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The north state holds warm thoughts for Bay Area-based songwriter Chuck McCabe, who died of cancer at age 65 last Friday in Santa Clara. McCabe received airplay on the exceptional radio station KPIG for his lighthearted ode to the north state, “I’d Rather be in Redding.”
As the song indicates, McCabe really was fond of Redding and our surrounding area. He enjoyed performing at venues like the Post Office Saloon and Old City Hall. Those fortunate enough to catch his live shows quickly realized what a quality writer and performer he was.
“I called him the gold standard,” said Santa Cruz songwriter Michael Gaither. “He was always my favorite songwriter. He kind of lifted other people up and made you feel special. Every time I talked to him I came away with a little kernel of wisdom.”
Click here to see a prior News Cafe blog (including a video of “Rather be in Redding”), where McCabe posts a few comments. It gives a sense of his warm personality.
McCabe’s warmth and quick wit also poured fourth when he performed. He had a great love and compassion for all types of people, and he relished in the craft of writing songs.
His excellent tune “Minimum Wager,” which won the Woody Guthrie Songwriting Competition in 2002, is a fine example of those two elements blending. Here are the opening lines from that tune.
She was changing out of her fried chicken red
Gettin’ into her hamburger blue
And the girl lookin’ back from the mirror
Wasn’t anyone she thought she knew
Last year after one of his gigs at the Post Office Saloon, McCabe spent nearly an hour discussing recording strategies with me. I came away from the encounter amazed at his passion for every little detail of music. He truly wanted to impart whatever knowledge he could to someone else trying to write and record songs.
Gaither remembers McCabe’s recent offer to him that he’d listen to and help polish up all of Gaither’s new tunes prior to heading into the recording studio.
“I was really looking forward to that,” Gaither said. “He would just get back to people. He wouldn’t take anyone for granted.”
How should one honor McCabe? Gaither has an excellent strategy.
“Go play the Post Office. Write good songs. Be nice to people,” he says.
That’s what McCabe was all about.
Our hearts go out to Chuck’s wife Cindy, and the musicians of the Blah Blah Woof Woof songwriting consortium who often played with him. (In Redding, McCabe most commonly performed with Jay Howlett and Rolfe Wyer.)