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Hilly Kristal

Hilly Kristal
Hilly Kristal in New York City - 1992 (photo by Charlie Samuels).
Born Hillel Kristal[1]
(1931-09-23)September 23, 1931
New York City, New York
Died August 28, 2007(2007-08-28) (aged 75)
New York City, New York
Cause of death Lung cancer
Known for Owner of CBGB nightclub

Hilly Kristal, birth name Hillel Kristal, (September 23, 1931[2] – 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.[3]


  • Early years 1
  • Venturing into music 2
  • CBGB 3
  • Death 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early years

Kristal was born in New York, New York in 1931 but his family moved to Hightstown, New Jersey when he was an infant.[4][5] 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.[5]

Venturing into music

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.[6]

In 1966 he and Ron Delsener co-founded the 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 superstars from all music genres, including The Who, Miles Davis, 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").[6] 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.[7]


Kristal died on August 28, 2007 from complications of lung cancer, aged 75.[6]

See also


  1. ^ , Memory Lane Music Group, 2007"Hillel (Hilly) Kristal"Sharenow, Robert, . 
  2. ^ Garth Cartwright. , The Guardian, Friday, 31 August 2007"Hilly Kristal obituary"Cartwright, Garth, . the Guardian. 
  3. ^ Chan, Sewell (August 29, 2007). "Remembering Hilly Kristal, 75, CBGB Founder".  
  4. ^ "Hilly Kristal 1931-2007".  
  5. ^ a b "CBGB Founder Hilly Kristal Dies At 75".  
  6. ^ a b c "Hilly Kristal, CBGB Founder, Dies at 75".  
  7. ^ "Stars return in CBGB's last shows.".  

External links

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