Bob Porco, the grandson of original Gerdes owner Mike Porco, put together a remarkable concert with the original musicians who had long ago played the famous club. Dylan wasn’t there, but many others were, offering a genuine feel for the adventure and chaos that Gerdes represented. Yes, all the musicians are older now, but virtually every one—famous or not—still has the chops. There wasn’t a weak performance in the entire show, which went into the wee hours of the night.
From hundreds of photographs I took through the night, here are a few highlights:David Bromberg did an unscheduled appearance. He is joined by John McEuen, one of the earliest members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.Sylvia Tyson, half of the folk duo, Ian & Sylvia. She sang You Were On My Mind, a song she wrote in 1964 that became a huge hit.Happy Traum, formerly of the New World Singers, was the first to record Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. He told of late nights at Gerdes when Dylan would arrive and jam with his group. One night, he said, Dylan emerged from the clubs' rat-infested dressing with Blowin’ in the Wind. When they sang it, there were less than 15 people in the house. Traum sang Buckets of Rain last night as a tribute to Dylan.David Amram is a musician and composer who has worked with everyone from Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie to Willie Nelson and Jack Kerouac. He wrote the score for the landmark 1959 documentary Pull My Daisy, narrated by Kerouac. And, of course, he played at Gerdes Folk City.Guy Davis, as the son of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, is an accomplished musician, composer, actor, director and writer. But most importantly, he considers himself a bluesman. He gave a powerful performance at the Gerdes show. John McEuen, as an original member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, is a pioneer on the five string banjo. He instigated what Rolling Stone Magazine called 'the' most important record to come out of Nashville, and what the 2004 Zagat survey called the most important record in country music, Will the Circle Be Unbroken.Roger Sprung and Hal Wylie, members of the Progressive Bluegrassers. Sprung introduced bluegrass banjo picking to New York’s folk community. He has recorded with Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie and was one of the earliest performers at Gerdes.David Massengill is a folksinger/songwriter who plays appalachian dulcimer. Last night, he sang a song he wrote called The Kiss, about a very public kiss he gave his longtime girlfriend in Gerdes.Bob Fass is a pioneer of free-form radio, who has broadcast in the New York region for 40 years. Fass’s program, Radio Unnameable, first aired in 1963 and featured the work, and impromptu interviews, of counterculture figures such as Paul Krassner, Bob Dylan and Abbie Hoffman, and the first performances of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant and Jerry Jeff Walker's Mr. Bojangles. He has been called “a midwife at the birth of the counter culture.”Dominic Chianese is known to most of the world as the actor who played Corrado “Junior” Soprano on the HBO series, The Sopranos. But to the New York folk scene, he was once the emcee at Gerdes Folk City. And he is one hell of a folk singer. Chianese’s acting career took off when Francis Ford Coppola cast him as Johnny Ola in the The Godfather, Part II. He has done several plays and films with Al Pacino. Last night, he returned to his emcee duties at the Gerdes event.