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Thursday, October 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 45.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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James 'Curley' Cooke, 1944-2011

Steve Miller Band guitarist James "Curley" Cooke, 66, passed away on May 16 after battling cancer for two years. The Wausau native helped found the world-famous classic-rock group in Madiosn, then moved to L.A., where he lent his talents to Blues in the Schools, a national organization that brings blues-performance workshops to schoolchildren.

Local music celeb Ben Sidran, who played keyboards for the Steve Miller Band, says Cooke will be sorely missed as a performer and a friend. "Curley was a groovemaster, and playing with his Watermelon Band at the Nitty Gritty back in 1972 was a lesson in keeping the good times rolling. He was a dedicated musician, a good friend and a true messenger of the spirit of Madison."

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