Author: Craig Spangler
Years back I was listening to satellite radio and a song came on “Diamonds to Dust” by Gurf Morlix. I took to the tune and looked up more of his music and really liked his sound. When I researched Gurf himself, I found out he grew up like me, in Hamburg.
Over the years I have seen him at the Sportsmens Tavern in Black Rock, and always looked for when he releases new music. In 2015 he released “Dirty Old Buffalo” a true Buffalo ballad about his experiences growing up in the Rustbelt.
Since it came out few people I’ve played it for have known about it, I think it’s time Gurf and the song get its due. He does a great job of painting a picture of what Buffalo was and how it shapes those who grew up and live here. I really enjoyed the picture of his family’s rides into the city, may have shared some questionable experiences in Lackawanna and was stunned that I had never heard the story about the Allman Brothers.
Better than just giving my take on the song I got the chance to asked Gurf a few questions as he vacationed up in the Canadian wilderness over the summer. He talks about the song, what Buffalo used to be, why he left and the pretty Buffalo of today.
Gurf Morlix will again play the Sportsmens Tavern Thursday September 28th at 7pm
What led you to writing the song? You’ve been putting out music for decades, why now?
I don’t really know. Somehow I had never written about Western New York, and what it wuz like to grow up there before. I come home a few times a year, and love WNY, but somehow it wuz just lurking below the surface of my songwriting consciousness. Suddenly it surfaced, and I had no choice.
The song says you went to Buffalo once a year in your best clothes, what was the occasion?
We’d drive into the city about once a year for a doctor’s appointment. I remember it very well. Jewett Parkway. My dad had been around the world, but my mom wuz afraid of one way streets. Cuz she’d never been on one, I think. She’d heard about them.
And she feared the filth of the big city. She missed out on so much.
Was it a bit of a dramatization or do you really remember your mother being apprehensive? Do you think this was a common feeling of suburbanites back then?
When we went into the city she’d don her white gloves. Not to look stylish, but because she wuz afraid to touch anything in the filthy city.
The refrain is “Dirty Old Buffalo” back then do you remember any parts of the city being considered especially nice or desirable like Delaware Park area or Elmwood is now?
Of course. I do remember Chippewa being a pretty gritty street, but the park wuz amazing, and we did go to the Albright Knox Museum, to see a Van Gogh exhibit. We braved the dangers to see that.
The Allman Brothers story is one that I had never heard before your song, I was born in 1979, this must have been a big deal in Buffalo music lore? I did a little more research he was found not guilty by insanity?!?!
The first big insanity rock & roll defense, I think. They hired a high priced lawyer, and it worked. I did find it interesting that several years later, the guy that stabbed Alliota to death died skydiving. His chute didn’t open. I’m not saying it wuz karma, but I do find it interesting.
You end the song by saying Buffalo isn’t the same, do you enjoy some of the change or you think it takes away from what Buffalo is?
I love what Buffalo has become. The current resurgence is long overdue. Buffalo deserves this. I miss what it was, but it’s much better now.
Outside of this song how has Buffalo and WNY shaped your music?
Everything I learned happened here. There wuz a great R&B scene here in the 60s, which wuz tied into the Toronto scene which included The Band. There wuz a lot of interaction between the 2 cities. Stan Szelest wuz an amazing talent. Raven wuz a great band. I used to take guitar lessons from John Weitz, Raven’s guitar player. I learned about the groove from the Buffalo musicians. The groove is of the utmost importance.
You left Buffalo pretty early in your life, did you feel you had to for your music career?
At that time you had to go somewhere else to be successful. There wuz no internet. Everything wuz much more provincial then. These days everyone is connected, and it’s much easier to get out into the world.
What do you miss most about Buffalo?
Well I don’t really miss it, cuz I am back a lot. I have a ton of friends here, and some family, and I visit a few times a year. I play in the area at least a couple times a year. I do miss the grit, a little bit, cuz I’ve always been drawn toward that. I like patina. I like old wood. Weathered surfaces. Dark red bricks. But I like what Buffalo has become. It’s about time.
It’s about time, I couldn’t agree more Gurf!