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Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village NYC.

Greenwich Village

Bob Dylan tells of seeing the ghost of John Wilkes Booth at a tavern in New York City. While that may sound crazy, I believe him. The ghosts of Greenwich Village are real. These are the ghosts of history that come from immersing yourself in the past. It’s something you can feel.

Greenwich Village is filled with the ghosts of 400 years of American settlement. This 2-mile self-guided walking tour features some of the extraordinary music history of Greenwich Village, plus some additional tidbits for context. And, of course, to conjure a ghost or two.

Greenwich Village Walking Tour

The tour begins at one of the fine record stores in Greenwich Village, Record Runner, at 5 Jones Street. Before we start, make sure you have plenty of energy for the Trip. Some of New York City’s best pizza is in the neighborhood. Consider grabbing a slice at Joe’s Pizza on Carmine. Or if you are inclined, sit down for a full pie at John’s on Bleecker.

Record Runner – 5 Jones Street, New York, NY

As you walk up Jones from Bleecker Street, feel free to walk in the middle of the street arm in arm with your companion as Bob Dylan and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo did for the cover shot of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Just be mindful of cars that may sneak up behind you on this quiet street. Make it a lasting memory by getting someone to snap a photo. If you do, post it to your social and tag Trips ‘n’ Tunes. If shadows are a problem, you can try again at the end of the Trip. You will only be a few blocks away.

Record Runner is a cozy little shop, owned and operated by native New Yorker Joe Pita. He usually stocks many of the albums you will need to get the most out of your Greenwich Village tour. Joe opened the shop in 1980 and has lived in the neighborhood most of his life. He has lots of great stories. Say hello and tell him, Jorge, from Trips ‘n’ Tunes sent you.

Exterior photo of Record Runner a Greenwich Village store on street of famous Bob Dylan album cover.

Before you enter, put away any beverages and handle the records with great care. Joe is rightfully very protective of his collection. Lastly, remember that Record Runner is a place of business. While a purchase is not required, you can support Joe by buying something.

Album Cover Scavenger Hunt

While you peruse the stacks, keep an eye out for album covers shot in Greenwich Village. Many of the album covers are included in this post, but additional albums are at the bottom of this post. When you find one, snap a photo of yourself with the album cover. This will help you find the exact spot when you get to the location. You can also use the photo to tell your story on social media.

Bob Dylan Apartment – 161 W. 4th Street, New York, NY

As you leave Record Runner, turn left and head up to W. 4th Street. Just to the right of the stop sign, you will see Bob Dylan’s first apartment in New York City. His 3rd-floor unit faces 6th Avenue. The 20-year-old Dylan moved in here in 1961 and Suze Rotolo would join him following her 18th birthday. Dylan lived here until 1964.

Greenwich Village apartment of Bob Dylan. Exterior photo of brick building with stoop and fire escape.
Bob Dylan’s first Greenwich Village apartment.

Photos of Bob Dylan inside the apartment, as well as more recent shots, can be found here. Bob Egan’s photo detective work is amazing. His location research is available in Pop Culture New York City: The Ultimate Location Finder.

Café Bohemia – 15 Barrow Street, New York, NY

As you head toward 1 Sheridan Square, duck down Barrow Street for a couple of interesting sites. Café Bohemia at 15 Barrow was a restaurant and bar before Charlie Parker moved in across the street. Parker offered to play for free in exchange for drinks. Cafe Bohemia began to feature live jazz. Following an engagement here a couple of years later, Miles Davis fired John Coltrane and his favorite drummer Philly Joe Jones for being too high to play.

Next door, at 17 Barrow, was a former stable where future Vice President Aaron Burr once boarded his horses. Burr would lose the stable in the aftermath of his infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton.

Café Society – 1 Sheridan Square, New York, NY

In 1938, Barney Josephson and legendary talent scout/producer John Hammond opened Café Society, the first racially integrated nightclub in New York. Josephson, a former shoe store clerk with no nightclub experience, wanted a club “where blacks and whites worked together behind the footlights and sat together out front.” Billie Holiday performed on opening night and many leading jazz and blues artists followed.

