By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Jun 10, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Yesterday, news emerged that veteran Milwaukee rock and roll and blues drummer Vodie Rhinehart passed away unexpectedly on Sunday.

Like many, I first knew Vodie as the drummer of Milwaukee punk pioneers, The Haskels. But as time passed, Rhinehart played with a number of groups. Most recently, he was the man kicking it up a notch behind the kit with the Midwest Blues All Stars and Milwaukee's most veteran blues band, Leroy Airmaster. 

Along the way, he performed with a number of local bands.

"This was such a shock," said Greg Koch, the famed Milwaukee guitarist. "I just can’t believe it."

"He was such a sweet guy," said blues musician Jim Liban. "I am just sick about this. It is a terrible loss, not just to the blues community but for everybody. He was as good as they get."

Rhinehart played for over three decades with Steve Cohen and the Leroy Airmaster band.

"Vodie was a power drummer," Cohen said.  "I don't mean in the rock sense. His play propelled whatever ensemble he was playing with. He could play everything, jazz fusion, straight ahead jazz, blues, rock and roll.  He could kept great time and always moved the band forward. 

"Vodie and Bill (Airmaster guitarist) Stone were both at the conservatory" Cohen said. "There was this club owner who wanted us to form another band so we got Vodie. And we never separated. Vodie never left the band. He never missed a gig. He was dependable. When he said he'd be at a gig he was there. "

Cohen said that Airmaster would continue to play.

"Vodie is not replaceable," he said. "This is kind of like the end of an era. When you are together that long, it's kind of like a marriage. You grow together. And now that's over.

"But we are musicians and this is what we do. We can't replace Vodie, but Mark Wilson, who I played with in high school, has come back from Texas and he's stepped forward and we'll play with him. We have a busy summer. But I'll always miss Vodie."

Koch couldn’t contain his admiration for Rhinehart.

"I met Vodie when I was 18 years old," he said. "I'd pick him up and we'd go to my prerent's basement and play.  He was a total standup guy. He could play anything. He was a real part of the whole music scene in Milwaukee."

"Vodie was a world class drummer. What I mean is that his skill set would have let him tour with any national act. He was that good. There were times when I was playing rhythmn and I'd try something and he was right there. I'd look back and he would smile at me. We had those magic moments of synchronicity.

"He was omnipresent in music in Milwaukee. I'll really miss him."

Services for Rhinehart are pending.


Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.