NIAGARA FALLS —
Some may remember him standing outside his sidewalk store in the comedy “Police Academy,” others may recognize him co-starring right next to Johnny Depp in the western “Dead Man” or maybe it was his award-winning performance in “Powwow Highway.”
Nowadays, Gary Farmer can be seen jamming away on his harmonica with the Troublemakers — keeping his blues heritage alive.
You can check him out yourself as he’ll be in town Friday and Saturday for a pair of shows.
Originally from Ontario, Canada, Farmer holds a deep connection to the Niagara Falls area as well as to his Native American family. A member of the Cayuga Nation and Wolf clan of the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois Confederacy, Farmer grew up in the Niagara Falls region and recalls his father working in the chemical plants in the Falls.
Back then, the city was much more lively, Farmer said, but now it’s almost as if a bomb has hit it.
“We’ve seen (Niagara Falls) at its worst and best,” he said. “I’d love to see the arts play a part in its revival.”
Farmer knows a little bit about the arts. He started out acting in plays and then movies back in 1975 along with his cousin Graham Greene, who would later be nominated for best supporting actor for his role in “Dances with Wolves”.
“I’m more of a character actor,” said Farmer, “playing cops or a bad guy.”
“ ‘Police Academy’ was my first real major film,” he added.
After more than 80 appearances in television shows and movies, Farmer retired from the Screen Actors Guild and began focusing on music.
Farmer started up his band Gary Farmer & The Troublemakers to play the blues in homage to their heritage.
“I’ve taken my experience in the theater and put it into my music,” said Farmer, “putting an entire act into about four minutes.”
He’s also taken his heritage into account. American Indian music is more influential in contemporary music than people realize, Farmer explains.
“Americans don’t really know our story because it’s a heritage separate of their own.”
According to Farmer, the Tuscarora Indians joined the Iroquois Confederacy around the same time that slavery was still going on in the U.S., allowing the two cultures to mix while working in the fields. Together, Native American and African music mixed and eventually formed what we know as the blues: The foundation for the modern music of today.
Gary Farmer & The Troublemakers, featuring Jaime Bird Yellowhorse on guitar and vocals, Johnny Longbow on bass, Logan Nix on drums, and Gary Farmer on harmonica and vocals, recently added a fifth member as Clyde Roulette joined as a special guest adding additional guitar and vocals.
“He brings a whole new depth to the band,” Farmer said of Roulette.
The band is making its way up from New Mexico on its current tour which brings them to Club 101 inside Seneca Niagara Casino Friday and Saturday.
“I designed my band to play at Indian casinos,” said Farmer, “... (but) a lot of Indian run casinos don’t necessarily support Indian talent.
“To me, I’m coming home with my music.”
Gary Farmer & The Troublemakers will be playing a pair of engagements inside Club 101 at Seneca Niagara Casino.
• FRIDAY: 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m.
• SATURDAY: 1:30-5:30 p.m.