Saturday, June 12, 2021


Emergency Broadcast System

Civil unrest coming

Birds resting on the lawn


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


Civil unrest coming


O, God of earth and altar
Bow down and hear our cry
Our earthly rulers falter
Our people drift and die
The walls of gold entomb us
The swords of scorn divide
Take not thy thunder from us
Take away our pride

[Verse 1]
Just a babe in a black abyss
No reason for a place like this
The walls are cold and souls cry out in pain
An easy way for the blind to go
A clever path for the fools who know
The secret of the hanged man, the smile on his lips

The light of the blind, you'll see
The venom tears my spine
The eyes of the Nile are opening, you'll see

[Verse 2]
She came to me with a serpent's kiss
As the eye of the sun rose on her lips
Moonlight catches silver tears that I cry
So we lay in a black embrace
And the seed is sown in a holy place
And I watched and I waited for the dawn, oh

The light of the blind, you'll see
The venom tears my spine
The eyes of the Nile are opening, you'll see

[Verse 3]
Bind all of us together
Ablaze with hope and free
No storm or heavy weather
Will rock the boat you'll see
The time has come to close your eyes
And still the wind and rain
For the one who will be king
The watcher in the ring
It is you, oh
It is you
It is you
~Bruce Dickenson 

Social benefits and care for everyone in society will become the new moral and political norms.

The intrinsic value of human life will become primary. A more humanistic and equal era is ahead, where the voice of the normal people (Aquarius) will be the real power, and not those who have the money and resources as it has been in the last (240 years).

The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind

Friday, April 9, 2021

American Songbook Jolted Into Being 60 Years Ago

A lot of earth altering events happened in 1961.

Two of them happened in Washington Square Village.

1. Israel G. Young saved the Free Speech rights for singers on Sunday April 9, 1961.

2. Bob Dylan began his professional career two days later at Gerde’s Folk City. 

His rise to success lured millions of free thinkers and musical poets to Gerde’s including Phil Ochs who, IMO, stands as one of two people at the top as rightful representatives of the gold standard in the singer songwriting genre. (Woody is King)


April 11 is one of the most historic dates in Gerde’s Folk City history. There have been many.

Without an opening act involved, 4/11 would merely be looked back on as ‘one of the many bookings for Blues great John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s.’

Instead, the opening act claimed the date for his story.

Simply stated, Bob Dylan has been a pro musician for a full 60 years.

Or right around this date. 

I write this on the 8th, (Published on the 9th) by my estimation and avid research, April 6, 7 or 8 was the day Mike Porco took Young Bobby to the Union Hall to join the Musician’s Local 802.

The story itself is the legend. 

The act of Co-Signing as Bob Dylan’s stand-in father is THE lifelong legend of my grandfather, Mike. His act is still known by those ‘who know’ as the legendary action that flipped the switch on the 1960s.

Actually, my humble opinion is that Izzy Young and Mike Porco flipped the switch “on”  for the 1960s in December 1959 when they installed a PA at Gerde’s.

To say ‘the proof is in the pudding’ is trite yet true. I rather like to point out that EVERY KNOWN AMERICAN STYLE of acoustic Roots and Traditional music was welcomed and stirred up in a great big pot at Gerde’s Restaurant. From that open door came the open mic, invented in May 1960 by Mike, Oscar Brand and Charlie Rothschild. 

Beyond there lies the answer to the question: How did all the Roots, Blues and Trad Folk music blend with rock and roll to become the sound of the 1960s?

The musicians learned from each other by being there together. They created something of their own week after week as if in a lab. They took the sound to the West Coast to make it groovy. The ingredients for story-telling Rock crossed the pond, came back, went forth and traveled around the world only to come back electric.

And that brings us to now. Thank my Grampa. And Izzy Young. Thank you, guys!

Along the way, Gerde’s had to make money to stay open. If it had closed or failed, I’d be blogging about something else right now. However, Mike and his younger brothers John and Luigi were able to remain open by selling GOOD Italian food, beer and wine. And cola for 15cents.

That gave rise to the next 60 years of original royal American music. Gerde’s gave a platform to working musicians pouring in to New York City week after week to perform at a City-sanctioned cabaret. Like they say, you can’t fake original.

Everybody got $90 for the week of play. Trio or solo act, $90. Later Mike would cut advertising costs off the top for your convenience. The price of exposure and potential had infinite value to the young musicians. For the Blues guys and Gospel Families, they needed more than $90 in addition to the hospitality. But, it all worked out in the end. And without question, meals and wine were provided for individuals and groups who could put fannies in the seats.

