Great Lakes Troubador
If you've ever heard a Pat Dailey song, you have had a taste of the very heart of summer in northeast Ohio. What Clevelander can't relate to Pat's lament "Winter was a bummer"
Once you've seen him perform, you are a fan for life eagerly awaiting his next appearance.
Maybe you like to sing along to classics: "Put-in-Bay, we're going to have a GOOD TIME" or "You better get your ass to Cleveland, cause the best things in life are here." (Who doesn't love a song that mentions Dorothy Fuldheim, Ralph Perk and others?)
Maybe you prefer to kick back and listen to his hauntingly beautiful tales of the Great Lakes. Either way, you will never forget a Pat Dailey concert.
You can't say that about too many performers and we are fortunate to have Pat Dailey - singer, songwriter and traveling musician - as a part of our summers in Cleveland.
He was born in Omaha, Nebraska on March 4, 1941. He started a rock n' roll band in High School, heavily influenced by Elvis and Ricky Nelson. The rest of the band members went off to college, but Pat had music in his soul and couldn't rest without pursuing it.
So he went off to Los Angeles - maybe he'd get into the movies. Little by little he was developing an act by himself and was performing regularly. As it turned out he didn't especially like L.A. so he started to travel more and more.
The first year or two he was very content. At only 19 years old he was traveling freely, and it was fun to be broke or sleep in a car. He could always find work - "it was natural to me to entertain. I couldn't do anything else. I had absolutely no desire to do anything else. I still don't"
He was now based in San Francisco and Chicago and worked everywhere in between. He was truly the "traveling musician" he had always envisioned himself to be.
While in Chicago in the early 70's he was offered a job in Cleveland. He came and played Bobby McGee's at Playhouse Square and the Hairy Buffalo in Rocky River.
At one point, after marrying his first wife, Susan, he feared he may have to get a "grown up job". He went to work as a police officer in St. Louis - but only for a year. "I enjoyed the job. I really did. But it was frustrating."
"As an entertainer you want to please people. As a policeman the people you arrest are never going to be happy with you and that's frustrating. I could never be a sports official - like an umpire. Every call would make half the people happy, but the other half would be angry."
Pat and Susan's marriage lasted seven years and together they have three sons. Two young grandchildren (3 ½ years and 10 months.) have been added to the mix.
In 1982 he married Barbara Ann Franz and they are still together and very happy. His wife was at St. Joseph's Academy here in Cleveland, studying to join the convent when they met. She took a leave of absence and the rest, as they say, is history. "I always thought maybe a good girl would make me a good guy".
Everyone was telling him he should be playing in Put-In-Bay - an island party and resort spot in Lake Erie.
He went up there the first time around 1977 and liked what he saw. There was a bar there that reminded him of Chicago - but they had no entertainment.
He talked to the owner about playing there - he would work for the door and just stay a week or two. Nobody was charging a cover charge in those days, but he did so well and brought in so many people they're still charging at the door to this day!
He wound up staying all summer, but it frustrated Pat because he had always been a road musician. But he kept coming back and after a few summers he got used to staying in one place. It's now his 25th year at Put-In-Bay's Beer Barrel Saloon and he's an integral part of the atmosphere there.
The first couple of years he continued to go out West in the off-season, but was disappointed.
The Put-In-Bay crowd was much more receptive than the crowd in San Francisco and little by little he stopped going there.
In the winter of 1984 Pat went to Key West and began working at Sloppy Joes. He discovered that a lot of people from Ohio and Michigan go there - and he developed a following similar to his Put-In-Bay crowd.
He is often referred to as a local legend - and in fact he is. Few people here his name and don't associate music and laughter with it. Yet, after all these years it doesn't register as real with him. Before every performance he asks himself "will anyone be there - will anyone come tonight?" and if the house is not full he is concerned that he is "loosing his touch".
He doesn't think of this as a negative, however. "It keeps me on my toes - I always have to keep trying to entertain people because I'm never really comfortable that it's working until it does."
Something truly life-altering happened to Pat his first year at Sloppy Joes. Shel Silverstein came in one night and they became close friends and writing partners. In fact, Shel became somewhat of a mentor to Pat and the death of this cherished friend three years ago took a monumental toll on Pat.
"When Shel died, I hit the wall. The blocks came. The inspiration to write just fell away. I'm just now starting to get the feel to write again."
Shel Silverstein and Pat Dailey
Shel tried to convince him that people were coming to see Pat Dailey - the man and the musician. "He told me they loved me and my music. Can you imagine that?"
Pat took two months off for a much needed break. When he came back on and walked on the stage he saw a huge crowd hungry for their friend they had missed the last two months.
"It felt so good - I went on a three day high. I don't know why they were excited to see me - but I was even more excited to see them. Maybe Shel was right."
So many incorrect comparisons between Jimmy Buffet and Pat Dailey have been made that he finally wrote a song declaring, "When he sings my songs, I'll sing his."
"Other than an attitude of fun there is no comparison between me and Buffet but many people make it anyway. At least until they hear me and then they know. I don't sing about the Tropics or Margaritas and he doesn't sing about Lake Erie. If you know my music you know we have nothing in common."
