Saturday, December 28, 2013

IZZY YOUNG AND THE FIFTH PEG- The first five months of Folk City

Back in early 1960, before Gerde's Folk City was 'Folk City' it was called 'The Fifth Peg,' a name given to the new venture/adventure between three relative strangers: Izzy Young, Tom Prendergast and Mike Porco. Mike owned the restaurant with the liquor license and Izzy and Tom were willing to book the musicians and take care of the door for evenings that Gerde's Restaurant would normally be closed.

Before 'the rest became HISTORY' there was the matter of Izzy and Tom trying to turn a profit. This happened very infrequently, if at all. Mike Porco made out just fine. Not only was he selling the booze, but Gerde's was a fine Italian restaurant, to boot. Whatever Izzy promised the musicians in pay wasn't coming from him. It would come from the gate, which Izzy (bless him) counted to the PENNY!

During our first physical meeting and discussion, Izzy G. Young could only recall in round numbers 'who and how much.' But between our first meeting and his most recent visit in June 2013, Izzy had found the actual ledger where he kept the most unbelievable record of the first 5 months of the club commonly known now as FOLK CITY.

Israel, a compulsive journal keeper, jotted down his intimate thoughts along with the daily on-goings of the night-life at Gerde's. For my purposes- that is- accurately telling the tale of the first ''honest-to-god-Folk-music-

cabaret'' in Greenwich Village, his journal (once thought lost) was a fabulous trip into the past. Looking through the pages, one can imagine what it was like watching the door with one eye and the show with the other.

Below, I've posted scanned images listing the unbelievable talent that was hired (AND PAID IN FULL BY IZZY REGARDLESS OF THE ATTENDANCE)  as well as the patrons and guest appearances that read like a Folk hall of fame roster. ENJOY, DAMMIT!

….and a lot of drunkards

Brownie and Sonny played 6 of Izzy's last 7 weeks

To the PENNY

Thursday, December 19, 2013


ON LOCATION and up to the moment update on the soon-to-be-released-unscripted-non-fiction-real-life-story-of-the-greatest-folk-club-ever-to-reside-on-4th-Street movie IN PRODUCTION.

Blues Hall of Famer,
Grammy Winner,
Friend of Mike Porco, 
John P. Hammond.
Jersey City, NJ

Monday, December 16, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013


FIRST OFF, who ever did casting, the Pappi Corsicata character, looks and sounds like my grandfather. Kudos!

But not exactly. But a proud Porco, I am, because of it. Mike Porco is ''referenced' quite clearly in the Coen Brothers' latest offering INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. Mike, of course, of Gerde's Folk City fame, was the one to truly come to be the shepherd of a thousand Folk singers when he forged his way into 1960's revival history and legend by running Folk City from its inception.

Mike Porco and New York's center of Folk music, GERDE'S FOLK CITY, is the current topic of an astounding documentary in production produced his own grandson, Bob Porco. Humble Bob, as he has been called, has a résume growing by the day, some have said, since his string of GASLIGHT shows have ceased and his POSITIVELY PORCO interviews have ignited. All clips captured thus far of the Gerde's/Mike Porco documentary will be viewed ever-so-briefly in the upcoming feature event due out next year.

For now, Mike Porco would have probably had a good basking laugh at the not-so-veiled reference to himself as the Gaslight impresario 'Pappi' in the Coen Brothers' new epic feature. Pappi plays an interesting role, but none as big as the musician-in-chief, OSCAR ISAAC.  Oscar and I go way back to when we was younger in 2012 and I hired him one night to open up for his good natured goom-pah, ERIK FRANDSEN.  Oscar met Erik. Erik knew me. I met Oscar. Oscar knows who Mike Porco was and can appreciate the fact. The fact that Oscar Isaac impressed me as a true gentleman was proof enough to know that he was a true ''keeper of the flame.'' There really is no other cliché that fits better. He and I and T Bone Burnett and Bob Dylan and VINCE MARTIN and ARLO GUTHRIE and HAPPY TRAUM  and MIKE PORCO….we all have a role to play for a while... Sometimes it's a role solely to promote the advancement of someone, or something(the music) other than one's self.

Mike Porco is the prime example I present. You, yourself, another. ''We'' have a chance to promote each other to advance the art of others or to turn our efforts elsewhere. I choose to turn my efforts toward us all because, as Van Ronk said himself, good for one of us is good for all of us.

