Dear Members:

Thanks to Beave Sorenson for his heartwarming article, Jim Whitford for his tribute to Susan Tanner, Willie Schoellkopf for his contribution to Americana Music representing our hometown and Kevin Cox for reviewing the Dave Alvin show at the Sportsmen’s Tavern. And have you heard about the new Americanarama Buffalo Online Radio Station? Elmer Ploetz tells you the latest below. Please scroll down to read these articles – we’re “jammed” with good stuff this month.

I’d like to encourage all members to send in submissions of any length because we’d LOVE to hear from you!

“Live from Black Rock” has graced us with a vimeo recording of Eilen Jewel’s show on April 23rd at the Tavern.

There will be more videos and live streaming coming soon.

Reminder – Bobby Lebel’s Beginner Guitar Clinic begins May 9th at The ART Theater space, 330 Amherst St. 6:30 til 8:00. $150 for members $200 for non-members. For more info, contact Don Nelson at 716-553-0564. or email :

Scroll down for this month’s TICKET GIVEAWAYS in SAMF President Bob McLennan’s article.

Peace and Love,
Angela Hastings
Director of Membership


July 2, 2017, 2:00pm – 8:00 pm

Six Bands for Six Bucks: Summer at the Silos

Sponsored by The SAM Foundation and Silo City

Co-Sponsored by GoBike and Flying Bison Brewery

Stay tuned for more details!

Beave Sorenson of Leroy Townes writes:


“Your heroes turn out to be assholes
And the light that you’re chasing in the tunnel is a train
The singer’s in key and the guitar’s in tune,
But the song is still slipping away.”

– Shooter Jennings


“No man can step into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and you’re not the same man.” – Heraclitus

Beave SorensonMusic is a river that you jump into and lose yourself in. If you play your cards right and don’t fight the current, it can drown you and save your life simultaneously. Any artistic endeavor is built on the paradox of creative control: these may be your words and your tune, but you have to let go of that control as soon as those words find their way into the ears of your listeners. Your audience is the ultimate captain of your song’s ship; it’s the band’s job to hoist the sails and pull the oars. Like Jack Hawkins tells Chuck Heston in Ben-Hur, “We keep you alive to serve this ship. Row well and live.”

I want to use this space to talk about how music saved my life (again) this month. I don’t think that I’m alone in saying that this past year has been one of the roughest in recent memory.

Last fall, Stevie, a dear childhood friend who has been an interwoven thread in my creative life left this earth far too soon and I have been struggling with how to contextualize that loss. A mutual friend of ours, Adam Malone, is the bass player in a Buffalo-based metal band, The Long Cold Dark. Several years ago, when our friend’s little brother returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, he arranged a show involving several local hard-core outfits. I was playing somewhere and missed that show. Adam arranged for those bands to get back together this month to celebrate Stevie’s life and art and asked the Leroy Townes Band to join the bill. I was tentatively excited and more than a little anxious. How would our Americana sound work with an audience that is built to thrash? Our bass player, the inimitable Dr. Rob, was scheduled to be out of town on the weekend of the show, so Adam assured me that he would learn the bass lines and be ready to throw down. Two weeks later, and two days before an Americana throw-down at the legendary Mohawk Place featuring Uncle Ben’s Remedy, Ten Cent Howl and the rockin’ Pittsburgh band The Hawkeyes, Rob was rushed to the hospital for what would end up being an emergency craniotomy to remove a dangerous cyst in his cranium caused by a snowboarding fall earlier in the year (on a separate note, please get out of the way when you disembark from the ski lift – I’m looking at you, selfie-snapping millennials!) While we were worrying about the life of our band’s guru, we were suddenly out one half of our rhythm section! From the Blackthorn pub in South Buffalo where we sat awaiting news of Rob’s status, we called up Adam Malone and he signed on for the gig, saying that he had already learned the bass lines for the upcoming memorial show. Regionally-famous-country-guitar-gunslinger Harmony Griffin agreed to join the band for the night and with one quick rehearsal in my basement three hours before we hit, Adam nailed the set and we left it all on the stage that night. Just hours before the show, we received the news that Dr. Rob’s surgery was successful and a euphoric feeling swept over me as I climbed onboard Castle Grayskull (UBR’s tour bus) that night for a victory lap around Allentown. We played John Prine and Jason Isbell tunes on the house guitar and sang at the top of our lungs into the Buffalo night. It felt like whatever battle the hoodoo had brought to our doorstep, we were winning.

