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Remembering Meldrum: Whitford, Lynne, Klyma

Musician Jim Whitford recalls the impact Michael Meldrum, who died on Thursday, had on his musical career:

I got to visit with Michael a few times last week. Last Sunday and Monday were pretty good visits. Monday was especially good in that I got to play him some new tunes that got the Meldrum seal of approval, selfish as that might sound.

I think he helped my band, the Desires, get our first gig at Nietzsche’s in the early 1980s. He was very encouraging and supportive of my writing, then and always. It means a great deal to me, as I always felt that he had an ear for good songwriting. While I, or no one in their right mind, would consider myself in a league with his favorites (say, Townes Van Zandt), I’d prefer to think that he wasn’t just humoring me, thank you.

Everyone in the Buffalo music family knows how tirelessly he supported and promoted so many, but I’m thinking that the overarching theme that you’ll hear from people about Mike Meldrum is how he connected so many of us. I trace a huge percentage of my musical cohorts and very dear friends directly to him. Such a gift that I’m ever grateful and thankful to him for…

Oh, and I have recorded proof that he was also a great songwriter.

Here’s musician Alex Lynne remembering her first meeting with Meldrum:

I met Michael sometime between 1993 and 1994, and at the time, I was playing these Tuesday nights at Topic Cafe on Allen Street. I’d be there for hours playing these four-chord cover tunes late into the night, for free. I had just graduated from college and moved back to Buffalo, and I was basically your average, directionless, early-20-something. Michael showed up one night and asked me to play one of his Songwriter Showcase sets at Nietzsche’s—and from that moment on, he was tireless about getting me to keep playing, and eventually to write my own music. And that’s exactly what I did, and I owe that to Michael.

Michael is, and will always be, the thread that connects so many musicians in Buffalo. As Jim Whitford has said, Michael is the reason so many of us know each other in the first place. What a gift he has given to each of us, and to this city. What a legacy.

There are almost 20 years’ worth of memories and stories I can recall about Michael, but on a larger scale, it’s Michael’s loyalty to his friends and to his beautiful family that make the biggest impression. He lived his life motivated by love and a passion for music and friendship that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen in another human being.

So much of my experience as a musician in Buffalo involves Michael—I thank him for sharing his talent, humor, and love of music with me, and I thank him for being such a wonderful friend to my family. His influence and his spirit have made a permanent impression upon this city and upon everyone he called friend. I’m grateful for having known Michael.

And here’s a thought from luscian Greg Klyma, who was on the road to a gig in North Carolina when he heard the news of Meldrum’s death:

Before I knew what character was—that it was a quality to possess and that I wanted to be a character—Michael was one. Before I got hip to just how indelible his character was, I found that our personalities were butting heads. It seemed a weird father-son type conflict, which is entirely appropriate given how patriarchal Michael was. He fathered everyone.

It seems to me that whether you had a loving relationship with him or not, if you came into Michael’s sphere or he into yours, you never forgot it. As a Buffalo musician, you can’t miss it nor mistake it. He may have believed in music more than anyone else I’ve ever met, and now we musicians have to enter into the next phase of our development—life without Michael Meldrum.

 


  • Rob Julian

    As talented as he was in song, interacting with the crowd, or on record, my favorite memories were our conversations: on the phone in the afternoon as we searched for the next available date to book a show, upon arrival at a gig, or late on a Monday night just above the din inside Nietzsche’s. Often times we spent precious minutes talking about Dylan, Lennon, the deceptively-simple Beatles, Ani, guitars, family, the meaning of “Falling Down”, and of course, vintage Schwinn Bicycles.
    I remember a man whose love for music and people inspired me to believe in myself as more than a musical hobbyist, but rather, a person with a talent that needed to be shared. I’ve always struggled to believe in myself musically, but he helped me validate certain things to myself; now I know that our meeting was not coincidence.
    I remember staying up late one Sunday and trying to teach myself his “Please Say Yes” so we could cover it on Monday:
    I won’t show you when I’m cryin
    Or frightened by my dyin’
    Lookin’ for my freedom
    Now I’ve been lookin’ for a while
    I will sing of sorrow yesterday
    Sure to lose a few tomorrows
    That time I should’ve loved you
    I just watched it slip away…