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Joe Dady is still here, as are Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison

Nov 13, 2019

The Saturday sold-out show - A Show For Joe - at Hochstein Performance Hall honors the late Joe Dady and is a benefit for a yearly scholarship to the school in his name.
Credit Carla Coots

It was 2005, and Joe Dady had been rushed to the hospital. It was a ruptured aorta of the heart, the situation was dire, the heart of this big-hearted guy was close to bursting. "He claims he had an out-of-body experience, he claims that he started to go to the light, go to the other side," recalls his brother, John Dady. "And he said it was like a Fellini movie…"

As Joe told it:

"Like someone had wrapped a rope around my ankles and was pulling me back down from the chute and I said, 'Let me go, let me go, let me go!'"

Joe didn't go. At least, not then. He recovered, The Dady Brothers played on, "his spirituality just exponentially increased," John says. Until earlier this year. Diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, bone marrow transplants from John didn’t work. Joe was 61 when he died last May.

The huge church where the services were held was standing-room only. John decided a wake wouldn't be fair. What, people standing for three hours, just to shake John's hand and give him a brief hug?

John decided: "Let's just make Joe's wake a show of his music, his music that he wrote, music that he put a stamp on, that he was known for. And I just started making a list of his songs, then whittled it down to 30 or so, and started thinking, who could do these songs best?

Ultimately, the people who could do it best are the people who Joe Dady loved, over 40 years of playing music.

That's how Saturday's sold-out "A Show For Joe" at Hochstein Performance Hall has totaled out to 53 musicians. It's a benefit for a yearly scholarship in Joe's name, to be awarded to a kid who otherwise couldn't go to Hochstein. A scholarship that will go on long after, as John says, we're all gone.

Joe Dady himself had no children. He was briefly married, but music was his life partner. John and Joe were Rochester natives who first played together as 5- and 6-year-old kids with plastic Beatles guitars, and estimated they went on to play 7,000 shows over some 45 years. "Joe was always trying to prove himself," John says. "I mean, look at all of the instruments he played, and played well."

Fiddle, guitar, banjo, tin whistle, harmonica and uilleann pipes. He sang. The music was sometimes Irish, but more so folk. "Joe spent his life for validation," says John, who was two years older, "but then when he got it, he kind of pushed it away, 'Oh, no…' "

"He was really into people just getting along," John says. Peace was his worldview. And tranquility. Joe's song "My Conesus Cabin Home" was inspired by his log house on Conesus Lake, where many local musicians made pilgrimages in the hope of unlocking the muse.

John Dady, left, and Joe Dady. John estimates that he and his brother played about 7,000 shows over 45 years.
Credit Steve Piper

The Dadys released 11 albums, and appeared on many recordings by local musicians, as well as a compilation album of musicians collaborating with Pete Seeger. That sprang from a show where they were supposed to be just the opening act, before Seeger called them onstage and had The Dady Brothers play the whole set with him. Driving back home to Rochester, John recalls saying to Joe, "Man, the Bills won today in New England, and we met our hero today. Besides my marriage and the birth of my kids, this is the happiest day of my life."

"We were business partners, it was a musical partnership, it was an artistic collaboration. It was all that, and to know each other so well, I know I'll never experience that again."

At the end, Joe was around friends and family, including John.

"Of course, he was fearful of death. But he was pretty much at ease. One of the last things he said to me was, he smiled and he said to me, 'We had a good run.' That was actually the last thing that he said to me."

Of course, Joe was wrong. The run continues Saturday. Rehearsals have gone well, the vibe is strong. Perhaps this is why John sometimes slips, and speaks of his brother in the present tense.

"I've felt Joe’s presence," John says, "during the rehearsals."

Holly and Orbison not fading away

There are limits to the Roy Orbison & Buddy Holly Rock 'N' Roll Dream Tour: Neither rock legend is available for an interview promoting the 7:30 p.m. Sunday show at the Auditorium Theatre, 885 E. Main St.