Next weekend, the time rolled around for the memorial show. Stevie, my brother in arts and in life, was heavy on my mind and I wondered how I was going to get through the night without being a total mess. I decided to avoid the bottle for the evening, leaving myself no retreat from facing the demons that had been plaguing my mind for six months. I wanted fresh eyes and fresh ears. I picked up our drummer, Jeff Schaller (a recent inductee into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame!) and we lit out for the country. The show was being held in the Centerville Fire Hall. This would be the point in the set where I ask if anyone knows where Centerville is located. Three shouts of approval would go out from some hunters and part-time rednecks. The hamlet of Centerville is a ring of Amish farms surrounding an intersection housing a one-room post office and a corner store. It is God’s country: a beautiful vista perched on the top of the Genesee River valley, looking down on the rolling hills where I was raised.

Now, you don’t have to be an audiophile to know that a fire hall is not a sonically ideal place for a rock show. Built on a giant slab of concrete and rimmed with corrugated tin, sounds bounce around like jackrabbits in heat. As we began to unload our equipment, a couple of long-haired gentleman in sleeveless metal T’s approached us and informed us that they would help us to get plugged in and run a quick sound check. They deftly tuned us into the room and dialed in a great mix that went a long way in curing my pre-show jitters. As I was trying to reign in my emotions and anxiety, one of the guys leaned over as I laid the setlist down next to the mic and exclaimed, “Hey, I see you’re playing a Hank III tune. Mind if I play scrub board?” It turns out that these two were the lead singer and guitar player from what I would describe as the most spectacular live act in Western New York: The Dredneks! Grant and Devin would later have us scooping our jaws off the floor with guitar and vocal pyrotechnics. Their original material speaks for itself, uncompromising and without genre. Their three covers were System of a Down, A-ha’s “Take on Me,” and the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Never have I used the words “face-melting” and “Will Smith” in the same sentence, but in this line of work, the truth is stranger than fiction. The other bands that night, Inherent Vice and The Long Cold Dark, played with the intensity of headliners at a summer rock festival. I would highly suggest catching these acts the next time you can. In fact, I am going to see the Dredneks open for The Legendary Shackshakers at The Mohawk Place next week.

I went into that evening anxious and grieving. I left with a feeling that could only be rivaled by a deep Bills playoff run. I felt Stevie’s wide beaming smile from the other side. Again, the river had taken me deep into dark water, rolled me over and spit me out a new man.

But life is never through with you while you’re still breathing.

The next week, I received news of the passing of William “Wild Bill” Castle, who had taken a small forest in my beloved Genesee Valley and transformed it into a hippie’s paradise. If any of you readers have had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Pollywogg Holler, you know what I mean. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, the closest I can get to a description in a sentence would be to say that it is equal parts Woodstock and Lord of the Rings. Bill was a man who facilitated my first fascinations with live music when I visited the Holler as a young boy and watched the song being passed around a bonfire like some sort of sonic peace pipe. He was one of the first guys to give me a gig and he always greeted my returns to his mystical forest with a big hug and a “Welcome Home, Leroy.” Recently, Bill had fallen ill in Ecuador and had to be medically transported to New York City, accruing a gargantuan hospital bill in the process. A number of us (spearheaded by John Weber and Andy Wegrzyn) who have been blessed by Bill’s gift to the world had planned a benefit show at the Buffalo Distilling Company. News of his passing turned this benefit into a memorial (FYI: there is a page on the YouCaring website where you can contribute to his widow and family) and a celebration of one of our scene’s great heroes. The Band Named Sue, Ten Cent Howl, Tonk! and Shaky Stage all delivered joyous sets. I was joined by my wife and my brothers in the Legendary Long Johns, who were formed one gusty winter’s night at Pollywogg because Bill wanted a band to play for the staff supporting the following day’s Winterfest. As the last chorus of “I Shall be Released” bounced off the brick walls of the Distillery, a dam broke inside of me and tears welled in my eyes. Once again, the river had delivered me.

