Bill Bennett, owner of Off Wall Street Jam, a Tribeca studio space that gave busy executives room to release their inner rock star, died on Oct. 7 of head injuries sustained in a car crash on Sept. 26 in Greenwich Village. He was 49 and lived in Murray Hill.
At the Jam, Bennett nurtured the musical aspirations of all his members, from high-powered bankers to what Bennett called the starving artists group, who did not have to pay the annual membership fee to use the five practice studios and other facilities in the two-story Jam space at 47 Murray St.
He definitely built a community with all types of people, said Tyrone Johnson, an employee of the Jam and a friend of Bennetts.
Bennett joined Off Wall Street Jam as a member in 1992, and for five years he played bass and sang there after his job as a photographer agent. When he heard in 1997 that the owners were preparing to sell, Bennett made a big career change.
Bill just decided he couldnt live without the jam, so he bought it, took it over, said Elaine Carinci, Bennetts long-time companion who shared an apartment with him in Murray Hill.
Bennett transformed the jam into a full-service membership organization, Carinci said. In addition to providing jam space, equipment, and networking opportunities for his members, Bennett also booked gigs for them throughout the city. His clients played in such spots as Tribeca on Warren St. and The Village Underground.
Before he joined Off Wall Street Jam, Bennett spent years as a professional musician. In the 1980s, one of his bands toured with the Ramones, Carinci said. But eventually, like many of his Jam clients, Bennett settled down.
Bennett explained the rationale behind his club in an April, 2003 interview with the Downtown Express.
Plan A is youre going to be a rock star or professional musician, Bennett said. Most of the smarter plan A people eventually go on to plan B. They become investment bankers, stockbrokers, lawyers and doctors or other more lucrative professions. The Off Wall Street Jam can then become Plan C for them.
A lifelong New Yorker, Bennett grew up on the East Side of Manhattan. He received a B.A. in social sciences from Stony Brook University in 1983.
Bennett is survived by his mother, Julieanna Bennett-Blue, of Amsterdam, New York, and a sister, Tara Bennett Golemann, of Williasmburg, Massachusetts. Bennetts family received friends on Saturday at Greenwich Village Funeral Home. A memorial service for him is being planned for Oct. 19, which would have been his 50th birthday. For more information, visit the Jams Web sit at www.panix.com/~owsj/
Bennetts associates said they would work to keep Off Wall Street Jam open. One of the Jams beloved traditions was Bennetts weekly e-mail bulletin. Along with schedule information and member postings, it featured Bennetts Dr. Sharpley advice column, where he would make up music-related questions and answer them with humorous and helpful tips from his psychomusicologist persona.
At the end of his bulletins, Bennett would always sign off with, Thanks for playing.