David Lee Roth’s Uncle Manny Roth, Owner of Famous Cafe Wha?, Dies at 95
“Uncle Manny has passed away,” Roth wrote on his website. “He was 95 years old. He was happy, laughing and smiling right up ’til the end. His presence already missed. His contributions with us forever.”
Roth opened the Cafe Wha? at 115 MacDougal Street in 1959. This coincided with the rise of Greenwich Village as the epicenter of the folk music boom. Bob Dylan reportedly performed there the night he first arrived in New York City in Jan. 1961, and Mary Travers was a waitress before becoming one-third of Peter, Paul and Mary. The club was also a place for stand-up comedians like Woody Allen, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor to perform in the days before dedicated comedy clubs.
In 1966, Animals bassist Chas Chandler saw a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames on stage at the Cafe Wha?. Impressed by the frontman, Chandler convinced James to allow him to manage him and move to England. James agreed, and Jimi Hendrix was born.
Roth sold the Cafe Wha? in 1968. For nearly 20 years it served, under a different name, as a club featuring mostly Middle Eastern music. However, in 1987, it was sold again, and the new owner — a friend of the Roth family — restored the name and brought rock music back to the club, installing a house band five nights a week.
But even though the Roth family was no longer involved in the club, it still meant something to Manny Roth’s nephew. On Jan. 5, 2012, Van Halen celebrated the release of their 2012 album 'A Different Kind of Truth' with a special concert at the venue. Ten months later, David spoke about the club, and his uncle, on an episode of his video podcast ‘The Roth Show,’ which is embedded below.
Watch David Lee Roth Talk About the Cafe Wha?