In June, when Hand Drawn Records founder and co-owner Dustin Blocker was in the middle of planning his second-annual Cancer Jam, a cause he'd first taken up in 2014, he was dealt a devastating blow: He found out that his mother Linda has stage 4 breast, lymphatic and bone cancer. In the cruelest of ironies, the show had taken on a whole new meaning — and found its honoree. It was a no-brainer.
Hand Drawn Records has always been more of an artist collective than a label, so when the news came down, it was all hands on deck for his second family. Blocker had taken on the role of Cancer Jam's program director, in addition to performing at the show with the band he fronts, Exit 380. "It was about three weeks after we had a handshake deal in place to run the music portion of the show again that she was diagnosed," Blocker says. "And it put us on a completely different path musically than last year."
Seven recording artists will step onstage at Plano's Courtyard Theater Friday, but without their respective bands in tow. The night truly honors Linda, who has spent 53 of her 67 years on this planet performing and teaching music, with songs from some of her all-time favorites ranging from Jerry Lee Lewis to Joe Cocker to Van Morrison.
The house band backing them all up will comprise Andrew Tinker, another Hand Drawn artist, and other hired guns. Members of the Blocker and Istook clans — including Dustin's brother David, who was granted leave from his Air Force deployment in Qatar for the event — will also take the stage in honor of the woman who has led them to lives filled with song.
"We can't help it. Music is built-in at this point," Blocker says of his first family. "So I said, 'If we're doing this for Mom, let's really make it about her. Let's take the music she loves and put on a show for Mom.' It's taken a lot more effort on the artists' part, but they're really excited to be a part of something this special."
Cancer Jam raised $10,000 in 2014, its first year, for honoree John Criss, who suffered from lung cancer. The concert itself will raise a similar amount for Linda's medical expenses this year, but combined with a Gofundme campaign the Blocker family started for her, Blocker — who originally aimed to raise $25,000 for his mother — hopes to get that number to over $35,000.
He's well on his way to that goal. The Gofundme campaign brought in over $28,000 in one month, which has allowed Cancer Jam some breathing room to put on a show with a bit more crowd appeal the second time around. VIP tickets have already sold out, and Blocker said Tuesday that about 30 general admission tickets ($12 in advance, $15 day of show — if any last that long) remain available before the Courtyard Theater's approximately 325-seat room is sold out. 102.1 FM The Edge's Chris Jagger will be on hand to host the event as well.
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The cancer diagnosis compounded what had already been a difficult year for Linda, who lost her job in Radioshack's restructuring and found herself without access to health care or any real means to pay for her medical expenses.
"Musically, she's obviously always been that proud and supportive mother with everything I've had the good fortune of doing," says Blocker, who started Hand Drawn four and a half years ago. "You obviously want to make her proud with the music side of the show, but then there's that tug of sadness that comes from being in the position of having to do it.
"She's been so uplifted by this all. If spirituality can in any way affect physical health, this thing has already served some of its purpose."
CANCER JAM with Brandon Callies, Jesse Anderson, Scott Tucker, Robert Cody Maxwell and more takes place at 8 p.m. Friday, September 11, at Courtyard Theater, 1509 H Ave., Plano, $12-$40