Brian May; Quadriplegic Champion of Folk Musicians


Brian May, a quadriplegic who overcame his disability to create “Malibu Folk,” a radio show he syndicated to more than 40 public radio stations, has died. He was 45.

May died Wednesday at his Malibu home of complications of polio and paralysis.

A dedicated fan of folk music, May engineered and recorded performances and interviews with struggling, guitar-playing singer-songwriters. Each week he produced a two-hour cassette tape of the songs and interviews from his program and mailed it to stations across the country.

“It liberates me,” he told The Times in 1994. “It takes me away from the pain and the worries. Plus, it gives artists a voice.”


Acoustic Guitar magazine in January, 1994, praised May, without mentioning his disability, as “one of acoustic music’s true angels.”

May’s program was carried by KPFK, KXLU, KPCC and other stations in the Los Angeles area. His guests ranged from Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, who befriended May, to John Stewart, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Gibson, Ted Hawkins and Ellis Paul.

In 1955, when May was only 5 and growing up in Pacific Palisades, he was one of 79 children in the U.S. to receive a polio shot from a batch of improperly manufactured vaccine that actually spread the poliomyelitis virus.

Almost completely paralyzed, May spent 16 months in an iron lung. Throughout his life, he required 24-hour care and could breathe only through a respirator.


In 1962, the family obtained a $350,000 court settlement from the laboratory that manufactured the vaccine. But May outlived the money, and faced a continuing financial struggle.

In 1990, he won a national Victory Award for the disabled.

May is survived by his wife and former caretaker, the former Lupe Mariscal; his mother, Norma Barnaba May; a brother, Christopher May, and a sister, Theresa May.

Services are scheduled from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, following viewing from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m., in Saint Monica’s Church, 725 California Ave., Santa Monica.

Any memorial contributions can be made to the family or to the Proteus Fund/Folk Music Project, P.O. Box 1123, Pacific Palisades, Calif. 90272. Information can be obtained by calling (310) 457-2752.