CBGB: Wikis


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CBGB club facade.jpg
The front facade of CBGB
Type Music venue
Genre(s) Punk
Opened 1973
Location Manhattan, New York
Owner Hilly Kristal
Closed 2006
Website http://www.cbgb.com/

CBGB (Country, Blue Grass, and Blues) was a music club at 315 Bowery at Bleecker Street in the borough of Manhattan in New York City.

Founded by Hilly Kristal in 1973, it was originally intended to feature its namesake musical styles, but became a forum for American punk and New Wave bands like Ramones, Misfits, Television, the Patti Smith Group, Mink DeVille, The Dead Boys, The Dictators, The Fleshtones, The Voidoids, The Cramps, Blondie, The Shirts, and Talking Heads. In later years, it would mainly become known for Hardcore punk with bands such as Agnostic Front, Bad Brains, Murphy's Law, Cro-Mags, Warzone, Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All, and Youth of Today performing there.

The storefront and large space next door to the club served as the "CBGB Record Canteen" (record shop and cafe) for many years. Eventually, in the late eighties, the record store was closed and replaced with a second performance space and art gallery, named "CB's 313 Gallery". The gallery went on to showcase many popular bands and singer-songwriters who played in a musical style more akin to acoustic rock, folk, jazz, or experimental music, such as Dadadah, Toshi Reagon, and The Shells, while the original club continued to present mainly hardcore bands and post-punk, metal, and alternative rock acts.[1][2]

The club closed in October 2006. The final concert was performed by Patti Smith on October 15.[3] CBGB Fashions (the CBGB store, wholesale department, and online store) stayed open until October 31 at 315 Bowery. On November 1, 2006, CBGB Fashions moved to 19-23 St. Mark's Place, but it subsequently closed in the summer of 2008.

CBGB Radio launched on the iheartradio platform in 2010.



CBGB, a then-little-known rock club, was founded in December 1973, on the site of Kristal's earlier bar, Hilly's on the Bowery, which he ran from 1969 to 1972. Originally, Kristal had focused on his more profitable West Village nightspot, Hilly's, but complaints from the bar's neighbors forced Hilly's to close, leading its owner to concentrate on the Bowery club. The full name is CBGB & OMFUG which stands for "Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers"*. Gormandizer (gourmand) usually means a ravenous eater of food, but according to Kristal here it means "a voracious eater of ... music".[4] The club was also affectionately called simply "CB's". As its name implied, Kristal intended the bar to feature country, bluegrass, and blues music (along with poetry readings), but it became famous as the birthplace of the American punk movement. Perhaps most notably, the punk rock pioneers The Ramones had their first shows there.


In 1973, before Hilly's on the Bowery became CBGB, two locals, Bill Page and Rusty McKenna, convinced Kristal to allow them to book concerts. Although the term "punk rock" was not applied to these acts, Kristal's son believes they helped lay the musical foundation for the bands that followed.[5] After the Mercer Arts Center collapsed in August 1973, there were few locations in New York where unsigned bands could play original music, and a couple of Mercer refugees—Suicide and Wayne County—played one-off gigs in the very early days of CBGB.

Marky Ramone of the Ramones and Debbie Harry of Blondie attend a screening of Burning Down the House, a 2009 documentary about CBGB's heyday.

On March 31, 1974, Television began a long-term Sunday night residency at the club. Although Kristal and many others who were present are quoted as saying that Television was the first band to bring punk rock to CBGB, Kristal's son disputes this, claiming there was actually a punk show in progress the first time Tom Verlaine visited the club.[5] However, it was Television's shows that started a flood of "street music" (as punk acts were initially known) performances on the Bowery.[6]

At the third Television gig on April 14, 1974, Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye from the Patti Smith Group were in the audience; that band went on to make its own CBGB debut on 14 February 1975. Other early performers included The Stillettoes (featuring future Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry on back-up vocals), who supported Television on 5 May 1974. The newly-formed Blondie (under its original name of Angel & the Snake) and the Ramones both arrived in August 1974. Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, The Shirts, The Heartbreakers, The Fleshtones and many other bands followed in quick succession.

CBGB had only one rule for a band to follow in order to play at the venue: they had to write original music. No cover bands were booked to play there. However, regulars like Television and the Ramones sometimes played a handful of covers during their sets. Kristal's son claims the policy was meant to help the club avoid paying ASCAP royalties for the compositions being performed.[5]

As CBGB's reputation grew, it began to draw more acts from outside New York City. For example, the club hosted the first American gigs by The Police, on October 20 and 21, 1978.

