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Monday, January 26, 2015

Richard Crooks Memorial

Report on the Richard Crooks Memorial

As seen in previous blogs, The Richard Crooks, widely regarded as the finest musician in Key West,  memorial was Sunday, January 23. The gathering started at The Hog’s Breath Saloon and went flawlessly. The Hog’s Breath were very generous with their time, space, and furnished free Bloody Mary’s to all whom attended… and a lot attended!

We arrived there early with our friends Brian Fields and Michele Tafoya, who were visiting from Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a perfect day as well for January, 66 degrees ( 19C) and sunny!

As I say, a very, very good crowd was on hand and everyone was in good spirits to celebrate Richard’s gift of sharing his life with all of us. It was a very good thing indeed!

I saw Nina Robinson Crooks, Richard’s widow, whom I’ve known since shortly after I arrived in Key West, almost seven years ago. As anyone might imagine, this wasn’t easy for her. I did my best to comfort her. The crowd had several posters with a great picture of him on it for the parade. A great idea and they looked fantastic, but I knew that it was hard on her seeing his likeness. I gave her a few hugs of comfort.

Key West has had what’s known as a traditional New Orleans style funeral procession that has been going on since the beginning of time. Drums, Tubas, Trumpets, Flugelhorns, clarinets, saxophones, and percussion of many types, followed by a procession that headed down Duval St. from the Hog’s Breath to Sloppy Joe’s, where “The Pianamal”, Barry Cuda was playing. The parade marched right in! Of course, ‘Cuda had played with Richard for years at Sloppy Joe’s, the Hog’s Breath, B.O.’s Fish Wagon, The green Parrot, and many more venues about town.  As a matter of fact, they cut several albums together as well, with the same fabulous producer I used, Dan Simpson. A great rendition of “When The Saints Come Marching In” was done and then the parade, headed down Duval again and on to Southard, where it finished up  at the Green Parrot, for it’s final stop of the day.

When I was originally asked to help spread the word on the event, it was emphasized to me that this was not an “Event”, but a memorial for Richard. This was something that was asked to be emphasized.

In that vein I stated in the previous blog:

“For those planning on attending, understand, this is not an opportunity to suddenly be in the limelight and have an ego-explosion on the stage of the Green Parrot. “

First of all, the music was fantastic! Lot’s of people from all over. Key West, of course, New York City, where Richard spent around thirty years as a session drummer, even as far away as California! What a great honor. A sign up list was put out for those who wanted to play. I was right near it and signed in the number one slot.

Those who are familiar with my open mic know that I stick to the signup list like the Bible. It just saves mountains of headaches. People play where they sign up. This event I knew would be different than mine however. The musician who was doing stage management  has his own way of doing these things, which I respect. Seeing him have a signup list was a first, but when it was all said and done, there were around twenty signups, so it was really essential. It was a good call in my book.

As I say, the music was great! However, after the first set of musicians finished their set, it became very apparent that what had set out to be a memorial for a fallen friend, had turned into something akin to “The Ed Sullivan Show” or “Don Kirschner Presents!”. This was no longer a memorial, but an “Event!” or a “Show!”.

In addition to that, as it turned out, the Green Parrot had a 5:30 Soundcheck with a band they had contracted with prior. Bottom line, this event was ending at 5pm. The Green Parrot was not stage manager, for this event either. How the guy who was running stage management figured he'd have acts doing five, six songs each when there were a total amount of thirty people there ready to play... well, lets just say he has better musical skills, than he does stage management. We all have our fortes.

 However, this was Richard’s event. Everyone was there to pay their respects to him.

Richard had played with virtually everyone. Several albums with Bob Dylan, a good amount of recording with Paul Simon. David Bromberg was kind enough to fly into Key West and do a song in his honor and say some great words about his friend Richard. Much appreciated to all who came, be they from New York, California, or just around the corner.

As I mentioned, David Bromberg came in from New York and played one song, I think he got the idea of what a memorial was. David came on stage, said his piece regarding Richard, funny too, played a song, and left the stage so that others could do likewise. He's seen here playing with Paul Cotton of Poco. Thank you David Bromberg.

I was so fortunate to have cut an album with Richard, Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse). Plus, there are two tracks of his that will be on my next album “Jump Into de Fi Ya” as well. What an honor and a blessing indeed, not only to play with the maestro, but to get to know such a beautiful and damn funny human being! Damn. I’m lucky!  

Additionally, I’ve been to a lot of his gigs here in Key West and had a lot of laughs with him too. Richard and I had a similar view on life that included a good deal of mirth. My personal favorites for catching him play was most likely at B.O.’s Fish Wagon with Barry Cuda. Maybe Kenny Fradley on trumpet/flugelhorn, or perhaps Chief Billy on upright bass and harmonica.

Richard Crooks with Bong Hits For Geezers at B.O.'s Fish Wagon

The great part about it all was that a vast amount of people came to pay their respects to Richard, which was a great tribute to the man who so many loved, admired, and respected. The Green Parrot was stuffed to the gills! As mentioned, The parade was just super fantastic as well!

Godspeed Father Time. You are loved!  

Richard Crooks. Photo by Ralph DePalma Photography, Key West photo RichardCrooks_zpsb5e82787_1.jpg

Richard Crooks - Photo by Ralph DePalma Photography, Key West


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Thank you everyone!!

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