The bluegrass band that keeps on giving, and giving

Ocotillo Rain and Thunder Bluegrass BandIn March 2015 we reported on the charitable work that the Ocotillo Rain and Thunder Bluegrass Band was doing.

Recently we learned that they had collected over $10,000 in two years. That’s a remarkable achievement.

Members of the 11-piece southern Arizona bluegrass band have been playing for charities since the winter of 2014 with the first monies, $180.00, going to the benefit of the local Adopt a Family for Christmas organisation.

Earlier this month we spoke to their representative, guitar player Jeff Collins, to find out more about their charitable work since we last spoke to them.

What are the highlights for you during this time? What is the most that you have collected in any one event?

It’s hard to pick just one highlight, we’ve played so many fun events and got to know some of the people from the Charities we give to. We had a fun time at an event in Tucson called Tucson Meet Yourself. We got paid $200 this year and $100 last year, but it’s a cultural happening in which cultures from all over the world, that reside in Tucson, share their cooking and music. A gentleman from Sri Lanka filmed us and put it on YouTube. He loved the music and that we gave to charities. We were the only bluegrass band at the event and the only fully acoustic as well; we only play through microphones. Got to meet new friends and last year got a gig out of it playing for a birthday party at a downtown business.

The most we collected was this year at an Adult Community Resort; they book some big acts there of all genres and have an acoustically superb theatre in which to play; we had never played in anything that size. we tried to use our system and it was a disaster; we just didn’t have enough power in our system. Luckily it took only seconds to hook into the house system which was just incredible; all computer controlled, state of the art. It saved the day, the audience loved us. We were paid $800 for the two-hour performance.

Which charities have benefited most (if it really matters, as it’s not a competition)?

Ocotillo Rain and Thunder Bluegrass Band with Interfaith Community ServicesWell there is a local charity called Interfaith Community Services which provides transportation, has a food bank, and helps find jobs for the poor, elderly, and handicapped. We’ve given to them twice and played free fundraisers four times for them, one of which raised $10,000+, but it involved raffles and other fundraising, not sure how much our music was instrumental in that. Very nice people, the door is open for them to use our services. My 85-year-old mother occasionally uses this service for transportation, she can’t drive. We also gave the most money to CurePSP, which is a rare brain disease; Dudley Moore died of it, so did our banjo player’s wife. Every October is dedicated to raising money for CurePSP; the anniversary of his wife’s passing. We’ve given a total of $2,500 to that charity alone.

Over what geographical districts are your local charities located?

The CurePSP is Worldwide, Pancreatic Cancer is another one that one of our guitar player’s wife passed away from, is National. All others are the Tucson and Southern Arizona Area; most are local chapters of a bigger organizations. But we’ve given to Marana Food Bank which serves a community of about 10,000 people. The Reid Park Zoo was one we gave to which is basically the Tucson Zoo; we play at their Zoo Lights celebration at Christmas time; fun show!

Is there any benefit in inviting charities looking to boost their income contact you? If so, in what ways can they reach you?

Ocotillo Rain and Thunder Bluegrass BandOf course! We try to stay local and like the smaller charities where our money really means something; but we are willing to go National or International; just so it really means something to them, they’d have to be rather small. We also investigate and research the charities to make sure most of the money goes to the cause, not just big administrative costs. A good way to reach us is to friend Ocotillo Rain on Facebook. We don’t have a website but have a free blogsite,, or I can be reached via email at We’re looking to collaborate on fundraising concerts with other bands in the area for special victims of crisis like earthquakes, floods, natures mishaps. We are on YouTube, just do a search on Ocotillo Rain and Thunder. most of it is from a live show at a Farmers Market, but we hope to post more and get a CD out in 2017.

I am sure that in this season of good will to all, others have staged (or will) benefits for the less privileged. One band that has been organising charitable events is Eddie and Martha Adcock, with Tom Gray and now with former IInd Generation colleague Gene Johnson, who will stage their annual Christmas Bluegrass Benefit Concert for the Homeless in Nashville this coming weekend. Are there others? More later ….

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.