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Sounds of Buffalo: Dan Harper with Magic Show

148470_112757908792065_2138361_nWhere are you from?

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York.

How did your music career begin?

I worked at my father’s bike store on Elmwood Avenue in my early teens. One night, walking home, I heard Spoon playing blues in a bar on the strip. I watched through the window until they finished. I was hooked.

Who influenced you early on?

My first teacher was Joe (Groove) Madison. Count Rabbit , Tommy Calandra and my Dad were also huge influences in my early years. I was blessed with many great teachers, and that really says a lot about how accessible and humble most musicians are in Buffalo. Those people were well established and respected performers; some were icons and towers of knowledge. They took the time to help a nobody, wanna-be little kid. Not just me, but lots of us. I always think about that when somebody needs some answers or help I might be able to provide. The most important lesson I learned was that if you aspire to be great, you must continue to learn throughout your career.

Was your family musically inclined?

My sister sings opera and performs in musicals and teaches vocals. My dad sang opera, but he never pursued it as a career. He was my first vocal coach. He’s also the one that turned me onto Muddy Waters and bought me my first guitar. Al Jolson was on my mom’s side on the family.

422043_294341960633658_659999725_nHow did the band come about?

The “Magic Show” began to form at Max’s Shot Club on East Delavan, after my weekly Tudor Lounge gig with the Designated Hitters ended in 2007. Max’s was home to me since the mid-90’s. I just felt like being somewhere I was happy, and jamming with whoever wandered in. One night, Mike Bellman came by to play, and he has been my main guitar player ever since. Back then, it was Mike, my son Lordan on bass, Ray Szpillman on keys, and Russ Hatcher on drums. Things have changed. After Max’s, I called Steve Czapla. Steve had been my main studio keyboard player since the early 90’s. Then we found John Q. (drums), and I went on to do Club Diablo on Fridays for a year. That was, and is, Magic Show. Our bass players rotate at this point, but they are some of the best in the business.

Who do you admire most in the business?

The ones who schooled me.

What was your first instrument?

A funky old trumpet.

75883_113109472090242_7826139_nWhat’s your favorite venue in Buffalo?

I like playing intimate, historic, mid-sized venues. I love people, and when you play those sorts of places on a weekly basis, your form friendships with people.

Any awards along the way?

I never believed that manifesting art had anything to do with competition. As far as awards, I have some, and I’m grateful that people thought I deserved them. For me they are a byproduct and not goal.

What direction are you heading in? What’s next?

I’ve played hundreds of venues throughout WNY over the years, and had a wonderful time of it. I would enjoy performing more concerts and doing more broadcasts at this point in my career, especially with the new recordings coming out soon.

Doing any traveling? On the road playing?

I was on the road for many years. These days I enjoy being home, and Buffalo is home.


What about recording?

I am mostly writing and recording now. On an average day, I’m in the studio 10-12 hours.

What do you like to play most? What kind of music? Any originals?

I love to play the blues. Even if you play blues standards, they can be original. Muddy covered Johnson’s tunes and Dixon’s tunes, etc. The Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin covered Wolf and Muddy tunes. If you really study and respect the blues masters, you can eventually understand enough about an existing song to do something original with it. The challenge is to keep the energy intact, and actually harness it in new ways.



Everyone in Magic Show writes. With the accumulated knowledge, and incredibly diverse tastes, there are some powerful, credible original works being recorded at this point in time.

Are you logging any studio hours?

I’m a studio person, always have been. Now that my studio, Action Recording is operational again, I find it hard to leave, even to go shopping or to the post office. I’ve played so often throughout the years that a lot of people think of me as mostly a live performer. The truth is I am mostly a studio musician.



Where are you playing these days? Any shows?

My work in the studio takes priority. Perhaps, when I finalize Magic Show’s first CD over the coming weeks, there will be some more shows booked. We do have one upcoming show this Wednesday at the Pan American Grill and Brewery at the Hotel Lafayette starting at 7pm – See Facebook (event). See band on Facebook.


See more Sounds of Buffalo:



If you play in a group/band (or solo) here in Buffalo, and have an upcoming gig at a venue(s) in the city, consider sending buffalo rising an email requesting to be emailed a Q&A interview that we can then post, along with concert dates. It’s a fun and easy way to get your name in front of another audience that is interested in learning about the local music scene. The requirements are:

-You must be living in the Greater Buffalo region… or you must be plotting your return
-You must have a public show coming up in the city of Buffalo, as our focus is the urban landscape
-You must have a photo of the band
-Solo acts are also welcome
-Video is a plus
-CD/Album/poster art is welcome
-Links to Social Media sites are a bonus
-Ability to take accept both praise and/or criticism is a must
It is up to the discretion of Buffalo Rising whether or not to publish the interviews depending on nature of content submitted, or lack thereof. 
Please send requests here. Include “Sounds of Buffalo” in the subject box of the email.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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