Dave Fry knew that Bethlehem needed a unique space for music lovers, and since founding Godfrey Daniels, a folk music listening room and performance club, in 1976, he and his club have done nothing but thrive. Providing a listening space away from the busy night scene, Fry and his friends created Godfrey Daniels to give Bethlehem an intimate space for an audience and artist to experience the music together.
“There was not a venue where a musician could play his music and be listened to, and there was no venue where an audience could appreciate an artist without barroom disturbances,” Fry said as he reminisced on the club’s origin story. Fry’s vision transformed a donut shop into a space that celebrated live music in a close setting with the help of dedicated volunteers. He recalled, “We were put together on a very, very low budget and there was a lot of volunteer help. We put on our first show in March of ‘76 on the first day of spring.”
Eventually, a board of directors was established among members of the community to ensure the club’s legacy remained as times change, as well as to establish the club as a nonprofit. Community members and music lovers became Godfrey Daniels members when a fundraiser kickstarter to buy the building was started. Mission and vision statements were crafted in an effort to keep the club true to its original purpose and these statements that continue to guide the organization today.
Godfrey Daniels has always revolved around the South Side Bethlehem community in which it began. “I would say it’s changed with the community and grown throughout the years,” Ramona LaBarre, Managing Director, responded when asked about the club’s evolution. While the club has changed somewhat over time, Fry’s vision has remained central. LaBarre stated, “About twenty years after the club was founded, we collectively stepped back and looked at the big picture, and looked to develop our mission statement. The mission does stick really close to Dave’s original vision.”
On their website, they clearly share their vision: “Godfrey Daniels exists to create and nurture the appreciation of traditional and contemporary folk music and performing arts by providing an intimate environment where professional artists, amateur performers and audience members will be enriched by the unique experience of live performance.” Godfrey Daniels continues to do this despite the arrival of larger corporate music hosts in town, such as ArtsQuest, The Sands Event Center, and Zoellner Arts Center.
“We gave a lot of thought to what makes us different than larger venues and how we can capitalize on that, and we decided to do things on a smaller scale, with a community nature that these others can’t do because of their size. To be able to open up the room to community jams for free and let the community take a little slice of ownership here. This is what makes Godfrey Daniels special,” said Fry. Without a doubt, this is something that Godfrey Daniels continues to achieve again and again, as the space remains a local spot dedicated to the celebration of good music as well as the community that helped shape it.
Feature Photo “Brittany Ann and Anthony DaCosta” by Brian McCloskey.