Caffè Lena Recordings Travel to NYC for Preservation: Part Two

In 2010 the Caffè Lena History Project uncovered a rare collection of live recordings made at the Caffè from 1960-1975. This at-risk collection includes over fifty reel-to-reel recordings of artists including Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger, Hedy West, Jean Ritchie, and Jerry Jeff Walker performing at Caffè Lena at the height of the folk music revival. The CLHP recognized signs of deterioration on the recordings and the urgent need to catalog and preserve them to ensure their survival.

ZBS Media Caffè Lena tapes- Photo by JArem 2011

In 2011 a GRAMMY Foundation preservation grant enabled the successful physical transfer of the recordings from Saratoga Springs to Magic Shop Recording Studio in New York City and planning for the preservation of these rare materials. In June we posted a blog about this exciting trip. In the process, thanks to successful outreach work by CLHP intern Ian Murphy, who launched a nationwide search in collaboration with radio stations, cultural organizations, music blogs, schools and other venues from the New York Folklore Society in New York state to The Bluebird Cafe in Tennessee, we began to uncover additional existing Caffè Lena recordings around the country in need of preservation.

These efforts resulted in the location of hundreds of new recordings. This October, the CLHP cataloged: two major collections of live performances recorded off the Caffè Lena sound board by Joe Deuel and Dick Kavanaugh in the 1980s featuring music by Dave Van Ronk, Townes Van Zandt, Christine Lavin, Utah Phillips, Ramblin Jack Elliott, and Tom Chapin, the master tape from the 1989 Caffè Lena PBS/BBC documentary produced by Stephen Trombley, and the complete unedited audio reel collection from the ZBS Media “Caffè Lena” show donated by engineer Bob Bielecki. (We previously received a donation of the edited tapes and did not think the original unedited tapes still existed.) The recordings are now poised to be cleaned, stored, and digitally transferred by our friends at the Magic Shop Studio for long term preservation at the Library of Congress.

Here are some pictures of the recordings’ journey from their original storage containers and owners in Saratoga Springs to the Magic Shop Studio in New York City.

Dick Kavanaugh sports an army bag filled to the brim with Caffè Lena cassettes - Photo by JArem 2011

Joe Deuel organizes his Caffè Lena tape collection - Photo by JArem 2011

Kabir Hermon at the Magic Shop Studio displays humorously titled Utah Phillips tape - Photo by JArem 2011

Did you or someone you know make an audio or video recording at Caffè Lena? Do you have information or additional recordings related to the sources in this blog? Please contact us and help us save Lena’s recorded history.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Kavanaugh
    Dec 27, 2011


    You’re doing such a wonderful job…many thanks!

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