Friends and fans of ailing bluesman "Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks flocked to the Commodore Barry Club yesterday, feasted on a lineup that included Shemekia Copeland and David Bromberg and swapped stories of the guy who "did a lot more than teach music," as one organizer put it.
And raised more than $20,000 for his recovery.
The money is needed to pay for his medical expenses and rehab in Croatia, where he is recovering from brain surgery. Ricks started getting headaches in August, and has not left the hospital since being diagnosed with a non-malignant tumor. He doesn't have insurance, according to his partner of 17 years, Nancy Klein. Croatian musicians have put on their own benefit for the bluesman who moved to the Balkan country six months ago.
At Sunday's benefit here, about 325 patrons listened to an afternoon and evening of blues and folk. They snapped up autographed guitars, CDs, t-shirts and other memorabilia -- all donated so Ricks could benefit from their sales. Top money - $500 - went to a black and white portrait of Ricks, taken by Jef Jaisun, the Seattle photographer, at West Coast blues festival.
After writing a column about Ricks' health and financial woes last week, I got phone calls from all sorts of people who had learned guitar from him, or known him from the days of the Philadelphia folk revivial in the late '60s and early 70s, when he washed dishes, swept up, and jammed with the best at the Second Fret.
"Everybody has a Jerry story," says Doug Waltner, a old friend who more recently hosted home concerts by Ricks. "Everybody says, 'Oh what a pain in the ass. But so many - musicians - said, 'He saved my life' or" He really turned me around.' I understand it. its a really strange thing. I figured this out thru this (benefit). Jerry did a lot more than teach music. People learned a lot of things from him that had nothing to do with music. God I hope he pulls through this and does well."