The Gaslight Cafe
116 MacDougal Street|
New York City, New York
|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. It closed in 1971.
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, and his 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.
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, including Bob Dylan. 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. 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.
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.
Currently, a full-length motion picture screenplay called 116 MacDougal is being written by Vincent J Restauri about John Mitchell and the founding of The Gaslight Cafe and the beginning of the counter culture movement.
Among those who performed at the Gaslight were Bill Cosby; Bob Dylan; Luke Faust, a five-string banjo player and singer who sang Appalachian ballads; Len Chandler; Paul Clayton; Luke Askew; Wavy Gravy; Bruce Springsteen. 1964–1966 saw many early performances by Richie Havens, Jose Feliciano, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Eric Andersen, John Herald, Ralph Rinzler, The Greenbriar Boys, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Carolyn Hester, 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 and Eric Clapton sat in together for a week at the Gaslight with John Hammond, Jr. An array of musicians also performed at the club in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Odetta, Son House,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.
In popular culture
- Bobbie Ann Mason in her 1999 memoir Clear Springs writes of hearing "beatnik poetry" at the Gaslight in the early 1960s.
- Mad Men: "Babylon" (6th episode of the first season), created by Matthew Weiner (2007)
- Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
- Live at The Gaslight 1962: live album by Bob Dylan
- Documentary on the musicians and history made at the Gaslight during its prime: Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation
- Much of the central action of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017) takes place in The Gaslight Cafe, with it being Midge Maisel's main venue for standup comedy acts.
- Dave Van Ronk's song "Gaslight Rag"
- Al Aronowitz. The Gaslight, memoir. Retrieved June 25, 2010
- Bob Dylans roots. Accessed March 30, 2010.
- Woodruff, Sheryl (January 22, 2014). "Upstairs/Downstairs: A Night Out on MacDougal Street". Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
- Gaslight Cafe history. Accessed March 30, 2010.
- 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.
- "Folk singer Gil Robbins dies at 80". CBC News. 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
- Greenwich Village Folk Clubs
- Upstairs/Downstairs: A Night Out on MacDougal Street
- Folk Music in Greenwich Village: 1961-1970
- The Kettle of Fish
- Gaslight Cafe and Kettle of Fish. Accessed March 30, 2010.
- The first stop for aspiring 1960s folkies, Izzy Young’s Folklore Center
- The Folklore Center
- Bob Dylan Gaslight Café, New York City, 15 October 1962, Still On The Road—discographical reference
- Bob Dylan, Gaslight Café, New York, NY, 15 October 1962
- Fallon, Brian. "When you came up for the name for gaslight..." Tumblr.
- 116 MacDougal
- Cosby at the Gaslight
- "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.
- Jimi Hendrix played there
- Forman, Bill (January 28, 2010). "Tangled up in blues: John Hammond recalls his meetings with Clapton, Hendrix, Dylan and Waits". Colorado Springs Independent
- Interview with Randy California Archived 2003-03-12 at Archive.is. Retrieved June 25, 2010
- Son House at the Gaslight
- Friends of Mike Porco bring Folk Music back to the village
- The Story of the Gaslight Café, Where Dylan Premiered ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’
- NY Rocker
- Ads revisit the Gaslight
- Mason, Bobbie Ann, Clear Springs: A Memoir, Random House, 1999, page 116
- Laura Archibald (director) (2012). Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation. New York, NY: Kino Lorber. OCLC 842426241.