The Cellar Door

For The Underachievers album, see The Cellar Door (album).
The Seldom Scene album cover showing the Cellar Door
Live at the Cellar Door album cover showing the front 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.[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4][5] 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.

The Cellar Door Sessions album cover

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[6]

Some of the names that played there during their careers were:

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.[16][16]

In a January 31, 1981 Washington Post newspaper article, Richard Harrington [7] 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.[17] The Cellar Door Cos. were sold to SFX Entertainment in 1999.[18] Cellar Door developed the Nissan Pavilion concert venue,[2] now called the Jiffy Lube Live, west of Washington, DC.[2] 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.[19] Bill Reid now owns and operates two venues in Norfolk, Virginia called The NorVa, and another in Richmond, Virginia called the The National.


The building where the Cellar Door operated was vacant for many years, hosting the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory until May 2009 and Capriotti's sandwich shop since 2014.[20]


  1. Weintraub, B. (1976, November 20). Concert market booming in D.C. Billboard Magazine, 88(47)
  2. 1 2 3 "PAGE THREE The MetropoList". Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  3. "Live Online". 1998-12-04. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  4. "Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Sessions 1970". Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Harrington, R. (2003, November 21). Recordings deliver taped measure of area clubs. The Washington Post, p. T.34.
  6. 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.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Harrington, R. (1981, January 31) 2 From D.C. Buy The Cellar Door, Style Section. Washington Post, p. G4.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 (1973, July 14) Who/When/Where (concert listings). Billboard Magazine, p. 17. Accessed 2010-01-11.
  9. (1973, July 14) From the Music Capitals of the World. Billboard Magazine, p. 57. Accessed 2012-09-15.
  10. Pointer Sisters. (1973, June 30) Pointer Sisters tour dates. Billboard Magazine, p.36.
  11. 1 2 Harrington, R. (1989, June 13) Bonnie Raitt, Dry and High; The Singer's Long Road to Sobriety and a Hit Album. Washington Post, p. c.01.
  12. "Shakti w/ John McLaughlin....November 12, 1977 (First Show) (9PM) : The Cellar Door, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  13. "Shakti with John McLaughlin - Live at The Cellar Door, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., November 12, 1977 [REMASTER][FLAC] | Dr. Fusion". 2009-11-28. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  14. 1 2 Alpert, B. (1993, May 15). M Street Shuffle. Washington Post, p. A23
  15. (1970, November 21). From the music capitals of the world. Billboard Magazine, 82(47), p. 27
  16. 1 2 "Bill & John Denver". Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  17. "A. William Reid v. John J. Boyle, Cellar Door Venues, Inc" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  18. "The Dream Home That Never Was". 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  19. Michael Robert Patterson. "Samuel J. L'Hommedieu, Jr., Sergeant, United States Army". Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  20. 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.

Coordinates: 38°54′18.5″N 77°4′4.1″W / 38.905139°N 77.067806°W / 38.905139; -77.067806

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