Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Cafe Au Go Go, New York City 152 Bleecker Street Rock: Performance List January-June 1967 (Au Go Go IV)
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
January 1-9, 1967 Ian & Sylvia/Richie Havens
Canadians Ian and Sylvia Tyson had been a popular folk duo for some time. Brooklyn-born Havens had been locally popular, but by 1967 he had been signed by Verve Records.
January 10-15, 1967 David Blue/The American Patriot/Richie Havens/Charles O’Hegart/Peter Walker/Ellen Mackelwaine/Scott Fagen
David Blue had "gone electric" like so many folkies, particularly those who recorded on Elektra. I am assuming that American Patriot was an early (or misprinted) name for his band American Patrol.
January 20-23, 1967 Chicago Blues Bag Otis Rush/Charlie Musselwhite and The Barry Goldberg Blues Band/Richie Havens/David Blue and The American Patrol
Charley Musselwhite and Barry Goldberg were some of the white blues musicians from Chicago who had learned from the masters. Both would move to the San Francisco Bay Area later in the year. Goldberg started Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, and Musselwhite had a band (Southside Sound System) with guitarist Harvey Mandel.
January 24-31, 1967 Howlin Wolf/Siegal Schwall Blues Band/Richie Havens
February 1-5, 1967 Howlin Wolf/Siegal Schwall Blues Band
Siegal Schwall were another up and coming white blues band from Chicago.
February 7-11, 1967 Eric Andersen/Otis Spann/Moju Buford Blues Band
Otis Spann, one of Chicago's great blues pianists, had been a mainstay of Muddy Waters bands in the 1950s before striking out on his own.
February 12-19, 1967 Otis Rush and his Chicago Blues Band
Otis Rush was a fine blues guitarist from Chicago.
February 21-28, 1967 Jefferson Airplane/Richie Havens
RCA had just released the single “Somebody To Love,” and the already legendary Jefferson Airplane were making their first East Coast tour.
March 1-4, 1967 Jefferson Airplane/The Paupers
March 5, 1967 Jefferson Airplane/The Paupers/Tim Buckley/Charles Lloyd Quintet
The Paupers were one of the best bands in Toronto, and they were represented by Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan’s manager). Supposedly, the Paupers outshined the Airplane, so even though the Airplane were making their Manhattan debut, the Paupers got a huge boost as a result.
The Airplane were advertised as playing in California (at Frost Amphitheatre at Stanford University) on March 5th. Its hard to say what really happened, ut I have reason to think that the Airplane actually played Stanford on a different date.
March 7-12, 1967 Youngbloods
Similar to the Blues Project, the Youngbloods had graduated from being the house band at the Au Go Go to a promising recording career, and they were starting to tour the country. Just like the Project, however, they periodically returned to home base.
In February of 1967, RCA had released the group's debut album The Youngbloods. It was produced by Felix Pappalardi, who later not only produced Cream but was also the bassist in Mountain. The album featured a cover of Dino Valenti’s “Get Together” (which had already been done by the Jefferson Airplane and The We Five) which was a modest radio hit initially (in 1969, because of its use on Public Service Announcement, the same recording would become a huge hit).
March 17-26, 1967 Blues Project/Gary Burton Quartet (21st>26th)
Gary Burton was a young jazz vibraphonist from Nashville. His quartet featured guitarist Larry Coryell. Coryell, born in Texas but a teenager in Seattle, was an accomplished jazz musician, but he was the first of the young, modern jazz guitarists who enjoyed and excelled in all styles of music. He had played in surf and rock bands in Seattle and came to jazz with a very open mind. He had already been in the obscure but groundbreaking jazz rock group The Free Spirits, who recorded what is generally accepted as the first “jazz-rock fusion” album on Impulse Out Of Sight And Mind, recorded in late 1966 and released shortly before this, just as Coryell left for the Burton gig.
March 28-April 9, 1967 Butterfield Blues Band/Gary Burton Quartet
Mike Bloomfield, always a restless character, had left the Butterfield band at the end of February, This left the lead guitar chores in the capable hands of Elvin Bishop, and the band moved a little more towards R&B.
April 3, 1967 Cream/Butterfield Blues Band
Cream was in New York to play an unfortunate week long gig (in Midtown) for Murray The K, but they also recorded a single for Atlantic during that time. However, this night was advertised in the Village Voice: it says “Butterfield Blues Band/The Cream JAM with Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton 8-4 am.” Bloomfield had actually left Butterfield by this time and was probably in California, although I suppose its possible he was present, since he was known to be in town scouting talent for his next band (indeed he found Buddy Miles drumming for Wilson Pickett at the Murray The K shows with The Cream).
The excellent chronology Strange Brew by Christopher Hjort (Jawbone Books 2007) suggests that it was just Clapton who came to jam with the Butterfield band, based on a letter to Melody Maker (April 22, 1967), which suggests that Clapton and Elvin Bishop were playing together, with no reference to the rest of Cream or Mike Bloomfield.
