Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The *other* rock club on the Bowery

...and one which bit the dust long before the (pending) petering out of its more famous neighbor.

GREAT GILDERSLEEVES--331 Bowery between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Presumably named in honor of the '40s radio show and film series The Great Gildersleeve. In Punk magazine's "Summer 1979 Punk Club Guide" [see Punk: The Original (New York: Trans-High Publishing, 1996)], Gildersleeves is given a 3-star, "This place is smokin!" rating. But to my frustration I've yet to locate any concrete background info about the joint--ownership, exact years of operation, history of the building, atmospheric accounts, etc. Thus the best I can offer is a brief list of some bands who played there. Most gig dates are in the '79-'83 range, so I gather the place didn't see the other side of 1984.

On April Fool's Night, 1979, Elvis Costello and the Attractions played a whirlwind three shows at three separate venues--the Bottom Line, Lone Star Cafe, and Gildersleeves. This was around the time of Elvis' notorious denigrating remarks about Ray Charles; here's a Rolling Stone article which describes the controversy and mentions the extra security needed for the G.G. gig (including a couple of Hell's Angels recruited from around the corner).

Public Image, Ltd., April 22, 1980--a couple of days after a show at the Palladium.

The J. Geils Band, April 27, 1980. That night's rendition of "Love Stinks" was later released on a 12" promo picture sleeve. Listen to the mp3, which starts off with the club's outgoing phone message regarding the gig--apparently the band was billed as Juke Joint Jimmy and His Houseparty Rockers.

Starz, sometime in 1980--read one fan's memories here.

Sonic Youth played the club on June 3, 1981 (their second show ever, as openers for Glenn Branca), and on June 12 the following year. Seems Thurston Moore played there again on February 20, 1983, as a member of Even Worse (which included future Big Takeover honcho Jack Rabid).

Thrash guitarist Neil Turbin played the club as a member of the Newrace and Anthrax. Dig some Village Voice ads for a couple of his '82 gigs here--one of them lists Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers on October 2. Thunders & Co. are also known to have played there on November 27 and New Year's Eve of '82, and February 26, 1983. Here are sound engineer Jimmy Miller's recollections of one of these shows.

The Tickets, various dates in '82/83.

Black Flag, March 13, 1983.

Husker Du, April 17, 1983. Robert Christgau was there and maintains that fewer than a dozen witnesses were present. (Also dig this Christgau state-of-the-scene Voice article dated October 23, 1978, which discusses several noted clubs of the time.)

The Beastie Boys, still in their hardcore period, April 24, 1983. The flyer for this show also lists Reagan Youth, the Blessed, Artless, and You Suck, and further announces a Circle Jerks gig for the following week. Then a "teenage shutterbug," my pal Justina snapped a photo of the Jerks at that show--and also got a few shots of Heart Attack on some other Gildersleeves night.


This flyer for a May 29, 1983 show with S.S. Decontrol also lists several big-name hardcore shows for June of that year, including the Misfits, Minor Threat, G.B.H., and D.O.A. (who also did at least one other date on December 6, 1983).


Other bands/performers associated with the club include Iggy Pop, Another Pretty Face, the Flashcubes, Thundertrain, the Nihilistics, 15 60 75, the Savage Skulls, Amtrak, Kraut, Jackal, the Blind Dates, the Privates, Marshall Crenshaw, Gemini Jones, Doug Wahlberg, the Laughing Dogs, the Crumbsuckers, the Brats, and these unknown mudwrestlers.

One of the few bits of commentary about the club that I was able to find comes from Bruno Ravel of Danger Danger: "I started going there when I was 14 and continued for years until they closed down. It was a great scene. It gave me the bug to become a rock musician. Sure, I loved to play and loved music but hanging out in this club was like being backstage at a concert. Totally decadent, trashy and cool. I wish I could go back, even for one night." The band's 2000 album was entitled The Return of the Great Gildersleeves; its cover photo was taken on the same block where the club had been.

Lord knows what's at 331 Bowery now--probably a condo construction site. But here are a couple of blog entries about the NYC club-closure issue, here's the site for the club currently most at stake, and here's an essay on the history of NY hardcore written by Uncle Al of Murphy's Law.


