I am blessed with being connected to many of the folks who make up the dynamic music scene in northeast Ohio. This list is a work in progress and I'll be adding to it on a regular basis. Eventually I expect I'll have most of my friends listed. If you're not here now you will be. Really. I promise.
Gary Hall has done it all. From Boston and the New England folk scene to Nashville through Columbus, promoting live music for 15 years, then on to many, many years of performance and open mic hosting at Cleveland's famed Barking Spider Tavern, Gary is a fixture in the live music community wherever he is.
It was Gary who had faith in me when I was just starting to get back to music in early 2009 and who has been supportive and encouraging to me and so many others over the years. A true diamond in the rough with a love of great music no one knows and a catalog of originals that in a better world would be hits.
Gary at The Barking Spider
One of the best songwriters in the Cleveland Area, Jim Schafer is a masterful guitar player and a consummate performer. Whether playing with his ensemble, Jim Schafer and Friends, or working as a solo, he brings it all with every performance. When performing traditional folk tunes, classics from the golden age of folk music or his well crafted originals, his audiences enjoy his craft honed by years of hard work and practice.
When he's not performing and writing Jim is a practiced and experienced record producer and is responsible for the quality of my CD, Here's To You Friends, and the stunning work that is his CD, Tell A Friend.
I first met Ken at an open mic at the old Winchester Tavern in Lakewood and was intrigued by his music, his unique delivery and the intensity he brought to his performance. Years later, Ken has become a good friend and one of the local songwriters I have come to enjoy more and more. We often end up in the same venues and I have always enjoyed the way he weaves humor into his sets while presenting lyrics that rise from a deep spiritual well within.
When it was time to record his CD a few years back I was honored to be the engineer and I think that Wheels is a great representation of the music Ken creates and brings to audiences around the area.
Not many of my friends had contracts with MGM records before they were 20 years old. Jerry Allen did. His song Little Girl In A Magazine was a west coast hit and was re-recorded in Japanese because it jumped the Pacific and rose on the charts in Japan.
Locally, Jerry is known for his solo performances and shows with his four piece band. His sets range from songs that everyone knows to some of the best original music being created in the area. It's an honor to be able to hang out with him and a pleasure to hear his music.
Working with Amanda Walsh has been a real joy. She is one of the hardest working musicians in the area. Between her private piano lessons, her music store based classes, playing in a duo and in a full band, it's a wonder she had any time to work on some music with me. But she did and I am forever grateful.
We started collaborating when I asked her to add some violin to a couple of tracks on my upcoming CD. She agreed and ended up doing some fine vocal work as well. That led to playing a few open mics, taking on a Brent Kirby 10x3 song writing challenge and appearances in Cleveland Heights, Burton, Westlake and Cleveland.
Never miss an opportunity to catch her in any of her musical incarnations. She is one of the best.
With Amanda Walsh at Coffee Corners
Morning Side Of Our Lives
Duet With Amanda
I was impressed the first time I saw Rachel Shortt take the stage. She was hosting an open mic at the Winchester in Lakewood and she had command of the room as soon as she hit the mic. Maybe it was the mood in the venue. Maybe it was her instant rapport with the audience. Maybe it was the impressive guitar work and clear vocal. No matter. It was obvious she was in charge and that it was going to be a good night.
Since then I've had the pleasure of working a couple of gigs with Rachel. She invited me to do a set as part of her regular monthly show at the Sunset Grill in Edinboro, PA and we shared the stage during the 2018 Mountain Rose Concert Series in Kent. We also appeared on Just Plain Folk, an internet radio program hosted by Tom Ball. I can tell you that each one of those appearances was a pleasure and working with Rachel is a joy.
One thing about Cleveland's open mic circuit is that it never fails to surprise. Michelle Gaw is one of the very pleasant surprises I found one night while exploring the local music scene. She is another of those talented performers who does equally well with her band, Mimi Arden, or as a solo performer.
Michelle was an instrumental part of the Dingy Basement Concert series and played the night I was asked to do a set. I remember hanging on every note and enjoying her part of the show a great deal. You can find her in venues all over town and spend some time with her original music when you pick up her newest CD. You won't be sorry.