Hardcore punk

Though CBGB was utilized as a hot spot for touring bands to hit when they came through New York, the scene that kept the bar alive during the 1980s was New York's underground hardcore punk scene. Sunday at CBGB was matinee day (also named "thrash day" in a documentary about hardcore).[citation needed] Every Sunday, a handful of hardcore bands took the stage in the afternoon to dinnertime hours, usually for cheap. Bands made famous by matinees include Reagan Youth, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Cro-Mags, Leeway, Warzone, Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All, Straight Ahead, and Youth of Today.

Over the years, CBGB's matinee became an institution. In 1990, violence both in and out of the scene caused Kristal to refuse to book hardcore shows. However, CBGB later brought hardcore back at various times, and for the last several years of its existence, had no rules about what genres could and couldn't be featured.


CBGB after it closed
CBGB the day after

In 2005, a dispute arose between CBGB and the Bowery Residents' Committee.[7] The Committee billed Kristal $91,000 in back rent, while Kristal claimed he had not been informed of increases in his $19,000 monthly rent.[8][9] After the lease expired, they reached an agreement for the club to remain for 14 more months while Kristal dropped his legal battles and his attempts to get historic landmark status for the club.

Kristal planned to move the club far from its roots with a new CBGB in Las Vegas, Nevada. The owner planned to strip the current club down to the bare walls, bringing as much of it to Nevada as possible.

"We're going to take the urinals," he said. "I'll take whatever I can. The movers said, `You ought to take everything, and auction off what you don't want on eBay.' Why not? Somebody will."[10]

The club finally closed on October 15, 2006. The last week featured multi-night stands by Bad Brains and The Dictators, along with an acoustic set by Blondie. More contemporary acts, such as Avail and The Bouncing Souls, opened shows throughout the week.

The final concert was performed by Patti Smith and broadcast live on Sirius Satellite Radio. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers attended the show and even performed on a handful of songs with Smith and her band. Flea turned 44 at midnight, and the band and crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to him. Television's Richard Lloyd also guested on a few songs, including a reworked version of the title track to "Marquee Moon". Toward the end of their set, Smith and her band played "Gloria", paying tribute to the Ramones during the chorus by alternating between the original lyrics and the "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" of "Blitzkrieg Bop". In her final encore, the song "Elegie", Smith read from a list of musicians who had died since they last played at CBGB.

Hilly Kristal died from complications from lung cancer on August 28, 2007. In early October 2007, Kristal's family and friends hosted a private memorial service in the YMCA near the village. Soon after, there was a public memorial where CBGB staff and others paid tribute.

After Kristal's death, his ex-wife, Karen Kristal, and daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman, engaged in a legal battle over the purported $3 million CBGB estate, settling in June 2009 with Burgman receiving "most" of the money that did not go to creditors and estate taxes.[11]

The ex CBGB now

The Building

On November 2, 2007, it was announced that high-end men's fashion designer John Varvatos would open a store at CBGB's former space at 315 Bowery in early 2008.[12] Varvatos expressed a desire to "do justice" to CBGB's legacy.[13] Much of the graffiti covering the bathrooms was preserved, along with some playbills from the club's 10th anniversary shows in 1983 that were discovered behind a wall.[14] The store opened in April 2008.[15]

In February 2008, it was announced that Morrison Hotel, a SoHo art gallery dedicated to music photography, would open a second location in the former CBGB Gallery space next door.[14] However, in June 2009, it was announced that the Morrison Hotel gallery would close.[16]

It was also announced that the alley behind the club, officially known as "Extra Place", would be turned into a pedestrian mall. The New York Post quotes Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys as saying "If that alley could talk, it's seen it all." and "All of Manhattan has lost its soul to money lords."[17]

In popular culture

CBGB was featured in a promotional ad during the bid for New York City to host the Olympic games in 2012. [18]

CBGB would also be featured on The Simpsons during their 19th season (episode 12, aired 2008-02-17) in the episode "Love, Springfieldian Style" with a spoof of the romance of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen and the film Sid and Nancy. Sid (played by Nelson Muntz) and Nancy (played by Lisa Simpson) get kicked out of CBGB by Comic Book Guy and are informed that: "You are no longer welcome at CBGB: Comic Book Guy's Bar".

In the film The Warriors and its video game adaptation, a gang from the Bowery known as The Lizzies take three members of The Warriors street gang to their apartment. The Lizzies' building is directly across the street from CBGB.

Kenn Rowell of The Baghdaddios hung out at CBGB during his high school and college years so often that he was inspired to write the song "Christmas At C.B.G.B.s" for club owner Hilly Kristal. The video for the song, featuring animated members of The Baghdaddios performing the tune, is viewed by thousands of people every Holiday Season and is now featured on CBGB's official website.[19]

In the film Bandslam, CBGB is Will Burton's favourite place of the world.

Artist Sage Francis used CBGB in his video, 'Escape Artist'.

