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CBGB, New York, 1973 – 2006

CBGB's exterior
CB’s: A Personal Note By Mike Thorne

The club’s name was strictly CBGB and OMFUG, short for Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers.  Somewhere it got shortened to CBGB’s and then down to just CB’s in conversation.  It functioned at 315 Bowery, New York City, end of Bleecker Street, from December 1973 to October 2006.

The owner, Hilly Kristal, managed the Shirts, who were a joint signing between EMI London and Capitol Records New York, after which I arrived in late 1977 to meet everyone with a view to producing their first album.  Fresh out of the roaring UK punk scene, and arriving unfashionably early at the former railroad workers’ bar still smelling of cigarettes and stale beer from the night before, I looked around and thought, ‘what a dump.’  But was before the people showed up. Years later, in the 21st century, The New York Times’ Jon Pareles would use the same word in an article about the club’s demise, which put Hilly in a bad mood for days.  I couldn’t ever use the phrase in front of him, even in joking mode with a friend.  He cared. And it was a dump in appearance only.

I came fairly late to the party, three years after the club really got going, but was lucky to become effectively embedded after producing two Shirts albums and becoming close with Hilly and his crew. The people who ran it and who played there transformed 315 Bowery to transcend grungy surroundings and make what many people now look back on as a shrine.  We are often more comfortable in unprepossessing surroundings and it was a very comfortable and sociable dump/shrine for many people.  We all grew there, in our own individual and erratic ways.

So much has been written about CBGB’s that a brief history isn’t necessary here.  You’re visiting this page because you know already.  Hilly himself started writing a history, but this remained unfinished at his death in 2007, a year after his club was wrenched from him, a loss which took his wind away.

Hilly Kristal at the bar, CBGB
CBGB: The Movie

Poster for the CBGB MovieThis movie, loosely based on Hilly Kristal and his now-legendary club, premières on Tuesday October 8 at the Sunshine Theater on Houston Street in New York City. Alan Rickman plays Hilly, even to singing a few songs to his acoustic guitar accompaniment.  (Back then, Hilly would often be at reception, feet up on the desk, quietly strumming away.)

This production will provoke passionate criticism from those who inhabited the place and who will often just want to see their versions of the memories. An example of positive comes from the New York Daily News.

And a balanced report from the New York Times, with lots of facts (thankfully).

CBGB Past, Present And Future

A long interview with Hilly Kristal, by Marc Berger for Downtown Magazine, New York City, February 4 1987

Hilly Kristal started managing downtown music clubs in the late ’50s, beginning at The Village Vanguard, then with his own club, Hilly’s on Ninth Street in the late ’60s (in the space that is now Village restaurant), and finally at Hilly’s on the Bowery, later renamed CBGB.

With Ron Delsener, Kristal began the popular Rheingold-Schaeffer concert festival in Central Park. At CBGB, Kristal was at the center of a seminal New York music scene which launched the careers of such influential artists as Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie and The Ramones……
(continue to the full interview)

We have a lot of material on CBGB, Hilly Kristal and the Shirts.  Some may overlap, but we’ve tried to separate as far as possible.  Please explore.

Listen to a random collection of music from people who played at the club between the mid-70s and early 80s.

 

A series of interviews by Mike Thorne with a collection of CBGB’s personalities…
Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin

Driven by music, Charlie Martin arrived in New York from Chicago, landing first as the lead sound engineer and later as the booking agent at CBGB 1974-80, sometimes sharing duties with Taxi (whose interview will follow) and with Norman Dunn. During that time, he mixed all the emerging notables, some of whom credit him with instilling a new professional discipline in their stage manners.
(continue to the full interview)

Tish and Snooky

Sisters Tish & Snooky Bellomo were members of the original Blondie band as well as founding one of New York’s very first punk bands, the Sic F*cks. They were downtown rock scene mainstays, performing regularly at CBGB with their bands, as well as being guest back-up singers for many luminaries including the Dictators, UK Squeeze, the Blues Brothers, Robert Gordon and Ronnie Spector
(continue to the full interview)

Cosmo Ohms

Cosmo Ohms

Cosmo Ohms was the lighting manager at CBGB for most of its heydays. Like many at the club, he made up the rules as he went along as CBGB developed to become a new music focus.  Here, he tells of his own dramatic start in lighting, and reflects on the club during the classic period from the mid-seventies to the nineties. 
(continue to the full interview)

B G Hacker

B G Hacker

BG was often the first person you’d meet on starting an evening at CBGB, defining a pleasant mood on the way in. So many establishments overlook how much the mood and pleasure to be had inside reflects the people at the door. 
(continue to the full interview)