Monthly Newsletters archive

Monthly News September 2021

It’s been a great summer of live music and friends getting together. The nights are getting colder and the sun sets earlier every night. The fall has always been a season of harvest parties and majestic beauty not made by man. One of my favorite high and lonesome songs is “When Those Golden Leaves Begin to Fall”
Look it up by Only Lonesome from Washington DC

Bluegrass is an organic music that is passed down form player to player and generation to generation through listening and watching. People all over the United States go to jam sessions and jamming classes to learn to play it “by ear”. That doesn’t mean that they go to learn how to improvise. The highest quality players and singers listen to the masters and try to learn their solos and make their voices sound like their heroes. In the greater Buffalo area, string students grades 5 through 12 can get together with kids their own age and experienced bluegrass musicians and learn bluegrass songs and solos. The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble is a club that I run along with other experienced bluegrass players for young adults to learn to play bluegrass on violin, viola, cello, bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo. We meet every first and third Monday of the month, October though July from 6:30-8 PM at Wayside Presbyterian Church on the corner of Route 5 and Amsdell Road in Hamburg, NY. The club is totally free and open to any kids that have some experience playing those instruments from private lessons or school lessons. Details and videos of the group in performance mode can be seen on on the Youth Ensemble page. If you know of a kid that this might interest, please pass on the website.

The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble
This September, the Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars will be appearing three times at the Sportsmen’s Tavern for lunchtime entertainment. Besides playing the first and third Thursday’s of the month from noon to a little after 2 PM, the group is adding the second Thursday, September 9 to it’s lunch performances. Doug Yeomans- guitar, Sally Schaefer on fiddle, Rich Schaefer on bass and Mark Panfil on banjo and dobro are excited to bring a summer’s worth of new and old material to the Sportsmen’s Tavern.

Two events are happening in September of 2021. The first is the national Bluegrass music convention and fan fest in Raleigh, NC . The convention features many workshops on everything from booking better gigs to playing Bluegrass over seas and that takes place Tuesday September 28th to Friday October first. The fan fest is a free street festival that featured the very best names in Bluegrass music taking place on the next two days, Friday and Saturday October first and second.

The second event is a local bluegrass concert that is part of one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in New York State, The Appleumpkin Festival in Wyoming, NY (just outside of Warsaw, NY). The festival takes place on Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26 and spans the whole downtown area of the village of Wyoming, NY. There is live music on both days but on Saturday the tent in front of the historical building is reserved for bluegrass bands. This year the Diamond Back Rattlers from the Ithaca, NY area plays a set starting at 2 PM. Creek Bend from Buffalo plays a set at 12:30 PM. The Matthews Family Tradition from Van Etten, NY starts at 3:45 PM and the show starts with the Panfil Family Bluegrass Band at 11 AM. The concert is free and chairs are provided for the audience.

the Diamond Back Rattlers
Our local ties to the hills and hollars of Appalachia and the music of Bill Monroe have some notable stories. Most bluegrass historians agree that bluegrass music was born in the combination of specific players in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys band and the year was 1945. Earl Scruggs on banjo, Lester Flatt, lead vocals and guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on bass along with Bill Monroe on mandolin and vocals is often called the original bluegrass band. This band from Kentucky made it’s influence known all the way to Buffalo through AM radio via WSM in Nashville and by amateur and semi professional players migrating north to find jobs. Ohio became a popular destination. Cincinnati Ohio was the hometown of Billy Hamilton a founding member of the Grey Sky Boys bluegrass band. Years later Billy taught and served as a Dean at the University of Buffalo. Of course, he put together a band that played at the Library restaurant on Bailey Ave. near the UB campus. Players like Bob Schneider, my banjo teacher would join Billy on stage and my brother and I would watch from the tables out front. Players like Bob made connections with Appalachian players who moved up to Lockport NY to work at Harrison Radiator. A line of students locally have learned from Bob and Billy.

Billy Hamilton
Buffalo is not very far from the heartland of Bluegrass music. The line of players and listeners continues today. Help support the tradition that is alive in Buffalo. See a live bluegrass show by a national or local band and spread the word about the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble.

We have lost two more musicians with ties to bluegrass. Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones started out as a banjo player and the Stones song, Wild Horses by the Old and in the Way band is a classic. Tom T. Hall was a big supporter of bluegrass through his song writing and philanthropic efforts. A listen to his version of Fox on the Run will put a smile on your face and a tune to hum for the rest of the day.

