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Oskar to get things rolling
Lee Oskar was the harp player for the funk band WAR, which started life in 1970 playing behind rock legend Eric Burdon. WAR and Burdon recorded three albums and the hit "Spill the Wine" before he left. In subsequent years, the band put together their own string of hits, including "Low Rider," "Cisco Kid" and ""Why Can't We Be Friends?"
Oskar himself went solo in 1993. Backed by the local Rapco Blues Band, Oskar will provide the entertainment Thursday at the party kicking off the fifth annual City of Roses Music Festival.
"Weekend warriors and one legend" is the way the kickoff party is billed by Brad Graham, president of the City of Roses Music Heritage Association. The band consists of Graham on bass, guitarist Bruce Zimmerman, drummer Gary Nunnally, saxophonist Ralph McDonald and singer/guitarist Mike Zito.
The party, a thank-you to the festival's sponsors, will be held from 8-9:30 p.m. at the University Center Ballroom. The public is invited. The concert is sponsored by the Southeast chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and the Speakers Bureau.
Oskar, one of the festival's three headliners, will get a workout this weekend. Friday night at 8 he will play on the Main Stage with guitarist Mike Zito, and at midnight he will team with guitarist Bruce Zimmerman at the River City Yacht Club. Saturday night he will perform on the Main Stage with the Acme Blues Band and with Bruce Zimmerman and the Water Street Band.
Oskar said he accepted an invitation to perform at the festival after meeting Graham a little over a year ago. He said he was impressed that Graham, who works for the musical equipment company Rapco, was doing something to support local musicians and raise money for music scholarships.
"I immediately agreed," Oskar said from his home in Washington state. "I want people to know they're doing a good thing."
The festival itself will formally begin with the opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Friday at Riverfront Park. Bands will begin playing at the Main Stage, the Themis Street Stage and at 10 downtown clubs and restaurants at 7 p.m. St. Louis's The Melroys will lead off on the Main Stage. The headlining Classic Rock All Stars will play at 9 p.m. followed at 11 by local favorites Papa Aborigine.
The Classic Rock All Stars include former members of the bands Sugarloaf, Iron Butterfly, Rare Earth, and Cannibal and the Headhunters.
The festival will resume at 1 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage and will continue through the evening. Headliner Eddie Money will perform at 8 p.m. on the Main Stage.
Musical groups will begin playing gospel and Christian music at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Main Stage. A complete listing of bands, times and locations will appear in Friday's Southeast Missourian.
The 200-foot-wide Main Stage actually will consist of two stages aboard a barge moored on the Mississippi River at the foot of Themis Street.
Five of Oskar's signature gold-plated harmonicas will be auctioned off to benefit the three music scholarships the festival foundation is endowing at Southeast Missouri State University. Bid sheets are in the City of Roses official program published by the Southeast Missourian.
Two of the harmonicas were signed by Oskar, two by the legendary Charlie Musselwhite and one by Oskar and Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd.
The auction winners will be announced at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Main Stage in Riverfront Park at Themis and Water streets.
Advance tickets for the festival are available at CD Warehouse, Schnucks, Shivelbine's Music and The Smoothie Place in Cape Girardeau, at Country Mart in Jackson, Visions Art Gallery & Studio in Makanda, Ill., at CD Warehouse in Carbondale, Ill., Mayberry Music & Sound at Jonesboro, Ill., Mungo Jerry's Fat Cat Cafe in Murphysboro, Ill., and CD Warehouse in Paducah, Ky.
Wrist bands are $10 each day for Friday and Saturday and $5 on Sunday.
335-6611, extension 182