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The Dady Brothers, four others get their Rochester Music Hall of Fame call

John (left) and Joe Dady.
Rochester Music Hall of Fame
John (left) and Joe Dady.

There was never any doubt that the Rochester Music Hall of Fame class of 2020, with five new names to be celebrated at the April induction concert, would belong to The Dady Brothers.

Few musicians here have been so highly regarded, and for as long, as the traditional folk duo. They played coffeehouses and taverns and shared stages with Pete Seeger, Tommy Makem, The Clancy Brothers and Ani DiFranco. Going back to 1979, John and Joe Dady released 11 albums as a duo, and one solo album a piece.

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Although they have been primarily identified with Irish music, and led yearly tours to Ireland, that label does not do justice to The Dadys. They played Celtic, bluegrass, Americana, gospel and Christmas favorites. They performed songs by the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen. They recorded an album of Erie Canal songs, and the soundtrack to a musical about Stephen Foster.

They sang their own songs as well, often reflecting their love for their home of western New York. John Dady's instrumental, "Little Stream," celebrates the tranquility of fishing, one of his favorite pastimes. Joe Dady's "My Conesus Cabin Home" captured the rustic log house where he lived, and served as a mecca for pilgrimages by local musicians in search of the muse.

So The Dadys' induction at the 7 p.m. April 26 concert at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre was inevitable.

Credit Provided
Sound engineer and producer Mick Guzauski

The remainder of the new class, announced Tuesday morning, offer less easy to divine credentials, but nevertheless represent diverse aspects of Rochester's contributions to the arts.

Two inductees, Mick Guzauski and Michael Laiacona, are among the top behind-the-scenes knob twiddlers in the music industry.

Guzauski is a Grammy-winning sound engineer and producer who has worked with many of the biggest names in the industry, including Michael Jackson, Prince and Eric Clapton. As a high school student here, Guzauski worked in a stereo store, buying used equipment that he repaired and installed in a recording studio in the basement of his parents' house.

He began recording with two Eastman School of Music students, bassist Tony Levin and drummer Steve Gadd, before hooking up with Chuck and Gap Mangione. Guzauski followed Chuck Mangione out to Los Angeles to produce Mangione's 1975 album, "Chase the Clouds Away," and he was off and running.

Levin, Gadd, the Mangiones, trumpeter Lew Soloff, the singer-songwriters Don Potter and Bat McGrath and Guzauski were all a part of that amazing scene of the late 1960s and early '70s in Rochester, and all are now in the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.

Credit Provided
Michael Laiacona founded Whirlwind in 1975

After helping establish MXR guitar effects pedals as the leading product of its kind, in 1975, Laiacona founded Whirlwind, which provides technology for virtually every concert venue and tour today.

The most recent Super Bowl halftime show was powered by Whirlwind, which Laiacona started on Boxart Street before moving the business to Ling Road in Greece about two decades ago.

Credit Provided
Jazz singer Nancy Kelly

Also joining the Hall of Fame is jazz singer Nancy Kelly, a Rochester native who has released six albums and was named "Best Female Jazz Vocalist" twice in the DownBeat magazine readers' poll. She remains a frequent performer in the area.

And the Hall welcomes jazz drummer and percussionist Roy McCurdy, who was born in Rochester and studied at the Eastman School of Music. By age 17, he was playing with Roy Eldridge and Eddie Vinson, and went on to work with Sonny Rollins, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.

Credit Provided
Jazz drummer and percussionist Roy McCurdy

Each year's list of inductees is shaped by who is available to appear at the induction concert. Big names remain on the list: Soprano Renée Fleming is perhaps the most notable. Significant local rock acts have yet to be acknowledged: The Chesterfield Kings and The Colorblind James Experience. Wang Leehom, a huge film star and musician in Taiwan, was born in Rochester and is a Pittsford Sutherland High School grad.

And there are moments that call for representation in some manner: The Rolling Stones' War Memorial concert that was halted by police out of fear that a riot was breaking out; Red Creek Inn kicking out a young and unknown Irish rock band called U2 that was launching its first American tour here; an unruly Elvis Costello getting thrown out of Scorgie's bar; David Bowie and Iggy Pop getting busted for possession of pot. Clearly, the music industry has issues with Rochester's authority figures.

The previous eight Rochester Music Hall of Fame induction concerts have drawn large audiences, and the musical performances have played a role in those successes. Most notably, there was Paul Simon's surprise appearance for the 2018 induction of Gadd and Levin.

Rochester's Prime Time Funk will once again be the house band, and will back Kelly. McCurdy will play as well, backed by local musicians.

The musical tribute to Laiacona will be by Robin Zander, who is the lead singer of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Cheap Trick, and Grammy-winning guitarist Steve Stevens, perhaps best known as Billy Idol's guitarist and co-songwriter in the MTV era of hair rock. Zander and Stevens will do a handful of Cheap Trick and Idol songs. Other performers, including those for Guzauski's induction, have not yet been announced.

John Dady will also play, joined by musicians from Rochester and New York City. And that moment will almost certainly be the emotional core of the evening, after Joe Dady passed away last year at age 61 from a rare form of leukemia.

Credit Steve Piper
Rochester natives John and Joe Dady performed for about 45 years

As Rochester natives, The Dady Brothers estimated they had played 7,000 shows over some 45 years. They ran a few open-mic nights in Rochester, helping young musicians get their feet under their own careers. John played guitar. Joe mastered fiddle, guitar, banjo, tin whistle, harmonica and uilleann pipes. Both men sang as well.

They appeared on many recordings by local players, as well as a compilation album of musicians collaborating with Seeger. They shared a stage with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, The Band's Rick Danko, Arlo Guthrie, Kate Wolf, Johnny Paycheck, Papa John Creech, Jay Unger and Molly Mason and Cherish The Ladies.

As Joe's health deteriorated, John made stem cell donations in the hope of fighting off the leukemia. The procedure failed to halt the disease. Joe Dady died on May 18, in a room with his brother and family members holding his hand.

The following November, a celebration of Joe Dady's life featuring performances of Dady songs and some of Joe's favorite tunes, packed Hochstein Performance Hall. And that emotional yet upbeat evening was a clear reminder that The Dadys had been overlooked by the Rochester Music Hall of Fame for too long.

Tickets start at $31 and are available at

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Jeff Spevak is WXXI's Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.