UPDATE 12/29/2012:   Unbeknownst to me at the time I wrote this post, the building still exists.  A while back I posted a bunch of 1977 and 1978 Gildersleeves ads from the VoiceHere's a 2009 post about the club from the Ffanzeen blog.  A Gildersleeves reunion show was supposed to happen in November 2012, but was cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy.  And the place gets a brief mention on page 76 of Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir (New York: Atria Books, 2012): "In Blue Angel, we recorded expensive, bad demos to send around to record labels and played clubs like Great Gildersleeves, which was (physically and sort of symbolically) right down the block from CBGB.  Gildersleeves was never the place, never the 'scene.'  Instead it was always the corny rock place that had the straighter bands."

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

WORD HAS IT THE CRUMBSUCKERS WILL DO A REUNION SHOW IN NYC!

Matt said...

I was the dj at Gildersleeves. City closed it down and make it a homeless shelter/ business. Typical. Great memories though...

stevo said...

Does anyone remember Moonbeam?
They were Thursday nights. Nickel drinks if I remember
Then shooting across the street to see Wayne County at Studio 10.
Then off to the rooftop for a little latenite blow. Those were the eighties.

BethNYC said...

I know this is an old posting but I was there the night that The Brats played and someone threw a lit cigarette onto the stage and it exploded one of the flash pots. Many people were burned and and on fire in the club. The Brats had to change their name to The Secrets for awhile for legal reasons after that. And Stevo, I remember Moonbeam. The guitarist was great!! Gildersleeves was a great club with more of a biker atmosphere than punk. Sadly NYC is definintely not that city anymore....

Brat said...

The Brats will be playing Don Hills in NYC on Friday June 27th. Come down and remember what a good time we all had!

yvonne said...

inbetween going to max's, cbgb's, and nobodys there was gildersleeves. it was a fantastic venue -- all the great bands who played there -- brats, wonderland, get wet, moonbeam, moon ruckus, the dolls, best --- i can't think of any others --- just so many played there. those were the "good old days" -- wish we had clubs like that today. yvonne

yvonne said...

this is not exactly max's or gildersleeves but BBKING is a pretty good venue for bands. i saw the machine there as well as hindenberg.

Anonymous said...

T Roth and Another Pretty face, Moonbeam was great!, Hotshot, Starz played there at least once, Original Sin, (became Type O negative), lots of great hard rock there. Definitely was the biker chich bar compared to others downtown. Bigger and great stage to play on, good lights and sounfd compared to the smaller clubs...

Gordon said...

The Privates were the Great Gildersleeves house band, playing most Saturday nights in 1981 and 1982. The club's owner, Tim Finnegan, was our manager at the time. Tim's (then-) contact info is listed on our band photo. Tim had another club, Gildersleeves North in Greenwood Lake NY. GG was totally a metalloid biker bar, we even had some roadies from the E. 2nd St. Hells Angels. We had a fantastic time in those days and got to share the stage with some incredible bands.

We lost our bass player Mike in 2007, but the rest of the band has just reformed as THE WAVOS. I'm happy to put my own project Rubberlegs on hibernate, while Anthony and I are having such a great time reviving our original new wave sound with Joe and taking it to a new level. Check out our myspace page, come see us live! We're playing in my lower east side / east village neighborhood a couple times a month. The Bowery for sure bears no resemblance to what it once was, but there are still lots of cool venues in the area.

Cheers!
Gordon Smith
April 2009

Robert Barry Francos said...

It was a miserable hole with no atmosphere that did not feel like any other club at the time: it felt like jocks, frats and yuppies, and just stank of poseurs. There was just something tainted with the place, so it was very rare we went there, even though they occasionally had some major shows, including Husker Du and PiL. There weren't many places to do a show around, so a band would play where it could, but it would be like seeing your favorite uncle in a hospice. In wrote a piece about in on my blog, dated 5/2/09: ffanzeen.blogspot.com

-Joe said...