And so we are brought to DAVE VAN RONK'S KARMIC ANSWER given to the decade's old question: why doesn't the world know very much about Dave Van Ronk. I was embarrassed to learn more about him later in my own life, but that's my weight to carry. I'm working on his body of work. Are You?

Dave was the maestro. A ''mountain'' on Macdougal Street, as Dylan once called him. Why should we argue?

And now... a movie inspired by the book about the man and his memories…?.what could be more vague than that??!! So the Coens did what they do; they made a script up on their own. It tells the whole story in some way. I knew what they were saying, didn't you?

Of course, my opinion matters to only a small few Folkies who even know the words on this blog exist. But those who read can guess that I have an intimate relationship with this movie as I continue to biograph Mike Porco's life and times. He truly WAS the club owner who let water roll down his back for the good of the crowd. He truly WAS the father to a thousand stars, and Llewyn Davis could have one.

The movie itself has been digested by me twice in the last 20 hours and I've had only one or two honest discussions on it. I believe the Joel and Ethan Coen have made a stunning film. Hats off to Oscar and cast as this observer has been moved in earnest into pondering how one can aid the future of the Folk music Llewyn Davis so hates. It is a life mission for all of the musicians: Preservation vs. forgotten memory.

The 'Llewyn' character loathes not-so-traditional kitsch songs as much as the next purist, yet the movie he's in acts to promote the beauty and art of naked acoustic performance. There is no other moment in the world that exists quite like the one you can experience at the foot of someone who can 'pull it off.'

Why would Pappi Corsicata hire them in the first place? It's to please the crowd, and the performances by Oscar in this movie do just that. I saw the open references to Ramblin' Jack Elliot (Al Cody), Tom Paxton (Troy Nelson), Bob Dylan, Doc Pomus (Roland Turner) and JIM AND JEAN. I also happened to notice that Team Coen went to great lengths to connect a slew of historic events from the 1960s Revival to this one film. They could never be spot on in a work of fiction, but they could hardly be as reverent. They knew who was who, and they cooked up an amalgamation in the form of Llewyn.

''Llewyn has the cat,'' they wrote in the script. And how true. Or is it? Llewyn has but one life: the life of an ''asshole'' to which he perfects. The coddling and cradling of the cat shows his somatic side. He loves that fucking cat…except when he doesn't love the fucking cat. He's the cat's guardian and its extension all at once. Like father, like son. Or something like that.

But alas, it's late and I'm blogging a movie review in 'real-time.' I wanted to talk about what I saw on the second trip into the film. My favorite scene has another friend of Porco, Ethan Phillips (character Mitch Gorfein)  and his wife state unequivocally that their home has more LOVE to spread around than any other on the block. I felt it. Don't ask me why. But they loved Llewyn even though he was an incurable asshole. He showed start to finish that he just can't help it. He was the best asshole ever. Yet he ''left a big hole'' in the only functional part of his disjointed family when he wasn't around. They appreciated his art. In a world of wayward souls and off-key neighbors, sometimes the parts that are in tune matter the most.

And my own personal hunch that there was more than lust between Llewyn's character and that of 'Jean' turned out to be accurate. Sweetly done.

Ethan Phillips

Llewyn is a character only known internally to the viewer. Love him or hate him, he's human. He shouts when something feels wrong, and he's serene in the presence of his own muse. The muse was nothing more than the music. And yet, he was willing to part with it all than to carry his burden around like an albatross around his neck for all his days. Oscar Isaac plays the audience better than any instrument. And the screen bleeds with his sincerity which makes for a poignant film unlike any concert you've ever seen.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


     YES, Black Friday was celebrated a little early at Porco Central. More like a month before turkey day….I got me a scanner. My very own. I need it to have some high resolution items to put in the trailer (coming soon!) for the GERDE'S FOLK CITY DOCUMENTARY.
     So…I've been scanning and digitizing some ''stuff just laying around.'' You're welcome.
The first ad (Village Voice) for Folk City after being called
The Fifth Peg for the 1st 5 months of 1960

11 West 4th St

The Dean of Folk City

Mike Porco, Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen, Joan Baez

Friday, November 29, 2013


Barry Kornfeld

Hams and bacon

''House of the rising sun''
Gerde's 50th Anniversary 6.7.10

Jack Hardy

Randy Burns

Sylvia Tyson

Willie Nile and Frank Christian

John Hammond

Guy Davis

Steve Ben Israel

Terre Roche

self portrait