Kevin Scheyer is an Augusta musician and former member of the Columbia, SC band The Root Doctors. Currently he plays with his wife Tara Scheyer in a children’s music band, Tara Scheyer and the Mud Puppy Band. After Monday’s news about the passing of Larry Jon Wilson, I thought about Kevin and Tara, who were close friends of Larry Jon during the years he lived in Augusta–what follows is a collection of some wonderfully personal memories of a man who was great not only in music but in life:
Larry Jon Wilson——————————————————————————————-
On Monday June 21st, Tara and I lost a very dear friend and the world lost a remarkably gifted storyteller. It’s a very sad time for a great many people, but we can be thankful that he left us with such a wealth of music and so many precious memories.
The time we spent with Larry Jon Wilson and the memories we have of him are vast; all of them special and amazing. With Larry Jon there was no such thing as a quick visit. To be his friend, you had to have lots of time and you had to be willing to give your time to him. Time slipped away when you were with him. Losing track of time was certain. A short visit was a 2-4 hour venture; a long visit could turn into a few days adventure. But you knew that if you gave him your time, he would, in return, give you his heart, his memories and his stories.
Many people know his music, whether from his recordings or from his concerts. His friends however, knew his stories…most of which, if you were lucky, you were fortunate enough to experience with him…and then in return, these became your stories. I feel lucky and blessed to have created many stories with him.
His passing has allowed us to summon up some fond memories of our time with him. Like the one where he called one morning because he was hungry for sausage. Getting sausage ended up being an 8 hour round trip visit to a meat packing plant in the deep south of Georgia. He bought ten 5 pound boxes of sausage. On the 4 hour trip home he drove, all back roads, to visit with 9 of his friends and gave them each a box. When he returned me back home, he gave me the last box. After the fact, I realized that he didn’t even keep a box for himself, the one who wanted sausage in the first place.
Larry Jon asked Tara to perform with him quite a bit. One favorite musical memory was when he asked Tara to open for him at the famous Blue Bird Café in Nashville. Larry Jon told Tara she should play a Guy Clark song. So, while she is playing the song, staring at the life size picture of Guy on the wall, Larry Jon motions to the door where Guy Clark is walking in…at Larry Jon’s request…to hear Tara perform.
There was an afternoon when we went with my brother Brian and his girlfriend Jill over to his house to “threaten some coffee” with his favorite Brandy. We went through a few bottles of B&B (which is okay to drink, “because it is made by Monks…making it a Religious experience”). Just before we left, Tara commented on his Brandy snifter collection on a fireplace mantle. These glasses were HUGE. “Big enough to be a fish bowl” he said. Which is exactly what one of them became when he brought it over for Felix, our 3-yr-old son, and his Godson, with a gorgeous Betta swimming in it. He came to our house one day, just walked in the door and said, “It’s time for the boy to learn to take care of a pet.” (He also brought over a replacement fish about 2 weeks later).
Larry Jon was always full of surprises. One day, while recording our first children’s album, we told him of a hiccup we were having in trying to get permission to do a Johnny Cash song. He said, “Let me take care of this”. A day later we had an email from John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son, giving us permission to use the song. The email said, “Any friend of Larry Jon’s is a friend of my daddy’s.”
Larry Jon also sang on that album. He asked if he could “lend his voice to the album”. We told him to pick any song he wanted. He showed up one day with an obscure song by his dear friend and legendary songwriter Mickey Newbury. The song, “The Dragon and the Mouse” was recorded in our home studio and features Larry Jon as the huge and fiery, but gentle Dragon. Felix also makes a special appearance at the beginning and end of the song. What a blessing and a gift for us and for that boy who thought the world of Bo-Bo.
The craziest trip and our most favorite memory with Larry Jon was when we were living in Nashville. He told us to meet him in Bell Buckle (home of the RC Cola/Moon Pie Festival), about an hour East of Nashville, where his directions included “look for a road that wiggles”. After a surprise opportunity to play live during a recording of an old-time radio show at a Bell Buckle Café, we drove out to John D Loudermilk’s house. John D met us in only a bathrobe and driving a golf cart. We all piled on and John D took us way-way back, driving very-very fast into his surrounding woods to Larry Jon’s favorite tree. It was the largest species of its kind in North America. They pulled out the liquor and the glasses and we toasted the tree. On the tree hung a swing. Tara and I sat down on it and before we knew it, John D and Larry Jon hoped back on the golf cart and took off, saying, “Ya’ll are young and in love and need time away from the geezers.” We could hear them laughing loudly and wildly as they disappeared back into the woods. Later, when we met back up with them, the bonfire was going and the guitars were out, and we were an audience of two for the greatest gift of our lives…a concert by two of the greatest singer/songwriters ever.
Larry Jon Wilson was a beautiful person and he never stopped giving. He was a true southern soul, a true southern spirit, and a true southern voice. He was an honest, generous and fierce friend. I feel very fortunate to have spent so much time with him. I am a better person for this and for knowing him. We will miss him very much.