I remember it well Murf was the soundman who let me mix the Laura Kay band once in a wile.
I also played there as well in several bands. I remember people lik eAce Frehley, Cheeta Chrome Ritchie Scarlett.
I remember the small brick band room.
I was the tech at ROXIE Studios at the time, EVERBODY played there.

It was a "scene" that started turning to total SH** around 1983.

There is a hotel there now but I dont know if the ballroom was incorperated into the structure

-Joe L

-Joe said...

Miserable hole with no atmosphere ?
Nothings so great now also.

Whats with this Don Hills joint. I cam in from Long Island to see Rock City Morgue.
I go to get a beer $8 WTF then sombody is tapping my foot befor I PU my change of a 20.
I look down to see a mans size boot, I look up and see this UGLY woman with long blond hair.
It was a guy !!!

In the old days people didnt pull this crap WTF ?

Anonymous said...

I saw Minor Threat there, June 1983 (I think). Hated the place but saw a couple of good shows. Also stood outside unable to get in once or twice because of age restrictions.

tom

jim monroe said...

Forget about the clowns who say this place sucked...Great Gildersleeves rocked and Tim was the man. The sound mix was great there as well. I moved to LA in '84 and the Whiskey, Gazzari's and the likes were all pay to play ripoffs. Tim always paid the bands fair and square. Tim even gave my band, "Future Tense", a cut of the bar.
Thanks Tim for giving NYC Gildersleeves and long live Rock and Roll!

Joe said...

Amen Tim was the man.
At the time Great Gildersleeves was the heart of the NYC music scene IMHO.
Places like CBGB were full of punks, Warhole type stuffies trying to be hip.
Hillie was fair but that place was just so small and dirty.


At the time I worked at Roxie we had bands playing all over the city. I played, GT, FOH and backlined tech'd for just about all of the NYC bands at some time.
Gildersleeves and Trax was the shit. They were large venues gave the local bands a chance when all th eother wouldnt look at ya

Anonymous said...

Tim was cool. He let out band Blue Void play a few times even though most of us were underage. He paid us a cut of the door for every person who showed with one of our handbill back in 80-81. Got to share the bill with Johnny Thunders... He never stiffed us, like Hilly Crystal did down the street.

Gildersleeves was a good time for great music.

PR

Joe said...

Does anbody know what this room (Great Gildersleeves) originall was ?
A Hotel lobby, Vaudville theater perhaps.
It was a very interesting structure, with collums.

Did it have a balcony or some kind of catwalk up there I dont remember ?

Signed D.C. said...

Interesting question Joe, I'll try to look into it. Wouldn't be surprised if it was a former theater or music hall of some kind, the old-time Bowery was rife with them.

Joe said...

Thanks D.C
I get conflicting storys

I been told it was part of the old McGurk whorehouse row including suicide hall in the 1800's.
McGurk owned a hotel and also ran all sorts of Vaudeville, burlesque and hooker's
See http://rob.hilluva.com/writing/McGurksSuicideHall.html

MoTorBaBY said...

I remember Moonbeam, I went there when i was about 14 years old. I was so impressed with the rubinesque type paintings behind the bar. a far cry from cb's down the street. I also remember a band named Mother Goose. Does anyone remember them?

john Morin said...

Hi everyone, I was in a band called feedback, drummer, we played, may 1980 at the gildersleeves, what a night....great memorys, John Morin

Anonymous said...

OMG.. I TOTALLY remember Mother Goose.. Weren't they Australian or something? GG was so much fun.. I used to go there all the time..;-)

Norm Finnegan said...

To all you fans of The Gildersleeves. I'm sure my brother Tim would love to tell all of you thanks for the rockin good time. And as for the others....Go Fuck your self. I remember all the bands that played and all the incredable talent that passed through those front doors,all the great friends that I met there,and all the great and once in a life experience's I and everyone else had. To All Of You R&R Forever!!!!!

Cosmo said...

