SAM DRAPER Jan. 8, 1963-Sept. 14, 2022

A true musician and a musician’s true friend

When Sam Draper passed away, he left behind a legacy of music-making in Springfield that reached far beyond the notes he played and melodies he sang. Through a lifetime of performance, along with the thousands of listeners he touched who took the good feelings he sent out home with them, Sam also gave the gift of support and validation to plenty of musicians who then gave of themselves with music to extend his sphere of influence to an incredible level that continues on into the future for generations to come.

Born in Springfield, Sam was a Springpatch guy through-and-through. He graduated from Southeast High School, married Madalyn Wilson and worked for the Secretary of State’s office. He loved and supported all of his family here, including parents and grandchildren, while taking time for other pastimes such as fishing, pets and computers.

He was the caring glue in the many bands he sang and played guitar with, including Harmony Deep, Royal Pain, For the Love of Lennon, Vinyl Brothers, Elephant’s Gerald and Spy vs. Spy (plus, he was proudly an honorary member of Secret Society), and they did most of their gigging here in the local bars and clubs.

Along with his constant and productive cover band participation, Sam was known as the guy full of encouragement and optimism for beginning musicians and used his time as an open-mic host (mostly with Kortney Leatherwood as his partner in playing crime) to reach out and push others to do more than they often believed they could.

Traveling well beyond the performance musical aspect, Sam also gave his heart and soul to everything he was involved in, including doing charitable work in numerous fundraisers and giving deep and vital encouragement to others to do their own thing, all while creating lasting friendships that crossed boundaries and generations. The outpouring of tributes to him just after his death, especially on Facebook, were steeped in love and admiration, with many musicians giving Sam full and undeniable credit for encouraging them to keep playing and for supplying the motivation and inspiration to stay at it. His response to praise – and this was often cited by fellow musicians – was to simply say love was the greatest gift, and folks took that to heart.

He did a couple of interviews with the band Fun DMC on their blog page and they give us some insight into the thoughts behind Sam the Man. In the first installment back in 2016, Sam makes his bold claim for an Arnold Palmer drink being the “most refreshing substance on the planet,” then lists the singers that inspired him as “John Anderson of Yes, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Ronnie James Dio, Lou Gramm of Foreigner. Marty Robbins, Lennon and McCartney.” And to the question of “What song challenged you the most?” he tacked on a thoughtful and interesting piece of advice included in his answer of “Love Me Tonight” by Head East. He said, “It’s much more difficult to sing than you would think. I try to choose songs that I can sing well.

Playing copy music, there are too many songs out there to sing songs you struggle with.”

In 2018, he was asked about his guitar playing and gives this list of guitarists who have inspired him: “Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins,” then cites “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin as the most challenging song to play because it’s “tough to be Page and Plant at the same time, for sure.” And when asked about the most overplayed song done by cover bands, he states in delightful and wonderful SamSpeak, “There’s an endless list of great tunes that have been musically abused to the point of nausea.”

With that little window into what Sam was into and about, we can miss him more, let him go and watch as all those seeds of love and inspiration he planted without any desire for recognition, reward or reimbursement grow into fruition. Thanks again, Sam, for all the singing, the playing, the joking and supporting, and for the way you took your music, your companions and your life down the long and winding road of love.

Tom Irwin didn’t play a lot of music together with Sam, but they were always on the same page, both being supportive of open mics and happily and enthusiastically encouraging others to play music. And he believes Sam’s legacy of kindness and music love will continue to be felt through generations of area musicians, because it already is.

About The Author

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin, a sixth-generation Sangamon County resident, has played his songs and music for nearly 40 years in the central Illinois area with occasional forays across the country. He's contributed to Illinois Times since 2000 by writing Now Playing, a weekly music column, as well as features stories and other articles...

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