LAKE PLACID-After decades of living the grueling and seldom profitable lifestyle as a touring musician performing mostly up and down the East Coast, Stephen Wyle is now on a mission to give back.
Part of the 67-year-old housekeeping manager's job at the Mirror Lake Inn includes booking all the musical acts that perform at the inn's Taste Bistro lounge. After having lived in Saratoga Springs for 20 years, he was offered the job in 2003 and vowed to bring in "excellent music and excellent musicians" to a place where they get paid and fed well, have the chance to stay in a four-diamond hotel, and play for a nice crowd "that's not at a junky bar."
"I want to pay back to musicians for the hard life they have out on the road," Wyle said.
(Photo provided — Steve Lester)
Wyle draws many of his acts from the Rochester area, where, he said, "there's a lot of talent." He also books performers from Saratoga Springs and Watertown, among other places.
A particular crowd favorite is Chris Wilson, who is scheduled to play there on May 5-6 at The Cottage restaurant on Mirror Lake.
"People come here from Florida to hear him. He's really fabulous," Wyle said.
During his own touring days, Wyle's most successful group, the Target Rhythm Band, played original Calypso rock and opened for superstar bands such as Little Feat and Aztec Two-Step.
Prior to that, he had been studying to become an English teacher.
"But in my third year I went west, young man, with my band," he said chuckling.
Wyle settled in San Francisco, where he became a stage lighting technician and ran light shows "mostly for 60s folk artists," he said, but sometimes for famous rock acts including Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and the Youngbloods.
These days, he plays solo at the Mirror Lake Inn once a month. During the summer, he also plays at happy hour on Wednesdays outdoors at the Moose Lodge Boathouse Restaurant at the Whiteface Club & Resort, "where it seems to rain every Wednesday," he said. "But when it's nice it's really nice."
Wyle's early influences include Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Kingston Trio. While strumming a Martin D-18 during the interview, he crooned a little with a singing voice that sounds similar to Neil Young's, another early influence.
Additional influences include such lesser-known artists as Tim Buckley and the Canadian folk and country duo Ian & Sylvia. And, of course, the Beatles.
"You got to love the Beatles," he said.
Wyle's most recent recording includes a 2013 solo effort of cover tunes titled "Troubadour," made up of "all the songs that I've always liked," he said, including Bob Dylan's "Buckets of Rain," Van Morrison's "Natalia" and Peter Wolfe's "Always Asking For You."
He also mentioned an additional recording from the late 1980s, a live performance of the Target Rhythm Band.
Wyle's plans for the near future do not include any large-scale moving operations to another town, but there could be a time some years down the road when he might look into the snow bird lifestyle of moving south for the winters.
"I'm not too big on winters any more," he said, and referred to the night of Feb. 25 when a severe storm knocked out electrical power in Lake Placid for more than 19 hours on a night he was supposed to have a trio perform at The Cottage, the bass player for which relied on an electric bass guitar. He said the night was saved when a fellow musician in town loaned him an acoustic bass guitar to use instead, which enabled all three musicians to perform unplugged all evening long.
"That acoustic bass saved the night for us," he said.
The possible adoption of a snow bird lifestyle in the future, however, does not mean Wyle plans to sever his relationship with the Mirror Lake Inn or Lake Placid anytime soon.
"I like it here," he said.