The Cellar Door
The Cellar Door was a 163-seat music club located at 34th & M Street NW in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. from 1964  through January 7, 1982. It occupied the location of a former music club called The Shadows.
One of the premier music spots in Washington, the small club served as the genesis for entertainers as well as a tryout venue for larger markets. Many artists cut their professional teeth performing at The Cellar Door, while audiences delighted in being within a few feet of the stage at the tiny venue. Many music and comedy notables in 1960s and 1970s performed there.
Some performances at The Cellar Door were recorded and released. Albums based on live sets there include:
- In Person by Bud & Travis, 1964
- Live-Evil by Miles Davis, 1970 (later expanded into The Cellar Door Sessions 1970, released 2005)
- Live at the Cellar Door by Richie Havens, recorded 1970, released 1990
- Live at the Cellar Door by Neil Young, recorded 1970, released 2013
- FM & AM by George Carlin, 1972 (won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album)
- Live at The Cellar Door by The Seldom Scene, 1975, considered their signature live album
- The Redneck Jazz Explosion by Danny Gatton, 1978
Some of the notable artists who played there include:
- The Coasters
- John Abercrombie
- Billy Joel
- America in their first American appearance
- Joan Armatrading
- Artful Dodger
- Jackson Browne
- Brewer and Shipley
- Brecker Brothers
- Aztec Two-Step
- Bud & Travis
- Allen Collins Band 1983
- Jimmy Buffett
- JJ Cale
- George Carlin
- Harry Chapin
- Cheech and Chong
- Chick Corea
- Larry Coryell
- Bill Cosby (warm-up comic for the Mitchell Trio with John Denver)
- The Country Gentlemen
- Jim Croce
- Miles Davis
- John Denver (He sang his "Leaving, On A Jet Plane" there prior to being released by Peter, Paul and Mary. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" was sung for the general public for the first time anywhere at the club on December 30, 1970.)
- The Joy of Cooking
- Stevie Wonder
- The Everly Brothers
- Mort Sahl
- The Dillards
- Fat City (later to become the Starland Vocal Band)
- Doc and Merle Watson
- Gabe Kaplan
- Neil Sedaka
- John Fahey
- David Mallett
- The Flying Burrito Brothers
- The Newgrass Revival
- Paul Siebel
- Danny Gatton
- Steve Goodman
- Great Speckled Bird (Ian & Sylvia)
- Happy The Man
- Richie Havens
- Rick Nelson
- Pete Kennedy
- B.B. King
- Carole King
- Ramsey Lewis Trio
- Gordon Lightfoot
- Ian & Sylvia
- Les McCann
- Roger McGuinn
- Charlie Mingus
- Chad Mitchell Trio
- Judy Collins
- Joni Mitchell
- Modern Jazz Quartet
- Anne Murray
- Rick Nelson
- Gram Parsons (Performed with a backing band at The Cellar Door. At the time, looking for a female vocalist for duets, his bandmates ran across Emmylou Harris at a small neighboring bar performing cover songs. Their introduction was the real start of Harris' career and a boost for Parsons' act.)
- Les Paul
- Minnie Riperton
- Lee Ritenour
- Carly Simon
- Tom Paxton
- Pointer Sisters
- Tom Principato
- John Prine
- Richard Pryor
- Bonnie Raitt in 1969.
- Linda Ronstadt (her band was made up of later members of The Eagles)
- Buddy Rich
- Chris Rush
- Tom Rush
- John Sebastian
- Shakti w/ John McLaughlin
- Patti Smith
- Tommy Smothers
- David Steinberg
- The Stone Poneys
- Taj Mahal
- James Taylor
- Livingston Taylor
- Nighthawks Jimmy Thackery
- George Thorogood
- Mary Travers
- Paul Davis (as a warmup for Mary Travers)
- Muddy Waters
- Tom Waits
- Glenn Yarbrough
- Neil Young
- Brand X
- Warren Zevon
- Donal Leace
- Gladys Knight and the Pips
Some music was written on site. Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert (as Fat City) opened for John Denver in December 1970. Late one night, Denver helped finish writing a song that Danoff and Nivert had started. They debuted "Take Me Home, Country Roads" on December 30, 1970.
In January 1981, The Cellar Door was sold for an undisclosed sum to Paul Kurtz and Howard Bomstein from Washington, D.C.
Ultimately, the club was closed down by the D.C. fire marshal after numerous warnings. Licensed for 163 seats, it had occasionally admitted more than 200 people SRO. Also, the books for liquor sales were allegedly being done improperly: so instead of making money, a fair amount of money was being lost unbeknownst to the club owners.