Later that night, we watched our brothers in Uncle Ben’s Remedy open for Waylon’s son, Shooter Jennings, at The Waiting Room. Shooter is country-rock royalty and I used to be one of his biggest fans. I was in the front row when he played Thursday in the Square ten years ago, screaming his lyrics back to the stage in the pouring rain. I brought a lot of old memories and expectations to the show and so maybe it’s not fair of me to say that Shooter didn’t deliver the goods that night. But as I said earlier, your audience is the captain and you better pull that oar, son! On the other hand, the boys in the Remedy totally teleported me back a decade to that kid in rain at the Square. I was hollering UBR’s originals back to the stage with the fervor of a Metallica fan. Later that night at Founding Father’s Pub, I was relating my disappointment with Shooter’s set to Harmony. I shared with him the lyric that I included as an introduction to this tale. He gently reminded me that “your heroes aren’t assholes. They’re right here.” Thanks, Harmony. Sometimes I need reminding. So, whatever room you’re playing, whether it’s a fire hall, a tour bus, a distillery or a concert hall, put your back into it and pull that oar. You just might be saving someone’s life.

Beave Sorenson is the recipient of SAMF’s Jim Lauderdale Songwriter’s Award 2015

A Tribute to Susan Tanner

by Jim Whitford

Susan TannerThe Buffalo music scene lost one of it’s brightest stars last week. In 2012 Susan was diagnosed with an aggressive and hard to treat form of breast cancer (TNBC). She never showed any discouragement, lack of grace, grit, or tenacity to match what she was up against. Five years of fighting and chemotherapy finally proved too much. She died Monday April 24th at age 51. Kind, funny, generous, and extremely smart. Her passing is heartbreaking to all who knew her.

I met Susan a couple decades ago through our pretty vast network of mutual friends. At the time she worked marketing for Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. She knew the biz inside and out but more importantly she was a true and passionate fan of all things music. It’s made perfect sense that she fell in love with and married Mohawk Place talent booker Marty Boratin, another music fanatic and arguably one of the most tireless supporters and promoters of indie music in Buffalo.

“Boratin is perhaps the single person we might cite as the architect of the Buffalo music scene that came of age in the ’90s and laid the template for what’s happening still. What Boratin and Tanner built at Mohawk Place created the model for what we’re seeing at places like the Sportsmen’s Tavern today – a tight-knit, community based hub, one that touring bands are eager to return to, largely due to the hospitality and enthusiasm directed their way”
– Jeff Miers. The Buffalo News

In addition to Mohawk bookings the couple hosted many fine house concerts; a concept I hadn’t even heard of until they started doing theirs back in the early 2000’s.

Here’s the scene:

People arriving with dishes to pass, bottles to share. Marty dashing from the herb garden to the kitchen while he and Susan are cooking up a ton of gourmet goodness. Catching up with old friends, making new ones. Folks packed into the living room listening to Freddy Johnston or Linda McRae or someone you knew nothing or little about. Sitting on the lawn outside while Peter Case or Michael Tarbox or someone you knew little or nothin about played from the porch. Always a great vibe and the donations and merch sales from house concerts literally sustain the careers of most indie artists.

