Tuesday, January 31, 2012
A LIFETIME BETWEEN 117 AND 116 MACDOUGAL STREET
Here's a riddle:
What's the difference between 117 and 116?
Answer: 34 years.
Well, at least that's the answer when we're talking about Tom Pacheco and those MacDougal Street addresses. Tom rented an apartment at 117 MacDougal Street and hosted some of the most star-studded songwriter's circles back in the mid-to-late 1970s. On Saturday, February 25th, 2012, he'll be doing a gig on his old street for the first time in over three decades, performing at the club at 116 MacDougal.
That club, of course, was the world famous Gaslight Café. After several other alterations of that very space, it is now more conspicuously known simply as 116 MacDougal. The music and spoken word-driven venue has re-opened its doors fancying itself on becoming the proud custodian of the history and tradition of the diverse artistry once on display there.
Pacheco will be sharing the stage with another name familiar to the Gaslight: Amram. Legendary composer and Jack Kerouac collaborator, David Amram, will have his Family name represented by his daughter, Alana Amram. This will be Alana Amram's first time gracing the stage at 116 MacDougal. She was practically raised "on the road" having musicians as parents and over the years, she has been able to carve out a Folk Rock style she can call her own. With her band, The Rough Gems, she's toured the country and currently is in support of her latest album release, Snow Shadows. It's a spirited album illuminating the songs of another Village luminary (and fellow Brooklynite), Vince Martin.
Oddly enough, even though Tom Pacheco lived practically across the street from the Gaslight, this will only be his second appearance at 116 MacDougal. Some recording stars didn't play the Gaslight very often because they were regular performers at one of the several other clubs in the Village. Tom Pacheco was one such performer. He was loyal to the Gerde's Folk City crowd and when he took paying gigs in the Village, they usually were there. Richie Havens also can be described that way. He played Gerde's occasionally but not as often as the Cafe Wha?, a club that became his home turf.
THE VILLAGE GASLIGHT CAFÉ
First open in 1958, The Gaslight was a relative latecomer to the MacDougal Street coffeehouse circuit. Even so, The Gaslight holds the distinction of being ground zero for Greenwich Village's pivot from the 1950's Beatnik Era into what became known as the Folk and Blues Revival era. Spoken word and bongo drumming became less popular as artists expressing themselves through song took over the Village crowd. It drew aspiring singers from all over the country as the 1960's "Folk Scare" grew and grew. Its location on the street may have played a large role in its popularity with the musicians. At night, it was (and still is) the most heavily traveled part of the Village. On top of that, it was directly downstairs from the alcohol-serving bar, The Kettle of Fish. One only need to walk upstairs for a swig and walk back downstairs to play on stage.
Even my grandfather's place, Gerde's Folk City, couldn't claim such distinction as it was known strictly as a Folk, Roots, Blues and Gospel venue. Although it had a liquor license, it was somewhat of a "destination" bar as it was all the way across the Square on 4th and Mercer. Not until the 70s did Gerde's welcome spoken word and comedy onto its stage.The Gaslight Café, however, offered its patrons diverse entertainment from the get go. Personalities the likes of Jack Kerouac, Bill Cosby, Mississippi John Hurt, Allen Ginsberg, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, Gregory Corso, Jimmy James (later known as Jimi Hendrix), and Gerde's favorite son, Bob Dylan, overlapped as booked acts on the Gaslight stage.
Several of the 1960s Folk stars who were playing for a hat full of quarters at places like the Café Wha? and the Gaslight graduated to what Dave Van Ronk called in his memoir "the first honest-to-God Folk club in the Village," Gerde's Folk City. Once Folk City was up and running in early 1960, Singer/Songwriters looking for a shot at super stardom, aspired to play its Union wage-paying room for the increase in exposure. Performers like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, John Hammond Jr. and Peter, Paul and Mary would be discovered on the Gerde's stage, but they started out by playing the baskethouses to gain recognition with the music lovers of the street. As Peter Yarrow relayed to me, the Gaslight, Cafe Wha? and Gerde's were home to him as the 1950s became the 1960s. Even still, some Folk Singers continued to play pass-the-hat rooms like the Gaslight well into their recording careers.
Tom Pacheco remembers those magical days in the Village well. Part premonition, and perhaps part fate, Tom has been putting the finishing touches on a new song entitled, "MacDougal Street." I was in the audience when he played it on stage for the first time just two months ago. That's when I told him about my new venture, FRIENDS OF MIKE PORCO, a production company looking to bring Gerde's Folk City veterans to the stage at 116 MacDougal. Having Tom be the inaugural headliner was not only timely and logical, it was meant to be.
