The Grisly Hand Remembers A Kansas City Trumpeter Who Got Everyone Into Music

Jun 2, 2016

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which Kansas City area musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically.

The Composer: Jimmy Fitzner, singer and guitarist

The Grisly Hand talked about "The Picture I Keep" and performed a preview live at KCUR's Podcast Party.
Credit Mike Russo / KCUR 89.3

The Band: The Grisly Hand

The Song: “The Picture I Keep,” to be released on the forthcoming album Hearts and Stars

The Story: Twelve years ago, trumpeter Richie Restivo was killed in a brawl. He was 19, had recently graduated from Rockhurst High School and was a central point in a group of young musicians in Kansas City who were into ska, reggae and punk rock. His friends say he was the kind of guy who would invite you to join a band, and when you said you didn’t know how to play an instrument, he’d teach you to play, say, the trombone.

“Richie literally pushed me on stage the first time I performed,” says Lauren Krum, the band's other lead singer.

A guitar lick and many of the lyrics in the song came to Jimmy Fitzner soon after Restivo’s death. But it was more than a decade before he was ready to pull it all together as a song and before the band was ready to perform it.

The Grisly Hand has been through many iterations since it formed in 2009, but Fitzner and Krum say that the current group, which includes some of Restivo’s closest friends, was ready both musically and spiritually to perform a song that remembers their friend and his death.

“It was like it solidified a bunch of people in amber; it encased our friendship in a weird way that I don’t think is possible without something that violent and tragic happening,” Fitzner says. “Hundreds of people that he knew through music or high school or whatever all started to become friends … starting bands and getting married. I mean, he basically created a little social network with his death, in a weird way."

The Instrument: Fitzner says "The Picture I Keep" had to include Richie Restivo’s main instrument, the trumpet, and his signature ska sound. The brass instruments burst through in the middle of a song and turn it into something Restivo would have written.

Sylvia Maria Gross is a reporter and editor at KCUR, and senior producer of the show Central Standard. You can reach her at sylvia@kcur.org and @pubradiosly.