Stephen (The White Rabbit) Babbitt was a slide guitar blues musician and former DJ who liked to share his knowledge of music history, often spinning his own recordings of the Mississippi Delta blues greats on the air.
Babbitt, who hosted the Lazy Bill Lucas show on Twin Cities' KFAI Fresh Air Community Radio from 1983 to 1994, died of liver cancer on Jan. 21 in Minneapolis. He was 65.
"Steve was a wonderful guy, one of those wide-open, sincere, good and loving persons," said singer Willie Murphy, with whom Babbitt would sit in at Minneapolis's 400 Bar, playing the washboard.
Murphy said that Babbit understood country blues styles.
"He sang quite effectively and good," said Murphy. "He was well-versed in old blues and jug band music."
Babbitt played various guitars and harmonica, often as a member of the band Three Day Weekend. For more than a dozen years, he played Minneapolis venues such as Whiskey Junction, the 400 Club, Astor Cafe and many private parties.
Larrie Rennerfeldt, singer and pianist, said Babbitt knew "a lot of old Delta blues songs that he just pulled out of his hip pocket."
"He had a great style, and we clicked," Rennerfeldt said.
Pianist Michael (The Hook) Deutsch said, "He was a killer, killer slide guitar player."
"He had a really big heart," added Deutsch. "He gave a lot of people support when they needed it."
Babbit's family and friends said his radio program was a history lesson for listeners, and he shared his record collection on the air, including some rarely performed songs.
"He knew hundreds of songs," said Deutsch. "He had a sharp, keen memory of that music and the artists."
Babbitt, who graduated from Minneapolis' Southwest High School in 1960, studied history for several years at the University of Minnesota.
Babbitt served as a submariner in the Navy from 1965 to 1967. While at home port in Norfolk, Va., he became entranced with traditional blues, attending clubs where the music was played.
"He wanted to get to the root of the matter," said his former wife, Tracey Sampson of Plymouth, who added that he was musically innovative.
"He adapted classic blues to his own style," she said.
In addition to Sampson, he is survived by two sons, Seth Babbitt-Sampson and Tristan Babbitt-Sampson, both of Golden Valley, and two brothers, Jack Babbitt of Golden Valley and Bob Babbitt of Minneapolis.
Services will be held at noon Saturday at the Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel, Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 55, Historic Fort Snelling.
A benefit concert will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Eagles Club, 2507 E. 25th St., Minneapolis.