By Kathy Chouteau
It’s amazing getting a glimpse into someone else’s life after meeting them in person, such as over a cup of brew at Richmond’s iconic Catahoula Coffee.
Founding Catahouligan Timber Manhart gained such a glimpse, and has been inspired to launch the “Jason Becker Not Dead Yet Fundraiser” in due course. Manhart learned his customer, Gary Becker, has a son, Jason Becker, who’s struggled with the debilitating disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) for more than 30 years. ALS has rendered the Richmond native and former rising guitarist—who once performed with David Lee Roth’s solo band—unable to speak or rock his ax.
To help the Becker family offset the astronomical costs of the 24/7 care that the ALS-addled Becker requires, Manhart and his Catahoula Coffee team are launching a new coffee, the “Jason Becker Not Dead Yet” blend for $22.50. Partial proceeds from sales of the coffee, which is named after Becker’s documentary, will benefit him. “I hope it’s something that can help him behind the scenes,” said Manhart.
Catahoula Coffee “wants to hit the sweet spot for the masses” with the coffee, said Manhart, which is made from Central and South American beans and is a darker roast with a full flavor. “It’s a comfortable coffee everyone will like,” he said, emphasizing his aim is for it to go viral to help Becker. Click here to buy it and support Becker.
Becker, who was born on 23rd Street and graduated from Richmond High, was living the rock & roll dream in his teens and early twenties, per Manhart and his bio. He was a child guitar prodigy, eventually joining his friend, Marty Friedman, as part of the rock duo Cacophony. Becker played guitar professionally worldwide and eventually rose to play in David Lee Roth’s solo band, following in the footsteps of Eddie Van Halen.
Becker was poised to take over the rock guitar world when, at age 22, he experienced a nagging pain in his leg—and subsequently was diagnosed with ALS. Doctors said he had five years to live, but Becker had other plans. He’s prevailed over ALS, with the help of his parents and caregiver, to reach his current age of 54. Manhart indicated Becker has also kept his sense of humor intact.
What’s more—and thanks to a system created by his dad, Gary—Becker still makes music by communicating via eye movements to spell out words, musical notes and chords. Learn more about Jason Becker’s music, documentary, life and Special Needs Trust here.
Catahoula Coffee is located at 12472 San Pablo Ave. in Richmond. For more info, call (510) 235-0525. To support the business’ fundraiser for Jason Becker by purchasing “Jason Becker Not Dead Yet” coffee, click here and spread the word by sharing.