Considering that I never met Hilly Kristal or even set foot inside his club, it seems strange that his death should be of any significance to me or anybody else. However, when you realize that Kristal was the owner of the music club that gave birth to punk rock, it provides a new perspective. Country, Blue Grass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers was the name of Hilly’s joint, and I know what you’re thinking: how does that have anything to do with punk? Known more fondly as CBGB, it’s legendary for its punk roots because it was the first to offer the stage to bands like The Ramones, Television, Blondie, The Talking Heads and Living Colour , all of whom are recognized as the pioneers of punk.

CBGB opened in December of 1973, in New York’s East Village, a crime and poverty stricken area. As the name indicates, it was clearly intended for other types of music, but in the end it is punk that defined Kristal’s club, despite the fact that he initially described Television as, “Terrible; screechy, ear splitting guitars and a jumble of sounds that I just didn’t get.” The story goes that Television’s manager worked extremely hard to change his mind by claiming that a double billed show with The Ramones would suit the club better. Kristal finally agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

"Hilly was an integral part of the punk scene from 1974 until his death," claims Marky Ramone. "He was always supportive of the genre and of bands like the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and Richard Hell and Voidoids and will hold a prominent place in music history. In an era when disco was the mainstream, Hilly took a chance and gambled."

Hilly Kristal died two days ago (August 28) due to complications from lung cancer. He was 75. Unfortunately, Hilly lived to see the demise of his club, which began to struggle in the 90s and was eventually shut down last year when his landlord refused to renew his lease. Although CBGB is gone, it is not forgotten by the many artists that held benefit concerts in an effort to try and save it, nor by a retail store of the same name which still sells club related merchandise.

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