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Case in Point
by Kevin J. Hosey
Peter Case, the hamburg boy made good, returns to Western New York for two shows in three days
About a year and a half ago, Peter Case was in a hospital, canceling concerts and music classes he taught, while doctors saved his life through open-heart surgery. Now the Hamburg native is recovered, back on tour, and playing two shows in three days in Buffalo and Western New York as he supports his new Yep Roc Records CD, Wig!
Case will play a show as part of the Private Concert Series at 7pm on Friday, August 13, at the Sportsmen’s Tavern (326 Amherst Street near Grant Street), with a band made up of himself on guitar, vocals and harmonica; Mark Winsick on guitar; Jim Whitford on bass and vocals; and Rob Lynch on drums and vocals. (Case and Whitford are Buffalo Music Hall of Fame members, and Winsick will be inducted this year.) Tickets for the show cost $15 presale only, and have been moving very fast, with only a few left. Call 874-7734 or stop in at the Sportsmen’s for tickets to the show. The Dawg House Band, which previously was to headline at the club that night, will open the show.
Case will also perform a house concert at the home of Marty Boratin and Susan Tanner (7341 Nelson Drive, Hamburg) on Sunday, August 15; doors open at 5pm and the show starts at 5:45pm, with Winsick and Grace Stumberg the opening acts. A potluck cookout will start at 4pm, and the suggested donation is $10-20. For directions or more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 812-4671.
As readers might imagine, the first question one asks Case is about his health.
“I’m doing good, quite well, actually,” Case says. “I’ve been touring a while. I had a reckoning of sorts, with my dad and both of my grandfathers dying of heart-related disease, both of my grandfathers in their 60s. It’s a bit of a genetic thing.”
Case is 56. He notes that while he had health insurance when he was signed to a major label (formerly Geffen), he did not when the heart problems occurred.
“The doctors saved my life, then they sent me a bill,” he says. “There was no question of how I was going to pay for this. They did a great job and I am very appreciative.” His likewise appreciates the musicians and other industry people and fans who helped him when he needed it. “There were three nights of benefits and some fans started a fund drive, and Catholic Charities helped.”
If, after listening to it, you think that Case’s new CD, Wig! sounds like it was fun and relaxed to record, well, it was.
“The record was really fun to make; I really recommend it and feel it is a really good recording. Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John [Case’s previous, Grammy Award-nominated CD] may have sounded a bit depressing, but this one I was really happy to be alive. It really gave me a burst of energy,” Case says. “What I set out to do is play the kinds of music I like, from acoustic blues to electric blues and a little folk rock. It’s a good album; it starts off pretty driving and it pulls together everything I’ve done. The majority of the recording was done in one day, with one or two other shorter sessions. One idea was to strip everything down. It’s like groove music; it’s not supposed to be clever or intricate. It’s all about feeling.”
Wig! does indeed incorporate all of his stated musical influences and directions, mixing a nice amount of soul, 1960s rock and roll, and some power pop into an enjoyable, danceable recording while addressing serious topics such as healthcare, religion, hypocrisy, and mortality.
Case has always felt driven to write and record the music he feels, and to follow his muse, which may have led to the break up of the Plimsouls, the band with which he wrote and recorded the power pop classic “A Million Miles Away” in the 1980s. “I felt strongly about going in a certain direction, and that’s what really ended up breaking up the Plimsouls,” he says. “They didn’t really want to go in the acoustic direction, or maybe they couldn’t. I’ve always taken my direction from the songs and their energy. I really go by intuition and feel.”
Case sounds excited to be coming home to play and notes the number of talented musicians—Case, Whitford, Winsick, Gurf Morlix, Bob Kozak, Terry Sullivan, Scott Michaels—who came from the Hamburg/Blasdell area. “We all just got into the music,” Case says. “We hung around some people who taught music and we picked up some guitars. Remember, on one side of Hamburg was the city, and on the other was the country, so we had all of those influences. The first time I went to a dance, the Unclaimed was playing, with Gurf and Mark, at the Hamburg Community Center. I was 12 years old. I studied guitar with Pete Haskell, one of the original Stan and the Ravens. Garth Hudson [of the Band0 once told Pete that he learned to play rock and roll from Stan Szelest.
“There are some great musicians from Buffalo, including drummers like Gary Mallaber and Rob Lynch. I have friends and roots here, and I haven’t been back in town since my mother died, so I am glad to come back. I enjoy and appreciate the area.”
Though Case was laid up in 2009, he observes with a laugh that his music was very busy. “The year I was sick and didn’t work, I had four records that came out, including One Way Ticket (Dig), a Nerves compilation [the Nerves were a great mid-1970s power pop band Case was in with Paul Collins and Jack Lee, best known for “Hanging on the Telephone”], and a CD by the Breakaways [the Nerves without Lee and with other musicians]. I truly enjoyed those.
“There was also a live Plimsouls CD [One Night in America on Kool Kat Music]. I had been hauling around these live tapes from a show at the Whiskey a Go-Go for years and finally did something with them.”
On top of all this, Case has three songs on the new Robert Randolph CD and was the subject of a three-CD tribute, A Case for Case: A Tribute to the Songs of Peter Case, in 2006. “It’s always great when people dig your songs and cut your songs,” he says. “I was really proud of it and enjoyed hearing how people recorded my songs.”
Case says the full-band show at the Sportsmen’s and his solo turn at the Boratin/Tanner house present very different experiences. “The band tour has been great,” he says. “I’ve been working with an extended musical family and it’s been a pretty easy relationship. It costs too much to travel with a band. We’ll play some different arrangements, with similar and different songs, and we’ll stretch out in different directions. But the Sportsmen’s show will be a bit more song-focused than the last time I played with these guys, which was more of a jam. The house concert will basically be me and my guitar.”
Jam sessions featuring Case leading a band can be enjoyable; his last Sportsmen’s full-band show was not so loose as one might think, and neither are his rehearsals. Jim Whitford is our neighbor, and we got to hear an impromptu two- or three-hour rehearsal/jam session one night a few years ago. There’s little better than hearing Plimsouls, solo Peter Case, and some classic blues, soul, and rock-and-roll songs coming through your window after dinner.
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