The following year Holiday debuted “Strange Fruit” at Café Society.  The lyrics, written by Abel Meeropol, a New York-born son of Russian Jewish immigrants, protested the lynching of blacks in the American South. Josephson established strict house rules to highlight Holiday’s performance of the song: “The waiters would stop serving just before it; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; the song would close her set; and there would be no encore.”

Exterior photo of Axis Theatre in Greenwich Village where Cafe Society was once located.
The Axis Theatre was formerly the Greenwich Village home to Cafe Society from 1938-1949.

Take a moment to listen to “Strange Fruit” from the shade of the Sheridan Square Garden across the street. You can hear a 30-second preview by clicking the arrow. Alternatively, click the Spotify logo to hear the whole song if you are a subscriber.

Lou Reed’s Apartment – 53 Christopher Street, New York, NY

The historic Stonewall Inn, known as the birthplace of the gay rights movement, is on the ground floor of this Greenwich Village building. In 1969, patrons rioted in the street against police harassment. This once mob-owned establishment, a former horse stable, became known to some as the Cesspool. “Stonewall was a sleazy lowlife bar that any self-respecting gay would not go to,” claimed avant-garde performer Agosto Machado in John Strausbaugh’s The Village, adding proudly that he visited there often.

Lou Reed wrote the songs for his classic album Transformer while living in an apartment above the bar. Although the album’s commercial hit “Walk on the Wild Side” referenced characters from the scene at Andy Warhol’s Factory, he could have found the inspiration for the bridge in the song “Make Up” from the downstairs bar – “We’re coming out/Out of our closets/Out on the streets.”

Lou Reed’s Greenwich Village apartment in New York City while he recorded Transformer.

John Lennon and Yoko’s Apartment – 105 Bank Street, New York, NY

John and Yoko lived in this apartment in Greenwich Village from 1971-72, before moving to the Dakota on Central Park. Amazing that John Lennon, who could have chosen to live anywhere, chose this dwelling with its subterranean entry.

Exterior photo of Greenwich Village entrance to John Lennon's apartment.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Greenwich Village apartment before moving to the Dakota on Central Park.

This corner of Greenwich Village was considered remote and quiet at the time except for the frequent FBI surveillance across the narrow cobblestone street. John and Yoko used the front room as an office. The bedroom in back on an upper floor had a giant bed and a large television that John watched non-stop.

“I should have been born in the Village, that’s where I belong… Everybody heads towards the center; that’s why I’m here now…this is where it’s happening.”

John Lennon – Rolling Stone interview 1971

Influential avant-garde composer John Cage lived next door at the time with his longtime partner, dancer Merce Cunningham. Seven years after the Lennons moved, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols died of a heroin overdose at 63 Bank Street. His mother purchased the lethal dose.

Just a block away from John and Yoko’s is the Westbeth Center for the Arts. This 13-building former Bell Labs facility became affordable housing for artists in 1970 with one of the first grants from the newly formed National Endowment for the Arts. It is said that the deal for residents was so attractive that most do not move out until they are carried out.

Photographer Bob Gruen was among Westbeth’s first residents. Gruen met John Lennon at a benefit show at the Apollo Theatre in 1971. He became friends with John and Yoko and shortly thereafter shot Lennon’s recording sessions at the Record Plant.  Gruen would shoot some of Lennon’s most iconic photos in New York City including the one below.

White Horse Tavern – 567 Hudson Street, New York, NY

Bob Dylan used to frequent the White Horse after hours with Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers. According to Dylan, the White Horse was an Irish Bar where “they would sing drinking songs, country ballads and rousing rebel songs that would lift the roof.”

The White Horse had also been known as a literary bar once frequented by Norman Mailer, Thomas Wolfe, and Dylan Thomas. This Greenwich Village watering hole was the Welshman Thomas’s favorite bar in New York City. After two nights of heavy drinking at the White Horse in November 1953, Thomas fell into a coma at the Chelsea Hotel and died shortly thereafter.

The Village Vanguard – 178 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY

The Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village was opened in 1935 by promoter Max Gordon in what had been a prohibition-era speakeasy. It is the oldest jazz club in New York City. Originally featuring poetry readings and folk music, the club also showcased visual artists and comedians. Gordon later began opening on Sunday afternoons for jazz jam sessions which became popular with many of the great artists of the day. Over time, jazz became an increasingly popular draw at the Vanguard.