Hope to see you out watching live music. Stay safe and please vaccinate. Keep on pickin’

Mark Panfil

Gene Panfil 1984

June 2021

Happy June JAM readers. Picnics, out door events, concerts, jams and of course, father’s day. Now as a father and grandfather I realize more than ever how what we do or don’t do shapes our children’s futures. Here is a story about a father and his kids growing up in a steel town in the 60’s and 70’s. Gene Panfil 1928-1991.

He learned to play harmonica and the button concertina from his father. His mom taught piano lessons to local neighborhood kids. He played music while his kids were growing up but never was payed a penny for the music he played. He played music in High school in the band and even did a semester in music at SUNY Fredonia. He loved swing and classical music but his favorite was Gilbert and Sullivan. He loved to plant seeds. They weren’t in a garden or a farm. The seeds he planted went right into the souls of his children. When his oldest son was six years old, he gave him a harmonica. The dad taught the kid a simple song, When the Saints Go Marching In. The dad watered that seed and gave it light to grow. The nurturing was never called a lesson.

Years went by and the kid carried that harmonica to and from school everyday trying out every song that was popular on AM radio in the 60’s. Later he planted another seed. He went downtown to a pawn shop on Chippewa street. He bought a five string banjo for that boy from the owner, Breezy. He gave it to the kid along with a record album, The World of Flatt and Scruggs. He watered it with instruction books and various teachers for him. All the while he was giving the kid room to grow. Throughout this time the kid’s younger brother and sister were also experiencing the growing process nurtured by the dad and now the older sibling too.

The younger brother wanted to be like his brother so the dad found an old mandolin at a yard sale somewhere along the roads he traveled throughout the state. He gave it to the younger brother so they could play music together. That younger son played it night and day and soon was figuring out songs and playing them twice as fast as his older brother. The three kids learned harmony singing in a professional choir downtown that dad found when another seed was nurtured.

That dad drove the kids to bluegrass festivals from Ontario to Vermont and fanned the flames by introducing them to local bluegrass teachers and artists. That dad did not stop planting seeds, nurturing and fanning the passion till the day he died.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s and awesome uncles who plant seeds in children’s hearts.

In June there are several local bluegrass happenings.

The 14th Annual NEPA Bluegrass Festival this year in Tunkhannock PA is at the beautiful Lazybrook Park. Two stages of Traditional and Progressive Bluegrass Music, Camping, Workshops, Jamming and Picking, Food and Craft vendors on site. This is a family friendly event. Doyle Lawson and the band Sideline are headliners.

The Brothers Blue are playing Sun, June 6 @ 3:00PM Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, Buffalo, NY, Sat, June 26 @ 5:30PM at 42 North Brewing Company, East Aurora, NY and Wed, Jun 30 at Fox Run Vineyards, Penn Yan, NY.

On Saturday June 19 the Kevin Prater Band from eastern Kentucky will be at the Commuity Fellowship Church on Johnson Creek Rd, Middleport NY starting at 7 PM. The show is free with a goodwill offering for the band. They will also play the church service on Sunday the 20th starting at 10 AM. The band is particularly known for their a capella and gospel harmonies

The Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival is happening in Wind Gap PA on the weekend of June 10-13th. This year’s line up includes Colebrook Road, Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, Little Roy Lewis and Lizzie, Eddie Adcock, The Ruta Beggers, and Danny Paisley & Southern Grass

Big Inlet Brewery in Mayville NY has a Sunday afternoon with Bill Ward and the Panfil Brothers

June 27 1:30-4 PM. Earlier on that same day, 7:30 AM- 10 AM, Creek Bend is playing at the Juicery in Delaware Park for the Buffalo Marathon.

Bluegrass is a name that was coined out of necessity immediately following members of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass Boys leaving to form their own bands. They wanted to carry on the musical balance that Monroe orchestrated and maintained in his band. Instead of calling it Monroe music, it settled into being called bluegrass, named after his band name. So when I hear people refer to music as bluegrass, I ask myself, “just what part of that music reminds you of a Bill Monroe song?” Have you listened to Bill and his former band members lately?

Just need to remind everyone, WXRL AM 1300 in Buffalo and worldwide features a bluegrass music show every Sunday night from 7 PM-10 PM ET. Into the Blue is a great way to hear and learn about new and old bluegrass music. Check it out!

In parting, Happy summer to fans and pickers alike and again, let’s keep on pickin’!

Mark Panfil

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