Technically, he’s not my cousin. Or he wasn’t. He was my mother’s cousin’s husband, but everybody in my family called him “Big Ceej.” He preferred to call me “Cuz.” He might not have been blood, but he was family and always will be.
CJ Mueller died this morning, and whatever he was to us, we will forever miss him. An accomplished jazz drummer, Big Ceej taught all four of his sons, CJ, Billy, Donny and Dean, to drum — on the kitchen table.
When they realized they couldn’t have a band with four drummers, they learned other instruments, launching lifetime careers in music, most recently as The Flying Mueller Brothers, who performed at my Kiss Cancer Goodbye remission party and fundraiser in 2009.
CJ was proud of them, and of me. Back in ’07, when he found out I had cancer, he and Billy called me to tell me they were thinking of me, praying for me, pulling for me. They promised to play Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” for me (which they did for several gigs, because they never managed to get the video recording going. But they played it with me on stage at my party, which was way better.)
Somehow I knew that if CJ was pulling for me, well, as the song says, “Every little thing gonna be all right.” And it was. Now that he’s gone, leaving behind a legacy of music and love, I can’t help but think that CJ wouldn’t want us to worry about a thing.
Though the sound at the start of this video is a bit much for the video-camera, do stick with it until Big Ceej’s drum solo at about three minutes. Because it’s worth it, Cuz. As “Little Ceej” says at the end of the video, “That’s my dad, the one who started it all.”
We miss you, Ceej.