April 11-16, 1967 Jim Kweskin Jug Band
April 18-22, 25-27, 1967 Café Au Go Go, New York Ian & Sylvia
April 28-30, 1967 The Paupers
The Paupers, having had a triumphant appearance with the Jefferson Airplane a few months earlier (March 1-5) , had stayed in New York to record their new album on Verve Forecast. Shortly after these dates at the Cafe Au Go Go, they would go to San Francisco for well-received shows at the Fillmore opening for the Grateful Dead (May 5-6) and the Jefferson Airplane (May 12-14).
April 28-May 7, 1967 Dave Van Ronk/Luke & The Apostles
Dave Van Ron, an established Greenwich Village folk singer, may have played with Luke & The Apostles backing him. Luke & The Apostles were a popular group in Toronto, and they were in New York to record a demo for Elektra.
May 2-21, 1967 Garrick Theatre (upstairs) Mothers of Invention/Joe Beck Quartet
There was a small theatre above the Au Go Go, but at the same address (152 Bleecker). At this time, it was simply “upstairs”, but around June it was renamed The Garrick Theater. The Garrick Theater has since passed into infamy since their summer 1967 show was called “Absolutely Free” and featured West Coast legends The Mothers of Invention. The Mothers were billed at the Garrick from May 2 thru September 5, although they took time out to play gigs in other East Coast cities. The lineup at the time was Ray Collins (vocals), Don Preston (keyboards), Roy Estrada (bass), Jimmy Carl Black (the Indian of the group) and Billy Mundi (drums), Bunk Gardner (reeds) and Frank Zappa on guitar. Ian Underwood (keyboards and saxophones) seems to have joined during the summer.
Sometimes the Mothers had decent crowds, and sometimes they had only a few people. Sometimes, they had tourists from New Jersey who thought if the marquee said “Absolutely Free” they wouldn’t have to pay, only to find out that not only did they have to pay, the first number was some very ugly men in dresses performing “Stop In The Name Of Love."
All the musicians and roadies playing the village in the Au Go Go and other clubs would hang out at the Garrick and watch the Mothers. When Zappa would invite “members of the audience” to come onstage and mutilate stuff giraffes and cover them with shaving cream—shocking at the time—often enough it was members of the Grateful Dead’s road crew (or whoever was playing the Au Go Go) who leaped eagerly on the stage. Zappa did a lot of recording in New York, and dined out on his New York experiences for many years.
For the first three weeks, the somewhat unknown Mothers of Invention shared a billing with the fine jazz guitarist Joe Beck (who was never interviewed about the experience, to my knowledge, and who sadly passed away in 2008). For the complete history of Zappa and The Mothers Garrick and East Coast performances in the Summer of 1967, see Charles Ulrich's definitive Zappa Gig List.
May 12-14, 1967 Dave Van Ronk
May 15-21, 1967 Olatunji
Babatunde Olatunji was a Nigerian drummer and educator who had gone to Morehouse College and NYU. His African drumming and music was very influential on the New York jazz scene. His first of several albums for Columbia, Drums Of Passion (1959) was his best known record.
May 25-28, 1967 Eric Andersen
June 1-11, 1967 Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead, already West Coast legends, made their first stand on the East Coast at the Cafe Au Go. As soon as they arrived (Thursday June 1) they played a free concert in Tompkins Square Park. The Cafe Au Go Go management was instantly schooled in how playing for free brought publicity and paying customers. The Dead also snuck in a gig at SUNY Stony Brook on June 3 as well as a free concert in Central Park on June 8. The Dead were a big hit with the Greenwich Village hippies, even though the low ceilings were not a good fit for the high powered Grateful Dead sound system.
According to the memory of Dead manager Rock Scully (in his book Living With The Dead), Frank Zappa’s enmity for the Dead partially stems from these two weeks when The Mothers were playing upstairs at The Garrick while the Dead played in the basement at the Au Go Go. The perpetually anti-drug Zappa resented that the Mothers would sneak downstairs to get high with the Dead. The Mothers were deathly afraid of being caught by Zappa, knowing that the punishment was more rehearsal.
June 5, 12, 19 & 26, 1967 jam session
There were jam sessions advertised every Monday nights in June.
June 13-18, 1967 Richie Havens
June 20-25, 1967 Jesse ‘Lone Cat” Fuller
Jesse Fuller had written “San Francisco Bay Blues,” by this time a folk standard, and the Grateful Dead had recorded his song "Beat It On Down The Line."
June 26-July 2, 1967 Butterfield Blues Band
The Butterfield Blues Band, with Elvin Bishop still on lead guitar, now had a full horn section featuring alto saxophonist David Sanborn.
for the next installment see here