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Blowing some horn for Gabriel

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 5, 2010 - This Saturday, Aug. 7, at BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups, the St. Louis jazz and blues community will gather together to raise funds for one of its own - Gabriel. A fire in June severely damaged the East St. Louis home of the man who has been a legendary DJ, musician, record producer, club owner and concert promoter in the metro area for more than half a century.

Music runs from 5-10 p.m. at BB's, and there's a $10 minimum donation at the door. The lineup includes Cryin' Shame, Silvercloud, Ron Edwards, David Dee, Uvee Hayes, Marquise Knox, Arthur Williams and special guests.

"Over the years, BB's has become the unofficial center for the music community here in St. Louis," comments John May, manager of the club and restaurant. "So it just seems like this is the place for people to come to put together benefits, fundraisers and tributes for those artists and individuals who have helped build the music community. And Gabriel is certainly one of those people."

These days, Gabriel is best known for his Sunday music show on KDHX-FM 88.1, "Gabriel's Tin Pan Alley," which runs from midnight to 3 a.m., featuring an eclectic blend of music from artists such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf to Louis Jordan, Jackie Wilson, the Andrews Sisters, Boots Randolph, George Jones and James Brown (all played on last week's broadcast).

But Gabriel - who began his career as a DJ in 1952 at WOKZ in Alton, Ill. -- has worked at stations around the country. In this area, he has worked for WESL, KDNA and KATZ before moving to KDHX in 1989. He also ran a recording studio and issued records for labels such as Tune Town, Joyce, Royal American and Planet - including the first recording ever made by Tina Turner. Gabriel's a trumpet player who recorded several albums as a leader in the '60s.

As part of the fund-raising effort at BB's Saturday, a series of postcards featuring rare photos from Gabriel's collection - as well as a CD from his years producing and performing on recordings - will be offered for sale. Kevin Belford, a talented graphic artist and author of the essential St. Louis history of the area music scene -- "Devil at the Confluence: The Pre-War Blues Music of St. Louis, Missouri" -- explains how those projects came together.

"The fire made him realize that his possessions were at risk," explains Belford. "He brought in his photo collection to KDHX, and while he was on the air, I scanned them in for four hours. From there, I picked eight images, and then designed postcards featuring those photos. I also designed a CD cover for a selection of material associated with Gabriel. Both the set of postcards and the CD will be on sale at BB's Saturday."

Dave Beardsley, publisher of the StlBlues.net website, a compendium of everything happening in the metro blues community, summed up his feelings about Gabriel - and the fundraising effort that has come together on his behalf.

"Gabriel is revered in St. Louis," says Beardsley. "He's done it all over the years, and this is a chance for people to come out and show their support. We can't replace his lost artifacts, but we still have our memories of what he's done. And we can join together Saturday and show our support. And if you can't make it, send a check! "

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer whose work includes the music scene in the area.