I worked with many bands at Gildersleeves from mid-1979 through 1981 or so. I did many gigs with Falcon Eddy there, and also Dina Regine, and several others. I hung out there a lot when I wasn't gigging, used to play pinball with John Oates. That was such a great place to hang out, such a good vibe, I miss it a lot. Used to eat at Phoebe's down the street, and always got a sandwich across the street at the deli. I, too, remember the small red-brick Dressing Room. I also remember hanging out with Tim and the crew after the show was over and we were done with load out- nice way to unwind. Great memories!

T said...

Moonbeam was a great band from Bayonne. Papa Bear had a very funky beat and the band really grooved. Bug played guitar as well as Murtch. One day, they showed up and everything was played with a straight rock beat. I'm guessing that some record company must have said something. They were never the same. Word has it that Ted Nugent tried to recruit Papa Bear as his drummer, but PB turned him down cold. Three months later the band was no more. They were great and deserved a shot at the big time. They should have had a bass player.

Mother Goose was a band that came in from New Zealand a couple of times. They dressed in odd outfits, the oddest of which was the singer's get-up of a baby hat and diapers. They played very well, had good songs and got a nice reception from the Gildersleeves crowd.

The 24th Street Band used to play at the Gildersleeves for a while until they got a call from Paul Schaffer at which time they dumped Cliff Carter and became the David Letterman Band. Will Lee still has that gig although, Hiram Bullock and Stevie Jordan lost their spots.

Public Image Ltd. did a gig there to promote an album and it was a very rockin' night.
It was a great place to hang and and even better place to play.
I did get to see, J. Geils, Hall and Oates, Molly Hatchet, PIL and Elvis Costello play there and got to hang with any number of rockers. One night Jagger and Bowie came together and Jagger walked directly into a wall upon entering the club. That was very funny. Another night found Gene Simmons, Ted Nugent and Robert Palmer sitting together while checking out some bands. Tony Bennt's sons had a band, I think it was Neon, so he would show up every now and then as would the Saturday Night Live gang when John Belushi was still around.
I hate to write this but, both Cindi Lauper and John Bon Jovi opened for bands I played with at the Gildersleeves.
There were almost always, Hell's Angels working in and hanging in the club. On occasion it made for exciting times, but on the whole it made the Gildersleeves a very safe place to be in.
Timmy Finnegan was a great guy and something tells me that he still is!

Signed D.C. said...

Thanks so much for the memories, T and others...I think this post has gotten more comments than any other.

MoTorBaBY said...

I love reading these posts !! It brings me back to 1978. I was 14 or so, too young for the clubs but I was there anyway.Best times at Gildersleeves and CB's

Anonymous said...

Suicidal Tendencies had their NYC debut there in july or august 83 just after the 1st LP came out, fucking great show, and somehow managed to get a CBGB's show the next day

photocatt said...

Thanks to everyone who were fans of Gildersleeves for all the great stories and for helping to jog some old memories back to the surface. We made it in from Jersey for lots of shows, especially to see Moonbeam. I too would love to see some photos. The way people are describing it is not how I recall, despite all the chemicals involved at the time. I liked it better than CBGB's which I thought really was a pit, except for the cat. Peace.

Anonymous said...

In May of 1978 my friends from Queens took me over into the city to Gildersleeves for my first taste of the nightlife. I was almost 16, and had my altered birth certificate to prove I was two years older. The guy looked at it, looked at me, (all of almost 5 feet, with braces), and said, 'you're almost 18, go on in'. What a great venue. We saw Starz, and the Brats, but what I remember most was Patti Smith Group 'Because the Night' blasting on the sound system, and everyone getting super pumped 'cause she was from that neighborhood and consequentially the excitement was something intense. It was a big, noisy venue, huge columns holding up the ceiling and a great sound system. Red and gold and black Roccoco interior. Very much a place to be. We used to go to the Kiev afterwards for blintzes at dawn, served by stuck-up junky punk waitresses. I tried to etch the whole thing into my memory at the time, because I knew something special and powerful was going on.

Tim C said...

Tim Finnegan was the most riteous club owner around at the time.I was with The Barlow Sample Band and we played there alot. With Matt as DJ and Pinball at the bar, it was a great place to be on any given night.

Anonymous said...

