In 1960, actress and dreamer Lena Spencer opened a
small, grassroots coffeehouse, Caffè Lena, in Saratoga Springs, New York. It was a time in
America when a coffeehouse could be something more—a focal point for a
different sort of people, radical new ideas, and emerging
artists. Caffè Lena’s humble stage regularly welcomed musicians such as a
young Bob Dylan, singer/activist Bernice Johnson Reagon, and a pre-“American Pie” Don McLean. Quickly, Caffè Lena
took its place within the American
folk movement that inspired a generation of musicians, artists, and
The publishing of this remarkable collection of stories and images is the culmination of Jocelyn Arem’s decade-long work as Director of the Caffè Lena History Project, in association with the Library of Congress, and in collaboration with Caffè Lena Inc. Caffè Lena: Inside America’s Legendary Folk Music Coffeehouse ($45.00) brings more than 200 never before seen, evocative images and stories to the public. Early 1960s photographs of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, and modern-day images of Rufus Wainwright and Patty Larkin, blend with rare memorabilia and an oral history derived from more than 100 original interviews of artists who have graced Caffè Lena’s stage. These artists include: Ani DiFranco, Utah Phillips, Dave Van Ronk, Spalding Gray, and other luminaries of the folk, blues, jazz, and theater worlds.
This exclusive time capsule chronicling Caffè Lena—now the country’s oldest continuously operational folk music coffeehouse—provides an insightful look at the many artists whose poetic lyrics cast a mesmerizing spell over a generation, and who remain beloved today.
Jocelyn Arem is a folklorist, producer, consultant, and musician, who played her first professional gig on Caffè Lena’s legendary stage. Inspired by the Caffè’s history, she began to document the legacy and cultural impact of the venue and its founder. Her writing appears in the American Folklife Center News, The Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal, and Boston Beats magazine, and her research has been featured on NPR, NBC, CBS, ABC, in American Airlines Magazine, and at Grammy week in Los Angeles.
In 1960, burgeoning actress and defiant dreamer Lena Spencer opened a small, grassroots coffeehouse in the quaint upstate New York town of Saratoga Springs.