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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hang in There, Curtis!!!

I was pretty excited when I saw a poster at the used record store in Evanston - Curtis Salgado was coming to my suburb, playing at SPACE ("Society for the Preservation of Art and Culture in Evanston"), on August 11, a big Saturday night.  If you are a harmonica player who sings (like me), Curtis is who you want to be when you grow up.  I have been following Mr. Salgado for quite a while; he even has been a victim of this blog back in 2006.

A few weeks ago, I got on the SPACE web site to buy tickets and saw that the show was CANCELLED!!  "Uh oh," I thought.

Curtis is one of the under-appreciated super-talents of my generation.  He is my age (58), he is a fantastic white-boy soul singer and he is an amazing harmonica player.  Curtis has one main claim to fame - he was John Belushi's inspiration for the Blues Brothers schtick.  Curtis was playing the clubs around Eugene Oregon when Belushi and the National Lampoon gang were filming Animal House on the University of Oregon campus.  Curtis' style and talent fascinated big John, and he swiped much of Curtis' persona when he constructed the Blue Brothers - in fact, he split Curtis into two performers - the singer (Jake) and the harmonica player (Elwood).  Salgado was on the fringes of breaking through - he teamed up with Robert Cray for a while, he was the front man for Roomful of Blues,  he opened for Steve Miller in the early 1990's, he played on the Conan O'Brien show in 1997, he sang lead for Santana for a year.  Curtis toured heavily most of his career.  He also partied hard - alcohol, cocaine and a mix of other substances.  He had a "moment of clarity" during a coke binge, checked himself into the hospital in October 1988 and quit.  He stayed clean.

But the life he led left its mark  Or maybe it is genetics - Curtis' mom died of cancer when he was 23 years old.

In 2006, Curtis was diagnosed with liver cancer and was given eight months to live.  He had no health insurance.  He waited six months - the sands were running out of the hour glass.  Finally, he got a call to hot-foot it out to Omaha to receive a liver transplant.  The bills were massive - a series of benefits, donations from fans and fellow musicians and on-line contributions covered the bulk of the costs.  Curtis came back and hit the road, but he was taken down again in 2008 - a tumor metastatisized on his right lung.  That mass was removed, and he recovered again.  I saw him at the Chicago Blues Fest in 2010 and he killed it, man. Curtis Salgado live is an amazing experience.  No recording can capture his passion.  Here is a YouTube video that comes close.

So when Curtis cancelled his show in Evanston, I  knew he had cancelled his entire summer tour.  That can only mean that the cancer is back.  On July 18,  he went under the knife to have another mass removed, this time from his left lung. He lost a big chunk of his lung. Recovery is supposed to take about 4 weeks, and the doctors expect him to be back again.  I sure hope they are right.  I hope Curtis will retain his voice and his harp-playing skills with less lung in his body.  If you feel moved to contribute to his medical expenses, you can do so via his web site (click here).

Hang in there, Curtis. Please.

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