Gerdes Folk City (sometimes spelled Gerde’s Folk City) was a music venue in the West Village, part of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, in New York City. Initially opened as a restaurant called Gerdes, by owner Mike Porco, it eventually began to present occasional incidental music. First located at 11 West 4th Street (in a building which no longer exists), it moved in 1970 to 130 West 3rd Street. It closed in 1987. On January 26, 1960, Gerdes turned into a music venue called The Fifth Peg, in cooperation with Izzy Young, the director of the Folklore Center
Bob Dylan played his first professional gig there on April 11, 1961, supporting John Lee Hooker. Logan English was instrumental in securing Dylan his first appearance. His widow Barbara Shutner said:
“My husband Logan English and I met Bob Dylan at Bob and Sid Gleason’s house… One night we were all sitting around and Woody [Guthrie] said something like, “Play something” to this kid sitting on the couch. The kid was Bob Dylan, and he sang and it was just beautiful. So Logan said, “I’m working at Gerde’s. I’m the MC. We’ll get you to play there.” So that Monday night, Bob came in and did his first set.”
Dylan’s September 29, 1961 appearance was reviewed in the New York Times[by Robert Shelton, after which Dylan’s reputation was made.Gerdes was where Bob Dylan debuted “Blowin’ in the Wind” and was also the place where Joan Baez and Dylan met for the first time. On October 23, 1975 at a celebration for Mike Porco’s 61st birthday, Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue staged a dress rehearsal and played its first real concert. The Review began its national tour a week after playing at Gerdes on October 30, 1975.
Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind – April 1961 Gerdes Folk City – Live Rare Performance
According to huffingtonpost.co…; His setlist at Gerde’s consisted of “House of the Rising Sun,” “Song to Woody,” “Talkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues,” and two others, identified only as “unknown Woody Guthrie song” and “a black blues,” according to New York magazine. Less than a week later, he would return to Gerde’s to debut “Blowin’ in the Wind.” ‘
“When Dylan first arrived in New York City on Tuesday, January 24, 1961, he caught a subway down to Greenwich Village and blew into the Café Wha? in a flurry of snowflakes… Dylan asked the owner, Manny Roth, if he could perform — and he did, playing a short set of Woody Guthrie songs. In the following weeks, Dylan would appear occasionally at the coffeehouse, playing harmonica… behind Mark Spoelstra and Fred Neil…”
John Bauldie, Positively 4th Street Revisited, Q, No. 104, May 1995, p. 56.
Hear an audio snippet of an interview with Bob Dylan talking about the Cafe Wha? by following the link to the 1984 interview with Bert Kleinman here:
From Michael Gray:
“That summer, the two often appeared behind Brother John Sellers at Gerde’s Folk City hootenannies, backing up his gospel shouts and tambourine with guitars and harmonica (and were even announced as Brother John & the Dungarees). Spoelstra says in the film No Direction Home that in these early years, Dylan shared with him and so many others the belief that song could help to abolish racial segregation and change the world for the better: that they talked about these things with enthusiasm”.
Read Michael Gray’s entry about Mark Spoelstra in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia – available at the blog:
Bob Dylan and Mark Spoelstra both played together at the Indian Neck Folk Festival in Branford, Connecticut — May 1961.
Dylan’s recorded performance of three Woody Guthrie songs — ‘Talking Columbia’, ‘Hangknot, Slipknot’ and ‘Talkin’ Fish Blues’ — was on 6 May, 1961:
Mark Spoelstra passed away on 25 February 2007 at his home in the Sierra Foothills, California.
Mark Spoelstra’s website: https://markspoelstra.net/