The klieg lights are a little less bright on the Capital City music scene this week, since the untimely passing of venerated "Fiddling" Rick Stokes on Dec. 29.
Stokes, 75, was the front man for the Road House Band, a four-man group that frequently entertained crowds at the American Legion Post and other local venues. He was also a gifted violinist who played with the Jefferson City Symphony.
Both of his bandmates, Terry Wenkel and Larry Schwarzer, said their friend was a star in the Jefferson City music community and will be deeply missed. The fourth band mate is Schwarzer's son, David.
"He was an institution in music in the Jefferson City area," Wenkel said. "He was well-liked by everybody. It's going to leave a hole here."
"He was very talented, and he had a wonderful rapport with other people," Schwarzer said. "If you were a musician in Jefferson City, you probably knew Rick Stokes."
Stokes, himself, liked to say there was no single star in the band. In a 2009 news article, he told a News Tribune reporter: "There is not a "star' of the band because we all bring our unique talents but also work together to make the music sound perfect."
When he first heard the news of Stokes' death, Schwarzer could not conceive it was real. Stokes was just so full of life, he said.
"I thought, "This can't be true. You've got the wrong person.' It was very much a shock," Schwarzer said.
Schwarzer has been told Stokes' death was likely due to the failing of his circulatory system. He said his friend's first noticeable health problems occurred Dec. 26. As doctors operated on Stokes' aorta, they discovered he may have suffered a stroke as well, Schwarzer said.
Wenkel has played with Stokes for the past 10 years. Schwarzer first met Stokes in 1968. Both men first met him at the Lomo Club in Lohman. He was well-known for playing his fiddle from the rafters.
"He was needing a bass," Schwarzer recalled about that first meeting.
Schwarzer joined Stokes' band for 31â„2 years, left the band for several decades and rejoined Stokes again in 2005. "I think he knew 1,000 songs," Schwarzer said.
He played the violin, guitar and harmonica.
He was also known for mentoring younger musicians.