Lee Oskar plays his harmonica at his Everett home in September. The musician, best known for playing in the 1970s funk-rock fusion band War, will perform at a benefit concert for the Historic Everett Theatre on March 6. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Lee Oskar plays his harmonica at his Everett home in September. The musician, best known for playing in the 1970s funk-rock fusion band War, will perform at a benefit concert for the Historic Everett Theatre on March 6. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Harmonica legend Lee Oskar rallies to save Everett’s theater

The musician of War fame and his band will perform March 6 for the theater, which may go up for sale.

Renowned harmonica player Lee Oskar says it’s time for the community to step up to preserve the Historic Everett Theatre, which could be put up for sale later this year.

Everett resident Oskar, who played in the 1970s funk band War, is doing his part.

All ticket sales from Lee Oskar & Friends’ March 6 concert will be donated to preservation of the 117-year old Everett landmark, which is struggling financially.

“They run the theater almost on a shoestring,” he said. “I’m hoping that anybody who hears about it will help out.”

The 800-seat theater’s events include a variety of musical groups, comedians, and the screening of silent movies accompanied by live pipe organ music. And then there’s the sprinkling of the unexpected, like the upcoming stunt dog performance.

“Frankly, the city deserves this theater,” said Curt Shriner, the theater’s manager. “Lee knows how important a theater like this is and is stepping up.”

Shriner said he’s struggled to operate the facility since the death of his wife, Laura Shriner, in October.

“It’s hard for me to do my job, her job and worry about money,” he said.

Recent major projects included repairs to the theater’s boiler and projector, Shriner said. To help with operational costs, a GoFundMe account, “Saving the Grand Old Lady,” has been set up, with a goal of raising $50,000.

Craig Shriner, who is Curt Shriner’s brother and who owns the property, said Wednesday that he hopes the building can remain a theater.

“If I put it on the open market, then yeah, anything can happen, including it not being a theater,” he said.

“The frustration has always been that we put on pretty good shows and it doesn’t seem to get the support,” he said.

Craig Shriner said he is talking with his brother about when to put it up for sale. “It will be this year for sure,” he said.

At age 71, “I want to retire and move on,” Craig Shriner said.

Meanwhile, the theater will continue its operations and put on shows, Craig Shriner said. “One thing that will help the theater is finding sponsors. That makes all the difference in the world in what kind of shows we can bring in.”

Curt Shriner said his brother knows how much the theater meant to Laura Shiner, and has been patient with his attempts for it to continue as an entertainment venue.

He said his work to try to save the theater from being sold for development is being done in memory of his wife.

“She loved it,” he said. “I’m trying to fulfill her dream.”

Oskar’s benefit performance will include band members Alex Mortland on guitar, Dean Schmidt on bass, Andrew Cloutier on drums, Denali Williams on percussion, Ed Weber on keys and Darian Asplund on saxophone.

Oskar said some of the songs being performed, such as “Far-Away Dreams,” will appear on new albums expected to be released in April.

He promised that those who come to the event will be treated to a special evening of music and will walk out saying, “Wow!”

Oskar was profiled in The Daily Herald in October. A native of Denmark, he began his musical career with War, formed in 1969 and known for hits such as “The World is a Ghetto” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” Oskar, who still performs at concerts regionally and nationally, may be most associated with the song “Low Rider” with his trademark harmonica lines. Samples of his music are available on his website.

Oskar also is among a group of musicians performing Saturday at Everett’s Madison Avenue Pub. Proceeds from the event go to the musician relief fund of the Washington Blues Society.

“That’s going to be a fun jam for probably a half hour or so,” he said of his performance.

The event also will include performances by Washington Blues Society Hall of Fame members Leanne Trevalyan and Nick Vigarino, along with “Best of the Blues” award winners Donna Dupras, Annie Eastwood, Brian Lee and Chris Eger.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you go

A benefit concert by Lee Oskar & Friends is set for 8 p.m. March 6 at the Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett. All proceeds will go to preservation of the theater. Tickets, $35 general admission and $30 seniors and military, are available at tinyurl.com/LeeOskarBenefit.

Oskar also will be performing at a benefit for the Washington Blues Society’s musician relief fund 5-11 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Madison Avenue Pub, 905 Madison St., Everett. Admission is a $25 suggested donation.

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