Dave Van Ronk - Album Cover Locations; also a look at locations from "Inside Llewyn Davis" by Ethan and Joel Cohen, the movie party based on Dave's autobiography,The Mayor of MacDougal Street: a Memoir co-written with Elijah Wald (2005).
Dave Van Ronk was one of the first folk singers to arrive at what turned out to be the Bleecker/MacDougal folk scene of the late 50's and early 60's. He was was also one of the last to leave; living a few blocks away at 15 Sheridan Square until he died in 2002 at age 66.
Van Ronk, born in Brooklyn, and after having been a merchant seaman, arrived in the Village in the mid-50's where he played blues and jazz in early folk clubs like the Café Bizarre and the Gaslight Cafe to audiences who paid by passing a wicker basket around for change and bills.
A large man with an expressive voice that could boom or whisper, and an excellent blues, folk, and jazz guitarist, his performances were said to be captivating.
In his book Chronicles: Part One, Bob Dylan described Dave Vank Ronk like this: "In Greenwich Village, Van Ronk was king of the street, he reigned supreme...He turned every folk song into a surreal melodrama, a theatrical piece - suspenseful down to the last minute...If you were on MacDougal Street in the evening and out to see somebody play, he'd be the first and last vital choice of the night."
Dave's wife, Terri Thal, was, in effect, Dylan's first manager, arranging dates for him to play, while Dylan was crashing at their 1st apartment at 219 West 15th street, after he first came to town in 1961, and later while hanging out at their 2nd apartment at 190 Waverly Place.
While Dave Van Ronk never achieved the commercial success of Bob Dylan or Peter, Paul, and Mary, he will always be remembered as a mentor and supporter to all of the fresh-off-the-bus young, green, folksingers who created what he jokingly called the "Great Folk Scare" of the early 60's (folk scare being a pun on Red Scare, since folksingers were often seen as socialists and communists for their leftist views.)
For this reason he was referrred to as The Mayor of MacDougal Street, the eventual title of his fascinating and amusing autobiography co-written by Elijah Wald, and now partly the basis for the Coen Brothers' new movie – Inside Llewyn Davis – about the pre-Dylan folk years along MacDougal Street.
Here's the album cover to Dave's 1963 album Folksinger
It was taken on the front steps of the Folklore Center (glass window right) which was at 110 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village.
Here's the album PopSpotted. In the background of both pictures you can see a small tower on a residential building bordering on the west side of Washington Square Park.
Seen below is a poster from the new movie Inside Llewyn Davis. In the photo, Llewyn is walking a few doors north from where Van Ronk's album cover picture was taken.
The movie is about a folksinger who comes to the Village around 1960. While there are certain plot points taken from Van Ronk's autobiography, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, including a series of scenes based on a time when when Van Ronk went to Chicago to try to get a gig at the Gate of Horn club there. The rest of the movie is a composite of other singers and scene-makers from the MacDougal scene.
One of the early folkie clubs was The Gaslight Cafe in the basement of 116 MacDougal Street. On this night Dave Van Ronk was leading a hootenanny – an informal gathering of folksingers and musician, taking turns playing, often with audience singalong participation.
Photo by Don Paulsen
Here's a picture of the present day Gaslight Cafe. It has been a club offing music for many years, under many different names. It is presently closed.
Here's a panorama I took in 2011 of the interior of the present day Gaslight space. Short ceilings. Long. Must have been pretty smoky in there back in those years.
This 1964 photo shows proprieter Izzy Young (top) and bluesmen outside the Folklore Center just down the block from the Gaslight Club at 110 MacDougal Street. These are the steps where the album cover was taken.
The Folklore Center was a major gathering place for folkies like Van Ronk. It sold books, record, and instruments, and even was a place where folksingers, notoriously always crashing at other peoples apartments, could have their mail sent.
Bob Dylan would often come and type up songs in the back room.
The present Day Folklore Center, circled. The old steps have been removed.
Just up the block from the Folkore Center and next door to the Gaslight Club was the Kettle of Fish (bar/restaurant at 114 MacDougal), a major "watering hole" for the Village folksingers. Often they would come here between sets at the Gaslight in the basement next door.
