Scott Freilich

Scott Freilich

BMHOF Class of 2004

I've enjoyed a 30 year career performing music in Western New York and servicing the needs of local, regional, and national musicians. Over that period, IÌve earned an international reputation for myself and my business by continuously striving to exceed the expectations of those I serve. 

I came to Buffalo in 1971 to study electrical engineering at U.B. on a regents scholarship. It was as far away from my childhood home on Long Island as I could get without having to pay for a college education. During high school I was an engineer on radio station WSHR, and spent my spare time repairing guitars and amplifiers for friends. I even found time to build a few basses for myself along the way. I was also playing bass in some non descript local bands, covering high school dances and small clubs. 

Buffalo was a whole new world for me. I was a country kid. (yes, there were and still are rural areas on L.I.) My dad started his career as a chicken farmer. Upon my arrival in town, I immediately got connected with the local music scene. Even though my tastes tended towards jazz and what would have been considered alternative, somehow I got involved with the very active folk music crowd. I was afforded the opportunity to perform on my first album in 1971. Called ÏWake Up My PeopleÓ, it featured the songs of Ed and Linda Melnick. It was recorded at the old WBUF studios on the U.B. Main St. campus. Saxophonist Steve Rosenthal of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet was also on the gig. About the same time, I met luthier Ron Gordon. Ron had been doing guitar repairs for most of the local music stores. His specialty was acoustic instruments, and mine was electric. We studied with each other for several years, and I performed with his folk group Pay Day at several Buffalo Folk Festivals. I was also concurrently playing some jazz fusion with saxophonist/guitarist Jim Fazolarri. He ran a 13 piece ensemble called the Buffalo Harmonic Orchestra which included electric cello, string harp, and electric violin. We were slated to tour with the Edgar Winter band, but some logistical problems occurred, and the tour never happened. 

During my years at U.B., I played the college venues and clubs around campus with several acts, the most notable of which was Trigger Happy. Trigger happy feature keyboardist extroadinaire Trigger Douglas Gaston. We were on bills with Weather Report and Herbie Hancock. 

After graduating in 1976 with a B.S. in management ( a far cry from my start in electrical engineering and 2 year tenure music in the music department) I needed to find something to do. I was performing regionally with a party band called Pipe Dreams, recording station i.d.s. and jungles for Way Audio Creations, and repairing guitars out of my house for accounts my mentor Ron Gordon turned over to me when he moved to New Hampshire. I was also newly married to my college sweetheart, which played heavily on all of the decisions I made about my future. It wasnÌt long before I realized that being a touring musician and being married were not going to be compatible, at least not for me. I decided to concentrate my efforts on my guitar repair business, and resigned myself to local gigs and recording to keep my creative juices flowing and make a few extra dollars. 

In the major cities around the country, there was a growing interest in older ÏvintageÓ guitars. During the 70Ìs, most of the major guitar manufacturers were producing the worst junk they ever made. I, as well as most of my knowledgeable musician friends, were using instruments made prior to 1965. Buffalo had a wealth of these instruments, as the town was a happening place when they were made. While vintage guitars were worth quite a bit more in the major cities, in Buffalo they were just used stuff. I quickly realized I could buy vintage guitars here and sell them at a tidy profit to out of town dealers. I had made connection in N.Y., Boston, and Nashville to market vintage guitars, and the seeds for Top Shelf Music were sown. 

In 1979, along with partner Russell Seteinberg, Top Shelf Music opened in the University District on Main Street. I had gone from working out of my house in 1976 to renting space in NyhartÌs Music on Delaware and Avery to the next logical progression. By the time I opened I had 3 employees and about 60 used and vintage guitars. Top Shelf was unique in the Buffalo market. We were the only shop with a comprehensive in house fully factory authorized repair facility, and we only sold used American and European made guitars. We also offered an exclusive lifetime guarantee on almost every guitar we sold. Interestingly, very few items were ever returned for service. 

