MERF's beginning....


Marvin Maxwell was one hell of a drummer in 1981, playing with local and national acts in studio and on stage. Then, disaster struck. He was in a car accident that left him pretty banged up and his heel and ankle a fine pulp of bone powder. As they are often the first to do, musicians got together to have a benefit and raised quite a bit of money to help him, but Marvin also had a big heart. It turns out his insurance was pretty good, and he couldn’t help but pay it forward when he heard of a friend and fellow musician with cancer.

“I called him up and told him to come up and meet me,” says Maxwell. “Then, I gave him a big ole’ bag of cash.”

This is the giving spirit that has kept Musician’s Emergency Resource Foundation (MERF) since that very first benefit. At first, it was a collective fund that musicians could pay into and count on in times of need, but it became a legal non-profit in 2004 and now has a dedicated board of directors who vette and vote on aid requests, helping working music industry professionals in times of crisis.

In the early years of MERF, most of Louisville’s music scene and radio stations would get involved raising funds to keep it funded. There were a lot more live music venues at the time, and some of the fundraiser festivals would boast up to 100 bands for a single fee.

“There were a lot more nightclubs up and down Main Street, and we’d put bands at all of them,” said Maxwell. “For five bucks, you could go up and down and see them all.”

Maxwell is no longer involved in running MERF, but the volunteers continue to keep it alive with fundraisers and donations from people and companies who understand the importance of some of society’s most vulnerable members. Music industry professionals continue to be on the front line when someone needs a benefit, but MERF is often their last option for help with basic or medical needs when they are faced with struggles.

“Merf needs money,” says Maxwell. “Give MERF some money.”


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