The Kettle of Fish was also a hangout for the Beat Generation writers. Jack Kerouac had this famous picture snapped here, standing next to his girlfriend, Joyce Johnson, by Jerry Yulsman/Associated Press in 1958. Later they used that photo in a Gap ad with Ms. Johnson airbrushed out. You can stand next to that exact sign in the present day Kettle of Fish bar on Sheridan Square (59 Christopher Street, basement). You can even see that sign through the window all day long.
Here's where Jack and Joyce were standing.
In this photo I've superimposed the old Kettle of Fish over the present day Vietnamese restaurant in its place (the Saigon Shack, 114 MacDougal).
The film Inside Llewyn Davis recreated the Gaslight and the Kettle of Fish in the East Village on East 9th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A; on the south side of the street (photo: Parker Young/You Tube)
To find the film's Kettle of Fish set on Google Street Views, look for 420 East 9th Street.
It will look like this on Google Street Views. The Kettle of Fish set was to the left of the tree on the right side of the picture.
East 9th Street is relatively quiet, with little traffic. Filming on the actual MacDougal Street would have created a traffic nightmare.
The street scenes from Godfather 2 were filmed close to here on East 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B (see a picture of DeNiro on 6th Street in PopSpot #25).
Van Ronk became known to a new generation of music fans with the publication of his autobiography, The Mayor of MacDougal Street in 1989. It's a very funny book. He has a self-depreciating sense of humor and it's full of great insights into all the musicians like Dylan and John Sebastian, who comprised the Greenwich Village folk scene during the early 60's.
One event he describes is the massive folk protest of 1961, when the police threatened to throw folk singers out of Washington Square Park. Cause you know how dangerous kids with guitars can be!.
Dave played the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island several times. This famous photo is from 1963, take in Freebody Park, near the Casino, where the festival first originated. (The picture from the book cover seems to have come from this photoshoot.)
While looking for a picture of Freebody Park, 1963 I ran across this postcard. That looks like Dave up there himself- who knows? (It might even be from a year or two later, but it kind of looks like Dave,)
One of Dave's most famous pictures is this one from his album Inside Dave Van Ronk from 1964. I looked in the Village (online and on foot) for this doorway for about two months before I found it. The key was those little gold letters in the window on the right that read, "Own... By... Old."
The book publishing company is using this picture for the cover of the movie tie-in book, too.
I was working on a PopSpot of Woody Guthrie at McSorley's Old Ale House in the East Village (15 East 7th Street - east of Third Avenue; PopSpot #26) and I noticed the same lettering on the right hand window. It reads: "Owned and Operated by the Maher Family." That almost matched with "Own... By... Old" (so they must have changed a few words.)
They moved the lettering a pane or two over. But the doors, with their reinforced windows and doorhandles matched up perfectly.
Dave's foot is also stepping on the same crack on the sidewalk (It's off a tiny bit bcause of the camera angle.)
Evidentally, the movie people liked the title Inside Dave Van Ronk so much that they tweaked it on the album. (A cat also figures prominantly in the movie.)
Here's a wider shot of McSorley's and East 7th Street (This photo was taken around 1953.
This is another Dave Van Ronk album cover from 1968. One might think a "Hudson Duster" was the make of an old car, but it was actually a notorious Greenwich Village street gang from the early part of the centuy.
In the photo, the car is in front of 38 Commerce Street, which is between Bedford and Barrow Streets in Greenwich Village.
Here's the scene without the album.
I found the site by matching up the side of this wooden building at left to the same wooden side in the background of the album cover.
For you Village history fans, here's the same scene from the 1930's. (NYPL Archives)
The New York Public library has cool digital photo archives of the street. The car in this photo is in pretty much the same place as Dave's car on the album. The Cherry Lane (now a theater) is at 38 Commerce Street.)
This is where Dave and his girlfriend, later wife, Terri Thal, lived in the late 1950's until 1961. The apartment was a fifth-floor walk-up located at 219 West 15th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue. Bob Dylan was a frequent guest on their couch in his first year in New York before he found an apartment at 161 West 4th Street.
The apartment was just north of Greenwich village, about a 15-minute walk to MacDougal Street.
Here's how I found the address. Many books stated that Dylan crashed at the Van Ronk's on 15th Street, but none mentioned the address. So I went to the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and looked at their "reverse phone book" on microfilm (this type of phone book is by street, then building, then by who lives in each apartment).
