On Charlottetowne Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina, along what used to be a dirt road, sits the second oldest blues music venue in the United States. Since 1973, the Double Door Inn has hosted some of the best and most famous musicians. Its moniker is “Charlotte’s Home Of The Blues,” but the Double Door is home to music of all genres, and, to this day, welcomes audiences.
The Double Door was originally built as a home in 1914 and parts of the original structure, including the fireplace, are still visible. Over the years, the building housed a number of businesses, including a clothing store. In late 1973, brothers Matt and Nick Karres thought that the building’s proximity to Central Piedmont Community College was an ideal location to open a bar. So, the Double Door Inn, named after the two front doors at the front of the venue, opened on December 22, 1973.
Soon after opening, local artists began performing acoustic shows in the back near the pool tables. The Karres eventually built a stage near the front of the venue, and more acts started performing. In 1976, the Dixie Dregs, a popular national act, played two nights at the Double Door, establishing the venue as a place for both national and local acts. The Dregs also gave the Karres a list of twelve national acts that would perform at the Double Door and word about the venue spread.
The Double Door Inn was soon known as the place to see Rock & Roll, blues and soul acts in a small, intimate environment. Stevie Ray Vaughn played four times between 1979 and 1982 and more established acts like the Turtles, Sam & Dave, Willie Dixon, the Nighthawks and many more also came to the Double Door. In addition to major headliners, the venue continued booking local acts, with bands like the Spongetones, the Belmont Playboys, and the Avett Brothers, who recorded their first album at the Double Door.
The Double Door’s legendary status was cemented when Eric Clapton arrived unannounced on 24 June 1982 to play with the Legendary Blues Band, featuring former members of the Muddy Waters band. Other legendary acts to grace the Double Door stage include, J.J. Cale, Derek Trucks, Roy Buchanan, Gatemouth Brown, Steve Earle, Vassar Clements, Wet Willie, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Drive-By Truckers, and many, many more.
In 1984, Matt Karres sold his portion of the venue to his brother Nick, who continues operating the Double Door Inn. The venue is now recognized as the second oldest blues music venue in the United States, second only to the legendary Antone’s in Austin, Texas. The Double Door is, however, the oldest in the country with its original owner. The venue is also celebrated in the 2014 book, Charlotte’s Home Of The Blues. Other mainstays to the venue include the weekly Monday Night All-Stars and Bill Hanna’s Jazz Jam performs every Tuesday night. The Double Door Inn is more than a historic venue; it continues to be a living, breathing fixture in Charlotte’s music history.
Daniel Coston, Charlotte’s Home Of The Blues: 40 Years of The Double Door Inn (Fort Canoga Press, 2013).