“Susan Tanner was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Her hospitality as the co-booker (most everything I’m saying goes for her man Marty Boratin too) turned the Mohawk into a welcome oasis for touring bands. Her and Marty had me out to their house in Eden where I performed in one of the most relaxing and joyful house concerts I’ve ever had the pleasure of being part of. She was a music lover and a life lover. It’s a sad day…”
– Peter Case

“Yes, Susan Tanner wuz amazing, and we all miss her spirit tremendously, but it’s not about how hard she fought. It’s not about how brave she wuz. It’s not about the struggle to stay alive. It’s about what she gave us. What she taught us. She showed us how it should be done. How life walking on the edge of the precipice should be lived. She educated us about the disease, but in doing so she instinctively demonstrated how to live with dignity. She made us all better humans. That’s an amazing gift.”
– Gurf Morlix

“Early in her tenure at Righteous Babe, Susan Tanner asked if my store, New World Record, would be interested in doing a midnight sale for the release of the latest Ani DiFranco record. It might have been Dilate, or even Not a Pretty Girl, that’s how long ago it was. She helped Marty (who was then the store’s buyer/manager/marty of all trades) set up window displays, she helped us advertise the event well in advance, and on release night, she was with us from 10pm or 11pm on, helping to manage the crowd (which wound around the aisles of the store) as we previewed the record, did giveaways of the many autographed t-shirts, posters, stickers, magnets that Susan brought in that evening. Or maybe some of that merch came later; I can’t remember because it became a New World tradition: every Ani record was released at midnight at New World, and Susan was always right there with us, and the giveaways continued and grew as the occasions became larger. When we moved down the street from 512 Elmwood into 765 Elmwood, Ani’s record To the Teeth happened to be released in November 1999, before we were ready to open for business in the new store.

It was still a construction zone, with all of the inventory, fixtures, everything still in packing boxes, and lit by work lights, but wouldn’t you know it, we roped off the entire store save for a narrow path from the door to the not-yet- finished counter; it was absurd, and very probably illegal, but we did the midnight sale anyway. Why? Susan Tanner. She didn’t ask us to do it, but it was a tradition: we spent Ani Difranco release nights with Susan. We would do anything for Susan Tanner. And who wouldn’t do anything for her? She, of course, would do anything for you, me, and that guy down the street. I don’t think I ever introduced Susan Tanner to anyone. Invariably, she already knew them, and in most cases, knew them very well.

For me, she was the friend that I could talk with about music (of course); about health and medicine and therapeutic approaches (of course); but not just about her health…about her husband Marty’s crappy genetic risk factors, and about my own; about working in the record business; about working outside the record business; about plants and gardening; about food and restaurants and recipes; about politics (in our last extended conversation, she talked about how Planned Parenthood had saved her life, and she was ready to take on anyone on their behalf); about just about anything under the sun. Because everything under the sun was in her bailiwick; she loved it all.

And she was fiercely intelligent: she did the research, she thought about things, and she was confident in her opinions without being overbearing, because she could always back it up. And, of course, she had impeccable taste. If I was expecting to go anywhere cool, it was pretty much a given that, health permitting, she would be there with Marty. I fear that I will never go anywhere really cool again.
Because Susan won’t be there.”
– Govindan Kartha

This showed up in my Facebook feed from a mutual friend and truly encapsulates the feelings of Susan’s many, many friends

“It’s telling that, with regard to Susan Tanner’s passing, the word “shocked” keeps coming up. If you knew Susan, you knew her cancer was deadly, and that’s because she was never less than upfront about it. But she was also perfectly clear about her intention to stay alive. She had us all convinced that she would do it, too, and for more years than the odds allowed, she kept the beast that had her in its jaws persuaded its teeth were sunk into the wrong girl. Words like “brave” aren’t uncommon when we talk about cancer, but it’s rare to see anyone take on anything with the clear-eyed fortitude Susan brought to the battle. For that, and for the way she exponentially expanded Marty’s world and heart, I loved that woman, just like the rest of us.”
– Hazel-Dawn Dumpert

Susan Tanner is, to her thousands of friends, a benchmark of what we can strive to be. A degree or two closer to the humanity that is the best of us.

R.I.P. Susan.

Look for the celebration of Susan’s life on May 21st at Asbury Hall/Babeville.


