Helping the Heart of Louisville Music:

Musician's Emergency Relief Fund Benefit Concerts Scheduled for November 4

By Paul Moffett

MERF President Wayne Young's first encounter with MERF occurred shortly after Young folded up his band Midnight Special. The band's demise left Young $40,000 in debt. Besides that, he was working on a commission-only job and he had a brand-new baby. Things were looking bleak when Lynn Prather of MERF handed him an envelope with a check for $500 and said, "Maybe this'll help out a little."

Quiet assistance to musicians in crisis is a hallmark of MERF. Raising the money for the fund is an altogether different, and louder, matter. As this year's president, Young has set out to make a big noise and raise big money for the award-winning program.

Since its founding, MERF has raised over $100,000 from benefits. The staging of large-scale events to raise money has been refined to an art by the MERF volunteers. Every year since 1983, when five Main Street nightclubs cooperated to present a smorgasbord of music for a single admission of $5, MERF has involved nightclubs all over the city, encompassing every style of music, in it's annual fund-raising benefit. Radio stations are matched with the appropriate clubs and performers, so that every part of the community can contribute. Fans can hear the best players the city has to offer, and for only $5.

The bands not only play for free, they pay the $5 dues to be a member of MERF.

This year, the event has been set for Sunday, November 4, from 7 p.m. to midnight, to coincide with the Louisville Area Songwriters' Cooperative's annual songwriting seminar, which brings many music industry people to town. The LASC event will be on Friday and Saturday of that weekend. Young's reasoning is that some of the industry figures will stay over and listen to some of the bands, thus providing even more incentive for the bands to play.

Over fifty bands will perform at seven clubs around the city. The clubs and their general style of music are: Flaherty's III, variety; Toy Tiger, top 40; Phoenix Hill Tavern, (three stages) Saloon Stage, rock, Taproom, acoustic, Roof Garden, college rock; Jim Porter's, Sixties; Cherokee Blues Club, blues; Do Drop Inn, country; and Snagilwet, alternative music; and the Rudyard Kipling Restaurant, where a kick-off brunch is scheduled for Sunday morning. This year, quality of music is being emphasized over sheer quantity.

Personalities from participating radio stations host the shows. This year, radio stations and their associated clubs include WAMZ, Do Drop Inn; WQMF, the Phoenix Hill Tavern; WLRS, Toy Tiger; WFPL, Cherokee Blues Club; and WRKA at Jim Porter's.

Noting that if one or two bands get picked up by a major label, it has a positive effect on Louisville's image, Young said that the improvement of the local music scene was a kind of quiet agenda of many of MERF's supporters, including Marvin Maxwell, owner of Mom's Musician's General Store.

"We've all been trying to make it since the Sixties," Maxwell said.

A non-profit, all-volunteer organization, MERF was established in 1982 as a result of a 1981 automobile accident involving Maxwell. His friends put on a benefit to raise money to pay his medical expenses and they were so successful that there was some cash left over. This was put into an account to help others in similar situations, thus starting the MERF fund.

Decisions on the genuine need for money are made by an elected Board of Directors on a case-by-case basis, to a maximum of $1,000. The fund is not intended as a replacement for insurance but to offer short-term financial assistance and emotional support to members of the entertainment community.

For more information about MERF, and for information about the upcoming shows, call 897-3304.