By 1957, the Vanguard was all jazz. The club not only showcased established artists like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus but launched the careers of talents such as Thelonious Monk. Many live albums have been recorded at this Greenwich Village landmark over the years.

Photo of the signs in front of the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village.

Photo Op – Pose for a photo under the awning as John Coltrane did with his quintet for the cover of Live at the Village Vanguard Again! in 1966.

Almanac House #2 – 130 W 10th Street, New York, NY

When Bob Dylan came to New York in 1961, he did not come to chase history. “I came to find singers,” recalled Dylan, “the ones I hear on record.” Had he come 20 years earlier, he would have found many of them here at Almanac House, the communal home of the Almanac Singers, a musical group whose most famous members were Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie.

Guthrie, a native of Oklahoma, had left his family in Texas, migrated to California to escape the dust bowl, and later hitchhiked to New York City. Upon his arrival in 1940, he wrote “This Land is Your Land.” Pete Seeger described the Almanac House as “a frat house for music revolutionaries” seeking social and economic reform.

Bonus: Janis Joplin, who primarily lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, maintained a Greenwich Village apartment across the street at 139 w 10th Street at the time of her death in 1970.

Exterior photo of Almanac House in Greenwich Village. FDNY Square 18 is next door.
The Almanac House in Greenwich Village is the three-story building with a black door. FDNY Squad 18 is next door.
FDNY Squad 18

Next door to Almanac House is the home of FDNY Squad 18 which has valiantly served Greenwich Village since 1865. Many of the original firefighters were returning Civil War veterans, whose state-of-the-art equipment consisted of a horse-drawn hose tender and steam engine. This beautifully restored firehouse was constructed for the Squad in 1892.

FDNY Squad 18 is one of seven special operations firehouses in the city. Over the years, many firefighters from this Squad have lost their lives in the line of duty. Their sacrifice is commemorated by “Line of Duty” plaques on the front of the station. On September 11, 2001, seven firefighters from this station lost their lives while attempting to save those trapped on the upper floors of the north tower of the World Trade Center.

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Joffrey Ballet

As you head to our next destination, take 10th Street to 6th Avenue. Across 6th Avenue is the former home of the Joffrey Ballet. You can still see the name in the windows on the 3rd and 4th floors. Founded in 1953 and working from this Greenwich Village location until they moved to Chicago in 1995, the Joffrey Ballet created a uniquely American, barrier-smashing style of dance that mixed ballet with modern dance. Their production in 1967 of the multi-media, psychedelic rock ballet “Astarte” was the first of its kind.

Barbra Streisand Apartment – 69 W. 9th Street, New York, NY

Barbra Streisand was a struggling 18-year-old aspiring actress when she met Barry Dennen, a kindred spirit from a wealthy California family, on the set of a short-lived off-off-Broadway production of The Insect Comedy where she played the role of a butterfly. Having been evicted from her previous apartment and staying with friends around the city, she moved in with Dennen in this high-rise Greenwich Village apartment building.

There was a nightclub called The Lion, across the street at 62 W. 9th Street, that held a weekly talent contest for a $50 prize and a free dinner. Barbra had no intention of being a singer and had never been in a nightclub before, but Dennen encouraged her to give it a shot. She sang two songs, collected her $50, ate her free dinner, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Trude Heller’s – 418 6th Avenue, New York, NY

A colorful music impresario named Trude Heller opened a nightclub here in 1960. It operated until the early 1980s. Genya Raven of the pioneering female rock group Goldie and the Gingerbreads remembers Trude as an out lesbian with a “tough cookie” demeanor.  She required rockers to rock—no ballads allowed. “She’d go crazy…whenever we sang a ballad….she’d run over to the light switch and start flicking it on and off, screaming, “C’mon! C’mon! Let’s twist already!…let’s do the fuckin’ twist!”

Back in the 60s Trude’s featured both female and male go-go dancers perched along the walls of her Greenwich Village club. Between performers, a deejay kept the house dancing. Trude’s was a place to see and be seen. Gossip columnists would chronicle celebrity appearances such as the time Salvador Dali arrived with his pet ocelot.

