Percussionist Joe Cripps, once a member of Denton’s Grammy Award-winning Brave Combo, hasn’t been seen in nearly 15 months.
The last confirmed sighting of the musician who once traveled to Cuba, where he met Fidel Castro and worked on a blues record with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, was at the White Water Tavern in Little Rock on Oct. 19, 2016.
Friends and family have searched in Little Rock, Denton and Austin — all places where they thought Cripps might turn up — but found nothing.
“We’ve searched for Joe’s remains for more than a year,” said his brother, James Cripps of Little Rock. “I say remains because we knew —we being the family and his closest friends — that he was in very bad health. He had been in a very precarious position more than one time. We were all very concerned.”
Family members have learned he had lost his keys to his apartment and didn’t fill prescription medications in the last two months before he vanished. And he left behind his drums, which were his most treasured possessions.
A Little Rock Police Department spokesman referred all questions about the case to a detective who didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. In December, a Little Rock police detective told the Dallas Observer that the case was still open but that they couldn’t comment further.
About a year before his disappearance, Cripps moved from Denton back to his hometown of Little Rock to deal with alcoholism, his brother said.
With his 53rd birthday approaching, musicians have decided to honor Cripps with a concert at Dan’s Silverleaf Friday night in Denton. In addition to Brave Combo, Brent Best (formerly of Slobberbone) and Taste of Herb (a Herb Alpert tribute band that Cripps founded) will play. Cripps was a member of Brave Combo from 1992 to 1999. He also played occasionally with the band in later years.
“The event came about as a celebration of Joe’s birthday,” said Denton musician Tex Bosley. “The owners at Dan’s Bar in Denton and I reached out to Joe’s brother James in Arkansas to gain his blessing and support. It will be a lighthearted event to celebrate his birthday in his absence.”
On Brave Combo’s website, the band’s monthly newsletter written by founder Carl Finch, urged fans to attend the show.
“This will be a celebration of his life and a reminder that we still need to know what happened to him,” Finch said. “Lots of friends and musicians who played with Joe, including Brave Combo, will be attending and performing. We all hope to get some answers in 2018.”
James Cripps says he has no idea if or when he’ll learn more about his brother’s fate but he said Friday night’s event will be special to his family.
“This is Joe’s memorial,” James Cripps said. “We will not be doing anything else. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
If you go: Joe Cripps Birthday Party
Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial St., Denton
Doors open at 4 p.m. The music starts at 5 p.m. and a $10 donation is suggested.
Featuring Brave Combo, Brent Best, El Nuevo Mi Son, Isaac Hoskins, Paul Chesne, Chris Maxwell and A Taste of Herb.
Proceeds to benefit local charities including Denton Music and Arts Collaborative (DMAC) and the Denton Animal Shelter.