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George Fletcher &
the Handsome Men

Brian Gallaway & Helen Avakian

Story by Kevin Robinson
Pictures by Ellie Apuzzo

  Related links:     Rhythm and News     Helen Avakian     Brian Gallaway  

George Fletcher
If you're a Hudson Valley musician, George Fletcher is your pal. . ..whether you know it or not. George is the editor and publisher of Rhythm and News magazine, and it's fair to say that he knows more about Who's Who on the regional music scene than anyone I've met since returning to the area a year ago. It's his business to know. That's what he does. Or, at the least, knowing about and reporting on Hudson Valley music happenings is his primary job. But it's also fair to say that George wears many hats.

When Fletcher and his wife/business partner, Lisa Fairbanks, first met, both were working musicians. In short order, however, the magazine and the associated website pulled them in another direction altogether. They were suddenly business owners, successful entrepreneurs. There were suddenly interviews to conduct, demo tapes to listen to, stories to write, stories to edit, advertising spaces to sell, and deadlines to meet. Then there was distribution, a miles-to-go-before-I-sleep operation that covers hundreds of square miles. George and Lisa built something of a tiger; and, for five years now, they've been holding onto that tiger's tale with all their might. But that is only one of George Fletcher's windblown hats.

Three nights each week, in three far-flung locations, George, along with buddy/bass player, Rick Mullen, hosts the famous "Sorta-Mostly-Unplugged Open Mic." On Wednesday nights they're at the Hogwash BBQ & Grill in Mamaroneck. Thursdays you can find them at the Excaliber in Poughkeepsie. And every Sunday night, George and Rick are providing a platform for budding area musicians at McGillicuddy's in New Paltz. If up-and-coming musicians don't realize what a friend they have in George Fletcher, they need to move to another part of the country. Any other part of the country. They'd soon figure it out.

But this article isn't about those hats. It's about "once a musician, always a musician;" a deep seated reality I know something about. The performance sirens have been calling to George ever since he put his editor/publisher hat on. Oh, he's played out from time to time, but holding on to the tiger's tail is no easy matter. Still, all work and no play can, well, you know...dull is as dull does.

Lou Strippoli
Ellie and I recently dropped in at the Caffe Aurora, Lou Strippoli's delightful contribution to the revitalization of the historic River District in Poughkeepsie. There was a fund raising effort underway. The Phi Theta Kappa Chapter of DCCC were collecting toys and donations to make Christmas a little brighter for the children of the women currently being sheltered at the Grace Smith House. On the bill, along with singer/songwriter, Helen Avakian and acoustic guitar wizard, Brian Gallaway, was a group called "George Fletcher & the Handsome Men."

The performer hat might have collected a little dust over the years, but it fits Fletcher to tee. George, open mic pal, Rick Mullen, and drummer, Steve DiGiovanni, were joined by WPDH's "Standby" Stan Beinstein on blues harp, and the sound was cool and tight. George's rock & roll guitar style is both crisp and subtle. He doesn't overpower you, so much as he seduces you with clever riffs that might remind you of something...but you're just never quite sure of what. Even the covers like Ain't No Sunshine and Johnny B. Goode had been freshly rearranged so that you never have that done-to-death feeling that one sometimes gets. And, like his guitar playing, George's vocals are clear and clean. But it's the original material that interested me most. Better Man is an unabashed love song written for Lisa. And Angeline is a toe-tapper that stays with you for days. George also debuted a delightful new song called I Ain't the Worst that You Could Find. This particular hat, the songwriter's hat, has a wonderful cut to it. It is blocked in a way that distinguishes it from any of the many other songwriters I follow.

Brian Gallaway
Helen Avakian
Steve DiGiovanni
Stan Beinstein

I'm not exactly sure how George Fletcher manages all of his hats, but the black circles under his eyes are an obvious clue. Having said that, I know enough about Life, the Universe, and Everything to know that you can't have it all, and you can't do it all. Some things, regardless of how precious, must sometimes be left on the shelf for a while. I suspect George's skill as a musician will never have so much rust on it that he can't drag it out, polish it up, and treat audiences to a great show, and I hope he'll always make some time for that. But, there are lots of good musicians around. It is, in my humble opinion, Fletcher's skill as a songwriter that sets him apart. Here we get to bypass the editor, the publisher, the interviewer, the salesman, the delivery man, and everybody's open mic pal. Here, and perhaps nowhere else, we get a glimpse of the heart and the soul of man who loves music more than he loves life itself. Here is where we meet the real George Fletcher. And George Fletcher is well worth knowing.

  Related links:     Rhythm and News     Helen Avakian     Brian Gallaway  

Kevin Robinson is a freelance writer/photographer, and the author of three "Stick Foster" hardback mystery novels. A former syndicated columnist for the Detroit Free Press, his byline has appeared over 100 times in national and regional periodicals. Kevin is a partner at No Bull Productions, and his PR credits include promotion and booking work for several of Kansas City's top blues bands. Kevin can be reached at Ellie Apuzzo owns and operates Ellie's Consider It Done. She provides "on-site oversight for absentee owners" here in the Florida Keys; and so far, this lifelong New Yorker just can't seem to get into "Keys time!" Ellie can be reached at

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