Blue On Blue: Ode to Pat Dailey, the Great Lakes Bar Troubadour


Pat Dailey/Photo courtesy Anne Dailey

From Chicago to Cleveland to Put-in-Bay, a sort of ten-drink-minimum town on an island in Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio, I’ve seen Pat Dailey play shows for several decades. . He was celebrated in the Great Lakes region for his comedic musical performances that took place over the summer and in bars, including a headliner in the world’s longest standing bar, as measured by Guinness World Records. In his prime years, from the ’80s through the 2000s, Dailey and his guitar drew 3,000 thirsty, rowdy people to his shows on Put-in-Bay every night.

Having your life, your mortgage depends on drunken impulses, cravings and attention spans while your product isn’t alcohol, it’s yourself, requires the trust of a breaker neck. Salty peanuts on the bar won’t save you. You need to know your audience for those few hours better than they know themselves. Do these people feel like laughing at themselves tonight? Are they there to make fun of you? Forget their worries? Remember the past? Or are they just looking for a soundtrack to get the foam down a little faster, a little easier?

Sometimes Pat Dailey worked in blue, a style of comedy that emphasizes dirt and lust at the expense of just about everything else. Bob Saget did the famous blue comedy when he wasn’t performing on TV with Joey and Uncle Jesse on “Full House.” Although not Blue Saget, Dailey had a reputation for being an edgy adult show. Or put better in the notes of the man himself for his 1995 album, “Raw Bars”, the music was “aimed at mature adults (and boaters)”.

Although neither of these myself, when I first heard him in college, his bawdy songs still appealed to me. I grew up with a mostly humorless genre of music, grunge (ubiquitous flannels and bowl haircuts), and by the time I got through high school, I was ready for a good laugh.

Some of Dailey’s lyrics read like an anthology of bathroom wall poetry:

I like to sing and I like to fuck
I don’t care which one I do
I go three hours, and I never stop to rest
Just ask your mama, she’ll tell you I’m the best

Pat Dailey/Photo courtesy Anne Dailey

Some songs, like “Nymphomanic (Perfect Woman),” are best considered novelty numbers, outrageously silly, offensive, and catchy; easy to remember and sing along to when you’re busy killing brain cells with booze: “We’ve got everything we need, the only thing we’re missing is a rich, dumb, young, nymphomaniac. “

When I talk to Wayne Federman, comedian and author of “The History of Stand-Up,” about this style of comedy, where the term came from (it’s crystal clear) and why someone might choose to work blue rather than other genres, he tells me, “Your job as a comedian is not to do the most difficult material. Your job is to get the loudest laughs.

Dailey delivered his words and lines with a smirk, sometimes a sneer, after saying something that might trigger the crowd. It turns out that people like to be offended – up to a point – and that keeps them coming back. (See social networks.)

“His ability to hold a crowd’s attention, Pat is a master,” Ray Fogg, a comedic performer also known as Island Rock God, told me when I asked about Dailey there. a few years old. “The number of distractions in a bar…”

Dailey understood that the crowd needed to be involved in his shows to avoid these distractions; drunk people need to be listened to, heard. Audience interaction on Dailey’s sets was dynamic. If he was doing his job and the audience was good, they acted as a foil to his machismo and posture: shrinking him down to size with chants of “bullshit” at his boasting.

“I bet I got the biggest boat of all the motherfuckers here!” Dailey would announce.

Bullshit. Bullshit. bullshitsaid longtime Dailey fans, showing newbies how to do it.

Rejected, he would reconsider. “OK OK OK. Maybe I don’t have the the biggest boat. But I have a whaler as a canoe.

Photo courtesy of Anne Dailey

Dailey retired a few years ago, but his influence is still felt in the riverside communities where he played. He had a winter residency at Sloppy Joe’s bar in Key West, understanding the seasonal migration habits of his northern audience. You’ll hear his songs playing past the outdoor bars, with the stand-up guitarist comedian doing off-color tracks in between. I have spoken and seen a number of artists who admire Dailey and cite him as an influence. On Put-in-Bay, his legend is that of a precious and elusive fish.

If he had only been “that” kind of performer, I’m not sure anyone outside the bar would need to know about his work and career. Sure, blue comedy can be fun in the moment, but when you bring your weary ass back to work on a Monday morning, cloudy-eyed and still a bit parched from booze and screaming, it seems absurd.

It’s that other blue in a Dailey performance, the water, which was bigger than the bass, stayed with you longer than your buzz. He picked up the clever guitar-wielding buddy in the mouth and chased him away with a Great Lakes freshwater slug.

Raised in Missouri, he learned guitar in high school and toured throughout the West, struggling to establish himself at ski resorts and sawdust saloons as a singer-songwriter in the troubadour mold. . He wrote some decent songs, like “Travellin’ Guitar Man”; once in front of the Kenny Rogers people. But nothing resembling a career is taking shape. Eventually he found his way to the Great Lakes. It is a mixture of man and muse who changed his life.

“I’ve seen the mountains of Colorado, the Grand Canyon,” Dailey told me when I met him near the end of his career, “but nothing inspired me to write like the Great Lakes.”

Put-in-Bay (South Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio

He romanticized the Great Lakes through his songs and began to find gigs in that region of the country. Andrew Christensen, general manager of the Boathouse Bar and Grill in Put-in-Bay at the time Dailey ended his career there in the mid-2010s, told me, “People have a love for Great Lakes which is voiced by Pat through his songs. His songs tell stories people can relate to, stories we’ve all experienced.

Dailey’s song catalog contains a colorful record of life on the lakes, with song titles such as “Great Lakes Song”, “Put-in-Bay”, “Walleye”, “Walleye Willie”, “Legend of the Lake”, “On l’eau” and “Here in the North”.

Ray Fogg, the island’s rock god, says, “You go to iTunes and seventy-five percent of the songs are going to be about love. And that’s great. But Pat has found something else that excites him, the Great Lakes.

One of his most beloved songs, “Great Lakes Song,” on which he collaborated with poet and lyricist Shel Silverstein (whom he befriended in Key West), addresses the sublime in its description of the life of a fisherman:

Down under the aft deck
The old men repair the fishing nets
While on the windy deck
Young men curse in the wind
Up and down Windsor Strait
Wives, mothers stay awake
And pray to our lady of the lake
Go take them home

Dailey could go from indecent to majestic in the same setting, his baritone soaring to be heard above the bustle of a bustling bar or secluded to convey the truth as he knew it. For his many fans, hearing their culture in Dailey’s songs reinforces the experience of living on and near the Great Lakes, being a native of that part of the country.

Pat retired a few years ago after more than sixty years of music and entertainment…In the mid-1970s, Pat Dailey brought his brand of music and entertainment to several Chicago venues owned by the Nordhem brothers, Jonny and Billy, including POETS, a date night in the basement, and BRIAN BORU in the old town.


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