Monday, May 20, 2013

Gas Light Poetry Cafe

The Gaslight Cafe was an American coffee house located in the basement of 116 MacDougal Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York City. The Gaslight (alternatively known as "The Village Gaslight") opened in 1958 and was a well known venue for folk music and other musical acts, until it closed in 1971 There is currently (September - June, 2012) a revival of the Village Gaslight with Sheriff Bob's Gaslight Revival presenting concerts the 2nd and 4th Tuesday and Bob Porco presenting a concert series on Saturdays nights, dubbing them a "Friends of Mike Porco Production"The Gaslight was originally a "basket house" where unpaid performers would pass around a basket at the end of each set and hope to be paid. Opened in 1958 by John Mitchell, the dark, steamy, subterranean Gaslight had showcased beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso but later became a folk-music club. Clarence Hood bought the club in 1961, and he and his son Sam managed the club through the late 1960s. Ed Simon, the owner of another popular Village coffeehouse, The Four Winds, reopened the Gaslight in 1968. The club was run by Betty Smyth (who is the mother of Scandal lead singer Patty Smyth), and blues guitarist/performer Susan Martin until its closing in 1971. Among those who performed at the Gaslight were Bill Cosby; Bob Dylan; Luke Faust, a five-string banjo player and singer who sang Appalachian ballads; Len Chandler; John Wynn, who played gut-string guitar and sang folk songs in an operatic voice; Paul Clayton; Luke Askew; Wavy Gravy; and in 1972, Bruce Springsteen. 1964–1966 saw many early performances by Richie Havens, Jose Feliciano, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Eric Andersen, John Herald, Ralph Rinzler, The Greenbriar Boys, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Dave Van Ronk.The first public "electric" appearance of The Blues Project (with Danny Kalb) took place at the club. Mississippi John Hurt played there. Jimi Hendrix sat in one night at the Gaslight with John Hammond, Jr. An array of musicians also performed at the club in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Odetta, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bonnie Raitt, Reverend Gary Davis, Big Mama Thornton, Link Wray, Mimi Farina, jazz musician Charles Mingus, Happy Traum and Artie Traum, Doug Kershaw, Bob Neuwirth, David Bromberg, David Buskin, Janis Siegel (who later joined The Manhattan Transfer), and others. Folk musician and actor Gil Robbins worked as the club's manager during the late 1960s. The club was next door and down the stairs from the street-level bar called the Kettle of Fish, a bar where many performers hung out between sets. Some nights the bar the (Kettle of Fish) was "locked" down to the public because a young "reclusive" singer and poet was in attendance...Bob Dylan.[9] Also next door was the Folklore Center, a bookstore/record store owned by Izzy Young and notable for being a musicians' gathering place and center of the New York folk-music scene. Live at The Gaslight 1962 (2005), a single CD release including ten songs from early Dylan performances at the club, was released by Columbia Records. In the Folk Music Encyclopedia, Kristin Baggelaar and Donald Milton wrote "The Gaslight was weird then because there were air shafts up to the apartments and the windows of the Gaslight would open into the air shafts, so when people would applaud, the neighbors would get disturbed and call the police. So then the audience couldn't applaud; they had to snap their fingers instead." Brian Fallon, lead singer and guitarist of The Gaslight Anthem has explained in several interviews that the band's name came from The Gaslight Cafe as he had heard it was one of the first places that Bob Dylan had played and liked the sound of the word and the imagery it brought about.

Gas Light Poetry Cafe Images

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Photo: Diane di Prima at the Gas Light Café, June 18, 1959; photo ...
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MacDougal St (1) by biketrouble, on Flickr
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