Ben Cauley was at home on stage. He’d raise his trumpet, close his eyes and with intensity signaled by the tightening of his brows send air flowing through his horn routinely causing goose bumps to dance on the arms of listeners.
An original member of the Memphis-rooted and world renowned Bar-Kays, Mr. Cauley died Monday night at Methodist South Hospital. He was 67.
Mr. Cauley was on stage on June 6 in Clarksdale, Miss. when the Bar-Kays were inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame. He moved the audience that day, but it wasn’t with his trumpet or through his vocal talent.
Filled with emotion, Mr. Cauley talked about all that he had been through, shedding tears as he referenced the Dec. 10, 1967 plane crash near Madison, Wisc., that took the life of soul man Otis Redding and the lives of all of his fellow members of the Bar-Kays, except James Alexander, who was on a different flight.
Mr. Cauley alone survived the crash. Two decades later, he dramatically overcame a health scare – an aneurysm and massive stroke.
“Heavy hearts at the Stax Museum today, mourning the loss last night of our wonderful friend,” read a post on the Stax Museum Facebook page.
“Most fans know that about Ben but what we’d like you all to know is that Ben was one of the sweetest people in the world and a true gentleman and mentor,” the post continued. “Our thoughts today are with his family, friends, and millions of fans. We love you, Ben.”
LaMont Robinson, chairman of the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame, did as many others did on Tuesday – reflected on their paths crossing – directly and indirectly – with Mr. Cauley’s. He noted that the last performance of Redding and Bar-Kays before the crash was in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
“My parents were at that show,” said Robinson. “I got a chance to express to him that the whole induction ceremony was about him. Because any time that you escape death like he did, God had his hands on him. My condolences go out to his family. I am glad that he got a chance to see himself inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. He was too much! My condolences go out to his family. I am glad that he got a chance to see himself inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. He was too much!
Larry Dodson, now the lead singer of the Baon, now the lead singer of the Bawas a teenager when he joined the a teenager when he joined the
“Ben was without a doubt one of the greatest trumpet pl doubt one of the greatest trumpet pls I’ve ever heard,” Dodson told The New Tri-State Defender on Tuesday afternoon. “And probably one of the things that most people don’t really know about him is Ben was a really, really good singer…”
And, said Dodson, Mr. Cauley was a teacher.
“And not just vocally. I mean he was a showman. He had style, he was always a sharp dresser. He was aa star in every sense of the word.”
The homegoing plans for Mr. Cauley, a South Memphis product, have not yet been announced. He leaves five daughters, Shuronda Cauley-Oliver, Chekita Cauley-Campbell, Miriam Cauley-Crisp, Monica Cauley-Johnson and Kimberly Garrett; and two sons, Phalon Richmond and Ben Wells.