Rome Inn closed, the club on 29th Street had a brief resurrection as punk club Studio 29. But since the mid-’80s it’s been Texas French Bread.