I found the microfilm for the 1961 Manhattan phone book, looked at West 15th Street (since Greenwich Village is on the west part of the island) and scanned all the names until I came to Dave's girlfriend (later wife) - Terry Thal.
In 1961 Dave and Terry moved to an apartment in this building at 190 Wavery Place between West 10th Street and Charles Street.
Here's a close up of the front door.
THis is a shot of the upper floors of the building.
They lived for a while on the third floor and then moved to the second. The building was full of folksingers and Village artists and (as Dave describes in his book) was a lively place.
They lived across the street from the writer Robert Shelton, who would go on to write the New York Times review of Dylan's performance at the Gerde's Folk City that propelled him to fame.
A lof of New York musicians get photographed on the roof because of the city vistas.
Here's Dave and Terry on their roof around 1962. Note the building behind them to the left.
That tall building was the Women's House of Detention (jail) on Greenwich Avenue at Sixth Avenue next to what is now the Jefferson Market Library, but which was then a courthouse. Prostitures to use shout down to their pimps from the windows of the jail ("Where's the bail money!!?").
The jail is now demolished and is now a park.
And here's where the jailhouse was in relation to Dave's roof.
Here's another picture of Dave on the roof. It's from his 1966 album No Dirty Names.
This is not the air vent from Dave's cover. This is one from modern day 8th Street, but I like that it shows how slowly things change in the Village - that the technology is still in use.
Dave lived his later years in an apartment at 15 Sheridan Square (right) with his second wife, Andrea Vuocolo.
As first pictured in the New York Times, Dave's name is still on the buzzer system.
They named the part of Sheridan Square in front of his apartment in his honor.
One day in the fall of 1963, Jim Marshall, the noted rock photographer went out to breakfast with Terri, Dave, Dylan, Suze, and another woman (who's name I haven't figured out yet). On the way Marshall shot a famous series of photos showing the folk world in carefree tire-rolling times, before fame and fortune found MacDougal Street.
Photo by Jim Marshall
Starting at Hudson Street and West 10th Street, the group is pictured walking down to Grove Street, then down Bedford Street to Seventh Avenue South.
Photo by Jim Marshall
Here they are on Grove Street with the Church of St. Luke in the Fields behind them on Hudson Street.
Inner photo by Jim Marshall
And here they are turning south on Bedford at the intersection of Grove Street.
Inner photo by Jim Marshall
When they hit Seventh Avenue South, they probably stopped to decide where to eat.
Photo by Jim Marshall
Here's the present day scene (7th Ave South and Morton).
Inner photo by Jim Marshall
This is the restaurant where they went. (I can't figure out where it was. If someone knows 100% please send an email.) That's Dave on the right. Hard to find a sharp picture.
Photo by Jim Marshall
In the film Inside Llewyn Davis, Llewyn walks through Sheridan Square (7th Avenue South and Christopher Street.), just up the block from where we last saw Dylan and Dave standing.
It's right above the #1 Subway at Sheridan Square.
Later the film shows Llewyn going to Chicago to audition to sing at The Gate of Horn nightclub, pictured here from the movie.
The real Gate of Horn looked more like this. It was run by Albert Grossman, who would later come east and be Dylan's manager and also be the person who put together the group Peter, Paul, & Mary, which helped make folk music wildly popular.
A new Dave Van Ronk collection has recently been released, so I decided to see where the pier was in New Jersey where the photo was taken.
First, I lined up the Empire State Building and another building on Tenth Ave that has a sloping side.
Then, using Google Street Maps, I estimated the same angle from across the river in New Jersey.
Here's a shot from above.
Zooming in, I could see this is where the old pier that Dave was on was located.
And from a ground view it looks like this.
Dave would go on to record 23 studio albums and 6 live albums, as well as appear on countless other performers albums. Summing it up in his book, he wrote, "We were having the time of our lives."
The locations of two more photos from the film are pictured below.
A PopSpots reader named Jan, from England, was visiting friends in New York and ran across one of the scenes for the film being filmed at the intersection of Bleecker and Mott. Jan thinks it was the scene where Llewyn leaves for Chicago. Four of Jan's photos are below. Thanks, Jan.