All entries filed under Godfrey Daniels

A musical friend of mine, Rudi Sefrin, passed away in the last few weeks, and his friends threw a remembrance for him today at Godfrey’s. Rudi played on this very stage on Godfrey’s first night with his power trio of Ruff and Reddy, a great local band that played the bars when I was with the Shimersville Sheiks. Rudi, along with Reid Trevaskis and Jim Brekus, was a prolific pop-song writer who settled in the Lehigh Valley from his native Germany. (…something about not wanting to serve in the German army….)

Ruff and Reddy introduced me to the elegance of power pop, with their catchy changes, Reid’s nifty acoustic leads, Jim’s solid bass, their original songs and great obscure covers (Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley) as well as their point-on vocal harmonies. At the time, I was in my folk/bluegrass purity stage, but, seeing and hearing them live, the band turned my ears around. It was natural to invite the band to play on Godfrey’s first night, along with The Sheiks, Mary Faith Rhoads, the first day of spring in 1976.

Ruff and Reddy, Godfrey’s First Night. 3.76

Eventually Reid left the band and helped me start up Steppin’ Out!, and Jim became the bass player after Reid left Steppin’ Out! (It’s complicated.) Rudi was pissed, and remained pissed at me forever. He would leave phone messages at Godfrey’s around GD Birthday shows, congratulating me for my successes with not-so-thinly veiled spite and bile. He blamed me for stealing Reid. It was upsetting.

Rudi had a very tough life, as he had to deal with MS and an alcoholic nature. But he continued to write songs, record them in his house with his best friend Jim, Sid Grossman and others in his circle. He sure could write a song.

I sat in the room today listening to Rudi and his music on the tapes playing on Jim’s home stereo brought in for the occasion, with Rudi’s ashes in a box on the stage. His friends and I traded tales of Rudi, talked about his damn cussedness and his prodigious output of music. But I cherish the moments when I able to take in his music alone with him, in this precious space, in this time. Rudi was a friend of mine. Zoot!

 

David Bromberg returned to Godfrey Daniels for a solo show on Sunday night, a gig he wanted to do on his way back from Albany on Saturday night. I remain amazed and gratified with his connection to the club, dating back to his first visit in 1985. He hadn’t been here since 1990, but had personally helped me out for my Band Aid benefit concert with John Gorka in 2013 at the IceHouse.

David rarely does solo shows, so they are very special in that he calls upon his folkie roots, playing blues and songs from some early songwriters as well as some of his own. Very special evenings. He pulled out, in particular, Delia and Mister Bo Jangles, songs that harken back to my very early days as a beginning folk musician.

In my early days at Lehigh in the late 60’s, I would travel back to the Albany area for the summer. I would hook up with my friend Dennis Mike, a fellow acoustic guitarist who would introduce me to Cafe Lena and Jerry Jeff Walker. Dennis played Jerry Jeff’s first album and I was amazed to hear leads on acoustic guitar (Beatles’ electric guitars, yes, but…), Sure enough, there was a skinny dude on the back cover with an acoustic guitar, David Bromberg. Imagine our surprise when we found out he was playing at our very local coffeehouse (The Bethlehem Coffeehouse) in Delmar, NY.

We were up front with twenty people or so. He was accompanied by a strange bass player with a leather aviator’s helmet on, feature by Dave as “The Flying Torpedoes”. He proceeded to blow us away with his flatpicking, fingerpicking and stage presence. We had never seen anyone like this before. Damn. He played Delia and I was thunderstruck with the simplicity and restraint in his rendition.

I tried valiantly to figure Delia out, bought a book with the tablature (another new device) and gradually found out that this  Rev. Gary Davis version wasn’t remotely the same as what I heard from Bromberg. This was not going to be easy to become a folksinger. But I persisted, learned it by ear, and I still pull it out on special occasions. David did a great version with some superb storytelling and it seems I still have some woodshedding to do.

As he was packing up, I thanked him for returning to room and pointed out his photo from 1986. He said, “A lot of my friends are on these walls.” Some deep connections here in this very special room. I think that’s why he came back, and why he helped me out when I was pretty low four years ago. He is a very special human being, as well as a world-class musician and folkie.

David led off the evening with this, “You know that you are in the last of the best, in this room.  There were  times when rooms similar to this were all over the United States. And there are still some of those old coffeehouses, some of them older than Godfrey Daniels, that are still in business, but they’re not the same. They’ve all expanded, got more modern spaces; they can bring more people in. They’re just not the same. They don’t have the history that is here, and that history counts.” Bang.

