Cafe Wha?

Art & Culture | History

Small Live Music Venue with Long History Filled with Big Names

Cafe Wha exterior greenwich village

About Cafe Wha?

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • Café Wha? on the corner of MacDougal and Minetta, is a live music venue and pilgrimage site for rock fans.  
  • It opened in 1959 when original owner Manny Roth converted an old stable basement (it usedto have a horse trough!) into a coffeehouse and music venue. Roth was known as the Mayor of MacDougal Street!  
  • Bob Dylan played his first New York City gig and got his first steady job as a backup harmonica player at the café. 
    • However, his harmonica duties didn’t last long; he got fired after showing up late three times in a row.   
  • A then-unknown Jimi Hendrix, calling himself Jimmi James, played five sets a night for six days a week at Ca Wha 
  • Bruce Springsteen also got his start here!  
  • Allen Ginsburg, Richard Pryor, Peter, Paul & Mary, Kool and the Gang, and The Velvet Underground have all played Café Wha? sets.  
  • In 2012, Van Halen put on a full concert performance to prepare for their upcoming tour.  

Carpe City Trivia

If you're like "Van Halen? Really?" here's why:

Manny Roth was Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth’s uncle.

By: Lucie Levine

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