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Uncle Sams - Des Moines

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Des Moines, Iowa


Uncle Sams Uncle Sams was a (franchised?) chain of Discotheques that operated in various Northeast and Midwest U.S. states from the mid 1970s on.

The following photo: Des Moines Iowa Uncle Sams!!! We would practice the Saturday Night Fever dances, those were the days!! submitted by bubgrimm.
Uncle Sams Uncle Sams

Exterior photo below of the Davenport Uncle Sams submitted by John C.
Uncle Sams

The photos of the Uncle Sams matchbook cover and the exterior of the former Uncle Sam's (Des Moines) in 2008 below submitted by Wally Cleaver.
Uncle Sams Discotheque Matchbook cover
Uncle Sams of Des Moines, Iowa

Photos below submitted by Chris Garcia
Description: This is Chris Garcia playing live with a DJ at the Des Moines Iowa, Uncle Sams night club on a Friday night 1974.
Uncle Sams - This is Chris Garcia playing live with a DJ at the Des Moines Iowa, Uncle Sams night club on a Friday night 1974
Uncle Sams - This is Chris Garcia playing live with a DJ at the Des Moines Iowa, Uncle Sams night club on a Friday night 1974

Photo of the famous Uncle Sam's Firecracker drinking glass circa 1976 submitted by Wally Cleaver.
Uncle Sam's Firecracker Glass circa 1976

Photo below submitted by Scott Hayes
Description: Scott Hayes, the first drummer of Uncle Sam's in Des Moines. The floor tom on the on my right was owned by the drummer who replaced me.
Uncle Sams - Des Moines - Scott Hayes on drums

Photos below by Al Kelush
Description: Another of the infamous "Firecracker" glasses(actually,it was the contents of the glasses that was infamous);notice that the one does not list the Davenport,Iowa club. That would have been used up until 1975 or so. I did have an even earlier version,that did not include the Knoxville club(opened in 1975) that was broken many years ago.

Please note that in the interest of fairness, the names of DJs and staff are listed in alphabetical order.

Click to Add Your Photos to this Page!

Added by Bernard Lopez


Your Comments

tony |

Hay Cowboy I loved going to the US when I was young. I was up in the nook one night with two of my friends. I was looking for a pretty girl when I saw this one I couldn't take my eyes off. I told my buddies I was going to marry that little fox. We have been married from 10/10/80 thank you for having the e lavatory floor where I could find her we still love each other and I always can't wait to see her again.


i used to sneak into the DSM Uncle Sam's when i was 16 and 17 with my fake ID LOL!
Then i started bartending when i was legal.
I became the head DJ's assistant, until they fired him and promoted me.
I got fired for playing music that was "too progressive for the market"
I'm still DJing at Denver's top clubs, and a nightclub reporting DJ for Billboard Magazine for Denver since 1993~

Lee Pikoulas |

Hey Rich Emery - I worked for you as a Bartender at the Uncles Sam's in Des Moines - Leon with the 'fro. Shoot me an email at packagemann@yahoo.com If you're having trouble remembering me I can help with a few stories! Hope you're well!

Rich Emery |

Started with Uncle Sam's in Syracuse in 73, then to Buffalo for training for about a month or two, then on to Des Moines in late 74 to work with Tony Greco. In about 78 went to Milwaukee to run Park Avenue a new concept night club for American Avents/Uncle Sam's. Had everyone from pro athlete's like Dr. J, actors like Robin Williams and Diana Ross as customers.

scott hayes |

Will that harem of girls still be behind the stage? Do I still get to drink and eat all I want? And that guy who was getting paid $17.50 a night, you got hosed!

Chris Garcia |

Scott , now that would be a blast ,wow what a long strange trip that would be, I could swing with that and yes we are not getting any younger.Carry on my wayword son. Chris

scott hayes |

Wow. A reunion of the drummers? If Chris and I both had our drums we couldn't fit them all on stage! I use electronic drums now so the kit is much more compact. Call me when you get it together. I'm not getting any younger.

G roy |

I would love to do a reunion of Uncle Sam's. Have some of the DJ's and Drummers, a all out disco night. Who owns the rights to Uncle Sam's

Lee P. |

Hey Disco Queen - the Firecracker recipe was tequila, gin, rum and vodka. O.J. with a splash of 7Up, sour, soda and a swirl of grenadine. Topped with fresh fruit - $3.50. Will there be anything else?

Linda B |

Where's Pete Wilson, DJ from around 1980-1985 or so? Anyone have a photo? I'm sure I have many somewhere...

Disco Queen |

I found a Firecracker glass does anyone know the recipe for that drink? And do you remember how much it cost back then?