 

We’ve performed for this annual gathering on the Friday after Thanksgiving for about 4 or 5 years now, and I relish this opportunity to play with these friends, for the music and the camaraderie. The band played quite a bit back 35 years ago, back when the local music scene could support bar gigs during the week, weddings on the weekends and we developed a strong reputation as a country band that could rock and roll and swing while entertaining the folks with our humor on stage. 

Well, we still do that. The Texas Swing material still kicks, Reid’s guitar is still nasty and he can still belt out the vocals. Chris Jones still plays steel regularly with a local country band, but Jeff (drums) and Hub (piano) only play occasionally. They alway rise to the occasion. Kris Kehr has done a great job taking over the bass duties when Denny kind of rusted out on the instrument, and Kris really does his homework on a lot of material we take for granted. I still play a lot so I’m primed and ready to go. 

It has fallen to me to produce the show, writing setlists, gathering folks for rehearsals, etc. and take the responsibility for divvying up the material among all of us. The older material is solid and folks come out to hear the tunes, but it’s up to me to provide some new stuff on the menu and keep things fresh for us and the audience. The combination makes for a really good show.

 

Peggy Salvatore has joined us for a few songs at the beginning of the second set and tonight we worked up Rickie Lee Jones’ Chuck E’s in Love and Bonnie Raitt’s Give It Up or Let Me Go. I’ve been wanting to do Chuck E’s for a long time, and I’ve been working on my version of it. This was the perfect opportunity for me to really get it down. I almost nailed it, blew the last chord but caught it off my shoe strings. Give It Up rocked nicely. Peggy is singing more and it shows. She had fun.

We have some solid tunes to start out with and help us establish our cred from the get go, which is no small thing when we only do this once a year. Choo Choo, Zombie Jamboree and I’m Walking do just fine and we roll from there. Walking Stick (sans tango), Reid’s Dehlia was particularly manic with his Buzzy vocal conniptions, Hub’s solo Song for You, Jeff’s Old Cow Hand, and another raucous Red Neck Mother were highlights.

I’ve added False From True, Rosie is a Friend of Mine, Louise and Lessons from Pete to the roster this year and we did each one well, playing with our antennae up, looking for cues from me and listening hard. The audience appreciates the effort. Lessons came out very nicely. My friend Bill Hall did a multitrack tape and it should have some fine cuts on it.

The stage raps and comments were, as always, fresh, spontaneous and surprisingly funny. Part of the magic of the band has always been our repartee with the audience, finding places for asides without getting in each other’s way. Lots of chuckles tonight. 

Though we were not as tight as we were back then (and we were extremely well rehearsed), we cover for each other and trust that we will pull the songs off well. We did, for the most part, and the audience was none the wiser for the small fluffs. Most of the comments after the show were, “That was fun.” That’s pretty good in my book.

I am still amazed how tight we are as friends and we naturally fall into our grooves and roles on stage. We remain brothers and it shows on and off stage.

Roland Kushner had put together myself, Mary Faith Rhoads and Rick Weaver for a celebration of the late, great Stan Rogers’ music. We had pieced together this last summer with some success and Roland was a stern taskmaster this year, with multiple, multiple rehearsals. I missed a bunch due to heavy performing schedules, but Mary, Rick and Roland did a lot of work on the tunes and the vocals. It paid off tonight.  Folks were much more relaxed and confident and it was a pleasure to be on stage with them all.

There was a surprising number of people who came out, several who had seen Stan at the club back the the late 70’s and early 80’s. We rolled through the set list, with each taking the lead. The conversation was real and the music was strong. Dulcimer, concertina, guitar, octave mandolin, mandolin, mandocello, rain stick and rub board. A nice sonic menu.

I tremendously enjoyed  the role of backup mandolinist, adding to the percussive and chordal strength of Stan’s songs. They really rock, if you play them strong, and that’s what I can add to this ensemble.

I added several very strong songs with Giant, How Legends are Made and a newer one Oh No, Not I. I really had a good time watching my friends perform for a wonderful Godfrey’s audience and doing such a fine job. It was sweet.

I got a FB message at 5 pm that afternoon that the Philly Folk Song Society wants us to play for a PFFS monthly meeting. That’s mighty fine, and Rick, Mary and Roland were quite pleased.

