NORTHUMBERLAND — A Valley eatery is celebrating its 40th anniversary with five nights of music by local musicians and bands from Wednesday through Aug. 6.
Front Street Station’s “Happy 40th Anniversary Celebration” will kick off Wednesday on the outside patio with “TJ Sounds & Terry-oki” by karaoke singer Terry Anselmo from 6-9 p.m.
“Terry Anselmo is a childhood friend of mine — we grew up in the same neighborhood,” said Jay Seidel Jr., owner of the Front Street Station. “He’s been singing karaoke most of his adult life, then he finally bought his own system and is now performing professionally.”
Performing on Aug. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. will be Susquehanna Valley piano man, Greg Burgess.
A pianist, vocalist and songwriter, Burgess is an ardent explorer of music, especially jazz and blues. He currently plays solo piano Friday nights at the Brasserie Louis in Lewisburg and Wednesday nights at Isabella’s Restaurant in Selinsgrove.
“Greg Burgess has been playing at Front Street Station since the early 90s,” said Seidel. “It’s been many years since he’s performed here, so we thought it would be nostalgic to bring Greg back for our anniversary week. Greg’s a great boogie woogie, jazz style piano man.”
Throughout his 45 plus years as an active musician, Burgess has played with many different bands, including in the ‘80s as a sideman for Rochester, New York, bluesman Joe Beard. During his tenure with Beard, Burgess had the opportunity to back up blues legends Big Joe Turner, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Taj Mahal, soul artist Roy C, and open for Millie Jackson.
When the rock artists of the ‘60s mentioned the blues as their precursor, as a teenager, Burgess started to look into these earlier artists, like Muddy Waters and piano players like Otis Spann, Memphis Slim, and the Boogie Woogie Masters.
“As the blues artist Muddy Waters has sung, ‘The blues had a baby and they named it rock ‘n’ roll,’” Burgess said. “And because the blues is the foundation of jazz, over time I began playing that too.”
Burgess first started performing at Front Street Station in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and has played there many times under various guises — even Celtic music for St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s very impressive for a restaurant to be in business for 40 years,” he said. “I know the Seidels have put a lot of love and sweat into it. Although I haven’t played there recently, I’m happy that Jay Jr. called me about this event.”
As a long-time musician, Burgess has played many styles over the years across the popular musical spectrum. As a jazz musician, he has focused on jazz standards and the Great American Songbook.
“For this event at the restaurant called a railroad eatery, a salvaged train station, I hope to feature some of that music that was inspired by the sights and sounds of the railroads that crisscrossed America in the first half of the 20th century,” Burgess said. “The clacks of the rails, the toots of the horn, the chugs of the locomotive, and people boarding coaches — such images suffused the lyrics and piano techniques of the blues players.”
Some of the tunes you can expect to hear from Burgess that reminisce those sights and sounds include Leroy Carr’s “How Long Blues,” Meade Lux Lewis’ “Honky Tonk Train Blues,” Louis Jordan’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” and Thelonious Monk’s “Little Rootie Tootie.”
Burgess said he always welcomes the sounds of the railroad when he performs at Front Street Station.
“I know when I’ve played there on the patio before, sometimes a locomotive would pass by, moaning and clanging and bearing a delivery to the place next door,” he said. “Who knows — maybe that will happen again.”Gas House Alley — featuring John “Lloyd” Kistner and Billy “Rock” Kerstetter, founding members of the rock band HARPO — will perform Friday from 7 to 9 p.m.
Lipsmackin’ Blues Band will perform in the events room from 7 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 5.
The band, featuring local musician Stuart Shrawder, has been performing at Front Street Station since the late 90s.
“Coincidentally, their 20th anniversary of winning the best band at the Billtown Blues Festival coincides with Front Street Station’s 40th anniversary — they’re reuniting for our event,” Seidel said.
Shrawder’s musical influences started in the ‘60s with the Beatles and the British Invasion. His blues influences include Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Robert Johnson, and more recent artists like Keb’ Mo.’
“I always played drums and had parents that supported my ‘joyful noise!’” Shrawder said.
Shrawder knew previous Front Street Station owner Jay Seidel Sr. from Seidel’s time at the Dutch Pantry in Hummels Wharf.
“When he opened up Front Street Station, I started doing a show with a band I was in called The Uncles of Funk through the ‘80s and into the ‘90s,” Shrawder said.
Over the years, Shrawder has put on shows for Hurricane Katrina Relief, the Dave Rose Tribute, the Steve Mitchell Fundraiser, and has also played on the Front Street Station patio with the band Catman Stu.
“Lipsmackin’ Blues Band plays mostly blues but with a good dose of jazz,” Shrawder said. “Many of our songs are originals, with a number of reworked standards done in our own style.”
Lipsmackin’ Blues Band mixes their sets with originals like “Danville State Blues” and “Wrong Side of Memphis,” and cover versions of songs like “I Put a Spell on You.”
Closing out the five-day event on Aug. 6 will be the duo Kimbo & Bryan, who will perform on the outside patio from 5 to 7 p.m.