An Unknown Great: In Honor Of Kenny Gorka From NY's The Bitter End
Kenny Gorka, one of the last remaining partners of the New York nightclub, The Bitter End, died last night.
His partner, Paul Colby, passed away last year at the age of 96.
I wanted to write something to mark Kenny's passing, as he had a profound effect on me, and many others in the New York music scene.
Although he will be known for running the Greenwich Village landmark that developed and launched such artists as Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and James Taylor, amongst countless others, the part of this man's legacy that needs to be pointed out is his dedication to helping the unknown artists.
After all, no matter how big you are, we all start somewhere.
And, Kenny's dedication to helping talent shine, no matter your status, was a constant source of hope and validation for thousands of New York performers over several decades.
Sure, a lot of big name talent who came up through the ranks and won a few Grammys owe a lot of their success to Kenny and his nightclub.
But, it's the ones like myself, who barely achieved our "15 minutes," who could always count on the fact Kenny would treat us the same way he would treat Daryl Hall or Billy Joel.
There was nothing "special" or "revered" about you when you hung out with Kenny, no matter who you were. Because, to him, we were all special. We were all artists.
For example, back in the day when my band, The Rosenbergs, were trying to make a name for ourselves on the New York music scene (where artists are subjected to a myriad of humiliating circumstances on a daily basis), Kenny Gorka stood out as one of the good guys.
No matter what was or wasn't happening for us, I could always walk into The Bitter End, find Kenny at the bar and within a minute, I would have a date.
It didn't matter that we had no draw, no radio play, no label, etc. Like so many others, we had nothing except our supposed talent.
Yet, each and every time I went to see him, I would walk out of that bar knowing my band would have a place to play, and we'd be able to do what we needed to do, usually within a matter of weeks, as opposed to months.
This particular relationship was one I relied on for over 15 years, and it never wavered. Whether I was in The Rosenbergs, trying out new material or playing solo acoustic, Gorka was the one guy I could count on for a guaranteed showcase.
And, the best part, I don't think he ever even knew my name.
In an era where artists are spit out like candy bars from the Wonka Factory, and the New York music scene has more in common with an American Apparel ad than it does a place to hone and develop your craft, it makes it all the more rare to know a guy like Kenny was there.
He was standing guard at the edge of the soul-draining pit that is the overhyped, over commercialized New York music scene.
He was watching over all of us and making sure, no matter how bad things were going, when we played his place, we were treated like artists.