ALBANY — “If you love someone, you’re going to love them regardless,” said Sly Fox, with a rueful chuckle. “Whether they want it or not.”
Fox, of the band Sly Fox and the Hustlers, is organizing a March 23 fundraiser for his good friend, well-respected local musician Greg Nash. The Hollow Bar + Kitchen has donated its space to host the event. Nash, a career drummer who has played with countless local artists and shared the stage with Aerosmith, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Bon Jovi and others, suffered a massive stroke on Tuesday, March 7 — just three days after he played a tribute to his favorite band, The Rolling Stones, at Dinosaur BBQ in Troy. Nash was hospitalized for more than a week before moving to a rehab facility on March 16.
Fox said the talented drummer, always willing to donate his time and talent to raise money for various causes, would never ask for help, but will almost certainly need it.
“He’s on the road to recovery,” said Fox. “But I think it will be a long road.”
Fox, who ran sound for Nash’s last show, said he has known him since the 1990s, when he and his good friend Sean Rowe, both still too young to drink, would sneak into a bar in Troy to see a musician named Jeanie French sing in a band called Blue Jean Blues. “Maybe the third time we saw her there, she introduced us to her new drummer,” he said. “And it was Greg.”
“I was not well versed in much of anything at that time,” recalled Rowe, “but I was wise enough to recognize his talent back then. I always loved the way he played. I told him a long time ago that he reminded me of Stewart Copeland a little and he was certainly not offended by that!”
Nash, who grew up in the ’70s with three older brothers who had extensive record collections, has been around music his entire life. During a 2013 interview with Overit Media, just after releasing his only solo album, Nash told Greg Aidala that some of his earliest memories include hearing Aerosmith’s first album and his mother’s Sinatra addiction. “You can blame KISS too,” he said at the time. “I was one of the obsessed KISS kids.”
Since then, Nash has made a name for himself here in the Capital District and forged lasting relationships with some of the area’s top musical talents. “He’s a sweet guy and a great drummer,” said Fox. “He’s someone you could call and, if he didn’t already have a gig that night, he could just show up and not even know what songs were going to be played and just hit it off. His musical vocabulary is fantastic; he can play anything. He’s just a force to be reckoned with.”
“He was happy to play,” said Tess Collins, owner of McGeary’s Irish Pub, where Nash would often play. Noting his “ability to connect with any of the musicians,” she said, “One of my favorite nights was him playing at McGeary’s with Albie and Bob Buckley!”
Those connections are now coming together to support Nash in the wake of a tragedy that will not only leave the musician with a formidable hospital bill, but is also likely to deprive him of his livelihood for at least some time.
“He’s a pro drummer,” said Fox. “In other words, he doesn’t really have any other jobs.”
When word went out that Fox was looking for bands to perform at a benefit show for Nash, the response was overwhelming. “I had about 50 bands that said they would play,” he said. “And I had to get it down to, like, 15. And even then it was going to be short sets.”
The headliners, he said — Wild Adriatic, Super 400 and Sean Rowe — will play slightly longer sets, and the night will end with “kind of an all-star jam of Rolling Stone songs, because that’s Greg’s favorite band. And we’ll video-tape that so it’s something he can see.”
Everyone involved with the show — from the performers to the venue to the light and sound operators — have all donated their time and effort, said Fox. “Every person involved in the whole thing has donated their time and resources,” he said. “Everyone had some connection to Greg.”
When he selected the line-up, Fox said he had to go with his instinct to produce a good show. In addition to being a musician himself, Fox also lines up the talent for several local venues and, as such, has an awareness of and — perhaps more importantly — contacts for locally established and upcoming bands. “I was kind of in a good spot for putting something like this together,” he said. “Even though it’s the first time I’ve done anything like it.”
“Greg has been a big part of the local music community for a long time and it is an honor to help him out in any way, shape or form,” said Jason Nowak of Under the Den, one of the bands who will play that night. “Playing music is a hard road, but one we walk together. We are happy to help.”
In addition to putting together a killer line-up, Fox and friends have taken donations of items to be auctioned off at the show. Herb Carter, one of the performers, donated a guitar — “I believe it was autographed by Crosby, Stills and Nash,” said Fox, who admitted he wasn’t sure how much had been contributed as yet, but said a number of interesting donations, from generous local businesses as well as individuals, will be auctioned off at the show — and that 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Nash.
“I actually met Greg right on that stage at the Hollow,” said Erin Harkes, of the venue where the show will be held, “when I was singing back up for Ten Year Vamp. I was like a new kid at school. Waving wildly and smiling like a nerd. I was like, ‘Hi, I’m Erin!’ And he just kind of looked at me like, ‘Okay.’” She laughed. “I realized later it was just that he was getting in a zone. I could barely sing when he started playing because I was so impressed with his talent: Like nothing I’d ever experienced before. And to be that close to it was life changing.”
For those unable to attend the fundraiser, said Fox, another local musician and one of Nash’s former bandmates, Mark Rose, helped him set up a GoFundMe site, which, as of March 19, had raised more than $6,000. “There were all these people who couldn’t make it to the gig and still wanted to do something so Mark set up the GoFundMe and he set the goal at one dollar because, he said, Greg would never ask anyone for anything.”
Fox said that Nash, who is lucky to have a supportive family, is in physical therapy and working hard to improve. He celebrates a birthday on the March 26 and so the plan is to present him with the money and video on that day. Fox isn’t sure if he’ll find out about the fundraiser before then or if it will be a surprise. (shh!)
“The money will be welcomed and needed, et cetera,” said Fox. “But it’s also just about getting everyone together to pray and about the good vibes. I think you need that just as much, it’s equally important.”
“That’s why I named the event ‘Love for Greg.’”