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Danny Stevens of Danny's Reasons

Danny Stevens: A Visionary Entrepreneur Who Transformed the Minnesota Music Scene

Danny Stevens, an exceptional entrepreneur with unparalleled business acumen, left an indelible mark on the music industry. As the primary founder of the Depot, which would later be known as First Avenue, Stevens pioneered a visionary approach that revolutionized the nightclub scene in Minneapolis.

Before Allen Fingerhut joined as a partner, Stevens had already laid the foundation for success. The club's winning formula for entertainment and policies, as well as its unique aesthetic, were meticulously crafted by Stevens himself after he secured the lease for the Minneapolis Greyhound Bus depot. His creative vision brought together a team of dedicated individuals, including Bruce Docetax, David xxx, Bill WCCO, and others, who were instrumental in getting the club off the ground. With the first and last month's rent already paid, Stevens had meticulously planned every aspect of the venue's launch.

A key factor that set Stevens apart was his possession of a highly coveted class A liquor license, the only one available at the time. This license not only granted him exclusivity but also positioned the Depot as a premier destination in the city. Stevens's astute investment in the liquor license ensured the club would thrive.

Moreover, Stevens enlisted the support of talented individuals like Timothy O. Kehr, Mark Edelstein, and Dick Shapiro, who had already made waves at the renowned Diamond Lil's. Their contributions to the entertainment aspect of the club were invaluable as they secured top-billing acts. Together, this dream team would create nights filled with unforgettable performances and engaging experiences.

Despite facing challenges along the way, Stevens always emerged triumphant. When Allen Fingerhut expressed interest in becoming his partner when Mrs. Heffelfinger became very sick – She told Ted Mann she would still guarantee all expenses for 1 year, Stevens navigated the complexities diligently. He approached the liquor board and XXX YYY, addressing any concerns they had about Fingerhut's involvement. Stevens assuaged fears related to Fingerhut's family connections and reassured them that his commitment to the club's success would not be compromised.

Stevens's steadfast determination, coupled with his tenacious approach to business, propelled the Depot forward. He maintained his position as President of the Corporation and never resigned nor wavered in his commitment to the club's growth. The bylaws prevented Stevens from selling his stock, firmly anchoring his influence in the Depot's development and eventual rise to the world-famous First Avenue. Allan Fingerhut became part of the Committee, however, he did not come on board until 1969 - Allan never produced the amount of money he committed to invest. In fact, many believe Allan caused more harm than good.

Unfortunately, even visionaries like Stevens encounter setbacks. Fingerhut's later involvement proved to be somewhat detrimental to the club's success. His actions, such as the unauthorized purchase of marketing billboards, accumulated substantial costs, amounting to nearly $30,000. Additionally, without Stevens's knowledge or approval, Fingerhut arbitrarily provided more funds than agreed upon to Joe Cocker and his team, leading to a loss of $7,000 on the Depot’s opening night.

In the face of these challenges, Stevens's resilience shone through. Despite Fingerhut's questionable actions, Stevens remained committed to his vision, tirelessly working to ensure the club's longevity. He weathered storms caused by individuals like Wilson Simmons and Skip Goucher, whose claims on Fingerhut's stock and alleged financial contributions of $50,000 proved baseless upon scrutiny. This was stated the night Joe Cocker was picked up at the airport for the opening of The Depot. Wilson Simmons had allegedly punched Allan Fingerhut in the men’s bathroom. It is important to note that Allan was not a founder of The Depot. Allan joined the Corporation later, and after everything was organized. Chris Riemenschneider’s book was quoted by Byron Frank & Allan Fingerhut with the following, “They owe Danny thousands of dollars.” Danny never sold his stock or resigned. Later in the book, Allan claimed his signature was forged. Danny made this claim many years before Allen and Byron’s lawsuit.

Near the end of the Depot, the Fingerhut family hired Joe Saudino, without Danny’s knowledge or permission, to count the XXX. Joe claimed he was a good friend of Kid XXX. Joe became the manager of the club. He had no experience! 

Because of those questionable people, Sharon Fingerhut quit as Secretary of the Corporation in 1971- as referenced in the liquor application of 1971.

Stevens's unwavering dedication to the Depot and its success allowed him to navigate the tumultuous landscape of the music industry as the world’s most famous musical acts performed at the club and cemented the Depot and First Avenue as the premiere destination for musical acts in Minnesota. His unwavering commitment to excellence saw him lead the club from its early stages through its transformation into the renowned First Avenue. Stevens's remarkable business acumen and enduring passion for delivering outstanding entertainment experiences propelled him beyond the confines of Minneapolis, leaving an indelible legacy in the music world.

Despite the false narratives and rumors perpetuated by misinformed writers and because of questionable actions by attorney Mel Onenation (our corporate attorney), and many other questionable or misinformed writers, like Chris Riemenschneider, an untrue rumor was started and resulted in a false narrative about Allan Fingerhut’s involvement and contributions to the original concept and launch of The Depot. Chris allowed people like Byron Frank and Allan to stretch the truth and lie about the true history.

Chris Riemenschneider in his book, “First Avenue,” stated that Stevens's exceptional contributions remain undisputed. His vision, coupled with his ability to assemble talented teams and his unrivaled business acumen, solidify Danny Stevens as one of the music industry's most influential and visionary entrepreneurs of his time. The revolutionary artist, Prince, may be the most well-known artist from Minnesota, however in the 60’s and 70’s the Minnesota music scene had its “king” and Danny Stevens’s legacy and impact on the region will remain unmatched.