Cincinnati lost another excellent musician and performer over the weekend. Michele Feaster, singer for the Blues/R&B band II Juicy (which took its moniker from Michele's nickname) passed away on Aug. 7 after battling cancer for the past four months. It's been a very sad summer in terms of losing some of our finest musicians — in less than a month, bassist Christopher Walker (Heavy Weather, The Walker Project), guitarist Skip Chavis (a session player for King and Olympic Records and, more recently, a member of local groups like Richie and the Students and Leroy Ellington's E-Funk Band), guitarist Catfish Collins (James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy's Rubber Band) and now Feaster have all passed away.
II Juicy formed in 2004 and had a pretty quick rise on the local club front. The band had been playing cover tunes until it signed up for the 2006 Cincy Blues Challenge, which required groups to play three original songs. In just a couple of weeks, the band put together three originals — and won the Challenge, earning a spot at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in early 2007.
Feaster — whose boyfriend called her "Juicy," but, after searching the BMV and finding that word already claimed as a vanity license plate, ordered "II Juicy" for her own plates, cementing a new stage name — began singing in church and studied various other styles of singing as a student at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. Overcoming some self-esteem issues, Feaster's confidence grew and she joined a few local cover acts, including the popular Richie and the Students, before getting a formal introduction to the Blues at a local open jam night. She was instantly hooked, began to study up on Blues singers and ultimately helped form II Juicy with musicians Bob Herrmann, Dave Engel, Dave Sageser and Tim Klee, becoming a popular draw in area clubs thanks to the solid musicianship and Feaster's effervescent stage presence and soulful vocals. The band was nominated for several Cincinnati Entertainment Awards over the years and performed a great set during the 2009 CEA ceremonies (take a look at Chuck Land's video from the show here).
CityBeat's Brian Baker interviewed Feaster just prior to the band's appearance at the International Blues Festival. Read his feature story here.
Anyone interested in helping Feaster's family with expenses can make a check out to "Play It Forward" (the local musicians' assistance charity) and put "Michele Feaster" in the memo. Checks should be mailed to Play It Forward (care of Jim Hunt), 1 East Main St., Amelia, Ohio, 45102.