Posts Tagged With: Boylan Heights

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.

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Artifacts from long ago: The “Suck” contract

RossGradyRoss Grady’s name comes up a couple of times throughout “Losering,” which is fitting. He’s been an important presence in Triangle music for more than two decades, as a writer, deejay, obsessive chronicler, devoted fan, gadfly and all-around bon vivant. Ross was friends with various members of Whiskeytown as the group was forming in 1994 and he’d known of Ryan before that, when Ryan would call up trying to talk himself onto the WKNC local-music radio show Ross did. Ross discussed that when I interviewed him for the book in 2011:

I remember I was living on Cutler in Boylan Heights in about 1993, circa Patty Duke Syndrome. My phone was ringing, I answered and it was this Ryan Adams guy who wanted to tell me things about what he was doing. There was this adorable assumption that I’d give a shit, even though I’m pretty sure I had no idea at the time who he was. You know, jerks call all the time telling you crap you don’t want to hear about their awesome band. But at some level, Ryan was qualitatively different. It was funny as opposed to disturbing, which calls like that usually are. What was sort of endearing about Ryan was he had absolutely zero self-consciousness at all about it. He just had this assumption that you needed to know what he was doing, but not in an obnoxious way like 50 other people you could name. I can’t put my finger on why. I almost feel like it was because I’d never heard of anything he was talking about. Usually when people call they’ve already mailed their stupid tape, I’ve seen their stickers in every bathroom around town and they have a reputation as being irritatingly self-promotional. Ryan was the same, but somehow I’d never heard of him.

Ross wrote the earliest story on Whiskeytown that I could find — January 1995 in The Independent, an alternative country-themed piece about Whiskeytown (then “Whiskey Town”) and Pine State in which 20-year-old Ryan declared, “I don’t have time to be unclear — I’m going to die someday.” A bit more than three years after that, Ross had an entertaining interaction with Ryan at a show in the spring of 1998. It was a well-oiled conversation that concluded with Ryan drawing up a “contract” promising the following:

I hearby give Ross Fucking Grady the rights to anything I did that sucked.

You can read more about this in Chapter 10. The document in question is archived for posterity online here  — or you can check it out below. In October 2001, not long after the big Guitatown dustup, Ross posted a picture of this to the online newsgroup alt.music.chapel-hill under the heading “The ‘Suck’ Trial.” That triggered several days of lively commentary, including Ross’ own observation that he “should start seeing checks from Gold any fucking day now.”

SuckContract

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