Gerde’s Folk City: The End of a Greenwich Village Icon
Gerde’s Folk City was a Greenwich Village music venue central to the folk and rock scenes in this neighborhood for a quarter century. Though always moving locations, the club finally came to an end on March 26, 1986 after an iconic 25-year run. Today we take a look back at the history of this once hopping Village institution.Before Gerde’s was a music venue, it was a restaurant owned by Mike Porco that presented occasional incidental music. On June 1, 1960 Gerde’s Folk City was officially born. First located at 11 West 4th Street (in a building which no longer exists), in 1970 it moved to 130 West 3rd Street. Many of the giants of folk performed there, including Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, and Pete Seeger, and shows included future stars such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Mamas and The Papas, the Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful, the Youngbloods, Emmylou Harris (who also waitressed at the club), Joni Mitchell, Phoebe Snow, Loudon Wainwright III and many other well-known names. In fact, Bob Dylan played his first professional gig there on April 11, 1961, supporting John Lee Hooker. Logan English was instrumental in securing Dylan his first appearance. As Gerde’s moved into the 1970’s, many singer-songwriters of that time first found their voices there.
Increases in rents and changes to the neighborhood eventually lead to Gerde’s shuttering their doors in the West Village in 1987. Towards the end of their run, the building’s owners nearly tripled Gerde’s rent; they offered them a 15-year lease, but on the condition that they soundproof the venue, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to do. Though no longer with us, Gerde’s lives on in our memories, and in the Folk City events the former owners produced after shuttering the venue. The “Rolling Stone Book of Lists” even called Gerde’s Folk City one of the three top music venues in the world, along with The Cavern and CBGBs, the latter also a Village icon similarly no longer with us. The Greenwich Village music scene has always stood as a testament to the neighborhood’s impact and importance in relation to the broader culture, and the continued prominence of Gerde’s reputation shows that the influence of the Village still remains even after these venues are gone.