Family Picnic, Sister Style

JDF is always up up for any article even peripherally related to Johnny Dowd, but this one, I think, qualifies as VERY related! And Marjorie, we’ll take you up on that Johnny interview… – Ed.

Jyl Dowd: Radiantly unconventional and devoted

By Marjorie Olds | on October 14, 2020By Marjorie Olds

Emily Dowd (left) stands with her mother, Jyl Dowd, events coordinator for the Cancer Resource Center. Photo by Emily Dowd.

Practically a townie, Jyl Dowd has called Ithaca home since she was 6 years old. After her parents divorced, Jyl, her mother and the two next oldest siblings journeyed from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, to Memphis, Tennessee, and then to Ithaca (a move brought on by one of the two oldest siblings, who was attending Cornell University at the time).

Jyl remembers a lively, free-spirited, loving family life growing up. Graduating from East Hill Elementary School, under the tutelage of Principal Dan Lee (“Gentle Giant”), Jyl next attended the fledgling, short-lived New Junior High Program (NJHP), housed in the old Markles Flats building (at Court and Plain streets prior to demolition) and became one of 12 in the first graduating class of the Alternative Community High School (ACHS) in 1979. (NJHP and ACHS merged into what is now LACS, the school Jyl’s children later attended.)

Jyl’s mother, Virginia “Jinx” Dowd, founded the Labor Action Coalition, along with Dan Leahy, as part of the Cornell Human Affairs Program. Many of Jyl’s earliest memories are of being hauled out of the draft board during the “Mothers and Daughters Against the Vietnam War” sit-in, handing out flyers to future Cornell graduates to encourage them not to buy their gowns from child labor factories and protesting against nuclear power.

There were also many nights spent at school board meetings, as Jinx was very involved in the early stages of bringing alternative education to the Ithaca area with her good friends Leslie Puryear, Betty Halton and Teresa Grady.

After graduation, Jyl ventured out to Colorado, where she obtained her degree in nursing, only to return to Ithaca, her family and the network of progressives with whom her family lived, worked and celebrated.

“Once my biological clock started ticking, I knew the only place I would want to raise a child was Ithaca,” Jyl said.

Jyl’s daughter Emily now lives in New Orleans, but they visit each other often.

Upon return to Ithaca, Jyl devoted the next 13 years to working for HOMES, Inc., providing inclusive, integrated care for the mental health community managing the group home Evergreen, founded by Ron Mack.

After Lakeview Mental Health took over, the emphasis on integrating the residents into the community diminished and became more custodial, so Jyl resigned to stay home to take care of her mother and her new blended family (Gregar Brous and his three children). Though the two split up 15 years ago, the families remain close.

Some of Jyl’s fondest memories are of the time she spent as a groupie for her family’s band Neon Baptist, hosting “Melrose” parties with her friends of 25-plus years, lots of traveling with and without the kids, and attending every dance recital, play, concert and sporting events the children and their friends participated in.

Anyone who has ever attended one of Jerry Dietz’-Gregar Brous’ Taste of the Nation or AIDS RIDE feast in Stewart Park, the Just Be Cause Party or Cornbread for Kids will recognize Jyl Dowd. Community is part of her DNA, and organizing volunteers is one of her favorite pastimes, as anyone who has been recruited to work at one of her events can attest.

For the past 14 years, Jyl has served at the Cancer Resource Center (previously the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance) as the event coordinator. Many residents are touched by loved ones facing cancer, and the Center offers a wide array of services for those people.

“Whatever people need, we will try to provide,” Jyl said. “We offer support groups, peer-to-peer support, wellness activities, educational services, financial advocacy and a boutique with free head coverings and comfort bags.”

CRC also recruits, trains and supervises volunteers in the Cancer Services Department at Cayuga Medical Center to keep patients company while they are getting treatment and to bring them snacks.

Though affected by COVID-19, people are reassured they can call or email and arrange access to services. While Executive Director Marilee Murphy and Jyl are the only full-time staff, along with three part-time colleagues and a sizable group of amazing volunteers, they are able to continue to provide all of their services free of charge.

When I asked Jyl when she last visited the Boulder area, she told of taking a former resident who lived in the Lakeview Mental Health building on Cascadilla Street. Jyl casually mentioned that this former client now resides happily at Old 100, where he is encouraged to be an active member of the community and is very happy and well-loved.