During the early days of Folk City, a blend of many new and seasoned musicians worked and performed there. When ’1960’ comes to mind I think Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, Oscar Brand, Eric Weissberg, Bruce Langhorne, Joan Baez, Logan English, Brother John Sellers, Carolyn Hester, Pete Yarrow, Vince Martin, Cisco Houston, Rev Gary Davis and Dave Van Ronk amongst many others. Even Ramblin Jack Elliott returned from Europe and opened for The Stevens Gospel Singers. Ed McCurdy and Brother John were the first official acts. The Clancy Brothers gained American fame shortly after. 

The august audience is known only in legend. Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Diahann Carroll, Theo Bikel, Pete Seeger and all curious poets and Bluesmen from MacDougal St. Jac Holtzman, John Hammond and Maynard Solomon were scouting. Albert Grossman visited. People like John Cohen, Happy Traum, Alan Arkin, Ralph Rinzler, Dick Weissman, John Herald, Tom Pasley, Tom Paxton, Bill Keith, Mike Seeger and Gil Turner split time on stage and as patrons. Bruce Langhorne is worth mentioning again as he was the one man house band. Played with everyone. Had half a right thumb.

Paul Simon and Artie mostly came to watch. Sometimes they would be asked to do a tune but they were not polished yet. They mostly watched the show soon deciding to go pro on that stage years later, also. 

Hanging around listening in through the window for free was Barry Kornfeld, Suze Rotolo and Peter Stampfel. Other kids from the local streets knew what was happening at Gerde's. John P. Hammond, John Sebastian and their buddies came around before they were mature enough to go inside.

Now that I’ve described 1960….

Along came 1961 AD. 

Having expert knowledge of Gerde’s history, when I think of ‘1961,’ the first  name act that comes to mind is…Judy Collins. Second, only a two weeks behind, is Bob Dylan. Later that month was Cisco Houston’s last gig ever. Sharing the stage was Arlo Guthrie in his first official appearance on stage at age 13. Hands of Arlo were young and shaking.

Of course, we can’t forget Bob opened for John Lee Hooker on April 11th. Mike Porco and Hooker remained life long friends. John Lee paid Mike a late-in-life hospital visit in Florida. 


“Oh yes, yes, man! Yes, man! Thanks!”

According to Ratso, that’s what Bob said when Mike asked him if he’d like to warm up for John Lee Hooker in late March ’61.

Dylan was hanging around Gerde’s all the time. Mike fed him when he heard Bob’s stomach rumble. He played the Hoots (open mic) like religion on Mondays. Van Ronk’s wife Terri Thal was asking around town trying to get Dylan a paying job singing. Several people were encouraging Bob to ask Mike for work. At the same time, several people were asking Mike to hire Bob. It was a standoff for a moment in time. Dylan never asked for work but Mike Porco DID. Very unorthodox for the time, no amateur waited for the owners of clubs to ask them to get hired. Mike gave Bob some of Uncle Angelo’s lightly worn clothes.

In the case of getting work, Dylan had help from music fan and reviewer for the New York Times Robert Shelton. He was also encouraging Mike to hire Bobby. Shelton was a patron and fan of Folk City from day one. He and Mike were also friends at the bar. (Did I mention that Gerde’s had a liquor license? Coffee houses had much less benefit for musicians getting paid from the hat. Night business included alcohol. Alcohol kept the doors open and the music playing until the wee hours) Shelton’s review of Dylan’s Sept 1961 show put him on the map and got him signed with Columbia. 


To finish the thought that started this blog post I must say that I did rifle through many boxes of documents at the Bobst Library at NYU, on the south border of Washington Square Park. 

The boxes were haphazardly cared for, in no order and sparse in content. Yet I filed through all the pages IN SEARCH OF the document signed on either April 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th. One of those days, I thought, but I couldn’t find the sheet. I knew going in to the library that the signed page may have been recovered by someone (perhaps Robert Zimmerman) in any number of years past but I looked anyway. 

Some books speculate that the sign up was various dates however the guy at the Bobst made me believe that it was the 6th. I’ll buy that. He happened to be a Dylan fan and had given this some thought in the past. It was a Thursday in 1961. Not Saturday the 8th or Sunday the 9th (closed office) but it’s possible.


