It won’t bring most of his stuff back, but there’s been a break in the investigation of the fire that destroyed R.J. Spangler’s east-side Detroit home during the blackout last month.
Spangler — a much-revered blues drummer, promoter and manager — lost his home and its contents, including a vast and painstakingly compiled library of rare jazz, blues and R&B music and literature in the blaze, which authorities believe occurred after a burglary (“R.J. Spangler’s house of blues,” Metro Times, Aug. 20-26).
“The police called me up and asked me to describe some of my instruments,” Spangler tells News Hits. “I described my things in great detail. The officer said, ‘You should come down here.’ Sure enough, they had three conga drums and a guitar with my stepsister’s name on it.”
Spangler says an officer told him that the parents of some teens in the neighborhood had discovered their kids in possession of the instruments and took the drums, guitar and their kids to the police station.
An officer at the 5th Precinct (who, curiously, would not provide his name) confirms that investigators have referred the case for possible prosecution.
“There were four people involved,” the mystery officer says. “Warrants are pending down at the Prosecutor’s Office.”
Spangler says investigators told him that the alleged perps claimed to have gone into his home at 8913 Canyon through a basement window, but did not intend to burn the place down. They were using candles to see due to the blackout, and left one burning.
“I do believe that’s what happened,” Spangler says. “Maybe I’m a naive guy.
“They will never be able to get arson charges. They’re just getting them for the breaking and entering.”
Spangler, who chairs the board of the Detroit Blues Society, says he’s been overwhelmed with offers of assistance. His home was insured, but replacing the prized library it took him 46 years to amass will be difficult, if not impossible.
“Every day, I see things that I used to have. I was online getting some CDs, and, you know, it’s very painful to get records I already owned. But I have to have them, you know. Some of the records that I played on, I’ll never get back. I had a copy of every record I was on.” All 40-plus of them.
“Some days it’s kind of depressing, but you keep your head up and keep going. I have a lot of support from a lot of friends, and a very supportive family.”
On Sunday, Oct. 12, Spangler’s legion of friends will gather at the Magic Bag on Woodward in Ferndale for “Up From The Ashes …The R.J. Spangler Relief Benefit.” The event starts at 3 p.m. and will feature a who’s who of Detroit blues and R&B talents, many of whom have benefited from Spangler’s efforts as a musician, manager and promoter. Tickets are $15. Donations for the R.J. Spangler Fire Relief Fund can be sent to PO Box 1092, Hazel Park 48030. Checks should be made out to Spangler. For more information, call 586-634-2884.Send comments to [email protected]