Though his life was cut short by COVID-19 this past April, Gene Shay played an immense role in the regional music scene for more than 50 years. At 3 p.m. on March 6, the week of his birthday, the folk music community will gather virtually to honor his broadcasting career and his impact on the genre.
Via more than 15 Facebook Live sites, WXPN’s “That Guy Was Fun” will be hosted by Shay’s Folk Show successor, Ian Zolitor. The special event will showcase various performances from artists close to Shay, including Tom Rush, Susan Werner, Ben Arnold, Kim and Reggie Harris, Michael Braunfeld, John Francis O’Mara, Kicking Down Doors, LisaBeth Weber, and Jefferson Berry & the UAC.
Throughout his broadcasting career, Shay discovered and supported numerous folk, blues and Americana artists. He was also a founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and his “grandfather of folk music” presence was characterized by an authentic voice and a warm sense of humor. “For all the people we’ve lost during the pandemic, none of us have gotten any closure,” says Folk Show producer Jefferson Berry. “But thinking about Gene’s passing, one can be sad for just so long. So many good times, so many good stories.”
To further Shay’s legacy, grants will be distributed in his name to a number of folk artists in need. Philly Music Fest founder Greg Seltzer will be in charge of dispersing the funds.