Alaska’s Legendary, Notorious Pines Club
Longest Tenured Country Western Band in the USA
The Pacesetters were the house band at the Pines Club in Anchorage and played five nights a week from the late 1960s until the late 1980s. They were one of the longest-running cover bands in the United States. Scott performed with the group for three years, from 1981 to 1984, doing over 750 shows. Aside from the regular five nights a week at the Pines, the Pacesetters did some high-profile private events in Anchorage, including gigs such as the Mayor’s Ball for Tony Knowles.
The Pines Club
For over two decades, The Pines Club was the largest nightclub in the state of Alaska. Live music was performed seven nights a week by the two house bands. Each group performed five nights a week. Both bands performed and rotated one-hour sets throughout the night on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Sunday and Monday, The Pacesetters performed a typical 4 1/2 hour evening. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the other group, Family Tradition, performed. The Pines Club was a country music venue owned by Russ Pace. The Pacesetters were his namesake.
Live Radio Broadcasts
The first set of the nightly Pacesetters show was broadcast live throughout Alaska on KBYR radio, AM 700. There’s nothing like that anywhere today. That first hour was often the only part of the evening that the band was sober. A mistake on the radio show was a big deal since it was all live and no delay. So the Pacesetters, who were almost all hard drinkers, did their best to stay sober. But by the 2nd set and forward, the band kept pace with the partying crowd, and things often got wild.
Nancy Lee Jourdan was the female vocalist, bassist and leader of the band for many years and likely the most powerful musician in Anchorage. Local musicians either hated or loved her. There wasn’t much in-between. She hired Scott in 1981 after he had sent a crude demo tape. The Pines Club issued an airline ticket, and Scott became a member of the Pacesetters. The Pines provided free housing along with musicians’ salaries that rivaled the highest of any nightclub in the United States at the time. Not everyone was willing to go to Alaska so they paid more. Russ and Jeri Pace were generous and valued quality entertainment.
Nancy Lee and the Pacesetters were known in Anchorage and throughout the entire state. They were even mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article in the 1970s. Nancy was attractive and multi-talented. In her early days, many thought she had star potential. By the 1980’s she was a hard-drinking tough cookie, and no one messed with her.
The 1980’s Line-Up
In the early to mid-’80s, the Pacesetters consisted of Nancy Lee (vocals, bass), Michael Majeras (guitar), Ray Szatmari & Jeff Dean (keyboards), Tommy Duevall (drums) & Scott Stephens (lead vocals and rhythm guitar). Tommy was legally blind. Ray Szatmari was a keyboard phenom trained in classical piano. He disliked country music but loved the money.
Girls, Guns & Hard Partying
Alaska in the 1980’s was akin to the wild wild west of old. There were guns everywhere including inside the club. Nancy Lee’s husband (at the time), who was also a local musician, shot his daughter’s boyfriend and did time in prison. Fortunately, the young man survived.
Cocaine was very prevalent during this time in Anchorage and was the drug of choice for the Pacesetters (and most rock musician’s in this era). Workers from the Oil fields at Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope area would come back to the big city (Anchorage) for long vacations, loaded with cash. Much of that cash was used in the “cash for coke” program and fed up the noses, at no charge, to local musicians. Members of the Pacesetters rarely said no.
Band members also drank extremely hard and most smoked as well. The club itself was not well ventilated, and of course, smoking was allowed. The club was full of the hottest ladies in the state and there were lots of all-night parties.
No longer in operation, The Pines Club and The Pacesetters were a part of Alaskan history. It was a crazy, wonderful time!