Early Saturday morning while returning home after a concert with Tony Lewis & The Shooters in Le Col-des-Roches, bassist Turi Rensch was killed in a tragic road accident.
Turi had played music for some 40 years in numerous groups in Switzerland, mainly with the dance band "Sunrise". I first met him back in 1994 when he came to my house in Bollingen (SG) to talk about joining The Shooters. He brought his bass, and we jammed for about an hour. It was clear that he was a good enough bass player to do the gig, but I was especially impressed with his positive and unassuming personality. He had one of the most contagious smiles I'd ever run across, along with a dry and ironic sense of humor that would stop you in your tracks.
I hired him on the spot, and he started with the band at the beginning of the 1995 season.
Since then, he has been constantly by my side, during hundreds of gigs not only all over Switzerland, but also for many tours of France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Turi was also my duet partner at a hundred or so smaller venues over the years. He was not only a steady and tasteful bassist, but also my main harmony vocalist.
I have never known a person with a more positive, helpful, generous and charitable attitude. And I doubt that I will ever be that lucky again. Everyone who ever met Turi knows that this is true, and not just nice words because he's gone. If a piece of equipment broke on stage, it would disappear, only to reappear at the next gig, repaired. Turi would tell me delicately that it might be time for new tires on my truck, and then make a call to organize a new set for about a quarter of what one would normally pay. I came back from the US once with a ten-foot stage banner, "Tony Lewis & The Shooters". By the next concert, Turi had welded together an iron stand for it that will outlast us all. How many times did Turi come and play for a private party or small gig, even though there was no budget? I, and probably most anyone who ever crossed his path, could tell stories like this almost without end. If Turi ever said "no" to someone, you can be sure that it was about something absolutely impossible to do.
Together with Turi and my close friend and drummer Gianco Fucito, we'd formed a true family that had stuck together through good and bad. We might not have, but for Turi's calming influence on some volatile personalities. There are other family members as well: Giampiero Colombo, Susan Orus, Doris Ackermann, Lorenzo Trottmann, Lionel Wendling and Bernie Suter. In a series of sad tragedies almost too much to handle, two more very important and
integral family members - Guitarist Tom Wilson and Steeler Helmut Schöni - have also passed on recently. Turi is in very good company.
Turi didn't have to come to Le Col-des-Roches on Saturday night. His mother had had a heart attack the night before, and was on her death bed. Turi decided that he would not let the band, the promoter or the audience down, and came to the concert, knowing that his mother might go at any moment. He had decided that it was important to go and play, and after the performance would hurry back to her bedside. This was undoubtedly a contributing reason for his terrible accident at 2 am on the freeway between Baden and Zürich. Maybe he sensed that it was imperative to hurry. His mother died two hours later, thankfully ignorant of her son's accident.
Giampiero and Gianco, whom he had driven back from the gig with, had insisted on driving him back around to the other side of the freeway rest stop (a round trip of some 14 kilometers), in order to save him the risk of crossing on foot. Typical for Turi, he didn't want to put anybody out, and said it would be no problem to cross. He'd done it many times before.
There are many ironies surrounding Turi's death:
- We had hotel rooms reserved for after the festival, but due to Turi's mother's condition, he wanted to get back.
- He never would have parked his car at a place necessitating crossing the freeway at night, but the location of the hospital where his mother lay dying made him chose that place.
- A man who spends his life in one of the most dangerous professions (crane engineer) makes a habit of being careful, but who could reckon that at the moment he crossed the freeway there would be a black, unmarked police car hurtling towards a crime scene at some 180 kilometers an hour in the left traffic lane?
- Since fellow Shooter Tom Wilson's funeral last month, he had made the macabre joke on many occasions, "Now they have Helmut and Tom in heaven, but they can wait a while for a bass player!"
- And finally, after some months of not playing it at our concerts, I decided to return Turi's favorite song to the program for Saturday night, as the encore. He was so happy that he commented to Gianco as he left the stage that he felt like it was his birthday. The song was "Ain't Dead Yet".
Our concert at the International Country Festival of Le Col-des-Roches was a very good one, we were all in high spirits, happy to be playing together at one of the greatest festivals left in the country. Turi was typically in a good mood and full of jokes and ironic comments. He played well, and together with Giampiero put out some great backgrounds. We had some fun moments of communication on stage, were relaxed and
I think we sounded great. One would never have been able to tell what Turi was going through, he would never be a bother to anyone with his personal problems. And he was sincerely happy to be out playing with us that night.
At this moment, I can't imagine getting on stage without Turi, he's been so long a part of my life, my musical expression. But "The show must go on" has to be the axiom of every entertainer, as it certainly was for Turi. We will go ahead with our tour schedule this year, starting with a concert in Geneva on July Fourth. Imbi Gassmann, a fabulous bassman and longtime friend of Turi, has kindly offered to jump in and fill the gap. I thank him for his graciousness and generosity.
I would like to wish my deepest and most sincere condolences to Turi's wonderful wife Antoinette, his children Sonia, Angela, Christian and Patrick, as well as Dölf Korner and Turi's other companions in his "day job".
You were deeply loved while you were with us, and you will be missed more than words can express. See you, old buddy.