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.

Elvis’ Legacy in Band Names

Today was the anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, but rather than rehash his music my thoughts went to the various bands that have ‘borrowed’ his name for their own monikers…some of these you might know, some you might not, but they all share one thing: the name of Elvis.

Elvis Hitler: A jarring juxtaposition, this one, but the music was Cramps-like rockabilly punk.

Velvet Elvis: pretty good little power-pop band here

The Elvis Brothers: more power-pop, from the Midwest this time

Elvis Perkins: blame his parents for the name, but he plays some great indie-folk tunes

Elvis Costello: Can’t leave this topic without the best Elvis of all…