Zoar would like would to extend our condolences to the family of Rick McLay on his recent passing. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and entire musical family from his many endeavors. We were lucky enough to have Rick perform with Zoar on more than one occasion. Zoar enjoyed a special kinship with Reality Jones, one of this area's greatest local bands, having performed several benefits with them in the 1990's. Rick and Andy Gaeta would often come see Zoar on their nights off back in the day. On our nights off we caught many Reality Jones performances as well. Rick's talent as a musician was immense. So much so he was hard to describe. Adept at finger style guitar, upright bass and many other instruments he was a musician's musician. Armed with an electric Fender Jazz Bass he was the engine in which Reality Jones could shake foundations. They also had the coolest posters due to Rick's graphic design talents. Zoar's last performance was in July of 2020 at Pollywogg Holler, Rick McLay was there to give us his support. I will miss our thought provoking conversations on music and history, his amazing musicianship, and his usual greeting that always came with a smile..."hey Rick it's Rick". May you find peace.
We hope everyone is enjoying the waning days of summer. Two of our favorite gigs that normally happen this time of year will surely be missed... Birdsall Potato Launch and Rushford Labor Day Festival! Stay well, we hope to see you soon!
We wanted to let everyone know that all Zoar dates for the remainder of March, April, May and June are canceled. Our thoughts are with everyone to stay healthy and safe. We hope to see you soon!
For those of you that have been to a Zoar show or two, you may recall a guy with a skull cap, leather jacket and wallet chain in close proximity to the band. He occasionally looked like a stage security guard, roadie, DJ, tambourine player or designated dancer.... that was Keith Hopkins. He wasn't at every show, but he was at a lot of them. Of all the hats Keith wore over the years, the one we will remember him best for is friend.
Sometime around 1989, at long since closed bar in Arkport, Zoar met Keith after the gig and posed for what was to become the first of hundreds of pictures with Keith. From that day on Keith Hopkins became a dedicated supporter of Zoar and I would like to think, Zoar became a dedicated supporter of Keith Hopkins. As a matter of fact, we liked Keith so much we used to play his annual birthday parties at Peanuts in Hornell....yes, that Peanuts!
For over 30 years we had the pleasure of seeing Keith turn up at venues near and far. Sometimes he would roadie, other times he would DJ during our breaks and occasionally just come to listen. It was at a Zoar gig he met his long time girlfriend Deidrah, a perfect match. It was fitting the last time we saw Keith was earlier this summer when we opened for the Marshall Tucker Band, sitting right up front. Keith passed away unexpectedly this weekend. He will be remembered by Zoar, often and kindly. Keith was truly one of the many vivid colors that make up the patchwork we call Zoar.... rest easy my friend.
Let's go pollywoggin' on Sunday July 28th! Come on out to Pollywogg Holler for Zoar and pizza the last Sunday in July, gates open at 1pm and the band will fire soon after.
Last Train To Hooterville...
Days like these the Allegany County winds blow cold, but today is just a little bit colder. While getting a hot cup of coffee this morning I was informed of the passing of Fran Stedman of Bolivar. Fran operated the Bolivar Hotel for many years, at first side by side with his Father Ken, then eventually by himself. For anybody that had ever been to the Bolivar Hotel, we all know it was nothing, if not unique. Fran was equal parts bartender, councilor, interior decorator, antique collector, matchmaker, SPCA supporter and many things I may not even know, most of all, Fran was a gentle soul. He most certainly was the proprietor at one of the funkiest joints in these here parts! If anyone knows me, it's the funky joints I like best!
Before Zoar began playing in 1988 I had never stepped foot in the Hotel. Sometime around Christmas in 1989 the crew from Wellsville Pizza Hut hired us to play their Holiday party to be held at the Bolivar Hotel. Fran had the place decorated from floor to ceiling, the wood stove was cranking in the corner and I know I counted at least three different cats milling around. What a great party! Fran seemed to like us, eventually booking us to play a "dance". He was the only bar owner in over 2,000 gigs that ever called it a "dance". He loved having us on holidays... Valentines Day, Halloween, Good Friday, New Year's Eve and the place was always decorated accordingly. Of course Ken would always tell us "turn it down" before we even started! I learned to always talk baseball with Ken and everything else would fall in place. Many great times were had in the ensuing years at the Bolivar Hotel when Zoar came to town.
Acoustically speaking, not all rooms are created equal for sound. The hotel, to me, was a place that sounded amazing. It was the room that an electric guitar took flight in! I'm not quite sure if it was the carpeted walls, the high ceilings, the room openings, or some other geometrical phenomenon that made a Gibson Les Paul or Fender Telecaster sing, but I do know it was something. We all loved playing that room...for the the people that came to hear us and for Fran Stedman. Another thing that made the Hotel so special was that Fran would allow aspiring teenage musicians of the area along with some of their friends watch bands from the kitchen. Of all the great bands the Hotel hosted (Reality Jones, Mojo Hand Blues Band, Blue Wax, Rogues, RJ & Lisa, West among others) these young folks seemed to adopt us, or perhaps we adopted them. Seeing them develop in to good players and even better people is something we will always cherish. These are OUR peeps! We would beam with pride when they eventually played during our breaks, all with the consent of Fran and the support of their parents that would chaperone.
Fran had a great sense of history. I think that is why he kept the hotel going. It is a spectacular building, the kind that they just don't build any longer. He often talked about downtown Bolivar of days gone by, including places like the Lyric, Washington and others. A few years back, before the Hotel closed, Zoar played their debut gig at the Bulldog just down the street. Before we started, I felt like I had to go to the hotel. Walking through the front door brought so many memories to my mind, wonderful thoughts of a place that meant so much to this band. I walked in to a smiling Fran ("hey there Mr.", his usual greeting) and few of his regulars. I made sure I went into the band area and took a long look and then peaked my head into the kitchen. I could see the guys from Route 66 in my mind anxiously awaiting the band to fire. I had a very hard time playing that night, but I'm sure glad I walked down! Our condolences to Fran's family and the Bolivar community,he will be missed. All aboard... the last train to Hooterville.
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