Thursday, January 7, 2010
Cafe Au Go Go, New York City 152 Bleecker Street Rock: Performance List July-December 1967 (Au Go Go V)
The Cafe Au Go Go, at 152 Bleecker Street in New York City's Greenwich Village, was a critical venue for aspiring rock bands in the 1960s. Whatever the indisputable charms of the West Coast, the commercial and cultural capital of the United States has always been New York City, and bands had to make a good showing in New York if they expected to make it. Perhaps because the venue had no collectible poster art, the club has been somewhat unfairly left out of many rock chronicles, when in fact it played a crucial role in introducing new bands to New York City, and by extension to the whole country.
The iconic New York rock venue has always been Bill Graham's Fillmore East, and rightly so. The Fillmore East only opened in 1968, however, when the rock business had become fairly established. The less imposing Cafe Au Go Go had opened on February 7, 1964. It was a brick room with a low ceiling, long and narrow, and not ideally designed for electric music. Prior to the rock boom, it had been a haven for jazz, folk and comedy performers, but the Cafe Au Go Go became one of the first clubs in Greenwich Village and New York City to regularly book "name" rock acts, particularly from out of town. Within a few short years, it was primarily a rock club, and one of the first places bands had to play for the critical but enthusiastic New York audience.
Thanks to my friend Marc, I have had an excellent list of performers at the Cafe Au Go Go from 1965 to 1969, when it closed. I was lacking much of a context, however, but now that I have discovered the excellent New York City site prosopography blog Its All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago, and its exceptional post on the Cafe Au Go Go, my performers list can be put into some kind of context.
My goal for this series is to list all the rock performers at the Cafe Au Go Go from July 27, 1965 through late 1969, when the club closed. I have included some brief information about where each performer stood at the time each of their Au Go Go performance, such as their current album and lineup, but I have not tried to create exhaustive biographies for each band. I am trying to capture how different bands came through Greenwich Village and New York City in their efforts to succeed. I have listed folk, jazz or other performers but have largely refrained from commenting on them.
The Café Au Go Go was an oddity, a music club that didn’t serve liquor. This made it accessible to underage patrons, but it also meant that there were no bar receipts to rely on when things were slow on the bandstand. By coffee house standards, the Au Go Go was large, with room for 300 to 400 people. However, when the Greenwich Village folk boom started to die down, it became more of a struggle for the club to survive. Electric Rock and Blues acts began to be billed regularly at the Au Go Go in mid-1965, and this list picks up the story there.
This list is mostly drawn from advertisements in the Village Voice and other papers, and a few biographies and other sources when the Au Go Go was mentioned. Like all nightclubs in big cities, who was advertised was not always who appeared. Missing dates are more likely due to a lack of advertising or missing issues of The Village Voice, as the Au Go Go probably presented live music almost every night from 1965-69. It is possible that nights that were not advertised simply featured local groups, but those too may have been of historical interest. The Au Go Go advertised regularly in the Village Voice, and there were occasional flyers around, but there is probably much more to be learned, particularly about opening acts and casual guest appearances.
This is a work in progress. Anyone with additional information, corrections, insights or recovered memories (real or imagined) about any of the rock performers is urged to post it in the Comments or contact me. For ease of navigation, this series will be divided into nine parts (late 1965, early and late 1966, early and late 1967, early and late 1968 and early and late 1969).
Cafe Au Go Go Rock Performers List
Part I July 27, 1965-December 1965
Part II January 1966-June 1966
Part III July 1966-December 1966
Part IV January 1967-June 1967
Part V July 1967-December 1967
July 1-2, 1967 Butterfield Blues Band
The Butterfield Blues Band (who had begun their engagement in June) now had a full horn section featuring alto saxophonist David Sanborn.
July 2-15, 1967 Oscar Brown, Jr/Jean Pace w/Johnny Robertson and The Young Brothers
July 10, 17, 24, 31, 1967 jam sessions
Monday night jam sessions were advertised all month.
