Wednesday, March 26, 2008

20 Years Ago Last Night

The Hanks' drummer Herbie sent this to me last night with the message:

"was in my studio editing some video and was watching this on youtube as I waited for a scene to render. halfway through, I realized this was taped exactly 20 years ago, today. wow.

I need a bong hit."

This was the Hanks' first show backing Robert Kirkland (formerly of Arrogance) on March 25. 1988 at The Brewery in Raleigh. We spent most of the rest of the year as his band in his shows across North Carolina. Generally from L to R is: Jim Piver (bass), me (guitar and backing vocals), Herbie Saint (drums), Robert Kirkland (lead vocals and guitar) and Ron Bartholomew (guitar and backing vocals).

I think youtube is fast becoming the new scrapbook for our times.

Here's another, a February 1990 clip from the farewell show by my old band The Ragdads. God, I'd love to have that 12 string Rickenbacker back again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Will Miss You Kitty

My girlfriend's kitty Toonces (named after the Saturday Night Live skit kitty) died at age 19 Tuesday. He was 93 in cat years, but got along remarkably well until about Christmas '07. After a wonderfully long and relatively illness free (if you discount his loss of hearing the last few years) life, he developed lymphoma in his latter months. He died peacefully at home.

He used to raise his head with this startled look (like this smiley) from a slumber since he was mostly deaf and about anything would make him jump up and meow/growl. He was a much beloved character.

We're gonna miss you little guy. Your lunchtime naps on my tummy were often the highlight of my day. Glad you got to go outside and walk around in the sun on Monday and press your nose up in those wild green onions one last time.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

On Dying and Detroit Rock City

note: i've reverted back to all lowercase for this entry. i vowed not to do this, but i found i typed too much to turn back now.

mark pearce died tuesday in charlotte. he was 44. died roughly a year since my other childhood pal david chalk who also died at 44. he was in the first band i was ever in, way back in '86. as i type this, i also recall we once pretended we were the rolling stones at an air guitar contest at the pier in raleigh, probably around '82. we had a blast and boy was it silly. he was ron wood and i was keith richards. he looked a lot more like ron than i resembled keef. he could balance a cigarette on his lip just like wood. luckily we outgrew holding tennis rackets for guitars and moved onto the real thing four years later.

he'd always been a guitar hero though. he didn't need no stinkin' tennis racket.

i hadn't seen him in 22 years, since the band. he'd moved to charlotte i think. but he was such a big part of my growing up and transitioning away from baseball and into music. his parents helped with the sunday school and nursery when we were kids too and i really feel for them that they've lost their youngest son.

the guy was so much fun. he had some ups and downs then and i know he struggled a bit, but we all had our problems in one form or another. he may have had some rough times in the years since i'd last seen him. but on balance, i really never saw his down days that i can recall. just things he had told me from time to time and now it's been so long. he may have just suffered through them privately and with family. my heart goes out to them as i write this, just as i felt tonight when i saw them. he was always up when i was with him, and so funny when i knew him. he really was the first really good guitarist i ever knew before i started venturing out into the raleigh and chapel hill clubs. i think we all knew someone like that in jr. high onward who was really gifted and entertaining. some left us in stitches. he did both. his dad lee was very entertaining like that as i recall.

later when we reconnected around '86 he was in my first band that played out. we did two shows. skylight exchange in carrboro (opening for blind lemon pledge and the no wax ensemble) and later in raleigh at sadlacks. gerald duncan from the accelerators was looking on and i was petrified. we did my originals (silly songs with titles like "pizza girl", "what ya doin' after school", etc.) and covers like velvet underground's sweet jane and bowie's rebel rebel (mark on lead vocals), not a second time (beatles).

i think the funniest thing he did when we were kids was while sitting in the back of a church van on the way to a retreat in the mountains when we were 14 or so. he plugged his guitar into a boom box and blew us away with his riffs on joe walsh, jimmy page, nugent, etc. whoever was the rock dude of the moment. the thing jimmy cholerton, chris phillips and i all agreed on about tonight at the wake / visitation was how mark kept playing the more choice ribald nugent stage patter over and over on the boombox like it was a rap thing (if you have ever heard nugent's double live gonzo, you know what i mean). some of your more harder rock hipsters all know how that patter went on to later inspire one of the most creative and eye popping band names ever. you know the one, the first word is nashville. he tape would land on a different phrase each time like a rap record. we laughed until we were blue. and all in the back of the church van. this was probably '77 or '78." (note: we all know the nuge had taken a creepier turn now, but then he was just what the doctor ordered for adolescent guitar freaks like us).