Keep an eye out and you’ll see Jyl on her bike, living and pedaling around town. Fingers crossed that her older brother Johnny Dowd will read this, and we will get his take on local life soon.

The Cancer Resource Center is located at 612 W. State St. in Ithaca. For more information on the services offered, call (607) 277-0960 or email

– TompkinsWeekly

Focus on Low Profile: JT and John

JT and John, brothers from another mother

Staples: JT Tompkins
By Marjorie Olds
Oct 17, 2018

Many readers have been out of town, even out of the country when they need emergency tech assistance: They’ve washed their iPhone in with their clothes. They spill coffee on their keyboard.They forgot their charging cable. So, they make their way to a Staples store and feel comforted that everything seems familiar.

While chatting with JT Tompkins, manager of the Staples store in Ithaca someone comes in with their computer for a free intake analysis: How is the computer running? It takes no persuasion for the owner to spring for the $10 PC Tune Up. Tompkins: “It’s like an oil change, available 363 days a year […] Customers come in with a dropped phone, a cracked screen, to purchase additional memory or software, to have a new computer battery installed, or to arrange work done on a hard drive…Customers love the fact that they can follow up with their equipment wherever they take it, since Staples is available pretty much everywhere.”

Tompkins grew up listening to Ithaca musician Johnny Dowd’s music in Buffalo; and for some reason living in Ithaca was a mythological goal for him. When a company he joined after college invited the then-single Tompkins to move to Ithaca, he packed his car and made the drive. When the opportunity arose, Tompkins moved over to Staples and has spent the past seven years in the Ithaca store.

“I always wanted to ‘Get to Ithaca’ and once here, I fell in love with Ithaca,” he said.

“Doing business in retail in Ithaca has its challenges,” Tompkins said, but the ebb and flow of population, following the curve of the academic year, has not daunted him. Helping staff when scheduling, transportation, family or health issues arise has kept his personal skills fresh. “I get to spend time with all the associates and I like that, since I’m a networker. When their needs are met, we can all be invested in the game.”

Many of the staff have been with Tompkins for some time, and quite a few who have moved from Ithaca transfer to one of the other 1300 Staples stores across the country, even overseas.

“As manager, when things are humming along, I also get a chance to talk to customers, and before I know it, they are coming back,” Tompkins said. “I’m invested in the customers’ experience and I love the interactions.”

(He admits that his store gets lots of good Customer Reviews; and to celebrate he fills the refrigerator in the staff Break Room with fruits and vegetables and snacks.  (Frozen snickers bars are a staff favorite.) Customer surveys count!

Staff note Tompkins’s enthusiasm for Ithaca influences their decision to succeed at work and to savor the chance to live here too. When not working, Tompkins is known in the community as a Festival Guy.

He and a core group of friends put on a concert series in Newfield, NY each summer. One of his sidekicks, Vanessa Greenlee, raises the funding through local grants. This year Tompkins’s hero, Johnny Dowd, played the final concert, while the Fall Creek Brass Band, Notorious Stringbusters, Road Man and Anna Coogan wowed the audiences in the Pavilion on Main Street. (“A scene right out of Norman Rockwell.”). Everyone has a good time.

Tompkins mentions the Grayhaven Motel as another cool, albeit unusual, site for shows: “Gina Keicher did a poetry show there via Low Profile. Great people bought the Grayhaven, updated the site, while preserving the kitschy charm of the place. Everyone loves this locale and all our friends loved the show.” (Tompkins confides: “I’m working on a gourmet chocolate tasting event there soon. Chimes of Bayonets will be doing a Low Profile Show at the Bowl-a-drome soon. So, stay tuned.”)

He explains that he and his buddies are not in it for the money: “None of the shows make money, but it’s one way to give back to a great community; and the shows are attended by a big, sweet group of friends. It’s very DIY. We think of something we want to share, and we say, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Piled on his desk are t-shirts for the upcoming Cancer Resource Center Walkathon, which Tompkins and friends from work and out in the community are supporting. He heaps praise on the CRC staff and knows first-hand how much it means to families facing down cancer to have the community’s support. Tompkins, his wife and son will be joined by friends and co-workers walking together.

