Monday, November 2, 2015

Michael Rippee, 1947-2015

Since today is Day of the Dead It seems an appropriate time to commemorate the passing of my cousin Michael Rippee.

He died October 3rd. I don’t think I’ve really come to grips with this fact. In my life, Mike has always been there.

He was a musician, a drummer, since his early teens (before that he played trumpet). His parents, Garland and Pat, were completely supportive of his music. The family went to the Monterey Jazz Festival every year (and as an honorary sibling I often went along with my cousins, Mike and David).

Mike’s commitment to his music was total. He was a working musician, certainly not a rock star. Throughout his career he played straight-ahead jazz (his first love), rock, blues, big band swing, Texas swing, Dixieland, country (and western), with pop cover bands and probably anything else that he had the opportunity to try his hand at.

He began his career with the obligatory garage band, in this case, the Rumblers later known at various Battle of the Bands as the Rumblemen.

An interruption for a less musical tour during the Viet Nam War. (But Mike managed to find jam sessions in the Philippines).

                    (A slightly more hirsute version of the Rumblemen)

From there to the sorta-psychedelic, The Flight, to the jazz-rock band Moss (they played the Fillmore West in 1970).

A long tenure with south Bay Area local legends, The Collective Works.  Up in the Sierras with the Texas swing band, the Legendary Stardust Cowboys (and a lot of chili cook-offs).   And with the Hangtown Jazz Company (they played the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee).

Other projects included Caught in the Act, Crosscut and in latter years, the Blues Defenders.

Johnny Rawls, Mike, and Jeff Piche
Jamming with Kenny Neal
The Blues Defenders of Sonoma county hosted a highly successful weekly pro jam. Mike had the chance to jam with Terry Hanck, Zakiya Hooker, Elvin Bishop, Chris Cain, Ron Thompson, Kenny Neal, Lloyd Meadows, Jackie Payne and numerous others. The Defenders have been featured at the Sonoma County Blues Festival and Russian River Blues Festival.

Cousin Mike with Bill Bowker of KRSH radio, Donny Mederos and Johnny Rawls
Over the years Mike had long working relationships (and friendships) with a remarkable array of fine musicians including Bishop Norman Williams, Johnny Rawls, The  Jonutz Brothers (aka Cold Blood Horns), Steve Campos, Larry Stewart, Bob and June Williams, Dave Cardoza, Olen Dillingham, Jimmy Rivers, Lydia Pense and Rick Kellogg  (this is a short, inadequate, list to be sure).

Mike had three children and a considerable network of family and friends.
I was fortunate to be part of that family.

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