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Night out

Giving back to a benefactor

When local musician George Harris got the word that he needed a kidney transplant, his friends decided it was a prefect time for some payback and good listening.

By GINA VIVINETTO
Published September 9, 2004

photo
[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys 1998]
The band Harrydash -- from left, Andy Stafford, guitar and vocals; Howard Abrahams, bass; Richard Wise, lead guitar; and Mark Stanchis, drums -- will be among the musicians performing at the George Harris benefit on Sunday at Skipper’s Smokehouse.

Local musician George Harris has long been a friend to the Tampa Bay music community, known for his guitar virtuosity, excellent production skills and charitable ways.

Now Harris needs some lovin' back.

Harris, 44, owner of Panda Productions, a recording studio in Clearwater, learned recently that he has polycystic kidney disease, the same fatal illness that afflicted his mother and grandmother.

Harris needs a kidney transplant. Like many artists who rely on music for their income, Harris doesn't have medical insurance or the hundreds of thousands of dollars a transplant costs.

When James Wayne, a musician from Longwood who has been recording an album at Panda learned of Harris' predicament, he was concerned.

"I asked him what he was going to do, and he said he really couldn't afford to do anything," Wayne said. "I was just shocked. I kept suggesting we get something together to raise money, and he didn't want to bother anyone.

"Finally, I said, "I'm going to do something about this whether you like it or not,' " Wayne says. "I just started calling people, everyone, Rick Derringer, local musicians,anyone I could think of.

"It only took two days," Wayne says. "Everyone said yes. . . . Everybody loves him. George is the most giving, caring, loving guy. And a brilliant musician and recording artist. He is a really good guy who deserves the help now that he has always given everyone."

So, this Sunday, a bevy of bands and solo artists will gather at Skipper's Smokehouse to play with and for Harris. Wayne said one donor has offered to contribute $100,000 toward Harris' kidney transplant.

Several players at Sunday's benefit are big names who live in the area, including Derringer and a few other secret guests. David Muse (of the Marshall Tucker Band and Firefall) will sit in with Billy Sandlin and Friends.

Harris will play with several of his bands, including Soupbone and the Greg Billings Band as well as the Hamilton/Harris Project.

"George will play, too," says Wayne. "He'll be front and center having a good time. He's such an excellent musician."

Others on the bill: Dapper Dan Band, Maggie Council, Harrydash, Tina and the Whiteboyz, Freddy and the Freeloaders and Michael Dan Ehmig and Bird Dog Bobby.

At least a half dozen electric guitars will be auctioned with other prizes.

The George Harris Benefit Fund has been set up at AmSouth Bank.

PREVIEW

The benefit for George Harris is from 1 to 11 p.m. Sunday at Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa. $10 suggested donation. (813) 977-6474.

[Last modified September 8, 2004, 08:44:27]


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