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WANNA DANCE?

Crankin' Bands Give Hut Flashes

September 23, 1993|ROSE APODACA | Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

House bands are a curious musical breed. Usually cranking out a combination of originals and covers, they become superstars of sorts among the regulars who set up camp at the bar every time they play. To outsiders, the tunes and musicianship can be either shockingly bad or an agreeable find.

For blues and rockabilly fans, weeknights at Linda's Doll Hut in Anaheim are among the club circuit's jewels. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys kick off the week on Monday, the most popular and longest running of the four nights of entertainment. The five-man band has been bringing standards and jumpin' originals to a new generation of rockabilly fans every week for the last year.

Modern-day boppers and bopalinas return Wednesday for Russell Scott & the Red Hots and Thursday for the quirky hillbilly sounds of the Dave & Deke Combo. The regulars rest their dancing shoes on Tuesdays, meditating to the blues of the Rhythm Lords.

The Doll Hut is best described as a diamond in the rough. Ceiling panels are in pieces, the concrete floor still shows the hardened glue and orange-colored residue from whatever flooring lay there before, and empty kegs sit stacked near the liquor closet by the bar. Into the band's second of three sets, empty bottles pile up and cigarettes litter the floor. But who notices?

The walls are plastered with posters and flyers of old and future gigs, and band stickers clutter the doorway. The back wall of the bar is decorated with a noosed Howdy Doody, a Day of the Dead skeleton, a raggedy stuffed dog and finger puppets of the Three Stooges.

The pool table plainly suffers from constant abuse, which includes being pushed up against the wall whenever patrons need more room to swing (which is often, since--with less than 500 square feet--there isn't a lot of room here to do much of anything, other than stand). Still, the mostly twentysomething crowd finds the space to show off its footwork, including turns and an occasional flip. Around the back of the bar, a few walk their novice friends through the East Coast swing steps.

The "stage" is a corner of the Hut, with the only distinguishing markers being the colored lights and mini PA system facing it.

In another corner rests a jukebox that rotates everything from Jellyfish to Garth Brooks. Next to it, patrons can slot a quarter and get their very own sex drive report from a very low-tech arcade machine.

When current owner Linda Jemison bought the place with her former husband in 1989, she wanted the kind of roadhouse scene where patrons could see live local bands and didn't feel their pocketbooks were getting plundered. So for the first two years, there was no cover--until they realized that to book quality musicians they had to pay them something. Still, the cover is never more than $5 during the week, and rarely more than that on the weekends, when the music ranges from alternative to roots rock.

The tiny building was built in the late 1920s as a house, according to Jemison. By the early 1940s, she says, it was turned into the Sunkist Cafe, a main truck stop on the San Francisco-to-San Diego drag known then as Manchester and now as Interstate 5. In 1957, it became the Doll Hut, a pool hall for the local working class. Jemison added her name to the billing last September, when she bought out her partner.

Blue-collar folk still wander in during the day for a beer, but it's definitely more of a bar for hipster kids who park their renovated vintage tanks (Fords and Cadillacs are favorites) in the gravel parking lot surrounding the Hut.

The bar serves only wine, beer and nonalcoholic beverages, but the selection of brews (starting at $1.50 and rising to $10 for a 60-ouncer) includes Bud, Miller, Mickeys, New Castle, St. Pauli Girl, Watneys and house favorite Rolling Rock. Bottled water, sodas, wine and tea are $1.50 a hit; wine coolers are $2.

* LINDA'S DOLL HUT

* 107 S. Adams St., Anaheim.

* (714) 533-1286.

* Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

* Cover: Varies from $3 up.

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