Chris Cornell RIP: Memories and Favorites

 

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When celebrities and rock stars pass away, we who are fans claim sadness, loss, and more as their art has been part of our lives. Today’s announcement of the passing of Chris Cornell, vocalist for Soundgarden and Audioslave, is one that hits pretty close to this music fan’s heart.

Soundgarden was the grunge-era band I saw play live the most, catching them a half dozen times in their prime including an early set in Rockafellas, a 225-capacity rock club in Columbia, SC; an unforgettable show at an underground bar in Jacksonville, Florida (The Milk Bar?) where all I could see the whole night was half of Chris and all of Kim Thayall because the crowd was so packed in, and their 1992 Lollapalooza appearance on the same bill with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Ministry.

“Badmotorfinger” is probably my favorite Soundgarden album, but there is material from throughout their career I love and listen to frequently, including the one-off Temple Of The Dog album. click here for a Spotify playlist of my personal favorites:

 

Eddie Hogan, Free Time, and How It All Began

CFT MastheadEnded 2014 with the sad news of the passing of Eddie Hogan down in Charleston; Eddie was the publisher and editor of an entertainment newspaper called Charleston’s Free Time until health problems caused him to cease publication in the late 00’s. An unselfish supporter of local musicians and the music scene around Charleston, Eddie and the Free Time paper gave the budding scene somewhere to focus itself back in 1990 when he began as a bi-monthly free paper.

Hogan managed the Record Bar in Northwoods Mall, and I was working at the other Record Bar location, in Citadel Mall, so I knew him in passing already when he started talking about the paper he was going to be putting out. I’m not sure if I was in the very first issue or not, but I’m pretty sure I contributed to every one after that for about four years. It was the first place I was published after graduation from the University of South Carolina in 1989 with a mostly useless English degree; I was working full time at the record store and part-time as a DJ for the local classic rock station. The remainder of my young single life was taken up with seeing live music around town whenever I could, at bars like The Windjammer, Cumberlands, Cafe 99, and the new Music Farm that opened during that time frame. People stare in wonder when I tell them I saw Phish on East Bay Street at the original Music Farm in 1990; or when I tell the story of interviewing a 14 year old Derek Trucks before his gig at the Farm around that same time.

The first things I wrote for Eddie and the Free Time paper were simple record reviews, but a need soon surfaced for coverage of the live scene I was already immersed in. “The Beat” was born, a column that covered local music news and spotlighted a few good shows happening during the weeks each issue was on the street. It was a pretty wide-ranging selection of bands and music included, as my tastes then were just as eclectic as they are now (check the archives on this blog for a few examples of the column in its early form). beat logo

Soon, we began doing bigger stories when touring acts came through town; the first really big one I can remember that I did was when Atlanta band Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ came through around the time their Fly My Courageous album was blowing up; I did a phone interview with bandleader Kevn Kinney, then the day of the show we did an in-store with the band at Manifest Discs & Tapes (where I’d moved over to from Record Bar). I got Kevn to autograph a copy of the printed interview from the paper and later framed it, I still have that framed, autographed interview–In a rare editing error, Eddie spelled Kinney’s first name with the ‘i’ in the headline. Kinney was gracious enough (or intoxicated enough, maybe) not to notice or at least say anything if he did notice at the time.drivin n cryin feature 1991

The processes we used back then were positively antique compared to the publishing world of today; I would write or type out my copy and hand deliver it to Eddie (or he’d stop by the store and pick it up), who then re-typed it into his publishing program on a Macintosh computer setup, print that out and do paste-up on a light table for the pages that would go to the printer. I wasn’t ever involved in that part of the paper but any time I was at the house that table and computer were in various stages of use.

Eddie was always looking for ways to support the local music scene, being a musician himself. Between the two of us and a few others involved, we organized the Charleston Music Showcase for several years in a row, bringing regional industry folks like my favorite management curmudgeon Dick Hodgin and others in for a panel discussion of various topics, followed by a night or two of live sets from handpicked local acts we liked. It was, I hope, educational and informative for all the bands and musicians–me, I just liked seeing all the live music, all at once.

Eddie’s favorite story about me and my time with the Free Time involved Hootie & The Blowfish, who back then were just getting to be a regionally popular band not too many months removed from their cover band days at USC. In one of my columns previewing a Hootie show that was probably at the Windjammer, I made the pronouncement in a review of their demo cassette that the band “was going to be huge”, something that a more experienced critic might not have gone out on a limb of hyperbole with. That was in 1991, and of course we all know what happened beginning around four years later. Eddie was pretty proud of the fact that his paper had ‘called it’ earlier than anyone else. Years later in a Hootie exhibit in Columbia for some anniversary or commemoration of the band, there was a giant collage that featured show flyers and newspaper clippings from the band’s career; that column of mine with that prediction was included.