Dailey owns a restaurant in Put-In-Bay appropriately called, Pat Dailey's Tavern at the Bay.
He doesn't perform there and has very little hands on association with it, but likes to think of it as an investment in the future.
He still travels and does one night shows and festivals in places like St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago. His first 20 years at Put-In Bay he worked every weekend. Now he works every Saturday in the summer and holidays.
His music has allowed him to see amazing places and meet amazing people. He traveled to Ireland and Italy a few years ago and found it thrilling. At the same time, however, he felt out of touch with his life and felt he needed to be home. He would never work in Europe "What if I became a big hit in Europe and not in my own country?"
With the exception of the songs he co-authored with Shel Silverstein he writes all of his own music. "I used to do some other people's music but I felt a little stupid saying, "here I am a singer and songwriter, but I didn't write this!"
Pat doesn't listen to any modern music - there isn't anything that interests him. "If I could find an all-folk-music station I'd listen, but there isn't one."
He also doesn't watch television - he finds it to be a phony media for music. "You get too many chances to make it right and get tight on screen then you do in real life on stage"
He was at Shel's home in Martha's Vineyard one year when Shel asked him why he had never done a children's album. They proceeded to write and record enough music for two CD's the first one of which is out now.
Like everything Pat and Shel collaborated on, Underwater Land is a doing very well.
"It's not corny or patronizing to kids. Kids deserve more credit than most people give them."He's recorded about 15 albums in addition to his children's music and plans on doing another.
He has two completely different acts. His "Great Lakes Show" is all clean, Great Lakes related songs. His party show is an adult act. Although he has never done a children's show, he would not be opposed to it.
Pat had no plans of ever retiring "There's a lot of music left to make and a lot of new places to see and of course, there's the people - that's wonderful."
His goal has always been to entertain people - not to get a hit record. "I'm very glad I never got a hit record when I was in my 20's or 30's. I'd be a has-been now".
He has no respect for part-time musicians. "You can't make your living doing something safe and then do music now and then and call yourself a musician. But I have a lot of respect for real musicians and the life they lead."
Pat finds himself in a precarious position. "When you realize all you have is your guitar and your wit - your fingers and your vocal chords - you realize it's a gutsy lifestyle. I told my wife if the economy goes to hell and I have to sing on a corner I'd do okay. Not as good as the guy on the other corner, but better than the guy on the 3rd corner. We'll be okay."
He hopes that people see through his stage persona. "I'm a good solid citizen and a good family man. My heart is in the right place, I want to entertain people - not fool them. I've never done anything just because it was cool".
He's been watching his audience getting older and older, "which," he says, "is usually the kiss of death for an entertainer".
The he released "Raw Bar" a CD with an "adult" theme. All of a sudden his audience started to include younger people mixed in with his "old faithful" crowd. On any given night he could have an equal number of 25 year olds as 65 year olds.
He'd like to write a book - possibly a photographic journey. He's already written a few one act plays. But along with fishing and painting he's saving these things for later in life. He believes that "Old Age Will Bring Me Peace."
He is very health conscious - he walks daily, lifts weights and eats healthy. He is also an avid kayaker and loves to work on his land - cutting, chopping or mowing.
He's hoping to get his old wooden boat back in the water this year. He used to be a sailor, but now it's a motorboat. Sailing is another thing he's saving for later in life.
Hanging out with three sons in their 30's (Kevin, Reese and Tom) keeps Pat feeling young. He doesn't dwell on age - he feels and acts young. They all went whitewater rafting a few years ago and they were amazed that he chose the tougher of the options given to them - but for him it was not an option - "you always got to get the most out of it - push it whenever you can."
"If people continue to talk fast and move fast they'd be a lot more fun. When you slow down and get scared it's not fun anymore.
People start getting hesitant about what they're going to say or do - afraid of the reaction. Just speak out. Just do what you want to do"
Pat now calls Put-In-Bay his home from May-November. November (specifically Thanksgiving) to January he lives in Bay Village and January through April you can find him in Key West.
He has had the same agent for twenty-five years. He has also worked with the same assistant/roadie/friend/everything for twenty-five year - Tony Bacho.
"I never even know where my guitar is - but when I go on stage it appears and when I go off he takes it. It's like he enters my head and knows what I want or need. I couldn't do the show without him".
"I am a very lucky guy - no question about it. Even my stupid decisions seem to have worked out for me. I have a wonderful life, a wonderful family. Everyday is an adventure. It's like waking up as a little kid on summer vacation wondering "what will I do today?' It's great! What a thrill to have that time to do what I want. I love to have time. My life is very very good."
Pat Dailey relaxing in a Cleveland tavern
Pat Dailey thinks his life is good, and it sounds like he's right. We hope he also knows how much fun and laughter he has brought to the millions of people who have heard him and experienced his music.
His gift to all of us for all of these years has been the gift of himself - and greedily and hungrily we keep asking for more.
You can visit Pat Dailey's website at www.Patdailey.Com
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
Learn more about:
and the Beer Barrel Saloon
Read the lyrics to the Great Lakes Song
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