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August 16: Hilly Kristal’s CBGB

August 16, 2013

RamonesBlitzPunk rock pioneers the Ramones played their first gig at CBGB on this date in 1974. The club, a former Hell’s Angels dive at 315 Bowery in New York, had been founded the previous year by Hilly Kristal, the son of Orthodox Russian-Jewish immigrants who ran a chicken farm in New Jersey. The name was an acronym for Country, Bluegrass, and Blues, which was the kind of music Kristal originally intended to present, but his club instead became the launching pad for the Talking Heads, Blondie, the Ramones, the Patti Smith Group, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and a wave of raunchy music that stemmed the tide of bubblegum rock and added new rhythms and new rebelliousness to the rock scene. CBGB closed in 2006 and Kristal died of cancer at 75 the following year. The club’s awning is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To see a short documentary about CBGB, look below.

“Dad never gave up on people. He supported them the way his own father sponsored Holocaust survivors after the war. Was that being Jewish? Or just being him? I don’t know.” —Lisa Kristal Burgman (daughter)