Rockabilly Greg & Buffalo Music

Posted Julie Ann Davis Behind the scenes Lifestyle Local Music

Rockabilly Greg

When were you first interested in rockabilly music?

I was born in the mid 60’s. Growing up in that era and I had access to all of the variety shows at the time that included artists like Glen Campbell, Mac Davis, Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Sonny and Cher, Donnie and Marie, Hee Haw and many more. Many evenings were filled watching these programs and all of the great music segments. On Saturday mornings, after cartoons were over, American Bandstand and Soul Train came on. And, AM radio was popular, for the most part, and you could hear many different genres on the same station.

All of this gave me a wide appreciation of music, but, it wasn’t until I watched The Buddy Holly Story (1978) with Gary Busey, that I got hooked on rockabilly. Gary really channeled Buddy and I was mesmerized. Especially his version of True Love Ways.

Buddy Holly Story

 

Shortly after that, HBO aired a segment that was originally taped for Elvis’ 1968 Holiday Special, which would later be known as the ’68 Comeback Special. The segment, which would later be sold on VHS and DVD as One Night With You, many consider to be the first unplugged concert. Filmed in the round with four of Elvis’ original musicians including the great Scotty Moore on guitar and drummer DJ Fontana playing drums on the back of a guitar case, and Elvis in full black leather. This was Elvis at his finest. He was singing the songs that made him famous – not the drivel that he was forced to sing in many of his movies. (Some of his movies songs are good, but that’s for another day). I was hooked on Elvis from that day forward.

Elvis in the Flamingo Lounge

“I Want MY MTV!” I also had the good fortune to be exposed to MTV when it was first launched (and they actually played music). While watching MTV in the basement of my parents’ house in Fredonia, NY, a video from a cool looking and sounding trio from Massapequa, NY came on the TV. It was the Stray Cats playing Stray Cat Strut. This blew me away. These guys were cool, raw, energetic, and the music, to me, sounded like Buddy Holly and the Crickets on steroids. They weren’t just a revival band. They had something unique, and the videos on MTV really helped.

Stray Cats

What is your music background?

Fast forward to the early 2000’s. After raising two children, I started singing with my best friend from High School, Steve Metivier.

The story starts after my first marriage ended in the late 90’s. I was looking to move to Buffalo from Batavia, NY. Steve had moved away after college and we hadn’t seen each other in ten years. At the time, he was directing a band at the Kenmore Methodist Church. I asked him if I could join the band. The look on his face was priceless, because he didn’t know I could sing. And, I didn’t help myself when I declared “but I have been singing at Karaoke”. He gave me a shot to sing on Christmas Eve, as many regulars were traveling for the holidays, and I passed the audition. After a few years of going out once a month for wings and beer and singing karaoke (go figure), we decided to form a folk duo and sing live. We call ourselves Old Friends, and have been singing together ever since.

In 2007, I was working for a local company in Buffalo that provided pre-press services in the printing industry. The company had the distinct honor of providing all of the pre-press for the Harry Potter books. The company had hired local Susan Banks, who was a former anchor on the Channel 7 News, and was now running her own PR firm. To make a long story short, she discovered that I was a big Elvis fan and said I should get on the board of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame (BMHOF). She gave me two comp tickets to attend the 2007 Induction Gala at the Tralf. I took my new girlfriend, Joy, who is now my wife, to the event. I met a lot of people including a local rockabilly group named The Headers, fronted by Bobby Lebel on Gretsch Guitar, who is now a good friend.

In 2008 I joined the board where I had the good fortune to meet a lot of local music legends, as well as learn their stories. Many people don’t know how rich the musical history of Buffalo and Western New York is. Two of those legends, are Ramblin’ Lou Schriver and George “Hound Dog” Lorenz. Both Lou and George were spinning records on WJJL in Niagara Falls in 1951. George, who at the time was known as “Ole Man Lorenz”, was spinning “Race Music” and Lou was spinning “Hillbilly” music. They were way before their time, and are music and broadcast legends way beyond the local area. I encourage you to research their stories.

While I was on the board of the BMHOF, I was very active planning special events, and the annual Induction Gala, as well as managing the marketing and PR of the organization. My proudest achievement happened on Thursday, June 27, 2013, when the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Room at the Hard Rock Café, Niagara Falls, NY was officially dedicated. The 48 seat room is decorated with artifacts from BMHOF inductees, some of which came from my personal collection, and showcase many genres of music. All the artifacts also have plaques that describe who the artists are and what their contribution to music is/was. This is a one-of-a-kind room in the Hard Rock chain. The Hard Rock is still a very important partner of the BMHOF. My time with the BMHOF ended in December of 2018.

During this time, I had been asked by the Musicians of Buffalo, AKA “The MOB”, to perform at a fundraiser with Old Friends. The MOB consists of BMHOF inductees Jessie Galante, “Buffalo’s First Lady of Rock”, legendary bassist, Billy Sheehan and my friend and guitar virtuso Bobby Lebel. After a few years of performing, I became the director of the show, which currently happens once a year at Christmastime. Proceeds of the show have been donated to the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation and Robbie Takac’s Music is Art organization. I recently joined the board of the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation (SAMF) and was just getting going when the COVID-19 virus hit and put everything on hiatus.

