CB’s: A Personal Note By Mike Thorne
The club’s name was strictly CBGB and OMFUG, short for Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers. Somewhere it got shortened to CBGB’s and then down to just CB’s in conversation. It functioned at 315 Bowery, New York City, end of Bleecker Street, from December 1973 to October 2006.
The owner, Hilly Kristal, managed the Shirts, who were a joint signing between EMI London and Capitol Records, after which I arrived in late 1977 to meet everyone with a view to producing their first album. Fresh out of the roaring UK punk scene, and arriving unfashionably early at the former railroad workers’ bar still smelling of cigarettes and stale beer from the night before, I looked around and thought, ‘what a dump.’ But was before the people showed up. Years later, in the 21st century, The New York Times’ Jon Pareles would use the same word in an article about the club’s demise, which put Hilly in a bad mood for days. I couldn’t ever use the phrase in front of him, even in joking mode with a friend. He cared. And it was a dump in appearance only.
I came fairly late to the party, three years after the club really got going, but was lucky to become effectively embedded after producing two Shirts albums and becoming close with Hilly and his crew. The people who ran it and who played there transformed 315 Bowery to transcend grungy surroundings and make what many people now look back on as a shrine. We are often more comfortable in unprepossessing surroundings and it was a very comfortable and sociable dump/shrine for many people. We all grew there, in our own individual and erratic ways.
So much has been written about CBGB’s that a brief history isn’t necessary here. You’re visiting this page because you know already. Hilly himself started writing a history, but this remained unfinished at his death in 2007, a year after his club was wrenched from him, a loss which took his wind away.
We have a lot of material on CBGB, Hilly Kristal and the Shirts. Some may overlap, but we’ve tried to separate as far as possible. Please explore.