The rock-and-roll industry might be cut-throat in some respects, but it is also a world of great love and loyalty. Few things demonstrate that as beautifully as this benefit concert Rick Springfield organized to support his long-time friend and guitar technician, Ruben Velasco.
[I better jump in here and tell you that I assume *everyone* knows who Rick Springfield is. If you think you don’t, look up his “Jessie’s Girl” video on youtube and you will likely find yourself going, “Oh yeah… I remember that song…” If that doesn’t trigger it for you, well… then you were probably born after 1990 and there’s no hope in getting you up to speed. Hahaha. Seriously though, how to summarize? Rick is a talented Australian singer, writer and instrumentalist who starred in soap operas and made some award-winning, catchy music in the 80s, and he is still rocking hard today. He’s very cool!]
In 2014, Ruben (Rick’s guitar tech) was diagnosed with stage four cancer, a devastating diagnosis for anyone, made even more tragic by the fact that he was only 39 years old. Rick responded right away by putting together an all-star group of musicians and special guests to rock the House of Blues on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, on August 20, 2014. The lineup included Kenny Aronoff, Bruce Kulick, Gilby Clarke, James Lomenzo, John 5, and Elliot Easton.
The goal was to raise money to help Ruben fight this disease. In addition to ticket sales for the event, donations came in through an auction, in which fans could bid for guitars signed by artists like Kiss, Weezer and Sammy Hagar, and an autographed pair of Rick’s Converse shoes. There is a lot of great info about the show and the auction, including a detailed review of the concert itself, here at screamermagazine.com, if you’d like to know more.
Elliot took the stage with Rick for two songs. They played The Cars’ classic, “Good Times Roll” and did a cover of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.” I’ve added the links at the end of the article. Both performances are terrific, and a blast to watch.
(As a side note, a quick search of youtube (rock for ruben rocket ride) will pull up a fun cover of Kiss’s “Rocket Ride” — Ruben’s favorite song.)
The photo below is of Elliot with the members of Rick’s band, taken on August 19, 2014, during rehearsals for the concert. Ruben is second from the left (retrieved from Rick Springfield’s facebook page).
All of the proceeds from the August 20, 2014, concert went to Ruben’s medical bills. Sadly, Ruben passed away on May 31, 2016, but Rick continued to raise money for Ruben’s favorite charity, the Fur & Feather Animal Sanctuary. The more I discovered about Rick’s efforts, the more my heart filled with respect and happiness. Check this out:
Rick toured in the summer of 2016 and offered a unique opportunity for fans to honor Ruben’s legacy: In each of 28 stops on the tour, a fan could purchase the privilege of joining the crew in Ruben’s stead as an ‘honorary guitar tech.’ This meant that each lucky duck would get to attend the pre-show soundcheck, hang out on the stage and hand Rick his guitars during the show… and personally receive an autographed guitar from Rick himself. A once in a lifetime experience, for sure!
This second fundraiser was also a great success, resulting in over $35,000 (after expenses) being donated to the Sanctuary. Read this article from Rick’s website to find out how the animal shelter used the money.
I was already a big fan of Rick’s before I heard about this story; what a delight to get a peek into his character and his devotion to his friends. Rick continues to tour, playing both full band and acoustic shows. His official website has all the info you need to track him down and catch one of his amazing shows.
Timeline perspective: this concert took place about two weeks after the release of The Empty Hearts’ first album.