The Old Dutch Roadhouse and Tavern on old Panama City Beach is renown as a wellspring of popular entertainers that flourished throughout the south-land. The comedian affectionately known as ‘Brother Dave’ Gardner was a favorite performer that honed his early career at the Old Dutch. David Gardner was born in 1926 in Jackson, Tennesee. He attended Union University for one semester as a ministerial student.
He dropped out of college to earn a living as a jazz drummer and singer. He was in the house band at Gus Stevens’ famous Buccaneer Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi, when he recorded a couple of demos in the mid 50’s. In 1958, he recorded ‘White Silver Sands’ and broke into the top 20 hit pop songs that summer. His new-found fame allowed him to be booked in other clubs along the coast. Right away, Dave began to build a comedic routine, between songs, where he lampooned his ministerial training by calling the audience “Dear Hearts” and “Dearly Beloved”. This takeoff earned him the lifelong label as ‘Brother Dave’. His comedic style was a repartee of socially hip or intellectual topics delivered in the slang of jazz musicians. His persona had the manners of southern story-teller married with a stream-of-consciousness style of addressing subjects. He came to the attention of Chet Atkins while performing as a singer. Mr. Atkins was far more interested Dave’s comedic talents and produced Dave’s first long-playing album, “Rejoice, Dear Hearts”, in 1959. Rejoice, Dear Hearts was a mix of songs and comedy. That was followed by the comedy-only album, “Kick Thine Own Self”, in 1960. Both of these LPs ranked in the top 20 selling albums for each year. Top-selling comedy records put Brother Dave in the national spotlight and even landed him on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr.
In 1962, however, he was convicted of possessing marijuana and his rising star was severely hobbled and no more TV offers came his way. Nevertheless, Dave was still very popular in the club scene. The Old Dutch promotion, included here, proves his popularity on old Panama City Beach. He was on the bill for a week at the Old Dutch – quite a feat for a comedian. Brother Dave was just beginning a promising comeback in the early 80’s when he died of a heart attack on a film set. Dave has re-emerged as a comedy cult figure in recent years. Dave’s oneliners are famous for their nuance and irreverence. The following are a few of his quotes:
“The difference between a Northern Baptist and a Southern Baptist is, a Northern Baptist says, ‘There ain’t no hell,” and a Southern Baptist says, ‘the hell there ain’t!”
“Say, a Democrat is somebody who expects somethin’ fer nothin’, and a Republican is somebody who expects nothin’ fer somethin’, an’ an Independent is a cat that greases his own car.”
“Gratitude is riches, and complaint is poverty, and the worst I ever had was wonderful!”
While David Gardner was more popular as a comedian, I feel quite confident that he sang “White Silver Sands” to many requests while on stage at the Old Dutch.
Image of the Old Dutch bill courtesy of Robert Register.