Rockin’ a Hard Place is the story of The Handlebar, an intimate “listening room” that has presented thousands of artists—John Mayer, Joan Baez, Zac Brown, and Sugarland among them—and hosted a quarter-million fans since its opening in 1994. Read More
Independent Publisher calls Rockin' a Hard Place "an essential read for music lovers." CelebrityAccess calls it "a splashy, starry memoir." Kirkus Reviews says the book is "a hard, sobering look at what it really takes to bring live music to the fans."
John Jeter is a burnt-out journalist living in Florida when the younger brother who once saved his life with a donated kidney telephones with life-altering news: he’s found the perfect spot in Greenville, South Carolina for the concert hall they’ve always dreamed of opening—a nearly abandoned cotton mill fluttering with pigeons … and potential.
Rockin’ a Hard Place is the story of The Handlebar, an intimate “listening room” that has presented thousands of artists—John Mayer, Joan Baez, Zac Brown, and Sugarland among them—and hosted a quarter-million fans since its opening in 1994. A promoter’s memoir, this is the story of a naïve plunge into an industry that Hunter S. Thompson once called a “cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free.”
With a wry and irreverent voice, Jeter describes the concert business from the bottom of its food chain, where one band’s backstage demand includes “one hamster dressed like Indiana Jones, one dressed like a police officer,” where a landlord seeks to evict him over an ice machine, and where he is reduced to standing with a decibel meter in the dark behind his club.
Singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor tells him at the grand opening: “Never book anyone just because you’re a fan.” But for this cantankerous club owner, it’s often Art before Commerce, financial risk be damned. After all, it’s the small clubs—where the likes of Springsteen, Jefferson Airplane and even The Beatles got their start—where real music is made.
"Ultimately, Rockin' A Hard Place is less about the rise and quirks of the artists than it is about Jeter's journey as a fan and businessman, and his candid approach makes the book equally fascinating for music lovers and casual readers." ─The Huffington Post
"It’s a uniquely and skillfully told, ultimately inspiring look at an until-now unexplored side of the music business." —Peter Cooper, The Tennessean
"Music fans who adore artists who turn their body and soul into transcendent live performances will gain with this book a greater appreciation for the scrappy venue owner who gives his own body and soul to provide a stage for that transcendence to take place." —Paste magazine
"Rockin' a Hard Place sets out to tell the story of a club and winds up becoming a love letter to the power of music itself." —Real South magazine
"Jeter fluctuates effortlessly between pages that anger us, pages that make us laugh, pages that make us cry, and pages that make our hearts and souls soar, like only the greatest songs can." —Independent Publisher
"I didn't know that one of my favorite promoters would also be a master of page turners! Very engaging, smart and fun." —Dar Williams
"The book's a little like playing The Handlebar. You walk in and you're treated to something special. I enjoyed my show there and the crowd too, as much as I'm sure you'll enjoy the experiences on these pages." —Roy Clark
"No matter how technology changes the industry, those who can offer it live, will survive. It is for this reason that The Handlebar, and clubs like it who strive to celebrate music as it was intended, must always survive. John's book, and venue, tell one story of a place that strives to keep this beautiful art form alive and well!" —Jennifer Nettles
"Sometimes life is an adventure. I liked John’s approach to the belief that he and his brother were about to start out on a new one. I personally feel that the hardest of life’s adventures is the one involving the ancient art, and the music business, and it’s always a gamble. Let John lure you into a tale of something similar to the one I experienced myself.” —David Sanborn