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About CBGB and OMFUG

CBGB (Country, BlueGrass, 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 U.S. Chaos, Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Cro-Mags, Warzone, Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All, and Youth of Today becoming synonymous with the club. 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.

The Home of Underground Music

The club closed in October 2006. The final concert was performed by Patti Smith on October 15. CBGB Fashions (the CBGB store, wholesale department, and online store) stayed open until October 31 at 315 Bowery.

History Of CBGB

Hilly Kristal

THE HISTORY OF CBGB
BY HILLY KRISTAL

In 1998, Hilly Kristal, founder of CBGB, wrote a brief history of the club. Here it is in its unedited entirety:

Installment Vol. 1

The questions most asked of me is, "What does CBGB stand for?" I reply, "It stands for the kind of music I intended to have, but not the kind of music that we became famous for: COUNTRY BLUEGRASS BLUES." The next question is always, "but what does OMFUG stand for?" and I say, "That's more of what we do, it means OTHER MUSIC FOR UPLIFTING GOURMANDIZERS." And what is a gourmandizer? It's a voracious eater of, in this case, MUSIC.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've been asked those questions.

A lot of people believe that OMFUG stands for something dirty, but the truth is, I felt that CBGB sounded so pat that I wanted something to go with it that sounded a little uncouth, or crude.

The obvious follow up question is often, "is this your favorite kind of music?"

No!!! I've always liked all kinds but half the radio stations all over the U.S. were playing country music, cool juke boxes were playing blues and bluegrass as well as folk and country. Also, a lot of my artist/writer friends were always going off to some fiddlers convention (bluegrass concert) or blues and folk festivals. So I thought it would be a whole lot of fun to have my own club with all this kind of music playing there. Unfortunately - or perhaps FORTUNATELY - things didn't work out quite the way I'd expected.

Installment Vol. 2

That first year was an exercise in persistence and a trial in patience. My determination to book only musicians who played their own music instead of copying others, was indomitable. ORIGINALITY (to me) WAS PRIME, TECHNIQUE TOOK SECOND PLACE.

The height of the Disco era brought an increasing dissatisfaction among rock musicians and their fans. The formula driven disco music and the long drawn out solos and other complexities in much of the rock of the late sixties and early seventies encouraged a lot of disgruntled rock enthusiasts to seek the refreshing rhythms and sounds of simple (BACK TO BASICS) high energy rock and roll, which seemed to take shape right here at CBGB. We called this music "street rock" and later "PUNK" - "come as you are and do your own thing" rock and roll.

Since almost everyone of the bands was relatively unknown, we did not give them a guarantee, but gave the most of the door monies to cover their expenses. CBGB kept the bar. Hopefully they would see the value of building a fan base. The more people came and paid to see them the more they made. It was not until sometime in 1976 that the club started paying for itself.

Installment Vol. 3

Having a rock club on the Bowery, under a flophouse (believe it or not), does have some advantages. (1) the rent is (was) reasonable (2) Most of our neighbors dressed worse than, or more weird than our rock and rollers (3) The surrounding buildings were mostly industrial and the people who did live close by, didn't seem to care about having a little rock and roll sound seeping into their lives. The disadvantages: within a two-block radius there were six flophouses holding about two thousand men, mostly derelicts. I would say most of them were either alcoholics, drug addicts physically impaired or mentally unstable. Some of the men were veterans from the Vietnam war on government disability, and others were just lost in life or down on their luck. The streets were strewn with bodies of alcoholic derelicts sleeping it off after two or three drinks of adulterated wine reinforced with sugar. There were lots of muggers hanging around on the Bowery preying on the old or incapacitated men. When people were let out of jail or institutions they were very often housed in one of these flophouses by the city, so we had to deal with these crazies trying to come into the club.

Mostly, knives were the weapon of choice. By the time things improved around here, I had collected over three dozen knives and other assorted weapons. The muggers - or "jack rollers" were not as dangerous to ordinary people as they seemed. They were used to picking on the old men or others who were completely out of it like three sheets to the wind.

The Bowery was, to repeat, a drab ugly and unsavory place. But it was good enough for rock and rollers. The people who frequented CBGB didn't seem to mind staggering drunks and stepping over a few bodies.

Installment Vol. 4

1975 was drawing to a close. It was a remarkable year for CBGB, and for me personally. No one was getting rich, but who cared. We were all having a ball. It was certainly exciting, discovering new artists, finding new bands, spreading the word, trying to get them recording contracts.

After being involved with all kinds of music (in one way or another) for most of my life, I was just beginning to understand to what extent the recordingcompanies were involved with an artist's career and how much they controlled their success. It was the beginning of my love, hate relationship with the record industry (the powers that be).

I certainly didn't love every band that played CBGB's but I did love to encourage them to do their own thing, to challenge the establishment. I've always felt the stronger you are about yourself and your own ideas, (in this case musical ideals) the more satisfying your success, hopefully, the more rewarding your future.

