Hilly Kristal founded CBGB in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City in 1973. Kristal was a professional musician, club owner, and promoter during the 1950s and ’60s. He intended for C.B.G.B. O.M.F.U.G. (the club’s full name) to feature its namesake musical styles (Country, Bluegrass, Blues, and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers). Instead, CBGB became the launching pad for Punk and New Wave bands like the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, and many more. Kristal said that he wanted CBGB to be a place for artists to express “their frustrations, desires, anxieties and maybe even dreams.”
In the 1980s, the club leaned into hardcore punk, hosting chaotic shows by bands like Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All, and Youth of Today. In the 1990s, chart-topping bands like Sum 41, Korn, Green Day and Guns n Roses performed in the tiny club.
The club opened a second performance space and art gallery, CB’s 313 Gallery, in the late ’80s, and hosted singer-songwriters and jazz and folk acts, including Lisa Loeb and Jeff Buckley. The original club continued to present mainly hardcore bands and post-punk, metal, and alternative rock acts.
CBGB shuttered in October 2006, after a final concert performed by Patti Smith. The venue was rumoured to reopen in Las Vegas that year, but never returned. Its famous awning hangs on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
In 2013, the National Register of Historic Places added CBGB’s former address to the Bowery Historic District, writing:
“CBGB was founded in 1973 on the Bowery, in a former nineteenth-century saloon on the first floor of the Palace Lodging House. The legendary music venue fostered new genres of American music, including punk and art rock, that defined the culture of downtown Manhattan in the 1970s, and that still resonate today. In this role as cultural incubator, CBGB served the same function as the theaters and concert halls of the Bowery’s storied past. The former club, now occupied by a retail business, remains a pilgrimage site for legions of music fans.”