I left the Charleston scene and the Free Time ‘staff’ in 1993 when I moved to Columbia and got married, but Eddie’s influence and friendship didn’t end there. His sister-in-law Amy Whitaker, who had helped him start the Free Time in Charleston, was several years into publishing her own paper, the Columbia Free Times. When Eddie informed Amy I was moving up to Columbia she immediately asked if I’d be interested in doing similar work for her paper. I’ve now been writing for the Columbia Free Times for over 21 years–thanks again, Eddie.

Eddie and I kept in touch and he even mailed me the Charleston Free Time for a long time; when I noticed it getting a little slim on the local music coverage in the early 00’s I contacted Eddie and offered to resurrect “The Beat” from afar as a longer column in his now once-a-month publication. With the internet now a thing, I could easily scan club schedules and do a full-page rundown of upcoming concerts and significant club shows, and did just that for a while, enjoying being able to help out Eddie again, this many years removed from our beginnings in print together.

It has been years since I saw Eddie on a regular basis but any time I’d call it was like we could pick up wherever we left off the last time, talking about music that moved us, friends we both knew, or the latest band we’d seen. He was a friend to many, as the condolences that have been pouring in on social media this week have shown; I’m proud to give him the credit for kick-starting me and my own musical musings way back when. RIP Eddie Hogan, I’m sure you and Lowell George are in the middle of an awesome jam session right about now.

Scott Miller of Game Theory, Loud Family Passes Away

Game Theory - Real Nighttime - Front

The news tonight of the passing of Scott Miller hit me unexpectedly hard, scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and there it was. Miller was the mastermind behind one of my favorite bands from my late 1980’s college radio days, Game Theory, and also behind the similarly-minded Loud Family in more recent times. One of my musical heroes, I got a chance to meet Miller and the rest of Game Theory the night they played in Columbia, SC–I think it was around 1987 or 88. The show was great, but the coolest part was when they accepted an invite from a fellow WUSC DJ to come up to campus and hang out at a party in the NADA apartments. I kept a wondrous and respectful distance from singer and keyboard player Donnette Thayer, but did manage to convey in a few stuttered words to Miller how much I enjoyed their music. On a side note, my future wife was at the party as well and reportedly Miller tried to hit on her but failed.

Game Theory is mostly a side note of musical history to anyone who didn’t come of age in the 80’s, and the Loud Family catalog didn’t exactly break sales records either. For those who were fans, however, Miller and the rotating lineups of both groups were a big part of surviving the onslaught of mainstream dreck; one could always escape for a couple hours into an album such as Lolita Nation, or remember youthful indiscretions set to the soundtrack of “24” (the Game Theory song, not the TV series).

The official website for all things Scott Miller had the announcement today, and there’s a small bonus attached to it: For a limited time, there’s a link to download copies of the Game Theory albums, too. www.theloudfamily.com

Carnival Season Release New Song

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Early promo shot of Carnival Season: l-r: Mark Reynolds, Brad Quinn, Tim Boykin

Who, you say? Carnival Season was a Birmingham, Alabama band that I only vaguely remember from their time together, but I had a later connection via Carnival Season member Brad Quinn. Quinn served as the music editor at the Columbia Free Times in the late 1990’s, the same alt-weekly I’ve been a music section contributor with since 1993. I knew even then that he played bass with one of my musical heroes, Tommy Keene, but only found out later about his first band. From the “BHAM WIKI” site:

Carnival Season (originally Karnival Season) was a Birmingham-based rock band, active from 1984 to 1989. It was comprised of guitarist and vocalist Tim Boykin and bassist Brad Quinn, along with drummer Mark Reynolds and rhythm guitarist Ed Reynolds.

The group signed a development deal with MCA records and recorded demo tracks at the Terminal Studio in Jackson, Mississippi with Tim Lee producing. Their deal with MCA went nowhere, so they signed with What Goes On, a UK-based independent label which also represented fellow Birmingham band The Primitons. In their local shows, GNP usually opened for them.

Ed left about the same time, and “Carnival Season” continued as a trio. The Primitons’ Mats Roden produced their second EP, also recorded at Terminal Studio. They toured regionally, opened for groups such as the Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, and the Replacements, and also made a few trips to play in New York.

Their only full-length album, Waiting for No One, was recorded with Tommy Keene at Hit and Run Studios in Rockville, Maryland and released in 1987. Brad Quinn’s brother Chuck joined the group for its subsequent tour, which fizzled on the West Coast. The band broke up in 1989, with Boykin forming The Shame Idols and Quinn joining Keene’s touring band.

Carnival Season reunited for a show at The Nick in the Fall of 2007, and again at Bottletree in August 2010 to coincide with the release of a compilation CD on Greg Glover‘s Arena Rock Records.

The band quietly posted a video copy of a new song from recent recordings, with the following note:

When Carnival Season drummer Mark Reynolds passed away in December of 2012, the band had been sharing song demos for possible inclusion on their first album in 25 years. “In Our Time” would have been one of Mark’s songs to be included on the album. The song was recorded In Kobe, Japan, and Birmingham, Alabama, by Carnival Season’s Brad Quinn (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Tim Boykin (guitars) with guest drummer Eric Wiegmann. The sessions were engineered, mixed and mastered by Hatada Kazuhiro at Site Kobe Studios.