Congratulations to Willie Schoellkopf

MerleFest 2017 announces winners of Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

MerleFest·Friday, April 28, 2017

1st Place – Paul Kelly (Santa Fe, N.M.), Buddy Guido (Mohawk, N.Y.), Willie Schoellkopf (Buffalo, N.Y.) – “Trap Door (In the Ceiling)”

Quote from Willie:

Willie Schoellkopf“MerleFest, for those who might not know, is an annual Americana music festival held on the last weekend of April in Wilkesboro, NC (hometown of the late great flatpicker Doc Watson, and named in memory of Doc’s son Merle). Along with performances from top bluegrass, blues, Celtic, and Americana artists, one of the focus events of the festival is the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (CASC), which this year drew nearly 1000 submissions from songwriters all over the world. Twelve finalists are chosen to compete at the festival, three in each of four categories. Longtime friends from my college days, Sal “Buddy” Guido and Paul “Killer” Kelly, have been writing songs for many years, often including me in the process to provide some musical direction and moral support. We regularly submit songs to the CASC, and have made it to the finals six times. This year, we won first place in the Gospel/Inspirational category with our song, “Trap Door In The Ceiling” (Buddy and Killer also placed first last year in the Country category, but I had a prior commitment — our retirement party at the Sportsmen’s!). As part of the award for first place, we got to perform the song for the full festival audience, which — thanks to the beautiful weather and the appearance of James Taylor as featured guest with Jerry Douglas and the Transatlantic Sessions — was over 10,000 strong! It was a thrill I will never forget, and one that would not have happened without my treasured friendship with Buddy and Killer, whose writing talents and prolific production of tunes continually amaze me. Thanks to SAMF, the Halls, and all Sportsmen’s patrons, for this recognition… it’s very cool, and we’re very proud!”

Willie Schoellkopf

2015 SAM Foundation Male Singer of the Year

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones, May 2nd at Sportsmen’s Tavern

Review by Kevin Cox

Dave AlvinAnother legend. Another night of packed house. Another professional show by musical masters playing for the Sportsmen’s connoisseur crowd listening with marvelous respect. Not to say typical because it is never typical when this unique, cool confluence of events converge at The Always Legendary Sportsmen’s Tavern. Quality and shared joy. Magnificent musicality speaking to an audience that appreciates the skill, the years, and the words of songs that speak to our American lives specifically about the American Dream and generally, to the sadness and joy of the human condition.

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones rocked the house. And there was the theater that comes with the best bands. The lights went down and three white cowboy hats and a beautiful gal drummer strutted on the stage, took positions, strapped in and launched some sexy twangy guitar notes, slid into a beautiful combination of bass, lead, rhythm and drums. Musicians textured together and having fun layering their sounds so that you could hear clearly every instrument but feel the band, the team, the talking across the table – Guitar Player Chris Miller; Bass Player Brad Fordham; Drummer Lisa Pankratz. “Harlan County Line” was the song. Alvin has a deep low voice that’s rough and honey at the same time. There was a train in the story and we all were on board. All the musicians were terrific; Lisa drumming right on time, the bass cool, insouciant, mixing it up, rhythm skating around the frets like a skater, and Alvin fingering up and down and all around like the guitar was an extension, no, a part of his physical body. There is magic happening.

I got the song list from the drummer and it reads like an American haiku:
Harlan County Line, Jublilee Train, Southern Flood Blues, Blue Wing, Johhny Ace is Dead, Long White Cadillac, Abilene, King of California, Ashgrove, Dry River, Fourth of July

This band gets on a stagecoach and drives their horses fast and hard through the American West, the mythic dream come true and the sad loss of same. Music as vehicle and road. There was an extended jam mid-set that was soft, sweet blues inflected. My personal favorites were “Harlan”, “BlueWing”, “Ace”, “Abilene”, and “Dry River” There was the kiss of environmental politics from this former farm boy: “Playing in the Orange Groves”! The night got a quick stay-on-the stage encore, “Marie Marie”, that was sweet and Springsteenish.

