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Benefit honors former YS musician

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This Saturday, May 29, Peach’s Grill will host a benefit for musician and long-time Yellow Springs resident, J.J. Yates, who was brutally attacked last month in Cincinnati.

A drummer and sound technician by trade, the 49-year-old Yates has played with many national acts and local musicians. Proceeds from the benefit will go towards Yates’ medical and living expenses.

“We’re raising awareness within our community because so many in Yellow Springs knew and loved [J.J.] and loved to play with him on the stage,” said Christine Beard, co-owner of Peach’s.
Michael Kelsey, Nerak Roth Patterson, Doctor Meat, Rob Heiliger and Bluzion will perform at the benefit, which starts at 5 p.m. There is a recommended donation of $5 before 10 p.m. and a cover of $5 thereafter.

“I really think this is a wonderful thing — I’m so ecstatic,” Yates said of the benefit in an interview this week.

Yates lived in Yellow Springs for 25 years before recently returning to his hometown of Cincinnati. On April 23, about 4 a.m., Yates was working under the hood of his car after it had broken down after he finished playing a show when he was jumped and severely beaten by unknown assailants. He sustained serious brain injuries, leaving him unable to perform and with mounting hospital bills.

“I had gotten so far and in one second I was pushed all the way to the back of the line,” Yates said of the incident, which was not believed to be a robbery attempt. While there were several similar attacks in the area, police have no solid leads on the perpetrators, Beard said.

Yates played drums with national acts Piney Brown, Branford Marsalis and Kool and the Gang, with whom he traveled around the world for 10 years. While back in Yellow Springs he played frequently with local bands, especially with Michael Kelsey, who is headlining the benefit.
“Peach’s Grill hopes that the music  family that [J.J.] has communed with and been such an intregal part of for so many years will come lend a hand to an exceptional man and musician,” Beard said in a press release.

A graduate of Central State University with a music education degree, Yates directed the Paul Robeson Cultural and Performing Arts Center at Central State for 13 years. At Antioch College he helped to install a recording studio and was frequently a sound technician at events at Kelly Hall.
Yates also helped to organize and performed at the first African American Cross-Cultural Week in 1991.

“We wanted to recognize the African Americans in the community who had done a lot in Yellow Springs,” Yates said of the event.

Yates is currently recovering at home in Cincinnati after a series of surgeries, including one in which four titanium plates were implanted to reconstruct his facial structure, according to Beard. He received 48 stitches in his head, which was apparently struck with a blunt object.

“I went from being a messed-up science project to looking like myself again,” Yates said. “I’ll be playing again — [the doctors] just want me to get stabilized,” he said.

Yates is grateful to the Yellow Springs community for its support, and especially to Peach’s Grill for organizing the benefit.

“We want to make sure people stay in touch with [J.J.] to see if they can help, not just monetarily, but in any way,” Beard said. “Music is always something people bond with. If that’s something we can use to help people, it’s a win-win.”

Bands performing at the benefit will play free-of-charge to support Yates’ recovery.
“It’s the musicians’ way of giving as well,” Beard said.

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