Rockers recall CBGB at SXSW panel

(L to R) Seymour Stein, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Clem Burke (photo by Chris M. Junior)
(L to R) Seymour Stein, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Clem Burke (photo by Chris M. Junior)
It’s no secret that the New York musicians who made CBGB famous often hung out with each other at the Manhattan venue when they didn’t have gigs.

That sense of community and camaraderie continues to this day, as illustrated by the joint arrival of Blondie’s Clem Burke and ex-Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth to the South by Southwest panel “CBGB Stories” on Friday.

Those three musicians, as well as label executives Seymour Stein (in person) and Richard Gottehrer (via a Web cam), swapped memories about the club’s early days and its cast of characters. The biggest CBGB character, naturally, was anything-goes club owner Hilly Kristal.

“He was open to everything” in terms of booking acts, Stein recalled. “He was a very generous man.”

Regarding the famous CBGB logo, Burke said that Kristal, who had befriended the Hells Angels, emulated their font to come up with his look.

“Hilly is the only person [who] could have gotten away with ripping off the Hells Angels,” Burke said.

As one might expect after so many years, there were differing recollections among the panelists. While Stein remembered the CBGB sound system always being top-notch, Frantz said it wasn’t so great at first.

Weymouth remembered there being a “healthy competition” among the regular CBGB bands, and Burke added that “everyone was feeding off each other.”

The “CBGB Stories” panel also served as an outlet to promote new projects. Stein announced he’s started a new record label; panel attendees received a flier describing a four-issue CBGB comic book miniseries (available in July) and a graphic novel collection of the miniseries (available in November) from BOOM! Town, an imprint of BOOM! Studios.

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