Bob Dylan went pro on Tuesday the 11th of April 1961. Can’t forget that part! Volumes have been written about the significance and influence of his subsequent cannon of work. It had to start with step one: Union dues and Cabaret Card to perform in NYC. (The dues were fronted in cash by Mike and later deducted from Dylan's pay along with his drink tab) If one happened to be underage, one's mom, dad or favorite Porco must sign along as one's legal guardian. It’s not quite a legal adoption, but it counts in my mind. (Don’t forget your nephew Bob, Bob)

Bob Zimmerman saw a life changing opportunity forming for him. It was in New York, at Gerde’s Folk City. He was in the mid-West. Mr. Z took the action to GO and watch and learn from all the masters in New York. Woody was a draw to NYC, yes, but a job puts food in the ice box. American Roots and Blues Music was already being mushed together before he arrived. There was no where else in America to be for ambitious amateur musicians. Sixty years on, almost 80 years old sits Bob, still adding to the body of work.

Hibbing, MN
Go east, young man.

Recently unearthed photo of Bob Dylan
Gerde's 1961
(Thx Uli Seitz)

Sunday, January 24, 2021

It was 60 years ago 1961-2021


What if…

What if Bob Dylan arrived in New York this date 60 years ago and turned in for good night’s sleep? Lucky for his fans, Bobby had no where to go. So he went to the Wha? (Not a question. CafĂ© Wha? Has a question mark. Gerde’s has an apostrophe. We carry on.)

What if Bob Dylan arrived in New York City on a different date from 60 years ago today?

What if he pioneered his sound on the West coast instead? I frame it that way because decisions had to be made by many people in Dylan’s bio. His mother, his father and Dylan, of course. Then, many others in New York and East Orange helped him with future decisions. 

What if he traveled South from Minnesota and took a right instead of a left? He talks of having already decided before packing up to go to New York instead of the other way. He had heard about Gerde’s. 


Gerde’s Restaurant was up and running with music since late 1959. It became Folk City in May of 1960 right after Izzy Young and Mike Porco dissolved their handshake deal to originally run folk shows at Gerde’s. The Folk revival became a national sensation.

Dylan, like many others, got wind of opportunity and eventually hitched his way to NYC via Chicago. 

Izzy and Mike had many other things to do on their respective paths than to wait around for other people. 


Later that year, The Beatnik Riot

What if Izzy Young never saved free speech in 1961?

All those writers and poets that came would have to wait decades for Facebook to be invented to express themselves.

Civilization is predicated on what was once known as free speech. 

The first amendment in America includes free press, assembly and worship.

It has been noted by historians that anyone with a printing press has a right to print and express ideas protected by the 1st Amendment. Debate and discourse within the public arena or even within the mind of the individual would decide an idea’s acceptance.

The ‘idea’ itself had no box drawn around it by the Government as stated in the bill of Rights. It’s a personal interpretation. Create your own interpretation.

Later ‘yelling fire in a crowd’ was rightly declared unprotected and harmful speech.

Church, Temples, Mosques are all protected.

Copy machines, Facebook posts and open letters are covered.

Now that millions of people have cameras in their pockets, video ‘reports’ of events anywhere in the world are protected making the owner of that camera a citizen journalist. Publishing their experience is covered under freedom of press.

Singing is an extension of speaking, said Izzy on April 9th, 1961.

Fast forward to


Singing in a crowd is a super spreader event, says the team of experts in now.

How much more fucked can we be?

I hope we never find out. Yet we wait until…..


SUNDAY is an astounding document on the events of April 9th 1961. It’s offered by Drasin to the public here on Youtube.

Dan Drasin


This is journalism of its day. Captured then edited perfectly (listen closely) after the fact and released at the time to inform the viewer of the seriousness of the event. It’s become a museum piece. The parks Commissioner at the time- Morris- had declared free assembly and singing in the Square to be off limits on Sundays. Too noisy. Too much congregation. Too free.

The Square was Izzy’s for a day. He was the only real ‘grown up’ and adopted daddy.

They sang a ‘little folk tune’ called the Star Spangled Banner in unison because it was all about being able to sing in the first place. 

If you gather musicians outdoors they are going to play and sing just as if you took beavers into your living room they will chew your furniture.

After some court visits, Israel G. Young and pro bono legal ‘experts’ helped Izzy get legal permits to sing once again. Izzy told me that the City of NY just got tired of sending their own attorneys to appear over the matter. It took a reported 5 months worth of appearances.

