It was absolutely appropriate that Saturday night’s tribute for club owner Pete Perrone, who ruled Mohawk Place with soft-spoken loving care for bands, staff and clubgoers alike, was a rollicking communal affair. The Town Ballroom was filled with the aura of Perrone and his late-great club – good bands, congenial crowd and plenty of drinks flowing freely.
Band members said they selected songs for their playlists that they knew Perrone would have liked. Hitting the backstage of Town Ballroom were some of those who’d played regularly during Mohawk Place’s run from 1990 to 2013: Girlpope, The Irving Klaws, Steam Donkeys, Wolf Ticket, The Missing Planes, Dollywatchers, Bill Nehill (with Dave Gutierrez) and Willie and the Reinhardts.
Perrone, who died May 7, was like everyone’s favorite uncle. He would greet you with warm eyes and maybe a hug. Inside the club you’d see him perched on his stool at the end of the bar, and he’d welcome one and all. He remembered everyone’s name, and he’d ask how things were going. Everyone loved Perrone. His style was 100 percent rockabilly – pompadour, big mustache, black jacket.
Town Ballroom’s large projection screens showed a slide show about Perrone’s life: “devoted papa” to his three grandchildren, baby photos of him, an image of a beloved vintage Chevy and this tell-tale caption, “To Pete, his family was everything.”
After the Steam Donkeys’ set, Mikel Doktor, decadelong Mohawk Place bartender and band member, gathered all staff, regular Mohawk bands and family members present onstage for a moment of silence – about two-dozen holding hands.
“We owe our lives to Pete – musically, physically, emotionally,” Doktor said. Later, backstage, he added: “We’ll always have memories of Pete. We made history.”
Marty Boratin, longtime talent booker at Mohawk Place, noted that after word of Perrone’s death, bands from all over the world sent their condolences.
Donny Kutzbach, co-owner of Funtime Presents and a frequent Mohawk promoter, said of Perrone: “He was the rarest of human beings. He was as generous as you could ever find – he was a true character, a true patron of all kinds of music in Buffalo.”
Daughter Lucy Perrone, who grew up with the music at the club, said: “I was 13 when he bought the bar, and for 20 years it was my whole life. I grew up with an appreciation of music, and of music in Buffalo. My dad loved Elvis, Chuck Berry, and rockabilly – and then he loved so much more [music] after owning Mohawk.”
The iconic black Mohawk Place banner, the eagle with outstretched wings, hung over the stage during the tribute. Several in the crowd wore black Mohawk Place T-shirts.
Girlpope and Irving Klaws played surfabilly songs by 1950s surf-guitar great Link Wray, who hit the Mohawk Place stage in 2003. According to Mohawk lore, that was one of the highlights for Perrone as club owner and rockabilly devotee.