Credit: David Vega

New York City can be cited as the birthplace of many music genres; however, there are few more synonymous with the city that never sleeps than punk rock. Punk rock emerged in the mid-1970s and is characterized by quick, fast-paced songs with edgy riffs and political, anti-establishment lyrics. One of the most prominent NYC landmarks that ultimately brought punk-rock to the Big Apple was the infamous CBGB Club. Founded by Hilly Kristal in 1973, CBGB OMFUG was originally opened with the intent of booking Country, BlueGrass and Blues bands and  “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”. Hence the name CBGB OMFUG.


The Ramones

Glam Rock was impacted by this scene as the space was a musical proving ground frequented by the Sex Pistol’s manager of the Malcom McLaren’s. McLaren promoted his new act the New York Dolls and had them cut-their-teeth in the space as they defined the fashion centered genre. The club quickly became the “it spot” for American punk like the Ramones, and later in the 80’s new wave bands, such as The Blondie, Misfits, Joan Jett, and more.

Other bands like Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law and Sick of It All made their appearance in the late 1980s. Then, in the 1990s, CBGB hosted grunge acts like Green Day, Guns and Roses Sum 41, to name a few.

Most of these bands were unknown acts when they first played CBGB, getting their start on the small stage in the back of a graffiti lined basement. Every week, CBGB would hold “Audition Showcase” nights, catering to more local bands eager to make it big. One band that can now probably thank CBGB for their entire career where New Jersey’s Misfits, who played their very first show there. The band went on to become the purveyors of “horror punk”, releasing seven studio albums.

After 33 years, hosting an estimated 50,000 bands, CBGB closed its doors. The final concert at CBGB was Patti Smith on October 15, 2006. In 2013, the venue was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of The Bowery Historic District. Today, the
CBGB storefront is the home of John Varvatos’ showroom.

Take a step back in time and check out this playlist of influential punk rock bands who got their start at CBGB.

Contributed by Kristin Glocksien a writer from The Clive Davis Institute x Billboard MUSIC INDUSTRY ESSENTIALS program


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