Local Music Legends To Be Honored In New Annual Celebration

Seven former area musicians have been selected to be honored during a new memorial celebration.

A show MC’d by WRFA’s Ronnie Would, featuring live performances by Str8 Six, Day Old Soup, Brian K. Chase and The Geezers, featuring Joel Matherly, will be held at the Reardon Stage, 1136 Hoag Road in Ashville, Friday, Aug. 25, from noon-8 p.m. The celebration will also include giveaways and an auction.

The project is spearheaded by Kelly Mesler, Str8 Six promoter, and Todd Haskins, current lead rhythm guitar player and vocalist of Str8 Six. According to Mesler, the goal of the project is to create a “Local Legends of Music Memorial Fund,” which will serve to support local talent in Chautauqua County by fostering public school music programs.

“I’m an unemployed school teacher, so this is a good project for me to give back to the kids – that way we’ve got more legends to come,” Mesler said.

Mesler and Haskins have set up a fund, which must reach $5,000 within five years to become an active sustained account.

“It will continue to grow and maintain itself after Todd and I are gone – hopefully someone else will pick it up down the road,” she continued.

“People have been talking about doing this for years now, and nobody got around to doing any more than the talking part of it,” Haskins added. “So, Kelly and I got together, started talking about it and decided that it was something we really wanted to do.”

The seven musicians who will be honored at this year’s celebration include: Rob Buck, founding member of 10,000 Maniacs; Tim Welch, bass player of Pressure Sensitive; Bruce Peterson, lead guitarist of Rockin’ Rick and the Homewreckers; Ronnie Kuhns, hand drummer for Blackened Rain and Indian Summer; Rod Welling, drummer for many area bands including the Hay Devils; Mike Higgs, drummer for bands such as Ginger Moon, Bang Tail Cats and Stoneycreek; and Frank Smeragliuolo, who played for bands such as Black Pearl, Linear Expansion and Frankie Lewis Trio and founded the Nite-Line magazine.

“There are so many different musicians who’ve passed that it was hard to choose,” Haskins said. “We got so many different nominations that we decided it would be best to pick a few every year to pay them homage and to continue their tradition by feeding back into the community.”

Each musician will be featured on the “Wall of Fame” and have a plaque made in their honor, which will be available for public viewing. One of the locations being considered is Potter’s Alley. Nominations for the second annual celebration, which will be held in the summer of 2014, are also currently being accepted.

“I got a lot of my knowledge as far as playing from all these past musicians,” Haskins said. “I played with them at the open jams at The Bullfrog and other venues. There is so much musical talent in this town that doesn’t really get the recognition it deserves. So many of them have passed away over the years that we just don’t want to let them be forgotten. The whole musical community in this area is a family, and everybody knows everybody – it’s a great learning experience.”

To promote the show, Warren Sischo, pedal steel guitarist for The Bogarts and Day Old Soup, appeared with Mesler on WRFA’s “Arts On Fire” with Jason Sample. The interview is available by visiting soundcloud.com/wrfaradio.

Wristband gate entry to the free private celebration requires a minimum donation of $10 in advance. To make a donation call 814-670-9151. Those who cannot attend the show, but still wish to make a donation, can contact the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation at 661-3390. For more information search for “Str8 Six” on Facebook.