The journey was only from New York City to Wachtung, New Jersey -- but the distance we traveled was best measured in decades rather than miles. We are proud to say that we have just located and interviewed Avram Grobard, the legendary former Israeli paratrooper turned West Village night club owner and performer who fused Israeli, Jewish, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Arabic, and Japanese sounds into a folk cocktail. His El Avram clubs in New York and Florida became a veritable underground railroad for a flood of Israeli acts hoping to strike it big in America after the Six Day War and were frequented by the likes of Louis Armstrong while acting as a launch pad for performers as universally beloved as George Karlin, Gabe Kaplan, and cult heroes like Jonny Yune.
In Grobard's own words, the clubs were "a downtown bouillabaisse of Mediterranean condiments -- an Israeli owner, an Amermenian oud player, an Israeli Arab chef in the kitchen, and Greek, Italian, Spanish, and French Music in the air." The bouilabaisse had Spanish ingredients to begin with -- the club was previously El Chico, a latin music hub with a bull's head and a sombrero hanging over the stage. Mr. Grobard informed us in interview that the name change was part homage to the El Chico roots, and part a money saving stroke of genius, as in Hebrew, El is one of the names of the deity and so El Avram translates through roughly as Almighty Avram. With that justification, Grobard was able to forgo the expense of totally rebranding the club and kept the Latin decor. To our delight, he took us to the finished basement of his beautiful home, and revealed that he had moved the entire club to Wachtung, fixture by fixture. The tables, chairs, stage, and bar were all there, replete with PA system, and El Avram's personalized accordian. Put a bouncer on the door, and the club could be back in business.
It was an honor to interview El Avram and to video the story of his arrival, club success, and recording career. His funk guitar classic Any Time of the Year is rarely off our turntable. Grobard's swarthy chest hair drawing the eye despite being surrounded by what we now know were three Playboy bunnies. We thank El Avram for his patience and detail in interview and celebrate his career by sharing our favorite track, Orcha Bamidbar, in which the relentless horns and jaunty keys play off Grobard's precise yet seductive vocal magic.
If you know of any former musical performers like El Avram, please let us know so we can capture their story for our archive.
El Avram performs in his nightclub, reconstructed in the basement of his home:And how it looked back in the day. Louis Armstrong drops in to check out the talent, and El Avram celebrates. He was told there'd be cake.