musicians rally around stricken bluesman

By Jim Stanford on April 17, 2010

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Blow a few bars tonight for Jeff Newsom. The fund-raiser starts at 7 p.m. at the Wildwood Room in Victor.

It’s always jarring to find a fighting-for-life-type Facebook page for someone you didn’t even know is sick, especiallly a vigorous mountaineer.

So the news came as a shock earlier this winter that Driggs, Idaho, musician Jeff Newsom is battling ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The affliction strikes the nervous system, causing Jeff, an eminently talented harmonica player and builder of telescope mirrors, to lose the use of his hands and voice.

Strangely, I found out the morning after watching The Last Waltz.

Jeff was at The Last Waltz, hanging backstage with some of the musicians. Years later, he backed up Rick Danko, late guitarist for The Band, at the Mangy Moose.

Although he’s well known for sitting in with just about everyone locally, Newsom’s music career — like many aspects of the man — is more impressive than people realize. He has blown the harp with Bob Greenspan, Loose Ties, Derrik and the Dynamos, and U.S. Bluez, but before that he played with Otis Rush in New York and toured briefly with Gary B.B. Coleman.

Pickers from both sides of the Tetons are pulling together tonight for a fund-raiser to help Newsom with his medical costs. The party starts at 7 p.m. at the Wildwood Room in Victor. Among those playing are Derrik, Mike Dowling, Phil Round, Ben Winship, Mike Hurwitz and Greg Creamer. Raffle prizes include a Subaru. Click here to make an online donation.

Here’s hoping the healing power of music will help Jeff as much as oxygen treatments and acupuncture. He’s always been generous to share.

(Photo by Dan Campbell)

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