THE HISTORY OF CLUB PASSIM


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It's hard to believe that thousands of musicians consider playing in a room no larger than 30' x 40' that intimately seats 125 in a basement in Harvard Square as "making it." But they do, because this brick-floored subterranean locale is Club Passim, one of the nation's legendary cultural icons and epicenter of great folk and acoustic music. A place where musicians like Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Jackie Washington, Peter Wolf, Taj Mahal, Patty Larkin, Goeff & Maria Muldaur, Shawn Colvin, and Suzanne Vega cut their musical teeth before playing larger venues.

Why Legendary?
For four decades, Club Passim has been known as a premier national venue presenting new and established traditional, folk, and acoustic musical performers. In all its incarnations, from the original Club 47 (1958-1968) to Passim (1969-1994) and finally as its present Club Passim, the club has been a special place for both artist and audience member. Probably more than any other single site, Club 47 can claim to have produced a generation of performers, record producers, festival organizers, and managers who remain a great influence on today\'92s music industry. Club 47 may have been the most influential club of its kind during the 1960s folk boom, even more so than clubs in New York and Berkeley. The venue's role in America's musical and cultural history is still being assessed in books, recordings, television documentaries, articles, and autobiographies.

Making History
Club Passim first opened as a jazz venue in 1958 under the name of Club 47. The first few months were rocky as the club was shut down by the Cambridge police. The local blue laws at the time prohibited more than three stringed instruments in a place that served food and beverages. So they got a non-profit educational charter and reopened as a private club, making people members at the door.

It wasn't long before it earned a reputation for good music, coffee, and company. And it was here that a friend of then unknown 17-year-old Joan Baez rented the club out just to get her on stage. Baez quickly built a worshipful following and became a regular feature. Here, she introduced Bob Dylan who played between acts.

The Club was shut down by Cambridge police once again, but the performers rallied and held their own hootenannies to keep the music going. Supporters soon realized that they had built a strong community around the club-a strong, close-knit community that remains to this day. The Club Today-40 More Years When rock-and-roll electrified the music and became "the sound," its influence lessened folk's popularity and broadened the folk spectrum simultaneously. But when the '60s came to a close, so did the era of Club 47, which was reborn into Passim and run by Bob and Rae Anne Donlin, who kept its flavor true to its roots. Best of all, Club Passim remains a small venue, where the audience is close enough to feel reverberation of music, see the sweat of the brow, and be a part of the art. Club Passim remains that community that began 40 years ago. It remains a non-profit organization that relies on members, donors, and volunteers for support.

The key to Club Passim's continued success is its audiences, who support new musicians, take risks, and lend an educated ear. But it's more than the music that brings them back. A notation in the club's Memory Book, written by a fan whose association with the club spans its history, sums up feelings of others who've passed through the room: "...The beauty of this place is that in 30 years, those of you who pass through this sacred room will have equally wonderful memories of performers whose careers were launched here. I hope your memories, felt years from now, will inspire the feelings of kinship with special musical experiences that mine do for me. Come here often. The specialness of this room will grow on you."

Music as a Mission
Linking the past with the present is one of Club 47's founding members, Betsy Siggins Schmidt, who returned in 1997 as the club's executive director. Under her direction, plans are well underway to ensure the mission of Club Passim continues. It's more than the sharing of good music. As a non-profit, the club believes it critical to preserve and promote folk and acoustic music by nurturing new artists, offering varied programming, and featuring both new and established talent. The challenge to fulfill this mission is to keep it financially sound by building its membership base and continue strong fundraising efforts through donations, corporate sponsorships and grants. We hope you join us this year in supporting the artists and helping us keep playing the music for another 40 years.



Did You Know That . . .

  • Club Passim was first known as Club 47 and started as a jazz club?
  • Joan Baez got her start at Club 47? A friend of then unknown 17-year-old Baez rented out the club to get her seen. It was an historical evening and she became a regular feature act.
  • The club was the place to play as a folk musician; being even more influential than clubs in New York and Berkeley? Club Passim still remains today the premier club to play in New England.
  • The club was closed down by Cambridge police in its first months because local blue laws prohibited the sale of food and music at the same location. The club became a private, non_profit club to avoid this restriction.
  • Then up-and-comer Bob Dylan never headlined at Club 47 but did perform between acts?
  • Bruce Springsteen was turned down for a gig by Bob Donlin?
  • Musicians held Hootenannies - called Hoots - where different musicians played and sang together. They are similar to today's open mike nights.
  • Muddy Waters was one of the first to bring Chicago Blues to the club? His first night in towndrew the Cambridge Police, who couldn't believe that the loud music could be coming from a place that only plays 'folk' music.
  • The Club moved to its current subterranean locale in 1963?
  • Betsy Siggins Schmidt, who booked the club and was college mates with Joan Baez, returned to the club last year as its executive director?
  • Bob and Rae Anne Donlin's original intent in 1969 was to open Passim as a an ice cream shop and cafe. It wasn't long before they noticed that 'music comes out of the walls in that place,' and with encouragement from performers returned the venue to a music club.
  • Bob Donlin signaled to the performers how many songs they could play for an encore? It was a high honor to get the signal for two more songs.
  • Bonnie Raitt hung out at Club 47 and was deeply influenced by it. Poetry, jazz, blues, storytelling, Klezmer, and performance skills workshops are all part of thevaried programming at Club Passim.
  • Many now well-known musicians cut their teeth here including Tom Rush, Peter Wolf, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith, and Shawn Colvin? Many such musicians keep in touch with Club Passim and some return for Celebrity Series benefit concerts.
  • Many musicians and people involved with the club have gone on to be influential members of music industry? Club Passim is currently a non-profit music club, relying on donations and memberships to support its mission to nurture folk and acoustic music, its artists, and the culture.
  • Musical history is still being made at the club, with many of its artists going on to national and international acclaim?

 

 

Passim Folk Music & Cultural Center
47 Palmer Street
Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Main: 617.492.5300
Reservations: 617.492.7679
FAX: 617.649.0081
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