Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song

In May of 1960, Lena and Bill Spencer opened a little coffee shop folk music space in an upstairs loft on Phila Street in Saratoga Springs.  Ever since, the venue known as Caffe Lena has become synonymous with music discovery and folk music.

As we celebrate the 60 years of vibrant history, we enlisted the help of current executive director, Sarah Craig. She pulled together a list of significant artists who have played in every year of the Caffe's existence, and then added a list of 60 "new" discoveries that made some of their initial in-roads at the Caffe.

Listen Thursday nights at 6pm as we showcase a song from one of the years (starting with 1960 and stepping through until we get to 2020). The we play a song by one of the new discovery artists of recent years, including some who have only recently come on the scene.

Ways to Connect

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 11 1970

Jan 16, 2020
Rev Gary Davis
Artist

He was a blues and gospel singer who was also proficient on the banjo, guitar and harmonica. His fingerpicking guitar style influenced tons of artists, including Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, John Sebastian, Jorma Kaukonen, Keb' Mo', and so many others.

This is episode 10 of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Thank you to Sarah at the Caffe for compiling the list of artists and songs. 

Rev. Gary Davis' students included David Bromberg, Steve Katz, Roy Book Binder, Dave Van Ronk, Rory Block, Larry Campbell, and Bob Weir.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 10 1969

Jan 9, 2020
Michael Cooney
Artist

Ever wonder where the Grateful Dead learned their songs?

This is episode 10 of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Thank you to Sarah at the Caffe for compiling the list of artists and songs.

Michael Cooney had traveled the country, and knew how to play almost any song. He became a popular draw at a particular Palo Alto club in 1963. It was there he met a high school band, teaching them the songs they’d eventually be known for playing as the Grateful Dead.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 9 1968

Jan 2, 2020
Emmylou Harris
Artist

In her teens, she won a scholarship to study drama at college in North Carolina, but dropped out to pursue a singing career.

This is episode 9 of Caffe Lena 60 Years of Song. Thank you Sarah Craig for picking the artists and songs to showcase the special nature of the Caffe's history with music discovery.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 8 1967

Dec 26, 2019
The Greenbriar Boys
Artist

When the producers of The Monkees passed on it, The Greenbriar Boys were the band to take the first chance on Michael Nesmith's "Different Drum."

This is episode 8 of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Thank you to Sarah At the Caffe for her help compiling the list of artists and songs.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 7 1966

Dec 19, 2019
Arlo Guthrie
Artist

Growing up Arlo Guthrie was surrounded by renowned artists like Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman (The Weavers), Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Rambliní Jack Elliott, to name a few.

This is the sixth episode of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Each week, we advance a year as we hear significant artists who played the Caffe that year, followed by a recent discovery. Thank you to Sarah Craig at the Caffe for her help compiling of the lists of artists and songs.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 6 1965

Dec 12, 2019
Ed McCurdy
Artist

Freddie the Fireman and the L&M Cigarette Man, folk singer and disc jockey, Ed McCurdy has a dream.  

This is the sixth episode of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Each week, we advance a year as we hear significant artists who played the Caffe that year, followed by a recent discovery. Thank you to Sarah Craig at the Caffe for her help compiling of the lists of artists and songs.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 5 1964

Dec 5, 2019
Dave Van Ronk
Artist

Nicknamed the Mayor of McDougal Street, he was an important figure in the American folk music revival and New York City's Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s. His name? Dave Van Ronk.

This is the fifth episode of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Each week, we advance a year as we hear significant artists who played the Caffe that year, followed by a recent discovery. Thank you to Sarah Craig at the Caffe for her help compiling of the lists of artists and songs.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 4 1963

Nov 28, 2019
The Beers Family
Artist

From 1958 until Robert Beers' death in an automobile accident in 1972, The Beers Family sang and played together.

This is the fourth episode of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Each week, we advance one year as we hear significant artists who played the Caffe in the year, followed by a recent discovery. Thank you to Sarah Craig at the Caffe for her help with the compiling of the lists of artists and songs.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 3 1962

Nov 25, 2019
Jean Redpath
Artist

In March 1961, at the age of 24, Jean Redpath arrived in the United States with just eleven dollars in her pocket. Her first performance was in San Francisco. Later, she met up with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village.

Jean would go on to become world famous as a singer of Scottish folk songs, particularly the songs of Robert Burns. In 1962, Jean made her way to Saratoga to sing at Caffe Lena. Lena’s Caffe was just in its 3rd year. One year later in 1963, following a concert performance, she signed with Elektra Records.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 2 1961

Nov 22, 2019
Bob Dylan
Artist

Before he was Bob Dylan, in 1961, he played at Caffe Lena. This is the second episode of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Each week, we advance one year as we hear significant artists who played the Caffe in the year and a recent discovery. Thank you to Sarah Craig at the Caffe for her help with the compiling of the lists of artists and songs.

Bob Dylan has since become a musical icon, but in 1961, he was still finding his footing on the stage.

Caffe Lena 60 Episode 1 1960

Nov 22, 2019
Jackie Washington
Artist

Jackie Washington Landron, folksinger, actor. He was one of the first to set foot on Lena and Bill Spencer's stage.

This is the first episode of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Each week, we advance one year as we hear significant artists who played the Caffe in the year and a recent discovery. Thank you to Sarah Craig at the Caffe for her help with the compiling of the list of songs.