Western New York Rock & Roll
Wellsville lies in an area of Western New York far removed from what “New York” evokes to most people not native to the area. Just a little village, it's actually the largest town in Allegany County. The band Zoar has survived for over three decades playing music in all these wonderful small towns in this part of the State. Part of the original mission was to include original music in a diverse mix with cover songs they loved to play. Mission accomplished! Since 1988 Monty Case and Rick Whitwood have performed over 2,000 gigs together, traveled countless miles, as well as formed a lasting bond with many of the people that have supported the band through the years. As a matter of fact, the band has had six bass players, with three serving two tenures in the band. Zoar had the good fortune of having Chris Dahill return for his second tenure in 2016, a position he currently holds.
In the late 80's the Western New York music scene was dominated by hard rock and hair metal bands covering Poison, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Warrant and the other top 40 bands of the day. Southern Rock and the Blues had been relegated to the back burner. Despite that landscape, Zoar chose to highlight their set list with music by ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the like with a healthy dose of their blues rock originals. At one point the song list exceeded 100 songs. The band, Cort Dunham, Monty Case, Rick Whitwood and Jon Gates soon found an audience for their tight, dance inducing rock and roll. Playing over 100 dates a year while maintaining “regular jobs”, the Zoar sound began to reflect the many hours of music they made together.
The spring of 1990 brought bassist Roger Carlin to the fold replacing Jon Gates. Zoar, now Dunham, Case, Whitwood and Carlin began to earnestly pursue recording original material. Their self-titled debut was released in 1992, the culmination of hard work and hard miles. Containing such Zoar favorites as 65 Mustang, Livin' The Hard Way, Idaho, Poor Man's Queen, Restless Tonight and Lost In The Space Of Your Mind, the home-spun quality of this release helped make it a strong selling regional album. The weekends often consisted of two to three gigs on top of a 40 hour work week. The band was a well oiled machine and began to earn a reputation for their live shows.
At this point, between rehearsals, live dates, recording sessions and day jobs the grueling pace began to take its toll and the band lost Cort Dunham and shortly after crew members George Newark and Bob Hyde. On a cold February night over a hot cup of coffee at the long since demolished Hamburger Willy's in Wellsville, Monty and Rick decided they had too much music left in them to let the band die. Neither could have known then that it would be 20 more years and counting.
April of 1993 brought aboard Hansiell Dunn. Initially reluctant to perform live again after a long period away from the stage, Dunn was on board as the band pushed it's boundaries logistically and creatively. The band now was traveling to Buffalo, Rochester, Geneva and farther to spread the gospel of Zoar. In 1994 Roger Carlin left the band and set in motion a search for their third bassist since 1988. Tom Musingo, a very talented multi-instrumentalist was chosen after numerous auditions and was with the band for two years. As recording sessions for Zoar's 2nd album “Long Hard Road” approached Carlin returned on bass, a stint that would last through his retirement from performing in 2007. Long Hard Road helped the band garner regional radio airplay and invitations to open for such national acts as Bad Company, Molly Hatchet and the Goo Goo Dolls. Hansiell Dunn left the band in late 1997 and Whitwood, Case and Carlin performed their first gigs as a trio while searching for a second guitarist. Short stints in Zoar by Louie Norton and Jerry Jordan set the stage in 1999 for Tom Greene. Greene's tenure lasted to early 2002, thus earning him his rock and roll wings. Throughout this period Zoar also enjoyed the dedicated service of crew members Tony Cicirello and Jeff Kinney. By this time the band was over a decade old with no signs of slowing down.
And then there was three...after a series of the most successful gigs the band ever performed, the trio of Whitwood, Case and Carlin came to the conclusion the best replacement was no replacement at all. Since 2002, Zoar has performed as a lean, mean three piece machine. By 2007 these three musicians had logged over 16 years and thousands of miles performing together, becoming one of the areas most respected bands along the way. Carlin called it a day in 2007 performing his last gig, fittingly at Rick's daughter Nicole's wedding.
Case and Whitwood had a discussion on how they would replace Carlin as auditions began in earnest. Good fortune shone on the band yet again one quiet summer day at the Music Alley in Wellsville. Bruce Maybee, a talented and experienced guitarist/bassist/vocalist, had relocated to Wellsville and was looking for the right band to play with. He and Rick hit it off musically and socially with Maybee joining the band, playing his first gig 5 minutes after meeting Monty with no rehearsal. He never missed a note. Bruce played with the band for two years in which the Zoar performed nearly 75 dates each year. Some of his studio performances will see the light of day on Rick's forthcoming album.
Talk about a tall order, Monty and Rick were now faced with finding yet another bass player to replace the departing Bruce Maybee. Up to the plate stepped Chris Dahill. Rick had quietly been observing Dahill develop in to a first rate musician and in 2009 he joined the band. Chris had come of age watching Zoar perform and in part developed his playing style with influences that included Roger Carlin. He was given a crash course then told his first gig would be in Buffalo. Chris rose to the occasion becoming a valuable asset to the band. Dahill in essence went to “Zoar College” having gained the necessary road miles to be highly respected around the local music scene. He departed from the band in 2015 nearly six years to the day he joined. Original member Cort Dunham rejoined the band on bass guitar from September 2015 through August 2016. And back comes Chris Dahill, rejoining Zoar in August of 2016!
Zoar has logged many miles, but make no mistake the engine roars. As popular today as they were in 1988 or 1998, a Zoar performance usually guarantees a good time will be had by all. New original music will hopefully be released in 2021, if not by the band, certainly by Whitwood in his own right. Zoar's incredible family tree has branches that connect current and former members with many area bands such as, The Rogues, Gambler, Tarkus, Peace Pipe Mafia, Mojo Hand Blues, Onyx, White Raven, Ice Water Mansion, Moondance, Fat Brat, RWB and so many more. With over 2,000 gigs to the band's credit, Zoar continues to perform everywhere and anywhere. From summer festivals to benefits, weddings to Gin Mills and restaurants to roadhouses expect to see “Zoar” on a Southern Tier marquee sometime soon. To everyone the band has met along the way, we are truly grateful for the support and friendship. Thank you! We hope too see you soon.