Seems like I’ve been surrounded by death lately, which is a constant reminder to me of how precious our life is on this planet. Last week I got a call from my good friend Jim Austin, an amazing upright bassist who plays in a number of great west coast groups, one of them being Brawley, a total baddass honky tonk band of troubadours. It was a sad call, as Jim and his band members had just received word that their drummer, Johnny had suddenly passed away and they had a gig coming up soon that needed to happen. Touchy situation indeed, but everyone agreed that Johnny would have wanted the show to go on, with or without him. Apparently, he was just that kind of guy. He and I didn’t know one another, but somehow I feel like I might’ve met him at some point cause when I saw his photo, there was something familiar to me. Maybe I saw him play once.
I found some nice words written about him on a website solely dedicated to preserving the memory of great musicians called, The Music’s Over.
John Kulhken was an accomplished musician who took up the drums when he was just 8 years old. Born and raised in the San Diego, California area, Kulhken joined the Air Force after graduating from high school and later earned a Journalism degree from San Diego State University. A true journeyman drummer, Kulhken played in many local bands including the MacAnanys, the Nards, the Rugburns, and Sara Petite and the Sugar Daddies. A 10-year survivor of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for which he received a bone marrow transplant, Kulhken was hospitalized after not feeling well on May 20th only to learn he was suffering from a blood infection that ultimately took his life several hours later. John Kuhlken was 49 when he passed away on May 20, 2011.
What a great smile and from everything I’ve heard about this man, he was a true blue cat. Of course, I told my friend that I’d be more than happy to play with them and I’ve got about 15 of Brawley’s tunes to learn, which won’t be so easy to pull off, as there’s a spark and snap in his playing that can only come from years of experience with honky tonk music. Such a killer player he was and a perfect, relaxed feel for that music. I’m sitting here in my apartment listening to a live recording from one of their recent shows, thinking of the loss. I dig his playing…
Rest in peace, my brother in drums.