I’m not sure how our stint at the Buckshot Inn began. It was either Tom contacting them or they got in touch with Tom, but on March 19, 1978 we made our way to Mayfield, NY, to do a paid audition. We got $80.00, a free pizza and if they liked us a chance to play every Sunday all summer long.
The Buckshot, owned by the Senese family, was located on Vandenburgh Road in the Town of Mayfield. It was a log building and very rustic. As you entered, the bar was directly in front of you and ran the length of one side of the building. There was a knee wall made of barn boards separating the bar from an eating area with tables and chairs. Opposite the bar on the far wall was a huge fireplace, with a deer head hanging over it, where we would set our gear up in front of to play. Andy Senese worked in the kitchen, and his son Drew tended bar. A chance meeting 20 years later with Andy’s son Jim would continue the Sweet Cider / Senese connection, but that’s a story for later on. We were well received that day,got a $20 raise and played there for 22 of the next 24 Sundays.
Our recollections of those days have varied over the years, but certain things still stand out all these years later. One thing we learned, was that the Buckshot was a “biker bar”. As the weather warmed , more Harley Davidsons began to appear at the bar. Mayfield, located near the Great Sacandaga Lake, was a tourist destination. The village of Northville wasn’t too far away, and there were plenty of warm weather activities on and around the lake. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be 30 or 40 bikes in the parking lot, with drag races up and down Vandenburgh Road.
It was at the Buckshot where we made many new friends. Word got out that on Sundays there was a bluegrass band playing at the Buckshot and some of the local musicians began to come. Larry Edwards (who was left handed and played the guitar and banjo upside down) Gary Van Slyke, Ron Van Nostrand, Gunnar, Russ Gleaves, a blues harmonica player singing in a raspy voice “the sun ain’t gonna shine anymore” and many more. These folks would sit in, and there were times that as more people would come up on stage we would find ourselves sitting at a table watching everybody else play.
The Buckshot was where we met Mary Burdette (Tom had met Mary earlier in the year), who booked us at our first bluegrass festival, and Kit Carson (a name we gave him) who would be dancing wildly in front of us in a black trench coat and invariably fall drunkenly into our microphones. There was a fellow, whose name I don’t remember, a reporter for a local newspaper, who’d amuse us by doing a Red Skelton pantomime called the “The Fool and the Feather” (this always tickled Walt, no pun intended).
The Buckshot was where we learned the concept of “free premium beer”. One perk that we always had playing in bars, was free drinks. We were only being paid $15-25. apiece for these gigs, so the free beer sort of evened things out. Now from here the story gets a little foggy, Glenn remembers it one way, and Walt and I another. However after giving it some thought, and since Glenn didn’t play with us there until August 27, I tend to believe that Walt and I got it right. (Sorry Glenn, I mean we may be slow, but I just can’t believe that we wouldn’t have figured this out 4 months before we met you.) So the story goes like this. One afternoon, in between sets, Walt and I were sitting at the bar ordering a beer. Up until this point we either would have a draft or a cheap domestic beer. We happened to glance at the cooler with the imported beer, and in a simultaneous “light goes on moment”, realized that the imported beer was just as free as the others and we immediately ordered two Molson’s. We rarely from that point on drank anything else.
Another one of our perks was a free pizza when we were finished for the night. We could always judge how well they had done that day by our pizza. If it was a good day we’d get a pizza with a lot of toppings. If they did real well then we’d end up with two pizza’s with everything on them. If they had a slow day, we’d just get one cheese pizza.
So many other memories, Walt falling asleep on the way home one Sunday and driving into a ditch, Tom arriving with the equipment, realizing he had forgotten the mics, and rushing home and back just in time to start playing. Playing a song with incredible enthusiasm and Walt leaning over asking “What song are we playing?”, and realizing that I didn’t know either.
We really became a group at the Buckshot, and became closer friends through those experiences. Today the Buckshot Inn is a private residence, but whenever I drive past it I think back fondly to the summer of 1978 and four friends playing music.