A Tribute to Jaye Alper

Jaye Alper, a dear friend of the Caffè Lena community, passed away last month after a valiant fight with illness. Many will remember Jaye from Caffè Lena’s 45th Anniversary celebration when she attended and supported our History Project exhibition on site at the venue; Jaye kindly donated the image of Bob Dylan made by her father Joe Alper that now hangs above the staircase at Caffè Lena. But long before that, Jaye herself appeared in her father’s photographs. Between 2008-2010 the Joe Alper Photo Collection LLC together with the Caffè Lena History Project uncovered and identified over 6,000 images Joe made at Caffè Lena between 1960-1968 that had been stored in their original negative state and relatively unseen for over five decades....

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A Letter from Don McLean. By way of Caffè Lena

The following letter and email are shared with the permission of oral historian, musician and Caffè Lena friend Mark Klempner, and shed light on the Caffè as a conduit for inspiration between musicians. As a young aspiring musician, Mark heard Don McLean perform “American Pie” in a small audience at the intimate Caffè Lena. Mark’s contact with Don at the Caffè led to this letter of musical guidance from the legendary performer to the upcoming songwriter, and greatly influenced Mark’s music career. “I find it interesting that James Taylor had just come out at that time with his first album on Apple Records (he was, I think, the first artist the Beatles signed for their new record company, and almost the last because Apple...

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Remembering Robert Durand

We received word tonight that a History Project friend has passed away – Robert Durand was responsible for creating the original Caffè Lena ZBS Radio Shows in the early 1970s, and with the help of Tom Lopez, drew our attention to the archived tapes for preservation and digitization as part of our efforts to document the recorded history of the Caffè. What was most uncanny about this particular History Project meeting was that Robert kindly coordinated the transfer and donation of the original tapes in New York via email from his home far away in Panama. In our email correspondence, Robert shared enthusiastic memories of meeting Lena Spencer for the first time, recording her singing her own song “Lena the Queen of Saratoga” on the ZBS...

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Clarence Ashley at Lena’s

The following email and archival article comes courtesy of Caffè Lena board member George Ward: “I just stumbled across this Gazette page (“The Schenectady Gazette” in those days) on Google. Interesting that the Greenbriar Boys were also in the neighborhood that weekend. Not beyond Ralph Rinzler to have hustled Tom a Lena gig, especially if they were touring somewhat together. The second volume of ‘Old Time Music at Clarence Ashleys’ was either just out or just coming out, and the world (thanks to Harry Smith,  Ralph and others) had discovered Doc Watson and his world by then. Those were Doc’s first recorded appearances. I believe....

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Remembering Harry Dutcher August 1945-January 2012

We are saddened this month by the loss of our dear friend Harry Dutcher, a long-time devotee to Lena’s and a quiet rock over the years. Harry knew Lena, helped bail her out many times, and was a strong supporter of the non-profit Lena’s, being on the board, a very supportive neighbor in his 25-year role as Director of The Saratoga Springs Public Library, an active committee member, patron, and folk music enthusiast. We are grateful for Harry’s steadfast belief in the history and mission of Caffè Lena. In 2005 he assisted the Caffè Lena History Project in the creation of Caffè Lena’s 45th Anniversary archival exhibition. This past fall, he remained dedicated to raising grant funding to support Caffè Lena’s...

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Happy Birthday Lena

Lena Spencer was born Pasqualina Rosa Nargi on January 4, 1923. She died at age 65. Today she would be 89 years old. Happy birthday, Lena. Your Caffè is now 52 years old and still going strong.

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