Frequent flyers at Staples on Meadow Street note that his larger than life personality has made the Ithaca Staples unique.  He modestly agrees: “Even though we’re a big box store, I really try to run the store like a mom and pop.  Everyone has accepted me into this great community, and my goal is to add to it and give back where I’m able.”

 – Original article

(Ed.-for further insights, here’s an interview with local promoter JT Tompkins on WRFI.)



Fantastic chocolate tasting and Bowl-o-Drome shows mentioned above have already happened, but  never fear-there’s another bowling/show event on March 30. Meantime, DO NOT miss the Johnny Dowd official CD release and bonus Family Art opening March 1 at the Grayhaven. You’ll get to see a new side to John’s wack sensibility, and a peek at his genetic co-conspirators talents as well. To top it all off, profit from the art sales goes to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. (That right, it’s yet another Dowd bringing that great cause to the table).

Thanks to Low Profile for making it happen…




The Making of Family Picnic


Mark your calendars-John’s official CD release and bonus Family Art show opening is March 1 at the Grayhaven in Ithaca, a venue making a really interesting cultural addition to the Ithaca scene . You’ll get to see a new expression of John’s wack sensibility, and a peek at his genetic co-conspirators talents as well. To top it all off, profit from the art sales goes to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. (That right, it’s yet another Dowd bringing that great cause to the table).

Thanks to Low Profile for making it happen…

                                                                                 – Ed.


Michael Edmondson and I are gearing up to cross the Atlantic with a whole passel of new tunes, along with some oldies and a couple of great covers. I’ll be bringing my buddy Park Doing to open for some of the shows. He’s wackier than I am, if you can believe that. The new record, “Family Picnic,” will be available March 1— at all the usual digital outlets and on CD at my site and on tour. Buy it!

Photo by Kat Dalton
Tour schedule:

Image may contain: John Dowd, standing and sunglasses


A Retrospective look at the making of FAMILY PICNIC

Johnny Dowd: new album in the Spring

photo: Kat Dalton

The new Johnny Dowd record is still a work in progress, but so far everything is going as planned and it should be available next Spring:

Headed into the studio yesterday to put the icing on the cake — that would be Kim Sherwood-Caso’s vocals. She totally nailed it. I’m really pleased with how the record is turning out. Roots rock, if you can believe that. Lots of guitar, courtesy of Mike Edmondson. Will release the CD in the spring.


Fan Collections Continued

First the news:
See you in TONIGHT outdoors at the Newfield Music Series at Mill Park! John and Mike and picnickers on blankets? What next?!?! (Love you,J.T.)

Now to the blog post:
Our favorite artists inspire and intrigue us, and what we feel when listening to music or viewing art belongs to us, the audience. One of JDF’s favorite pastimes is exploring how we bring that into our lives, by sharing fan, friend and music connoisseur reviews, collections, art and musings. (Check out this, and this, 
and OMG this.)

Recently we received this collection from Johanna aka RadioGirl Bodde, and we have been challenged:

“Enjoy (trying to figure out what it says…)!! ;-)”

Translate any part of this for us, or date and source an article, and we will send you a Present. By Mail. Who doesn’t love that?

Johanna says “my guess: between 1998 and 2004) Dutch magazines & papers”

I am also including now a few old concert tickets, that I found in my collages (I was bored…). That one in number 5 with the picture, from 013 Tilburg, looks really cool.


“Twelve songs from the Dutch radio, 1998 and 2001. Among which Johnny’s first ever appearance in The Netherlands. Recorded on a portable radio / cassette player and converted to MP3s on a laptop with floppy drive. Those were the days! 😉 Before you start to frown: the sound quality is surprisingly good. If you want them: …everything is properly name tagged for copyrights.”


“What’s the fun of collecting stuff, if you don’t share it, right? ;-)”


We couldn’t agree more, Johanna!

Jim White’s New T-Shirt

Jim White Plays Guitars & Talks Jesus At Dingwalls & St Mary’s Guildford

“He then told us about how he hooked up with Johnny Dowd for the album they did together as Hellwood and also just how quickly Johnny re-wrote Jim’s lyrics for A Man Loves His Wife a super dark and twisted tale that sounds like it was being played on a back porch in the middle of nowhere rather than in good old Dingwalls the venue he played the first time he played here.”

 – Posted by  | 29/11/17 |

 – Full Article