The club is featured in the 1999 Spike Lee movie Summer of Sam, where one of the central characters, Richie, becomes a regular patron after becoming a punk rocker. Other movies where the club makes an appearance include Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters and Sylvester Stallone's Staying Alive. (In the latter film, John Travolta's character Tony Manero stopped by the club one night when the performer on stage was, somewhat incongruously, Sylvester Stallone's pop singer brother Frank Stallone.)

In the song Life During Wartime by the Talking Heads, CBGB is mentioned in the verse "this ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB..."

In season 4 of Gilmore Girls, Lane Kim and her band (including former Skid Row member Sebastian Bach) are supposed to play the 1am Tuesday slot but get bumped.

Season 2 of Californication on showtime.

Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) refers to CBGBs well talking about a club he works at on the show, the O.C.

The club is featured in the PS2/Xbox/PC game True Crime: New York City in a bar brawl.

Most of Rancid's "Red Hot Moon" video was shot at CBGB.[20]

Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses wears a CBGB T-shirt in the video for "Sweet Child O' Mine"

Tre Cool of Green Day wears a CBGB T-shirt in the video for "Welcome to Paradise"

A fictonalised version of CBGB called The Elbow Room was mentioned in a How I Met Your Mother episode in a monologue about how New York was becoming cleaner and all the old places were closing down and being replaced with fast food restaurants, banks and shops.


  1. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1993/12/19/nyregion/playing-in-the-neighborhood-133093.html
  2. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/24/movies/pop-and-jazz-guide-993069.html
  3. ^ Yahoo Music coverage of concert
  4. ^ Official CBGB website
  5. ^ a b c Debunking CBGB Myths: An Interview with Dana, Hilly Kristal’s Son, Tiny Mix Tapes, September 11, 2007
  6. ^ Heylin, passim
  7. ^ http://www.brc.org/
  8. ^ http://www.villagevoice.com/2006-09-05/nyc-life/the-continental-drifts/http
  9. ^ http://www.punknews.org/article/13652
  10. ^ Stars return in CBGB's last shows:The Dictators, Debbie Harry and Patti Smith are among the artists returning to perform at legendary New York music club CBGB, ahead of its closure after 33 years, BBC News, October 12, 2006
  11. ^ The Final CBGB Settlement: Hilly Kristal's Estate Takes Its Last Legal Bow, The Village Voice, June 16, 2009
  12. ^ "A Punk Temple Reborn: Would You Like To See the $200 Safety Pins?". The Washington Post. 2007-11-02. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/01/AR2007110102492.html. 
  13. ^ Polsky, Carol (2008-01-14). "Designer turning CBGB into a rocking boutique". Newsday. http://cnews.ttnet.net/cgi-bin/enews.cgi?date=20080115&src=FA_t0114921.4ke&chap.html. Retrieved 2008-01-16. "We don't want anyone to walk into the space and say, 'Oh, they screwed it up.' We want them to walk in and say, 'It's not CBGB, but they did the right thing.'" 
  14. ^ a b Brettell, Karen (2008-03-27). "NY gallery keeps punk alive in old CBGB space". Reuters. http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKN2737445120080327. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  15. ^ Sisario, Ben (2008-04-19). "At the Former CBGB, the Punks Once Played but the Rich Now Romp". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/19/arts/music/19varv.html. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  16. ^ Greenspan, Izzy (June 29, 2009). "Breaking: Morrison Hotel Gallery to Leave CBGBs". Racked. http://racked.com/archives/2009/06/29/breaking_morrison_hotel_gallery_to_leave_cbgbs.php. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  17. ^ FERMINO, JENNIFER (2008-03-25). "HOBO GOES HAUTE". New York Post. http://www.nypost.com/seven/03252008/news/regionalnews/hobo_goes_haute_103428.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  18. ^ NYC 2012 Olympics Promo Video, NYC Olympic Committee via YouTube, (Timecode 1:36-1:49)
  19. ^ CBGB Official Website: Video (CBGB in the Media - Film/Television) http://www.cbgb.com/video/the_baghdaddios.htm. This music video can also be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUNQinTlubU
  20. ^ "Rancid Play Punk Mecca (Finally) For Video; World Tour Ahead". MTV. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1484399/20040115/rancid.jhtml. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 


  • Beeber, Steven. The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's: A Secret History of Jewish Punk. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-55652-613-8.
  • Brazis, Tamar (ed.). CBGB & OMFUG: Thirty Years from the Home of Underground Rock (1st ed.). New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0810957868.
  • Heylin, Clinton. From the Velvets to the Voidoids (2nd ed.). Eastbourne, East Sussex: Gardners Books, 2005. ISBN 1-905139-04-7.
  • Kozak, Roman. This Ain't No Disco: The Story of CBGB. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1988. ISBN 0-571-12956-0.

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