By Elmer Ploetz
For Greg Hennessey, his Rockabilly Greg podcast is a labor of love … specifically a love of Western New York music.
Since March, Hennessey has done 37 podcasts, each somehow connected with Western New York music or musicians.
As anyone who has ever done a podcast knows, that is one heck of a lot of work, especially to do it right, the way Hennessey does it. The result is a remarkable growing archive that captures the breadth of the region’s music, both past and present.
While he uses the Rockabilly Greg moniker, reflecting one of his primary interests, the music he has featured runs across the board.
He has definitely hit our Americana audience with conversations with the SAM Foundation’s Bob McLennan and Jason Hall, with our columnist Buck Quigley (of the Steam Donkeys), the Dooleys, David Myles Meinzer, Eddie Bentley and Joanie Marshall with Linda Lou Schriver.
But he has also spoken with Megan Brown, Josh English and Grace Lougen of Grosh, Beatles expert Gary Astridge, Jennifer May and Jennie Jones of Ladies First Jazz, original Buffalo punk Bernie Kugel and a host of others.
Here’s the Joanie Marshall and Linda Lou Schriver episode:
And if the name Greg Hennessey sounds familiar, it could be because he is on the board of directors of the SAM Foundation. The Foundation has helped spread the word about the podcast, but he receives no financial support. As we said, it’s a labor of love.
This editor recently had a chance to talk to Hennessey about the project. We’ve worked together off and on for close to 10 years, between the SAM Foundation and, before that, with bthe Buffalo Music Hall of Fame board.
Hennessey said the idea for the podcast actually came from singer Jessie Galante at a Musicians of Buffalo (MOB) show in December of 2021 that he was helping with.
“She said, ‘You’ve got this really great passion for local music. … Why don’t you do a podcast?’ … So I said, ‘Let’s do it. I had no clue how to go about doing it.
“I had never listened to a podcast; I still haven’t because I don’t want to jade myself, I’ve had my vision and how I wanted to do it and I just started asking around about equipment, how you how you get it all on the internet, and all that kind of stuff.”
Hennessey has certainly figured it out. His podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. The easiest way to find it, though, may be his own website at https://rockabillygreg.com/podcast-episodes/.
Here’s the SAM Foundation episode:
The website also includes some bonus background info and embedded videos of artists associated with the shows. For example, a recent show on the late contemporary classical composer Walter S. Hartley includes a digital flipbook created from memorabilia shared by Hartley’s family.
Hennessey is a graphic designer in his day job, originally from Fredonia. Today he creates his podcast from “The Flamingo Lounge,” his basement studio and hangout.
While he has recorded many of his episodes live in the Lounge, he has also done some (such as the Hartley episode) virtually, via Zoom, or by phone.
He also brings a performer’s background to the podcast. He performs in the duo Old Friends with his old friend Steve Metivier, and he has performed in many theatre productions through the years. But he also brings a fan’s enthusiasm to the project (while trying not to fanboy!).
He said he has only two real rules for the show: No negativity and no politics. The show is about the music.
“I’ve tried to make it just like we’re sitting in the lounge, having a cup of coffee, or a beer or whatever,” he said. “And we’ll just tell stories.”
One of the inspirations for the approach, he said, came from his conversations with Rich Sargent, the longtime music industry figure who is on the board of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.
“When I met him on the board, we used to just go to a Tim Hortons over here by my house and have coffee, and he would tell stories for hours. And I would just sit there, you know, just listening. But it just goes in, and then a lot I forget. So that’s why I’m recording things.”
So it was no coincidence that Sargent was the guest on Hennessey’s very first Rockabilly Greg podcast. Sargent be back as the guest on a special Christmas Eve edition this month.
“I tell everyone, ‘I want your story, in your words, the way you want to tell your story,’” Hennessey said.
Among his favorite episodes was one with Kerrykate Abel.
“We really just kind of forgot what we were doing and we just talked and we laughed,he said. “We would laugh and be kind of silly, and then we got really serious. And then we you know, we just brought the whole conversation up and down.
“A couple people were like, ‘You just sounded like you’re having way too much fun.’ Well, that’s the way it should be. And there hasn’t been one (guest) that I have disliked.”
The project in many ways has been a culmination of the work Hennessey has done with the Hall of Fame and the Sam Foundation over the last 15 years or so.
“I look back at it and see all the things that I did from the time I started with the Hall of Fame in 2007, and met so many different Hall of Famers … and just all the stuff that I’ve been involved with led to this point,” he said.
The stories he’s looking for aren’t always the biggest or from the biggest stars.
“I was always a big fan of (legendary radio broadcaster) Paul Harvey. So I want to get the rest of the story,” he said. “Everyone knows the main stories of these people. (Like Harvey), I want the rest of the story.
“The people I’m talking to are the rest of the story that’s Buffalo. They’re the people that get overlooked.”
And there are still plenty of people to talk to. The stories have just begun.
And now you know where to check them out.