Friday, March 13, 2015

Johnny Noles and the Big Still Lounge

Johnny Noles
1937 - 2014
Photo courtesy of Sharon Noble

Music below! Please have your sound on to enjoy this page!!

What's that you say? What's the Big Still, and who s Johnny Noles? Well let's start with "The Big Still". The Big Still was a Honky Tonk located on the banks of the beautiful Caloosahatchee river in North Fort Myers, Florida. The Still opened it's doors as The Checker Club back in the 1940s,and in the mid 1960s changed it's name to The Big Still. During it's hey day, The Still had guest appearances by such country greats as Faron Young, Jack Greene, Charlie Louvin, Jeannie Seely, Billie Jo Spears, and many more. In June of this year (2005), after more than 60 years, The Big Still closed it's doors forever. It was a sad day for many of us old honky tonkers when the Still closed shop!
Big Still, mid eighties

Yours truly looking at empty lot where The Still once stood.
Photo by Debbie Carico, 2009

Please note: I realize that many other successful local artists have played the The Still, and this page isn't meant to take anything away from them. I just picked Johnny because he was the first I knew of to bring country music to The Still, and I am more familiar with his work than the ones who came later.

Now, who was Johnny Noles? Well Johnny was the first local entertainer that I remember playing at The Still. It was sometime in the late 1960s when I walked in the bar, and there on a tiny banstand in the corner was Johnny singing and playing guitar, along with Dave Harris on lead guitar, Steve Williams on bass and Kenny Byrd on drums. Together these four guys could put on country show that you would want to return and see over and over again. There were other house bands there after Johnny, but I don't believe any of them had that drive that Johnny and the boys had.

I believe it was in the early 1970s that Johnny recorded a song called "I'll Pretend". Pretend was a nice balled penned by Johnny and Florida entertainer Sam Thompson. After this, the band would be known as Johnny Noles & The Pretenders.

Johnny Noles The Pretenders never became big stars, but they did have their fans, and should be remembered well for their contribution to traditional country music.

I have managed to round up some of the songs from my personal collection from Johnny & The Pretenders. I think you will enjoy these classic country songs from a true classic country band.

You will also want to pay special attention to "Take Another Look Around", a touching song written by Fort Myers song writer, good friend and neighbor Carl Bowyer.

Johnny Noles and The Pretenders, early seventies. L-R: Kenny Bird, Dave Harris, Johnny Noles and Steve Williams   

Johnny Noles
Probably mid eighties.

Recent photo of one of Johnny's guitars. Photo courtesy of Johnny's Daughter Mellissa.
Thanks a million, Mellissa!

Now, here's 15 tracks and some of Johnny's very best. I searched  for several of these tracks for years, and just when I thought I would never find them, Johnny's daughter Mellissa sent them to me! So thanks a million, Mellissa! You're the best!!

Please take a moment to sign the guestbook or leave a comment at bottom of page so I and others will know you've been here. Thanks!

Writing Credits:
I'll Pretend - Johnny Noles & Sam Thompson
The Other Side Of Town - Lonnie C.C. Mills
Take Another Look Around - Carl Bowyer
Little Joey - Sam Thompson
Front Row Seat - Shel Sliverstein
California - Sam Thompson
My Story - Lonnie C.C. Mills
Thirty Year Old Hippy - Sam Thompson
The World's Greatest Nothing - Dave Anderson
Small Town Country Singer - Lonnie C.C. Mills
The Man Who Wheels The Steel - Dave Anderson
I'll Go Home With Me - Lonnie C.C. Mills
Ain't It A Beauty - Arranged by Johnny Noles
Six Days On The Road - Earl Greene

Thanks to Lonnie Mills for the songs he wrote in the collection from Johnny!

On August 29, 2014 Johnny Noles, at 77 years old passed away. In early September a celebration of life service was held and  hosted by Johnny;s long time friend fellow musician and song writer Lonnie Mills. Below is a couple of photos from that celebration.

Below photos courtesy of Lonnie Mills and Johnny's daughter Mellissa

Click on photos to enlarge.

Lonnie Mills with friends at Johnny's service
Lonnie Mills with friends at Johnny's srvice

A few comments from some mighty fine folks! You can leave comments too. Just look at the bottom of the page for the "comments" field...

Finding your site tonight touched my very soul, I was moved to Fort Myers as a 10 year old, and lived there till I was in my late 20's I still have a daughter in North Fort Myers...the FIRST place I ever sang in public was The Big Still....took my first drink there lol.....was so sad to see the lot standing empty...and to see Gary met him...Thank you so much!
Robin Pike 
Harrodsburg, Kentucky 

Hi,I collect obscure country music,especially traditional shuffles, known as two steps. Johnny noles' I'll Pretend, man what a shuffle, you really feel that honky tonk atmoshere in that song. I guess what I am saying, is how does a person get a copy of these. Please let me know.

Thank you Gary for your help. Not only have I found and spoken to my father, I'm meeting him next weekend. You've helped fill in a large part of my life.

Just listened to Johnny Noles "I'll Pretend"! Now I know I'm going to throw away the one I wrote along those lines! It's truly the best there is!

From David Brooks
I enjoy your site. I remember the good times I had playing music with Ralph Raulerson and later playing the big still with Moonshine for 5 years. Thanks for the memories.
Dave Brooks

Love your site, especially the ones from Fort Myers. I moved here from KY in the early 50's. Have many fond memories of the Big Still. I would love to see something about some of the other bands that played there for extended times such as Bob Starling's band & the Sundown Band which was the last band to play a long running gig there. It truly was a sad day when they closed it. Many of us can relate important dates in our life to this landmark. I was very proud to have had my wedding reception there with all our friends singing songs for us & enjoying my first dance with my husband there. Keep up the good work.
Robin Pike
Harrodsburg, Kentucky

Please note, I realize no profit from the music posted on these pages. They are here for educational purposes or just to bring back a memory of the way it used to be!

Please take a moment to leave a comment below, or sign the guestbook, and thanks a million for stopping by! Come back any ole time, as the latchstring's always out!

Tags: Johnny Noles, Big Still, Lonnie Mills, Lonnie C C Mills, Kenny Byrd, Dave Harris, Steve Williams, Pretenders, Dave Harris, Sam Thompson

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