Can you tell us about your record collection and / or autographs? How

did you get started?

I am also an audiophile and have amassed a small, but important collection of vinyl records and CD’s. I ironically started my collection in 2007, not for the music, but for the album artwork. I was redecorating my son’s old bedroom and wanted it to be music-themed. At that time used vinyl albums could be picked up for a buck or two. I was specifically looking for albums with my favorite artists: Milton Glaser, Roger Dean, Frank Frazetta and Al Hirschfeld to name a few. That got me to thinking that I needed a record player. I had never owned one as my older brother had a great system when we were younger and shared a room. I started with an inexpensive record player, but now I have a nice system to play 33’s and a second vintage unit from the 1970s that I had refurbished that I use to play 45’s and 78’s.

Rockabilly Gregs Record Collection

I have many national and international artists in my collection, but one of my great joys is collecting records of local Buffalo musicians. My collection started as an offshoot from the BMHOF. My goal was to get at least one recording from every inductee and I’m still working on that. As the chair of the Annual Induction gala for the BMHOF, I was able to meet the inductees. Part of my joy when meeting these artists is to have them autograph a recording or a piece of ephemera. For anyone who is lucky enough to inherit my collection some day, they will be pleased to know, that along with recordings or posters and framed artwork, are written stories about each of the artists or specific times in their life. I’ve always thought that the stories that go along with the recordings make for a nice package. It would be nice to donate my collection at a future date to a museum or organization that could showcase the great music story of our area.

Who are some of your favorite artists that you'd recommend?

I have many local favorites, including Hall of Famers, Billy, Bobby, and Jessie from the MOB, Dwane Hall and Doug Yeaomans, Sammy Slicker, George Puleo, Michael Hund, Tom Lorentz, Robert “Freightrain” Parker, Joanie Marshall and the entire Schriver family, Gary Mallaber, Stan Szelest and the list goes on. Some new, young musicians that I greatly enjoy are Zak Ward, Megan Brown and Grosh, Sarah Elizabeth Schall, Gregory Zeiss and Jessica Chizuk.

Autograph collection

National favorites include all of the original pioneers of rockabilly including, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochrane, Janis Martin, Wanda Jackson, Johnny Cash. Other favorites include Brian Setzer, Janis Joplin, The Carter Family, Norah Jones, David Byrne, Squeeze and a great variety of artists from many different genres.

Your favorite performance?

I have seen many of these artists live and have seen Brian Setzer in all his combos; Stray Cats, Brian Setzer Orchestra and Rockabilly Riot, twelve times. I was also very fortunate to meet Brian in person at the Hammerstein Ballroom in 2010. A friend of mine knew Brian’s management and arranged a meet and greet. I got to meet my guitar hero and was not disappointed. He was a true gentleman, and of course put on a heckuva show with the BSO that night. I was actually able to meet the entire band. That was a true thrill. But, my favorite live experience was David Byrne’s American Utopia show at the UB Center for the Arts a few years ago. My wife and I were lucky enough to have a close-up view of this show that was in development at the time. It absolutely blew me away.

Brian Setzer and Stray Cats

How do you suggest people get involved and support their favorite bands?

With the advent of music going digital and programs that allowed for the illegal download of music, has led to musicians having a very hard time making a living. Much time, effort and money goes in to creating a recorded song, and many people think, because they can access it on a computer, that they don’t need to pay for it. I’m not a fan of streaming services. One big reason is the artists don’t get much of anything monetarily from these services, and most of the songs are so compressed, they don’t sound they way they were recorded an intended. Please support musicians by BUYING their music and merchandise. Purchase a download, CD or vinyl album. BUY their merch. Go see them LIVE. I make a point to bring enough money to a live show to purchase a CD or vinyl album if available. Also, follow your favorite musicians on social media and share their posts. Musicians will not be around if we don’t support them evangelically and financially.

What's it like to team up with Cats Like Us?

Are you still with me? If you are, thank you. And a big thanks to Andrew and Julie Ann from Cats Like Us (CLU). They have been friends of mine for about 10 years. We met at a Swing Dance event at the Hamlin House in Buffalo. Over the years, my wife and I have both purchased apparel from CLU. As a matter of fact, bowling shirts have become my signature look. I wear shirts from CLU and pair them with cool shoes, eyeglasses, and a vintage-inspired hairstyle. I would say my style is an updated version of a retro look and CLU provides an outlet for me achieve that look. Ironically, I was at a golf tournament and I was wearing a baseball hat and a gold shirt, and a friend of mine didn’t recognize me. He said without the hair and shirt, he didn’t know who I was!

Thank you Julie Ann and Andrew for asking me to provide this blog, I’ll wear the guitar panel shirt with pride, and for providing me with an outlet that supports my personal brand.

RockabillyGreg

Rockabilly Greg

Buffalo Music Hall of Fame: https://www.bmhof.org/

Sportsmen's Americana Music Foundation: https://www.sportsmensamf.org/

 

 



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