If you’re a working musician in Northeast Florida, you probably know Moe Ricks already. In fact, odds are good that you’ve worked with him at some point in the past. For more than 20 years, Ricks has made inestimable contributions to the scene as a producer, engineer and all-around facilitator. Now, many of those artists who’ve benefited from his expertise are coming together to help give back to a man who’s given so much to them—and to us, the listeners and fans who love their work.
Ricks was born in Brunswick, Georgia, in March 1971 and moved here when his father retired from the Navy in 1983. After graduating from the Academy of Christian Truth in 1989, he moved to Tallahassee to work at the Milk Bar (not to be confused with our Milk Bar). It was there he first heard about Full Sail University; he moved down to Winter Park, and graduated from that institution in 1995. He soon returned to Jacksonville, falling into local creative circles and becoming a fixture within a generation of musicians. He worked at Anvil Audio on Park Street alongside Jim Lerche and the late, great Brian Hicks.
Ricks maintained a busy schedule, even as health problems began to slowly pile up. He’d battled congestive heart failure since 2005, and had had a balloon pump installed a few years ago. Things came to a head on May 9, when abdominal pains sent him to Orange Park Medical Center. He learned that his gall bladder had to be removed. During that process, doctors discovered his heart had deteriorated to a dangerous degree. The combination wrecked his kidneys as well. Subsequently, he was rushed to UF Health in Gainesville. Doctors there told him that he needed a heart transplant and a kidney transplant—and he needed them both immediately.
Ricks has remained positive throughout these serious health problems, biding his time as he waits for his transplant. It’s a difficult situation, made vastly more complicated because he needs multiple organs, and both organs must come from the same donor to reduce his risk of rejection.
He got close to the goal of better health mere days ago. On July 10, he was on the table, sedated, prepped and ready, his chest sawed open, as an airplane bearing his new organs flew to Gainesville. Then the unthinkable happened: The plane flew into a flock of geese, causing an engine fire that spread into the cabin and forced an emergency landing. A backup jet could not be secured in time to preserve the organs aboard. So Ricks had to be awakened and sewn back up. He patiently waits, only now in far more pain than ever. Words fail me.
As the news of Ricks’ situation broke, the community rallied in double-time around him. This weekend’s “I Know Moe” benefit concert was the brainchild of Marco Monfoy, co-founder of Burrito Gallery and Taqueria Cinco, which opens on Lomax Street in Five Points in just a few weeks, and Keith Marks, a former Folio Weekly staffer and longtime facilitator of the scene. Ricks helped Marks start the organization Avant Arts, which brings world music to our airwaves (via WJCT) and the Urban Core. They took the idea to Ian Ranne, who offered his Downtown venue, Justice Pub, for an entire day.
When the call for talent went out, virtually everyone answered on the first ring. The result? One of the most stacked lineups of local music ever assembled, including Aerial Tribe, Brandon Lucas, Cookie Bush, Cosmic Pimps, The Firewater Tent Revival, Madra Vaca and Shakti Cypher, Smokestack and Sugarfoot. It’s a virtual diaspora of Duval’s finest, scattered around the world; many of them would have never performed together again, if not for this specific occasion.
There’s also a silent auction, with items donated from local artists, artisans and various businesses. Organizers even hope to live-stream the event online, for the benefit of those who can’t be there in person … especially the man of honor himself.
Ricks looks forward to getting back out in them streets, and his current condition hasn’t curbed his appetite for the business. He’s got a mini recording rig set up on his laptop, and he’s already begun some recording at the hospital. The first edition of “Moe’s Merry Music Hour,” recorded on June 9, featured guitarist Michael Romine. For Ricks, the road ahead is long, uncertain and difficult, but his strength of character should carry him through. Ultimately, it’s quite easy for Moe Ricks to be positive, because that’s actually his blood type: B+.