The first time I heard Sarah Kozar sing.
by Vince Bushell
Sarah Kozar June 24, 1974 – October 7, 2020
It was at Mayfields House of Peace and Love. This was in 2002. My memory of the details is better in the piece written at that time. That story is below this story.
This short memorial is about Sarah Kozar. She passed away this year. She had moved away from Milwaukee and Riverwest some time ago. Life is not always easy and cheerful and emotional pain may have had something to do with her leaving. I do not know the details but I will write of what I saw and heard during the years she was here that gave many of us so much joy.
The story from 2002 speaks of a bartender named Sarah. I do believe that was how I met her. She served me a drink. We talked about the hidden gem that Mayfields was and the man that Bill Jordan was. I loved the place. It was small and intimate. You could talk and listen to the Jazz or Sepia music.
And if you were lucky, someone would get up on the stage and perform. Bill Jordan might join them on the drums. One night, maybe the first night I visited, Sarah Kozar got up and sang. I was amazed. What a voice!
And sing she could and as the years went by, so did the songs and bands and performances.
Here is a paragraph from the Krause funeral home announcement:
While attending college, in addition to playing piano, she taught herself to play guitar. She started her first band in Cleveland playing at local coffee shops. After graduation, Sarah returned home to Milwaukee and became a resident of Riverwest. She had a variety of jobs including teaching art classes, graphic design, selling her art at local galleries, and continued to play open mic nights around town.
Her passion for music led to her second band, The Sarah Kozar Band, which transitioned into Sixty-Watt-Sarah. They played and toured the Midwest with a great following of fans and released a CD called All Night to Kansas City. She then became the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the Western Starlanders.
Coming from a musical family, singing and playing instruments came easily. Following in family tradition, Sarah learned to play accordion, just like her aunt Carole and grandpa John. With a love for polka, Sarah co-founded the Riverwest Accordion Club. Her “squeezing” talents led her to help form The Squeezettes, an accordion band that won local music awards and released a CD. They had fun playing at bars, weddings, celebrations, music festivals, Summerfest and so much more!
I certainly remember rocking to Sixty Watt Sarah. The hit All Night to Kansas City was one of many great songs. I can still hear the lyrics in my mind.
That was followed by other bands, but most certainly a favorite in Riverwest and around the town was the Riverwest Accordion Club. Eventually morphing into the Squezzettes.
We all will miss her. I will dig through my cd box and see if I can find the cd All Night to Kansas City. Peace and love Sarah. We will remember you and miss your voice and energy.
A Place that people need — the small personal touch.” –Bill Jordan
Mayfields – Closed for a long time. May Bill Jordan be happy in this world and the next. Sarah Kozar found a stage there.
It was just after nine on a Sunday night. Eudemon’s eyes were drawn to the red-orange neon sign that had just flashed on in the window on the other side of Pierce Street. It said Mayfield’s. Just above the window was a painted sign proclaiming that this was a House of Peace and Love. The building was an old Schlitz Tied House that was slightly out of position for a corner bar, a few numbers down the block from the corner. Bright colors had been painted on the wall where the Schiltz sign would have been. The door was open. Eudemon went in to find a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The proprietor, Bill Jordan, greeted Eudemon as Sarah the barkeeper, who dresses with a theatrical flair, served them a drink. Bill and Sarah talked about Mayfield’s while the sounds of Jazz floated around them. Sarah noted that Bill prefers the term sepia music, rather than Jazz, to describe the sounds that complement the low-lit atmosphere of the bar.
Bill grew up in Milwaukee and thinks our city is “the crown jewel in the heart of the country.” Bill talked a bit about his life. He fell into a musical career when he was a teenager. He learned the trumpet and at 16 toured the country with the Joe Turner orchestra for two years. He returned to Milwaukee to take odd jobs with the city. Music is part of his life. He bought this building in 1983. He opened up the bar in 1995 when he was 67. Bill said, “Some people get wild ideas. I wanted something good for the neighborhood. I wanted to give back to the city that had given me so much. I wanted a people place- a place to come sing, talk, play music. Something out of the ordinary.”
Sarah said musicians sometimes stop by and give an impromptu performance or join Bill on the small stage at the end of the bar. Bill Mason, guitarist, Tim Cook of the Riverwesteners, and singer Sarah Kozar have all been seen performing at the bar. Bill went up to the stage and sang along.
Eudemon asked Bill what happiness was to him when he returned from the stage. “Happiness is Mayfield’s. I know it makes me happy and I don’t please too easy.” Eudemon asked Bill if everyone was welcome at Mayfield’s. “If you have those standards. We got peace. We can swing,” said Bill. “People have been so delightful and receptive.” Bill moved down the bar to greet some patrons.
Eudemon asked Sarah how she liked her job. ” I love my job. I get to hang out with Mr. Bill Jordan all the time.” She gave Eudemon a card. It said: MAYFIELD’S, Home of happy feet, Finest in Sepia Music, 3315 N. Piece Street, 9 pm to 2:30 am Friday and Saturday, 9pm to 2am Sundays. Eudemon came back the next week with his friends. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 2 – March 2002
The building is still there, but the scene is a pleasant memory to those that had the fortune of being there.