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Fort Wayne Musicians Pay Tribute to One of Their Own
The River City Rock & Rhythm Revue to raise funds for Team Ogg in “Light the Night” walk
By Ben Larson
Fort Wayne Reader
This past January, Fort Wayne lost one of its most beloved musicians, guitarist George Ogg, after a battle with cancer. Before passing away, Ogg stated that he wanted his team for the “Light the Night” walk (sponsored by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society), Team Ogg, to make a contribution to the event. On Sunday, August 21st at Freimann Square, some of the city’s finest musicians will assemble for a fundraising concert to not only pay tribute to the man himself, but also to help realize one of Ogg’s final wishes.
In his day, Ogg played a multitude of different styles of music, including progressive rock, rockabilly, jazz, jump blues, and swing. Dubbed “The River City Rock & Rhythm Revue,” the concert will reflect this diversity, featuring music ranging from folk to jazz, and will be performed by over three dozen local musicians. I recently sat down with the concert’s organizers, Gary Doan and Steve Smeltzer (an old friend of Ogg’s who played in many, many bands with him) and asked them about George Ogg and what makes this such a special tribute.
Fort Wayne Reader: How did you decide who to ask to play this concert? Are the performers all people who knew George?
Steve Smeltzer: That was our criteria, as a matter of fact, for selecting the people. It was whether you played with George, or George played in that band. So all the bands listed [on the schedule] are people that George played with, like The Bel Airs and The Jump Blues Band. There were so many people who wanted to play in tribute to him, you had to decide where to cut it off. We put out an invitation, and the responses we got were just overwhelming.
Gary Doan: It just wasn’t logistically possible to have everyone play who wanted to.
FWR: With that many people wanting to play, it seems pretty apparent that he was a well-loved man. What was it about George Ogg that made this many people want to pay tribute to him?
SS: Well, he was one of those guys who was so talented, but without any attitude at all. He was thankful for just about any situation, and always saw the bright side of things. Ever since high school, he just had that kind of vibe that everybody loved.
GD: I think it was just being a great musician, and then being an equally nice person. Everything just kind of happens naturally. You meet people, you make friends, you make connections on a musical level, and then you turn out to be a nice guy, too. You make a lot of friends that way.
FWR: Given that this isn’t just a memorial tribute, but also a fundraiser for an important cause, do you think that’s a good representation of the kind of man George Ogg was? That he wouldn’t want simply a memorial, but also something that would help raise awareness for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society?
SS: Yeah, definitely. And the thing about all this too, is that George, and maybe a lot of people are like this, but I got to see it firsthand, is this: We had a gig a couple of years ago, and he came and played. Come to find out, just the day before he had had chemotherapy, and this knocks people down so much, but he was out there and even carrying his own amp. You could tell he wasn’t on top, physically, but his spirit was so much that he just played the hell out of that gig. I don’t know if he ever missed a gig through all of this stuff. He was always just playing. There’s even a video of him at a gig in one of his last days, and he’s just playing his ass off. So I think a lot of us feel connected to him, because he was out there the whole time. A lot of people would probably be in a hospital somewhere, but he was always out there. It was so impressive to see that, and we want to carry on this fight for him.
GD: It’s almost like you look at him and you’re like “could I do that? Could I handle myself with that much courage and that much grace?” I hope so, but I don’t know if a lot of people could. It’s a tough thing.
FWR: So this a true labor of love, then.
GD: I think it’s definitely a testament to George. To get this many people involved on all these different levels. They all come together on that one thing, and everybody goes “yeah, we’re in. Let’s do it.” That’s what the whole tribute thing is about.
Club Soda will be hosting food and drink concessions, and a silent auction will also be held to help generate funds.
Again, the concert will be held on Sunday, August 21st at Freimann Square, from 2:00pm until 6:00pm, with a Rain Site scheduled for C2G Music Hall, located at 323 W. Baker St., just behind Parkview Field.
Acts include George’s former bands, The Bel Airs, West Central Quartet, Jump Blues Band, Rat Pack and Kevin Piekarski Quartet.
Guest Artists include, Jeff Stone, Chris Stone, Cliff Webb, Eric Clancy, Brian Derek, Joey Ortega, Steve Squires, Sunny Taylor, Matt Kelley, Bob Ferguson, Kenny Taylor, Derek Reeves, Michael Patterson, Jim Steele, Rick Brown, Carol Lockridge, Jim Baker, Kent Klee, Andy Stout, Skip Gambrell, Jamie Wise, Shannon Persinger, Shelly Sanders, Jerry Farrington, John Forbing, Doug Laughlin, Todd Ramsey, Dave Latchaw, Patrick Gillian, John Weber, Kevin Drew, Don Wharton, Holly Parks and undoubtedly some surprises.
The concert is free, but patrons are asked to make a cash donation to Team Ogg, in order to support them at the “Light the Night” walk. Smeltzer and Doan also want to make it known that absolutely everything for the event has been donated, and 100% of the proceeds with go directly to Team Ogg.