A Little History

It occurred to me tonight that some folks might get here directly and not through the “Sweet Cider” website. That might also mean you haven’t any clue as to who we were or what this site is about so I’ll try and provide a little history.

Sweet Cider had it’s beginnings in a chance meeting at a bar in Charleston, New York in 1976. My friend Chris Schultz asked me if I wanted to go see a band (Shagbark Hickory, which included Bob Altschuler, Tom Yoder, Tom Lamberton and Dave Fein) at a local tavern and he’d introduce me to a banjo player he’d recently met. The banjo player was Tom Yanis. (Chris described him as a bit of a greaser.) We hit it off right away and began to get together on a regular basis to jam.  Since I played guitar and Chris and Tom played banjo it was an interesting combination. I suggested we ask my brother Joe also a guitar player to come and play and he agreed.

So we learned some songs called ourselves Schoharie Turnpike and started playing music. Chris decided to move on in the fall, and Tom suggested we see if his cousin Walt Yanis a bass player and singer would like to join us. Walt, who had never played bluegrass, came on board and Sweet Cider was born.

Sweet Cider / December 31, 1977 / The Quaker Inn

We played our first show on December 31, 1977, at the Quaker Inn in Duanesburg New York, and for the next 33 years we played what we liked to call “Bluegrass Flavored Acoustic Music” throughout Northeastern New York State. We all lived in or around Rotterdam, New York and were always part of each others lives as well as being band-mates.

The last performance of Sweet Cider (Tom Yanis, Bill Kilcullen, Walt Yanis and Joe Kilcullen) was on November 4, 2008 at Proctors Theater (The Muddy Cup for GE Appreciation Day). Two weeks later Tom suffered a serious stroke. He has been recovering since, and is still unable to play.

Walt, Joe and I played a few shows in 2009, and in 2010 Sweet Cider played their last show ever on June 24, 2010 in Unadilla, New York.  In July Walt was diagnosed with cancer, and he lost that battle on December 23, 2010.

We always joked, when talking about how long we’d been together, about starting a Sweet Cider Museum and that’s what this website/blog/archive is. I’ve collected hours of audio and video recordings and this where I’ll be putting them.


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