Spring forward, fall back
It’s that time of year again. As Old Man Winter considers taking a back seat, the weather vacillates, see-sawing from mild to wild. It’s below 30 as I write this, but we’re expecting near 60 by the time The River Reporter hits
the newsstands. I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for a good spring cleaning, both literally and metaphorically. My poor office is cluttered with the flotsam and jetsam of months past. Weather permitting, I am often out and about with Dharma the Wonder Dog, traversing the hills and dales of the Upper Delaware River region in search of entertainment news. While some weeks are leaner than others, I sometimes find myself unable to include everything I’ve done in any given issue, and, as a result, some coverage never sees the light of day. Therefore, I salute springing forward by momentarily falling back and giving some attention to a few winter highlights that didn’t make it to print.
Although I hadn’t been for more than a year, I managed to catch “Music Where You Least Expect It” at DeFilippis Bakery in Monticello last month. On any given Sunday, one can find genial host David Rosenberg introducing a variety of musicians to an appreciative crowd of patrons who have come to expect not only great food, but solid entertainment to boot. I’m no stranger to DeFilippis, so I had placed my to-go order for their famous maple/bacon glazed donuts before the throngs arrived, and, as a result, musician extraordinaire James DiPrima was caught off guard. “I’ve been telling my friends about the donuts for months” DiPrima chided me.
“The gals at the counter told me you got the last ones. C’mon, man!” In fact, I had scored the last of the batch in anticipation of taking them to a party later that same day, and DiPrima was not the only one to come up empty-handed. “You snooze, you lose,” I said, grinning from ear to ear. “Better luck next time.” I stayed long enough to hear Music for Humanity’s Barry Edelman, Southern Fried Soul’s utterly fantastic Laura Garone and a couple of others before slinking out the door with the prized donuts under my arm. My advice? Get there before the place fills up. You just might get the baked goods you’re dreaming of.
I made another yearly pilgrimage recently and attended the Sullivan County Museum’s “First Sunday Music and History Program,” hosted by Little Sparrow’s Aldo Troiani and Carol Smith. The duo invited members of the Allen Brothers Band to regale the audience with some songs and stories regarding their family’s pilgrimage from 1950s Alabama to Monticello, NY. Surviving brothers Buddy and Cecil were both slated to appear, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, Buddy had to bow out. While Cecil reminisced with band mate Kenny Windheim about the musical family’s roots, racial segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, Little Sparrow joined in on a few numbers, which highlighted Cecil’s raspy, jazzy, wonderful (IMHO) vocals. I had met Cecil before while attending a show headlined by his nephew, the legendary Slam Allen, but this was the first time I had an opportunity to hear some of his own stories regarding the golden age of Catskills nightlife, and I’m already hungry for more.
Another local legend, the inimitable Mickey Barnett, was in the audience, and, after a bit of coaxing, was persuaded to join the others on stage for a few songs and a story or two of his own. Barnett, who is widely known as a recording artist, songwriter, radio personality and record producer, has been involved in every phase of the entertainment industry, from his beginnings in acting, to his recordings of “Just a Memory,” the Little Giant Record’s 1968 top 10 release of “Gone” and the flip side “Don’t You Believe Her.” In 1974, Mickey signed with De-Lite records and made the charts again under the direction of veteran producer Clyde Otis. Having the opportunity to hear him was, indeed, a delight. “We have heard so many amazing stories doing this series,” program host Carol Smith told me following the show. “Sullivan County is a unique place, and Aldo and I have learned so much. I think it would make an interesting article.”
Happy to have resurrected these stories from the piles of papers on my desk, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am. The Catskills is rich in musical history, and new tales are being told right now. No time like the present to write some of them today.