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Billy Larson was a blue-collar guy from St. Paul's East Side who just wanted to play guitar in a rock 'n' roll band.

"You're just a Kmart Keith Richards," singer Jody Hanks told bandmate Larson, who loved to party.

Larson was a big Rolling Stones fan. Even though he was diagnosed with terminal cancer last fall, "all he wanted to do was make it to the Rolling Stones concert at Soldier Field [in Chicago] on his 71st birthday" on June 27, said his wife, singer Lisa Wenger.

Larson died of glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, on March 7 in his home in Breezy Point, Minn. He was 70.

He did get to perform one last time in February, sitting in with the Lisa Wenger Band in Crosslake, Minn.

"He sang the Stones' 'You Can't Always Get What You Want,' " Wenger said. "He had a hard time with some the words; I whispered them in his ear. I knew he was having a hard time but everyone in the crowd loved it. It was heartbreaking. He told me afterward that he had so much fun, and he was so glad that he did it."

Growing up on St. Paul's East Side, Larson started playing guitar at around age 8 and began gigging six years later. The Johnson High School grad was best known for his stint in Raggs, formed in 1971, and later Vintage Raggs. Whether playing in bars or at high school dances, the bands offered covers of the Stones, the Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Cars, among other classic rock.

"He was a good rhythm player and a good slide player," said guitarist Tom "Buffalo" Ferderer, his longtime bandmate. "It was a joy to play with him. He had such a good sense of space."

After bartending at the Payne Reliever on the East Side, Larson became co-founder in 1997 of the Minnesota Music Café, where he proudly displayed some of his rock memorabilia including a Bob Dylan setlist and an Eddie Cochran guitar.

"It was his dream come true," said Wenger, who met Larson when she performed at the club. "And at the time, it was an investment for him; a musician didn't have a steady income. He was the face of the building. He couldn't go anywhere without being the owner of the club. He was going to City Council meetings. He was a businessman."

In 2009, Larson severed his involvement with the Payne Avenue club, which is still presenting local bands.

Besides loving classic rock and blues, Larson was an avid Twins fans and fisherman.

"My fishing partner, he was terrible," Hanks said, with a chuckle. "The last time I went fishing with him, I thought he said 'Let's go in' because he got his hook hooked to the carpet on the bottom of the boat. And for 10 minutes he was trying to get the hook out while we were going around in a circle. He was an uninhibited and fun guy. The most free person."

Wenger also witnessed Larson's hard-luck love of angling.

"He fished. He didn't catch fish," Wenger said. "He loved to go fishing and sit in the boat and listen to Twins games. Very rarely did we have fish."

Whatever he did, Larson looked cool.

"He always looked good, man. It was a cool look and not 'here I am,'" Ferderer said. "He had a gentle personality that way."

Ferderer recalled their first gig with Raggs. He showed up early for a photo shoot "in a shirt that [made it] look like I got off the farm. Billy would always bring three shirts. He said, 'Wear this one and keep it.' He taught me how to dress."

In the late '70s, Larson would organize trips to New York City for Raggs to buy outfits in Greenwich Village. "He'd find these stores where they only made eight of one thing," Ferderer recalled. "I don't remember anybody dressing like him."

Even when Larson got eyeglasses later in life, he had to have the coolest glasses, too. And he always had a distinctive hairdo.

"He fussed over his hair. His hairdo took longer to get it fixed on our wedding day than mine," Wenger said. "When he started to lose it [during cancer treatment], we had to find cool hats to wear. He did have good hair."

After Larson's earlier bout with cancer, he and Wenger moved from St. Paul to Breezy Point in 2015. Up North, he'd grab his guitar and head up the hill past the town's famous resort to a buddy's garage.

"He'd go up and play in Ron's garage for 25 or 30 people," Wenger said. "They'd just party and have a good time."

Larson is survived by his wife, daughters Charlotte and Nicole, and one grandson.

A celebration of life —"Billy Larson's Life of the Party Concert" — will be held April 7 at the Myth Live in Maplewood.