Buffalo in the ’90s: Music at Nietzsche’s

By Steve Cichon

“It’s not as classy as the Tralf, as wild as the Continental or as bluesy as the Lafayette Tap Room,” wrote News Critic Anthony Violanti in 1994. “Nietzsche’s, though, fills a special niche.”

Buffalo News archives

“There’s never been a club in Buffalo history that has lasted this long where so many different styles of music have been represented,” the late Michael Meldrum told The News. He ran Nietzsche’s Monday night open mic night for decades before he died in 2011, using the stage there as a starting ground for hundreds of artists of many different sounds through the years.

Joe Rubino took the keys to 248 Allen Street in 1982, and within a year or two, the joint was pumping with live music every night. In the decades since then, Nietzsche’s has unquestionably been one of the driving forces and primary showcases for the local music scene it has helped nurture — especially during a bleak few years on the Buffalo music scene.

It was a time News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers said was filled with “anxiety over generating enough cash to pay for beer, guitar strings, Ramen noodles and bus fare” for musicians.

For at least 50 years — from the 1930s through the early 1980s, the spot now known as Nietzsche’s was called the Jamestown Grill.

Jamestown Grill ad, 1937 (Buffalo Stories archives)

The baseball team was unbeatable for decades, and as the place was raided for underage drinking many times through the years, there’s little doubt that many West Side and Allentown teens had their first drinks in the place at 16 or 17 years old when the legal age was 18.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.