I have very few opportunities these days to poke my performing head above and into the larger folk circuit, and this was one of them. Spring Gulch is in its 31st year and I’ve been invited now three times. I am the sacrificial opening act on the Sunday, ostensibly as the family folk act. The last two times involved rain so I was looking forward to good weather today. I was also anticipating playing the set before my friend John Gorka. Simply being on this national bill was quite gratifying, and similar to opening for Tom Paxton at Musikfest Cafe and my many memorable gigs at the Philly Folk Fest.

Unfortunately there is no longer a crowd of kids to play for an aging folk audience, and I am hired to do my family show. The Sunday crowd is slow to make it down to the stage area, eating breakfast, breaking down camp sites, all for a “kids” show. I really do appreciate the folkies who do show up, and they are as good an audience as there can be, sans children. They join in singing, doing hand motions, etc., but my ‘show’ really is in about my interaction with the kids. I am somewhat handcuffed in these situations and I try to engage the adults while doing my kids material. I’m glad that I am comfortable enough with my asides and observations that it turns out to be an engaging overall show. But, it is hard, hard work.  I did get many compliments afterwards, so there was some gratification. And several folks who have heard me over the years reflected back on some of my gigs way back when. Good to reconnect with my other excursions in the past.

I actually owe this gig to Sophie, the daughter and granddaughter of the two presenters of the festival Andy and Michael Braunfeld. They both said that she insisted I return. She said, “Not just Trout Fishing or John Flynn, but Dave Fry.” Whatever it takes, I suppose. Sophie knows.

I did my good family set: Bear Hunt, Peanut Butter, Names to the Animals, Giants and more, all the time trying to encourage more kids to come down, grab an instrument in front of the stage and get involved, while balancing on this thin adult/kids edge in performance values.

What makes these occasions so special is the opportunity to for me to perform in front of my peers on the Folk Circuit. I feel I have the performance chops to play on main stages like this, and I certainly have played in front of large audiences, especially in my assembly work. I belong here.

Driving back, I regretted not doing Lessons from Pete at some point in the set, risk stepping aside from the kids material just so I could present my folk opus to this very particular audience. But I felt constrained by the task at hand assigned by the promoters. I would love to return with my trio for a real Dave Fry set, play to the hard-core folkies and deliver my good adult material. But, I am glad that I can set up avenues to the Philly Folk Fest, meet the good folks who know what I do, and, with my new CD, get back to that festival.

I particularly cherished my time back stage with my friend John Gorka. We were able to share some quality time as friends/brothers, talk about how lucky we are to be able to do this for a living (especially compared with those old blues guys…..). I was able to share some of my botherations about where I am on the folk food chain, but was able to provide for my young family over the last 25 years. And I found myself saying, “But, you know, nobody else on the circuit put together a folk club like Godfreys.” John chimed in, “and made it last.” We shared our family’s recent histories, heath issues, how our bodies are turning into our dad’s, talked about some recent passings of fellow performers, and shared great Godfreys stories and more. This was a precious time; I rarely have conversations like this but with only a handful of close friends. I felt flush with my kinship with my good friend. …and there was good hospitality food on hand.

John has become a consummate performer and I complimented his ‘show’. His patter in between songs is as finely scripted as his songs. His timing, his stories, his delivery all amplify his stage persona. His vulnerability and warmth is unlike others on stage – he realizes this and crafts his stage personality to that end. He know what he is doing, just like I know what I’m doing with kids. We are the only folks who feature scrapple in our songs, and I was mildly disappointed that John didn’t have time to work it in his show. Understood that he had a 45 minute set, which is short for him. Such interesting connections.

John and I were talking by the CD tent (I, of course, sold nada….) but we were waylaid by a talkative fan (one of many for John, and it’s nice to see him handle it with grace). As I found my out of the conversation (the one about his friend’s choice of visiting with a dieing mother or going to a JG concert…that brought some raucous laughter from myself and John), I headed back to the stage area. As I was passing out of earshot, the guy said, “Who’s that guy?” John said, “He’s my hero.”

That’s all I needed.

It has been a good, creative day on the planet, and I looked forward to a more informal acoustic jam at Godfreys tonight. It has always been a low-key event, with a few familiar faces as well as some new folks. Tonight was no different. I started out with a couple of tunes, some new folks filtered in, one guy listening, and away we went. A nice mix of styles, finger picked, raw groove stuff, New Orleans, Chicago, etc. Dobro, several guitars, harp and friendly conversation. One couple on guitar and dobro traveled from over an hour away, and had a great time, saying that there are no acoustic jams around. Probably true.

