The owner of The Birchmere, a music venue in Alexandria, Virginia, has died. Gary Oelze was 80 years old.
The Zebra was the first to report that Oelze was the “hands-on” operator of Alexandria’s “most famous music venue,” which first opened as a restaurant in 1966 in the Shirlington neighborhood. It was named after a boys camp, and to boost nighttime business, Oelze, who was the manager at the time, decided to “add a music vibe,”, The Zebra said.
Stephen Moore and Oelze wrote a book called “All Roads Lead to The Birchmere” in 2022. It was about the history and legacy of the venue.
Moore told a WTOP entertainment reporter in January 2022, “We began working on it right before the pandemic.” “When Gary had to close up shop, we worked on it together all day.”
Oelze said he had always wanted to use the thousands of photos he had of performers and acts. The book is a collection of photos and interviews with performers who have entertained people for decades. As word of Oelze’s death spread, a lot of people said nice things about him.
In a Facebook post, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter said, “I’m sure that if I hadn’t met Oelze, I wouldn’t be in the music business.”
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Carpenter said that Oelze believed in her and gave her chances to open for well-known musicians. He also helped her get a “Greven #1 guitar,” which she loved. “He (no pun intended) pulled a few strings to make that happen when I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. Most importantly, he told a CBS Records scout about me when he was looking for new artists to sign. Within a year, I was a Columbia artist,” Carpenter said.
Eddie from Ohio said that Oelze was “a giant” in the world of music. From his official account, the post is given below.
Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, who make music together, said that Oelze was “an honest businessman and a true music lover.”
The Birchmere moved several times over the years. In 1966, it was in a 200-seat venue in Shirlington. In 1981, it moved to a 350-seat venue in Alexandria. In 1997, it moved a few blocks up Mount Vernon Avenue to its current 500-seat venue.
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.