July ?, 1967 Meredith Monk
Sarah Lawrence graduate Meredith Monk was an “interdisciplinary performer” who merged music and dance, not rock at all, nor folk or jazz either. She is still active today (see www.meredithmonk.org). Its possible that this was an afternoon show (or shows).
July 18-20, 1967 Richie Havens
July 21-23, 1967 Jimi Hendrix Experience/Richie Havens/Jeremy and the Satyrs
This was the sort of legendary show that put Cafe Au Go Go on the map. The previous summer, Jimi Hendrix had been backing John Hammond--now he had returned as the hottest new act in rock.
As if Hendrix's presence wasn't enough, Eric Clapton, recording with Cream in New York attends one of the shows, and jams with Hendrix (and on another night, he sits in with John Hammond at the Gaslight). The Mothers were still holding court upstairs at The Garrick, and Mitch Mitchell remembers sitting in with the Mothers one night. Mitchell thought that Hendrix probably jammed with the Mothers too. Eric Burdon and the Animals were originally booked, but seem to have been replaced by Hendrix. Hendrix and Burdon shared management (Mike Jeffferies and Chas Chandler), so it seems plausible.
Jeremy and The Satyrs were a jazz rock group featuring flautist Jeremy Steig. They released one album on Reprise in 1968, and Steig himself released a number of albums too.
July 27, 1967 Al Kooper/Judy Collins/Eric Andersen
Al Kooper, having left the Blues Project in early May (his last gig appears to have been at Town Hall on May 5, 1967), had gone to California, and among many other things been ‘musical director’ and stage manager at the Monterey Pop Festival. In the midst of a divorce, he had decided to move to England, and chose to throw a “benefit” for himself with all his friends. Besides guest appearances by pals Judy Collins and Eric Andersen, Paul Simon also showed up, and Kooper was backed by a small group consisting of Steve Katz on guitar, Jim Fielder on bass and Bobby Colomby on drums.
July 28-29, 1967 Al Kooper
Despite six sold-out shows (two shows each night), Kooper makes very little money due to excessive expenses, and gives up the idea of moving to London. Nonetheless, his pickup group sounds great, and they decide to add a horn section and form a band.
August 1-6, 1967 Country Joe and the Fish/Eric Andersen
Joe McDonald and Barry Melton return to the Au Go Go (see August 66), this time as the leaders of Country Joe and The Fish, with a popular album on Vanguard (Electric Music For The Mind And Body), which had been released in April.
Country Joe and The Fish claimed to be the first band to bring a Fillmore-style light show to the East Coast for their brief tour, bringing a Seattle group called The Union Light Company. Thanks to the Velvet Underground, light shows were hardly unknown in New York, but the West and East Coast light shows were quite different.
August 8-13, 1966Youngbloods/Eric Andersen
Shortly after these shows, the Youngbloods packed up their things and moved to Marin County.
August 16-September 4, 1967 Blues Project/James Cotton (23rd>27th)
The Blues Project had continued on after Al Kooper left, with John-John McDuffie on organ in Kooper's place. However, the group packed it in—pending the two dozen or so reunions that would follow over the next few decades—with a long stand at the Au Go Go. Al Kooper and Steve Katz were back in the band for a last hurrah, but Danny Kalb was replaced by Jonathan Kalb due to illness.
James Cotton had replaced Little Walter in Muddy Water’s band, and now led his own group, probably featuring Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy (later in The Blues Brothers movie), and Albert Gianquinto on piano. Cotton was already a regular at the SF Fillmore.
September 5-16, 1967 Tim Buckley
Buckley, a unique singer, had moved from Greenwich Village to the West Coast, and he was now managed by Herbie Cohen, who was also Frank Zappa’s manager (Zappa was still playing upstairs at the Garrick, although his run would finish shortly). Buckley had a few backing musicians as well, led by guitarist Lee Underwood (no relation to Ian).
September 17-24, 1967 Tim Buckley/Canned Heat/Odetta (22st>24th)
Canned Heat, extremely popular in Los Angeles, was making their first foray onto the East Coast.A booking agent named Barry Imhoff was helping Howard Solomon run the club at this time, and he was probably instrumental in snagging cool bands for the Cafe Au Go Go.
