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Manny Roth, 94, Impresario of Cafe Wha? RIP

It sounded kind of like a physical version of the Daily Paul

By Douglas Martin | August 1, 2014
The New York Times

“Just got here from the West,” the gangly 19-year-old told Manny Roth, owner of the Greenwich Village nightclub “Cafe Wha?” “Name’s Bob Dylan. I’d like to do a few songs? Can I?”

Sure, Mr. Roth said; on “hootenanny” nights, as he called them, anybody could sing a song or two, and this was a hootenanny night, a bitterly cold one, Jan. 24, 1961. And so Mr. Dylan took out his guitar and sang a handful of Woody Guthrie songs.

The crowd “flipped” in excitement, Mr. Dylan later said.

He had hitchhiked to New York from Minnesota, and after showing up at the Cafe Wha?, he mentioned to Mr. Roth that he had no place to sleep. So Mr. Roth later asked the audience “if anybody has a couch he can crash on” — and somebody did.

It was all standard fare, recounted again and again in many places, for Cafe Wha?, a large, plain basement room at 115 Macdougal Street presided over by Mr. Roth during a lively and fertile period in the Village’s history. He died on July 25 at his home in Ojai, Calif., his daughter, Jodi Roth, said. He was 94. She said he loved being called the “Duke of Macdougal Street.”

It was at the Cafe Wha? that young performers like Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor got early chances to hone their talents. Folk singers, artists, poets, beatniks and anarchists came to the club, and so did far greater numbers of tourists, eager to observe those exotic breeds. (The club’s odd name was a shortening of the word “what,” intended to convey incredulity.)

An advertisement for Cafe Wha? featured a picture of a beatnik in beret and sunglasses and the slogan, “Greenwich Village’s Swingingest Coffee House.” Mary Travers, before she was the Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary, was a waitress there.

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good stuff

I wonder if hearing all that music, and feeling all that love, all the time contributed to his long life.

“Although it was the middle of winter, I finally realized that, within me, summer was inextinguishable.” — Albert Camus

Saw This Last Week Mike....

...and I'm glad you posted it here.

Cafe Wha?...The Back Fence...Kettle of Fish..

The Elbow Room is now a Rite-Aid (?), and all these places were full of people...people with IDEAS!

It's still a cool neighborhood, I think I'm due for a visit to the "Fat Black Pussycat Lounge", next door to the Village Underground, if they are still there.

Interestingly so, it was an "open mike" that I regularly frequented that led to heated discussions outside with a fellow musician.
He was soooooo PASSIONATE about the truth, the war in Iraq, the war crimes, Patriot Act, etc....and I thank him today whenever we bump into each other...
........Very much like the DP; The Daily Paul: A "cool" neighborhood.

Lemme tell ya...It don't get much cooler than here...The DP.

"Beyond the blackened skyline, beyond the smoky rain, dreams never turned to ashes up until.........
...Everything CHANGED !!

jrd3820's picture

A physical version of the dailypaul?

Where major stars like Hendrix and Dylan had jam sessions?

What an interesting article, I had not heard of either the cafe or Manny Roth, but now I am that much more informed.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Have you ever heard of Manny Nystrom?

Treg is the one around here who calls me that.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. - Alan Watts
jrd3820's picture

Manny Nystrom? No, but I heard Michael Nystrom

is a Ten Foot Tall Beast Man

Do ya think that guy owns the place or something?

If anyone would enjoy Dylan's

If anyone would enjoy Dylan's Chronicles it would be you. If you give me a mailing address I'll send you a copy, maybe even mine.

Michael Nystrom's picture

What about me? What about me?

Don't you think I would like Chronicles, too?

Hey! Don't forget about me. ;)

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. - Alan Watts

YOU haven't read it either?

I don't believe it! Well, I don't actually believe anything, so that's not a remarkable claim on my part. :D Of course you'd like it! Same offer goes to you Michael. Send me an addy, I'll send you a book. Keep in mind though, that what I send will probably be an old library copy. Used hardcovers are on sale for pennies. Quite the bargain!

Entering Manny Roth's scene is my favorite part of the book. It's so fresh and exciting for Bobbie, to read about it gives me flashbacks, Morocco, Egypt, that kind of thing.

"Hey! Don't forget about me." :D I haven't forgotten for one second just whose blog post I'm writing on here. Thanks for poking your head into the NYT once in a while and finding stuff like this. I'll never do it. :)

Michael Nystrom's picture

Johnny, as much as I'd like to take you up on the offer

I'm in the midst of moving, so not only would I have to move that book, I'm not going to have time for months. Maybe when I land in Seattle.

Yeah, no, I love Dylan, but I've never read Chronicles. Some time on the beach of West Seattle.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. - Alan Watts

The beach sounds like a good plan.

It's a great read, but it's light reading and not the kind of thing that inspires shutting the rest of the world out to better devour the pages. I actually put it down one day, got distracted and still haven't finished it. That's not because it's boring though, but because I'm a lame reader and easily distracted. Oh look over there, something shiny...

Michael Nystrom's picture

I've never been able to read the same since the invention

of the internet.

I actually put it down one day, got distracted and still haven't finished it.

That happens to me all the time now.

But hey speaking of Bob Dylan references in the NY Times, here is an article in the Sunday paper about a new book about Bob Dylan (that realistically, I must admit, that I will probably never read).

A Dylan Insider’s Back Pages

LOS ANGELES — On a bright, cool afternoon in July, Jacob Maymudes sat on the deck of the small guesthouse he rents in the Los Feliz neighborhood here, reflecting on the strange journey of his first book, “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” which will be published on Sept. 9 and has already excited interest.

“It was never my intention to write a book about Bob,” he said, summoning up the difficult period in his life when he resisted completing the memoir left unfinished by his father, Victor Maymudes (pronounced may-MOOD-es), a longtime member of Mr. Dylan’s inner circle who had bitterly fallen out with him in 1997 and died four years later, leaving behind 24 hours of taped reminiscences.

Now 34, Jake grew up long after the Dylan legend had been formed, but he comes honestly to his casual “Bob.” He was 7 when he first met Mr. Dylan, at the back lot of Universal Studios. Jake was with his father, who was continually on the road with Mr. Dylan, carrying out an assortment of essential backstage assignments: as tour manager, chauffeur and body man, not to mention chess-playing companion.


The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. - Alan Watts
jrd3820's picture

lobsquad and dancing lobsters!?!?!

Why hello de la rocha robbsta. I would love a copy, and I would imagine you would only offer if you have an extra copy and it is not an inconvenience to share? Can I feel free to get a hold of you via your personal contact form here? I'm guessing you're ok with that, but I shall wait for your response.

Be free to do so, feel free in the wake as such

Beware that I then shall have your personal contact information of sorts. I assume my personal contact form remains posted as I have never turned it off [I can't actually see if my own is there]. I became aware of yours not being public as I looked for it recently to privately inform you that we had hoodwinked the robot, in case you wanted to have evil fun with that. I passed that info to M in your stead.

Chronicles is well written and of course intimately fascinating. Despite that fact I haven't yet finished reading it, so I'm not exactly sure at this point which copy I will send you. It is dirt cheap and won't break me to spend the cash to either send you a (semi)fresh one or eventually replace mine.

No it's not "on"

from my vantage point. No "contact" tab. Screenshot = http://i221.photobucket.com/albums/dd93/butterflybreakfast/2...

Freedom is not: doing everything you want to.
Freedom is: not having to do what you don't want to do.
~ Joyce Meyer

Thank you so much Miss Butterfly!

I have since found where to turn it on and have done so [or so I think :D].