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Fifth Purple Willie Jam Coming Up to Fight Alzheimer's

Tom Flanigan

A musical fund-raiser for the Alzheimer’s Association takes place in Tallahassee next Friday, Sept. 13. The event is also a tribute to the event organizer’s father who was claimed by the disease.

David Wheeler is involved with lots of worthy causes in his community. But there is one organization to which he’s dedicated perhaps most of his time and energy.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest dementia-related research, advocacy and support organization in the world,” he explained. “The Alzheimer’s Association funds research and advocacy at every level and support for persons with dementia, their families and caregivers.”

Wheeler’s support of this cause has a very personal motivation: the memory of his father LeMoine C. “Willie” Wheeler.

“My dad was a brilliant and funny guy,” he recalled. “He was the person you wanted to sit next to at a dinner party. Alzheimer’s attacked his brain and destroyed his mind. Taking care of him nearly killed my mother.”

In honor of his dad, Wheeler began hosting musical events he dubbed “Purple Willie Jams” as part of the local fight against Alzheimer’s. That tradition continues this year.

“Purple Willie Jam V is an evening of great live local music supporting the Tallahassee Walk to End Alzheimer’s and raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.”

Most previous jams took place in the now closed Krewe de Gras in Midtown. Wheeler says he found another venue not far away for this year.

“Purple Willie Jam V will be held Friday, September 13 at Fire Betty’s Arcade in Midtown, Tallahassee,” Wheeler announced, adding, “All attendees must be at least 21 years of age. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the music starts at 6:45.”

There will be a variety of musical acts featured during the evening.

“Hot Tamale opens the show, playing multiple genres plus their own distinctive original songs. At 8 p.m., Rags & Tinder bring a mix of fresh but familiar traditional and Americana. The Fried Turkeys take the stage at 9:15 p.m. with what they call ‘greasy, hippie, roots, country.’ The Jerry Thigpen Trio rounds out the evening starting at 10:30 p.m. with an authentic seasoned blues/rock and a dash of British invasion served up with gutsy guitar playing and soulful vocals.”

Along with the music, there will be a silent auction and other fund raising activities. Wheeler says tickets are available online at: There is also a companion site: that accepts donations from those who can’t attend Friday night’s performances. Wheeler says one unifying principle is behind it all.

“We are working towards a world without Alzheimer’s,” he insisted. “We look forward to the day when we will know people who have survived this terrible disease. When that day comes, it will come in no small part because of the work of the Alzheimer’s Association.”

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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