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Geoff Worman: A Eulogy for Stinky

May. 5, 2010
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Milwaukee’s music community lost one of its most endearing personalities Friday, April 29, when Geoff Worman—musician, artist, record/toy store proprietor, fisherman, television viewer and herbal enthusiast—passed away after a brief bout with kidney cancer at age 53. For decades Geoff—or Stinky, as he was known among his friends—had been a fixture of Milwaukee’s musical underground. Geoff was a talented guitarist and keyboardist who performed with many bands since the late 1970s: Buck Byron and the Little Seizures, the Rhomboids, the Bob DuBlon 5, and, most significantly, the Ghostly Trio—“the wedding band from hell” according to the old Express—with Peter Balestrieri and Tim Taylor. The Trio released several cassettes and an LP, Christmas with the Ghostly Trio.

Geoff was important in many ways to a lot of people. My experience with him was as one of the knobs who hung around at his record/toy store, Flipville Records (1936 N. Farwell Ave). Geoff possessed a phenomenal intellect and expressed himself in an authoritative but low-key manner. Once I was lambasting some phony guru who made promises of “universal knowledge” and Geoff replied, “Well, it depends on what universe you mean…I have my own universe…of weirdness.”

Geoff looked like a guru and was, in fact, my cultural guru. I learned so many interesting things from him about Buck Owens, Porter Wagoner, “The Lawrence Welk Show,” Link Wray, Gene Vincent, Joe Meek and Geoff’s favorite movie of all time, Bill and Coo (1948). In a mysterious combination of open-minded bohemianism and pragmatic commercialism, Geoff constantly reminded me that everything—good, evil, and in between—exists because somebody thought they could make money off of it. Geoff sold and gave me so much wonderful crap, which I will always treasure. Stoic and immensely private, he lived life on his own terms. He was my hero.

I’ll miss the sound of his raspy baritone voice, the sight of his penetrating eyes, and the odor of the constantly employed air freshener in his beloved Flipville. His departure leaves a big hole in a lot of people’s lives, but he’s very much alive in my thoughts. Wherever someone takes delight in the off-key singing of a 12-year-old kid, strums an out-of-tune three-string Fisher-Price toy guitar with the finesse of Andrés Segovia, or refers to anyone as a “knob,” the spirit of Stinky will surely live on.

Paul Host will present a tribute to Geoff 3 p.m. Saturday, May 8, on WMSE, 91.7 FM (www.wmse.org).


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