Trude’s kept up with the times, even if Trude herself was not involved in the later years. The club transitioned from go-go to disco and ultimately became a punk club. One of the last notable performances was by the Beastie Boys when they were a high school-aged punk band.

Electric Lady Studio – 52 West 8th Street, New York, NY

Some classic tunes were recorded in this studio including Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” (a collaboration with Jeff Beck), David Bowie’s “Fame” (co-written by John Lennon), Patti Smith’s influential debut album Horses and The Clash’s Combat Rock. Disco paragons Chic recorded their eponymous debut here and AC/DC mixed Back in Black in the studio, highlighting the diversity of the music created here.

Electric Lady was a pet project of Jimi Hendrix. This Greenwich Village building had previously housed a nightclub called The Generation where Hendrix had performed while on tour. When the club closed in 1968, Hendrix hoped to resurrect it.

Convinced by his manager that a music venue would not be a good investment, Jimi bought the building anyway and shifted his attention to creating a highly customized recording studio where he could record.

On August 26, 1970, Hendrix hosted a grand opening with guests including Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ron Wood, and Patti Smith. Just over three weeks later, Hendrix died in London. He recorded tracks at Electric Lady Studios that would be released posthumously on The Cry of Love.

Photo of the Electric Lady Studios logo on the front window in Greenwich Village.

Soulquarians

By the late 1990s, the little-used Greenwich Village studio became the home to the musical collective Soulquarians, founded by Mike “D’Angelo” Archer, Amir “Questlove” Thompson, James Poyser and James “J Dilla” Yancey. They chose Electric Lady because of its legacy and collection of vintage recording equipment and instruments on hand.

Soulquarians jam sessions at Electric Lady resulted in classic recordings including Mama’s Gun by Erykah Badu, Things Fall Apart by The Roots, Like Water for Chocolate by Common, and Voodoo by D’Angelo. Check out the playlist and see how many Stevie Wonder musical and lyrical references you can find. The play button will launch 30-second previews of each song. Spotify subscribers can click the logo to play the full version through the app.

Bon Soir – 38 W. 8th Street, New York, NY

Following her talent show win, Barbra Streisand began performing regularly on Mondays and Saturdays at The Lion. She drew a celebrity following, leading to her being hired at this more sophisticated Greenwich Village supper club around the corner.

Her Bon Soir show earned favorable reviews and her two-week engagement kept being extended, leading to a contract with Columbia Records. The label recorded a performance at this Greenwich Village club, intending to release it as her debut album. The tapes gathered dust for 60 years before being released in November 2022. The link below will transport you into that club on a chilly November evening in 1962. Even if you are not a fan, the awkward introduction by the Columbia executive that signed her is worth a listen.

Buddy Holly’s Apartment – 11 5th Avenue, New York, NY

Continue down 8th Street from Electric Lady Studios toward 5th Avenue. Before you cross 5th, you will get a good view of the Brevoort apartments diagonally across the intersection. Apartment 4H at the Brevoort was the Greenwich Village home to a newlywed Buddy Holly.

Holly had already appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show twice and recorded a string of hits that helped define rock and roll when he moved here shortly after his 22nd birthday. Holly made some of his last recordings in his apartment prior to his tragic death in a plane crash in 1959.

Rick Rubin’s NYU Dormitory – 5 University Place, New York, NY

Cross 5th Avenue and turn right, toward Washington Square Park. At the next corner to your left is Washington Mews, a historic Greenwich Village street with many buildings built in the 1800s. Today, like much of the surrounding area, the buildings on this street are owned by New York University. NYU’s Weinstein Dormitory, with its red brick façade, towers above the Mews at the dead end.

Def Jam Records was co-founded in 1984 by NYU student Rick Rubin who resided in room #712 of this dorm. This seminal hip-hop label, co-founded with Russell Simmons, launched the careers of the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and Public Enemy. Since beginning his storied career as a producer here, Rubin has gone on to produce a wide variety of acts from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Johnny Cash, from Tom Petty to Eminem and loads in between including Adele, Kanye West, Metallica, Lady Gaga, Linkin’ Park and Santana to name a few.

Exterior photo of 9 story Greenwich Village dorm of Rick Rubin at NYU.