Installment Vol. 5

The year: 1976. Over 2 years had gone by since I had opened CBGB. 1976 was a year of celebration here in the United States because of the anniversary date of July 4th 1776 - two hundred years ago we had our independence as a nation from the establishment - The United Kingdom. Two centuries later young people were still declaring their independence from the establishment, and some of them were having their say through rock music. In the beginning as - is most often the case - the establishment (the record industry) and millions of rock fans were completely unaware of this new awakening of the 70's which has no uniting symbolism like the 60's. It was simply a need for young people to be heard, a need for young people to be speak, a need for them to be recognized as individuals. Listen to me! Hear me!! This is who I am, This is what "I" have to say!! These were not young people whose ambitions were to be great musicians or to become rock superstars. They were young people who simply wanted a voice. To get this voice, to have your voice heard, you have got to be able someway, some how, be able to communicate with an audience that "might or might not" be receptive to what you have to say.

Installment Vol. 6

In the fall of ‘76 rock bands were invading CBGB's from al over the country. Boston was one of the more fertile cities for the developing of new rock bands. For many years Boston has had more college kids than any other city, and they've always had a great rock club scene. The Rathskeller, owned by Jimmy Harold, was one of the premier clubs in Boston that catered to new rock bands. I would book a group of Boston bands into CBGB taht Jimmy recommended, and he would do the same with the "Hot Club" in Philla. Pa. From Boston, one weekend, we had D.M.Z., The Inflictors, Hot Rain , The Yarbles, Mickey Clean and the Mez, Real Kids, The Boiz, Bon Jour Aviator, and a special group from Cleaveland that Joey Ramone told me about. They were called the ‘The Dead Boys'. The Dead Boys, on stage epitomizes what a punk band should be. They were loud, raw, crass, with super high energy. They were outrageous and obscene, with excellent lyrics and music. Somehow they were disciplined musicians. Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome, Jimmy Zero and Johnny Blitz were their names. The were without a bass player at that time but it was soon to be Jeff Magnum. The lack or a bass player did not handicap them in the least. They were great!!

ABOUT

The world's most famous rock club was opened in December 1973, when musician/actor/nightclub manager/concert impresario Hilly Kristal took over the decrepit Palace Bar and christened it CBGB & OMFUG (Country, Blue Grass, Blues & Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandizers). Beginning in early 1974, as Richard Hell later wrote in the New York Times, CBGB "housed the most influential cluster of bands ever to have grown up - or to implicitly reject the concept of growing up - under one roof." Those bands include Blondie, the Dead Boys, the Dictators, the Heartbreakers (with Johnny Thunders), Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Ramones, Suicide, Talking Heads and Television.

Tens of thousands of performers - from multi-platinum Pearl Jam and Guns N' Roses to country superstar Alan Jackson - played the club until October 15, 2006, when the club closed at the 315 Bowery address following a protracted rent dispute. The Patti Smith Group played the last show, and Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye told the New York Times: "When I go into a rock club in Helsinki or London or Des Moines, it feels like CBGB to me there." The message from this tiny little Bowery bar has gone around the world. It has authenticated the rock experience wherever it has landed." Hilly Kristal died August 28, 2007, at age 75 from complications of lung cancer, but CBGB lives on.

TIMELINE

1973: Hilly Kristal opens CBGB COUNTRY BLUE GRASS BLUES in December. Con Fullum, a country from Maine is the first to play.

1974: Terry Ork, Television's manager, asks Hilly to book the band on a Saturday night, since that was CBGB's dead night.

1974: Ramones Play CBGB for the first time August 16.

1975: The Talking Heads play their first show at CBGB, opening for the Ramones.

1975: CBGB hosts the "Unsigned Band Festival." A month long festival featuring the Talking Heads, The Shirts, Television and the Ramones.

1977: The Police make their US debut in November. Attendance was sparse.

1984: Spinal Tap -- "Smell the Glove" tour.

1987: Guns N' Roses play an acoustic set at the Record Canteen.

1988: Tom Tom Club sets up for a sold out two-week residency, featuring nightly special guests: Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Dee Dee Ramone, and Jerry Harrison.

1989: Sunday Hardcore matinees are suspended due to violence.

1991: Pearl Jam plays secret show for Fan Club.

1992: Dave Matthews Band gets a record deal from CBGB gig. Hilly Kristal was so impressed at the sound check he calls all major labels. Only RCA showed up.

1992: Nirvana cancels show due to $300 door/security expense.

1992: Tool opens for the Rollins Band.

1993: CBGB celebrates 20 years with a month-long celebration featuring: The Cramps, Anthrax, The B52's, David Byrne, Joann Jett, Living Colour and Blues Traveller.

1999: Joey Ramone plays CBGB for the last time at the "Cyberpunk Blitz" launching his official Ramones website.

2002: Alan Jackson brings CBGB back to its roots with a sold-out show.

2006: Patti Smith plays CBGB's last show on October 15.

2012: CBGB Festival - New York City - July 5-8.

2013: CBGB Festival - New York City - October 9-13.