The band mingled, sold some stuff, talked music and traveling stories, left, as we finished our drinks, paid up, laughed one more time, and wandered out into a beautiful Buffalo night and every goddamn one of us was happy.


We have a lot of activity going on in the Foundation in the next several months. I’m not going to try to cover it all right now, but I will ask you to follow the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation’s Facebook page and check in with our website at The site has been improving recently through the efforts of Board member Dick Donovan and our webmaster Paul Ceppaglia of McCarthyizm.

Just a teaser; our Million Dollar Quartet SAMF Night at the theatre on May 20th, Summer at Silo City, July 2nd, our Second Annual Americana Fest on September 16th at River Fest Park, our Annual Music Awards presentation on October 16th and The Last Waltz at Babeville on November 17th.

Also coming up, music videos from the Tavern on our website, Americanarama Internet Radio, new merchandise with a different T-shirt design and tank-tops, SAMF sponsored shows around WNY featuring the Dust Bowl Ramblers Band…and much more.

Another request of you; send us your concert reviews, thoughts on your favorite music and venues. The JAM is your newsletter, join in the fun.


This month’s free ticket opportunities for members; one pair for each show, except ARTPARK, which will provide two pair of tickets.

189 Public House

Shannon McNally May 14th

Shannon McNally

Gurf Morlix May 24th

Gurf Morlix

Buffalo Ironworks

Workingman’s Dead May 19th

Workingman’s Dead

Sportsmen’s Tavern

Lee Harvey Osmond May 24th

Lee Harvey Osmond

Girls, Guns and Glory May 25th

Girls, Guns and Glory

ARTPARK in Lewiston

ZZ Top June 6th

ZZ Top


The deadline to enter the drawing is Tuesday, May 16th at 9 PM.

Robert McLennan
President, SAMF

Americanarama Buffalo

Americana BuffaloHave you ever wanted to listen to a radio station that played local music? Local music by performers who play country music, folk, alternative country, blues or just plain rock’n’ roll?

If that thought has crossed your mind, you should check out Americanarama Buffalo, the new online radio station. With help from SAMF, the station just raised enough money to go online for the next two years.

You can check it out at these links: (that’s the Facebook player app)
(direct link).

Where else are you going to hear the Steam Donkeys, Mark Winsick, Pat Shea, Creek Bend, Raven, David Meinzer and Alison Pipitone, all on the same station?

Americanarama Buffalo is available 24 hours a day online. It was created by Elmer Ploetz for the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame/WNY.FM. Musicians looking to submit music can contact Elmer at

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for further collaboration between SAMF and Buffalo Americanarama — there’s a whole lot of music waiting to be played!

Elmer Ploetz


If you are an Active member and do not have a SAMF membership card, please email me at If you are unsure if you’re an Active member, please don’t hesitate to ask.

NOTE: To receive discounts, you must show your membership card. To enter to win tickets, you must be an Active member. And as always, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the email address above.


The discounts we’ve arranged at this time are:

  • Sportsmen’s Tavern – The first Tuesday of every month, all members who show their card at the door will get free admission to The Twang Gang.
  • Buffalo Ironworks – 10% off all food items
  • Record Theatre – 10% off all regular priced items
  • Allentown Music – 10% off all regular items
  • Smolen/Bonghi CPA – 10% off all tax preparation and accounting services
  • Korona Jewelry – 2 discounts
    • Watch batteries installed for $5 instead of $7.
    • 25% off the regular price of anything in stock.
  • Ellicott Small Animal Hospital 30% off regular exam
  • Flying Bison Brewery – 10% off
  • Buffalo History Museum – buy one regular admission and get one free.
  • American Reperatory Theater – $10 tickets (1/2 price)
  • Red Thread Theater – $15 ticket (regularly $25)
  • MusicalFare Theater – $5 off General Admiss. online. Enter SPORTSMEN in coupon code. Limit 4
  • Byrd House Restaurant – 10% off food
  • Arts at the Bakery – 10% off admission

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