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Remembering Mike Scap

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A sad event in the Hot Rize world… Mike Scap, founding member and the original guitarist in Hot Rize, passed away from cancer in his native New Jersey. Mike was on the demo tape that led to the album that led to the formation of Hot Rize in January, 1978 — with Mike on guitar, age 22. He was with us for our first 3 months, and his amazing playing and onstage spirit helped get the band attention when we most needed that, just to survive week-to-week! When in the second month of the band we opened for Doc Watson, Mike repeatedly drew audible audience reaction when he started to solo. The tape of that concert was the Hot Rize demo that got us most of our first year’s employment.

There’s a good-sized obituary posted on BluegrassToday.com. You can also see a live video of Mike flatpicking Honeysuckle Rose at a 1984 reunion of the legendary Ophelia Swing band (soloing starts at 1:55). It’s not easy to find recordings of his guitar playing, but they’re out there. Respected guitarists Steve Kaufman and Russ Barenberg praise him highly for his invention of what he called “floaties”, crosspicking using open strings and moving positions to make cascading effects, requiring high-definition, high-speed picking that few can execute.

Mike’s temperament was just wasn’t cut out for being in a traveling band. Though a very likeable person, his quirks were legendary. He didn’t last very long in any group, partly due to his dislike of traveling in cars – a definite problem. As years went on it became clear that his erratic personality made it less and less likely that his music would be widely heard. For twenty or more of his last years he was virtually a hermit, with little contact with anyone. His only solo album, Sketches, made during those years, was so understated it mystified his admirers.

He had an open heart and a soulful way of looking at the world. It was great to see him when he was happy and positive and that’s how I’ll best remember him — along with that great touch and fluidity in his playing. Rest in peace, Mike.

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