Ian Whitcomb, a longtime favorite performer and lecturer in Eugene at the The Shedd Institute’s Oregon Festival of American Music, died in Los Angeles Sunday, April 19. He was 78.
The British-born musician brought his unique blend of erudite comedy wrapped around vaudevillian vocals to Eugene for more than two decades. Over an international career that began in the 1960s, he played such wry hits as “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night.” In 1974 he accompanied himself on ukulele as he sang the old show tune “Hungry Women” on The Tonight Show.
Whitcomb’s lengthy resume includes more than two dozen vinyl albums and nearly as many CDs. He wrote numerous books on music and was among the leaders of the current ukulele revival.
He had been booked to perform at this summer’s OFAM, which is still scheduled to run July 22-Aug. 1.
Amy Adams, a Eugene musician who teaches and works as accompanist at The Shedd, worked with Whitcomb there regularly over the years. “I adored working with Ian,” she says. “He was gentle and funny and so easygoing.”
“He’d been a mainstay at OFAM since 1998,” says Jim Ralph, executive director of The Shedd. “He was a gentleman and a gentle man. My heart bleeds.”
Whitcomb suffered a stroke in 2012 and, though he recovered and continued to perform, had endured health setbacks this past winter, Ralph said.
Whitcomb was the second out of town OFAM regular to die in recent weeks. New York jazz man Bucky Pizzarelli died of COVID-19 on April 1. He was 94.