Saturday, 1 August 2009

Cabale Creamery, 2504 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley

The Cabale, at 2504 San Pablo Avenue (at Dwight), was a folk club founded in late 1962 by Rolf Cahn and Debbie Green (two Cambridge, MA folkies) along with Howard Zeem and Red Dog alum Chandler A. Laughlin III (later known as Travus T. Hipp). Cahn had previously owned the Blind Lemon at 2362 San Pablo.

The Cabale opened to the public on January 4, 1963 and ran until mid-1965, when the folk action moved to the Jabberwock. Somewhere along the way Carroll Peery, manager of the Chambers Brothers and Big Mama Thornton, happened to acquire a majority interest in the Cabale. Jesse Cahn, son of Cabale founder Rolf and folksinger Barbara Dane, recalls "I was the one who cleaned the johns and swept up and practically lived there until 1965 ...". Jesse went on to play with Tongue & Groove (with Lynne Hughes and Michael Ferguson) and the Chambers Brothers. After some time on the East Coast he returned to manage the Jabberwock for Bill "Jolly Blue" Ehlert when he moved across to San Francisco to run the Matrix. The name of the venue was changed from the Cabale to the Cabale Creamery in August of 1964.

Banjo player extraordinaire Sandy Rothman has written a brief but excellent memoir of the Cabale as part of a project on the great Clarence White, and Jorma Kaukonen recorded his album "Cabale Creamery" here in 1964.

When the Cabale finally folded, probably sometime in the summer of 1965, the 2504 San Pablo premises briefly became The Good Buddy then Caverns West before being taken over, by Terry Sullivan and Tony Sage, and re-opened as the Questing Beast on November 19. Subsequently it became Tito's and the Longbranch. Today the building houses a business called “Good Vibrations” (more Duracell than the Beach Boys).

Given how pivitol the Cabale was to the Bay Are folk music scene, very little has seemingly been written about it. Memories are scarse so any input we can get is good input.


  1. I hung out at the Cabale as often as I could afford the price of admission or get Nicky Cahn, my friend from junior high school to let me in. I remember seeing countless performances of those who became burned into my consciousness. Usually after the Berkeley Folk Festival ended in the summer time many of the performers would play at the Cabale. Among those I remember most fondly are Mississippi John Hurt, John Fahey, Jesse Fuller, Doc Watson, The Kentucky Colonels, Big Mama Thornton (the first time I danced to rock and roll), I also saw The New Lost City Ramblers, Kathy and Carol and countless others. For me it was the seminal folk club of my youth and I would often see Carol Peery on Telegraph Avenue where I hung out with Nicky Cahn and Kevin Farrell, whose dad owned Farrells Books not far from our favorite haunts, The Mediterreneum Cafe and Codys Books as well as Moes Books. For a locus of adolescent rebellion, there was much more emphasis on music, books and the life of the mind than one might think. Drugs eventually played a part, but when kids from the suburbs began to dominate, looking for sex and drugs the scene evaporated and turned into just another place such as there was in the Haight or any other college campus. It was short lived.

  2. Spotify recently added a 46 minute set of Jorma Kaukonen at the Cabale Creamery. Pre-Airplane Jotma, Excellent sound.He might have been billed as Jerry Kaukonen. Some songs that he did later as acoustic Hot Tuna with a few that he (to my knowledge) never performed later. Interesting introductions to songs, very respectful of the music telling who's version he ;earned from.

  3. "Howard Zeem" is actually Howard Ziehm, who later went on to be a well-known adult film maker. I started hanging out at the Cabale when Chan and Howard owned it, and since I was a broke kid they usually let me in if there was room, as did Carroll Peery when he took it over. I heard and met some great folk and blues performers there. I don't remember Peter Ashlock, who commented above, but I probably knew him then, since I also hung out with Nicky Cahn and Kevin Farrell (now known as Blacky Farrell). My time at the Cabale was a very important part of my life.