Disco Queen |

I disco'd at Uncle Sam's and met my husband there. We loved that place! My friend and I would walk around and around the bars looking for Fox's. We felt safe there especially since we were under age. The legal age was 18 back then. After the bar would close we sometimes scooped the loop in Downtown Des Moines. What fun memories!

mike ferrara |

I started with US in Buffalo. From there I went to the Syracuse club. In the spring of 74 I moved to Desmoines to open the club there with Tony Greco. I then went on to the club in Knoxville, There I started with Jim Godfrey as the asst. When things got too rough Jim left and Mike Serrino took over. When I left Mike Serrino took over and Cowboy became asst. Tony Greco, Mike Serrino and I had been friends since the 5th grade. I would love to hear about folks from there these dayxe

Rob "Matt Dillion" Sutton |

I worked at Uncle Sams in Knoxville from 1975-1979 I worked the floor/door with Willie and even took bar furniture with Jack Carey to the Des Moines Sams and worked there briefly as requested by Mike Sorino. I am in contact with Bob Von Mitch and would love to contact Bob "Cowboy" Yarbrough a fellow Nashvillian email me at rob.sutton@kwcf.net

gestalt242 |

Well if you would, please email me at gestalt242@gmail.com I have several different things I'm trying to gather info about in order to make my work historically accurate and faithful to reality.

Scott Hayes |

What would you like to know? I worked as the drummer there when it first opened in early '74. The opening night was insane. There were nearly 5,000 people who came in wondering what a disco was. We had almost all of the press and TV represented. It was a huge deal at the time in Des Moines. It was located on Harding road just down the street from a bar named "So's your Mother" which was very popular at the time.

gestalt242 |

Hi folks. I am doing research for writing and I need someone who can talk to me about Des Moines in the 70's. Culture, dress, neighborhoods, etc... I'm looking for someone who was there. Anyone in the know and willing to shed a bit of light?

cj |

was in college first at DMACC then at Drake height of Disco friends would pile in almost every night. Drummer at the beginning was great and going from one bar to the next to listen to some folk singing in the 2nd bar when you needed to give your ears a rest. Backroom pool tables and foosball spent a lot of hours there some play for play and other nights could make enough under the table to pay for all the drinks of the night. You could on most nights drink all night for under $20. Girls were a lot of fun with the crazy light show of the dance floor

Scott Hayes |

Great to hear from you. A friend of mine from back sent me this link. I was shocked! He used to pretend to dance on penny beer night. We sure packed them in. Peace Brother.

woody1 |

Scott , that's a cool shot of you, thats my floor tom to your right ,I think you were useing it ,that was a long time ago , Yes I remember you went uo tp Eugene Oregon to go to school ,Those were the days, do you still play drums , I have never given up playing and still do as well as Guitar.
Were are you located at these days. Chris woodythx138@mlode,com

Scott Hayes |

I was the first drummer at the Uncle Sam's in Des Moines. The kid you see in the picture replaced me when I moved to Oregon. I played there for about three months. I used to party with the DJ. We used to open the set with "Ride My See Saw" from the Moody Blues. When the song went wild, we lit off two smoke bombs. One of the better experiences I had as a drummer.


I hate to burst your bubble. But the photo of the uncle sam's next to the Godfather's pizza is from Davenport, IA. I spent many a drunken night there. Including meeting my wife there. 33 years later, and still going. I can put my hands on about 6 Firecraker glasses and beer mugs. And still have a buuch of freebie passes.

Doug (Spider) Ineson |

Hey I just noticed this page as I was searching around on Facebook. I worked at a Wild Uncle Sams in Cheektowaga NY (Buffalo) in the late seventies or early eighties hard to remember now. Our DJ and still a good friend and My chiropractor was Dr. John Zilliox, along with one manager I remember was Jim Farkas

Jim Chapman |

I remember working first as a drummer on my 18th birthday in 74 or 75. I loved that job and it got me off the road. I was traveling with a show band and playing in some real dives. The job paid...get this $17.50 a night. I would play from 9pm until 1:30 taking a few breaks. After it seemed the uniqueness of the drummer was wearing out I started to DJ too. Honestly, I did anything to make a buck. Anything from cleaning the restrooms to servicing the lights and sound system. I was at that club from 10 or 11 each day until 2:30am or so to close. I rember working with Chris Garcia. He was a nice guy and a good drummer too. I hope everyone who enjoyed themselves at the club are healthy and doing well. I worked for Uncle Sam's who was owned by American Avents from Cincinnati, OH. You name them and I worked for them. I was just visited by Cowboy (Bob Yarbrough) in August in Florida. I worked at Uncle Sams in Des Moines, Lincoln, Ne, Davenport, IA and Levitown Long Island, NY. I also DJ'd at an upscale 23 and over club called Park Avenue in Milwaukee, WI, and Orlando, FL. My email is theaudiocoach@gmail.com and I am on Facebook as well. Just search The Audio Coach if you would like to catch up with me.

