SAMMYS Hall of Fame Spotlight: Russ Tarby

Editor’s Note: The Syracuse Area Music Awards (SAMMYS) was created in 1993 as a way to honor the area’s music scene. The first Hall of Fame class included Jimmy Cavallo, Stan Colella, Benny Mardones, Tony Trischka and Spiegle Willcox.

The 2022 Hall of Fame ceremony will take place on Thursday, March 3 at 7:00 p.m. upstairs at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Willow Street in Syracuse. There are a limited number of tickets available for this event. It will also be live-streamed by SubCat Studios.

The SAMMY Awards will take place on Friday, March 4 at the Oncenter Crouse-Hinds Theater at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for this event are also available now. To avoid service charges, you can purchase tickets in person at the Oncenter box office from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For information on ticketing and live streaming of both events, visit the SAMMYS website here.

315 Music will be publishing a SAMMYS Hall of Fame Spotlight series leading up to the event.

Central New York newspaperman Russ Tarby has been covering
entertainment, music, crime and politics since the 1970s.

Over the years, his reviews and feature stories have appeared in publications
such as The Syncopated Times, the Village Voice, the Dallas Observer, the
Oswego Palladium-Times, Plank Road magazine, the Syracuse Post-Standard,
The Tucson Weekly, the Auburn Citizen, Buffalo Beat, Metroland (Albany), the
Ithaca Times and the Indiana Daily Student.

Photo: Michael Davis (1996)

From 1969 to 1999, Tarby worked as a production assistant at WCNY-TV
Channel 24 in Syracuse, where he operated camera on productions such as the
“Bluegrass Ramble Barn Dance,” “All-American Jazz,” the annual NY State
Marching Band Competition and “Good Afternoon.”

He was raised in Liverpool, N.Y. and graduated from Christian Brothers
Academy in DeWitt in 1970.

Tarby wrote for his college newspapers at both SUNY Oswego, where he
earned a bachelor’s degree, and at Indiana University, where he pursued
graduate studies in folklore.

In the 1980s, he was hired by Syracuse’s morning daily, The Post-Standard, to
review pop concerts as a freelance contributor. The zenith of each year was
covering the New York State Fair, at which he would write two reviews each day, one of the free afternoon show at Empire Court and another of that evening’s grandstand headliner.

He served as music and books editor for the Syracuse New Times for 12
years. His tasks there included compiling the weekly TimesTable calendar
including Club Dates. He edited an annual music industry directory and the
annual SummerTimes concert feature. He also produced programs for several
major music festivals such as the Syracuse Jazz Fest and the NY State Blues

Over the years, Tarby has interviewed and profiled dozens of local and
national artists including Benny Mardones and Joe Magnarelli, John Mayall and
Al Martino, B.B. King and Roosevelt Dean, Joanne Shenandoah and Red
Sovine, Alice Cooper and Dick Contino, Jimmy Cavallo and Phil Klein.
Along the way, he won Syracuse Press Club awards for his reviews of Bob
Dylan’s World Gone Wrong CD and Peter Guralnick’s biography of Elvis Presley,
‘Last Train to Memphis,’ and for ‘The Sweet Man,’ his 1998 profile of 95-year-old jazz trombonist Spiegle Willcox.

In 1993 he won a first-place award in feature writing for his coverage of the
Seneca County murder trial of Laurie Kellogg.

While at the New Times, Tarby volunteered to serve on the steering
committees which founded the Syracuse Area Music Awards and the Syracuse
Walk of Fame. He also collaborated with bandleader Stan Colella on the “Horns
a Plenty” project which put musical instruments into the hands of disadvantaged students. Similarly, he supported pianist Dick Ford’s Signature Music Camp and his inner-city music education projects.

In 2000, Tarby was named music writer of the year for weeklies with a
circulation of less than 55,000 by the International Association of Alternative
Newsweeklies. Judges for that honor included Spin Editor Alan Light and Rolling Stone Senior Editor Anthony DeCurtis.

Besides writing about arts and entertainment, Tarby has covered professional
sports including baseball, boxing, ice hockey and semi-pro football. He has
tackled the topics of crime and politics, and has written several articles about the 1963 murder of President John F. Kennedy.

He now writes for The Star-Review, a weekly put out by Eagle Newspapers.
The Star-Review publishes his weekly column, Livin’ in Liverpool.
For several years in the 1990s, he was a voting member of the National Book
Critics’ Circle. He is a former member of the American Civil Liberties Union and
of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He serves on the board of directors of the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse, where he has edited the club’s monthly newsletter, JazFax, since January 2008.

Tarby has actively championed the relaxation of laws against the possession
of marijuana as a charter member of the Syracuse-based ReconsiDer: Forum on
Drug Policy and as a sometime-member of NORML.

Using the stage name Rush Tattered, he has performed – often on kazoo and
washboard – in a number of acoustic bands and rock combos over the years
including Colorblind James & the White Caps, the Water Street Boys, Rush
Tattered & The Red Hots, the Westcott Jug Suckers, the Gourmet Jug Band, the
New Times Banned and Tattered Hoyt. During the late 1980s, he worked as
manager for the Cranberry Lake Jug Band, booking that group on National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion” and at the Mariposa Folk Festival, among others.

In more recent years, Tarby has devoted much of his time to booking and
emceeing concerts at his hometown of Liverpool. Since 2002 he has acted as
program director for the Liverpool is the Place Summer Concert Series at
Johnson Park. Since 2003 he has collaborated with the staff at Liverpool Public
Library to book performances by a wide variety of local musicians.
At the library, he founded a folk music series, an origins of jazz series, a
celebration of salsa and samba and a series spotlighting soul music.

He books 30 concerts each year, 22 at Johnson Park and eight at Liverpool
Public Library. As the current president of the Historical Association of Greater
Liverpool, he has often booked live music at various local history events.

From his award-winning review of Mark Doyle’s 1999 record
album Guitar Noir: “One of the best measures of any artist is how well he or she allows the audience to see with new eyes and to hear with new ears that which has always been around us.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.