Posts Tagged With: Brian Walsby

Patty Duke Syndrome’s namesake passes on

PattyDukeWay back in the long-ago days before Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams had a great little punk band called Patty Duke Syndrome — named after the television star and Oscar-winning actress Anna Marie “Patty” Duke, who had played “identical cousins” on “The Patty Duke Show” in the ’60s (and was subsequently diagnosed with bipolar disorder). Patty Duke Syndrome was around in the early 1990s, and I remember being surprised at the time to learn that the real-life Patty Duke was actually still alive.

But she was. It’s probably just as well that the trio of Ryan, Brian Walsby and Jere McIlwean didn’t get a record deal, which would have caused a lot of awkwardness and possibly litigation. Patty Duke Syndrome came to a bad end in 1994, with a breakup ugly enough that Ryan was still writing songs about it with Whiskeytown a year later (more on that is in chapter three of “Losering”). As for Patty Duke herself, she finally passed on today, at age 69.

Rest in peace, Ms. Duke. You were never forgotten, then or now.

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

A working-class hero is something to be: “Bastards I Used to Know”

“Bastards I Used to Know” was one of the earliest Whiskeytown songs, and it still lingers even though it was never released on a record. Also variously known as “Lucky Me” and “This Old City,” “Bastards” kind of stumbles along on the demo-ish recording of it that survives, with Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary still working out their vocal-harmony dynamic. It’s ragged but wonderful in a shambolic sort of way, like a drunken younger cousin of the old Jerry Jeff Walker warhorse “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.” But where that song was pointedly tongue-in-cheek, this one is bitter to the core.

Ryan wrote “Bastards” as a poison-pen kiss-off to his former Patty Duke Syndrome bandmates, Brian Walsby and Jere McIlwean, with whom he’d had what he called “an evil breakup” the first time I interviewed him (more about that is in Chapter Three of “Losering”). Although it isn’t really about jobs or labor, I’ve always thought of “Bastards” as a Labor Day song, steeped as it is in working-class dayjob blues. Picture Ryan slaving away in the Rathskeller kitchen while muttering this under his breath:

This old city where I live is poor and dirty
Work I do, it barely pays the bills
This old city, it is home to stupid bastards I used to know
Lucky me, I’m too drunk to remember their names…

Should your Labor Day cookout today take a turn toward the inebriated, you could do a lot worse than this for group-sing-along fodder. So fire it up.

ADDENDUM — When I posted this on Facebook, I heard from Danny Kurtz, bassist in late-period Whiskeytown (and also the Backsliders):

That’s crazy. I took that photo of Ryan in Wyoming while driving to Seattle. We all stopped to take a break and there were all these pretty daisies growing on the side of the road. I sent it in years ago to a contest for best ryan photo.

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

Inflation takes its toll

ARHASSLast June, a decades-old artifact from Ryan Adams’ past turned up on eBay: a cassette tape of late-night recordings he made with two of his pre-Whiskeytown bands, American Rock Highway and Ass, with a hand-drawn cover done by Ryan’s roommate/co-conspirator Tom Cushman. While it’s not the new Wu-Tang Clan album or anything, the ARH/Ass tape is a one-of-a-kind item — historically significant for those of us who care, even though Cushman describes the music as “godawful” (and I’d have to say I concur).

The tape didn’t draw any nibbles above the $3,000 starting-bid price while it was listed on eBay last year, but the seller claimed to have sold it. Wherever it wound up, 10 months later it’s back on eBay with a significantly higher asking price of $5,000. One of these days, you figure that Ryan himself might buy this since he can definitely afford it.

Last year’s seller claimed to need the money for medical expenses. This time around, it’s supposedly being sold to help fund a house purchase. Below is the seller’s description (with a first paragraph lifted from the blog post I did about last year’s sale). I’d be very curious to see the cartoon strip referenced at the end.

As detailed in Chapter Three of “Losering,” Ryan Adams formed a string of short-lived bands with his roommate Tom Cushman in the early 1990s, before Patty Duke Syndrome and Whiskeytown. Ryan recorded virtually all of his musical endeavors back then (even the ones that didn’t exactly deserve preservation), and some of the recordings survive to the present day — including a Maxell cassette tape featuring two of their Daisy Street bands, Ass and American Rock Highway.