Ed Amann is just one of the many talented songwriters I've met thanks to my association with Songwriter Summit, a not for profit organization dedicated to promoting the craft of songwriting in northeast Ohio. He is one of those folks who manages to find gigs all over the area and he brings a unique collection of original and cover songs to each one. Never scripted, Ed puts each show together on the fly based on his read of the audience and their reaction to his music.
When he's not playing he can be found running sound for events like the Mountain Rose Concert series and producing CDs of the live performances.
Most Wednesday nights you're going to find Brent Kirby in the Wine Bar at Brother's Lounge in Cleveland. For years now, Brent has hosted and curated a prescheduled open mic called The 10x3 where ten performers present three songs each and at least two have to be originals. Thousands of acts have been on stage for the event and on many occasions I've been fortunate enough to share my music with the audience Brent has built over the years.
When he's not hosting he's out performing as a solo act or with one of his bands. Brent brings a huge amount of talent and energy to his shows no matter where he's playing and is a force to be reckoned with in Cleveand music circles.
I've crossed paths with B. Ryan B. in many and sundry venues over the years. We may have met at the Root Cafe or the Winchester in Lakewood. Maybe it was at the Barking Spider. For a while we were both members of Cleveland Songwriters so it may have been there. Who knows. After all these years it hardly matters. I'm just glad we met.
He's yet another example of a songwriter dedicated to his craft. He performs as a solo act, as part of a band and sits in with various other performers as needed. He brings talent, enthusiasm and a huge smile to every show.
B. Ryan B.
As one of the more unique performers in the Cleveland area, Diana Tyler brings more to the stage than you might expect. Her original music runs from funny to serious and from sacred to profane. Somehow she manages to cover all the bases in between those extremes. And she covers them very well.
My memory is dim on how and where we first crossed paths but she's been instrumental in keeping Cleveland Songwriters going for years, has supported open mics all over the area, organized and contributed her talent to various fundraising events and done shows at art openings and other venues. Whether you hear her in a noisy bar or as part of a worship service on any given Sunday, you're going to recognize her talent and love of music.
I have this vivid memory of sitting outside the now defunct Bunker Bar with Ed Bridge as I interviewed him for an article I was writing for a local web-based magazine. I'd known Ed for a while and had come to respect his music and songwriting. I was interviewing him because he's not from around here and I was looking for an outsider's view of the Cleveland music scene.
Based on the interview Ed was pretty impressed - and he was used to what Austin, Texas, has to offer. Based on the fact that Ed has since moved to Cleveland and taken up residence as part of the local scene I'm pretty sure he was serious about that assessment. Whether he's on keyboard or guitar, doing originals or covers, it is always a pleasure to hear Ed play.
It wasn't all that long ago that you could find Matt Harmon at the Barking Spider either playing a set of his original music or hanging out listening to - and supporting - many of the other acts that graced that stage. He was one of the more regular regulars at that establishment.
I seem to remember sharing a songwriter stage with Matt at the Beachland a number of years ago and he had me play a showcase he was doing downtown a while back. Since then we've played the same open mic a few times, shared billing on 10x3 nights and I've had the pleasure of hearing him doing solo shows around town.
When his last CD dropped we sat on his deck and listened with Matt doing play by play and commentary while Hurricane, his Katrina rescue, sat and ignored us both.
I like Matt's music.
My very first open mic when I retuned to playing music back in '08 was at The Barking Spider. I wasn't at all sure about playing after listening to the acts scheduled before me but host Will Cheshier was supportive, encouraging and a bit relentless, so I played. And I had a great time.
From then on I tried to make his open mic nights as often as possible because they were always relaxed and Will always opened the show with fiery guitar work and soaring vocals.
Will is responsible for what I consider the best line ever written about me: "Bob writes and performs folk songs that make people forget that they didn’t like folk songs. A true gentleman."
There was a time a while back that I'd head up to a little Italian restaurant around the corner from my house to hear GS Harper play on Sunday nights. He had this regular gig he called "Fools on Stools" and he'd invite another local musician to join him each week to share stories, songs and harmonies. As good as the other players always were it was GS that I went to hear.
He was kind enough to invite me to be part of a songwriter showcase he used to host in Tremont a long time ago and I continue to follow his adventures playing his particularly honest music all over town. He's a heck of a songwriter and just a really good guy to know.