Cellar Door Productions
The Cellar Door Nightclub was a partnership between Jack Boyle and Sam L'Hommedieu Jr. The pair also owned two other popular Georgetown nightspots, The Crazy Horse and The Bayou, as well as The Stardust, a music club in Waldorf, MD. They went on to found Cellar Door Productions which became the largest concert promoter from Baltimore to Florida, with offices in Washington DC, Ft. Lauderdale FL, Myrtle Beach, SC as well as an office in Detroit for a period of time. Bill Reid was the President of Cellar Door Productions from 1983 until his firing in 1997. The Cellar Door Cos. were sold to SFX Entertainment in 1999. Cellar Door developed the Nissan Pavilion concert venue, now called the Jiffy Lube Live, west of Washington, DC. The mailing address of Jiffy Lube Live (now owned by Live Nation) is 7800 Cellar Door Drive.
Boyle continued with SFX after it was purchased by Clear Channel Entertainment and is now retired. L'Hommedieu managed the Warner Theatre (Washington, D.C.) during the 1980s.
When the Cellar Door ceased operating, a comedy club was announced as the next tenant. However, mayor Marion Barry learned that Mafia money was involved, and decided not to grant a liquor license. A few years later, Cafe Seynabou, a restaurant featuring the cuisine of Senegal, opened at the site, but it closed within 24 months. It stayed vacant for quite some time after that. It eventually hosted the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory until May 2009, then Capriotti's Sandwich Shop in 2014. In 2017, Starbucks announced plans to take over the vacant 2,600-square-foot space. Alec Berkman, BISNOW National contributor reported on July 17, 2017 that before its summer break, in June, the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission approved design plans for a Starbucks store. The commission was initially opposed to Starbucks’ signage. However, its opposition was reversed when Starbucks corporate gave a commitment to honor the Cellar Door by exhibiting photos of the many entertainment acts that appeared at the venue over its years of operation at the historic location.
- "Clinking glass and swinging sound change the image of Georgetown". The New York Times. May 25, 1964.
- Weintraub, B. (1976, November 20). Concert market booming in D.C. Billboard Magazine, 88(47)
- "The MetropoList". Washington Post. p. 3. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "Live Online". Washington Post. 1998-12-04. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Sessions 1970". Allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- Harrington, R. (2003, November 21). Recordings deliver taped measure of area clubs. The Washington Post, p. T.34.
- McKenna, Dave (9 December 2013). "Neil Young's 'Live at the Cellar Door' is a window into D.C.'s musical past". Washington Post. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- The Cellar Door at AllMusic
- "George Carlin – Official Website". Archived from the original on 2014-02-07.
- Harrington, R. (1981, January 31) 2 From D.C. Buy The Cellar Door, Style Section. Washington Post, p. G4.
- (1973, July 14) Who/When/Where (concert listings). Billboard Magazine, p. 17. Accessed 2010-01-11.
- (1973, July 14) From the Music Capitals of the World. Billboard Magazine, p. 57. Accessed 2012-09-15.
- Pointer Sisters. (1973, June 30) Pointer Sisters tour dates. Billboard Magazine, p. 36.
- Harrington, R. (1989, June 13) Bonnie Raitt, Dry and High; The Singer's Long Road to Sobriety and a Hit Album. Washington Post, p. c.01.
- "Shakti w/ John McLaughlin....November 12, 1977 (First Show) (9PM) : The Cellar Door, Washington, D.C., U.S.A." Tela.sugarmegs.org. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
- "Shakti with John McLaughlin – Live at The Cellar Door, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., November 12, 1977 [REMASTER][FLAC] | Dr. Fusion". Drfusion.blogspot.com. 2009-11-28. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
- Alpert, B. (1993, May 15). M Street Shuffle. Washington Post, p. A23
- (1970, November 21). From the music capitals of the world. Billboard Magazine, 82(47), p. 27
- "Bill & John Denver". Billdanoff.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "A. William Reid v. John J. Boyle, Cellar Door Venues, Inc" (PDF). Bischoffmartingayle.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "The Dream Home That Never Was". Washingtonpost.com. 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- Cooper, Rebecca (30 July 2014). "Love 'n Faith brings liquid nitrogen ice cream to Columbia Heights; Capriotti's heads to Georgetown". Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- Devaney, Robert (7 June 2018). "The Georgetowner; Ins & Outs; In: Where Cellar Door Was – Starbucks No. 5". Retrieved 9 September 2018.
- Berkman, Alec (17 July 2017). "BISNOW; New Kids On The Block: Georgetown". Retrieved 9 September 2018.