I had the chance to visit with Tim Krekel’s family Monday afternoon, the day after nearly 1,000 people turned out for a rousing musical memorial service at the Vernon Club in Butchertown. They were exhausted, naturally, and still amazed at the outpouring of love they’ve felt ever since Tim was diagnosed with cancer in March.
Last week, even as Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett were dominating the news, Tim Krekel was one of the 10 most-searched names on Yahoo.
His son, Jason, broke some good news: Tim Krekel had a new album in the can, pending completion of a couple songs, including one that Tim wrote with Jason and his wife, Ami Worthen, in mind. The couple are soon headed to Nashville to lay down some vocal tracks, and Jason said the album release will be put on the fast track.
Most of Tim’s recordings are out of print, and Jason said efforts are under way to get it all reissued (see discography). Some of his music can be downloaded in MP3 format from Tim’s website (www.timkrekel.com). A DVD, “Live From Hippy Jack’s,” will be released soon, and it’s also planned for broadcast on KET.
Not much has been said publicly about Tim’s cancer. The family told me it was a rare, aggressive form that still has doctors stumped. He was experiencing severe abdominal pain as he prepared for a March 9 show with his uncle, big band-leader Don Krekel, at the Comedy Caravan. He went to the emergency room two days later, and had surgery shortly thereafter. Doctors were hopeful, but the tumors returned.
“We never gave up hope — even when they sent us home with hospice,” says his widow, Debora, whom he married in his back yard on June 14, an event she said was an indescribable mix of happiness and sadness. “We went home to prove them wrong.”
Tim was always generous with his time, and he played countless benefit shows. But when his sizable network of supporters stepped up to help him out, he was still taken aback.
“He was very uncomfortable with people helping him,” Debora says. “He couldn’t believe it — he’d just cry. I don’t know how we’d have gotten through these last few months without his friends who took care of him. I told him karma’s a bitch — you have to take it now.”
His oldest sons are musicians. Jason, 36, lives in Asheville, N.C., and he and Ami play tour full time as the Mad Tea Party. Nathan, 29, lives in San Francisco, where he’s a graphic designer and rapper with the outfit Fist Fam and under the solo moniker Gus Cutty (his impromptu topical rap during the memorial service on Sunday blew everyone away). Tim’s daughter Katy, 22, who lives in Louisville, has lately begun singing and is thinking of picking up an instrument. And Anna, 14, says it’s just a matter of time until she finds her musical niche as well.
Nathan laughed when recounting how Tim tried to steer them away from the lifestyle that can chew you up and spit you out. But once they showed the interest, Jason noted, he was supportive and generous — he even came around to having a rapper in the family.
Jason greatly resembles his dad, and he seems comfortable with the challenge of carrying on the musical legacy. Tim taught him, he says, to be prepared, put the music first and to always lift up other musicians. Tim was known for mentoring musicians, and for jamming with anyone and everyone — “the pros and the Joes,” as more than one person has noted.
“He also understood music isn’t about making a record or a profit,” Katy says. “It’s about healing yourself or connecting with someone else.”
Tim lived a modest lifestyle and earned his living solely through music. Like most musicians, he had no health insurance. Look for his family and friends to keep speaking out on the issue of health-care reform, and to keep pushing cancer research. And look for his friends to keep trying to help. The KREK Fund (c/o ear X-tacy, 1534 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40205) has been established to help defray medical bills and help his family. Future benefit shows are likely, as well, both in Louisville and in some of the cities where Tim had a good following.
TIM KREKEL DISCOGRAPHY
Crazy Me (Capricorn, 1979)
Over the Fence (Arista, 1986)
Out of the Corner (Appaloosa, 1991)
Perfect World (self-released cassette)
L&N (ear X-tacy, 1998)
Underground (ear X-tacy, 1999)
Happy Town (Envoy, 2002)
World Keeps Turnin’ (Tim Krekel, 2005)
Soul Season (Natchez Trace, 2007)
Live From Hippy Jack’s (DVD, release pending)