The Gaslight Cafe

Coordinates: 40°43′47.01″N 74°0′1.93″W / 40.7297250°N 74.0005361°W / 40.7297250; -74.0005361
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The Gaslight Cafe
The former site of the Gaslight Cafe as seen in November 2021.
Location116 MacDougal Street
New York City, New York
United States
Coordinates40°43′47.01″N 74°0′1.93″W / 40.7297250°N 74.0005361°W / 40.7297250; -74.0005361
  • John Mitchell
  • John Moyant
  • Sam Hood
  • Ed Simon
Genre(s)Folk music, et al.

The Gaslight Cafe was a coffeehouse in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. Also known as The Village Gaslight, it opened in 1958 and became notable as a venue for folk music and other musical acts.[1][2] It closed in 1971.[3]


The Gaslight was originally a "basket house" where unpaid performers would pass around a basket at the end of each set and hope to be paid. Opened in 1958 by John Mitchell, the Gaslight showcased beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso but later became a folk-music club. John Moyant bought the club in 1961. Moyant's father-in-law, Clarence Hood, and his son, Sam, managed the club through the late 1960s. Ed Simon, the owner of The Four Winds, reopened the Gaslight in 1968. The club was run by Betty Smyth, mother of Scandal lead singer Patty Smyth, and blues guitarist/performer Susan Martin until it closed in 1971.[1][4]

Folk musician and actor Gil Robbins worked as the club's manager in the late 1960s.[5][6]

The club was next door and down the stairs from the street-level bar, the Kettle of Fish, where many performers hung out between sets,[7][8][9] including Bob Dylan.[10][11] Also nearby was the Folklore Center, a bookstore/record store owned by Izzy Young and notable for being a musicians' gathering place and center of the New York folk-music scene.[12][13] Live at The Gaslight 1962 (2005), a single CD release including ten songs from early Dylan performances at the club, was released by Columbia Records.[14][15]

In the Folk Music Encyclopedia, Kristin Baggelaar and Donald Milton wrote "The Gaslight was weird then because there were air shafts up to the apartments and the windows of the Gaslight would open into the air shafts, so when people would applaud, the neighbors would get disturbed and call the police. So then the audience couldn't applaud; they had to snap their fingers instead."

Brian Fallon, the lead singer and guitarist of The Gaslight Anthem, has said that the band's name came from The Gaslight Cafe as he had heard it was one of the first places that Bob Dylan had played and liked the sound of the word and the imagery it brought about.[16]

Notable performers[edit]

Among those who performed at the Gaslight were Bill Cosby;[17] Bob Dylan;[18] Joni Mitchell (her first ever appearance in NYC, in 1966, with Chuck Mitchell); Luke Faust, a five-string banjo player and singer who sang Appalachian ballads; Len Chandler; Paul Clayton; Luke Askew; Wavy Gravy; Joan Rivers; Bruce Springsteen. 1964–1966 saw many early performances by Richie Havens, Jose Feliciano, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Eddie Mottau, Eric Andersen, John Herald,[18] Ralph Rinzler,[18] The Greenbriar Boys, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Carolyn Hester, Elizabeth Cotten and Dave Van Ronk. The first public "electric" appearance of The Blues Project (with Danny Kalb) took place at the club. Mississippi John Hurt and Jesse Fuller ("Lone Cat") played there. Jimi Hendrix[19] and Eric Clapton sat in together[20] for a week at the Gaslight with John Hammond Jr.[21] An array of musicians also performed at the club in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Odetta, Son House,[22] Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bonnie Raitt, Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Big Mama Thornton, Link Wray, Mimi Fariña, jazz musician Charles Mingus, Happy Traum and Artie Traum, Doug Kershaw, Bob Neuwirth, David Bromberg, David Buskin, Janis Siegel (who later joined The Manhattan Transfer), and others.[23][24][25][26]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Al Aronowitz. The Gaslight, memoir. Retrieved June 25, 2010
  2. ^ Bob Dylans roots. Accessed March 30, 2010.
  3. ^ Woodruff, Sheryl (January 22, 2014). "Upstairs/Downstairs: A Night Out on MacDougal Street". Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
  4. ^ Gaslight Cafe history. Accessed March 30, 2010.
  5. ^ Thursby, Keith (2011-04-11). "Gil Robbins dies at 80; member of the 1960s folk group the Highwaymen". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  6. ^ "Folk singer Gil Robbins dies at 80". CBC News. 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  7. ^ Greenwich Village Folk Clubs
  8. ^ Upstairs/Downstairs: A Night Out on MacDougal Street
  9. ^ Folk Music in Greenwich Village: 1961-1970
  10. ^ The Kettle of Fish
  11. ^ Gaslight Cafe and Kettle of Fish. Accessed March 30, 2010.
  12. ^ The first stop for aspiring 1960s folkies, Izzy Young’s Folklore Center
  13. ^ The Folklore Center
  14. ^ Bob Dylan Gaslight Café, New York City, 15 October 1962, Still On The Road—discographical reference
  15. ^ Bob Dylan, Gaslight Café, New York, NY, 15 October 1962
  16. ^ Fallon, Brian. "When you came up for the name for gaslight..." Tumblr.
  17. ^ Cosby at the Gaslight
  18. ^ a b c "Early Bob Dylan: Classic Photographs from the 1960s". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2010-08-03. Retrieved 2014-04-28. Bob Dylan stands between Ralph Rinzler and John Herald of the folk and bluegrass group the Greenbriar Boys at the Gaslight nightclub in New York City, 1959.
  19. ^ Jimi Hendrix played there
  20. ^ Forman, Bill (January 28, 2010). "Tangled up in blues: John Hammond recalls his meetings with Clapton, Hendrix, Dylan and Waits". Colorado Springs Independent
  21. ^ Interview with Randy California Archived 2003-03-12 at Retrieved June 25, 2010
  22. ^ Son House at the Gaslight
  23. ^ Add: Buffy Saint-Marie who headlined with Dave van Ronk, summer of 1964. Friends of Mike Porco bring Folk Music back to the village
  24. ^ The Story of the Gaslight Café, Where Dylan Premiered ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’
  25. ^ NY Rocker
  26. ^ Ads revisit the Gaslight
  27. ^ Mason, Bobbie Ann, Clear Springs: A Memoir, Random House, 1999, page 116
  28. ^ Laura Archibald (director) (2012). Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation. New York, NY: Kino Lorber. OCLC 842426241.

External links[edit]