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Kenneth W. Syracuse Passes Away at 62

Kenneth W. Syracuse, the original Buffalo Beatle, passes away at 62

Kenneth Wayne Syracuse of East Amherst, a renowned local musician of the 1960s era, passed away peacefully on September 30 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

Born in Philadelphia, Syracuse was a 1964 graduate of Grover Cleveland High School. He also served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.

In the mid-1960s, Syracuse helped to bring the British Invasion to Buffalo’s West Side as a member of the original Buffalo Beatles. Teens flocked to venues like Mount Major and the Beatle Ballroom, where they typically paid 99 cents or less to dance all night to the sound of the Buffalo Beatles (later called the Mods). Syracuse was one of the band’s three lead singers. The band was popular on the West Side and opened for the Byrds, the Four Seasons, and Chuck Berry when they came to Buffalo.

A lifelong lover of music, in recent years Syracuse played guitar in the Paul Briandi All-Star Band alongside some of Buffalo’s finest musicians, including Buffalo Music Hall of Famer, the late Jimmy Wozniak.

“I met Kenny when I was 15,” Briandi recalls. “I was from North Buffalo, and Kenny was from the West Side.” According to Briandi, Ken founded Cleveland High School’s Kappa Phi fraternity along with Rich Sansone, Bobby Grieco, and other friends from Grover. After they graduated, the Kappa Phi brothers started the Buffalo Beatles.

“Down the road, [Ken] formed another band, Net Weight,” explains his youngest brother, Gary Syracuse, also a local singer and stagehand. “But in 1982-83, the music scene in Buffalo dropped drastically, and Kenny became a stagehand for Local 10.” He worked as a stagehand for about 15 years. “He got back into playing later in life—around 50—to jam and play with Paul Briandi and friends,” Gary recalls.

The Buffalo Beatles reunited for a year in 2001. “Kenny had music deep in his soul,” Briandi remembers. “Up until his last days, we were playing Beatles songs in the basement.”

In a fitting tribute to a life in music, Syracuse was honored at his funeral with a poignant rendition of the Beatles classic, “Let It Be.” Accompanied by Charles Buffamonte on guitar and Syracuse’s nephew Steven Syracuse on bass, the ballad was sung by lifelong friend, vocalist Dolly Dee Durante, who describes herself as “a sister—more than a sister of music.” Dolly’s mother and aunt sewed costumes for the Buffalo Beatles in the 1960s.

“I feel a part of his past and I feel a part of his everlasting life,” she says. “For me it was such an honor to bring him home in church. Even the priest was diggin’ it!”

lucie m. gonzalez

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