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Benefit concert aids man who seeks experimental surgery

March 17, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Bands like Morningstar Consort and Mixed Nuts offered up long musical jams Sunday afternoon at the Shepherdstown Train Station while spectators took to the dance floor to join in the celebration.

They twirled around the dance floor, smiling at each other and dancing in groups of up to five people.

Live music is a staple in this college town, but Sunday's performance was special.

The 60 or so people who crowded into the train station for the eight-hour event Sunday afternoon were there to pay tribute to their friend Don Oehser.

Oehser, a versatile guitarist who has opened for headline performers including Jerry Lee Lewis and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, cut off the tips of two of his playing fingers during an accident at his cabinetmaking job.

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The ring and middle finger on Oehser's left hand were cut off below the top knuckle by a multiblade saw in the Dec. 13 accident. His wife, Laura Oehser, searched for a prosthesis doctor and finally found one in Chicago who may be able to help Oehser regain his playing ability.

Dr. Robert Lipshutz has designed a mechanism that will slip on Oehser's hand and hopefully be able to simulate the finger movements critical for guitar playing, Laura Oehser said.

"It's totally experimental," Laura Oehser said.

It's not clear how much the procedure will cost, she said.

"He (Lipshutz) told me not to worry about that right now, which is sweet," Laura Oehser said.

But Oehser's friends made sure their friend would be ready for any medical expenses during Sunday's benefit concert.

For a suggested donation of $15, Oehser's friends and fans streamed into the train station to hear 13 bands. The music started at 4 p.m. and was scheduled to go until midnight.

Oehser milled through the crowd, at times greeting old friends he had not seen in decades.

Oehser said dealing with the accident has been depressing at times, and he has tried to rebound by experimenting with alternative tunings on the guitar.

As friends and fans made their way into the train station, other fund-raising was getting off to a strong start.

Between music performances, a woman announced over the microphone that Oehser's high school class donated $1,400 for the guitarist's medical expenses.

Oehser, who lives in Keedysville, has played in Shepherdstown bars for years and his signature style for a while was "heavy duty Chicago blues," said Ardyth Gilbertson, who was accepting donations at the door of the train station.

Then Oehser began experimenting in jazz, which was equally appealing, Gilbertson said.

Jem Michelitch said he grew up with Oehser, but the two eventually lost touch. Michelitch said he had been wanting to contact Oehser and heard about Sunday's benefit on the radio.

Michelitch decided to ride up from his Arlington, Va., home to see his old friend.

"He's an extremely talented musician," Michelitch said.

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