Godfrey Daniels founder publishes book about its history
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The owner and founder of Godfrey Daniels, an iconic Lehigh Valley folk music venue, is publishing a book about the club’s storied 47-year history.
Dave Fry takes the Bethlehem club’s history year by year in “Welcome to Godfrey Daniels,” with hundreds of photos over its 127 pages, from Godfrey’s opening night in 1976 to shows right before the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
- Dave Fry, founder of Godfrey Daniels folk club in Bethlehem, published a book detailing the illustrious venue’s 47-year history
- The 127-page book includes hundreds of photos and sells for $45
- It’s available at the Godfrey Daniels website, along with Moravian University’s bookstore and area Barnes and Noble stores
“I picked out what I thought were the epic evenings,” Fry said during a news conference Monday. “Not only the large acts, but the community acts, the jams, the open mics, the square dances, the poetry sessions, and the stuff that really for me is the meat of what folk club means to the community.”
“I picked out what I thought were the epic evenings. Not only the large acts, but the community acts, the jams, the open mics, the square dances, the poetry sessions."Dave Fry, founder of Godfrey Daniels
At Monday's announcement, Fry read an excerpt from his book detailing the creation of the club’s iconic quilt backdrop in 1989:
“Brenda [Brown] finished it, and now it is up and flying, backing up all our performers with visual harmony and rich undertones. It's truly stunning. She went further by taking the melody to the John Gorka song, ‘How Legends are Made,’ a tune reflecting on the power of folk music here at Godfrey’s, and stitching the melody notes into the cloth.”
Fry followed the passage by playing an excerpt of that song, his voice and acoustic guitar, filling the small room.
Photos from the Godfrey’s archive came first for the project, more than seven years in the making. Originally, Fry imagined a book of photos with captions, though he was quickly persuaded to add more writing to the mix.
“I like the live shots, just musicians lighting up on the stage,” Fry said. “It’s almost scratch-and-sniff type stuff, you know?”
The book retails for $45, and is available through the club’s website, as well as Moravian University’s bookshop and local Barnes & Noble stores.
Godfrey Daniels is a small space, seating about 100 people with no one more than 30 feet from the stage. The name is a euphemistic expletive that W.C. Fields used in movies such as “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”
The building started its life as a donut shop, before Fry and Cindy Dinsmore renovated it into the Godfrey Daniels coffeehouse in 1976. Mary Faith Rhoads and one of Fry’s groups, the Shimersville Sheiks, performed that first night.
Musical memorabilia, art, posters and clippings cover its walls, which are made of rough-hewn boards. Folk music lovers sit on folding chairs and church pews.
No seat has a bad view or is more than 30 feet from the stage.
The venue has historically scheduled three to five concerts a month, mostly Fridays through Sundays, with affordable ticket prices. It also holds jam sessions built around genres (acoustic, blues, bluegrass, even comedy jams). It also hosts storytelling events and open mikes in spring.
Past performers have included Nanci Griffith (who performed at Godfrey’s three times in the 1980s), Grammy Award Lifetime Achievement honoree Tom Paxton, Odetta, David Bromberg, Townes Van Zandt, Bill Morrissey, Jim Weider of The Band and members of The Roches. Another big folk name has strong ties: John Gorka began his career as a Moravian College student at Godfrey’s open mikes.