The late 70s and early 80Ìs were a seminal time for the Buffalo music scene. Original new wave music was happening, and Top Shelf was happening with it. My soon to be ex partner Russell played with Pauline and the Perils, while I played with a succession of acts starting with the Mad Caps. Most of these bands were based out of Tommy ColandraÌs BCMK studio in the basement of his home on Hobmore. Samples of the music are featured on the ÏAirwaysÓ album, with the title track by the Mad Caps. Working with Tommy was a great experience. He truly loved and selflessly supported local original music, and afforded me the opportunity to record with artist like music critic Dale Anderson and to play on several commercials and jingles. 

While BCMK was the heartbeat of the burgeoning original music scene, Top Shelf was the service center. In 1982, after only 3 years of operation, we were nominated ÏBest Music Store in BuffaloÓ by the readers of Guitar World, a national guitar magazine. We soon outgrew our location, and by 1984 moved to a new facility across the street with double the square footage. We were also starting to service out or town clients on a regular basis, and some of my input, repair and restoration work was making itÌs way into reference books on vintage instruments. By this time, a list of some of our clients included Taj Mahal, Van Halen, ZZ Top, and Randy Bachman. If you were a touring musician and liked vintage guitars or needed something fixed, Top Shelf was the place you went. 

Musically, I was still very active. By 1986, Michael Meldrum had introduced me To Ani Di Franco. I would go on the play with her on and for several years, and record with her on numerous projects. I was also instrumental in getting her an endorsement from Alvarez Guitars. She still enjoys the benefits of this endorsement today. Over this period I also opened up for several national act while performing with reggae rock outfit Remote control, and did a recording under the Boingers moniker which was distributed with Pulitzer Prize winning author Berke BrethedÌs book on his Bloom County comic. 

In 1989, it was time to move again. We needed still more space, and the crime in the University District was starting to wreak havoc on my insurance premiums, inventory control, and front window glass. I bought my current facility on Hertel and set up shop there. By this time, the music scene in Buffalo had changed again. Mc Vans was closed and torn down to make way for a convenience store. The new wave scene was history, and due to the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions, so were many of my local customers. Top Shelf needed to change along with the time. In response, we started our first retail mail order catalog. We also presented the areaÌs first vintage guitar show, The Buffalo Friendship Guitar Show. The show was immediately a huge success. We attracted dealers and attendees from as far away as Japan and Europe. The 2 day event drew as many as 1800 visitors. We would go on to present the show until 1999, when the continuing economic decline and the cost of doing business made continuation unfeasible. The vintage guitar show will be revived this year on 6/19 and 6/20 when we present an event in conjunction with the Buffalo Niagara Guitar Festival. 

Musically, I was flowing with the changes in the local scene. Staying in the original music vane, I was playing with Buffalo Music Award winning band Beat City. It was an honor to play with this talented group of composers and singers. It was also my first time as a nominee for a music award. 

By this time, my international notoriety as an expert on vintage guitars and guitar repair was well established. I was writing a monthly column called ÏOddballsÓ for 20th Guitar, and on the committee that creates the price guide for Vintage Guitar magazine. I still maintain these positions today. My contributions and samples of my work are present in many books on guitar repair and vintage instruments. Examples can be seen in publications such as ÏEpiphone, The House of StathopouloÓ, ÏThe Beauty of the BurstÓ, ÏGretsch, The Guitars of the Fred Gretsch CompanyÓ, and ÏWashburn, 100 Years of Fine InstrumentsÓ. Several of the people I trained went on to become my competitors, or worked as head techs for bands such as the Goo Goo Dolls, Black Crows, Counting Crows, and Pennywise. 

The ever evolving music scene again made changes in what I was playing and the direction of Top Shelf Music. I joined with some friends to perform with alternative band NancyÌs Candy. We warmed up for several national touring acts, and recorded a CD for which my bass playing received much praise. After about a year or so with the band, I decided to find something different to do. About this time the blues was king in the local music scene. I joined the Border City band, and performed with them for about two and a half years at all of the major blues venues in the area. 

