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Deaths of local musicians remind us of their health care needs

Peter Mongillo, Music Source

Staff Writer
Austin 360
LZ Love performs during the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians benefit day on Oct. 4. The daylong event raised more than $230,000.

During the past two weeks, Austin lost two members of its music community, local rapper Octavis Berry and Johnny Dee of swing band the Rocket 88s.

Berry, 30, who performed as "Esbe the 6th St. Bully" in the groups Dred Skott and League of Extraordinary Gz, died of a pulmonary embolism on Oct. 14.

Johnny Dee, 60, whose real name was Keith Landers, died Oct. 17 after a dialysis appointment. The Rocket 88 s were still performing regularly, and even had a show scheduled for last week.

The losses are a reminder that the people who work to help Austin maintain its reputation as a music hub are not immune to the health issues that affect the rest of the population.

Austin is not ignorant about this - the annual benefit day for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, which helps provide low-cost health care to Austin musicians, raised more than $230,000 for the program, topping last year's total of $195,000.

That money will help pay for primary health care, basic dental care and mental health counseling for people making up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (about $26,000 for one person or $44,000 for a family of three).

Carolyn Schwarz, executive director of HAAM, says that one of the biggest issues musicians face is getting preventative care rather than trying to wait out an illness or health problem.

"The idea that `I'm just going to walk it off and then I'm going to feel better' can be harmful to people because they might have something very serious," she said.

HAAM combats this with "HAAMbassadors," volunteers who reach out to the music community via word of mouth and tables at events including next weekend's Fun Fun Fun Fest.

Schwarz added that like the population at large, the music community faces many preventable health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes and long-term problems associated with lack of dental care.

Scheduled fun. Fun Fun Fun Fest, which is Nov. 4-6 at Auditorium Shores, has announced set times for each day, as well as the full schedule for the after shows, which are free with a FFF wristband (single-day pass holders will be able to get into after shows for the day they are at the fest).

The festival also has moved Slayer to the orange stage (usually reserved for less metal, more rock and pop) to accommodate a bigger show.

They've also launched a mobile application, available at the iTunes app store, which includes the schedule, maps and a taco locator.

Here's Johnny. Johnny Depp, who was in town last weekend for the Austin Film Festival, showed up early Sunday morning at the Continental Club to play bass with Billy Gibbons, Bill Carter, Dony Wynn, C.C. Adcock, Andy Salomon and Denny Freeman.

Piano man. Houston Blues great Earl Gilliam, a pianist who played with Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins and Joe Guitar Hughes, among others, died Wednesday of advanced lung disease in his home. He was 81.

Liars & Saints. A "48 Hours" special about the 1985 murder of Johnny Goudie's mother has brought the Austin musician some recent national attention, but the rocker is also a member of new-ish and very good band, Liars & Saints. The group, including Jeremy Nail, Kacy Crowley, Joey Humel and David Palladino, released an EP, available to purchase or stream at liarsandsaints.bandcamp.com, at the end of August.

They play the Mohawk on Sunday with Colin Gilmore and Erin Ivey.

Less frequent? 102.7, which had been carrying a simulcast of KGSR, is now an all-comedy station.

According to a posting on KGSR's website, most listeners are using the 93.3 signal, and the comedy station was a unique opportunity for content original to Austin airwaves.

If you can't get 93.3 clearly, KGSR suggests using "our services online at KGSR.com, including apps for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry."

"You could obviously try moving the radio or antenna to improve reception."

Additional information from staff writers Sharon Chapman and Charles Ealy.