Jazz Monthly: My guest at JazzMonthly.com is one of the true champions of live music and case in point is the fantastic club that he has in Houston, Texas. It is the number one club in Houston and you’ll have to come visit to see what I mean. Every night there’s great live performances, and a variety of talents that will slay you. Here to talk about this great night spot and a very unique career in music, please welcome the incredible and amazing Mr. Sam Pink. Sam, how ya doin’, my friend?
Sam Pink (SP): How ya doin’, my friend?
Jazz Monthly: All right. Sam, I’ve travel all over the country and I visit live venues all the time, and I’ve got to give you some serious props for what you have done over the past five years with this great restaurant / club because you have, from day one, really introduced some great live music to all of Houston. There has been several international events right here in Houston and each time you have always rose to the occasion to showcase some great talent and you keep it on a great level of quality and substance, so I’ve gotta give you some props for what you’ve accomplished with this restaurant.
SP: Oh yeah, thanks a lot, man. Really, you’re too kind.
Jazz Monthly: Well, now talk to me about how this all developed. I know this is not something that just happened overnight. You obviously are a great lover of live music and I know this goes back quite a ways in your life. Just talk about how you developed this love for fantastic music.
SP: Well, as a young child my father was very instrumental in us all being around music and he was a trumpet player and a professor. He’d always take us to these talent shows. That was the big thing to do back in the 70s. Also, his brother was a full-time musician all my life and at one point, when I was old enough to drive, I was able to go in and work with him as a sound man. I would set up the sound systems and I did that for a long time. His name was Captain Pink. It was one of the first bands I was ever around so I knew the guys from an early age. And it was always interesting to me. He would always load his van up and travel to far places like he’d go down to Corpus Christi, he’d go over sometimes to Vegas, he’d be in Louisiana or in Florida. As a kid, his life was very exciting to me. Who knew I would be doing it? I didn’t really plan this, it just kinda happened, but I’m glad it did.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, funny how the unknowns fall into place. So now talk about some of the things that really touched you as you followed your uncle with his band? What are some of those things that have really stuck with you that really influenced you about live music?
SP: Well, it’s the passion that the musicians have and there are some musicians who are out there who play just to have people listen and that always struck a chord to me, that music can touch you in such a way that people would do it whether it was one person in the crowd or 10,000 people in the crowd, and it never went away, that feeling that a person has for their art form could make them just love it that much. That has always intrigued me, and the more I listen to artists, the more you can see something different, and that the music they were doing, they were all languages. It’s like they had their own fingerprint to their style of music and it was always interesting to see which one would actually rise and make a national presence.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, well, I’m so surprised that you didn’t pick up an instrument yourself.
SP: Mm…I can’t sing, can’t play a drum, I can’t do anything, but I know good music when I hear it, though. That’s it.
Jazz Monthly: Well, that’s a talent in itself to have a good ear for music. There are people on this planet that have made a wonderful living with their great ears.
SP: We have to know our limitations.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely. Well, I’m with ya, brotha. You have been involved in a different form of the arts or entertainment in that you were involved with television. How did that happen?
SP: Well, actually, to make a long story short, it all started from television and went back. (Laughs.)
Jazz Monthly: (Laughs)…
SP: I was accepted into law school in California. When I was in law school there, my wife at the time was pregnant and we actually ended up doing the Lamaze class at Cedars Sinai. While there, I ended up talking to some actors and struck up a friendship with one of the actors, and the next thing I knew, I started producing movies. The actor—it was Richard Brooks, actually, from the show Law & Order, Richard was playing a role as a lawyer and I have a background in law because my dad had a law practice for 30 years. So I worked in the law office and then eventually I decided to go back to law school. The curiosity between me actually having a background in law and him playing a lawyer on TV gave us something to really talk about, so from that point he started working on producing a movie and he asked me if I was interested in helping him out. Next thing I know, I became a producer, left law school, did a series of movies. I even did a film here in Houston called Fifth Ward. I was an associate producer on that one project. I think it came out in ’97.
In one of my travels back and forth to Los Angeles I met a chef who was actually trying to do a cooking show and I ended up befriending the chef, and so one thing led to another. He actually had a project that came up and he asked me if I was interested in being a part of it and I said “Yes,” so that was the restaurant that was formerly owned by Carl Lewis.
Jazz Monthly: Nice….
SP: Called Café Noir here in Houston, so I actually worked with him at that place. When we took over management we changed the name to Café SoHo primarily because we were all hanging out in the SoHo part of New York and Café SoHo was a hip place at the time. Needless to say, because of my experience in film and producing, I was anxious to do a cooking show for him and we actually produced a cooking show, so that’s how I got into the restaurant business. Through a cooking show that I was producing, a friendship, and then one thing led to another, came into the Red Cat one day and it was up for sale and I ended up taking it over five years ago, actually, in October. We opened October 2003, so it has been five years.
Jazz Monthly: All right, well, happy anniversary.
SP: Oh, thank you.
Jazz Monthly: So now you went from television to the restaurant business and then along came the music.
SP: Right, right. I had no intention of running a restaurant. Actually, the restaurant was supposed to be my cash cow so that I can continue to make movies (both laugh) and it just didn’t happen like that for me. God had another plan, so for one thing to another, I decided that things weren’t going just right and I said “Well, I think I need to look more into this restaurant because it’s not making the money I thought it was supposed to make,” so at some point my interest went from just making the money to trying to keep my money.
So having to come up here every day and be here every day, I started really developing a keen sense of what entertainment was and who were making a real impact with the crowd and what wasn’t, and I was like why aren’t these guys doing it because these guys are just as good as the guys on the radio right now, so I think we can do something about that. So it took about two to three years for it to come to fruition, but it finally did. We got our deal with Universal through Bungalow, a North American/Canada-type distribution deal. I still have my foreign rights open to shop around the world, which I’ll probably do in the months to come. We’ll fly over and talk to some people over in France and Germany, and sell the digital rights and all that other stuff to work on as well.
Jazz Monthly: Right, so it seems like you’ve met success with everything, you’ve kept your hands on it, and now you’re full blown in the music business.