December 2, 2021

Music Man gets SAMMY; locals in running

Photo provided by SAMMY

Al Flaso of Cortland at the drums.

Cortland’s Al Falso, the late drummer and music store owner, was inducted Thursday into the Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame at a special reception at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

And tonight, several greater Cortland area musicians will see if they get a SAMMY at a 7 p.m. award show at the Palace Theater in Eastwood.

Among the nominees:
• Best Alternative Band: The Beauchesnes, featuring Ted Walsh of Dryden and Robert Hunter of Peruville. The band just put out a CD, “Twilight Interstate,” working with a number of guest musicians.

• Best Country Musician: Lonnie Park of Freeville, a singer and producer who works with acts around the world.

• Best Venue to See Live Music: The Center for the Arts of Homer, 72 S. Main St.

• Best Festival or Music Series: Seedstock, a summer music festival that takes place on Route 215 in Cortlandville.

The last two nominees are chosen based on online voting by fans. Falso, who lived from 1925 to 1993, had a solo harp track on the Rods “Heavier Than Thou” LP, according to SAMMY officials. But he was equally proficient on the drums and as a vocalist. Musicians from upstate New York flocked to Cortland to find a man with not only a love for music, but who spread his passion for sound.

They would find a man who would believe in them. They called him “Big Al” or “Uncle Al.”

Falso enjoyed Big Band, Jazz, Swing, and Dixieland and was inspired by Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller. He also played rock ‘n’ roll and country.

His first drum set was a collection of odds and ends, purchased a piece at a time. Only after years of working three jobs was he able to purchase a complete set — chromerimmed Ludwigs with Zildjan cymbals. He never forgot the struggle, and in turn supported young musicians.

In 1963, he started selling musical instruments, operating out of his mother’s spare bedroom. During the store’s early years, he worked fulltime at Wickwire’s while he and his wife Mary ran the store out of their house, until he purchased land and in 1971 built his own music store.

They began small: guitar strings, amplifiers, and a small collection of instruments, developing the Port Watson Street store into a local hotspot. Falso began offering lessons, teaching new students the basics of music.

Falso began lending instruments and equipment to those who were unable to afford their own.

He died in 1993, but is survived by his wife, Mary, his three daughters, four grandchildren, and thousands of his customers.