Monday, August 18, 2008

TOM FURTAW, R.I.P.: A FRIEND'S TRIBUTE

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 5:54 PM

I guess this is what you could call “irony,” even though it is of the most tragic kind. Last Thursday evening, I received the following e-mail from the local band, Spitting Nickels:

We're really excited about opening for Blue Oyster Cult at the Renaissance Center on Friday (Aug 15th). It turns out that we're going on around 7:45. That's a little later than we originally thought, but perfect timing for a Friday night along the river.

If you've never seen a show on the Riverfront, it is really a great venue. Great sound, great crowd... great fun all the way around. We hope you can make it.

The e-mail arrived a little too late for us to advance the show (hell, those Riverfront shows don’t really need advancing from us to draw a crowd

),but I figured I’d run a mention of it here today with a “congratulations” to the dudes for opening a show for one of my favorite American rock bands of all time (though I do miss the Bouchard brothers’ presence in that band

).

Got out of here a little too late on Friday to hit the show

so imagine my surprise Saturday morning when I opened the Free Press and saw an obituary informing me that Tom Furtaw, the band’s guitarist (dubbed T.P. Gunne in the band) collapsed and died onstage during Friday night’s performance. Medics and policemen jumped onstage right away — an ambulance arrived within 15 minutes to much cheering from the thousand or so people gathered for the show — but it was too late to revive the musician. No cause of death has yet been given.

Spitting Nickels was together for only a year, comprised of three guys in their early 40’s, along with two younger dudes, one of whom was local rock renaissance man (and Sights leader) Eddie Baranek, who played drums for the unit. A few of the older guys had never played in a band before but, according to Baranek, what they did have was “20 to 30 years of amazing rock history” stored in their collective heads. Every guy — including Furtaw (who, as a fan of the Jam and the Smiths, had recently purchased his dream Rickenbacher guitar) ended up writing songs for the Nickels

and the group recently finished recording a five song EP with Jim Diamond at his Ghetto Recorders studio. There was even a CD-release party for the EP, titled 5 the Hard Way, scheduled for October 25th at Detroit’s Park Bar. Within a year, this novice band was opening for BOC, which is no small potatoes, no matter how ya look at it. Baranek recently commented how great it was to be playing in a group full of mature guys; no drama, no drug addiction

and now this

Furtaw not only made his mark in local music but he was a “star” in the legal community as well. The son of a Grosse Point Park policeman, Furtaw served as a senior advisor to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. During his law career in Wayne County, the attorney prosecuted evildoers of all kinds, including cop killers and arsonists. He even managed to solve a 30-year murder mystery.

Said Baranek of his fallen friend: “During the last few years as I got to know him, Tom became a great friend. He offered me advice — but only when I asked — on life, love, or whatever I needed. He played with more fire and passion than people half his age that I’ve played with — seriously. Even though I gave him guitar lessons, he gave me life lessons. I know it sounds like a cliche, but he was a friend of mine. I looked up to him and I always will. The guy learned how to play guitar in his early 40’s and then began writing songs. Good songs! It was an honor to play his songs. It was also an honor to play in a band with him and to be his friend. I will miss him.”

Memorial contributions may be made to the College Education Fund for Tom’s children and may be sent to the family in c/o of Chas. Verheyden Funeral Home, P.O. Box 36248, Grosse Pointe, MI. 48236.

Our condolences to all his family and friends.

The late Mr. Furtaw in his element...

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