The Bonnie Parker Band ..Moonbeam.. The Wonderland Band ..Sam The Band ..The Brats all rocked he Gildersleeves










t

Anonymous said...

Starvation Army (Cleveland OH) played with Suicidal Tendencies at GG, summer of 1983 I believe.

Peter Morgan said...

This was the club I hung at as a teen. I remember the night Paul Stanley came into the club. It was one of the biggest thrills as a teen to stand next to him. I always came to see the band "Moonbeam" whenever they played. I recently looked up the lead singer Michael Powers. He is still going strong as a blues singer. I will always miss this amazing club, great memories.

Steven Meinster said...

Mat was not the dj steven meinster was he was great he played real rock

Bonnie Kamochi said...

Hey DJ Matt! Today, January 3, 2013, I finally happened to stumble across a GG blog. Do you still have any of that old vinyl I used to bring you, circa 1981, '82 & '83? Then we'd hit The Nursery! (What was that couple with the dog that lived nearby and hung with me and Joanne K? We flocked to Brownies on Ave. B! Plentiful party favors! Whatever? Anything! Remember my brown Buick Skyhawk? Not sure where we ever found ourselves parked come daylight. I remember your leather, sleeves rolled up. Other unmentionables! Still in Queens? Funny, the last time I was in Japan a few months ago, I actually thought of you - flashback of your cologne, perhaps? Find me on FB. Best, Bonnie (clue: I kept my ex last name, it starts with a "K" and I am a "grey tabby cat" yes, all fifty shades!) PS: Moonbeam rocked! Murch, Mike at the time, Bug, PB. Also, what was that Blues Club on 2nd Av that Murch and Bug gigged after MB disolved? Reflecting back, I can't believed I survived. Luckily I switched gears a tad before the height of the AIDS epidemic. Bless us all, survivors of the '70-'80s.

Bonnie Kamochi said...

Sorry Steven Meinster, I beg to differ - Matt (lean and good thick dark hair, at the time) was the DJ cos I remember up in the booth and it wasn't you. I don't know Matt's time span, but it was the better part of the early '80s. Perhaps there was more than one DJ during the heyday of GG? I probably know you anyways. I pretty much knew everybody. Pauly Orlando was the door man. Yeah, I knew him too. I forgot the sound guys name. Once, I brought in a band "Feedback" who were normally pretty good, but the effed up cos they got too freakin high. I forget that biker beertender, scary - looked like wild Ozzie hair, but I liked when the opened up the other side behind the bar that actually had a quieter area with skanky booths. They were an escape from wild. The balcony was great, but OMG, those stairs with the red heels I used to rock back then with my side-zipped hot pants, which I actually still have as a souvenir of the night. Take care y'all! BK

Matt said...

Steve Meinster played inane classic rock n roll late 70`s who was in a time warp thinking he was still dj`ing on Wrong Island at Speaks.. Tim got rid of him, and preferred me. The majority know the years I was there.. Thank-you Bonnie for those kind words. Going to look you up:)

Wayne Bodley said...

My Mom, Quita Koyaan(Bodley) Used to run lights for the Gildersleeves (mostly for The Brats in 78 and 79). I was 15 and would visit her for a month or so in the summers. I spent a lot of time there, pretty much got corrupted by the waitresses, I loved that place, eating at Phoebe's and sneaking into CBGB's occasionally. I always thought The Brats were the shit, good times.

Anonymous said...

I used to see them almost every time they played. Bonnie parker band was another really great band and Trigger.

Anonymous said...

For a while in the late 70's my company, Bagshot Road Sound was the house PA system....
It's interesting reading about what went on all those years ago at the beginning of what was to become a major industry (as far as sound and lighting production)

Anonymous said...

A band from the Bronx named "Innocence" was actually the first band to play at Gildersleeves. They went on to become the Wednesday night house band.

Richie said...

Don't kno what it used 2b. But I started going' 80 till closing. It did have a balcony/catwalk with tables. The floor was woodbeams resembling logs. If u spilled a drink or like my friend did one nite..started hurling, it wud rain down on everyone below. Lmao. Not cool, but great memories.