On Tuesday, a Colorado-based band made a visit to Gatlinburg to help reestablish one local musician’s guitar collection after wildfires destroyed more than 50 of his guitars.
Ben Stroupe knows better than many how deeply music can heal. When he is not serving up a meal, he is rocking out at the Crystelle Creek Restaurant and Grill in Gatlinburg on Monday and Tuesday nights.
He was performing on the stage the November night when wildfires first swept into Gatlinburg.
Stroupe later returned to the city to find his home decimated, including 52 of his guitars and all the music he wrote in the 1970s.
"I never got back home after playing here. It was gone. Everything was gone,” Stroupe said. "I had guitars I carried around for 45 years. Just some rare, rare stuff.”
Grateful for his life, he kept serving at Crystelle Creek and picked up extra shifts when possible -- even choosing to work through Christmas.
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After WBIR 10News first aired his story, word spread fast. "I got people calling me from all over the United States. People offering me guitars," Stroupe said.
He said people had contacted him from as far as Wisconsin and California. Among those who reached out was Magic Music, a Colorado-based band that first started performing in the late 60s.
On Tuesday night, a representative from the band drove from Georgia to hand-deliver a vintage guitar to the musician.
"It just really resonated with the guys and the gal with Magic Music. The relationship and his story just really touched home,” said communications manager Debbie Wilkins. “We do want to pay it forward, and we want to help.”
"Wow, I love it! Did you tune this on the way in?" Stroupe said when Wilkins dropped off the guitar.
The act of kindness brought Stroupe one step closer to replenishing his lost collection. As he strums on, he says it's a reminder to pay it forward.
"It's happened to me, but there's folks in much worse shape than I am. And if I can give something back to those folks, that's the way it rolls!" he said.
Stroupe says he knows several other musicians who lost everything in the fires, and is coordinating with the band to help them donate instruments to those victims, too.