Some might be familiar with my blog, for others perhaps this will be the first time you ever read it. I took a break for a little bit there because I kind of thought I ran out of things to say. I’m hardly ever at a loss for words honestly. Friday I was. I was informed from one of the Revolution Brass Band members that my old friend John Kuegeler had passed away. This wasn’t just some random guy that I met on my Cleveland journeys. John was an old friend from high school. I was able to reconnect with him 20 years later like the 20 years never even went by. This isn’t no ordinary death either. There was no illness. There were no warning signs. I don’t even know how John passed away at the point. This was the out of left field crazy tragic death that shocks everyone.
I reconnected with John while I was at the Happy Dog taking some photos for the Brent Kirby CD release. I know the date even. It was April 10th 2010. I did a double take and gave him a big old bear hug and bought him a drink. We got to talking a bit and closed the place down. We caught up on this thing we call life and what he was up to. After the show we hung out on a few occasions. We went to see Nomo at the Grog Shop, caught a gig or two at Bela Dubby, and did dinner at Mi Pueblo. We continued bumping into each other at shows, and while he was on the clock at the coffee shop. He knew I was doing this blog, he read it, he liked it, but never once was he like Jay you have got to come see us and blog about my band. He was more interested in my quest to discover new places to go and bands to check out.
He was more excited about the stuff I was doing than I think I was. It became routine for me to go to an opening, or dinner or a show, but for him it was like this little bit of envy. It was like wow, I wish I could be doing what you are doing. All along though it has always been man I wish I could be doing what he was doing or what many of the artists and musicians out there are doing. I wish I had that kind of talent. I wish I could be a part of that scene or get up there and sing with the band. When he talked about a project he was working on he talked about it the way I talked about trying something new on this blog. He immersed himself into whatever project he was working on. If it was something he wasn’t into he just wouldn’t do it. Time is just too short to not do what you makes you happy or what gets you off. I learned my lesson John, I get it. That’s why I started doing this blog in the first place. I was getting stale. I was doing the same thing every weekend going through the motions just to belong to something. I wasn’t taking advantage of life.
We never really talked too much about the past. We certainly did have some good times back then but it was a different world. I remember picking him up at his house to go to a concert or just go to Coventry or wherever it was we used to hang out. We used to be in a church group together even. There was a lot of stuff we used to do, but it never was about that. John was a forward thinker and he didn’t have much time for the past. If I see someone from the glory days of high school they tend to want to play the “Remember that one time when…”. John was different he wanted to know what I was working on, and tell me about what he was working on.
I went to see him play with the Revolution Brass Band a couple times, but with work and whatnot it wasn’t as much as I really wanted to. The one time I went I saw the mic he was using to sing with looked like the biggest piece of shit ever. The sound was terrible. So, I looked in the garage at some of my gear I hadn’t been using and brought him up a couple mics, some cords and a mixer. I wasn’t using them. I tried to “get the band together”, but I just didn’t have much talent beyond a marginal set of pipes. I knew John didn’t really have much dough and I knew my rock and roll singer pipe dream was not going to fly. So, I gave them to him. Well first off, he took it all out of the bag and inspected everything the way a kid at Christmas would a new toy. The next thing he did is asked when I wanted them back. When I told him never he just smiled and gave me a huge hug and a thank you. I told him I had Sinatra chops though and I’d like to sing or record with him one day and that could be the payback. I’m bummed I never got to fulfill that part of the bargain, but whatever. I know he used everything and truly appreciated the gesture.
I’m pretty amazed at all the messages I am seeing on Facebook, and the outpouring of love everyone is giving him. I am not shocked or surprised by it though. John’s personality was infectious. There were times we went out where he was counting every single dime he had to make sure he was able to afford a tip. I am not a rich guy but I didn’t mind buying him a couple drinks at the bar. He was grateful for every single small gesture that most of my friends completely take for granted. It’s a beer dude, don’t worry about it I would say. I was so happy when he got that grant recently. It would afford him the luxury to do his thing. To compose music and better himself as an artist. The last I talked to him he was planning on heading out west to get his mind clear and get a little change of scenery. We talked for a bit at the coffee shop, and a crowd of folks came in and he got slammed. I left slipping a twenty in the tip jar and that was the last time I saw my friend John Kuegeler.
Life is too short to be messing around with the past, and to not be doing the things you love to do. Lesson learned my friend, lesson learned. You were an amazing talent, a true friend and adored by many. Cleveland and the world just lost some amazing talent and a great guy.