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 Allan 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 Dayton, Bill Carlson WCCO host of This Must Be the Place, Dave Moore WCCO, Al Holbert Star Tribune, David Lieberman, Amos Heilicher Pickwick Record Stores, Eddie Phillips, Phillips Liquor, 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 from Jack Dow and the Hotel Hastings, the only one available at the time. In those days you could not secure a class A license off the shelf.  It had to come from an existing business in that ward.  There was no transfer from ward to ward.  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 assured the club would thrive. 

 Moreover, Stevens enlisted the support of talented individuals like Timothy D. Kehr, Marsh 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 Allan Fingerhut approached Danny Stevens to become 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 addressed any concerns they had about Fingerhut's association with Isadore Blumenfeld. 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 Inc. named by Danny’s brother Micky; however, Allan did not come on board until the fall of 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 shown 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 Simon and Skip Goucher, who claimed they owned some of Fingerhut's Depot stock and their alleged financial contributions of $50,000 created some questions. This was stated the night Joe Cocker was picked up at the airport for the opening of The Depot. Wilson Simon punched Allan Fingerhut in the men’s bathroom at the airport. 

It is important to note that Allan was not the original or sole 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 on page 46 that they bought Danny’s stock in Committee Inc., and he was no longer part of the Depot. Danny never sold his stock or resigned. See below* for proof that Danny was still involved and never sold.  Later in the book, Allan claimed his signature was forged. Danny made this same claim many years before Allan and Byron’s lawsuit against each other. 

Near the end of the Depot, the Fingerhut family hired Joe Sandino, without Danny’s knowledge or permission, to manage the money. Joe claimed he was a good friend of Kid Cann.  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.  Her name is not listed as Secretary.  Allan listed his name as Secretary.

 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 Orenstein (The Depot's 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, 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.

*The bill of sale of the liquor license shows that Jack Dow/Hotel Hastings sold the license only to Danny Stevens not to Allan Fingerhut.  

*The tax documents dated August 1976 show Danny was still getting tax statements signed by Byron Frank who put misleading statements in the book.

Danny Stevens of Danny's Reasons

The True Story of The Depot and First Avenue Draft- coming soon!