Ron Ruedi, friends to honor memory of Pat Mulvey
When Ron Ruedi heard the news, he refused to believe it.
'I kept waiting for someone to call and tell me it was a joke,' he says.
Unfortunately, it wasn't - one of his best friends and longtime musical partner, Patrick 'Pat' James Mulvey, died Jan. 29 of a massive heart attack.
Only hours before, Ruedi and Mulvey had finished playing a gig with their rock 'n' roll band The Hurricanes.
'He was very animated and laughing and joking and talking and playing,' Ruedi says of the blind saxophonist, known in the area for his time in The Twilighters, a popular Portland act in the 1960s.
To help his friend's widow, Dee Mulvey, Ruedi is organizing a benefit at Lydia's, 18330 E. Burnside St., Sunday, March 4. There's no cover charge, but the benefit will feature raffles and a silent auction.
'My husband, I'm sure, would appreciate it,' Dee Mulvey says.
Along with The Hurricanes - Bill Heston on keys, John Pomar on bass and Bob Ferrante on drums - other local musicians and industry types plan to be there, including former KISN disc jockey Pat 'The Preacher' Pattee, Danny Primmer, Jimmy Thompson, Sam Wisner, Lou Solomon, Ernie Howland, J.R. Elliott, Dave Weberg, Randy Burt and Sam Whitney. They'll all pay tribute to Mulvey, the man with 'perfect pitch,' Ruedi says.
'Right in the middle of the most raucous song going on, he could still hear if just a string was out of tune,' the lead guitarist adds.
The two musicians met in 1991 when Ruedi was playing a one-man show at the Satellite Lounge in Gresham. Mulvey asked if he could sit in on a tune. Ruedi was bit reluctant, having heard more than one horn player over the years butcher a tune - but Mulvey was different.
'We did 'Peter Gunn' note for note,' Ruedi says, referring to the Henry Mancini theme for the 1958-61 TV show.
The two jammed on countless gigs from that moment on, eventually developing a humorous onstage rapport, Ruedi says.
'People would say it was like Abbott and Costello between him and I up there.'
Ruedi himself has been playing for 53 years, picking up the guitar when he was 11. He's skilled in doo-wop, 1950s and '60s rock 'n' roll, country and funk.
'I can sound like Little Richard, I can sound like James Brown,' he says. 'Wherever I go, people are amazed that there's a white guy who can do James Brown,' he adds with a chuckle.
His band has played numerous benefits, including ones for veterans, a cause near and dear to Ruedi's heart, as he served on a mortar team in Vietnam with the Marine Corps. He was on the task force that created the Heroes Memorial in downtown Gresham and has performed at several Veterans Day ceremonies.
His band has also played benefits for automotive education at Mt. Hood Community College as well as shows to help children's groups, another cause that resonates with the former foster child.
Ruedi grew up in Los Angeles and briefly jammed on surf-rock instrumentals with the famous Dick Dale and The Deltones at local nightclubs while still a teenager. One of the few whites in a black neighborhood, he would take breaks from his liquor store job to join in with doo-wop groups singing on street-corners, he adds.
Ruedi even got to rub elbows with some famous musicians and played at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles, opening for The Young Rascals.
The guitarist's greatest moment of fame came in December 1976 in Columbia, Md., when he played drums, bass and guitar for 29 hours and one minute consecutively for a children's charity fund-raiser, entering the Guinness Book of World Records.
'I quit eating a week in advance and stopped taking in fluids two days in advance so I didn't have anything in my system,' he says, adding that visitors to the nightclub where he set the record included President Gerald Ford as well as the king of Sweden.
The record has since been broken, although Ruedi notes proudly nobody has done it the way he did it, by not taking any break while he played.
Back to life
Ruedi has twice survived almost dying, first when he was operated on for a brain tumor and a second time from spinal meningitis, both illnesses debilitating him to the point where he had to learn to walk, talk and write again.
In November 2000, while afflicted with meningitis, he clinically died during surgery and says he had an out-of-body experience.
'I recall the bright yellowish white light, like melted butter in milk, and seeing the Earth become smaller as I ascended toward and into the light,' he says. 'I had no physical body, but I could visually see the Earth, the stars, the planets and the black darkness beyond where I was at.
'As I entered the white lighted area and the warmth of its environment, my ascension slowed and finally stopped. I wanted to continue up further into the light when I began slowly descending back toward Earth. I did not want to leave the light and wanted to reverse the descent.'
When he regained consciousness, he says, he heard a deep masculine voice speak the words, 'Play your music; that is the talent I gave you. I will find you a wife when the time is right.'
'Then I passed out and went into a coma,' he adds. 'Unfortunately there is no wife to date.'
Since he believes God told him to keep jamming, Ruedi plays percussion in East Hill Church's music ministry.
'I have never studied music theory, cannot read music, and I'm not really very skilled as a technician,' Ruedi says. 'The success I have enjoyed in music is strictly God's gift to me.'
Interestingly, his late musical partner shared that idea, according to his widow. Pat and his twin brother Mike, Dee says, were born prematurely and lost their sight shortly after birth, she says. However, her husband was never bitter about his blindness, she says, and believed God gave him enhanced hearing in exchange for his loss of sight.
'He'd rather be born blind than be born without the love of music he had,' she says.