Mambo's Combo guitarist Billy Franze, who jammed with Prince and Jonny Lang, dies at 72
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Billy Franze blazed through another Dr. Mambo’s Combo gig at Bunkers in Minneapolis in 2017.
A few months into the pandemic last year, Billy Franze announced his retirement from Dr. Mambo's Combo, the weekly all-star jam session he co-helmed at Bunkers in Minneapolis for 32 years. After a few more months stuck at home, though, the guitarist already said he wanted back in.
"Playing music was too much in his blood for him to remain a homebody," Combo drummer Michael Bland said.
Sadly, with gigs finally starting to line up again this summer, Franze never got to return to the stage. He died suddenly at his home in Eagan on Tuesday at age 72, likely the result of a massive stroke or heart attack, his family said.
Billy's wife of 17 years, Lisa Franze, said playing guitar remained his passion even offstage, and he was still doing it at home up until the end.
"I always said the guitar was his wife and I was his mistress," Lisa said.
A fixture in the Twin Cities music scene for more than four decades, Franze regularly jammed with Prince and toured with Jonny Lang. But it was his eager, workman approach to performing and his all-out omnipresence in local venues that many friends and fans were citing as news of his death spread through the community.
" don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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