Bill Staines In Cleveland On Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
Gary Hall Opens Winchester Show
By Bob Sammon
Bill Staines will be bringing his legendary songs, stories and talent to The Winchester Music Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. Bill Staines is a must see for anyone who enjoys a good song, a good story and a great place to hear both. He will be performing two sets this Wednesday, March 10th, 2010.
Local folk singer & songwriter Gary Hall opens the show at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $12.00, and there aren’t too many other places where you can see and hear someone of Bill Staines’ stature along with someone who has been so profoundly influenced by his work (Gary Hall). If you have any interest in great folk music you’ll be at The Winchester on Wednesday night. Tickets can be reserved by calling (216) 226-5681. Visit The Winchester’s Website at www.thewinchester.net for more information and directions.
If you listen to the music performed by many of the local acts here in Cleveland – from Alex Bevan to Jim Schafer, Tim Wallace, Steve Mehal and others – chances are you’re going to hear a song or two penned by Bill Staines, the legendary New England based singer/songwriter. But if you drop in on a set by Gary Hall you’ll not only hear songs that Bill Staines has written but you’ll be listening to a performer who has some history with Bill and will appear with him this week right here in Cleveland.
I had a chance to talk with Gary about his early days with Bill and he was kind enough to share a few memories.
“I first heard Bill Staines,” Gary explained, “at the Sword In The Stone Coffeehouse in Boston in 1973. Crossing paths with him was a lucky accident.”
“I recall that his stage patter was very engaging and his musicianship was excellent,” Gary noted. “He also had a very distinctive vocal quality which is easy for me to recall and hear in my memory. On that particular night he kept a full house totally engaged for his full set.”
While Gary doesn’t recall actually talking with Bill that night he says his “next encounters were in 1974 when Staines hosted some Sunday night open mics at the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH.” The Stone Church’s open mic was a hugely popular weekly event which drew players from all over New England, including Boston, 75 miles to the south. It presented live music several nights a week, with the Sunday open mic being their busiest night. It was the social event of the week for seacoast area musicians and Bill and Gary were part of that scene.
Gary says that the Stone Church made such an impression on him that he moved to New Market in the summer of ‘74. It “became the center of my folkie universe,” Gary said, “and it was the center of the folkie universe for many others in the area.”
“Bill Staines,” Gary remembers, “was happy to be an occasional guest host of the Church’s open mic. I definitely recall that the other players were in awe of him. He had a way of making difficult things look very easy. He would just stand there in a relaxed way and play what seemed to be some awfully complicated and remarkably appealing fingerstyle song accompaniments.”
Gary was also impressed with one other hallmark of Bill Staines sets: yodeling. “I recall”, Gary said talking about a Friday night during one of Staines’ solo shows at the Stone Church, “one occasion where folks were actually dancing on tables to his yodeling…clapping and shouting their brains out. It was the most enthusiastic audience response that I’ve ever seen.”
That was an important night for Gary because he “decided then and there to learn to yodel.”
“When I asked Bill about learning yodeling,” Gary said, “he encouraged me and said it would be easy for me, as I had a good falsetto voice.” Between that encouragement and the lessons provided on a Homespun instructional tape set (now two CDs) entitled “Learn To Yodel” by Tod Whittemore and Cathy Fink, with guests Patsy Montana and Bill Staines, Gary mastered the art.
“It would be hard,” Gary said, “to overestimate the value of yodeling to my music career. I got the New Hampshire Folk Festival gig…a lot of respect in Nashville – including a compliment from John Prine…earned well as a busker because of yodeling. I have Bill Staines to thank, because it was Bill Staines who inspired me.”
That’s not all Gary learned from this master. “The other big thing is that performing situations vary greatly and that its okay to take a very different approach to different types of gigs. Bill Staines tells stories and incorporates a great deal of stage patter into his concerts. At his Stone Church weekend gigs he would simply stand there and play one song right after another, barely speaking at all.”
Surprised by this, Gary asked him about it. “He told me that the concerts were his passion and that he viewed the bar gigs as part-time jobs which helped support him between the concerts. I recall,” Gary continued, “that he incorporated some popular songs and went about his ‘job’ in a politely craftsman-like way.” Gary said, “I realize, in retrospect, that Bill Staines was operating in two very different worlds and had a very different perspective than the typical local musician who is grateful to find purpose and meaning in the small victories at bar gigs.”
A Video of Bill Staines performing live in Pawling, NY:
See you at the show…
The Winchester Music Hall
12112 Madison Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44107