In the end, Izzy saved the expressive RIGHTS for all Greenwich Village artists. That’s fact. Those fukkers with the chalk drawings for the last 60 years? Yeah them, as well. That includes the professional musicians who were just hanging out with the crowd. That includes the professional and would-be pro musicians who were creating in the clubs. That includes the message(s) that eventually spawned out of the clubs and onto the radio and into the streets. 

Izzy saved everyone’s ass. Said ‘everyone’ wrote songs to save America’s collective ass. Dr. King joined forces with the words of the musicians to create legislative change for the entire country. Again, that’s my interpretation of what happened before I was born. Make of it what you will. Blowin' in the wind had to be written by somebody. It wasn't going around the world on its own.


What if Izzy never saved free speech in 1961?

Perhaps it was only a delay. Perhaps it was only a 60 year long speed bump in the progression to where we are today.

Only later that day on the 9th of April 1961, Bob Dylan was probably doing a rehearsal for his first ever pro event. Quite possibly, he was with Mike Porco at the Local Union hall paying his dues and getting his NYC Cabaret card to perform professionally. Only Bob knows, now. Mike Porco signed as his legal guardian that day, fronted Zimmerman the dues and most certainly fed him for the next two weeks as Bobby (not yet legally Dylan) opened up for John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s.

It was a tiny room, Folk City was, but it was Hooker and Dylan’s for a week. Because of the packed house shows, they were held over for another week. Mike never charged musicians for meals. Dylan’s union dues and Cabaret fee is another story. Usually, musicians were welcome to eat dinners with the staff before showtime and expenses were trimmed off the top of the musician’s $90 weekly payday. My estimation, a $25 yearly Union fee and $8 for a Cabaret license was Dylan's haircut. This is not including the $3 given to Dylan by Mike to get a haircut for the picture. The 3 bucks was a gift. Haircut result…?…unknown.

If Izzy was busy doing all that Union set up with Dylan, he wouldn’t have been able to be at Washington Square Park on April 9th when he saved Free Speech.

It was saved once. Can it survive in 2021?


Exactly one year ago today, I had the privilege of hosting the Gerde’s Folk City 60th Anniversary Concert. We honored Dylan and Ochs and every musician that ever played Grampa’s Italian restaurant. 

Here’s my lot of footage from that evening:

Gerde’s Folk City at 60


Yes indeed! You see that right. The date of the show was 2020. Just look at all those super spreaders. Something positive came out of 2020, at least. It was a few days after the pandemic was declared globally. 

Notice the musicians were joking around during soundcheck about ‘this corona thing in China.’ Not to be dismayed we gathered anyway. Packed like sardines, singing out loud, spitting on the first two rows and their wives and dinner…it was GLORIOUS.


How far have we come since then? How far have we come since 1961?

How far has songwriting and public concerts come since Dylan arrived?

1.24.61 to 1.24.21

What would a time traveler do on West 4th and Mercer today?

There would hardly be anyone at Gerde’s. Mike was a carpenter by trade and would have, as many fine establishments do, outdoor shacks/yurts built for customers out on the sidewalk. Ya know, the sidewalks in the freezing cold of January serving one or two tables if at all. Today, Folk City indoors would be able to hold about 35 people, spread out, no music. Including kitchen staff and Mike, 42 persons would be legal. If caught with 43, he could be shuttered. 

The kitchen staff would be unable to social distance as they worked.No one really needs to see everything that goes on in a basement kitchen. No one is supposed to know what goes on down there as long as the food is 180 degrees. 

Need I remind you, there would be no singing indoors. It’s not illegal yet but it is deemed selfish, inconsiderate and dangerous to spread droplets around the room. 

That’s where we are as I type. Music can only happen if it’s incidental, if at all. Which is to say, the club may not advertise events but if the musician is able to alert 35 people to hear him play an incidental concert out around the corner by the fire hydrant on Mercer, the show may go on. 

That’s where we are until…until…until…


What if Izzy Young never saved free speech in 1961?

One tiny park in the whole country once tried to ban people congregating and singing on Sundays. Israel G. Young and 3000 Beatniks were’t having any of it.

IZZY- Well we’ve assembled for 70 years without a problem.

IZZY- We think the police are derelict in their actions. Commissioner Morris says that Folk Music brings degenerate people and it’s not so.

Where have we gone in 60 years, I wonder?

Free Speech not only refers to free expression of verbal ideas but written ideas, freedom to assemble, freedom to worship any god and freedom to report to others as in Press.

