HandlebarJ History

In 1960 when north Scottsdale was still considered "out in the boonies", only a few buildings stood: a Tastee Freeze, a liquor store and a little honky tonk.

Back then, that little honky tonk was called "Wild Bill's", a rip roarin' place that was home to many a rowdy cowboy. On stage you were likely to find the then unknown, Waylon Jennings, playing for tips just trying to make a living.

In 1966, the place was taken over by George ("Handlebar" moustache wearin') and Joanie ("J") Lautz.

George was also an accomplished guitarist who loved country music. He hired Brick Herndon, an upright bass player who had played around Phoenix for many years, to lead and recruit other musicians for the band "The Country Score": Bobby Love (guitar), Ted Haff (fiddle) Brick (bass) and George (guitar). They played, packing the restaurant/bar nightly, to a loyal crowd of dancers and eaters. Gwen Herndon, (Bricks wife), waited tables while Brick entertained.

In 1974, George and Joanie found that their religious beliefs and the bar business were in conflict, so they sold the HBJ to the Herndons.
Brick's dream of owning his own place became a reality.

In 1975 the Herndon's re-opened HandlebarJ to a packed house of long time regulars who had missed their favorite place. "The Country Score" played on, never missing a beat. The HBJ packed them in night after night.

In 1979, the Herndon family was stricken with bad news, Brick had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He fought for his life for almost three years, succumbing to the disease in January, 1981. Gwen almost single handedly kept HBJ going through that tough time.

The band on stage also changed personnel as Ray Herndon, Brick and Gwen's youngest son, played along side eldest son, Rick (drums). Brick's brother Mel took the bass guitar position. Occasionally middle brother Ron joined in on piano.

In 1986, Ray and Ron Herndon formed "The Herndon brothers" band. The band has been there since… and continues to be one of Arizona's best.

Gwen Herndon is the best host you will find. She'll make sure that your every need is met while you're visiting HandleBarJ.

There is a story behind every nook and cranny of the place, from the cowboy hats hanging in the rafters to the names carved in the bar.

In October 2000, the Herndon's celebrated their 25th year of owning HBJ. They were presented an award proclaiming October 9, 2000: Official "HandleBarJ Day" (signed by mayor Sam Campana of Scottsdale) for providing Scottsdale and the area such a long time favorite place to go for great food and western entertainment. The tradition is still going strong to this day.

Occasional visits by country music stars like Vince Gill, Lone Star, Lyle Lovett and Toby Keith are not uncommon here. You just never know who'll be hangin' at the "J".

Come in and see for yourself.