RIP: John Wisniewski, 1950-2011

John Wisniewski

I can’t actually remember where or when I first met John Wisniewski. It just seems like I’ve always known him.

I might have met him at UAlbany, where we were both students. It might have been at the legendary Pauly’s Hotel, where he was a bartender for years. It might have been just hanging out in the crowd at some concert or some small club show.

Wherever it was, I’m guessing that music was a part of the mix somehow. Music was always a big part of John’s life, and he was a staunch supporter of local music, the blues and especially New Orleans music.

John Wisniewski – devoted music fan, one of Albany’s all-time great bartenders and an all-around good guy – died last night of liver cancer. He managed to hang on through the first quarter of the Super Bowl. He was 60 years old.

I hadn’t seen John too much in recent years, but whenever I did, the conversation usually started out with music, veered into various personal and professional updates on our lives and then returned once again to the topic of music. I saw him at the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival in September – no surprise considering that New Orleans funkmeister Ivan Neville was on the bill.

And I saw him back in May at Washington Park for the big benefit bash for Tess Collins and the Lark Tavern, which had burned down earlier that month. John insisted on taking a photo of Tess and me together, although he afterwards admitted with an unself-conscious chuckle, “I have no idea how I’m going to get this to you, though, because I don’t have a clue how to send a photo through e-mail.” I never did get that photo.

Last week, Steve Barnes wrote a beautiful story about John that was published on the front page of The Times Union. Not the front page of the entertainment section. Or the front page of Life/Living section. The. Front. Page.

That’s the kind of guy that John was.

NOTE: You can also read a short version of the story, accompanied by quite a long list of readers’ comments at Barnes’ Table Hopping blog.

And you can also reading the posting on John’s Facebook wall.

Joihn Wisniewski behind the bar at Pauly's Hotel in 1989
Joihn Wisniewski behind the bar at Pauly's Hotel in 1989

  1. michael eck says

    Johnny Wiz, we will miss you. Many, many nights at the bar at Pauly’s Hotel after a hot, sweaty Stomplistics gig. Many, many other conversations about music. A good man gone.

  2. Elissa a/k/a Johnny Wiz's Girlfriend says


    Came across the picture that you discussed in the article..I do know how to email it..


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