By Nicholas L. Dean
December 7, 2007
When friends told Rich Leeper they were going to organize a benefit concert for him, the local musician thought the event would consist of a couple of guys and some instruments — nothing big.
Then came word that the day-long celebration will be held at AmVets Post 1996 in Jamestown and will feature a dozen musicians Leeper has played with during the years and has inspired through his support of the Infinity Performing Arts Program.
‘‘I’m humbled beyond words,’’ Leeper said recently about the outpouring of support. “I’m just a musician who has played in a lot of places around the area and I didn’t think I was affecting anybody in any way. People just seem to be coming out of the woodwork for this and it’s made me realize I’m a blessed man.’’
In need of a new kidney, money raised from this Sunday’s benefit concert will go to get Leeper’s name on the national kidney transplant waiting list.
In order to get on the national list, a person must first have their 20 percent share of medical costs ready to be paid. Leeper has a profile on the Jamestown-based WNY Kidney Connection, which can be found at www.wnykidneyconnection.org.
‘‘I had been in good health until November 2006 and then, for some reason, I had a complete bleed out in my body and the doctors do not know why. When that happened, my kidneys shut down and now I am on dialysis,’’ Leeper writes in his WNY Kidney Connection profile. ‘‘The doctors told me when I went into the hospital, they did not know how I was albe to walk in on my own two feet. My only answer is that God is not through with me yet. I do not know what his plan is, but I will go where he leads me.’’
A singer and saxophone player, Leeper has been a part of the local music scene for more than 40 years — having fronted his first band in 1964. Though not originally from the Jamestown area, Leeper moved to Southern Chautauqua County at the age of 6 and now jokingly refers to himself as a ‘‘neighborhood local yokel.’’
During his career, Leeper has been a part of several local bands and performed with numerous area musicians — including The Heard, Junie Schenk and Solid Gold, Rings and Rhythm Express.
‘‘I was just thinking about him and his situation and figured I’d put a benefit together,’’ said Rick Solinger, who played keyboard in Rhythm Express in the 1990s and organized Sunday’s benefit with Mark Alpaugh. ‘‘I want this guy to be around so I can play music with him in the future. I started making phone calls and within 24 hours the whole thing was set up. People in the area really like this guy. He moved out to Maryland for a while and it was a big deal when he left and when he came back.’’
Set to run from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday’s benefit at AmVets Post 1996 in Jamestown will feature the Porcelain Bus Drivers, Happy Days, Smokehouse, Steve Swanson’s Bluz’n with John Cross, the Bill Ward Band, Midas, Junie Schenk and the Soul Survivors — featuring members of Rhythm Express.
‘‘I just want to thank anyone and everyone that’s doing anything at all for me. I’m humbled and I appreciate it,’’ Leeper said. ‘‘I’ve been blessed to play with the best musicians this county has had to offer. I just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart. I’m a blessed man to have that many friends.’’