Archive for the ‘R.I.P.’ Category

R.I.P. Vernon Ruppert

September 18, 2016

Vernon Ruppert passed away September 9 at his h0me in California. Vern was a musician, band leader, and impresario of Baltimore music in the early 1960’s. Attached is his obituary.

[thanks to Vern’s son-in-law, Darryl Roberts]



R.I.P. George Peacock

September 13, 2016

We just received word from his bandmates that George Peacock, sax player for the Epics, passed away last Saturday morning as the result of cancer.


George Peacock, Epics Reunion, 8/18/2001

George was an original member of the Epics from the 1960’s. The band reconnected in 2001 and played a major role in the success of the second Baltimore R&B Jam at Overlea Hall in 2002.

There is a Visitation Wednesday and Thursday 4-9 pm at the CVACH/ROSEDALE FUNERAL HOME 1211 Chesaco Ave. in Rosedale. Friends may gather on Friday from 10-11am with funeral services beginning at 11 am.

Obituary published in Baltimore Sun on Sept. 13, 2016


George Peacock playing tenor sax with the J305 Ray Charles Tribute Band

R.I.P. Tommy Thompson

June 28, 2016

Tommy Thompson died this morning, June 28. I saw the announcement posted on Facebook by his kids .


Tommy Thompson with Pen Lucy, circa 1970

My memories of Tommy  are mostly from the mid-‘60s. He played with The Elegants and I knew a couple guys in that band. I used to see them at Hollywood Park, and alternate with them there with the Majestics. The Tommy I knew back then was a sharp and talented musician who was always a significant contributor to any band he was in. Like Tommy, I always saw myself as a multi-instrumentalist, and he shared some of his knowledge with me on both bass and drums. These weren’t lessons … just little things, discussed on the bandstand at Hollywood Park between sets, but they are things I still remember that helped move me forward with what I wanted to do.


Tommy Thompson on bass with The Elegants, circa 1965

Fast forward 40 years and Tommy jumped into the Ray Charles Tribute band on tenor sax for Jam 3 at Bobby B’s Palace. I didn’t get to talk to him much that day, but I saw him help organize the sax section on the spot, with courtesy and camaraderie, for that spontaneous performance.


Tommy Thompson on tenor sax with the J308 Ray Charles Tribute Band, June 19, 2005.

Three years later Tommy signed on to play bass with the big band for Jam 4, also at Bobby B’s, and I got to talk with him a little bit more. That was a great band, and Tommy’s bass playing with Dave Tucker on drums was solid as a rock.


Tommy Thompson playing bass with the J408 Big Band, October 4, 2008

In 2012 the last Jam at Padonia Station also featured a big band, with multiple vocalists doing all custom arrangements, and once again Tommy nailed the bass. These were performances for all fun and no pay .. just for the love of the music and the fellow musicians who played it. They were also spontaneous … zero rehearsal … not an easy gig. At that last Jam I got to talk to Tommy a little more, and I also got to meet his wife. As his friend on Facebook I felt his deep pain when she died.

As a musician, Tommy was a true professional … something to be held in very high regard. My knowledge of Tommy as a person is limited, but I can say in every small instance that I knew him he was gracious and smart. I didn’t get to see Tommy very often over the years, but I will sure miss knowing he’s out there.

R.I.P. Phil McCusker

February 28, 2016

[from Tim McCusker]

My brother, Phil McCusker, passed away last week in Silver Spring, MD. Phil worked in The Admirals, 1968-69, then went into the Army for 3 years. On his return to the Baltimore area he played with Rody Barthemes, Mike Jones, Hiram Bullock, and many others. He went to the University of Miami where he studied bass with Jaco Pastorius and earned a degree in guitar and composition.

In Washington, DC, Phil played and wrote for Tim Eyermann & East Coast Offering and later was a leader for Gene Donati Orchestras.

Phil fought a battle against ALS which finally took his life on February 17, 2016.

[NOTE: Phil participated in BaltimoreJam J512 with the “Freelancers” led by Rody Barthelmes.]


R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

December 5, 2013

nelson mandela







The End of an Era

September 24, 2013

Volkswagen announces it will stop production of the VW Bus, first introduced in 1950 and the 2nd VW model produced after the Beetle. Brazil is the last remaining producer of the VW Bus, and that country’s impending requirements for air bags and anti-lock brakes in new vehicles has prompted the company to discontinue, rather than upgrade, the classic “hippie van.”

If you ever owned one, you know why this is sad. If you are of a certain age, this news just made you feel a little older.

VW Microbus

VW blueprint

VW Woodstock

R.I.P. Michael G. Athas

July 10, 2013
Michael G. Athas obit photo

Michael G. Athas (Baltimore Sun / June 8, 2007)

From the Baltimore Sun Obituaries …

Michael G. Athas, owner of Club Venus
His nightclubs attracted some of the biggest names in entertainment

Michael G. Athas, who during a more than 30-year career in the entertainment business established some of the Baltimore area’s most memorable and legendary nightclubs, died Monday from a glioblastoma at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was one day shy of this 87th birthday.

The son of Greek immigrants George and Arhontoula Athanasakos, Michael George Athanasakos — who later changed the family’s name to Athas — was born in York, Pa.

“During the Great Depression, financial strain necessitated his father to send the family to Greece to live with grandparents while he pursued scarce job opportunities in the U.S.,” said a son, George M. Athas of North Potomac.