Washington Square Park

Continue down 5th Avenue to Washington Square Park and its landmark arch. During the folk revival of the late ‘50s, folk musicians performed regularly in this Greenwich Village park on Sunday afternoons. In 1961, the city parks department decided not to renew the permit for these gatherings leading to the first free speech demonstrations in America. The press labeled the event the Beatnik Riot.

Modern Dixieland jazz band The Village Stompers built their identity around the park in the early 1960s. Their debut album and its title track are named Washington Square and their follow-up album is More Washington Square. Their Greatest Hits album cover from 1967 provides a great photo op. Try recreating it.

Continue your tour through the park, parallel with Waverly Place (the street you crossed to enter the park) back toward MacDougal Street in the heart of Greenwich Village. As you reach the intersection you will walk under Hangman’s Elm, at around 350 years old the oldest tree on Manhattan. Legend has it that the tree was used for hangings. Truth is, the gallows were located near where the fountain is today.

Washington Square Hotel – 103 Waverly Place, New York, NY

Formerly known as the Hotel Earle, this hotel opened in the early 20th century and was an upscale hotel when a young Ernest Hemingway and later Dylan Thomas visited. By the 1950s, the hotel had lost its luster. It became a cheap Greenwich Village hotel for musicians on tour. Bo Diddley stayed here when he came to town as did Chuck Berry.

Bob Dylan lodged here on at least a couple of occasions. First in 1961, when a room cost $19 a week. In 1964 he stayed with Joan Baez, an experience Baez referenced in her ode to their relationship “Diamonds and Rust” – “Now you’re smiling out the window/Of that crummy hotel/Over Washington Square.”

Not long after Dylan and Baez, John and Michelle Phillips wrote “California Dreamin’” while residing here, just prior to their move to Lookout Mountain in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon.

Exterior photo of entrance to Washington Square Hotel in Greenwich Village NYC.
Washington Square Hotel in Greenwich Village.

Stevie Van Zandt’s Home – 135 W. 4th Street, New York, NY

E Street Band guitarist and Sopranos star Steve Van Zandt currently resides here. He purchased the 3-bedroom Greenwich Village penthouse in 2008. As you approach the building, it’s natural to think that we have the wrong place. Van Zandt’s building used to be a church!

Exterior photo of Greenwich Village residence of Steve Van Zandt.

What’s Little Steven up to these days? Lots. Besides being a musician and actor, he hosts a radio show, owns a record label, and recently published a memoir, Unrequited Infatuations. Notably, Van Zandt started a non-profit, TeachRock, which provides a standards-aligned, arts integration curriculum that uses the history of popular music and culture to help teachers engage students. You can learn more and support this worthwhile organization by clicking the link.

Photo Op: If you would like to get a photo where the album cover from After the Goldrush by Neil Young was shot in Greenwich Village by Joel Bernstein, head over to Sullivan Street and 3rd Street. It’s just a block away. Here’s a link to the original photo used for the cover.

The Blue Note – 131 W. 3rd Street, New York, NY

Along with the Village Vanguard, the Blue Note is one of the last great jazz clubs from the genre’s heyday that still operates today. Notice the grand piano-shaped awning.

Traversing the streets of Greenwich Village from his nearby apartment, Dylan sometimes saw Thelonious Monk at the Blue Note’s piano during the daytime. One afternoon Dylan decided to stop in and introduce himself, saying something like – I’m Bob Dylan. I play folk music. Monk, with a half-eaten sandwich on top of the piano, responded, “We all play folk music.”

Exterior photo of Greenwich Village jazz club, the Blue Note.
The Blue Note in Greenwich Village, NYC.

Café Wha? – 115 MacDougal Street, New York, NY

When Dylan first arrived in Greenwich Village in 1961, he was told to come to Café Wha? and ask for Freddy Neil, a singer who emceed a daytime show and oversaw all the entertainers. After a brief audition, Neil invited Dylan to play harmonica during his sets, providing young Dylan his start in New York City.

Dylan described the daytime show at the Wha? as “an extravaganza of patchwork, featured anybody and anything – a comedian, a ventriloquist, a steel drum group, a poet, a female impersonator, a duo who sang Broadway stuff, a rabbit-in-the-hat-magician.” These performers worked for tips. The daytime show ended at 8 pm and then the “professional” show would begin, featuring paid performers such as Richard Pryor, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, and Lenny Bruce.

