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Memorial for Mike Hinton, a big-hitting Valley guitarist

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As my wife’s primary caregiver in her, fortunately, successful fight against cancer, I accompanied her to Hanna Boys Center for a Thursday August evening’s inspirational Survivors Dinner for Sonoma Valley’s 24-hour Relay For Life event, which is the American Cancer Society’s major fundraiser.

After a wonderful dinner, generously donated and served by Maya, the popular Plaza restaurant, came a heartfelt and uplifting rally-to-the-cause-of-defeating-cancer speech by Sonoma’s Lori Bremner, a state and national Relay For Life leader, then Valley musician and conductor Jim Griewe took the stage.

Before Jim conducted his choral group, he paid tribute to one of the best guitarists and musicians ever to come from the Valley of the Moon, Mike Hinton, who had died of bladder cancer earlier that morning.

Once the words passed Jim’s lips, they hit me like a sledgehammer. As I sat stunned by the devastating news, my wife put her hand on my shoulder because I’ve been a longtime friend and always honored-to-be musical collaborator with Mike, following his vibrant music career from when he was a Valley youth.

Now I know this is a sports column, and so I will justify this “sports” piece with the facts that Mike did play sports in his youth, and his father, Dave, who helped teach him music, was a former star athlete at Sonoma Valley High School in the 1950s and was elected into the 2011 Dragons Athletic Hall of Fame.

Actually, Mike’s athletic talent came with his amazing, agile and quick fingers, which flew up and down the fret board in creating wonderful guitar music that will live on forever.

Being part of the Valley music world, I watched Mike grow into the incredible musician he was and followed his versatile career since he was an 11-year-old guitar sensation who blew me – and my middle brother – away when we first heard him playing in a garage with a local band in the early 1970s.

Mike then blossomed as the lead guitarist in the Southside Blues Band and Fluid Drive, before the late, great Norton Buffalo took him under his wing and broke him into the big-time music scene.

It was through my close friendships with Norton and Mike coming together to work with me and my younger brother in creating the music for the soundtrack of a docu-drama film on pack-burro racing in the Colorado Rockies, the “Lost Frontier.” I’m in the process of re-releasing with the film in the wake of losing both legendary musicians.

In honor of Mike and his guitar legend, there’s going to be a free memorial event – Michael Hinton: A Celebration of Life – taking place from 1 to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building, 126 First St. W.

The musical tribute will feature some of the many famed Northern California musicians, including the Barry Melton Band with Country Joe and the Fish’s Barry Melton, along with Peter Albin, Banana, Roy Blumenfeld, Brad Jenkins and guests David and Linda LaFlamme and Sonoma’s Dave Aguilar; Keystone Revisited’s Tony Saunders, Bill Vitt, Mitch Stein, Stu Allen and special guests Mike Emerson and Sonoma’s Tommy Thomsen; and Valley musicians who’ve played with Mike over the years, including Oscar Mooneyhan and Chris Owen.

This is a great opportunity to experience a perfect tribute to a close-to-perfect guitarist.

Ciao!