Archive for the ‘R.I.P.’ Category

R.I.P. Al Crawford

September 28, 2019

I’m writing this today to pay tribute to an unsung hero of the 1960s Baltimore music era. Al Crawford died peacefully on September 17, 2019, surrounded by family and friends in Plano, Texas, after a long fight with kidney and heart failure. He was just one week shy of his 77th birthday.

Al loved the music, and the musicians who were playing it in that dynamic era of Baltimore music we talk about here. He didn’t play a musical instrument, so instead he played finance, and marketing … and friendship.

I met Al when I joined the Dynamics in 1963. We rehearsed in the basement of his house off Dulaney Valley Road. He was our great cheer leader and manager. He booked our gigs and connected us to a University of Maryland fraternity where we played a number of very “memorable” parties. He was, as Dynamics trumpet player Don Barto put it, “A big man with a big smile, and a big heart.”

In later years, Al pitched in to help me put on the various Baltimore Jams. He handled the money so I could handle the rest, and in 2002 when the balance of payments came up miserably short, he personally underwrote the event.

I have flippantly said of “Big Al” that he was the only band manager I ever had who didn’t cheat me out of money, but he didn’t do it to be a business manager, honest or otherwise. He did it for the same reason we all played it … for the love of the music and love of the band. Along with everybody else who ever knew him I’m sure, I will miss Big Al.

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R.I.P. Bill Holland

December 17, 2018

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Bill’s name isn’t the most familiar among Baltimore musicians, but throughout his days at Parkville High School he was the tenor sax player in The Poker Chips, a band of teenagers that set a standard as young professionals.

We just learned of Bill’s death which occurred this past August following a bout with cancer. He leaves behind his son, Andres, whose place in Bill’s life was a story in itself. Bill and Andres attended the last Jam in 2012 … it was great to see them.

We didn’t like saying we were “old friends,” lest the “old” be applied to our age rather than the length of our friendship, so we referred to each other as our “friendship of long duration.” Goodbye old friend.

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Jay Stermer Killed by Drunk Driver

December 27, 2017

Jay Stermer, founding member and keyboardist/arranger for the Admirals, was killed by a drunk driver while walking his dogs just after midnight on Saturday, December 23, 2017. He was killed when a rear-ended car was flung into him. Jay was 74 years old.

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Jay Stermer, a Wellington High School parent who plays music and sound effects during Wolverine baseball games, is seen in 2008. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach Post news story.

To the best of my knowledge there was not another musician out of the Baltimore band scene of the 1960s who was more well known and more respected than Jay Stermer.

I never knew Jay personally, but I knew who he was from the time I was in Jr. High School. I can only speak to his reputation — I’ll leave it to those who knew him to comment — but that reputation was one of a driving musical force behind arguably the most successful and popular band to come out of that era of Baltimore music.

For me, personally … when I was about 12 years old I saw the Admirals at their regular Sunday gig at Beaver Springs. They were up in the loft of the pavilion playing music everyone wanted to hear, in the way everyone wanted to hear it, and having a lot of fun doing it. My desire to “play in a band” came straight from the Admirals that day.

It’s all the more sad to lose Jay in this tragic way.

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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]

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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.

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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

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.]

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R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

December 5, 2013

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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.

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R.I.P. Michael G. Athas

July 10, 2013
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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.

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