Mea culpa to John Rea (not Reigh)

CopyeditLately, I’ve had to spend some nose-to-grindstone time on one of my least-favorite chores, proof-reading pages for my next book. The final stage of fact-checking any project is a tedious process, and just about as much fun as a colonoscopy. But it’s a necessary evil, the last chance to catch and fix mistakes before unveiling a book for scrutiny. And while I was in the midst of red-penning the Ray Benson book, the universe threw a not-so-gentle reminder my way about the importance of paying close attention — regarding a mistake that appears in “Losering.” It was the message every writer dreads, received via Facebook email from one John Rea:

Sir, You got my name wrong in your book. I played with Ryan Adams very briefly before his Whiskeytown days. You had me listed as “Reigh.” Honestly, (this is just to satisfy my curiosity) where’d you get your info?

-J

GROAN…Aw, man…

John Rea, not Reigh? How the heck did I manage that? Picture me smacking my forehead, repeatedly. This particular glitch appears on page 20 in Chapter 3, which recounts Ryan’s Daisy Street period with Thomas Cushman, and it’s about one of Ryan’s earliest pre-Whiskeytown bands:

One night, Ryan walked up to Cushman in a bar with an announcement: “Tom! We’re in a band! You play bass, I play guitar and sing, John Reigh plays drums, we’re called Ass and we have a show next weekend!”

(Emphasis added.)

It’s the only time that John Rea/Reigh’s name appears in the book, but wrong is wrong. After apologizing profusely, I went looking through my notes to try and figure out what happened. And I found the source of this particular misspelling, a listing of Ryan Adams’ pre-early Whiskeytown bands from the fansite AnsweringBell.com:

ABellReigh

Okay, so that explains where the mistake came from — but not why I didn’t take the next step of finding another source before going into print. That part is on me, and I don’t feel good about it. If ever I have the opportunity to do an updated edition of “Losering” down the road, this is something I’ll fix. But for now, it’s out there and it pains me.

At least John Rea, who runs a transportation business in Fort Mill outside Charlotte these days, was a good sport about it. John was an active member of the local music community back during Ryan’s time in Raleigh, playing in multiple bands, and he was kind enough to share some memories of his time as Ryan’s bandmate:

JohnRea

John Rea, drummer of Ryan Adams’ short-lived band Ass, circa the early 1990s.

We would practice in the house on Daisy Street, starting at midnight. No AC, it was the middle of summer. Pretty miserable. The one show we played was after our second practice, at a party my roommates were having. My “main” band couldn’t play, so I asked Ryan if he and Tom wanted to. We had learned four songs at our first practice, but a week later Ryan had thrown those out — would not play them, not up for debate. Anyway, we learned four new songs and those were what we took to this little back-yard party to play.

There were maybe six couples there and everyone was drunk. They had a keg, and Ryan got really drunk before we’d even played. I remember him and Tom losing time, which was frustrating. We were playing as a favor to me, and I’d even spent a little relationship capital to borrow a PA. And we simply did not play well — drunk, playing new songs we’d just learned. The show lasted about 15 minutes, and him blowing it is what I think did it for me. Other than people watching us practice, that was the only show Ass ever played. And the best part is, five years later no one at that party would have known they’d seen a Ryan Adams show.

I just don’t think we were really in a position to win with that band even though I liked the songs that were being written. Ryan was super-annoying and looking back, I don’t think he was trying to be. But he was just so energetic and excitable, he just couldn’t help himself. I remember a show at The Garage once, “A Little Drumming Boy Christmas Pageant” that the Wifflefist guys put on with different drummers. Ryan was in that as “Energy Boy.” He was driven, that’s for sure.

I come from a musical pedigree, also played guitar and bass. I played drums because I figured that was a way to be in more bands. But I didn’t want to be just the guy who bangs on drums, grabs a beer and hits on groupies. I wrote songs in my other bands and wanted to have some creative input in this one, too, and I figured out early on that Ryan was not too big on sharing. Then again, we were both young. It’s not like I ever sat down with him and said, “If I’m gonna be in this band, it means this and this and this.” He’d pick things up and run with them and I don’t think it was sinister, he was just this huge ball of energy.