Free flow of data, emails, texts and phone calls. Free information. Free social calls, shopping etc. Free assembly is/was my favorite. We all remember a lifetime of not having to ask some unseen authority to visit our loved ones on Easter, Passover, funerals, Thanksgiving, Christmas, purim, New Year’s, Valentine’s day, birthdays, Easter, Passover, Yom Kippur, Christmas, New Year’s, Birth, death, birth, death. 

Singing outside of one’s own home. That was another favorite memory of mine. How they used to sing, and sing and sing… list, oh, list!

Now I sing to myself at home and watch too many others sing at home to their computers, also. I wish we could just begin again or go back in time and encourage the lysol and the vitamin D ahead of time on this one. There would be singing in the club and theaters by now if we did that. 

The general uncertainty of timeline and lack of reopening schedule are going to continue to hurt those without. I made a YouTube vid in March using Dylan’s lyrics to describe the troops on the streets and walls between us created by 2020. He wrote the words in the 80s but I heard 2020 in the description. The only passage missing is ‘they’re killing nuns and soldiers on the border.’ It’s the only thing missing, but the moment they start killing nuns on the border, I’ll consider myself correct! For now, the headlines write them selves. { ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF 15 DAYS TO STOP THE SPREAD FAST APPROACHING}

Dylan does talk about having to ‘take my temperature, baby’ and ‘climbing the walls’ and ‘uttering idle words’ all day long. This sort of dystopia was brought to life by the film Masked and Anonymous. Graffiti, gulags and Mad Max-ville towns fill the view of a nondescript country ruling its people through fear. Technology and advanced prosperity were absent in that film.

Today, our experience can be described 7 billion different ways. The shared witnessing of a global shutdown is unspeakably difficult to fully explain to a space alien. Can’t even make a good sentence out of it. 

Poems, maybe. That’s for the poets and writers to do. I’m only a witness.


Izzy Young, founder of music at Gerde’s, saved free speech. 

Since then…

Wha happened?

As sure as I sit here I can state that Izzy Young almost single handedly saved free speech and the right to assemble for all New Yorkers later that year on April 9, 1961. 

What if he didn’t?

Luckily for Dylan and every other songwriter, their ability to get their message out in song was protected. Their words could reach the radio and eventually reach around the world. Izzy saved Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton and every musician you can think of.

Imagine if Izzy and the Beatniks failed?

Imagine if carousing and singing out loud (without masks) was outlawed in 1961? Imagine if Phil Ochs never got his chance like he did in 1962?

What if he never had a chance to open his mouth and sing his song? Imagine his anti-war rants and raves and messages were never expressed. Imagine if he had lived til today and had spent 2020 writing songs about not being able to sing in public for fear of germs. Imagine if germs stopped Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Joan Baez from gathering groups to sing and stamp out oppression and March for peace. Imagine Phil in 2021.

Imagine Phil Ochs. Imagine his anti-establishment phrases. Imagine his ideas not flowing from his mind into peoples ears. Imagine Phil never having a platform.

No Phil Ochs YouTube channel. No Phil Ochs Twitter handle. No Phil Ochs antiwar marches. No Phil Ochs Pentagon levitation. No playful digs by name to the sitting president. No political banter between his songs at Carnegie Hall. No statements at all. No concerts at all.

Luckily for Phil, he came around when he did in 1962. He began at Folk City with bluesman John Hammond doing two weeks at Gerde’s. He knew how many artists were being discovered there on West 4th and Mercer and he, too, had to go south out of college and hang a left and keep going until he became noticed at the Folk City Hoots.

The open mic/American idol model was invented by Mike Porco. That's a statement for the record. Once Dylan sprang into the spotlight, Mike Porco had zero problems getting talented song writers to play his club for free on Monday. All of them were bucking for an opening act time slot in the future.

For my money I’ll bet that Mike never lost Folk City’s magnetic field when it came to attracting musicians for 20 straight years. He relied on a continuous stream of musicians to pay the bills. Dylan arrived here (I write this in New York City) this date in 1961 exactly sixty years ago today. Phil Ochs and countless others followed. The rest is history.


What if Phil Ochs saw no reason to come to New York from Ohio? What would have been the point had Izzy Young failed and singing was banned?

What if Commissioner Morris succeeded? What if Robert Moses succeeded and built a bridge over Washington Square? (That’s another story!)

What if Bob Dylan went to the Troubadour instead and Mike Porco was relegated to selling pasta dishes until the 1980s?



Found this great footage on YouTube

A day in the life 1961