Club Passim

Club Passim is a renowned folk music venue that came from the closure of Club 47. Club 47 opened in 1958 as a restaurant and jazz venue, but was closed by the police because it was illegal to have more than 3 stringed instruments in a restaurant. Club 47 then reopened as a private club, making members pay at the door. Despite being a private club, Club 47 obtained a non-profit education charter. During its time as a private club, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan graced the stage. In 1963 Club 47 moved to its current location, here at 47 Palmer St. The city let them keep the number 47 as part of their address. The club closed once again in 1968 because the folk scene was winding down and the club wasn’t doing financially well. After Club 47 closed, Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign headquarters took over the space. But since he lost the election in November, he had no more use for the space and Passim took the place, opening in 1969.

Passim was owned by Bob and Rae Ann Donlin, beat poets who were interested in having a coffeehouse. They initially had no interest in having music, but their customers did. So they then worked with Peter Johnson, a Celtic music lover who organized Calidhs, which were Celtic get-togethers with music and dancing. Donlin later expanded into folk music; he had a particular fondness for the singer-songwriter. At this time, Passim was a for-profit organization, and it remained so until 1994.

1995 brought about a new stage in Passim’s history—the club became a non-profit organization and also was renamed to Club Passim. The venue hosts 400 shows per year that are seen by 30,000 people. The club continues today as a non-profit, relying on members, donors, and volunteers. While Passim continues to play music, it also opened a music school in 2000, serving interested adults, and has served musicians in the community by providing grants through its Iguana Music Fund established in 2008. These grants can help pay for buying a new instrument, getting a van for touring, or helping to produce records. Passim also hosts Summer Stage, which offers free outdoor concerts on Thursdays, beginning in 2009.

Images courtesy of Passim (photo by Denise A. Maccaferri)