Cafe Au Go Go, Greenwich Village, New York City

Happy 2nd Anniversary Grosvenor Square!

In the 60s and 70s, Greenwich Village and the neighboring East Village became the hub of East Coast rock ’n’ roll music and culture.  Places like the Cafe Au Go Go, Cafe Wha?, the Village Theater, Fillmore East, and the Electric Circus showcased the top acts of the day.  On any given night you could see Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, the Allman Brothers, and of course, the Grateful Dead.  The Grateful Dead played just about every venue between Washington Square Park and Thompson Square Park from ’67 to ’71.  I thought that we would take a little trip around the area in the next few posts and marvel at all the great venues that existed just a few blocks from each other back in the heyday of the East Coast rock ‘n’ roll scene.  Let’s begin where it all began for the Grateful Dead, the Cafe Au Go Go…

The Cafe Au Go Go was a basement nightclub that was located in Greenwich Village in New York City from 1964 to 1969.  It was owned by Howard Solomon for the bulk of those years until he sold it to Moses Baruch in 1969.  Baruch closed the club a few months later.  Top acts like Judy Collins, Odetta, Bill Evans, Woody Allen, and Lenny Bruce played there in the early jazz, folk, and comedy years.  The most noted event during this time was when Lenny Bruce and Howard Solomon were arrested in April of 1964 after Bruce used obscenities in his comedy act.  The obscenities trial lasted 6 months, both were found guilty.  As rock and blues became more popular, acts like Jimi Hendrix, Canned Heat, Cream, Son House, and Skip James performed nightly, many making their first New York City appearances there.  The Grateful Dead made their first “official” NYC appearance there on June 1, 1967.  Their very first performance ever  in NYC was an outdoor gig in Thompson Square Park earlier that day (see my 6/25/11 post for more info) in the East Village.  They played a ten night run there and to add to the weirdness that was going on downstairs, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played a smaller performance space above the Cafe called the Garrick Theatre upstairs.  The space is now an apartment building, the original building was demolished.  The picture below shows the building as it is today on Bleecker Street.  Next month we will be making our way toward 2nd Avenue in the East Village, stay tuned for the next legendary location…

This post is sponsored by Type B Tye Dye Studios in New Hope, PA.


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