Friends of Joe Cripps describe the longtime Denton man as the type of person who lights up a room. Speaking of rooms, in Denton, the drummer has played just about all of them.
Cripps' friends gathered at Dan's Silver Leaf in Denton Friday to celebrate his 53rd birthday. Only Cripps wasn't there. He has been missing since 2016.
"Yeah, actually met Joe about 10 years ago, and it was right here in this establishment," said Tex Bosley, a fellow percussionist and an organizer of the party.
Bosley says the two had one thing in common right from the start. Both had been on the University of North Texas drum line.
"We were off to the races after that," Bosley said. "Fast friends and lots of stories to tell."
Cripps was a longtime member of the Grammy Award-winning Denton-based group Brave Combo. He left the band in the late 1990s but continued to be active in Denton's music scene.
"Joe, you couldn't keep him off the stage," remembered Bosley, who played with Cripps in a Herb Alpert cover band. "If there was a bill, and he was on it, he was playing with everybody."
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Cripps was last seen in October 2016. He had moved back to his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, and left a gig never to be scene or heard from again. Little Rock police investigated, but the case remains unsolved.
So friends gathered Friday, not as a memorial to Cripps, but a celebration in his absence. Donations will go to two causes dear to Cripps' heart: the Denton Humane Society and Denton Music and Arts Collaborative, which assists musicians and artists in finding affordable health care and insurance.
"This event is about celebrating Joe's birthday, and bringing all of the people who loved him so well together," Bosley said. "We'll be dancing until tomorrow."