our first band was called kipcho and the kenyans. we thought we were so clever. kip was the nickname of our bassist gary jaluvka and it went from there. gra singleton was on drums.

mark also had a kiss cover band when i first noticed him as a musician. he was paul stanley (jimmy says no, it was gene simmons - those fuzzy memories again). i'd like to think mark's in detroit rock city today doing what he loved best, showing off and dazzling us with his flashy guitar style. making us laugh with him.

the visitation with the family was tonight in garner, just down highway 50 as you head out of town and towards panther branch, swift creek, mcgee's crossroads and then benson.

after seeing a lot of old childhood friends, one of the things i've noticed tonight is how little our parents have changed and how much we the children have. this isn't the first time i've noticed this. the parents have whiter hair and their faces are softer, but they're still what they were then. older and softer. wise then and wise now. i don't dread that. we're not children anymore (in editing this, it occurred to me that i had song with that phrase as the title circa '87). we're the grownups now, my prolonged adolescence as an aging single musician notwithstanding. you can just see it in the concern and responsibility in the familiar childhood faces. those are the faces of parents now. they just didn't seem to have the same hard won wisdom back then. i see it now guys. i long to grow old and wise. not just old. i need to ask you guys how you did it. probably has something to do with kids.

was good to see my first cousin derek there. our paths don't that much these days unless it's a family event. he and mark were in kindergarten, nursery school and
most of their school years together. i really did think about how we were all little pre-schoolers rolling in the grass after church and now we're supposedly in the middle of our lives with real medical concerns. he was one of the lucky ones as he survived a first heart attack last january at age 43. childhood friend david chalk passed away exactly a year ago this week at age 44 of a heart attack. greg at 48. leigh died at 38, john at 55, david enloe at 50. i'm 46.

my parents live in the house my grandfather built in the early 1950's.
it's on a cul-de-sac about two blocks from the old garner elementary school
where they now have big name bluegrass concerts in the auditorium where we put on christmas plays as a kid. on one side of the street, all but 2 of the original 1950's homeowners still have one or the other spouse still living there. one of them died today sadly enough. a long-retired bus driver named charlie who lived directly across from my parents passed at age 90 last night. i saw the wreath on the door as i kissed mom goodbye and i drove back to durham. when they told him in the hospital that he'd had a heart attack, he replied "like hell i have!". yet on my parents' side of the street, all of the original owners have passed on. former local country music variety show star and night club owner jim thornton's house has been occupied by either his daughter or another relative for decades. former mayor bill rand and his wife all died in the 1990s or thereabouts (their house and extensive gardens are now a home for peace activists - something they would have been very happy about). my grandfather died in 1965 when i was 3, grandma passed when i was 21. my childhood pastor lived next to grandma in the last years of her life. rev. and mrs. adkinson both died a day apart in 1991.

he who isn't busy being born is busy dying. - bob dylan.

my great great great grandfather had the following written on his tombstone:

george washington hart
born 1809 - died 1901

"view ye living as you pass by
as you are, so once was i
as i am, soon you will be
prepare ye living to follow me"

at the risk of upstaging george washington hart, i did think of this one parting nugget. when mark and i were still playing guitar in each others' living rooms back in garner, way before the band ever started rehearsing, mark and i decided to trade amplifiers. i think he got my peavey bandit and my gretsch beast electric guitar for his 1966 vibro champ amp. i've had that amp all these years.

i blew out a speaker at a rehearsal at carrboro's go! studios in 2003 and i didn't get around to putting a new speaker in it till last summer. for whatever reason, i decided to pull out the amp on tuesday night and play some surf instrumentals with this amp. i played it for an hour. time really flew. it wasn't until the next day around noon that mom had called with the news that mark had died tuesday night. the amp was next to me all night that night as i was playing, as i was sleeping and it's still there now. i'm gonna leave it there for awhile and keep sending good thoughts about mark up there in detroit rock city. we'll join you again up there one day pal. count on it.