It’s a mellower sound than I recall from their official releases but a pleasant tune nonetheless, and worth more than a spin or two:

Perry Baggs, Original Jason & the Scorchers Drummer, R.I.P.

Sad news today for fans of seminal alt-country/cowpunk/roots rock act Jason & the Scorchers…the band’s original drummer Perry Baggs has passed away.

I had the opportunity to see the Baggs-anchored lineup of the Scorchers multiple times in my collegiate days of the late 1980’s and those gigs (mostly at the late, great Rockafellas but also a memorable pair of outdoor shows on the USC campus) remain among the best live shows I’ve ever seen. The band as whole, Perry included, were always gracious and thankful to those of us who came out to support their appearances.

From the information provided in the official obituary online today and written by Katrina, his girlfriend for the past 12 years, Perry found God and some peace in his life, too. Scroll down past the obit for a few classic Scorchers videos:

Perry Armand Baggs III, 50, was born in Nashville March 22, 1962 to his parents, Perry Armand Baggs II and Betty Grace Baggs. He was raised in the Sylvan Park area and went to Cohn High School. Perry’s family attended Park Avenue Baptist Church during his childhood and adolescent years. His mother and father were talented singers, who played a key role in the church’s musical program.
Perry has a daughter, Faith Elizabeth Baggs, El Paso Texas; three sisters, Grace, of Nashville, Kelly and Rachel, both of Knoxville; and several nephews.
When Perry was about 19 years old, he got an opportunity to audition as a drummer for the Nashville-based, country-punk band Jason and the Scorchers. He spent the next 21 years as the band’s percussionist.
Jason and the Scorchers were on major record labels. They had music videos on MTV and toured with some of the best in the business, notably REM and Bob Dylan.
Jason and the Scorchers garnered critical acclaim in the early 1980s for its unique blending of the country and punk rock musical genres. The critics loved the band, and in 2008, Jason and the Scorchers earned a lifetime achievement award for best musical performance at the Americana Music Awards, held at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Perry also worked as an archivist in the library of The Tennessean newspaper for 17 years before he was offered a buyout as part of a massive, company-wide reduction in staff at that time. He then sought disability because he had already been on dialysis for kidney failure for two years. He began receiving a disability check within six months of the initial filing.
Since that time, he has been an active member of Scottsboro First Baptist Church. For the past three years, Perry has been a dedicated soloist and bass player at church. For a few months, the church has been paying him to play bass. Before that, he donated his time. Perry’s contribution to the Scottsboro First Baptist music program helped the worship services to come alive, to touch someone’s heart for Christ.
Perry was kind, compassionate, funny, generous, loving and high-energy. He was someone who enjoyed life. Perry loved home-cooked meals, movies, music, surfing big waves at the beach and to spend time with people he considered family: blood relatives, church members, friends and his significant other. Most of all, he loved God, and he lived his life for Jesus Christ every day.

 

The Day the Music Died


Today is the anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in a plane crash in 1959, an event immortalized in song by Don McLean later on as “The day the music died” in his classic hit “American Pie.” Buddy Holly rightly gets the most attention from this, but lest we forget the other two early rock ‘n’ roll icons who were also lost that day, here’s a few reminders:

First, a radio news broadcast report of the crash itself:

A couple from The Big Bopper:

A couple from Ritchie Valens:

And one live clip from Buddy Holly:

RIP Michael Been

Even in the internet age I was not aware until someone sent me a notice about it today that Michael Been of the band The Call had passed away last Thursday, August 19th. At a show by his son’s band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Been was working backstage and had a heart attack; he was 60 years old. Click here for a short news story on Been’s death from HitFix.

Been holds a special place in my own musical history, as his band The Call was the very first act I saw in a real live concert setting when they opened for Simple Minds at the Gaillard Auditorium in Charleston, SC back in 1985. I had never heard of them before that night but promptly went and found Reconciled, their current album at the time.

At WUSC, the college radio station i DJ’ed at while a student at the University of South Carolina, I had ample opportunity to not only hear the rest of the band’s catalog and play it on the air, I got the chance to interview Been himself when The Call played on campus in 1987. The one line I remember from that has stuck with me ever since–when I asked Been about whether or not The Call was a Christian rock band, he responded, “We’re not a Christian rock band, we’re just a rock band made up of Christians…”

Been and the Call have popped up in pop culture several times in unlikely places. He played John The Baptist in the controversial film “The Last Temptation of Christ”, and the band’s song “Let The Day Begin” was used as a theme song for Al Gore’s presidential run.

I’ll remember him, and the Call, for the music, however. From the early songs such as “The Walls Came Down,” to later material like “What Happened To You,” the music was always powerful and spiritually charged.