The Cellar Door
The Cellar Door was a 163-seat music club at 34th and M Street NW in Washington, D.C. from 1965 through 1981. It emerged from The Shadows, Georgetown, Washington, D.C. It was one of the premier music spots in Washington and was the genesis as well as a tryout for larger markets. Many artists cut their professional teeth performing at the Cellar Door, while audiences delighted in being within a few feet of the stage at the tiny venue. Many notables in 1960s and 1970s music played there. Some of the performances at The Cellar Door were recorded and released. The club was the venue for the renowned Live-Evil (later expanded into The Cellar Door Sessions), a live album with Miles Davis. Richie Havens recorded most of the tracks on "Richie Havens Live at the Cellar Door" there in 1970 and The Seldom Scene, a Bethesda, MD based bluegrass band, recorded their signature live album "Seldom Scene Recorded Live At the Cellar Door" in December 1974. Danny Gatton's The Redneck Jazz Explosion album was also recorded at The Cellar Door.
In 2013, Neil Young released an archival concert album from a six-show solo stand at the Georgetown nightclub in late November and early December 1970 entitled Live at the Cellar Door
Some of the names that played there during their careers were:
- Les Paul
- Artful Dodger
- Jackson Browne
- Brewer and Shipley
- Allen Collins Band 1983
- Jimmy Buffett
- JJ Cale
- George Carlin
- Harry Chapin
- Larry Coryell
- Bill Cosby (warm-up comic for the Mitchell Trio with John Denver)
- The Country Gentlemen
- Jim Croce
- Miles Davis (whose concerts there were the basis for the critically acclaimed Live-Evil, later expanded into a box set comprising the entire unedited performances "The Cellar Door Sessions")
- John Denver (He wrote and sang his "Leaving on a Jet Plane" there prior to being released by Peter, Paul and Mary.)
- Fat City (later to become the Starland Vocal Band)
- Doc and Merle Watson
- John Fahey
- The Newgrass Revival
- Paul Siebel
- Steve Goodman
- Great Speckled Bird (Ian & Sylvia)
- Happy The Man
- Richie Havens
- Rick Nelson
- Pete Kennedy
- B.B. King
- Carole King
- Donal Leace
- Gordon Lightfoot
- Ian & Sylvia
- Les McCann
- Roger McGuinn
- Charlie Mingus
- Chad Mitchell Trio
- Judy Collins
- Joni Mitchell
- Modern Jazz Quartet
- Anne Murray
- Gram Parsons performed with a backing band at the Cellar Door, while looking for a female vocalist for duets. His bandmates had visited a small neighboring bar where Emmylou Harris was performing cover songs, and their introduction was the real start of Harris' career, and a boost for Parsons' act.
- The Flying Burrito Brothers
- Minnie Ripperton
- Linda Ronstadt
- Carly Simon
- Tom Paxton
- Pointer Sisters
- Tom Principato
- John Prine
- Richard Pryor
- Bonnie Raitt in 1969.
- Linda Ronstadt (her band was made up of later members of The Eagles)
- Buddy Rich
- Chris Rush
- Tom Rush
- John Sebastian
- Shakti w/ John McLaughlin
- Patti Smith
- Tommy Smothers
- David Steinberg
- The Stone Poneys
- Taj Mahal
- James Taylor
- Nighthawks Jimmy Thackery
- George Thorogood
- Mary Travers
- Muddy Waters
- Tom Waits
- Glenn Yarbrough
- Neil Young
- Brand X
- Warren Zevon
Some music was written on site. Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert (as Fat City) opened for John Denver in December 1970. Late one night, Denver helped finish writing a song that Danoff and Nivert had started. They debuted "Take Me Home, Country Roads" on December 30, 1970.
In a January 31, 1981 Washington Post newspaper article, Richard Harrington wrote that the Georgetown club which helped promote the careers such stars as Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, John Denver, Richard Pryor, Neil Young and Jackson Browne, was sold the previous day for an undisclosed sum to Paul Kurtz and Howard Bomstein from Washington, D.C. Ultimately, the club was closed down by the DC fire marshal after numerous warnings. It had been licensed for 163 seats, but was found to have more than 200 people SRO at times. Also, the books for liquor sales were allegedly being done improperly, so instead of making money, a fair amount of money was being lost, unbeknownst to the club owners.
Cellar Door Productions
The Cellar Door Nightclub was a partnership between Jack Boyle and Sam L'Hommedieu, Jr. The pair also owned two other popular Georgetown nightspots, The Crazy Horse and The Bayou as well as The Stardust, a music club in Waldorf, MD. They went on to found Cellar Door Productions which became the largest concert promoter from Baltimore to Florida, with offices in Washington DC, Ft. Lauderdale FL, Myrtle Beach, SC as well as an office in Detroit for a period of time. Bill Reid was the President of Cellar Door Productions from 1983 until his firing in 1997. The Cellar Door Cos. were sold to SFX Entertainment in 1999. Cellar Door developed the Nissan Pavilion concert venue, now called the Jiffy Lube Live, west of Washington, DC. The mailing address of Jiffy Lube Live (now owned by Live Nation) is 7800 Cellar Door Drive.
Boyle continued with SFX after it was purchased by Clear Channel Entertainment and is now retired. L'Hommedieu managed the Warner Theatre (Washington, D.C.) during the 1980s. He died in 1999, and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. Bill Reid now owns and operates two venues in Norfolk, Virginia called The NorVa, and another in Richmond, Virginia called the The National.
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- McKenna, Dave (9 December 2013). "Neil Young's 'Live at the Cellar Door' is a window into D.C.'s musical past". Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- Harrington, R. (1981, January 31) 2 From D.C. Buy The Cellar Door, Style Section. Washington Post, p. G4.
- (1973, July 14) Who/When/Where (concert listings). Billboard Magazine, p. 17. Accessed 2010-01-11.
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- Pointer Sisters. (1973, June 30) Pointer Sisters tour dates. Billboard Magazine, p.36.
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- "Shakti w/ John McLaughlin....November 12, 1977 (First Show) (9PM) : The Cellar Door, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.". Tela.sugarmegs.org. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
- "Shakti with John McLaughlin - Live at The Cellar Door, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., November 12, 1977 [REMASTER][FLAC] | Dr. Fusion". Drfusion.blogspot.com. 2009-11-28. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
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- "Bill & John Denver". Billdanoff.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "A. William Reid v. John J. Boyle, Cellar Door Venues, Inc" (PDF). Bischoffmartingayle.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- "The Dream Home That Never Was". Washingtonpost.com. 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- Michael Robert Patterson. "Samuel J. L'Hommedieu, Jr., Sergeant, United States Army". Arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- Cooper, Rebecca (30 July 2014). "Love 'n Faith brings liquid nitrogen ice cream to Columbia Heights; Capriotti's heads to Georgetown". Retrieved 29 December 2015.