PORTLAND, Maine — Two weeks ago, local country musicians Mike Preston and Kim Curry walked along an Augusta sidewalk, coffees in hand, on their way to a private show at a music store.
But the couple never made it to the show.
“I heard a crash,” Curry said. “Right after that, I felt the sting.”
“Boom, we got hit from behind,” Preston said. “I didn’t come to until I was in the ambulance.”
An SUV on Western Avenue had been struck from behind and careened onto the sidewalk where the two were walking and hit them both. Flying dozens of feet in the air, they descended, skidding and tumbling onto the hottop. The multiple impacts fractured Preston’s skull, tore Curry’s face and left them both in a world of pain and uncertainty.
Musical and romantic partners make a living by playing music, but that won’t be possible for months. Until then, they know each other but no income.
But other musicians from Maine’s tight-knit country music scene are stepping up to get the couple through their unexpected bad patch.
A group of fellow artists are hosting a benefit show for Preston and Curry at Lenny’s at Hawkes Plaza in Westbrook on Friday August 26. Others are collecting donations at the music store, Musicians First Choice, where the couple were heading when tragedy blinded them. .
The Westbrook show will feature stage stalwarts Travis James Humphrey, Sean Mencher, Rippleton Cross and Shelly Waters, among others. All proceeds from the donations will go to Preston and Curry to cover rising medical bills and make up for lost income.
Humphrey forgoes his monthly gig at Lenny’s to host the show.
“It seems like the right thing to do. If that happened to me and my wife, we would be f-ed,” he said. “Kim and Mike full time gig.”
Preston said he didn’t know anything about the upcoming benefit show until someone sent him a copy of the poster. He was touched.
“I had no idea,” Preston said. “It really warms our hearts.”
On the evening of July 27, Preston and Curry had arrived early for an intimate, invitation-only show by legendary Texas guitarist Red Volkaert at the Musicians First Choice music store. With time to kill, they walked down the street to an Irving gas station for cups of coffee and were hit on the way back. Maine State Police have yet to release an accident report, but Augsta Police have confirmed details of what happened.
Curry said she crumbled down the sidewalk for at least 50 yards and the multiple impacts felt like she was being hit by something over and over again inside some kind of tornado crazy woman.
“A passerby said I also hit the windshield,” she said. “I tried to get up, but there was so much blood pouring out of my head. I didn’t know if Mike was dead or alive.
At Alfond Health Center in Augusta, where the two were initially transported, Curry was told his pelvis and a lower back vertebra were fractured. She also had lacerations to her leg, forehead and cheek requiring numerous stitches.
Curry said she may need plastic surgery later to sort things out on her face.
With Preston’s fractured skull, doctors decided to send him to Maine Medical Center in Portland, in case his brain started swelling. Fortunately, that was not the case.
Yet the accident also left him with a fractured vertebra in his neck and a cracked eye socket.
“We both have rashes all over us,” Curry said.
The pair are familiar faces in the New England country music scene, traveling thousands of miles to perform hundreds of gigs – both solo and duo – each year. Preston began his professional music career at age 13, singing in New England bottle clubs with Dick Curless and Yodeling Slim Clark. He always made his living with a cowboy hat, a guitar and a microphone.
But, confined to a neck brace and unable to even bend over, he can’t do that right now.
“At this point, all of our August and September concerts are cancelled,” Preston said. “As for October, it depends on how the follow-up doctor visits go with the specialists.”
Booked every weeknight during the busiest season of the year, Preston estimates he’s already lost 65 gigs for at least $20,000.
It’s a significant chunk of his annual income, part of which Preston normally sets aside for the leaner winter months after Christmas.
“Right now we are already dipping into our savings,” he said.
Steve Beaulieu, owner of Musicians Choice, didn’t know that Preston and Curry had been injured until the next day. He could see the street was closed in both directions but would never have imagined they were involved.
“I thought they just got stuck in traffic like everyone else who didn’t make it to the show,” said Beaulieu, who has known Preston since he was a child.
After learning what happened, Beaulieu set up a donation fund on the counter of his store to raise money for the couple and plans to promote it on a local radio station.
“They are private people and I respect that. I understand.” he said. “Still, I want to do something.”
Preston and Curry doubt they’ll be able to do the benefit show at Lenny’s given their injuries, but they would love to be there.
“I would love to shake your hand,” Preston said.
Until they both get back on their feet, the couple try to stay optimistic in the face of lawyers, police and insurance companies.
But it is difficult.
“I try not to be pessimistic with a bad attitude,” Preston said. “I miss playing. That’s all I want to come back to.
“We’re happy to be alive,” Curry said.
To reserve a table at the Preston and Curry benefit show on Friday, August 26, contact Lenny’s at 207-591-0117. To donate to the Musicians First Choice fund, stop by the store at 246 Western Ave. in Augusta or call 207-623-0400.