Devoted listeners of WMSE, frequent visitors to East Side record shops and fans of vintage R&B vinyl know exactly who Cosmo Cruz is.
Cruz, nee Patrick Cummings, has been a fixture on the local scene for decades and is known for his ready smile, his encyclopedic knowledge and his quick wit.
"Cosmo is everything a big-city DJ should be," says his friend, musician and fellow vinyl enthusiast Eric Blowtorch. "He has impeccable taste, and a close relationship with the music – not just soul, either. You've heard his doo-wop, rockabilly, reggae, punk, Latin and metal shows – totally unique.
"Cosmo's sense of humor is very hip, linguistically inventive to say the least – he can never pronounce the word 'dyslexia' properly, though he claims to have it. He'll talk about his childhood, his wild experiences with cars, his health problems, his medication, the news – nothing is taboo. And he always makes it fascinating. We need more storytellers and wordsmiths like him, Garrison Keillor and Dr. Bop."
Alas, these days Cosmo is terminally ill and struggles to survive. According to Blowtorch, Cruz has been dependent on friends, family and a hospice nurse to help him survive. "He has far outlived his doctors' diagnosis, so he finds himself in need of money," the musician says.
That's why Blowtorch has organized a benefit Saturday night for Cruz, featuring many of his long-time friends from the Milwaukee music scene.
The event starts at the free Brady Street Festival, between sets by De La Buena and Kings Go Forth on the Nomad World Music Stage. Radio Milwaukee's Marcus Doucette will introduce Kings Go Forth and announce the benefit to the crowd. WMSE's Paul Host and Dollar Bill of WMSE will also talk about Cosmo and the benefit at the end of KGF's performance.
The benefit moves to Allium (formerly Cafe Brucke), 2101 N. Prospect Ave., for an all-star, vinyl-only record spin featuring a veritable who's who of Milwaukee music from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m.
In addition to Doucette and Dollar Bill, one-time Ludwig Van Ear Records owner Michael Ayers, Atomic Records' Atomic Rich and former Earwaves East Records boss Dave Szolwinski will spin. Also at the turntables: Lotus Land and Kings Go Forth's Andy Noble, Decapitado and Die Kreuzen frontman Dan Kubinski, Kubinski's D.K. bandmate Keith Brammer, Paul Cebar, DJ JDL and Cruz's WMSE Blues Drive colleague Marty.
Admission is free.
At the festival and at Allium, friends will offer Cruz's legendary four-volume 1965 soul mix CDRs in exchange for minimum donations of $10.
There will also be a silent auction at Allium, featuring some cool local vinyl:
- The complete Kings Go Forth vinyl and CD discography, including their highly prized debut 7" vinyl single "You're the One" b/w "One Day"
- De La Buena's "La Tortuga" on vinyl and CD
- A die kreuzen vinyl and CD package
- A Kid Millions vinyl and CD package
- A Lotus Land vinyl and CD package
Blowtorch says that he and lots of other local musicians owe a major debt to Cosmo and this benefit is just one step toward showing their devotion.
"His '90s cassette compilations were like currency when the Superpowers and Thousandaires were going strong," says Blowtorch. "The Gems, the Corvells, the Radiants, the Jackson Sisters, Willie Colon, Joe Cuba, Patti Hamilton and the Lovelites – Cosmo turned us on to all of 'em.
"I'm especially pleased that Andy and his gang are acknowledging our enormous debt to Cosmo, that such an eclectic bunch of DJs are all donating their time, and that WMSE and Radio Milwaukee are making a unified statement of support."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.