Bits 'n' Pieces: Benefit concert aims to help ailing drummer

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photoMike LaRue

In the mid-1980s, the Hardtops were drawing big crowds at the Totem Pole, and Mike LaRue was on stage keeping the beat.

The beat goes on, but Hazel Dell’s Totem Pole restaurant and lounge is long gone, and drummer LaRue is fighting cancer.

His musician friends want to help him with medical expenses, and they’re inviting the public to a 2 p.m. benefit concert Sunday at Big Daddy’s, 10514 N.E. Fourth Plain Road, in Orchards. There is no cover charge.

For 37 years, LaRue has played with bands and been involved with many of Clark County’s best professional musicians. He started out in the mid-1970s playing drums with guitarist Denny Hogan.

He said part of his colon was removed in July, cancer recurred, and on Tuesday, he started on chemotherapy.

“The prognosis looks good. They have to apply the chemo and remove what’s left of the tumor,” LaRue said.

“I’ve done so many benefits but it’s never been in the back of my mind that they’d be doing one for me someday. It’s great that the musical community would do this.”

LaRue, 57, also has worked as an aide at a detox center but is unemployed now and does not have the strength to be on stage.

His latest band was Double Shot but it’s been four years since he rocked with the group.

Guitarist Dan Twain, 63, played with LaRue in Double Shot and Moondance. Twain is one of the organizers of the benefit concert, which will feature a half-dozen bands, among them Blue Light Band and River City Band.

As for LaRue’s skills as a drummer, Twain said, “He’s this incredible mix. … He’s one of the special, gifted, talented musicians who has a feel for any music.”

LaRue will be taking donations for a CD he’s completed called “Lisse.” It features 13 musicians on 13 songs. Those musicians include Ron Barnes on saxophone and trumpet, Matt Kilwien on guitar and Jim Solberg on bass guitar. Covers on the CD include “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye and “Right on Through the Darkness” by Curtis Mayfield.

Why the benefit concert for LaRue?

“I love him,” guitarist Twain said. “And there’s a musical community … that started in the ’60s and transverses through all the generations of music, and they support each other like no other. When somebody is in need, there’s always somebody to help.” — Dave Kern

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Ruth Zschomler, 360-735-4530, or email ruth.zschomler@columbian.com.