Hilly Kristal

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Hilly Kristal
Kristal in New York City in 1992
Born(1931-09-23)September 23, 1931
DiedAugust 28, 2007(2007-08-28) (aged 75)
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationSettlement Music School
  • Club owner
  • manager
  • musician
Known forOwner of CBGB nightclub

Hillel Kristal[1] (September 23, 1931[2] – August 28, 2007) was an American club owner, manager and musician who was the owner of the iconic New York City club CBGB, which opened in 1973 and closed in 2006 over a rent dispute.[3]

Early years[edit]

Kristal was born in New York City in 1931, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.[4]

His father, Shamai Kristal, was a Russian pogrom survivor.[4] Shamai whose namesake was Shammai, named his son after Shammai's contemporary, Hillel the Elder. His family moved to Hightstown, New Jersey when he was an infant.[5][6] He studied music from a young age and eventually attended the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. Kristal also spent a period of time in the Marines.[6]

Venturing into music[edit]

He moved back to New York City, where he worked as a singer, appearing on stage in the men's choral group at Radio City Music Hall. He later became the manager of the Village Vanguard, a jazz club in Greenwich Village, where he booked Miles Davis and other musicians.

He married in 1951 and had two children: Lisa Kristal Burgman and Mark Dana Kristal.[7]

In 1966 he and Ron Delsener co-founded the Rheingold Central Park Music Festival, sponsored by Rheingold Beer. By 1968, Delsener had changed beer sponsors to Schaefer and Kristal was no longer involved. The festival took place every year until 1976 in Central Park and featured musicians from a range of genres, including Miles Davis, the Who, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle, Ike & Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, the Allman Brothers, Slade, Kris Kristofferson, Curtis Mayfield, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and the Doors.[citation needed]


In 1970, Kristal opened a bar in the Bowery section of New York called "Hilly's on the Bowery", which closed within a couple of years. Then in December 1973, he created "CBGB and OMFUG", an abbreviation for the kinds of music he intended to feature there (the letters stood for "Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandizers").[7]

The club, eventually called simply CBGB, became known as the starting point for the careers of such punk rock and new wave acts as the Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Television and Blondie. Kristal also briefly managed Dead Boys and The Shirts, two bands that frequently performed at his club.[8][9]

CBGB featured many famous musicians over the years and remained very popular until its closing in 2006 due to a personal disagreement with the landlord, who opted not to renew the lease. For a short while after the closing, Kristal considered moving the club to Las Vegas.[10]

A film, CBGB, about Kristal and the origins of the club, was released in October 2013. Alan Rickman portrayed Kristal in the film.[11][12]


Kristal died on August 28, 2007, from complications of lung cancer, aged 75.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sharenow, Robert, Hillel (Hilly) Kristal, Memory Lane Music Group, 2007". Archived from the original on October 4, 2016. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  2. ^ Garth Cartwright (August 31, 2007). "Cartwright, Garth, Hilly Kristal obituary, The Guardian, Friday, 31 August 2007". the Guardian.
  3. ^ Chan, Sewell (August 29, 2007). "Remembering Hilly Kristal, 75, CBGB Founder". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b "The kosher birthplace of punk - The 1970s regeneration of rock started in CBGB, a tiny New York club owned by the son of Russian immigrants". The Jewish Chronicle. June 11, 2009.
  5. ^ "Hilly Kristal 1931-2007". NME. August 29, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2007. Hilly Kristal, founder of legendary punk venue CBGB has died at the age of 75. Born in New Jersey in 1932, Kristal moved across the Hudson River to New York City at age 18, where he worked as a singer, performing at venues around Manhattan including Radio City Music Hall.
  6. ^ a b "CBGB Founder Hilly Kristal Dies At 75". Billboard. Retrieved September 1, 2007. Kristal was born in Manhattan in 1931 but his family relocated to Hightstown, New Jersey, when he was an infant. Kristal studied music from a young age and eventually attended the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. He then moved to New York, spending the '50s and '60s performing with a variety of music acts, and later became the manager of legendary jazz club the Village Vanguard. Kristal was also in the United States Marine Corps.
  7. ^ a b c "Hilly Kristal, CBGB Founder, Dies at 75". The New York Times. August 29, 2007. Hilly Kristal, who founded CBGB, the Bowery bar that became the cradle of punk and art-rock in New York in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for musician-friendly rock dives throughout the world, died in Manhattan on Tuesday. His son, Mark Dana Kristal, told The Associated Press that the cause was complications from lung cancer. Besides his son, Mr. Kristal is survived by a daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman, and two grandchildren.
  8. ^ Gil de Rubio, Gavin (October 23, 2007). "Resurrecting The Dead Boys". long island weekly. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  9. ^ Holmstrom, John (2007). "HILLY KRISTAL R.I.P. (1932-2007)". punk magazine. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  10. ^ "Stars return in CBGB's last shows". BBC. October 12, 2006. Retrieved August 21, 2007. Debbie Harry and Patti Smith are among the artists returning to perform at legendary New York music club CBGB's, ahead of its closure after 33 years. Harry's band Blondie, Smith and acts including The Ramones and Talking Heads found fame after performing at the club which helped launch US punk music.
  11. ^ "CBGB, new film tells the history of New York City's legendary club". laughingsquid.com. April 10, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  12. ^ "CBGB (2013)". imdb.com. Retrieved December 1, 2013.

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