A few years later, I knew he’d made it when I came back to Raleigh for something and saw Chris Jones, who knew Ryan really well. I asked him what Ryan was up to and he said, “He’s dating Winona Ryder.” Well, now. I told my cousin George (Huntley, of The Connells) that, and he was friends with the guys from Soul Asylum — including Dave (Pirner), who had also dated her at one point. Anyway, I told George that and he said, “Apparently, it’s not that hard.”

Had I known then what I know now, could I have put up with it? Probably not. Even though it was flattering when he’d come up to me and say things like, “Me and Greg Elkins were talking about your drumming style, how it’s kinda surfy and kinda like some British drummers from the ’70s, which is so cool because nobody plays like that anymore.” It’s hard not to like hearing that. But once you get past the sugar, there’s medicine at the bottom of the spoon.

It still seems weird that the one person that made it from Raleigh was him. But it was not the least bit surprising, because he tried so hard. He was always buttering up to people.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ryan Adams sends birthday wishes

RyanNDBetween his latterday performances and disavowal of country music, it would be easy to get the idea that Ryan Adams has completely forgotten about his old band Whiskeytown and the alternative-country universe it once inhabited. But — maybe not!

Here’s a picture that turned up in No Depression editor Kim Ruehl’s inbox, in which Ryan sends birthday greetings for the old No Depression magazine’s 20-year anniversary. It was taken by photographer C. Elliot in Tucson, where Ryan played the other night (check this review).

Yes, there’s some history there between Ryan and No Depression. A nice gesture, I’d say.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Ryan Adams wants you to know, he’s sorry

Mountain1037Musicians spend endless amounts of time sucking up to radio for one simple reason: It’s impossible to get to the toppermost of the poppermost without a ton of airplay. That’s as true today as it was in the spring of 1998, when Whiskeytown was on the road still pushing its 1997 album Strangers Almanac even though Ryan Adams was pretty much over that record and tired of playing its songs by then (more about that is in chapter 10 of “Losering”).

But at the record company’s behest, Whiskeytown rolled into Seattle on Feb. 13 of that year and went to the local “Adult Album Alternative” station “The Mountain,” 103.7-FM, to play its Mountain Music Lounge show. Seventeen-plus years later, Whiskeytown road manager Thomas O’Keefe calls the band’s appearance there “ill-fated,” but it was more like an epic catastrophe thanks to various misbehaviors by Ryan. Between Ryan refusing to answer questions and flipping off the host, let’s just say it probably didn’t result in many extra spins of Strangers Almanac songs on that station.

There was, however, a belated semi-happy ending. More than nine years later, in July 2007, Ryan went back to that station to play “I’m Sorry Marty” — a contrite yet funny song of apology he’d written for Marty Riemer, the deejay Ryan antagonized at that 1998 event. Somehow I’ve never heard this one until now. But take a listen below; I think of it as the flipside of Ryan’s Jim DeRogatis phone call from a few years earlier.

I also have to say that I find the line “not just an asshole but a whole ass” particularly poetic.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Smashing the state

ChrisClemmonsA few years back, when I was doing research for “Losering,” I interviewed a lot of people — around 40, not all of whom were quoted in the final manuscript because I only had 50,000 words, and there were probably at least that many I spoke to informally or for background. But I still didn’t even come close to getting around to everyone, which means there are still plenty of interesting, amusing, horrifying and even all-of-the-above Ryan Adams stories floating around Raleigh.

One person I didn’t get to in time was Chris Clemmons, a longtime member of the Triangle music community and a bandmate of Sara Bell’s in various groups including Regina Hexaphone (Chris was also the source of the party flyer referenced in this post, which is one of many cool artifacts in his archive). When he was between bands 20-some years ago, Chris informally auditioned as bassist for what eventually became Whiskeytown. At the time, he was living in the Boylan Heights district of downtown Raleigh, in a bungalow apartment upstairs from Caitlin Cary.

His memories of the experience:

I joined them down in Caitlin’s living room one time, we set up and played a few songs. Ryan and Skillet (Gilmore) were both there, too. They probably only had four or five songs at that time, and it went okay until Ryan said we were going to “smash the state.” I think that was his punk-rock ethos because it’s what all the punk bands wanted to go out and do — but this would be a COUNTRY band doing it. Anyway, I said, “I work for the state,” and the conversation did not go so well after that. But I’ve worked in human resources for the state for about 25 years now.

