In the mid 1980’s, Bill McGinnes bought a stilted building a block from the beach in Gulf Shores, cut 10′ off of each piling and turned what had been an all-you-can-eat buffet into an oyster and pizza restaurant. It might have been more profitable to pick a more bustling beach town than sleepy Gulf Shores, but Bill preferred the pace and style so he left his job as an engineer in a Detroit auto factory and settled down in LA (Lower Alabama).
Originally, Papa Rocco’s had only about five items on their menu and some people thought it funny that a restaurant would specialize in pizza and oysters… but Bill knew by the way they laughed that it was going to work. The “Warm Beer and Lousy Pizza” slogan came about in the third year but by then thousands of locals and tourists knew better. Papa Rocco’s had become the place to go in Gulf Shores as the only place that served a full menu until midnight and the only nightspot with live entertainment seven nights a week.
McGinnes recalls that the first musician to play Papa’s was Ken Henderson who later formed a duo with the late, great Johnny Williams, another long time Papa Rocco’s player (formerly of The Drifters) and, still, no one questions that Gulf Shores legend, Brent Burns, has played at Papa’s the longest. Since Papa’s was the first in the area to feature nightly entertainment, there are very few local musicians who haven’t played at Papa’s. National acts, including Buddy Greco and AL Hirt have also graced the stage at Papa’s.
Papa has never taken more than a long weekend off in the 20+ years so he’ll likely be here to greet you the next time you stop in.