Yesterday afternoon I attended a memorial concert at the Musical Instrument Museum in North Phoenix. They have a fine theater and about 250 folks showed up to see over 60 musicians, arranged in 25 different acts, perform songs in honor of Joe Bethancourt.
Joe was a unique character. He was called the “Godfather of Arizona Folk Music” and I can’t argue with that much. He played 57 instruments – well. He was a walking database of Ozark mountain music history, which seems strange for a boy born in Texas and raised in Arizona. I guess he was one of the few folk-musicians I have known who has actually made a living at it. I laughed and joked with him at the Gilbert Folk Festival last February. It turned out to be his last Festival performance. He fell ill in April and died at the end of August (while I was on the road) after a being hospitalized for most of that time. I suspected it was cancer, but nobody has said.
Many of my best musician friends in Arizona were there. Jim Pipkin came out of “musical retirement” to offer a song and some touching words (thank you Jim). JC & Laney performed “This Train” with 3 other friends (Robby Roberson, Michael Mulryan, Bob Gibney). The group photo on the left is the largest configuration of Lon Austin’s “Mexican Beaded Lizard Band” I have ever seen (a whole bunch of folks just joined in). The ending was perfect – everyone singing along to a video of Joe performing “We’ll Meet Again”. You can enjoy it at this link: http://youtu.be/P9OU_NpGDSo
As I told Bob Zucker, the concert organizer, I’ve seen better concerts, but never a better wake. I hope my friends hold one half that good when my days are done.