September 26-October 1, 1967 Cream/The Paupers/Richie Havens
October 3-8, 1967 Cream/Richie Havens
The most legendary event in the rock and roll history of The Cafe Au Go Go was Cream's two week stand. Coming off an even more historic two week stand at San Francisco's Fillmore, with a hot album and a rising buzz, Cream found themselves booked in a tiny 400-seat venue in America's entertainment capital. Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce had substantial Marshall amplifiers, designed to fill larger halls, and they were plainly audible from the street. Miami Steve Van Zandt (long before his membership in the Springsteen or Soprano familias) recalls standing outside the sold-out show and listening to the ear-splitting roar of Clapton's guitar from the street. The rock industry was getting bigger, and a rising band like Cream was already too big for a 400 seat venue.
According to Chris Hjolt’s book (Strange Brew), Clapton jams with B.B, King and the Butterfield Blues Band around this time. Musicians often got together at the AuGoGo when their other gigs were done. Photos abound from Cream's legendary residency at the Au Go Go. Between rocking the Fillmore and killing at the Au Go Go, Cream were about to set America on fire.
October 10-22, 1967 Eric Andersen/Larry Hankin/Chrysalis
The Chrysalis were a little-known folk rock group from Ithaca, NY, with the proverbial female vocalist, from Ithaca, NY. In 1968 they had a self-titled album on MGM. For what its worth, in a sixties interview Frank Zappa called them one of his favorite groups.
October 26, 1967 Joni Mitchell/Ian & Sylvia
Joni Mitchell was already a well-known songwriter on the folk circuit, but she had not yet made an album. This was probably a last minute fill-in gig for the rescheduled Procol Harum.
October 28-November 2, 1967 Procol Harum
Procol Harum was on their first of many American tours. Originally they were advertised for October 19-25, but they seem to have been bumped back a week. Another ad has them playing through November 5, but the ad for November 2 refers to it as their last night. It seems the band played a private gig (for press and friends) before the shows started, which appears to have been on October 27th.
November 17-19, 1967 Moby Grape/Larry Hankin/Blood, Sweat & Tearrs
Moby Grape were on their first national tour, a great band bogged down by unnecessary hype from Columbia Records.
Blood, Sweat & Tears had debuted at the nearby Village Theater (Sept 16, 1967), but that had been without its horn section. Now, Al Kooper debuted the true Blood, Sweat & Tears to a friendly hometown audience. The roadies constructed music stands for the horn players, which Kooper calls “probably a first in rock.”
November 21-26, 1967 Blues Bag with Butterfield Blues Band/James Cotton/Richie Havens/Steve Katz/Dave Van Ronk/Odetta/Al Kooper/Blood Sweat and Tears
Kooper and Katz were simply part of Blood, Sweat and Tears, but there names were better known than their band’s at this time.
November 22, 1967 Butterfield Blues Band/Sidetrack/James Cotton/Richie Havens/Dave Van Ronk/Hudson Brothers
This lineup was advertised for November 22. I don’t know if the Hudson Brothers were the act that later had some hit singles (and one of whom married Goldie Hawn, and had famous daughter Kate).
Novmeber 30, 1967 Richie Havens/Larry Hankin/Sidetrack
December 1-3, 1967 Butterfield Blues Band/Richie Havens (except 3rd)/Larry Hankin/Sidetrack
December 18, 1967 Clear Light
December 19-24, 1967 Clear Light/Richie Havens
December 26-31, 1967 Tim Buckley/Clear Light
Clear Light was a psychedelic band from Los Angeles with two drummers. They were on Elektra, however, and played the Au Go Go as did so many Elektra acts.
The poster above is probably not a contemporary poster, but part of a series released by the Au Go Go (and sold next door at 150 Bleecker) to attempt to cash in on the lucrative poster trade created by the Fillmore and Avalon. As such, it shouldn't necessarily be taken as gospel truth with respect to performance dates.
For the next installment, see here