Saturday, September 8, 2012

The History of One of Our Venues: 116 MacDougal Street

116 MacDougal Street is a New York City institution, in the heart of Greenwich Village, once the Village Gaslight aka The Gaslight Cafe, where the beats Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso spit words of revolution, where Bob Dylan made his earliest recordings, and where an unknown comedian named Bill Cosby took the stage trying to get laughs.

Made from dug-out, converted coal cellar, this spot made history.

It is now the Wednesday night home of The Inspired Word, 7-10pm.

Bob Dylan Live at 116 MacDougal Street, 1962.

John Brent reading his Bibleland @ 116 MacDougal Street, 1961.

William Morris reading his poem Lyric for Children @ 116 MacDougal Street, 1959

Bob Dylan live at 116 MacDougal Street, 1962

For more info on 116, please check out

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 dark, steamy, subterranean Gaslight had showcased beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso but later became a folk-music club. Clarence Hood bought the club in 1961, and he and his son Sam managed the club through the late 1960s. Ed Simon, the owner of another popular Village coffeehouse, The Four Winds, reopened the Gaslight in 1968. The club was run by Betty Smyth (who is the mother of Scandal lead singer Patty Smyth), and blues guitarist/performer Susan Martin until its closing in 1971.

The club was next door and down the stairs from the street-level bar called the Kettle of Fish, a bar where many performers hung out between sets. Some nights the bar the (Kettle of Fish) was "locked" down to the public because a young "reclusive" singer and poet was in attendance...Bob Dylan. Also next door 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."

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