Musician Is Gone, But Melody Lingers

May 18, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

There's general disagreement on which standard Fred Loose was playing to a full house Sunday when he died: "Little Coquette," or "I Don't Want To Set the World on Fire" or "I Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do."

But there's general agreement on this: The 70-year-old Mr. Loose made Galesville's Topside Inn a jumpin' joint, a year-round local favorite and summertime watering hole for boaters.

The piano-playing Mr. Loose, who led the Topside Jammers every Sunday, slid off his stool at 6:10 p.m. and died.

"He fell hard, and he was gone," said Frederica "Ricke" Morgan, Mr. Loose's daughter, who was tending bar there at the time. His wife, Myrtle, was there as well.

A physician at the restaurant, then rescue workers from the Galesville Volunteer Company a few doors away could not revive Mr. Loose.

He had a longtime heart problem and had intended to visit his doctor this week because his arrhythmia had gotten worse, Ms. Morgan said.

He was not, by any account, a great singer or a great piano player.

"He was a hell of an entertainer," said trumpet player Dick Sowell, who was with Mr. Loose when he died. "For a musician, that's the way to go -- playing."

Mr. Sowell used to introduce Mr. Loose as the "romantic baritone," and Mr. Loose used to say that should have been "rheumatic baritone."

"You don't expect people to be singing one minute and on the floor the next," said Topside owner Elizabeth Kinzie, who closed the restaurant after Mr. Loose died.

Mr. Loose, the last surviving member of the original Topside band, had been playing there 19 years and one week, Ms. Kinzie said.

A retired federal engineer who played organ for a local church and funeral home, Mr. Loose strolled into the restaurant one day and asked Holly and John Clark, then the owners, if he could play there, Ms. Clark said. He played Friday and Saturday nights with a drummer at the mirrored piano bar; the band gathered on Sundays.

In the crowd one October night in 1974 was a Fair Haven woman who sat at the piano bar and bet Mr. Loose $5 that she knew more songs than he did. She won the bet, and she won his heart. Myrtle Jones married him in 1982, becoming his third wife and later the Topside's hostess.

He had a devilish, at times bawdy, sense of humor, telling people that he judged a joke by whether it was so funny that it made his teeth come loose, Ms. Morgan said. He played "Who's Sorry Now" for an anniversary celebration -- but eventually led into the "Anniversary Waltz."

He played "Anchors Aweigh" when Gloria and Earl Hargrove entered, a joke recalling when the Looses and Hargroves went boating, and, in bringing his boat in under Coast Guard orders, Mr. Hargrove, pulled up a number of other anchors.

Friends recalled Mr. Loose as a consummate gentleman and professional. An open mike was his trademark, and he never cringed when tone-deaf singers sent the waiters scurrying back into the kitchen. And he'd thank them for singing.

The band will look for another piano player -- but not yet. The restaurant will have no music this weekend.

"I know I should be thinking of the business, but emotionally I just can't do that now," Ms. Kinzie said.

Mrs. Loose said her husband will be buried in the casual clothes that were his trademark: a turtleneck topped by a loose-knit pullover. Viewing hours will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Rausch Funeral Home in Owings.

The burial service will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at St. James Episcopal Church in Lothian, where the band will play three songs, including "When the Saints Go Marching In," the number the band closed with on Sundays. He will be buried in the church cemetery. After the service, mourners anyone who knew and loved Mr. Loose -- will return to the Topside for a private gathering. The restaurant will be closed to others.

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