The world-famous Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village.

Jimmy Hendrix auditioned at Café Wha? in the summer of 1966 with his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.  Hendrix was soon playing at the Greenwich Village club five nights a week until Chas Chandler of the Animals saw his set and became his manager. In less than a year, Jimmy went with Chandler to London, changed the spelling of his name to Jimi, put together a band, recorded his first hit single “Hey Joe,” released the album Are You Experienced? and established himself as a star at the Monterrey Pop Festival.

Shortly after Hendrix left for London, New Jersey high schooler Bruce Springsteen played his first shows in New York City at Cafe Wha? with his band the Castiles. Springsteen and his band would play here regularly through the spring of 1968.

Gaslight Café – 116 MacDougal Street, New York, NY

Across the street from the Wha? was the Gaslight Café, one of the top venues in Greenwich Village. According to Dylan, “Compared to (the Gaslight), the rest of the places on the street were nameless and miserable, low-level basket houses or small coffeehouses where the performer passed the hat.”

Located in another former prohibition-era speakeasy, the Gaslight opened in 1957 as a Greenwich Village basket house where Beat poets like Ginsburg and Corso read. The cafe did not have a liquor license (but you could bring in a bottle in a paper bag), so they served overpriced, bad coffee and food instead. And, it would get so hot in the summer that the fire sprinklers sometimes showered the audience. In spite of this, there was usually a line to get in.

The Gaslight overcame its shortcomings by paying established and up-and-coming performers up to $60 a week which attracted talents like Richie Havens, Phil Ochs, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi John Hurt, Bill Cosby, John Sebastian, and Flip Wilson. Dave Van Ronk, the “mayor” of MacDougal Street, hosted Tuesday night Hootenannies.

Entrance to the former home of the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village.
Bruuuce!

On May 2, 1972, after auditioning during the day at Columbia Records, John Hammonds wanted to see Bruce Springsteen perform live that night. After contacting many Greenwich Village venues, the Gaslight allowed Bruce the last-minute showcase before Hammond and a handful of others. Charlie Musselwhite headlined later that evening. Outside the club, Hammond told Bruce that his life was about to change. He would be offered a contract with Columbia Records.          

The next morning, Springsteen was sent to CBS Studios to record some demos. Four of the songs were released in the box set Tracks in 1998. This rendition of “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City” is as close as you can get to being at the Gaslight that night.

Just above the Gaslight was the Kettle of Fish at 114 MacDougal.  During the folk era, performers could often be found at the bar having a drink between sets. They used to refer to the Kettle as “the office.”  You may have noticed a place named Kettle of Fish next to the Stonewall earlier in our trip.  Now in its third location, that Kettle is more known as a “Cheesehead” sports bar, a home away from home for fans of the Green Bay Packers football team.

Folklore Center – 110 MacDougal Street, New York, NY

Opened by Lower East Side native, Israel “Izzy” Young in the same year as he Gaslight, the Folklore Center was the beacon for folk musicians and songwriters in New York City. Young sold books, records, and anything else related to folk music.

The Folklore Center was a gathering place for musicians in Greenwich Village. Bob Dylan would often sit in the back listening to folk recordings. Young also held performances in the center by Dylan, Van Ronk, Peter Paul & Mary, John Sebastian, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, and Tim Buckley to name a few.

Other Notable Venues

The Bitter End – 147 Bleecker Street, New York, NY

Established in 1961, The Bitter End is the oldest rock club in New York City. They still feature live music seven nights a week but now showcase most genres. As they say, “You never know who or what you will hear next.” In its heyday, the Bitter End stage hosted an impressive array of musicians and comedians.

Café au Go Go (Demolished) – 152 Bleecker Street, New York, NY

Located in the basement of Garrick Theatre (where Andy Warhol debuted many of his films) and operating from 1964-1970, the Cafe au Go Go in Greenwich Village hosted many of the same bands as The Bitter End in addition to many blues legends and bands on tour from California including The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. The Grateful Dead made their first New York City performance here. Comedian Lenny Bruce performed here twice with undercover cops in the audience. Both times he ended up being arrested on obscenity charges.

