McCabe's Guitar Shop

McCabe's Guitar Shop is a musical instrument store and live music venue on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, California, United States. Opened in 1958 by Gerald L. McCabe, a well-known furniture designer. McCabe's specializes in acoustic and folk instruments, including guitars, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, fiddles, ukuleles, psaltries, bouzoukis, sitars, ouds, and ethnic percussion. Since 1969, McCabe's has also been a noted forum for folk concerts.

McCabe's Guitar Shop

Concerts at McCabe's

The decor at McCabe's is stripped down, with concerts being given in a back room with folding chairs and walls covered with vintage guitars, banjos, ukuleles and other instruments. A poll by LA Observed rated McCabe's as one of the 32 greatest things about Los Angeles.[1] In The Guide prepared by the Los Angeles Times, McCabe's is described as "an achingly intimate room" with a "bare-bones setting" featuring "the best guitar music west of the 405 Freeway."[2] The Guide continues: "Legends, traveling minstrels and local talent—they all seem to pass through McCabe's at some point. They may be there to get their guitars fixed; the club has a day job as one of the oldest stringed instrument stores in the city."[2] Frommer's describes the McCabe's experience as "intimate in the extreme; the gig would have to be in your living room to get any cozier."[3] The Metromix guide to Los Angeles calls McCabe's "a mild-mannered guitar/stringed instrument shop by day" that "opens up as a world-class concert venue by night."[4] At full capacity the concert room holds 150.

McCabe's is owned by Robert and Esperanza Riskin. Robert is the son of actress Fay Wray and Robert Riskin (screenwriter of "It Happened One Night").


The list of past performers[5] includes some of the genre's finest musicians, including:

Live at McCabe's: Live albums recorded at McCabe's

In the mid-1970s Takoma Records had offices two doors east of McCabes and built a recording studio, with audio and video cables going from the sound booth at McCabes to the control room of the studio, which allowed easy recording of concerts. These master live recordings now reside within the McCabe's Guitar Shop Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Southern Folklife Collection.[6] Numerous artists have also recorded live albums at McCabe's (some of which were recorded using Takoma Studios from the mid-1970s to early 1980s) including:

Tom Paxton

Gene Clark & Carla Olson - Silhouetted In Light

A bootleg recording was also made of R.E.M.: Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop in 1987,[22] some of which have appeared as legitimate B-sides. Numerous audience tapes circulate of McCabe's performances, and several soundboards, including a set by T Bone Burnett in December 1993 that featured the Williams Brothers, Maria McKee and a cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." It also featured "My Life and the Women Who Lived It." Days later, Burnett performed at Rockpalast in Europe and claimed that "My Life..." was written on the flight to Europe. That was clearly not true. Also, Bruce Springsteen joined John Wesley Harding onstage at a show to help sing Springsteen's "Wreck on the Highway," which later turned up on a Harding release. John Hiatt sang many of his songs from "Bring the Family" at several McCabe's shows just prior to recording that album. Those songs included "Memphis in the Meantime," "You Dad Did" and "Lipstick Sunset," among others. McCabe's booker at the time, John Chelew, produced "Bring the Family," which was recorded in four days and became Haitt's best-known album.


  1. "Voting continues". LA Observed. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  2. "McCabe's Guitar Shop". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  3. "McCabe's Guitar Shop". Frommer's. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  4. "McCabe's Guitar Shop". Metromix Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  5. "McCabe's Concerts: An Incomplete List Of Artists Who Have Performed Here". McCabe's Guitar Shop. Archived from the original on 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  6. "Rare Recordings of Music Greats Come to Southern Folklife Collection | UNC Library News and Events". Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  7. "Norman Blake: Live at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  8. "Byron Berline: Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  9. "Townes Van Zandt: Live at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  10. "Ralph Stanley: Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  11. "Tom Paxton: Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  12. "Henry Rollins: Live at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  13. "Robin Williamson: Merry Band's Farewell Concert at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  14. "Nancy Wilson: Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  15. "Freedy Johnston: Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  16. "John Stewart: Deep in the Neon: Live at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  17. "Chris Smither Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  18. "David Hatfield Live at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  19. "Lyle Ritz & Herb Ohta: A Night of Ukulele Jazz Live at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  20. "Paul Siebel: Live at McCabe's". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  21. "Batdorf & Rodney: Live at McCabe's 1975". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  22. "Complete Internet R.E.M. Underground List - Part 1". Orange Fox. Retrieved 2008-03-25.

Further reading