Anyway, Steve (Grothmann) was in the graduate program with Caitlin at NC State. So they knew each other and Caitlin told me they were looking for someone who played standup bass, which he did. I don’t know if he ever actually played standup in Whiskeytown, but he wound up there. I never really knew Ryan and that may have been the first and last conversation I ever had with him. And Whiskeytown broke up in 2000, but I’m still working for the state. I still think about that story now and then.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m almost half a millionaire and didn’t even know it

Demolition$This can’t possibly be right. But according to this online listing, the Bluesite Record Shop in Germany has a vinyl copy of Ryan Adams’ 2002 album Demolition for sale online for the low, low price of — drumroll, please$439,991.85 (and can I just say that I love the 85 cents tacked onto the end of this?). Now I’m glad to own Demolition, an album I like a lot more than most hardcore fans; but not enough to make it worth quite that much. Maybe Demolition is a lot scarcer in Germany than the U.S., where amazon has used CD copies for one penny.

Like I said, gotta be a glitch.

UPDATE (4/14/2015): One day later and the listed price is lower — but not by much. Now it’s listed for $438,035.53. Hmm…

RAPersonalityQuiz

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

What Ryan Adams was doing this weekend: Coachella

coachellaSo while Ryan Adams’ old hometown fans (including yours truly) were paying tribute to his music at Saturday night’s “Losering 2″ show in Raleigh, Ryan himself was in California at the Coachella Festival for the first time ever — part of an impressive festival run he’s playing this year. Ryan played on Sunday night; and if you didn’t tune in the live-stream, video of his performance is at the bottom of this page and an archive audio recording is here. 

While you’re listening, you can read some reviews (not all positive) herehere and here. Perhaps you’ll be moved to respond as the woman below did.

FanDance

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Losering 2: Thank you, friends

L2BlackboardThe first “Losering” tribute show back in 2013 went so great, I had a hard time imagining a sequel could come anywhere close to matching it. But Saturday night’s “Losering 2: A tribute to the Songs of Ryan Adams” at Deep South the Bar was truly start-to-finish wonderful in every way. It raised $923.46 for the Food Bank of Eastern & Central North Carolina, and the music was so moving that I found myself misting up a good half-dozen times over the course of the evening.

Mark Cimerro started things off with two early-period Whiskeytown songs, which was fitting. Mark used to be proprietor of Sonic Wave, the Raleigh studio where Whiskeytown recorded the tracks that became the 1995 “Angels Are Messengers From God” EP (and later the 1997 album Rural Free Delivery). “Too Drunk to Dream,” featuring pedal steel by Dylan Ritter from Greensboro’s The Grand Ole Uproar, was particularly fine; and for a between-song bonus, Mark recounted how Ryan had taken all the pictures off the walls at Sonic Wave during the Whiskeytown sessions because he found the studio environs “too nice.” Oh, that Ryan.

RachelHirsh

Rachel Hirsh destroying “Dancing With the Women at the Bar” — in the best way possible.

I got to host and introduce the bands, but there’s no way this show would have happened without the efforts of various members of I Was Totally Destroying It. Frontman John Booker booked the acts, helped stage-manage and performed himself; his version of “Somebody Remembers the Rose” was my first lump-in-the-throat moment of the night. IWTDI guitarist Curtis Armstead also ran sound and played (leading a nice “Come Pick Me Up” sing-along), and Rachel Hirsh’s version of “Dancing With the Women at the Bar” was a revelation that she really should record.

Also working hard was Aslan Freeman, who played his own set (props for “Turn Around,” especially) and backed up enough of the bill that he was onstage for a good chunk of the night. One person he played with was Kasey Tyndall, a young singer with a preternaturally big voice for a 19-year-old. She’s moving to Nashville soon and I expect you’ll be hearing a lot more from her before too long.

Other highlights: Ryan “Showtime” Kennemur and Taylor Adams from Dragmatic pretty much killing with “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight”; Keef Debonzo’s “Lucky Now,” another mist-up moment for me; Charles Marshall and Mike Ferguson from Balsa Gliders recreating “(Argument with David Rawlings concerning Morissey),” the spoken-word bit that opens Ryan’s Heartbreaker album; and the jaw-dropping voice of New Reveille’s Amy Kann. I tried shooting video of Amy singing “Easy Hearts” and the audio didn’t come out well enough to post; but check out New Reveille’s video here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not usually onstage myself and if you were to ever hear me sing in public — which, to adopt the parlance of Taylor Swift, is so not going to happen, like, ever — you’d agree that’s a big, big net positive for the planet. But about halfway through the evening, Deep South co-owner Dave Rose called me from my side-stage MC perch to the center of the stage, to receive the plaque below. I had no idea that was coming, and I can’t tell you how touching it was. I’d already felt honored and humbled by the whole thing, and that put a nice capper on an amazing night. If you were there, you know. If you weren’t, well, you should’ve been.

