Mike Jordan came to town in the 70s and quickly became a fixture of the Lincoln Avenue folk scene; later he played in the Famous Potatoes, after they left John Prine's employ. In the mid-80s Jordan had his own group, Mike Jordan and the Rockamatics, but a severe intestinal disorder eventually put him out of business. He lived in Hawaii for a while, then headed back to his native Missouri, where he lived on the river a few miles south of Saint Louis. He worked in various places, finally finding some steady gigs playing solo. Once in a while he'd come back up to Chicago for a Famous Potatoes reunion at FitzGerald's, or do an acoustic gig at his old hangout Orphans. Back in Missouri, coming home from a job late Saturday night, August 29, he was killed in a car crash. It was the day before his 38th birthday.
"Professor" Eddie Lusk was born on the south side. Both his parents were pastors, and he grew up playing piano in their church. He eventually turned to the blues. With his band, Professor's Blues Review, he recorded and toured North America and Europe. He also worked as a talent booker at River West. He wasn't married, but he had at least three kids; for one son, attending school out of state, he'd recently cashed in a life insurance policy to pay for a semester's tuition. At some point he contracted colitis, a painful disease that inflames the colon; it was brought on by AIDS. His friends watched him waste away as he continued to play and even tour. He spent some of his last days attempting to come up with enough money to get himself into a hospital; he had no insurance. Late on a Tuesday night, August 25, he threw himself into the Chicago River. He was 46.
Hal Russell was an almost 50-year veteran of jazz, starting as a relatively normal bebop player but later converting enthusiastically to free-form and improvisational music--weird jazz, he called it. He started out as a drummer and vibist, but later concentrated on saxophone, being a particular admirer of experimentalist Albert Ayler. (When a magazine asked for his ten favorite records, he listed nine by Ayler, one by Gene Krupa.) In the 80s, he formed his most enduring groups: the five-piece NRG Ensemble and the more relaxed NRG 3, basically Russell improvising over a rhythm section. His fondness for atonality and arrhythmicality was leavened by a sense of whimsy: at any moment he could produce a glass and a straw and break into a water-bubble solo. On a recent tour of Europe he drew shticks from the dinner-theater musicals he used to play; for example, he'd say, a la Eliza Doolittle, "How kind of you to let me come" to bewildered club owners. But he was close to 70, and having spent most of the 50s as a junkie hadn't helped his overall constitution. In July, onstage in a small, overhot club in Fussen, Germany, he had what he later learned was a minor heart attack. Back home in Chicago he had a quadruple bypass operation; doctors said he was probably in the clear. But he died in his sleep on the afternoon of Saturday, September 5.
Doug Mazique was a journeyman bassist for local rock and C and W bands. He grew up in Chatham, on the south side. He played or recorded with any number of local groups and any Elvis impersonator who would have him. For a long time he lived a rocker's life-style, but, friends say, he'd spent the last five years healthy, having turned his obsession to exercise. Lately he'd been gigging with Betsy & the Boneshakers, the blues outfit that plays every Tuesday night at Lounge Ax. After their show September 1, most of the Boneshakers drove down to Saint Louis for Mike Jordan's funeral.
Mazique went back to the Chatham home he shared with his mother and sister. He apparently surprised a burglar, who shot him once, in the chest. Mazique's mother found him the next morning near the front door of the house. He was 42.
Glynis Johnson grew up in Valparaiso; later she moved west to Portland, where she worked as a painter and carpenter. "She was a tool-carrying momma," says a friend with satisfaction. She moved to Chicago to become a rock star. She was a Rolling Stones freak: every summer, she and some friends would hold a "Steaks and Stones" barbecue. She played bass in the noisy Friends of Betty, which became Red Red Meat. But Johnson was sick a lot of the time; she had a debilitating, chronic yeast infection and a severe, lingering case of what doctors thought was bronchitis. She started getting thin, and her hair began to fall out. In August she went to visit her mom back in Valparaiso; her friends, gathered in Michigan to see another friend get married, heard she'd gone into the hospital. There she learned what some of her friends suspected she already knew: that she'd been suffering the effects of AIDS for at least two years. She died two weeks later, early on the morning of September 4. She was 32.