Wednesday, August 29, 2007

R.I.P. Hilly Kristal

He was not a musician, nor was he very young, but Hilly Kristal was an pivotal figure in the punk rock revolution of the 1970's. Kristal, founder and proprietor of the legendary punk club CBGB's, passed away Tuesday after a battle with lung cancer.

Kristal also recently engaged in an ultimately unsuccessful battle to keep his club open after 33 years. Two years ago, after fighting eviction for several years, a number of artists staged benefit concerts to raise money. This kept the club open for another year, but it finally closed down last October.

When Kristal opened the club in 1973, he planned to host country and bluegrass acts. As legend has it, the group Television, then fronted by Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell, convinced him that they were a country band and that he should give them a steady gig there. He soon realized that this new style of rock would bring crowds to the club, and gave up on country and bluegrass.

In addition to Television, The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Blondie, Patti Smith, and a number of other bands got their start at CBGB's. It became a mecca for punk, post-punk, and alternative rock over the years. While it's Bowery location ensured it would never become a mainstream rock club, it remained legendary long after it's heyday.

Kristal was 75.

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