With the recent and untimely passing of Ed Kurth, the Great Lakes Bay Region in general and Saginaw in particular lost an important musical and cultural supporter of the creative arts; and many of us, within and without the musical world, lost a truly generous and compassionate friend.
Detroit based musician and Saginaw born writer Stewart Francke and I both knew Eddie well. In the formative years of ‘The Review’ Eddie was one of my most ardent advocates, taking me under his wing to offer invaluable insights upon the vagaries and joys of owning one’s own enterprise and advancing one’s own vision, while opening me to the wisdom to be learned from the elements on sailing adventures navigating the straits under the Mackinaw Bridge. I’ll never forget the first time he let me steer his sailboat when he instructed: “Running a business is a lot like sailing a boat, Bobby – you always gotta pay attention to what direction the wind is blowing.”
Stewart’s connection with Eddie, on the other hand, was born from his engagement as a performing musician and evolving artist, steadily blossoming when they became neighbors together at The Point during the warm embrace of the summer months.
Given the fact that Eddie connected with so many different people on so many disparate levels – whether through the music world, the world of his Kiwanis friends, or the world of his friends in Florida – Eddie shared one common theme with all of them: music is about love, passion, vision, loyalty, commitment and friendship – so you better turn the volume up as loud as you can.
This was a theme that formed the basis of Eddie’s Memorial Service recently, so to pay homage to a man that was both iconoclastic and unique yet universally generous to so many, I approached Stew about writing this send-off piece to Eddie together – two distinct voices speaking as one.
I think Eddie would have liked it this way.
Back in the early 1970s when musicians gathered and bands formed to create live music that would hopefully lead to recording contracts and cross-country tours (as opposed to the way it is today with artists needing to score 2-milllion hits on Spotify before serious and large scale touring can even be considered) music and the people creating, fostering, and supporting it formed an intense fascination in our lives.
Apart from the glamour & excitement of the Rock 'n Roll lifestyle, the promise of freedom it presented, coupled with the joys it afforded, instilled a hunger within each of us to become more than mere observers. We wanted to become participants. And this was our first introduction to Mr. Edward Kurth, who with his partner Bob Pierson, had formed a new music store and emporium called Bay Music that was unlike any other to surface within the region.
With a focus on taking care of the needs of musicians that was developed during his years at Gridley Music, Eddie was also a participant in the scene – having played in his first band, The Blues Banned, back in his junior high days; and quickly gaining prominence with his involvement in other groups throughout the sixties and early seventies.
Eddie served as a formidable supporter of the Tri-City music scene for over four decades. He lived, breathed and was totally committed not only to the magical power of music to inspire the human spirit, but to also soothe and assuage our souls during difficult times; and most importantly, he was a close advocate and fan to the musicians throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region that created the music that became a soundtrack to our lives and defined our region.
Eddie's enthusiasm for and kinship towards the musical community was pivotal and unparalleled. And the news of his passing hit with the unmistakable crack and incomparable shock of a thunderbolt to the consciousness. Our dear friend and neighbor, and the dear friend of every musician in Mid--Northern Michigan, the truly sweet Eddie Kurth, had died at his home at Pt Lookout.
As Stewart heard and processed the news of his passing, his thoughts triggered this response:
Up north in the rustic pastoral air, you never hear sirens--a staple of the soundscape near Woodward in Detroit, but last night one was heard there for only the 2nd time in my life. It must've been about 2:30 or 3 am. I was doing the dishes and the sound of the siren gave me the chills because I knew it was about someone I knew.
Eddie & my family have such a wonderful history. We were next door neighbors for many years, and we watched his kids grow up. Yet it's well before that that I first came to know Fast Eddie. I bought my first acoustic from Eddie at 13; I bought my first PA from him at 22, and in between those years and beyond, I rented, bought and sold him gear. He was a tough negotiator, but the kindest of souls and a supporter of every gigging musician in Michigan.
We sat on our dock or porch together and played guitars many times, and he'd sit in with us at gigs from Mackinaw Island to Detroit. I truly loved Eddie, and love his entire family.
Why the Gods take the good ones too soon and let malevolent souls knock around for years, I'll never of course know. I've learned this much of death -- missing a man as optimistic, kind and friendly as Eddie will never end, so in a sense, we all do live on in the hearts and minds of those we loved.
That's small consolation this morning. Godspeed Fast Eddie, to that Rickenbacker room in the sky. Turn it up, man.
As for myself, as the editor of a publication as dedicated to reporting upon the music created by artists as diligently as Eddie focused upon servicing their needs and reinforcing the sound they created, I immediately keyed in upon the generosity of Eddie’s spirit.
Eddie was considered by many to be a frugal man, but there is not a musician throughout the region that was creating music at the time Bay Music existed that Eddie didn’t help out – either by hooking them up with a new mixer that he was confident would make them sound better; or running a fresh speaker out to a gig if a woofer had blown. And if you couldn’t afford it – not a problem, Eddie always knew those he extended credit to would pay him back. Why? Because these people were his friends; and Eddie was a good judge of character.
But mainly, Eddie’s spirit was a lot like Gabriel blowing his horn: music is the message and you better sing your song loud, clear, and with as much passion as you can muster. There is no room for tentativeness in life and there’s enough random behavior to distract all of us.
Confucious in The Book of Rites says that “music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” But Hunter S. Thompson also nails the spirit of Eddie to a tee: “Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
RIP Eddie - may the chords you struck in our hearts ring eternal.