If there is one constant in the Detroit blues music community, it is that people care for each other's well-being.
The newest demonstration of that is a benefit planned for guitarist Kenny Parker from 3-9 p.m. on Sunday at 1477 Bistro in Troy.
|KENNY PARKER (BluesPhotos by Don McGhee)|
Parker, a St. Clair Shores resident, had a benign tumor surgically removed from his brain in February. Like many musicians, he had no medical insurance at the time of his diagnosis and initial testing. According to Parker, he now has insurance thanks to a family member, who used his life savings. But, Parker remains debt ridden.
His many friends in the blues community hope to alleviate that financial pressure a bit with Sunday's fundraiser.
"Detroit is good for that," said musician and bandleader RJ Spangler. "We don't have the blues scene we had in the old days when I was younger, but the guys who are here look out for each other.
"Detroiters come together, they ask no questions, but just want to help out. There's a good brotherhood and sisterhood in Detroit."
The tumor, which was around and in Parker's hearing canal, was diagnosed in June 2011 and it was six months before doctors found a medication that worked to control his pain.
"The medication was brutal," Parker said. "It made me feel like I was wearing lead shoes and that I was underwater. It made me nasty and mean."
Last fall, Parker had another episode and even a double dose of the medication was no longer effective.
So, on Feb. 4, neurosurgeons at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit removed the tumor.
"The tumor was probably growing in there at least 15-16-17 years, because it was slow growing," Parker said. "It had compromised my balance and hearing so slowly that I didn't even know it."
Following the surgery, at first his fine motor skills were affected to the point that he couldn't even write his name. Now, after rehabilitation and daily mental and physical exercises, his motor skills are slowly returning and surgeons promise him he will return to normal within six months.
He is irreversibly deaf in his right ear and has some facial paralysis, but that also is improving.
"In certain aspects, I'm as good as new," said Parker, who has been building his stamina by walking at least an hour every day. He hopes to play some at Sunday's benefit and is pointing toward playing a gig in Manchester with the Back Door Blues Band, which he is now a member of, on May 18.
"Now that the medication is out of my system, I have more energy than I've had in a long time, and more enthusiasm."
The lineup for Sunday's benefit reads like a "who's who" of Detroit blues musicians.
The event begins with solo sets by Leonardo Gianola (3 p.m.) and Carl Henry (3:20 p.m.). Henry, who recovered from a flesh-eating virus that landed him in intensive care and near death, benefited from three fundraisers last year.
"It was a real lifesaver," Henry said. "They literally kept a roof over my head during my recovery. The outpouring by the Detroit blues community whenever someone is in need is outstanding. I'm proud to be a part of it and always have been. I can't say enough about how good it was to have it come back around to me when I needed it.
"I've known Kenny a long time and I couldn't be happier to help anybody out. ... When you are down, you need all the help you can get."
Some of Detroit's best electric blues bands will perform after the solo sets, starting with the Root Shakers (4 p.m.), and followed by Howard Glazer and the EL 34s (4:45 p.m.), the Back Door Blues Band (5:30 p.m.), Laura Rain & the Caesars featuring George Friend (6:30 p.m.), the All-Star Detroit Blues Band (7 p.m.) and the Broken Arrow Blues Band (8:15 p.m.).
The All-Star Detroit Blues Band features frontman/drummer Tino Gross of the Howling Diablos; guitarist Bobby Murray, who played with the late Etta James for more than two decades; keyboardist/singer Chris Codish of The Brothers Groove; and harmonica player/singer Garfield Angove (The MillionAires); as well as youthful guitarist Carlton Washington; harmonica player Brian Miller, bassists Bob Conner (The MillionAires) and Jeff Yondrick; and Spangler (Planet D Nonet) on drums.
"I am extremely humbled that all those musicians would do that for me," Parker said. "I am unbelievably honored to have rubbed shoulders with all these people and that they feel a kinship toward me."
Parker, 60, has been a fixture on the Michigan rock 'n' roll and blues scene since the mid-1970s.
He grew up in Albion, played in his first band (The Esquires) at age 14, and graduated from Eastern Michigan University. From there, he went on to study the blues by performing with many of Detroit's great musicians who have since passed on.
He played with Louis "Mr. Bo" Collins and had a long association with Clarence and Curtis Butler in the Butler Twins Blues Band. Parker's fine 1998 solo recording, "Raise The Dead" (JSP Records), also featured the Butler Twins and harmonica player Darrell Nulisch.
Henry knows that Sunday's event will give his buddy a lift, both financially and emotionally.
"You never feel as alone as when you have an illness, whether you are lying in a hospital bed worrying about making it, or whether you are at home recovering and worrying about how the next bill is going to be paid," Henry said. "It gives you an emotional boost when people show their love, whether by organizing the event, helping out, or just coming and giving a couple bucks to help somebody along. All those things mean the world to you.
"The emotional boost you receive is overwhelming."
FYI - A Fundraiser For Kenny Parker will be held from 3-9 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at 1477 Bistro (formerly Mario's of Troy), 1477 John R, Troy (248-588-6000). A $10 donation is suggested. All proceeds go to defray Parker's medical expenses.
To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com