The family returned to Baltimore in 1938, where the elder Mr. Athas owned and operated the Capitol Grill on West Baltimore Street. Mr. Athas “worked long hours at his father’s restaurant” and on weekends sang with the church choir at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, his son said.

After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1944, where he had been valedictorian, he enlisted in the Navy. He was trained as a radio technician and served in the Pacific. At the end of World War II, Mr. Athas received a full scholarship to attend the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Mr. Athas, who first worked with Industrial Research Laboratories and later with the aerospace division of Aeronca Manufacturing Corp., decided on a career change in 1960 and entered the entertainment industry.


R.I.P. Fontella Bass

December 28, 2012

July 3, 1940-December 26, 2012

Fontella Bass was born in St. Louis and learned gospel from her mother, Martha Bass, a member of the Ward Singers. She played piano for her mother but eventually got the itch to sing secular music. By the early 1960s she was playing with Little Milton, a blues guitarist and singer with links to the Chess label in Chicago.

After early recordings with Little Milton’s Bobbin label in St. Louis, she joined Chess and released her first records on its Checker subsidiary in early 1965. She had modest success on the R&B charts with a couple Bobby McClure duets, but her career was made by “Rescue Me,” released later that year.

A major crossover hit, the song reached No. 4 on Billboard’s pop chart and has remained a staple on oldies radio, movie soundtracks and television commercials.

Following a 1993 settlement from American Express for unpaid royalties, she said that she “rescued herself” when she began to stand up for her rights as an artist.

[Edited from full NY Times obituary …]

R.I.P. Bede Augustine Clarke

December 17, 2012

Last Tuesday I learned about the loss of a dear friend. He died on December 5.

When I met Bede at Parkville High School he was “Bud.” When we became friends he became “Clyde.” When he signed up as a Navy pilot he was Bede, and remained Bede from then on.

He was not a musician, despite the occasional trombone lesson I gave him. He was an artist, a sociologist, a writer, a philosopher, a military officer and Apache helicopter pilot. He lived mostly in Baltimore, MD, and part time in Gulfport, Alabama. I live far away from both of those, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We rarely saw each other over the last 40 years, and had very little contact, but our friendship always remained.

Bede loved my wife and I — he was Best Man at our wedding in 1968 — and we loved him. I never missed him more than the day I learned he was gone. Now, I’ve missed him every day since and will continue to miss him each and every day to come.

Bede A. Clarke

Bede A. Clarke - April, 1967

Bede Clarke, taken 2011 at the Naval Aviation Museum

R.I.P. Ivan Eugene Bowser Jr.

November 28, 2011
Ivan E. Bowser Jr. 1963

Ivan Bowser, from the 1963 Parkville High School yearbook

We learned over the Thanksgiving holiday of the death on Tuesday, November 22, 2011, of Mr. Ivan Bowser . We write here often (and unfortunately) of the passing of our peers in the Baltimore music scene. Sometimes we write of educators, mentors and influences on our shared ability and desire to make music. Ivan Bowser was all of these.

Mr. Bowser (I could never call him Ivan, even as an adult) was a major influence on the entire Parkville contingent of Baltimore musicians of our era. If you don’t believe me, add up the number of trumpet players within a 4 mile radius of Parkville who double on flute (as Mr. Bowser did). It’s a surprising number. I even doubled on flute, and I was a trombone player.

Mr. Bowser was my band teacher, first at Parkville Jr. High, and then all through Parkville High School (1961-64). He was the coolest guy I knew. He was passionate about the school band sounding good, even when it was just a rehearsal and the venue was a smelly cafeteria, and shared his insights on music and other things in small impromptu groups … like improvisational teaching. He held orchestra rehearsals daily, even when the orchestra totaled 6 people, and led by example as a working musician in addition to teaching. Oh, and he also coached the very successful school golf team–just to add to his cool factor.

Random Ivan Bowser memories:
• he knocked Miles Davis as a sloppy trumpet player
• he admired the work of Stan Freeberg and his musical collaborator, Billy May
• he could keep perfect time with his foot while holding a conversation
• he owned the first VW Beetle convertible I ever saw (and which I and a few friends proved could be lifted onto a sidewalk — he was neither impressed nor amused)
• he was very happy that Parkville H.S. did not have a marching band, and shared the band’s reticence when we had to pull one together for the occasional requisite community parade

Thanks to Mr. Bowser I was introduced to Hank Levy, Stan Freberg, Mozart, jazz, the double bass and German bow, the possibility of a brass player doubling on flute, the value of good meter, the value of diverse living. He was the “un-teacher” … teaching not always through instruction, but also by just offering something interesting to pay attention to.

The last time I saw Mr. Bowser was 40 years ago … I ran into him on break at a country club where we were both gigging, with different groups for different audiences. That seemed right somehow. Peace, Mr. Bowser.

Ivan Bowser with the Baltimore Inter High School Orchestra, 1946

Ivan Bowser Jr. (right) representing City College with the Baltimore Inter High School Orchestra, 1946 (from The Baltimore Sun archives, thanks to Donald Barto Sr.)

Mr. Bowser playing flute at the Parkville High School Jazz Night, 1964.

Mr. Bowser playing flute at the Parkville High School Jazz Night, 1964, with a combo from Hank Levy's band. (from the 1964 Parkville High School year book)