Musicians Off the Record: Steve Wertheimer

Steve Wertheimer is the consummate Texas club owner, a self-effacing son of the Lone Star state who has made the Continental Club in Austin the pride of the community.  On the surface, the effect he’s had on Austin is discernible all along fast and funky South Congress Avenue, but within secreted music rehearsal halls, studios and garages, musicians marvel at how he’s achieved his own personal vision of the Texas dream to the scene’s good fortune.

After growing up in Rosenberg, Texas and following his sister to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a CPA, Wertheimer fell into the music business “kind of by accident . . . hanging out at the bars and going to see live music all the time. I always had this dream of having a blues bar.”

Savoring a life that a few years before seemed impossible distant, Wertheimer took ownership of the Continental Club in 1987 and retrofitted the then-thirty year old facility. After taking over the day-to-day affairs of the venue, “when he took over the club in 1987, it was really tough because there was not a lot of activity on South Congress. There was a lot of prostitution and drugs. We took a big chance trying to retro fit this club; take this club back to what it was like when Warren Scott first opened it up in 1957,” states Wertheimer. 

Today, Wertheimer has assembled perhaps the strongest line-up of regulars in the southwest including happy hour regulars like Toni Price and Gary Clark, Jr., and annual events celebrating icons like Elvis Presley, Wanda Jackson and Buck Owens are annual highlights. But Wertheimer claims that the Continental Club has not changed over the years with new fashions and trends.  “I’m stuck in this period of time that this place was kind of created.”

In other words, the Continental Club is the real, authentic deal. “We have this niche of what we do here . . . this place never changes; it works the way it is. I was in Austin back in the golden years of music. I still remember exactly what it was like back then and I am absolutely, under no circumstances, ever going to let that go.”

Although Wertheimer has to “be a baby sitter every night . . . a counselor at times . . . a therapist at times,” he never underestimates the power musicians have when it comes to assisting those in need. “Most of the causes that we have benefits for are for friends, people, for families. People who have had medical problems. For friends of ours that have passed away that have no money to be buried.”  All it takes is a patriarch to lead the way.