Top Shelf Music continues to provide repair and service to local clientele, but much of the local retail market for used and vintage guitars is gone. The Top Shelf monthly mail order catalog evolved into www.topshelfmusic.com, and many of the instruments are sold to national and international clients. Instruments weÌve procured and restored have made their way to major industry stars and collectors, been displayed at the Smithsonian, and at Paul AllenÌs Experience Music Project museum. 

Musically, IÌm still active. I currently perform with The Headers, a hot rod band featuring the award winning guitarist from The Road, Bobby Lebel. Look for us warming up for Duke Robillard at Darian Lake this summer, or at any of our gigs at the surf club. 

It is my intention to continue enjoy performing music locally, and to provide exemplary service to my local, regional, and national clients. 

Scott Freilich Bass Resume 

1971 Recorded folk album "Wake Up My People" with Ed and Linda Melnick at WBFO studios. Album featured Steve Rosenthal of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet. Received some college radio airplay. 

1973 Performed with pop band Curtains. Played venues throughout W.N.Y. 

1974 Performed with folk / blues ensemble Payday. Played some college venues including the Buffalo Folk Festival. 

1975 Performed with jazz ensemble Trigger Happy. Played college venues. Shared stage with Weather Report and Herbie Hancock. 

1976 Graduated from S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo with a B.S. in Management with minors in engineering and music. 

1976-1978 Performed with party band Pipe Dreams. Played regionally around W.N.Y., Rochester, the Southern Tier, and N.E. Pa.. 

1977- 1978 Way Audio Creations. Studio musician. Performed on commercials and jingle packages. 

1979 Originated vintage guitar sales and restoration shop "Top Shelf Music". 

1979-1981 Performed with BCMK recording artist "The Madcaps". Played venues throughout Buffalo. Title Track on BCMK compilation "Airwaves" . Some national college radio airplay 

1982-1984 Performed with BCMK artist, reggae/rock band "Remote Control". Shared the stage with several national touring acts including "Gang of Four". Some college radio airplay. 

1984-1986 Performed with BCMK recording artist country/rock ensemble "The Movers". Some college radio airplay and local video play. Also released a single called "I'm a Boinger" which was distributed with Pulitzer prize winning author Berke Brethed's book "Bill the Cat". 

1986-1992 Bassist for Righteous Babe recording artist Ani Di Franco. Performed on 3 albums ( 1 unreleased, the self titled Ani Di Franco, and Puddle Dive). 

1988-1989 Performed with popular local reggae ensemble "Positive Force" Played venues throughout W.N.Y..

1989-1991 Performed with award winning R&B / Rock ensemble "Beat City" featuring Kathy Moriarty and Sue Kincaid. Recorded for Amherst Records with production by George Puleo. Band invited to play prestigious international rock festivals. Nominated for "best original bassist" in the "Buffalo Music Awards". Much local video airplay of concert recorded at the Keenan Center. 

1991-1993 Performed with BCMK recording artist Maya featuring Donna Bursie and Dave Schmeidler. Played venues throughout W.N.Y. Some college radio airplay. 

1993-1995 Performed with BCMK recording artist "Blue Steel" Played venues throughout W.N.Y..

1996-1998 Performed with Squire recording artist "The Velvasonics" featuring Aleta Mann. Played at venues throughout W.N.Y.. Warmed up for several national acts. 

1999-2001 Played string bass with the Cleveland Hill Community Jazz Orchestra. Performed at civic functions throughout W.N.Y.. 

1999 2000 Performend with Mary's Lounge recording artists "Nancy's Candy". Played major local venues and shared the stage with several national touring acts. Some college airplay. 

2000-2002 Performed with blues ensemble "Border City Blues Band". Played venues throughout W.N.Y.. 

​​Back - 2004