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A big night for ‘Bigfoot’

Music uplifts Rick Hulett as he prepares for ‘Mother of All Surgeries’

Gorge musicians pulled together again on Friday for Bigfoot.

Rick Hulett, the guitarist who has long gone by that venerated nickname, played multiple sets of music at the “Bigfoot Benefit” held for him at Bingen Theater and attended by about 300 people.

For the second time in three years, Hulett is about to undergo radical surgery for abdominal cancer.

The tall, bearded Hulett is not so imposing or hirsute as Bigfoot but he has cut a large figure in the Gorge music scene since arriving for a windsurfing vacation in 1986 and never going back home to Texas. He’s played with the Wasco Brothers, Django’s Cadillac, Hapa Hillbillies, and numerous gigs with mandolinist Kerry Williams and others in Hood River, including regular gigs at The Pines Tasting Room. Hulett has also been instrumental in establishing a recording studio in the Bingen Theater.

While his health, and not blue riffs, will be his focus in the next two months, Hulett speaks eloquently about the power of music in lifting him up Friday as he prepares to leave June 3 for Washington, D.C., where he is scheduled to have surgery June 7.

“Bigfoot Benefit” raised $10,000 for Hulett. He spoke Monday with Hood River News staff writer Trisha Walker.

What is your current health situation?

I have a rare form of cancer that’s essentially appendix cancer that has spread to my abdominal cavity.

Dr. Sugarbaker removed everything I didn’t need to live. From the very first CAT scan it showed something was growing. It’s been almost three years and it’s back, so they’re going to try a different chemical. They open you up and put chemicals inside and remove anything that shouldn’t be there. It’s called the “Mother of all Surgeries.”

How long will you be in Washington, D.C.?T

he last time I was in the hospital for a month plus an additional week. There’s really no way to tell. It just depends on how your body responds. I’m planning for a month.

Is there anything that you need?

No. I think we’re set. We’ve got a great friend, Jan Thomson, a nurse at Providence, who was there last time, who is coming this time to sit with me.

Rick’s wife, Sharon, will be there the whole time. His daughter, Hannah, and son, Travis, will also come for part of the time.

How much money do you need to raise?

It depends on how long you’re going to be there. A month is in the neighborhood of $15,000, assuming insurance pays for everything. That’s motels and air fare. If insurance doesn’t come through it’s $350,000. But insurance says things look good and that probably won’t be a problem.

His insurance company is Oregon Dental System, a company that insures teachers in schools.

They were great. They’re a small company here in Oregon. They’ve been a very un-insurance-company-like.

What did you think of the show of support at the Friday night benefit?

I was overwhelmed. I’m still overwhelmed. It was just perfect. Take aside the money that everyone raised, the whole thing was just beautiful from start to end. As a musician it was the perfect thing, I can tell the energy I got from the event is going to carry me a long, long way.

How many musicians participated?

There were five different sets of music, and I played in the last three. About 35 people played music, and we stayed up past midnight.

How many people were in the crowd?

I had no idea. The place was jam-packed. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300, but that’s a guess.

The title of the show was “Bigfoot Benefit?” How’d they come up with that?

That’s been my nickname for a long time; I used to play music for an annual meeting of the Bigfoot Society.

Anything to add?

Just that I’m going to go and do this and we’re going to have another big party at the end of the summer to celebrate. We live in such a wonderful place. The fact that people would do this kind of event is something I think everyone should know about.

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