In the early morning of Friday, June 20, 2014, Adam Hucke's life took a peculiar twist — one that, thankfully, few of us will ever experience.
Standing outside a Big Mike Aguirre show at Broadway Oyster Bar, Hucke was struck by a stray bullet fired in a drive-by shooting, which had seemingly targeted a group standing outside the neighboring White Castle. The bullet whistled through the club's busy patio, passing by wood, metal and other patrons, only to pierce Hucke's left shoulder before settling into the club's exterior wall.
Only eight days later, he returned to the venue.
"Andy Frasco was in town," he recalls. "I showed up and played. The Oyster Bar employees didn't even know I was there until I was on stage. The crowd was chanting my name, which was both awesome and uncomfortable."
Overall, "it was a weird experience, what happened to me," he recalls. Waving his arm to show how quickly he healed, he says, "The bullet went in here and out here and didn't hit anything but meat."
The outpouring of support was intense. Hucke says he got "to a point of love where... it's weird to receive so much good stuff. I wasn't dead and not that seriously hurt; I wasn't sick and didn't have a terminal disease. Nobody was doing anything bad on purpose to me. So you use that and know that there's nothing out there to be afraid of. But it was very unique. 'Surreal' is not even the right word."
A co-founder of the popular Funky Butt Brass Band, Hucke found himself sharing stages during his recovery with a host of his usual associates, such as Aguirre and Brothers Lazaroff, while also securing a number of one-off gigs, both live and in the studio. And that's been going on ever since.
While his primary instrument, trumpet, often puts him into jazz contexts, Hucke thinks of himself as a "rock & roll trumpeter." He's also remarkably versatile, evidenced by a recent weekend in which he played, on the same afternoon, a second-line parade (played by the Funky Butt Brass Band after Chuck Berry's memorial service) and the music of the Harlem Renaissance (for a ballet).
Being inside the Pageant for part of Berry's service, Hucke says, "I just wanted to focus on the music," despite any emotion about Berry's passing. He adds, "It was super-important for me to be there. It made me think of what Beethoven's funeral must have been like."
Asked in a recent interview which recent gigs mattered, really mattered, to him, Hucke only had to go back a few hours.
"Part of the answer, thankfully, is that I'm getting enough of those that it's hard to choose one," he says. "But, today, Paul Shaffer was at Chuck Berry's funeral. He looked over at us and I literally bowed to him. And he bowed back. Dude, that's the nod from a musician you respect. He got a good break, but he obviously worked hard to get there. And anytime you get a little respect back from a hero, it means the world."
Hucke's hoping for a little bit of that magic to accompany the release of a new album. Dubbed Madam, I'm Adam, the ten-song release features nine originals (and one Rolling Stones cover) with Hucke on vocals, horns and accordion, along with a core group including Kevin Bowers and Ron Sikes on drums; Zeb Briskovich on bass; Cody Henry on tuba and trombone; Aaron Jackson on keys; Phil Ring on guitar (augmented by Sean Canan and Jim Peters); and Emily Wallace on lead and backing vocals, as well as album artwork.
Stylistically, the work is a complete genre-twister, with a host of differing vibes throughout. There's straight-ahead indie pop, a bit of psych and a cut called "The Vegetables are Singing" that would sound right in place on KDHX's kids' show, Musical Merry-Go-Round. The tracks, recorded by Jason McEntire at Sawhorse Studios, are songs that weren't cut out for his regular gigs.
"I wanted to have an outlet and create songs that I wanted to create," he says. "They obviously weren't songs for Funky Butt or my other projects. And I got tired of just doing stuff in the basement. Like, I'm a good enough drummer for playing songs in the basement, but not good enough for putting on an album. So you get someone like Kevin Bowers in, to get down what I was hearing in my head."
Hucke says that he spent "about 50-plus hours" in the studio working on tracks. In addition, he's appeared on about 50 albums, "no exaggeration, though for some of them I'm only on one cut." Those, he picks with an emphasis on fun. "When you're doing it with friends," he explains, "it's not just about a $50 paycheck."
He says he has some goals for Madam, I'm Adam, and those include getting discs to his musical heroes. "It doesn't matter if they ever listen to it, I'm still going to do that," he says. "I'm sending one to Weird Al. To the Johns of They Might Be Giants. Once, Dweezil Zappa liked a photo of mine on Instagram of tiny, little frogs in my backyard. So he'll get one. It'll make me feel really good when I mail them out."
Noting, though, that he's a live player first and foremost, Hucke plans to continue playing with all the folks he's been working with, adding new experiences along the way.
He credits part of his status as a busy, on-call St. Louis musician to "drinking beer and not being an asshole."
He explains, "I mean, getting drinks and hanging out with friends means good things will happen. Whether you're playing out a lot or not, it's important to be a member of the scene. I'm not moving; I really do like St. Louis. I'm stealing from someone else's quote here, but with a little bit of hustle, you can achieve what you want in St. Louis. I do want to travel, tour, do all that, but St. Louis feels like home."
And while Hucke says that "I don't want to just be a trumpet player, that would be a death sentence to me," he does admit, with his customary self-effacement, "I play rock & roll trumpet. And I can comfortably say I'm one of the best rock & roll trumpet players at Broadway Oyster Bar."