So what is it? The only known recording of ASS, one of Ryan’s earliest Raleigh bands. There are no dubs of it, this is it. Ryan Adams voc/gtr, Tom Cushman bass, John Rea drums. It’s 6 songs, some in a Patty Duke Syndrome mode, others in a wilder improv infused style. Hints of things to come all over the place. The flip side of the tape is AMERICAN ROCK HIGHWAY, highly experimental noise rock with Tom on guitar, Ryan on drums, has 10 songs. A chance to hear some of his pounding drums. I’m only parting with this gem because I am getting married in September and am going to be buying a house. It comes in the original tape case and the insert will be in a separate sleeve. The insert was hand drawn and it has the first reference to Ryan’s current label, Paxam, on the cover. When I got this I was also given a comic strip, not the one from Brian Walsby, featuring Ryan in it and I will also include that as well.

UPDATE (7/24/14): Well, the tape does not seem to have sold in the prior auction, so now the starting bid is $1,100.

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

Still more artifacts from long ago: The “Forever Valentine” cartoons

If Ryan Adams ever has a piece of paper in his immediate vicinity, chances are he’ll either be dashing off another set of lyrics or drawing something — he’s always been an obsessive doodler. And while he isn’t anywhere near his old bandmate Brian Walsby’s league as a cartoonist, Ryan definitely has a distinctive style of his own. Here are some doodles from a long-ago period covered in Chapter 10 of “Losering,” a few drawings that Ryan left behind in the studio where Whiskeytown was recording around Christmas 1997. This was a few months before the band played “Austin City Limits,” the sessions that yielded Forever Valentine (still unreleased all these years later).

Note the caricature sketches of everyone in the band, as well as producer Chris Stamey (who played bass on these recordings). I like that he did multiple versions of himself, as a “witch” and with devil’s horns and Jagger-esque lips; and also that he portrayed Caitlin with an angel’s halo.

RyanCartoon2RyanCartoon1

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

More from the supporting cast: Brian Walsby

While I was reporting “Losering,” I wanted to talk to a bandmate of Ryan’s from his last and best pre-Whiskeytown group, Patty Duke Syndrome. That meant drummer Brian Walsby because the third member of the trio is no longer with us. Bassist Jere McIlwean died in a 1996 drug overdose, which inspired the 1997 Whiskeytown single “Theme For a Trucker” (named for McIlwean’s post-PDS band Trucker).

So I asked Brian if he’d talk about the old days and we had the same pre-interview conversation about Ryan that we always do, in which he expressed hesitancy about reopening that can of worms. But then we talked and it was fine, and he had many interesting things to say about his old bandmate; most of them fond, some not so much. Both kind of quotes are in the book. Still, nothing Brian told me on or off the record was as harsh as a graphic essay he composed in 2003, which is nicely summarized by the headline:

RYAN FUCKING ADAMS OWES ME, MOTHERFUCKERS!!!
A twisted tale of almost obsession

Even leaving Ryan aside, Brian has an interesting history. He’s a fine drummer who has played in a dozen Triangle bands since the mid-’80s (highlighted by Polvo and Double Negative, who had some discussions with Ryan about signing to his label Pax-Am Records a year or two ago), and he’s also  an excellent cartoonist of semi-legendary repute in underground metal circles. I’ve written about some of that history in a couple of features for the paper, one in 2004 and another in 2011. Honestly, though, Walsby is his own best chronicler, as set down in countless cartoons and compiled in his “Manchild” series of books. Volume Six is the latest and it’s subtitled “Bye Bye Punk Rock..Hello Adulthood!!”

Some of the inspiration for that mindset comes from Walsby’s young daughter, Willow, who has Down Syndrome — which he and I have bonded over a bit, since I have a daughter with Down Syndrome myself; that’s Claudia, age 13, and she rocks just as hard as her twin brother Edward and big brother Aaron (a budding rock star in his own right, dig his work on bass in the Raleigh teenage hardcore band Pure Scum).

Nevertheless, Walsby still gets out to rock a good bit. He’s been on the road a lot with Seattle proto-grunge band the Melvins in recent years, handling merch sales as well as drawing what he sees and selling his own wares. Get his attention when the Melvins play Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro Wednesday night, and maybe he’ll draw you.

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

Blog at WordPress.com.