The history of Buffalo Music is less about people who have become famous as it is about the continuing contribution to culture in our area.  The immigrants who built the area brought their native music, and through years of blending these cultures together, the Buffalo Sound emerged.   From the ethnic music of the settlers of the area, to the boom of tavern music in the Erie Canal days, to the rich history of vaudeville with every big name in the business, to our number one DJ; The Hound, George Lorenz who was the first to establish a “rock & roll” station in the world based out of Buffalo, the Buffalo Sound has grown.  It included such wonderful establishments as the historic Colored Musicians Club which established Buffalo as one of the great cities of jazz on the East Coast.

Great composers came out of the early years:

  • Jack Yellen immigrated to Buffalo from Poland in 1897 at the age of five and went on to write American favorites like: “Happy Days Are Here Again,” “Down by the O-Hi-O,” “Are You from Dixie?” and “Ain’t She Sweet?”

  • Harold Arlen, whose band set the local music scene on fire in the 1920’s, went on to write hits such as “That Old Black Magic,” “Stormy Weather,” and the iconic “Over The Rainbow.”

  • Ray Evans, during a career spanning decades, was a songwriter who received three Academy Awards for such enduring standards as “Mona Lisa,” “Silver Bells,” “Que Sera, Sera,” and “Buttons and Bows.”

  • David Lee Shire began his career as an Emmy and Tony Award winning composer in 1960, is better known for scoring wonderful television, Broadway, and Hollywood soundtracks, and had hits such as “The Morning After” and “It Goes Like It Goes” the title song from Norma Rae.

Band leaders and talented musicians were the choice of the vaudeville acts that came through Buffalo following the Civil War.  The Erlanger Theater was just one of the venues opened specifically for this type of entertainment.

Buffalo has produced a strong lineage of “session” musicians whose talents are sought after globally.  In every corner of the US, when a recording is being made, and the producer has a choice, quite often the job will be taken by a musician raised and trained in Buffalo.  Their stamp can be heard on literally thousands of records and CD’s.  A few highlights are Gary Mallaber’s work on Van Morrison’s Moondance and Steve Miller’s Fly Like an Eagle, Jim Ehinger’s work on Billy Vera’s “At This Moment,” and Tommy Tedesco’s work on Beach Boys albums and the theme for television’s Bonanza series (another classic written by Buffalo native Ray Evans). Tom Hambridge who has worked with Buddy Guy (and many others) and whose songs can be heard on the sound track for the Disney movie Cars.

Since the inception of recorded music and the fine folks that broadcast it, Buffalo performers have been in the limelight on a regular basis.  We boast names such as Cory Wells, founder of Three Dog Night, gold record jazz group Spyro Gyra, funk pioneer Rick James, 10,000 Maniacs, singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco, multi-talented Brian McKnight, jazz great Grover Washington, Jr., the platinum selling Goo Goo Dolls, Las Vegas stars The Scintas and Clint Holmes, and stars of Broadway and film in The Music Man – the Buffalo Bills Barbershop Quartet.

Perhaps the one area that Buffalo is most prolific and fortunate is in its musicians, performers, and non-musical contributors who stayed in Buffalo, the ones who didn’t make it on a national level, the one’s that loved to keep their wonderful talents right here at home.  This music scene is bubbling with talent that would rock any other area of the country.  Players draw huge crowds to venues all over Western New York on a weekly basis.  We are fortunate to be entertained with some of the best live music in some of the best venues.  The Buffalo Sound has been evolving for over a century and it lives on today in grand fashion. To honor these fine musicians The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame was established in 1983.



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