Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rich Cotton

Last Tuesday night Valerie, Dylan and I went to Rich Cotton’s Funeral Parade in Soulard. Rich died from liver disease just 2 weeks after our friend Sue died from the same thing. It’s given us all a lot to think about.

Drinking had always been part of who Rich was. We used to marvel at his ability to play when he looked like he should be falling off the stage.

He was one of the original members of the Soulard Blues Band. I’ve known him since the early 80s and there’s only one sax player I’ve ever known who even came close to his talent. That was the late great Big Joe Enloe, Tommy Bankhead’s sax player.

I think it was around 1990 and I was on the road with Rib Tip, Soulard Blues’ harp player. We were on our way to go camping when Jim said he had to call Artie. Artie is the bass player in the band. They had decided Rich’s drinking was interfering with the band and he had to go. It was early summer and they loved him so much they gave him until after New Years Eve, the most lucrative gig of the year.

I wondered what Rich would do without the band. My buddy Stephen Martin grabbed him and he played in The Mighty Big Band for the last twenty years of his life.

His playing only improved.

One night my friend Fojammi and I went to Hammerstone’s in Soulard to watch the band. We sat at the bar. For some reason Rich wasn’t playing. He sat next to us with a glazed look in his eyes. He seemed to be following our conversation but he was staring right through us. Finally he said something. “David, it’s you. I just had cataract surgery and I can’t see a thing.” Fojammi said, “Oh man, I thought you were just totally sh!t faced.” Rich finally made eye contact and said, “I am!”

I just got an email from Steve. There will be a jam session at The Missouri Bar and Grill this Sunday starting at 9:00pm. The Mighty Big Band has palyed that time slot for the last 20 years. It’s hard to believe we’re all that much older.

Dylan and I found ourselves bringing up the rear of Rich’s parade last Tuesday night. A Soulard resident came up to me and asked what we were celebrating. “We’re celebrating the life of one of St. Louis’ great musicians.” I said.

Early publicity shot of Rich in the band Adrastus. The rest are from the parade. My skydiving buddy Colorful Tom – Valerie, Dylan, Linda and Joe Sutterer – Brian Casserly - Dylan and me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts of my uncle Rich. I dont beleive anyone in our family knew just how serious Rich's drinking was. We just assumed it was part of the musicians lifestyle.I wish we could have helped him more before he became so ill. We will surely miss him and his music. Thanks to you and all his other friends for the parade it was a great tribute and a good time as well, he would have enjoyed it.
sincerely Tony Cotton