Village Gate – 160 Bleecker Street, New York, NY

The Village Gate was a Greenwich Village staple from 1958 to 1986 for locals and acts on tour. The club hosted folk, blues, jazz, rock, experimental music, cabaret, musicals, and poetry readings, with a heavy emphasis on jazz. Aretha Franklin gave her first New York City performance here. A benefit for Timothy Leary in 1970 featured a performance by Jimi Hendrix.

The ground floor of the building is now a CVS pharmacy. The basement level, once a theatre, hosted an extended run of National Lampoon’s Lemmings in 1973, launching the careers of John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Christopher Guest who played the role of lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel in the film This is Spinal Tap.

Café Bizarre (Demolished) – 106 W. 3rd Street, New York, NY

One of the early Greenwich Village folk clubs, Cafe Bizarre opened in 1957 with performances by Odetta. Later, the club also featured jazz and poetry readings by beat poets such as Kerouac and Ginsberg. By the time Dylan arrived and played there, the patrons were “mostly workingmen who sat around laughing, cussing, eating red meat, talking pussy.”

A few years later, it was the underground rock club where Any Warhol first saw the Velvet Underground perform. The Velvet Underground began to play Bizarre in December 1965. At that time “the place had become a tourist trap with a corny horror theme, something like a haunted house.” The Velvets played multiple sets, six nights a week for little money and meals.

The building has since been demolished, replaced by an NYU dorm.

Gerde’s Folk City (Demolished) – 11 W 4th Street, New York, NY

Considered the premier folk club in America, the upscale Gerde’s Folk City showcased mostly widely known artists with record deals, except for Monday Hootenanny Night. In April 1961, Dylan had a two-week engagement at the Greenwich Village club opening for John Lee Hooker. When he returned in September, the New York Times review of his performance brought him wide renown. On his third engagement here in April 1962, Dylan debuted “Blowin’ in the Wind.” This location was closed in 1970 and is now the site of Hebrew Union College.

Gerde’s would reopen at 130 W. 3rd Street, currently occupied by the comedy club Village Underground. In 1978 under new ownership, the club began booking alternative rock acts like Elvis Costello, The Replacements and Sonic Youth while still featuring acts like Odetta, Arlo Guthrie, and The Band. The club closed in 1987.

The Bottom Line – 15 W 4th Street, New York, NY

For nearly 30 years, The Bottom Line rocked Greenwich Village with many historic shows. From opening night in 1974 with Dr. John, the 400-seat club featured an eclectic list of performers from Billy Joel to Miles Davis, Barry Manilow to Jerry Garcia, and Charles Mingus to Patti Smith. Bruce Springsteen’s epic five-night engagement prior to the release of Born to Run helped turbocharge interest in the album.

In The Bottom Line’s later years, they hosted shows billed In Their Own Words: A Bunch of Songwriters Just Sitting Around Singing which was just that. Nowhere else could you see Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson or Pete Seeger and Roger McGuinn share a stage, songs, and stories with a captivated, seated audience.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Greenwich Village and captured some memories along the way. If so, make like Sinatra and start spreading the news… You can share this Trip with friends through the link at the bottom of the page.

New York City is loaded with fascinating music history, and the city’s density lends itself to walking tours. No doubt, there will be more New York City Trips in the future. Subscribe below if you would like to be notified.

In the meantime, if you are a Bruce Springsteen fan, be sure to check out the Trips ‘n’ Tunes Springsteen Trip. Starting only about an hour from New York City, this day trip explores Springsteen Country – from Bruce’s hometown, through his Jersey Shore stomping ground, to the communities he has called home since 1996.

More Album Covers:

Primary Sources:

The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, John Strausbaugh

Chronicles Volume One, Bob Dylan

Lou Reed: A Life, Anthony DeCurtis

Credit Deena D.C. Real Cool Time Radio realcooltime895@gmail.com contact for preference

Village Preservation is a fantastic resource focusing on preserving the cultural and architectural history of the Village. There is a lot of great content here, especially the historical photos. Electric Lady Studios, Cafe Bizzare

West View News, “by and for West Village residents,” still distributes its monthly publication to the doorsteps of Greenwich Village residents. Their website is a nice resource for visitors seeking a local perspective. Their articles on the lost jazz clubs of Greenwich Village and FDNY Squad 18 were especially helpful.