PACHECO'S EARLY YEARS
Like Alana Amram, Tom grew up the offspring of a famous musician. His father, Tony, toured pre-WWII Europe along side master Jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt. Learning Flamenco and Classical styles early on, it soon was 1950s Rock and Roll that Tom played the most. Later, the Folk music that spawned out of New York beckoned him to Greenwich Village to become an artist.
Tom first showed up on MagDougal Street from his hometown of New Bedford, MA in 1965. His first all-original Folk vinyl release came out that year when he was just 19 years old. Later, known more as a Rocker in a band called The Ragamuffins, he occasionally shared the stage at the Wha? opening up for Jimmy James and The Blue Flame (AKA Jimi Hendrix) in Greenwich Village before Jimi exploded on the UK scene.
It wasn't long until Tom was known to all the other musicians in the Village and in 1974, two of his gems were recorded by Richie Havens and Jefferson Starship. Co-written with Victorio "Roland" Mousaa, "Indian Prayer" landed on Havens' Mixed Bag II album. "All Fly Away" was recorded on the Starship's Dragonfly disc. Tom, meanwhile, never stopped writing original material, and around that time, started to host Songwriter gatherings in his apartment on MacDougal Street. Friends and acquaintances would sit in the round, drink wine and polish off songs that would later become part of the historic fabric woven into the Music scene that is still buzzing in Greenwich Village.
With a handful of albums under his belt, it was time for a change of scenery for Tom. In 1978, he moved to Woodstock but his songwriter exchange concept was carried on in the Village by fellow Folk City performer, Jack Hardy. Tom's un-named 117 co-op was the forerunner to the songwriter exchange later known as Fast Folk. Jack would become legendary as host of songwriter workshops in his Bedford and Houston apartment that lasted every Monday for 35 years until his unexpected death in March 2011.
As Richard Cuccaro wrote in Acoustic Live in March 2009:
Right as Tom was leaving the Village for Woodstock (then later, Texas, Nashville and Ireland), a group of songwriters would gather at The Cornelia Street Cafe to critique each other and eventually record their music. Before that, however, Tom's apartment at 117 MacDougal Street was the first place the Fast Folk crowd would gather to play. The list includes Jack Hardy, The Roches, Rod MacDonald, David Massengill, and Steve Forbert. Tom stayed up late and everybody came through there. He heard all their new songs. One night Roger McGuinn came by to play "Chestnut Mare," a classic Byrds song. Another night in January, 1976, writer Larry "Ratso" Sloman, brought Phil Ochs over. Phil had already gone through a severely depressed episode. He picked up Tom's guitar and asked if he could play a song, asking Tom what he'd like to hear. Tom requested "Pleasures of the Harbor." Phil, appearing eerily calm and quiet played it. He said, "Inspiration used to strike. It doesn't strike any more." Soon afterward, in April, he hung himself. Tom was shattered.
LIFE AFTER 117 MACDOUGAL
Between 1978 and 1986, Tom based his operations in the musical hubs of Woodstock, Austin, TX and Nashville. In 1987, a six week invite to Ireland became a 10 year stay. Tom never stopped writing and had 6 album releases in Europe.
By 1997, Pacheco had returned to Woodstock once again and has been there ever since. In the year of his return, he recorded one of his seminal albums, Woodstock Winter. Friends and Woodstock locals, Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band, leant Tom a hand in the recording. Danko would record two more of Tom's songs on his posthumously released album, Times Like These and in 1998, The Band would record "High Cotton" and "If I should fail," two more songs co-written by Tom on Jubilation, their final studio album. In 2002, the Pacheco and Roland Mousaa composition "Indian Prayer" received new recognition, this time with Ol' Pete Seeger playing banjo on the new recording. Tom Pacheco's new CD, Luminol, is the latest release in a recording career that started over four decades ago. Luminol exemplifies Pacheco's extraordinary ability to weave an inspiring message into the fragile subject matter of today's world.
The circle is almost complete. He'll be playing songs from his storied odyssey on Saturday, February 25th at 116 MacDougal -the former Gaslight- just a stone's throw from where it all began for one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation.
ABOUT FRIENDS OF MIKE PORCO
This will be the first in a series of unique "one night stands" hosted by FRIENDS OF MIKE PORCO the production company started with the intent on carrying on the tradition and legacy of Gerde's Folk City's original owner, Mike Porco. For two decades, Folk City offered a stage to established stars but also allowed the next generation of Folk, Rock and Roots musicians to blossom and flourish.
Doors open at 5. Show at 7. $10 at the door. SPACE IS LIMITED. Two for one drinks 5pm-7pm
Advance tickets may be purchased here: