For all of the sad and disturbing local music scene news over the last month — including the unexpected passing of jazz man Jack McCray, the sudden death of rock promoter and manager Johnny Diamond, and Cumulus Media's layoff of Da Breakfuss Club at Z93 Jamz — it's encouraging to hear a positive tale of survival.
Last week, I heard rumblings from a few journalists and musicians about a benefit show for Charleston indie/Americana songwriter Mac Leaphart. A benefit show? I wondered if he'd been the victim of theft or might be trying to raise funds for a big project. It turned out that he'd recently had brain surgery on a non-cancerous tumor and was sidelined from performing. He's currently residing at his family's home in Greenville and doing well with his recovery.
"I had been having headaches and some double vision since early in the summer," Leaphart says. "I went to a doctor who chalked it up to a sinus infection. It didn't get any better for months, so finally I went to see a neurologist and had an MRI. They found a brain tumor."
Leaphart immediately went to a neurosurgeon to schedule an operation. "He told me he could operate the next Monday, which seemed like a plan to me," Leaphart says. "I was ready to get it out."
The doctors told Leaphart that the tumor had been growing for quite a while, possibly for 10 to 20 years.
"That kind of blew my mind, but, apparently, that's a good thing, since the malignant ones usually kind of pop up overnight," Leaphart says. "It had grown to the size of a plum. Looking back, I can see that it had been affecting me for at least two years in various ways. It feels good to know it's behind me now."
Leaphart's surgery was successful. Now he faces a lengthy recovery period, during which he can't tour or perform on stage very much at all. He predicts it'll be around spring before he starts working at his usual pace again.
"I sure am missing the hell out of playing shows," he says. "I don't want to make a huge deal out of this, but it might not be a bad idea for the word to get out so people don't think I hung up my cleats or something."
Local booking agent and promoter Ben Bounds of Follywood Productions has handled some booking and publicity for Leaphart and his projects in recent years, including Leaphart's latest ensemble, My Ragged Company. Bounds recently announced plans for a big benefit show for Leaphart at the Hippodrome Performing Arts Center (360 Concord St.) on Sat. Jan. 28.
"I'm so glad that Mac is going to be okay, and all of his friends and colleagues in town wish him the best," says Bounds. "We wanted to put something together for him to show support and raise money. He needs funds, not to cover large insurance deductibles, but several months' worth of lost income. If he's unable to play, he's unable to earn anything. We hope this draws a lot of support."
The event at the Hippodrome will feature live music from Leaphart's bandmates, Guilt Ridden Troubadour, Mark Bryan, and special guests in the lobby and main theater. An on-site VIP party with an open bar and buffet is in the works as well.