, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9.


Hilly Kristal founded CBGB in December of 1973. The full name of the club is CBGB & OMFUG. The acronym stands for “Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”. By definition, gormandizer means to eat greedily or ravenously…in this example, music is what’s being consumed.

Kristal originally intended his new venue to feature artists true to its namesake. The club’s direction would change early on when Hilly met three members of the band Television while outside his club on a ladder fixing the awning. On the night of March 31, 1974 Television would play their first gig at 315 Bowery. The “street music” (as punk acts were initially known) floodgates were beginning to open.

Television’s performance that evening didn’t leave Hilly begging the band to return. After being coaxed by their manager, he allowed the band to play again with another up-and-coming local band, The Ramones. This incredible story went on and on for 30 plus years!

There wasn’t a lot going on in New York City for a rock n roll band at that time. There were very few places for them to practice or play. Bands were virtually ignored unless they had recording contracts. CBGBs made the most of the situation and allowed unsigned artists to showcase their original material. This welcoming of originality turned things around for the club and the legend continued to grow.

Here’s a small taste of the CBGB alumni: Talking Heads, Blondie, New York Dolls, Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell & The Voivoids to name a few.

In 2005, a landlord-tenant dispute began. Kristal was billed $91,000 in back rent. He claimed he had not been informed of increases in his monthly rent. After his lease expired, an agreement was reached for the club to remain open for fourteen more months. Efforts to save the club were numerous, but the writing was already on the graffiti plastered walls.

The club will reopen in the near future. Kristal plans to move it far from its roots. Las Vegas currently seems to be in the forefront. He plans to strip the club down to the bare walls, bringing as much of it to the new location 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.”

Patti Smith will perform CBGB’s last show on October 15th.

– Kip Gasparick