Manny Roth, 94, Impresario of Cafe Wha? RIPSubmitted by Michael Nystrom on Mon, 08/04/2014 - 13:40
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.