I no longer recall who the headliner was at the Beachland the night I met Chris Castle, the opening act. His was the better performance. Hands down. I bough his CD and began to follow him to local venues like the Barking Spider and the Winchester's concert stage. There was something compelling about his music. It was honest. It was simple. It was, in many ways, universal.
Chris doesn't play out much any more but from time to time you can find him doing shows out and around Norwalk. It's a rare treat to catch him these days but if you can you won't be disappointed.
This guy needs to play out more.
I met Gary back when he was hosting an open mic at French Creek Nature Center. After showing up at a lot of those, he asked if I'd like to run the event and I said yes. After a while he moved on to run the Parks and Rec department in Avon Lake and we plotted to start an open mic for the city. That ran for a long time and there are some great videos of the fun we had on YouTube.
After a while Gary and I both moved on but we stay in touch because he's just a good guy to know and a musician with a unique take on his presentation that is often as educational as it is entertaining.
The blurry video here is of an interview Gary did with me for the community TV station in Avon Lake. He's good at interviewing, too.
I can only think of one musician in the Cleveland area that goes by a single name: Hashim. He is truly one of the more unique performers you're likely to encounter in places as diverse as a street corner on Coventry to an open mic in almost any neighborhood.
Hashim brings something quite special to his performances that range from original takes on classic songs we all know to original tunes that tap into the spirt that guides his music, his art and his poetry. You may not have heard him yet but once you do you'll not forget him.
Jason Patrick Meyers hosts a radio show here in town that promotes local music. Wait. He curates a pre-scheduled open mic at a popular east side winery. No. He's in a band. Hold on. He's a solo performer. Then there's the annual gathering of musicians he stages each year. I can't keep up.
Actually, he's does all of those things and all of those things he does well. On top of that, Jason is just one of the nice people you hope to meet out and about doing music. Track him down and listen. I think you'll be pleased.
Jason Patrick Meyers
So, Don Henson. I know him through our association in Songwriter Summit. He runs the organization. As of this writing he's dedicated 15 plus years to promoting and improving the craft and - from what I've seen so far - seems to have done a darn fine job.
He's a talented songwriter who needs to spend more time writing and less time caught up in the daily slog, you know, just like the rest of us. His background in theatre, as a touring musician and as a multi-instrument performer tells me we haven't heard the last of Don.
And that's a good thing.
Thanks to Tom Sayers the inside of my Guild D-50 smells like coffee. But that's another story. What's important is that Tom is an accomplished singer/songwriter and a fine instrumentalist. I've been listening to his music since early '09 when we first met and I have never failed to enjoy what I've heard.
Tom is one of those performers who works as a solo act and with one or more bands at any given time. He works hard at what he presents and that comes across in every performance. I've had the pleasure of playing open mic nights, songwriter showcases and full concerts with Tom and I look forward to doing more of that down the road.
Jim Lesher is a guitar player's guitar player. Six-string. Dobro. Slide. Finger-picked. You name it and Jim is a master at it. On more than one occasion I've heard other players comment after one of his sets: "That's it...I'm burning my guitar."
Jim's CD is a wonderful example of his skill but just one side of this talented musician who's attention to detail makes every note count.
It's one thing to be on the same bill as Jim but it was also fun to work with him on the video linked here. There aren't many people I know who could do the work to make this work as well as it did. Enjoy!
The first time I heard Randy J. Daniels I was taken by his guitar style and the power and simplicity of his lyrics. Since then I've been impressed by his mastery of the banjo and cigar box slide guitar.
Randy can be heard around town doing great originals and covers that deserve his special touch. Whether you catch him as a solo or working great harmonies with Becky Boyd you're not going to be disappointed.
Randy J. Daniels
I don't think there is a more powerful voice in local music than that of Becky Boyd. She can range from quiet ballads to bring the house down blues with the ease and grace that comes as the result of honing her craft on stages large and small.
I've had the pleasure of being on the same bill with Becky a few times and it has been a great joy to hear her each time.
I owe Michael (Grady) a debt of gratitude because he worked in the guitar store where I found my beautiful Crafter 6-string. I owe Cathy (Miller) a debt of gratitude for showing up at an open mic I guest hosted and sharing her amazing voice on my watch.
Together this team of musicians has become a favorite as they play all over the area. Great harmonies and impeccable musicianship mark Grady Miller as an act to seek out and enjoy.
(Michael) Grady and (Cathy) Miller