Enrico Banducci

Biography by

b. Harry Banducci, 17 February 1922, Bakersfield, California, USA, d. 9 October 2007, San Francisco, California, USA. Playing violin from early childhood, at the age of 13 Banducci went to San Francisco…
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Artist Biography by

b. Harry Banducci, 17 February 1922, Bakersfield, California, USA, d. 9 October 2007, San Francisco, California, USA. Playing violin from early childhood, at the age of 13 Banducci went to San Francisco to study music and there adopted a new first name. In 1950, he bought a club, the hungry i, from Eric Nord, which had begun in the late 40s in a basement on Columbus Avenue and in 1954 Banducci moved it to Jackson Street. As entertainment, he had begun presenting folk music, currently very popular on the west coast. The singers who appeared there, in most instances before they were known to outsiders, included the Gateway Singers, the Kingston Trio, who recorded two albums at the club, the Limeliters, who also recorded there, Peter, Paul, And Mary, We Five, Stan Wilson and Glenn Yarbrough. Maya Angelou also appeared, lightly disguised as a Caribbean singer.

In the mid-60s Tom Lehrer recorded That Was The Year That Was there. Another young singer who had an important step up at the club was Barbra Streisand, who appeared in 1963, sharing the bill with comedian Woody Allen. The latter’s appearance was a continuation of another significant entertainment trend championed by Banducci. It was a new breed of stand-up comics that brought Banducci and the hungry i lasting fame. Among those featured early in their careers were Shelley Berman, Lenny Bruce, Godfrey Cambridge, Dick Cavett, Irwin Corey, Bill Cosby, Phyllis Diller, Dick Gregory, Joan Rivers, Ronnie Schell, the Smothers Brothers and Jonathan Winters. The comics were presented against a brick wall, a style of backdrop that became de rigueur for the club’s many imitators.

Eventually, the hungry i’s policy changed and by the mid-60s Banducci had sold the name to a strip joint at a different address. In the late 50s, he opened Enrico’s Coffee House, later changing the name to Enrico’s Sidewalk Café. At one time or another he also owned Mike’s Pool Hall and Clown Alley. Banducci’s personal fortunes were an extravagant roller coaster and by the end of the 80s, he was running a hot dog franchise in Richmond, Virginia. Later still, he retired, going back to San Francisco.