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Buck Quigley Remembers Mike Meldrum

I proudly count myself among the huge number of musicians who owe a big debt of gratitude to Mike Meldrum. It stuns me to remember we became friends over 25 years ago. He was a talented songwriter, entertaining performer, adventurous promoter, and kind mentor. He turned me on to a lot of stuff, and I always appreciated his friendship and encouragement. We had a lot of fun times.

Michael Meldrum jamming with the Jacklords at the Death Ranch, c. 1988

As years passed, I joined bands, fell out of the folk scene a bit and didn’t see Mike as often as I used to. Then, I started bumping into him at school functions—which is to say that by this time, we’d both gotten married and had kids attending the same school. We’d see each other at the PTO spaghetti dinner and talk a little about music and gigs—but often we just sort of talked about how much we liked being Dads. We both agreed that our kids and our wives were by far the best and most beautiful things to come into our poor folksinger lives.

About a month before Mike took a turn for the worse, he called me one night. He was lining up the guest artists he always featured at his Monday open mics, and he wondered if I was interested. As always, I said, “Sure, just let me know the date.” He said he’d get back to me, but then I didn’t hear anything. I was planning on calling him, just to make sure we hadn’t gotten our signals crossed. Then, I found out he was in the Intensive Care Unit. I only got to see him once more in the hospital before I learned of his passing last night, but I know he didn’t lack for visitors. Loved as he was, it could not have been otherwise.

There are those times in your life that you know you’re not likely to forget. Some are joyful, others are just plain horrible. We try to go on through it all. When it’s tough, sometimes I get strength from a Woody Guthrie line, an artist we both admired: “This world is your world. Take it easy, but take it!”

But I’m also haunted by this vivid vision I have of Mike singing the last song of the night in the wee hours at one of his open mics, back when we were both so much younger. The remaining people in the bar have fallen quiet to listen, and I can still hear him plain as day delivering the lyrics to a sentimental Beatles song that ends like this:

And now the time has come
So, my love, I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you will know, oh
One day you’ll find that I have gone
But tomorrow may rain, so
I’ll follow the sun

As the applause dies down in this memory, I can see him putting his guitar back in the case. The show is over, and it’s closing time. It’s time for all of us to leave. I pick up my guitar, say thanks and goodbye to Mike, tell him I’ll see him next Monday, step out the door into the cold, dark night, and watch the big snowflakes falling faintly past the streetlights on Allen Street, blanketing everything in white.

Then the flashback ends. I’m overcome with sadness. And the sun seems about as far away as it can be.

  • Nice, well written Buck! Best I’ve read so far about Mike. TC God Bless. ~Randy