Tom Stahl & the Dangerfields
Tom Stahl & The Dangerfields
BMHOF Class of 2017
It took Tom Stahl awhile to start his music career.
Decades, in fact. He didn’t start playing for an audience until he was in his 30s. Even then, he almost didn’t start.
Stahl – who has gone on to release 11 albums under his own name and with his band, the Dangerfields – said he had had a guitar for a long time. But then he found himself telling his then-young son that you can do anything you want if you work at it.
Encouraged by his wife, Lou, he said he “decided to put my money where my mouth was.”
At the time, he was recovering from a work-related injury, and he decided to start writing down the songs he had always had in his head. Then he decided to take them down to Nietzsche’s in Allentown to play at Michael Meldrum’s legendary Monday open mic.
“I went there probably about five or six weeks in a row, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s in 1994,” he said. But he never played.
“Every week I went with my guitar, and when everybody was done, I walked out,” Stahl said.
“So it was Jan. 2, probably going into Jan. 3, and my resolution was ‘I’m going to do this.’ So I went in with my guitar, and at the end of the night, it’s me and Mike Meldrum, and I was walking out again.
“Mike said, ‘you know, nobody’s going to hurt you,’ and I sang three songs for him. I remember after a couple of songs, he put down his wine glass and started really watching, and he said, ‘you’re a songwriter … you want to do a show?’ … So no Mike Meldrum, no me.”
In relatively short order Stahl had his first tape out and a music career was started – with a big boost from his wife.
“My wife, Lou, is the only reason I ever did anything,” he said. “She thought I had a gift and it would be wrong not to share it,” he said. “We had some pretty serious ‘discussions’ prior to me getting the nerve ... and then after that she booked every gig and sent out every mailing the first 10 years. For every excuse I came up with, she had an answer.”
Once he got rolling, Stahl’s “I Wanna Be Ignorant,” the title song of his first release in 1995, set the standard high. A look back in yearning at the innocence of youth, it’s become one of his standards and a favorite for several other area performers to cover.
In 1997, the Dangerfields came into existence (although they wouldn’t take that name for a few more years).
Later, “Are There Angels” became a standard of a different kind. Originally on Stahl’s “Shut Up & Smell the Coffee” CD in 2000, it was re-released as a single in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy to raise money for victims of the attack.
It’s gone on to be played at events at Women’s & Children’s Hospital and at a local funeral home as a source of healing for families who have lost loved ones. On Stahl and the Dangerfield’s website there is a page filled with the photos of “angels” lost too soon – including a canine section.
“There was a friend whose daughter passed away from cancer and the friend gave it to Lesley Jordans at Children’s Hospital,” Stahl said. “They do a bereavement service every December, and she asked me if I’d play it, and I’ve been playing it ever since.”
The current lineup of Dangerfields has been intact for the past seven years, Keyboardist Mark Stahl (Tom’s brother) and drummer Gary Kowalski (who has played with the Fans, Dee Dee’s Ranch, the Release) have been with the group since the start, and bassist Gary Gorski (Tommy & the Two-Tones, Bob Farmer, Pirate Dreams) and guitarist (and son) Sam Stahl are longstanding members.
Buffalo Music Hall of Famer Marty Peters was a member of the band for nine years and Hall of Famer Geno McManus also spent time with the group. Other members have included Paul Hill, Tommy Jordan, Dave Courtemanche, Todd Fierstein and Mark Dux.
Through the years, Stahl and the Dangerfields have shared the stage with the likes of Don McClean, America, Three Dog Night, Poco, Buddy Guy, John Sebastian, Dave Mason, Joan Osborne, Moxy Fruvous, Leon Russell, Black 47 and many others.
In addition to the quality of their music, Stahl and the Dangerfields are known for their charitable work for events and groups such as the Buffalo Bands for the Homeless, Musicians for WNY, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the South Buffalo Community Table, the Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora, the Food Bank of WNY, the Priscilla Project, Essential Care for Kids Hospice Buffalo, Relay for Life, the Ten Lives Club, Hamburg Mutts for Freedom, the Learning Disabilities Association of WNY and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The group also has claimed a bevy of Buffalo Music Awards and Artvoice Music Awards, ranging from outstanding male vocalist and best original band to best keyboardist and best drummer, some 15 awards in all.
It’s been almost 23 years since Stahl started performing in public, and he shows no signs of slowing down now.
“I’ve never really had an end zone,” he said, “so I guess I’ll just keep writing as they hit me.”
For more information on Tom Stahl and the Dangerfields, visit their website at: www.tomstahlandthedangerfields.com