Lately, 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?
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!”
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:
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:
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.