This is a hologram concert. The band and backup singers are real, and so are you, the audience. It's interesting that the promotional material for this event calls it a "Once in a Lifetime Show," as Holly died in a plane crash in 1959 and Orbison died of a heart attack in 1988. 

Digital and laser technology enables the images of the two singers, who never performed together in real life, to interact with the band and the audience, making it a live concert experience. Or as close an approximation of a concert that computer-generated imagery and a body double can offer.

Last week, it was reported that a new film set during the Vietnam War, "Finding Jack," will use similar CGI technology to enable James Dean to star in the movie, almost 65 years after his death.

This stuff has been going on for a few years now. An Al Gore hologram appeared at the 2007 Live Earth concert, Snoop Dogg summoned Tupac Shakur via hologram at the 2016 Coachella festival, and Madonna danced with a handful of Madonna holograms at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards. There's been a tour by the opera diva Maria Callas (died in 1977), and Whitney Houston (died in 2012) hits the road next year. Hologram dinosaurs (died off about 65 million years ago), are in development and heading for the shopping malls.

In fact, we can hardly call this concept new. The use of a reflected image to create a lifelike presence onstage goes back to 1862, and a London performance of the Charles Dickens story, "The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain." The more recent shows, developed by a California outfit called Base Hologram, projects the images onto a mesh screen.

Ethical questions have been raised about this practice: Is it right for an artist to lose control of his or her art – their very personalities – upon death? Social media was roiling over the news. Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late comic Robin Williams, called it a mere publicity stunt, "puppeteering the dead for their 'clout' alone."

Tickets, ranging from $35 to $65, are available at rbtl.org and ticketmaster.com.

Around our Universe…

This is a special kind of twang, when Sonny Landreth and Cindy Cashdollar play 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the Hart Theatre at the Louis S. Wolk JCC CenterStage Theatre, 1200 Edgewood Ave. Both have been associated with the biggest names in music. Landreth plays slide guitar and writes songs that echo of his native Louisiana, and has played with guys like Eric Clapton. Cashdollar, from Woodstock, now living in Austin, has played lap-slide guitar and dobro with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, and enjoyed a long, five-Grammy run with Asleep at the Wheel. An evening of blues, country blues and even zydeco. Tickets ($30 advance, $35 the day of the show) are available at Abilene Bar & Lounge, abilenebarandlounge.com, jccrochester.org, The House of Guitars, Record Archive and Bop Shop Records… The Louis S. Wolk JCC CenterStage Theatre continues to have the blues the following night, 7:30 p.m. Monday, with guitar slingers Tinsley Ellis and Tommy Castro & the Painkillers. Tickets are $30, $20 for students, with a VIP pass for $55...

The Ying Quartet performs at 3 p.m. Sunday at Kilbourn Hall.
Credit Eastman School of Music

The Eastman-Ranlet Series features the Rochester-based Grammy winners The Ying Quartet at 3 p.m. Sunday at Kilbourn Hall, 26 Gibbs St. It's the first of three Eastman-Ranlet shows by the quartet, with the others set for Feb. 2 and April 19. Tickets range from $29 to $40 and are available in advance at eastmantheatre.org… With whispered vocals and acoustic guitar, Joan Shelley reminds us that our environment is collapsing around us on her song, "The Fading." But maybe there's something to be said for a planet reclaiming itself, the Kentucky native sings, “to see the beauty in all the fading." She plays 8 p.m. Sunday at Bop Shop Records, 1460 Monroe Ave. She's been produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, that should tell you something. Tickets are $15 advance, $20 at the door, call (585) 271-3354… Miss Tess & the Talkbacks are back for an 8 p.m. Thursday show at Abilene Bar & Lounge, 153 Liberty Pole Way. Sultry vintage jazz, with Miss Tess, now living in Nashville, playing a Weymann archtop guitar. The title of her next album, due out early next year, suggests romance and ultimate disappointment: "The Moon is an Ashtray." Tickets are $10 advance, $15 the day of show and are available at the club and abilenebarandlounge.com.

Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at jspevak@wxxi.org.