Richie Sambora honors friend he met at Barnstable Brown Derby gala, ‘Super Bowl of parties’

This week, former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora shared a heartfelt message to “My Dear Friend Paul,” a friend who just passed away. Their longtime connection all started at the annual Louisville Derby Eve gala hosted by Patricia Barnstable-Brown and her twin sister Pricilla Barnstable.

The friend was an Oklahoma oilman named Paul Veenker. The two bonded over a special series of one-of-a-kind guitars that Sambora designs and donates to the party each year.

Veenker bought Sambora’s 2015 guitar for $35,000, then in 2016 he spent $39,000.   Last year Veenker shelled out a whopping $62,000 to win the auction.

Through the years, guitar player and guitar collector became close and looked forward to meeting up at the Louisville party. The pair kept in touch until last week, when Veenker died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was 61.

“I have been so blessed for the last four years to be a part of the Kentucky Derby, ” Sambora wrote on, an app he co-founded that raises funds for charity. “Even more important, the Super Bowl of all parties, the Barnstable Brown event, is probably the greatest fun I have all year long and I look forward to the incredible people I meet each year.”

After the guitar has been played by celebrity musicians throughout the night, the bidding for the guitar begins. The money goes to diabetes research.

“He will be dearly missed by all of us. I want to thank Tricia (Barnstable-Brown) and Cyb Barnstable for having an event that brings so many types of great people together; I have made many lifelong friends thanks to them,” wrote Sambora.

More Derby news: Stevie Wonder first celebrity announced for Kentucky Derby 2018

You can read more of Sambora’s special thoughts on his friend from the Kentucky Derby at

Reach Kirby Adams: 502-582-4336;; Twitter: @kirbylouisville. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: