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Columbia Missourian

Curly Joe Harper soulfully contributed to the Columbia blues community

By Stephanie Halovanic
December 13, 2012 | 7:42 p.m. CST
Curly Joe Harper of Columbia died Thursday, Dec. 13. He was 63 years old.

COLUMBIA — Curly Joe Harper was a harmonica player and singer in the mid-Missouri blues community. Those who knew him say they will never forget the way he played his music. 

"I just really loved his delivery," Kay Allen, neighbor of Mr. Harper, said. "You know, it's like he lived what he sang about in a lot of ways." 

Mr. Harper died Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, of cancer. He was 63.

He was born July 25, 1949, in New Mexico and spent his life working as a musician in the Columbia area, often with the Curly Joe Harper Blues Band.

A benefit memorial concert to celebrate Mr. Harper’s life will be held at The Blue Note on Saturday, Dec. 22, from 5 p.m. to midnight.

"The concert has been in the works for a while — it was said that he might not make it to the actual date," Richard King, owner of The Blue Note, said. "I know that he had a lot of medical expenses, and we will see what money we can gather up for that. We will try to make the best of a very sad situation." 

Rocket Kirchner is a fellow musician, and he played before Mr. Harper at the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival in 2011. He and his band, The Titans, will be one of the performances at Mr. Harper's memorial concert. 

"You can't really play the blues unless you feel it; that is the way blues work," Kirchner said. "You are born to play the blues — there is no faking. I think Curly Joe was born to play it, and that is what he did."

Kevin Walsh, longtime KOPN/89.5 FM programmer, fondly remembers seeing Mr. Harper's blues performances.

"He's always been one of my favorites," Walsh said. "You'd go see him at a Days Inn happy hour on a Thursday night after work. The people should have gone home a while ago, but they were just dancing. That’s what the blues is. Wherever Curly Joe went, he found that, man. Every once in a while someone like him comes around."

Mr. Harper was a staple member of both the blues and music community in Columbia. Both his personality and his musical talent will be missed. 

"He really was such a loving soul," Allen said. "Even though he was a crusty blues guy, he never missed the chance to tell someone he loved them and what a beautiful soul they had." 

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