Gary Oelze, founder and owner of The Birchmere in Alexandria, died Monday, multiple sources have confirmed. Let’s see more details about Gary Oelze in detail.
What happened to Gary Oelze? OBITUARY
Gary Oelze passed away at the age of 80. Birchmere Music Posted a Condolence message on Social Media.
REST IN PEACE GARY OELZE FOUNDER, LEADER, FRIEND 1943-2023 OBITUARY: Gary Oelze, 80, Visionary Owner of The Birchmere Music Hall, Dies.
OBITUARY –This evening, after hearing that Gary Oelze passed away at the age of 80, we are left with a heavy heart, and I’m sitting here with a heavy heart right now as well. The information was only relayed to me quite lately. If Gary and I had never met, we can say with absolute certainty that we would not be attempting to make a living as a musician at this time in my life. This is something that we can state with complete assurance. He was not only the owner of the Birchmere Music Hall but also the manager of the venue, and he oversaw the operation of the Birchmere Music Hall.
REST IN PEACE GARY OELZE FOUNDER, LEADER, FRIEND 1943-2023
OBITUARY: Gary Oelze, 80, Visionary Owner of The Birchmere Music Hall, Dies https://t.co/eRA0MoCVUj
— The Birchmere (@thebirchmere) January 23, 2023
Cause of Death
Gary Oelze, age 80, of Alexandria, Virginia passed away on Monday, January 23, 2023. The funeral arrangement and the exact cause of his death of Gary were not released as well.
To learn more about Gary’s death, we are attempting to get in touch with his friends and family. This section will be updated as soon as we learn any new information regarding the tragic event that brought many people to tears.
Who was Gary Oelze?
Oelze was a musician as well and played guitar in the first band that ever performed at The Birchmere.
Originally from Kentucky, Oelze arrived in the DMV when he was newly discharged from the military in 1963. While he was working at a People’s Drug Store, a fellow employee who was impressed with his management skills offered him a job that included stock in a restaurant in Shirlington.
The restaurant re-opened in a strip mall as The Birchmere in 1966, and with little competition back then in the Shirlington neighborhood, it sustained a successful lunch business. The original owner named it The Birchmere after a boy’s camp he had attended when he was a kid. To boost the nighttime part of the business, then manager Oelze decided to add a music vibe. Oelze himself actually played in the restaurant’s first band.
The Birchmere at 50: A real deal
|In 1966, Gary Oelze bought a small bar and restaurant next to an A&P in a now-long-gone South Arlington shopping center. He didn’t change the restaurant’s name, the Birchmere, but he added entertainment: “I needed to spruce up night business,” Oelze said. “I started having a folk singer or bluegrass band one night a week, and then it grew.”
Indeed, it did. In the following decade, the D.C. area became a bluegrass hotbed, and the Birchmere was the epicenter of the fleet-fingered action. The venue’s consistent draw was the Seldom Scene, an edgy local string outfit that took traditional bluegrass to the fringe of rock at a weekly Thursday night show. The residency started in 1975 and lasted nearly two decades, along the way building buzz that put the Birchmere — then a no-frills, cafeteria-like dive with barely enough room for 100 people — on the map as an internationally known music destination.
With the club celebrating 50 years in business this spring, we asked artists that best know the Birchmere stage to share memorable experiences and explain what’s special about the renowned music hall.
Bluegrass Stories podcast
Bluegrass was very popular here [in the beginning],” Gary Oelze told Living On Music’s Steve Houk in a 2020 interview.
He wrote a book in 2021 with Stephen Moore, All Roads Lead To The Birchmere – America’s Legendary Music Hall, that tells the full story of the evolution of this institution. Gary was also interviewed last year for the Bluegrass Stories podcast, which can be heard online.
Gary always gave a lot of the credit for the wide variety of entertainment to Michael Jaworek, who helped with booking. In the intervening 56 years, almost every bluegrass, folk, acoustic, or alt-folk artist of note has played The Birchmere. In more recent years, nearly every type of music has been heard there, including country, rock, and jazz. Everyone who ever played there recognized Gary Oelze as an advocate for the musicians.
Condolence Posted on Social Media
Katy Daley Posted
Such sad news. The Birchmere’s Gary Oelze has died at the age of 80. Gary’s work truly contributed to bluegrass music and to so many bands who appeared there. This is a great loss to Washington music. Bluegrass Stories interview with Gary aired last year.
We offer it once again with great appreciation for all he did for so many. RIP Gary Oelze.
This is sad news for everyone who loves American music. Holding his family, friends and Birchmere colleagues in my thoughts. He brought such joy to so many. He will be terribly, terribly missed. https://t.co/UELvfgrZFD
— Chris Colligan (@ChrisColligan) January 23, 2023
Prayers for my family in Alexandria Virginia. My Uncle Gary passed away. my daddy’s brother. These deaths in our family need to stop. It’s too much too close together. I spent the summer w/my Uncle Gary Lil over 30 years ago & that’s when I got to know him well. He threatened his workers not to mess w/me. They were scared to talk to me. I loved that Lil Oscar Our family reunions didn’t give any of us kids enough time to get to know any of our out-of-town family very much, but what we did know we loved! We still loved them so much anyhow. RIP Uncle Gary. You will be very missed & I loved you big.
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