Catacombs Nightclub Philadelphia

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Logo for Catacombs Philadelphia.

The Catacombs Nightclub was a gay after hours nightclub in Philadelphia that played underground dance music which became the precursor to house music. Additionally, Catacombs was responsible for the creation of the dance music genre "Philly Classics," and as a cultural center the club was a haven for music industry professionals and artists of diverse backgrounds in the early 80's.

History - The Evolution of a Nightclub And The Creation of a New Genre of Music[edit]

The Second Story, Philadelphia’s premiere nightclub was located at 12th and Walnut Streets in Center City Philadelphia, and was the vision of brothers Barry Geftman and Wayne Geftman.[1] The Geftman brothers’ original concept was to create a private gay club with an environment that featured unique interiors, superior music, excellent sound, and innovative lighting. Under the banner of Disco Design, LTD., Wayne oversaw most of the creative and technical aspects of the club, while Barry deftly performed the administrative duties, including staffing and promotions. As brothers they were able to harness a natural synergy which was the primary key to their success.

Before The Second Story was realized, Wayne and Barry created their first nightclub, The Music Box. The club was known as the place to be at the Jersey Shore during summers in the 70’s. New York’s “Discoteckin Magazine” called it “a club worth leaving New York for.”

The sound system was designed by Rosner Custom Sound and installed by Rosner’s lead engineer—Donald Carucci, known as an expert in the field of nightclub sound. The Music Box’s sound system was unparalleled: Wayne and DJ Frankie “Who” Sestito frequently turned the music UP, which further cemented the club’s popularity. With the success of The Music Box at the Jersey shore, the Geftman brothers realized it was time to bring their concepts to Philadelphia; hence, The Second Story was born.

The Second Story opened its doors on December 6, 1976 after three years of intense design. The facility was in a former church, and key elements from the original building were utilized in its interior design. Rosner designed a state of the art sound system, featuring components that at that time were rarely used in the nightclub environment.[2] The light show was also designed with meticulous care under Barry's close scrutiny. The club opened as a private gay nightclub and changed to a more mainstream format after 13 months, which led to unprecedented success and earning its reputation as “Philadelphia’s Studio 54.” [3]

Although The Second Story was a commercial success, Wayne’s love of music compelled him to build a club that featured “hardcore” dance music, then popular in gay after hours juice bars. Later, this style of music was recognized as the precursor to house music and Wayne's musical vision helped shape the dance genre Philly Classics.

The Geftman brothers opened The Catacombs in the fall of 1978 in the basement of the 12th Street structure. The club typically opened Saturdays at midnight and sometimes would not close until Sunday around noon. The first record played at The Catacombs was "The Impossible Dream."

Although there has always been some confusion over who installed and designed the sound system at The Catacombs; the truth is, this was the original system from The Music Box. Wayne updated the system by doubling the number of loudspeakers and amplifiers. Designed and installed by Donald Carucci, the modified system created a 360° field of sound, further enhanced by the club’s low ceiling. The result was a sound system with crystal clear music, in a room without dead spots.

The Catacombs earned the reputation as a nationally recognized after hours club, and became known for being frequented by music industry professionals from both Philadelphia and New York. The Catacombs' most significant contribution to the music industry was its creation of the dance genre Philly Classics. The Catacombs closed its doors in December 1986.


  • Barry Geftman
  • Wayne Geftman

Disc Jockeys[edit]

  • Wayne Geftman
  • David Todd [4]
  • Billy Kennedy [5]
  • Donald Stone
  • Tony White
  • Frankie Sestito
  • Frank Goodman

Producers / Remix Artists / Songwriters[edit]

Promoters who regularly visited Catacombs[edit]

  • David Todd[4]RCA Records / WMOT Records
  • Terri Rossi – Philadelphia International Records / SAM Records (NY) / Are & B Records (NY) / Billboard (magazine)
  • Fred Smith – Motown
  • David Steel - Polydor Records (NY)
  • Debbie Capponetta – ZE Records (NY)
  • Carter Burnette – WMOT Records
  • Bobby Beasley – WMOT Records
  • Danny Glass – SAM Records (NY)
  • Dan Joseph - TK Records (NY)
  • Izzy Sanchez – Atlantic Records (NY)
  • Ray Caviano[9] – RFC Records, TK Records (NY)
  • Joey Carvello – RFC Records (NY)
  • Billy Stinger – Philadelphia Dance Music Association
  • Ernie Maroni – Philadelphia Organization of Professional Spinners
  • Frankie Sestito – Pocono Record Pool
  • Nick Duca – Motown Records
  • Joe Loris – Impact/Power Play (Trade Magazine)
  • Lenny Balk – Impact/Power Play (Trade Magazine)
  • Fred Dicippio – Friday Morning Quarterback (Trade magazine)
  • John Brown – (NY)
  • A.J. Cervantes – Butterfly Records (NY)
  • Arnie Smith – Provocative Promotions (NY)
  • Larry Patterson – RCA Records (NY)
  • Franklyn Walker – Gemini Record Pool
  • Mi`cheLe-RenE - PHILLY*NY*BALT*WASH ★ALLL`n ALLL★PromoTionS★ MCA★ PIR★ FRESH★ eTc.

Artists that performed at Catacombs[edit]


  1. ^, Other legendary US clubs
  2. ^ Billboard Magazine, January 22, 1977
  3. ^ Beasley Law Firm, Building History
  4. ^ a b c David Todd, Discogs - Biography
  5. ^ a b Direct Current LP, Discogs - Recording Entry
  6. ^ Gay Today article, Producer To The Divas
  7. ^ Act Like You Know, Discogs - Recording Entry
  8. ^ WhatEver Productions, Music Page
  9. ^ Ray Caviano, Discogs - Biography

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°56′56″N 75°09′38″W / 39.94880°N 75.16048°W / 39.94880; -75.16048