And though it was a three gig day, the energy of playing music made the day flow by……

It was a First Friday on the SouthSide, and I put together a round robin with my friends Bill Schachter and Pete Gustavsen (Scapegrace). Again, a significantly small crowd, but I particularly enjoy passing tunes around with friends. Peter is a solid songwriter with a Ray Orbison voice and quirky pop tunes and Bill possesses and equally quirky sense of humor. We enjoyed each other’s company and the time passed quickly.

I had been looking forward to sharing the stage with my good friend and long-time recording colleague Wendi Bourne for a Dave’s Night Out. We set out to concentrate on the Art of Swing Rhythm Guitar, an aspect that Wendi is particularly adept at, beyond her wonderful vocal chops.

Again, it was a very small crowd, but one quite interested in the music. (This whole series is vastly under-appreciated in our dear Lehigh Valley). We traded a few songs, talked about our heroes (Ted Bogan, Bucky Pizzarelli, Freddie Green, etc.), the joy of being part of a larger groove and band. We share thoughts on basic block chords, some Artie Traum three note chords, damping the chords, creativity up and down the fretboard and more.

We were lucky that our friend and maestro Rolly Brown was in the audience, and we invited him up for some of his licks and observations. As usual, the quality of the conversation was at a college level and our apparent respect for each other palpable.

One gentleman brought his teenage son to the show, and I asked him what he had learned. It was hard for him to put his thoughts into word, quite understandable, but I asked him to share those thoughts with his dad on the way home. Another friend, a fellow radio programmer mentioned that he learned a lot, even though he didn’t play guitar. He went on FB to comment further that Godfreys is the best place in the Valley to spend an evening.

I was bushed at the end, but satisfied that we given our all, created some good music, and passed on some of the knowledge that we often take for granted as musicians. And how important it is to have good friends like Wendi and Rolly in our circle of creative artists.

It’s always a special night when I get to play Godfreys’ stage, and tonight was one of them. Playing with my respected friends and musicians Ed McKendry, Kris Kehr and Dina Hall, performing the best of my ‘adult’ repertoire in a world-wide respected venue, on Concert Window, and being recorded by my pal Bill Hall is all that I could ask for. A bigger house would have been nice, but that is a constant disappointment here in my home town. But, such is my fate: hometown hero with very little following.

I had come down with an, as yet undiagnosed, stomach problem, so I opted for doing a nice, long single set. And we set out cruising through my material. I am glad that I have a stack of good material, so new songs and folks by my side to render them with class. And a stack of material that will be on the album-in-progress.

During the set, I premiered my new mandocello, an amazing instrument that actually makes my Martin’s sound soft. I had worked up Satisfied Mind on it, presented it to the band before the gig, and was able to posit it. I think everyone was astounded by the richness and depth of this instrument. It rocked the joint

New stuff: Ten Men, The Blues Got the World, False From True, Smokin’ Babies, Giant, Rosie is a Friend of Mine along with some older ones: Nadine, These Days, Black Jack County Chain, It’ll Be Me, Ireland, Rocket Launcher, Pay Bo Diddley, How Legends are Made and my own Lessons from Pete.

We all had our antennae up, the creativity was flowing, very few mistakes (even on my part) and it felt great to be part of this ensemble on stage tonight. I had to drop some songs from the set list, but the good stuff got played.

Kris is one of my really dependable friends, dating back to Pavlov’s Dawgs times, and I can always count on his bass linking with my acoustic rhythm that becomes more than the sum of its parts, giving me the opportunity to concentrate on delivering the vocals and lyrics at a high performance value. Ed seamlessly adds great, spontaneous leads and keeps his head in the game, knows when I need his leads and never over-plays. Dina has taken on the job of adding “atmospherix” on percussion, adding appropriate and varied sounds and rhythms around the edges. She has come a long way as a stage performer, even outside of her fronting her own music. She said that she appreciates my trust. Trust on all our parts make this endeavor quite satisfying .

As we came close to finishing out the show, I thanked those in the audience for trusting in us to deliver a Godfreys quality show (no small thing), but also saying that, even if they hadn’t shown up, we would have played anyway. We do play for our own pleasure, perhaps primarily, but appreciate those who take a chance on us. I could feel I was close to my limit physically and we closed out the hour and a half set.

I packed up and apologized to my mates and sound crew for bailing out and headed upstairs in retreat.  The music and my friends got me through quite remarkably. The recording will come out pretty nice and I look forward to having it on hand to share in various ways. My daughter Rosalie watched the mandocello part from her home in Italy.