All I can say is: Thank you, friends.

LoseringPlaque

“Losering 2″ setlist

Mark Cimerro: “Tennessee Square,” “Too Drunk to Dream”

John Booker (I Was Totally Destroying It): “Somebody Remembers the Rose,” “Feels Like Fire,” “Two,” “When the Stars Go Blue”

Ryan Kennemur and Taylor Adams (Dragmatic): “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight,” “Drank Like a River,” “Houses on the Hill”

Curtis Armstead (IWTDI): “Trouble,” “Come Pick Me Up”

Stephen Chandler Wilson (The Arcane Heart): “Dance All Night,” “Blue Hotel”

Aslan Freeman (Future Ghosts): “Turn Around,” “Am I Safe,” “Anybody Want to Take Me Home”

Kasey Tyndall: “16 Days,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Don’t Wanna Know Why,” “New York, New York”

Keef and Dave Debonzo (Debonzo Brothers): “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” “Ballad of Carol Lynn,” “Lucky Now”

Rachel Hirsh (IWTDI): “Wolves,” “Gimme Something Good,” “Dancing With the Women at the Bar”

Members of New Reveille: “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high),” “Easy Hearts”

Charles Marshall, Mike Ferguson (Balsa Gliders), Richard Bolton: “(Argument with David Rawlings concerning Morissey),” “Damn Sam (I love a woman that rains),” “Not Home Anymore”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anne Tkach, one of the good ones — rest in peace

AnneVintageVinylThere’s horribly sad news today out of St. Louis, where Anne Tkach died in a house fire early Thursday morning. Anne was 48 years old and left behind a stunned community of friends and fans, who lit up her Facebook wall with expressions of condolences as the news broke. You can find further remembrances of her here, here, here, herehere and here.

Hazeldine

From left, Anne Tkach, Tonya Lamm and Shawn Barton were the band Hazeldine.

I first met Anne in the mid-1990s when she was playing in the New Mexico band Hazeldine, one of the most promising acts of that generation of alternative country. Anne would go on to play in Nadine, Skekses, Rough Shop and other bands in the St. Louis area, while her bandmate Tonya Lamm formed Tres Chicas with Lynn Blakey and Whiskeytown’s Caitlin Cary.

In 1997, however, Hazeldine was on the No Depression concert tour alongside Whiskeytown and Old 97s — during which Ryan Adams concocted a for-the-papers “feud” between those two bands (more on that in chapter 7 of “Losering”). I asked Anne about it some years later and she just smiled, laughed and gave a bit of an eye-roll as she shrugged, which was probably the only sensible response. I remember her as someone who was always right in the pocket onstage, and who never had anything but kind words for everyone off of it.

She’ll be missed — that’s probably the understatement of the year. I still can’t believe it.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Come on out for “Losering 2: A Tribute to the Songs of Ryan Adams”

Losering2lineupI am very rarely on stages myself, which is better all the way around. But this Saturday night (April 11) you can find me onstage at Deep South the Bar in downtown Raleigh, where it will be my privilege and pleasure to host “Losering 2: A Tribute to the Songs of Ryan Adams.”

It’s an event that’s been in the works a while, ably booked and produced by John Booker and Deep South head Dave Rose. And if it’s anything like the first edition from 2013, this will be a great night. Members of I Was Totally Destroying It, Old Quarter, Dragmatic and other fine area acts will be performing songs from the Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown songbook; and the playlist includes “Somebody Remembers the Rose,” “16 Days,” “Too Drunk to Dream,” “Tennessee Square” and lots of other favorites.

Just to reiterate, Ryan himself will not be there. But you should be. Proceeds benefit the Food Bank of Eastern & Central North Carolina, so it’s for a righteous cause. Y’all come!

(By the way, we got less snark from the Indy this time than last time.)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers