By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 29, 2007 at 3:10 PM

Hilly Kristal is dead. For a real rock and roll fan, that's big news. That's because Kristal, who died in Manhattan on Tuesday of complications from lung cancer at age 75, launched CBGB's in 1973 and in doing so helped spark the New York punk scene that centered around his club until its recent closing.

Among the countless bands that got their start at CB's were Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Ramones, Television and Sonic Youth. Others, like The Shirts (whom he managed) and the Laughing Dogs never became popular outside the city.

It was also often an early stop for British bands of the day and The Jam, The Police and others, all graced the oddly-shaped stage in a room that appears to have looked well-worn from the day it opened. Appropriate, perhaps, for a venue offering gritty music on the gritty Bowery.

In the '80s, when I was a kid, CB's had all ages shows, too, with the likes of the Bad Brains and the still-punk Beastie Boys. And the music never stopped. That is, until a long-running dispute with the landlord led Kristal to close the club last year.

Kristal might be seen as a "behind the scenes" guy outside New York, but in the city, every music fan knew his name and he was a rock and roll celebrity.

“There was no real venue in 1973 for people like us,” Smith told the New York Times Wednesday. “We didn’t fit into the cabarets or the folk clubs. Hilly wanted the people that nobody else wanted. He wanted us.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.