Walla Walla-area musicians rally around ailing friend

Many will perform in a benefit concert Thursday evening at Sapolil Cellars.

Larry Gesler, a Walla Walla musician who has leukemia, is the focus of a benefit concert Thursday at Sapolil Cellars.

Larry Gesler, a Walla Walla musician who has leukemia, is the focus of a benefit concert Thursday at Sapolil Cellars. Courtesy photo

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WALLA WALLA — Since Obamacare isn’t due to hit the shelves until next year, some Walla Walla residents are turning to the community for some “Owallacare” to help out a friend in need.

It’s what a gathering of many local musicians are calling an event to be held Thursday at Sapolil Cellars to raise money for Larry Gesler’s staggering medical bills, with help from the community at large.

“Owallacare” fundraiser

Thursday, 8 p.m.

Sapolil Cellars, 15 E. Main St.

Donations to help defray medical costs of musician Larry Gesler will be accepted at Sapolil Cellars and also at Blazing Guitars, 1726 Isaacs Ave.

Gesler, a friend to many Walla Walla musicians in many ways, is battling leukemia, said organizer J.W. “Torch” Davis, a musician and longtime member of the Walla Walla Blues Society.

“Once in a great while an artist comes along who can front a band or perform solo but would rather apply his talents to supporting others,” Davis wrote in an release about Gesler. “Singing backup, playing rhythm guitar behind another’s leads, enhancing the performance of a friend, supporting. And is a talented songwriter on top of it all. Larry is that artist.”

Gesler also is a technical artist behind the scenes when it comes to tweaking the electronics in musicians’ guitars and amplifiers, Davis added.

The 8 p.m. fundraiser at Sapolil Cellars will feature many local bands and performers touched by Gesler’s friendship. The lineup includes Gary Winston, Dan “The Reverend G” Goodall, Jimmy Lloyd Rea and the Switchmasters, Robin Barrett, Phil Lynch and “a surprise guest or two,” Davis said.

Goodall, owner of Blazing Guitars on Isaacs Avenue and a musician with Jimmy Lloyd Rea and the Switchmasters, is a close friend of Gesler. The two met when Goodall opened his guitar store in 2007, becoming fast who share a love of music.

Goodall also is a believer that people are supposed to use their gifts to help whomever they can.

“I know there are a million worthy causes,” Goodall said of the Owallacare event he’s helped organize with Winston and Davis. “ But to me, when it hits home, when its family or a friend like that, I never want to stop.”

And it seems Gesler, too, doesn’t have an off switch when it comes to helping friends.

Goodall recalls endless times when Gesler went out of his way to help him out, including once when Goodall was playing a saloon in Pendleton and his amplifier blew. Gesler went all the way to Goodall’s store to get him a new one and drive it to the gig.

There was also the time Goodall’s daughter had car trouble and Gesler drove out to meet her with a pickup truck.

“He’s a very giving guy” Goodall said.

Goodall said he’s certain Owallacare will be a hoot and looks forward to packing the house, even getting Gesler on the stage to play his guitar.

The event has no cover fee, but there will donation boxes at the door and a guitar up for auction. A donation will also be made by Sapolil from a portion of its food and beverage profits for the night.

“It is our ultimate reason for being ... to help one another,” said Davis.

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