Legendary Music Venues. The Story Of CBGB

The starting point for the careers of Ramones, Television, Patti Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads and many more.

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Legendary Music Venues. The Story Of CBGB
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Today we’re going to dive into the story of one of the most important venues in the modern history of music - CBGB & OMFUG.

CBGB & OMFUG was a New York City music club opened in 1973 by Hilly Kristal in Manhattan's East Village. The name stands for Country BlueGrass Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers. It was founded on the site of Kristal's earlier bar, Hilly's on the Bowery, that he ran from 1969 to 1972. Hilly was actively contributing to the NY city music scene even before his club was open. He used to be the manager of the Village Vanguard, a famous jazz club in Greenwich Village. He was also a co-founder of the annual Rheingold Central Park Music Festival, which took place in Central Park and featured superstars from all music genres, including Miles Davis, the Who, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, etc.
At first, CBGB was supposed to be a country and blues bar, which also hosted some poetry readings and stuff like that. But the neighborhood and culture pushed things in other direction. In the ‘60s The East Village became a hotbed for jazz musicians and beatniks. Around 1966 Andy Warhol started to run his famous parties in the neighborhood, where bands like the Velvet Underground were playing. The Village became the destination for musicians and all sorts of creative people.

Every musician who wants to make it in the business needs to find a place where they will be able to expose others to their sound. Some sort of bar, club or any other venue to meet with an audience that is hungry for music. At that time, finding a place that would allow unsigned musicians to play their own music, was something really unique. So Hilly decided to run things differently. He banned bands from playing cover songs at his club and encouraged them for various experiments with their sound.

One of the first house bands at CBGB were The Ravelons. The band members were the later famous Fred Smith of Television and JD Daugherty of the Patti Smith Group.  


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In March 31st of 1974, a recently formed band named Television approached Hillie to ask if they could play in his club. He agreed on one condition - the band had to build a stage for his club. And they did! They played their first gig in CBGB and then started to perform there every Sunday night, becoming the second house band of the place.


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CBGB soon became a famed venue for punk rock and new wave bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, and Talking Heads. Fun fact: the bands had to load their own gear in and out.


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The true uniqueness of the CBGS club was in the fact that none of the bands that played there sounded like one another. They were all unique in some way. CBGB was a nightly explosion of music creativity, free thinking and rock ‘n’ roll. Even though the shows weren’t always great, it was ok, because the bands were always trying out something new, and that’s what made the place work. CBGB was proud to be different.

In April 1977, The Damned played the club, marking the first time a British punk band had ever played in America.


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From the early 1980s onward, CBGB became a focal point for the hardcore punk movement. Every Sunday, also known as the ‘Thrash Day.,'  the club had hardcore (and eventually metal) bands playing from the early afternoon to the late evening.


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In 1990, violence inside and outside of the venue prompted Kristal to suspend hardcore bookings. Yet CBGB brought hardcore back at times. CBGB's last several years had no formal bans by genre.
Unfortunately, throughout the '90s and ‘00s, the club started to lose its way. Around 2000, CBGB entered a protracted dispute over allegedly unpaid rent amounts until the landlord, Bowery Residents' Committee, sued in 2005 and lost the case, but a deal to renew CBGB's lease, expiring in 2006, failed. The club closed upon its final concert, played by Patti Smith, on October 15, 2006.


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Today visitors can see etched into the cement at the entrance to the clothing store, the name of the music venue and the date it was founded 'CBGB 73.'

If you want to know more about CBGB, you should definitely check out the cognominal 2013 American historical film starring Alan Rickman.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    BADGAS
    we need more places like this, clubs always play it safe and boring here in asheville. and everybody thinks we have this great music scene. sure if you like mumford and sons clones.
    Eifler121
    I just played there at French Broad Brewery, and the only people that came out were people I knew from Mooresville. We had better local pull in a garage in Virginia.
    JamesMc11
    Cool article, the place was definitely unique and influential. Maybe do Max's Kansas City next?
    cmvideo
    Ahhh nice! CBGBs! Lots of fun memories. What a great dump/club. Living Colour used to kill it in this place all the time. I dont think a place like this cant exist anymore in 2017 unfortunately.