BMHOF Class of 2017
Alison Pipitone returned to Buffalo in the mid-1990s because she wanted to get away from the music business.
Her band, the Monas, had been moderately successful in Los Angeles, recording a CD and playing the Roxy, the Whisky A Go Go and the Troubadour. But she had had it.
“I just got tired of the struggle … and I got tired of living in a big city where everything was so difficult,” she said recently.
So she returned to the Buffalo area, where she had spent part of her childhood and had friends and relatives. After she came back, her sister convinced her to go to Nietzsche’s to sing in Michael Meldrum’s weekly open mic.
Meldrum liked what he heard and gave Pipitone a 45-minute songwriter spotlight. He also let Dale Anderson – the former Buffalo News rock critic who had started his own record company – know about it.
Within about six months Pipitone was signed to Anderson’s Hot Wings Entertainment.
“I really couldn’t give up music. I certainly would have regretted it,” Pipitone said. “It’s who I am, but I didn’t really know it at the time. So luckily fate stepped in.”
Both Pipitone and the Buffalo music scene can be grateful.
Over the past two-plus decades, she has won countless awards, co-founded the Hamburg Music Festival, has released nine albums and she has grown as a performer and educator.
Along the way she has assembled a powerhouse band (currently Pat Shaughnessy on drums, Graham Howes as lead guitarist, Marc Hunt on bass and Natalie Howes on backing vocals).
For Pipitone, Buffalo was a place to grow. She hadn’t been the main singer in the Monas, but now she was front and center.
“It was very supportive here, so I could take a long time to learn and people did continue to encourage me,” Pipitone said. “It was an exciting time for live music here in the mid-‘90s There were a lot of cool things happening. There was a kind of excitement in the air.”
She said she thinks of herself as a songwriter first, and then as a guitarist and singer. But, she said, “I got used to the sound of my own voice.”
Pipitone has a distinctive voice that works perfectly with her heartland rock ‘n’ roll sound. She demonstrates as much in 50-100 shows a year.
She has toured across the United States and has performed at the NXNE Music Festival in Toronto, the Crossroads Music Conference in Cleveland, the Philadelphia Music Conference and the CMJ Music Festival in New York City.
She has won many awards in the Buffalo Music Awards and from Nightlife Magazine, Artvoice and WBNY. In 2016 she was named the Jim Lauderdale Songwriter of the Year by the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation in Buffalo.
Pipitone was a founding member of the Hamburg Music Festival, which has raised and donated $107,000 since 2009 to various non-profits, including the Colored Musicians Club (paying for a piano). The festival has given around 35 scholarships to graduating seniors from Hamburg High School and helped dozens of area organizations.
Pipitone has served as a mentor to aspiring musicians (both young and old) and has conducted songwriting workshops.
She has also been a role model for younger LGBT performers, simply by pursuing her career as an openly gay woman for them to see. But it hasn’t always been easy.
“I’ve seen some amazing changes in the past 20 years, but when I first started singing and people knew I was gay, we still had to worry about leaving bars,” she said. “We would get harassed and heckled and threatened sometimes. But I don’t necessarily feel like a role model because I was standing on the shoulders of generations before me who had it a lot worse.”
She is also an ESL instructor in the Buffalo Public Schools and is an adjunct instructor in the Music Industry program at SUNY Fredonia.
For more information, you can visit Alison's website: www.alisonpipitone.com