Local Current Blog

Photos: Bees, bluesies play loving tribute to Willie Murphy at the Cabooze

The Willie Murphy Band at the Cabooze "Fairytales" Willie Murphy Tribute on Feb. 17, 2019. All photos by Emmet Kowler for MPR.

After Willie Murphy passed away on Jan. 13, friends and fans hastened to post remembrances of the West Bank trailblazer online. Last weekend, Murphy’s community gathered to honor him in person: first on Saturday at an Augsburg Chapel memorial service, then on Sunday at “Fairytales,” a Cabooze tribute show and celebration of life. The Cabooze party lasted about six hours, packed wall-to-wall with people and performances with Murphy’s former bands the Bees (who started many a dance party from 1969-84), the Willie Murphy Band, and the Angel Headed Hipsters (his most recent group, named after figures in the famous Ginsberg poem “Howl”).

Before the Murphy triptych (Bees, Band, and Hipsters), artists Paul Metsa, Phil Heywood, “Detroit” Don King, Dakota Dave Hull, and Jim Price performed short sets in the folk/blues orbit. Reggae/funk band Ipso Facto spent a glorious half-hour jamming through songs like “All Rise” and the Beatles’ “Blackbird.” “Spider” John Koerner, Murphy’s old associate of Running, Jumping, Standing Still co-fame, sat on a chair and performed one song with the lyrics, “Don’t the stars look pretty,” and, “Don’t the flowers look pretty.” He’d later join the Willie Murphy Band to read the jazzy spoken-word lyrics to “Mud Puddle” from Murphy’s 2009 album A Shot of Love in a Time of Need.

The bands tapped members in and out, including Joe Demko on bass; Binky Griptite (aka Frank Stripling) on guitar; Javier Trejo on vocals; Maurice Jacox on vocals; Howard Merriweather on vocals; Eugene Hoffman on saxophone; Max Ray on saxophone; Hye Pockets on drums; Mike Velasquez on drums; and many more (if you can identify other performers, please comment below, and we’ll credit them here).

Special surprises included soul legend Willie Walker’s attendance and subsequent performance of Dylan classic “Blowin’ In The Wind”; and host Bobby Vandell’s reading of a message from Bonnie Raitt, who recorded her 1971 debut album in Minnesota with Willie and the Bees.

See photos of the Cabooze event below.

Photos by Emmet Kowler: