Mr. Owl passed away Thursday.
That was the stage name of Al Dunn, a keyboard player who fed the music jones of Central New Yorkers with his exciting performances and steady presence.
Al Dunn was a cool guy in a lot of bands.
He was part of the first lineup for Masters of Reality, the Syracuse hard rock band that released its debut album in 1989 and went on to find some national recognition. Great, talented guys like guitarist Tim Harrington, drummer Vinnie Ludivico, front man Chris Goss and bassist Googe played alongside Mr. Owl in MoR.
The last 16 years, Al Dunn played keyboards for Syracuse party outfit Letizia and the Z Band. Under tents, in clubs, in banquet halls, he joined with singer Letizia and band mates to make those sets special.
The front woman was devastated by his passing, and, touchingly and accurately, called Dunn on her Facebook page “one of the finest musicians, and people, this city has had the pleasure to experience.”
Mr. Owl was the kind of musician that keeps the music world spinning.
He loved his role with the band through and through. But Al Dunn chose to take on other jobs, too, to make things work best for he and his wife, Melanie.
For years, one of those jobs was in the mail room of The Post-Standard.
When I would walk to and from the big daily, I’d often see Dunn resting against the brick building, taking a break just outside the employee’s entrance. His favorite position was crouched, leaning just a bit back on his haunches, looking much like a baseball catcher.
We always had a nod and a hello to share.
Al Dunn, aka Mr. Owl, lost his fight with leukemia on Thursday. He wanted the facts kept private as he fought.
Today word is spreading.
Fans and friends have started a campaign for people to vote for Al Dunn in the Syracuse Area Music Awards People’s Choice contest, whose winners will be announced at the yearly event to pay tribute to the best of Central New York music on March 7 at the Palace Theater.
A ripple is spreading that Al Dunn should posthumously be honored with an eventual induction into the Sammys Hall of Fame.
For now, though, it will be most fitting to take a good look around you, in Syracuse, in any city in which you live, and really notice a local band playing music with great talent and energy. Watch all the musicians, not just the singer or the lead guitarist. Appreciate them. They are treasure.
Thank you for enriching so many, Al Dunn, our wily Mr. Owl.
An update with calling hour and funeral details:
Calling hours will be this Sunday, 3 to 6 p.m., at Carter Funeral Home on Grant Boulevard in Syracuse. Mass will be at noon Monday at St. John the Baptist/Holy Trinity Church in Syracuse. The burial will be private.
Contributions can be made at the All Faiths Food Pantry on Court Street in Syracuse, in lieu of flowers.
Online condolences can be expressed at CarterFuneralHome.com.