Cafe Wha? is a club at the corner of MacDougal Street and Minetta Lane in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The club has presented numerous musicians and comedians. Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix who was recruited there by his manager Chas Chandler, Andre Alves, Bruce Springsteen, The Velvet Underground, Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, Kool & the Gang, Peter, Paul and Mary, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, and many others all began their careers at the Wha?
Although Cafe Wha? was sold by its owner, Manny Roth, in 1968, the club remains at its original location, 115 MacDougal Street, between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets, in the basement of The Players Theatre. Roth was the uncle of David Lee Roth.
The original Cafe Wha? opened in 1959 and closed in the late 1960s, when the room was taken over by Menachem Dworman, who ran the Cafe Feenjon in the location until 1987. The Feenjon featured Israeli and Middle Eastern music.
In 1987, the room was taken over by Noam Dworman, a guitar player, who changed the room back to a rock music format. In 1986 Dworman had introduced to the Feenjon the concept of a rock music house band made up of the most talented performers in the area. The band performed for a year at the Cafe Feenjon on Wednesdays and Sundays, quickly becoming so popular that they took over the entire week. Dworman had the idea to rename the club and chose the long abandoned name "Cafe Wha?", which he remembered from his childhood. The original Wha? owner Manny Roth had been a close family friend and sometime business associate of the Dwormans, and the original Wha? had been an important part of the historic Greenwich Village music scene.
Since the inception of the Cafe Wha? House Band in 1987, Cafe Wha? has been known to have patrons waiting in line around the block every night of the week. The band plays dynamic, high-energy versions of popular songs, and encourages an utterly informal atmosphere between the stage and audience. The Cafe Wha? Band became well-known all over the world, and many of the original members still play at the club today. The Cafe Wha? Band is currently billed as "The Best Damn Band in New York City" and hosts many celebrity guest performers to this day.
In popular culture
- Barbara Hodgson (November 4, 2015). "How Newcastle's Chas Chandler discovered the best guitarist in the world". Chroniclelive.co.uk. Chronicle. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
He was on his final tour with The Animals in the US when he heard about a talented young guitarist and went along to New York’s Cafe Wha to see him in action.
- Gardy, Alison (May 11, 1997). "Brazilian Twist Takes the Blahness Out of Mondays". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- Kirby, David (January 17, 1999). "A Conga Line From Rio to Cafe Wha". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- "Manny Roth, 94, Impresario of Cafe Wha?, Is Dead" by Douglas Martin, The New York Times, August 1, 2014
- David Lee Roth Biography, TVGuide.com
- Swale, Andrea (January 6, 2012) "Van Halen Rocks Greenwich Village's Cafe Wha?" Archived January 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, DNAInfo.com