Heading south, the quiet fishing village, and now infamous Pattaya was born in the 60’s. Later on it gained a large military presence which was to include a USO club and according to a military wife from the 60’s, Pattaya was supposed to be a place for the wives of the air crews / pilots that flew in Vietnam to stay.
Ironically, most of the bars and clubs were originally designed with women in mind…. Today of course, all that has changed and the vast majority of visitors are male drop-outs from heaven on their way to hell!
For the newer people here in Thailand, Bernard Trink used to have a weekly column published every Friday in the Bangkok Post called the “Night Owl”. As well as current nightlife commentary, he used to explain some history, for example; there used to be several other nightlife venues for farangs other than Nana and Soi Cowboy.
Although Soi Cowboy was named after T.G. Edwards, it was actually Trink who coined the nickname “Cowboy” to describe the area and it stuck. In actual fact Soi Cowboy used to be called Soi Gold Label before Edwards arrived.
There was a bar there called “Gold Label” which opened in early 1975, The bar was “seminal” in every sense of the word: apart from being the very first bar on the Soi, it was aimed mainly at expatriate customers. It was the first double shophouse bar and was also multi-storey. The upstairs bar areas later became the first GoGo and show bars although downstairs remained a lounge bar.
It was the Golden Label bar that set the trend for other like-minded businesses to open. It was, after all in an ideal location for a night time entertainment area. Gold Label enjoyed three years of huge popularity and at first, only the first and second floors were utilised and for a brief period the third floor was opened up for customers to use.
The regulars of the bar treated the place as if it was a best kept secret and for the most part it was. Gold Label has now been replaced by several other bars that we know today as Baccara Bluebird A-Go-Go. During those early and golden years, Gold Label was not the only bar but the very first bar of its type in that Soi hence the name Soi Gold Label.
After its three glorious years as being the leader of the pack, Gold Label faded from the scene only to be replaced by a number of smaller, single shophouse bars.
By 1978 – 1979, the Soi reached its critical mass and a new leader was shining through… Cowboy Bar.
Cowboy Bar was opened by another recently retired US military veteran whom everyone unsurprisingly also called “Cowboy”.
Bernard Trink observed the upsurge in the number of entertainment venues on the Soi and this was reported weekly in his column. It was Bernard Trink who dubbed the Soi “Soi Cowboy” and because of his popularity as a column writer and the wide ranging readership, the name stuck. Today, you won’t find a taxi driver ANYWHERE in Bangkok who doesn’t know how to get to Soi Cowboy.
Only the few die-hards can reminisce on the old days and call it Soi Gold Label!
Additional info thanks to Exeter Bill:
Cowboy had more than one Thai wife and also had several girlfriends over the years. I first met him in his own bar back in 1987 or thereabouts. He didn’t die in Thailand and I last saw him well and alive in the Philippines, I personally did the paperwork for his new Philippina wife after he married her. After that, I have no idea what happened to him. He was a very very heavy drinker of that there’s no doubt. Rumor is as well that his son is a quite famous person in the USA but that they never reconciled, the son is also quite tall, tall enough to play a certain sport.