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
Part VI January 1968-June 1968
Part VII July 1968-December 1968
Part VIII January 1969-June 1969
Our information for 1969 is very limited, due mainly to the fact there were not as many ads in the Village Voice. The bookings had skewed away from rising rock bands (who preferred the Fillmore East) to Village locals and Folk acts.
January 3-4, 1969 Tim Hardin
January 7-12, 1969 Ian & Sylvia
January 17-19, 1969 Earth Opera/Soft White Underbelly
Earth Opera were a Cambridge, MA band featuring once and future bluegrassers Peter Rowan and David Grisman. The group recorded two interesting but arch albums for Elektra.
Soft White Underbelly was a Long Island band who ultimately evolved into Blue Oyster Cult.
January 25-31, 1969 Colwell-Winfield Blues Band/Vince Martin
Colwell-Winfield were a Boston group.
February 3-6, 1969 Savoy Brown
Savoy Brown were an established British blues band determined to break into the American market, where they ended up being way more successful than they ever were in the UK. This initial tour (which the Au Go Go advertised with the band's outdated name Savoy Brown Blues Band) would have featured the lineup that recorded Blue Matter (released April 69) and A Step Further (September 69). Besides bandleader Kim Siimonds on lead guitar, the group had ¾ of the future Foghat (guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett, bassist Tone Stevens and drummer Roger Earl) and lead singer Chris Youlden (pianist Bob Hall rounded out the lineup).
February 21-23, 1969 Danny Kalb Quartet with Roy Blumenfeld/Buzz Linhart
February 27-March 2, 1969 Tim Hardin
March 4-16, 1969 Danny Kalb & His Friends
March 20-29, 1969 Ian & Sylvia/Danny Kalb Quintet/Uncle Dirty
Uncle Dirty was an “adult comedian” who released a 1971 album on Elektra (recorded in 1970 at the Gaslite in Greenwich Village), back when Elektra would sign anyone, including David Peel and The Lower East Side. Uncle Dirty (and David Peel) were popular with at least one New Jersey hoodlum (no doubt tragically corrupted by seeing “Absolutely Free” for his birthday in 1967 at the tender age of 13).
April 2-4, 1969 Tim Hardin
April 5-20, 1969 Bob Gibson/Karen Dalton/Vince Martin (14-20)
Karen Dalton was an established Greenwich Village folkie, though apparently not well known beyond about 23rd Street. She released a Capitol album in 1969, Its Hard To Know Who’s Going To Love You The Best.
April 22-23, 1969 Fred Neil/Great Train Robbery/Uncle Dirty
April 24-27, 1969 Great Train Robbery/Uncle Dirty/Otis Spann
Otis Spann had been Muddy Waters pianist throughout the 1950s and a regular on all Chess sessions. Although an established solo artist by the late 60s, his health had started to fail by this time.
April 29-May 12, 1969 Seatrain
Seatrain, freed of their Blues Project obligations (see July 9, 1968), made their first Sea Train album for A&M, released in 1969. The Sea Train album is a baroque, eclectic and somewhat rambling album. I do not know how close either Planned Obsolescence or their debut album was to Sea Train’s live performances.
May 23-25, 29-31, 1969 Tim Hardin
June 6-8, 1969 Tim Hardin
June 10, 1969 Ian & Sylvia
This week the Village Voice advertises “For Lease 150-154 Bleeker Street-World Famous Café Au Go Go-Legal Occupancy Cabaret 285, Theater 200.”
June 20, 1969 Howard Solomon sells the Cafe Au Go Go.
June 24-30, 1969 Jam Thing
This was apparently an improvisational show with invited guests. Steve Elliott and Tim Hardin were featured on the 29th.
for the next installment see here