TERRYS CORNERS — Despite never having picked up an electric guitar seriously (or any other instrument for that matter), Royalton’s Tim Durfy has carved out one of the most amazing rock music careers in Western New York history.
From his days traveling the local circuit as an impressionable teenager with the legendary Gary “Jonesie” Jones and Rotary Bed to his days as the manager of Lockport’s historic “After Dark” night club to his legacy as the founder and head promoter of the annual big city-like “Summer Sizzler” rock concert series in the Mayberry-like rural Town of Royalton, Durf has already left us with quite an impressive legacy of bringing the best in local and national acts to Lockport and the TC Fire Hall.
On Saturday, Grammy-nominated Victor Wainwright and the Train, featuring Gasport’s Pat Harrington on lead guitar — will headline the 2019 Summer Sizzler at the TC Fire Hall. Jonesie and his legendary Cruisers back, of course, along with the ever-popular 2019 Buffalo Music Award winners Dave Viterna Group, Welcome Distraction, 925 Regulars, Bethany Rhiannon and a local act selected in a contest to open the show, Atlas. The fun starts at 1 p.m.
Admission is free.
“We didn’t know what we were doing. We were just young guys shooting the curls,” Durfy said about his first “Sizzler” in 1976.
“Going back, Jonesie lived three doors down from me — Gary Jones — and he was in Rotary Bed back then and they were the top band in Lockport,” Durfy said. “He was older than me, but I knew him well. He used to come to my dad’s store. They’d be practicing out in the front yard and I’d go up and watch them when I was a little kid. They took me to a nightclub once in the ‘70s. It was Whorehouse West, which ended up becoming Harvey and Corkey’s Stage One. Jonesie started there as Rotary Bed.”
“They were playing at the Canoe Races all the time and I’d help them load in and load out and stuff like that because I was young,” Durfy said.
“My neighbor, Dick Brinley, said to me one day in 1976, ‘Why don’t you have a party for America to celebrate our bicentennial?’ So, we did it behind his house on Mill Road. Rushmore Alley was there with Sammy Bell and Jerry Hill and Kim Kleinhans— all them guys — and Jonesie was there along with Jimmy T’s Sound Machine.”
“We went around and put signs up in the bars and that was it. We were expecting 300 people and 900 showed up,” Durfy said.
“In the middle of our second year, a fire truck from the Terrys Corners Fire Hall comes over, giving people rides in the fields and hosing people down. One day they said, ‘Why don’t you move the party over here?’ because they had power, they had land, they had help, they had water — all that, so that’s why we moved it over to the fire hall.”
Each year, the Sizzler grew and the list of bands performing grew as well.
The next year it was bigger. The Sizzler’s first major act was Clevelend (purposely mis-spelled) from Cleveland, then came what Durfy liked to call “the dinosaur bands” — groups that had been filling large arenas a decade before and could still fill 1,200-seat night clubs like Lockport’s legendary “After Dark” on South Transit Road, where Durf managed, bartended and DJ’d.
These groups included the Guess Who, BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive) the Outlaws and Triumph’s Rik Emmett, along with Kim Mitchell to name just a few.
This year’s Sizzler will showcase a band that’s hot on the heels of their 2019 Grammy Awards “Best Contemporary Blues Album” nomination, the ‘Piana From Savannah’ Victor Wainwright and his group, The Train.
“Growing up in Roots music I would watch the Grammys and dream of one day taking part,” said Wainwright, whose self-titled album on Ruf Records earned him his nomination. “One morning, I woke up to that dream becoming a reality!”
In addition to his Grammy nomination, Wainwright is nominated for the 2019 Independent Blues Awards in the “Best Contemporary Blues CD,” “Best Blues Stage Performance,” “Road Warrior,” “Contemporary Blues Song,” and “Contemporary Blues Band” categories.
The Train’s guitarist is a familiar face locally and now, nationally, Gasport native Pat Harrington, who’s appeared in the past with Jonesie and Dave Viterna.
“Going back to our Fourth of July parties at the Royalton Ravine, Pat was on stage with Jonesie when he was maybe 5 years old, with a blow-up guitar, so if you don’t think all these bands aren’t intermingled, they are.
The Sizzler has gone on almost continuously for the past 43 years. It ran each year from 1976 through 1995, then in 1999 and 2000, then sporadically until it picked up again in recent years.
Proceeds from the event have benefitted the fire hall with new Jaws of Life and other expensive, life-saving equipment.
TC fireman Mike Meal ran the band contest for this year’s Sizzler, the fire company president is Stephen Baes and the Chief, Nick Baes, is chairman of the event.
“One of the most memorable Sizzler moments for me was sitting on the roof of the beer tent when the Outaws were playing “Green Grass and High Tides Forever’,” Durfy said.
“All the firemen were sitting up there with me. We all just got shivers. We were above the crowd, so we got a better sound, coming right at us. It was like wearing headphones. They were all the original members of the band.”
Other Sizzler acts over the years have included Paul Pope, Robbie Rist (“Cousin Oliver” on the Brady Bunch” TV series) and Paul Pope.
“We’re trying to get less bands, a shorter time,” Dufy said. “We’ve realized that our crowd is older. We started when we were 18 and we’re all 60 now, so we still have people coming in their 80s who came here 43 years ago, because it was their party.”
Follow veteran US&J reporter John D’Onofrio at @JohnD’Onofrio7.