Once there was a man named Hilly Krystal and he wanted to share his love of music with the people of his beloved city, New York. He thought to himself that if there was one thing that 1970s New York City needed, it was a bar that specialized in Country, Bluegrass, and Blues music. For the sake of awning space, Hilly decided to use the letters of these music genres to create the name of his new club, CBGB and OMFUG. Right now you are asking yourself, what is OMFUG and how does that relate to CBGB? The second half of the club’s name stands for “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”. And now you are wondering what a “Gormandizer” is, so think of it as someone who devours music. No matter the style or genre, a “Gormandizer” is there to listen to the music and enjoy the show. This is the kind of person Hilly wanted in his club. In short, OMFUG is the core principle of CBGB’s. As a way of ensuring that these “Gormandizers” would be satisfied in their choice of music venue, Hilly established a golden rule for all the bands who played the club to follow. If they wanted stage time at Hilly’s club, they had to play original music not covers. If you’ve been to a bar today, you can relate to Hilly’s frustrations that many bar bands were simply running through covers of popular songs. This golden rule would be the lightning rod that would forever cement CBGB’s as a place to find new and exciting music you couldn’t hear elsewhere. As the 1970s progressed, CBGB’s gained a cult like following from all walks of life. Hilly’s focus on new and original music would slowly but surely move the club away from is country music roots, and establish a venue where rock musicians were pushing the limits of their genre. The club became the place to be with acts like The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Squeeze all bringing their unique music styles to the stage. From the 1970s up through the closing of its doors in the mid-2000s, CBGB was the home of great music, strange people, and arguably the single most disgusting bathroom in history. The graffiti and sticker covered walls served as a beacon for the misunderstood and a guiding light for those who wanted to stretch the foundations of music. Although the club is closed now, at least once a month I find myself drifting into the recesses of my brain and remember what life was like inside the club that birthed American Punk Rock. I think of Hilly’s family who lovingly ran the club daily, the employees who reveled in telling others they worked at a music landmark, and above all I remember the fans. The ravenous, screaming,head-banging fans. The kids who felt they had no one to relate to and no place to go, and the adults with mohawks who welcomed them home. CBGB was never just a punk club or a music venue, it was an attitude and a home for those who had none. It was where America learned what it meant to be Punk and how to develop something so uniquely individual that no club or venue will ever replace it.
By Brandon Hamilton
Photo Credit- PR PHOTOS