Hilly Kristal in New York City - 1992 (photo by Charlie Samuels).
September 23, 1931
New York City, New York
|Died||August 28, 2007
New York City, New York
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Known for||Owner of CBGB nightclub|
Hilly Kristal (born Hillel Kristal; September 23, 1931 - August 28, 2007) was an American club owner and musician who was the owner of the iconic New York City club, CBGB, which opened in 1973 and closed in 2006 over a rent dispute.
Kristal was born in New York City in 1931 but his family moved to Hightstown, New Jersey when he was an infant. He studied music from a young age and eventually attended the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. Kristal also spent a period of time in the Marines.
He moved back to New York City, where he worked as a singer, appearing on stage in the men's choral group at Radio City Music Hall. He later became the manager of the Village Vanguard, a jazz club in Greenwich Village, where he booked Miles Davis and other musicians.
He married in 1951 and had two children: Lisa Kristal Burgman and Mark Dana Kristal.
In 1966 he and Ron Delsener co-founded the Rheingold Central Park Music Festival, sponsored by Rheingold Beer. By 1968, Delsener had changed beer sponsors to Schaefer and Kristal was no longer involved. The festival took place every year until 1976 in Central Park and featured musicians from a range of genres, including Miles Davis, the Who, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle, Ike & Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, the Allman Brothers, Slade, Kris Kristofferson, Curtis Mayfield, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and the Doors.
In 1970, Kristal opened a bar in the Bowery section of New York called "Hilly's on the Bowery", which closed within a couple of years. Then in December 1973, he created "CBGB and OMFUG", an abbreviation for the kinds of music he intended to feature there (the letters stood for "Country, BlueGrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers"). The club, eventually called simply CBGB, became known as the starting point for the careers of such punk rock and new wave acts as the Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Television and Blondie.
CBGB featured many famous musicians over the years and remained very popular until its closing in 2006 due to a personal disagreement with the landlord, who opted not to renew the lease. For a short while after the closing, Kristal considered moving the club to Las Vegas.
Hilly Kristal, founder of legendary punk venue CBGB has died at the age of 75. Born in New Jersey in 1932, Kristal moved across the Hudson River to New York City at age 18, where he worked as a singer, performing at venues around Manhattan including Radio City Music Hall.
Kristal was born in Manhattan in 1931 but his family relocated to Hightstown, New Jersey, when he was an infant. Kristal studied music from a young age and eventually attended the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. He then moved to New York, spending the '50s and '60s performing with a variety of music acts, and later became the manager of legendary jazz club the Village Vanguard. Kristal also spent a period of time in the United States Marine Corps.
Hilly Kristal, who founded CBGB, the Bowery bar that became the cradle of punk and art-rock in New York in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for musician-friendly rock dives throughout the world, died in Manhattan on Tuesday. His son, Mark Dana Kristal, told The Associated Press that the cause was complications from lung cancer. Besides his son, Mr. Kristal is survived by a daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman, and two grandchildren.
Debbie Harry and Patti Smith are among the artists returning to perform at legendary New York music club CBGB's, ahead of its closure after 33 years. Harry's band Blondie, Smith and acts including The Ramones and Talking Heads found fame after performing at the club which helped launch US punk music.