Chris Garcia |

Wow , never thought I would here this club name again , while living in Des Moines I was the drummer that played along with the local disk jocky and all the top 40 music , it was a great way to do things, a live drummer on stage following the latest music of the day while listning to it through head phones ,I have a couple pictures I could submit, are there any other pictures showing the drummers on stage at the Des Moines uncle sams I would love to see more. Chris

Tony Melton |

I was the photographer for the Uncles Sams in Knoxville, TN around 1973-74. What a job! I went table to table taking pictures of groups and making sure the customers knew to come back the next week to see themselves on the big screens. Pay? Are you kidding? I did get free beer though.

I will someday dig through the boxes in the attic and see if I still have any of the slides to forward. I know I had some of Steppenwolf on stage there.

Tim Leslie |

Jim Chapman is on Facebook

Scott Susor |

When I turned 18 in Michigan in January 1977, Uncle Sam's at Telegraph and Schoolcraft was the first bar I ever went into. What a great place! I lived in Livonia, only about 5 miles away so that was an added benefit of hanging out there. When I started going to Wayne State in September 1977, my east side friends would come over to Uncle Sam's on the west side one Saturday night and us west siders would go over to their east side hangout Harpo's the next Saturday night. Wild times! There was also an Uncle Sam's in Houston, where I now live, and the lady who is now my wife hung out here in Houston at the Uncle Sam's back then. So we were 1200 miles apart back in 1977 but connected by Uncle Sam's!

Cowboy from Tennessee |

I was a manager for Uncle Sam'a in the mid to late '70's. I ran clubs in Knoxville, TN; Lincoln, NE; Davenport, IA; and Houston, TX. My name is Bob Yarbrough but my nickname then was Cowboy. I would love to hear from former employees and customers. It's fun to read all the comments from all of you.
Tony Greco, US manager owns a restaurant in NYC. Richie is somewhere in Florida, Miami area I think.
If anyone knows how to contact Jim Chapman I would really like to find him. Jim worked with me in Davenport anf at another club in Orlando, FL, also awned by the same company thet owned Uncle Sam's.

Tim Leslie |

Always heard alot about the Des Moines US club. The photo of the Davenport club brings back GREAT memories!!!! Anyone else here from the Davenport ot Des Moines clubs?

Gary Hagan "Starsky" |

Hey, did we really look as nerdy as that photo above? Those guys look like wimps in that photo. I do remember the knit pants and the platform shoes. It was great that a guy that's only 5'9" (I think I was 5'10" at one time, but I think I've shrunk) was 6 foot with those monster shoes on. Those were the days. I've got a picture of me with those slacks on, my platform shoes, and playing drums down in my basement. Had the long hair and beard. People used to say I looked like Al Pacino as Serpico. In fact, I remember one of the waitresses at Des Moines who had a crush on Pacino and picked me up one night. Went back to her dorm room over at Drake and we made love and spent the night. Next morning I woke up and sure enough, on the wall was this HUGE poster of Pacino as Serpico. I didn't know if you could post other photos like that or not, but I got them. I wonder where that coed is today... can't even remember her' name. If she reads this though... give me a call or leave me a message. We had some good times.

Wally Cleaver |

Hey Starsky!  Yup, I was there for the rumble you spoke of but would rather remember the "other" action in the parking lot you alluded to in your post. I have many fond memories of fun nights spent partying until closing time and then going to breakfast with the guys or home with a babe. Know you do too...Is nice to know there are a lot of people out there with the same recollections.  Would love to party at Uncle Sam's again with all of them! You are right, the Catholic church is still there as is Miller's Hardware across the street.  Used to park there on Tue and Wed nights when the Uncle Sam's parking lot was full.  Always got there late on those nights, because of our mutual friend Tom...

Gary Hagan |

Yeah, I was going to say, I knew my memory was fading, but that wasn't my recollection of the old Uncle Sam's in Des Moines at all! The building that Uncle Sam's was in was the old Katz Drug building with the famous Katz neon sign. It is now a state office building. Used to be an old Hinky Dinky supermarket across the street (anyone remember those?). The old Catholic church that was next to the back parking lot is still there (in fact, I believe is on the state's historical registry list). If those parking lots could talk!?! I made out in my car many a night and had a few rumbles in the parking lot. Hey, Wally Cleaver, do you remember the rumble that Starsky and Hutch had with Mr. Heck and cohort? I'll bet a few Des Moines coeds lost their virginity in that parking lot.

John C. |

That photo of the exterior of Uncle Sam's was not from the Des Moines location, but from Davenport Iowa instead.

Since I submitted that I just wanted to clear that up.


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