“Cold Cuts”: The rise and fall of Buffalo State’s music publication

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“Cold Cuts”: The rise and fall of Buffalo State’s music publication

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Commons

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Commons

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Commons

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Commons

Thomas Tedesco, Music Writer

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It was in the year of 1972 when Gary Sperrazza enrolled at Buffalo State College and joined the student-published magazine, “Strait.” It was there that he began to write about pop and rock music. In 1973, the “Shakin’ Street Gazette” was born and the first issue was published that October in Strait. Not too long after, Sperrazza’s work outgrew Strait, which led to the creation of an entire publication dedicated to music. 

Headed by Gary Sperrazza, “Shakin’ Street” had several students in its staff. Among them was a graphic design major named David Meinzer, who currently works at Buffalo State with the USG press services. Meinzer was largely responsible for the overall look of the paper from the artwork to the layout of the pages of the paper. 

As I was interviewing Meinzer about the Shakin’ Street Gazette, he recalled the origins of the paper and how he became involved. “I joined the staff [of Strait magazine] and I was part of the staff when Gary Sperrazza came in and he said “Let’s do this rock thing,” and so I was there and totally on board.”

Starting as a periodical publication, Shakin’ Street published eighteen volumes over the span of fourteen months, eventually going monthly between October 1973 to December 1974. While it is difficult to determine exactly how successful it was, the paper got attention from people both on and off the Buffalo State campus alike.

 David Meinzer attributed the growth of the paper’s following to Sperrazza. “A lot of it was Gary’s personality. You know, he had a lot of connections in the field and in the city… we got it out there. Students on campus would pick it up.” He went on to say, “The success outside had mainly to do with more connections. Because record companies were sending records for review, we would send them copies of the magazine. They would tell other people about it.”

In Shakin’ Street itself, reviewing the latest albums was the constant throughout all the issues. Album reviews were broken down into two distinct sections. The first section titled “Long Players” gave more traditional, lengthy reviews. They covered a wide variety of mostly rock artists ranging from the well-established Bob Dylan to the then-upcoming Ted Nugent. 

The second section, titled “Cold Cuts,” provided a shorter and harsher take on new albums. In each piece, the author would briefly give their negative criticism for an album they did not like, instead of writing a longer or more extensive review. Some artists that were featured proved to be hardly relevant such as Paper Lace, while some ended up becoming highly popular and successful artists, such as the legendary Canadian rock band, Rush. 

Additionally, Shakin’ Street would contain information about the local music scene, concerts occurring in the area, and cover stories of various musical subjects. Some stories spanned multiple parts across several issues, including David Meinzer’s pieces on the country-rock subgenre that came from the California scene. While there was no internet to do research back in the 1970s, Meinzer and other writers did the best they could to do research on topics with multiple different resources such as albums, other magazines, and books to get the most accurate information possible. It was ultimately the interest of the writers and readers alike that kept the paper going.

Unfortunately, issues with Shakin’ Street’s funding ultimately led to its demise in December 1974. Meinzer recalls, “We got to the point where the money that we had was running out and we hadn’t brought in the income, because… it was just a hard thing to do.” He added, “The magazine itself was free and the advertising, we were kind of dependent on that for about a third of the cost of putting it together.”

Since the paper did not receive any additional funding from the student government, it had no choice but to fold and Sperrazza ultimately left Buffalo State shortly thereafter. While a few other student-run music publications appeared throughout the remainder of the 1970s, they never had the success or staying power of Shakin’ Street. The paper had a unique point of view for its time and had a definite connection with its audience. All issues of the magazine are still available online through Buffalo State’s Digital Commons and in physical format from their library’s archives.

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