Cafe Wha?

“Some of the most important music in American history has been played in a dark, narrow basement club off MacDougal Street known the world over as Cafe Wha. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen have performed on its stage, and Beat poet legends like Kerouac and Ginsberg have burned the midnight oil sitting in its snug booths. Nowadays, the place still swings, thanks in large part to a cover band of ace musicians that sets the room ablaze five night a week. On a Friday night, crowds jump out of their seats and fill the cafe’s narrow aisle, arms waving like worshippers at a rock revival. Cafe Wha gets loud—and it’s always been that way. … Roth kept Cafe Wha’s stage open to everyone, and would occasionally let hard-up musicians sleep in the booths after hours. On a cold night in January 1961 a young Bob Dylan walked in the door. He played a set of Woody Guthrie covers, and the crowd went wild. As the years passed, a young Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, and Richard Pryor all found a home performing at Cafe Wha. Mary Travers worked waitress shifts before going on to form Peter Paul and Mary. It was around this time that, rumor has it, Roth installed a bathtub on stage at one point and used it for bacchanalian activities. In the mid-60s, an undiscovered Jimi Hendrix performed marathon five-set nights with his band the Blue Flames. They’d play five, sometimes six nights each week, with Hendrix often taking his band aside and teaching them new songs in the boiler room during breaks, Pardo said. It’s an old Cafe Wha legend that when the Blue Flames were on stage, Jimi’s guitar solos could be heard all the way from Washington Square Park, even with the front door closed. …”
Inside Cafe Wha?, The Legendary Club Where Hendrix & Springsteen Performed
Vintage photos of Bob Dylan and Greenwich Village in the ’60s now browsable
W – Cafe Wha?

A night scene on MacDougal Street, including Cafe Wha?, in 1966

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Music, The Fugs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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