Posts Tagged With: Thomas O’Keefe

The Velvet Cloak checks out?

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 1.09.24 PMOne of the most recognizable “Old Raleigh” spots along the mid-1990s Whiskeytown era’s Hillsborough Street strip is in a sad state of disrepair, and getting sadder. This is the scene right now in the front driveway of  the vacant  Velvet Cloak Inn — which is currently blocked by one of the most gigantic tree branches I’ve ever seen that’s not an actual entire tree. Seriously, these pictures don’t accurately convey just how huge it is.

We’ve had some pretty big storms here in Raleigh the past few days, and I guess one of them took this branch down (with a fearsome amount of noise, no doubt). The place was completely deserted when I was driving by and stopped to snap these pictures a little while ago. And since every door and gate appeared to be chained shut, nobody seems to be in too much of a hurry to take it away. So it’s probably going to stay there a while.

The Velvet Cloak and its distinctive New Orleans-style wrought-iron dates back to the 1930s, and it stands just a few blocks west of the soon-to-be-demolished IHOP. It used to be a pretty swank place to stay in West Raleigh; Whiskeytown’s old tour manager Thomas O’Keefe says Ryan Adams used to board there when he was “between couches” in the late ’90s. But the Velvet Cloak fell on hard times after becoming a residence hotel about a decade ago. Recently, a developer bought the property with plans to demolish the inn and turn it into student housing — the same fate that befell the Brewery.

Looks like another venerable Raleigh landmark will bite the dust before too long.

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See you at The Comet

CometCheckActually, I won’t, seeing as how the Comet Lounge (a dank, dark Raleigh watering hole immortalized in the lyrics to the Whiskeytown Strangers Almanac song “Yesterday’s News”) was torn down long ago. Yet this canceled check, a recent gift from one of Ryan’s old Raleigh roommates, still exists as a reminder of one of his primary haunts from the Whiskeytown days.

It dates back to the same time period as the phone-bill check in Thomas O’Keefe’s recent eBay auction lot, but I like this one better. David Ryan Adams wrote it for 10 bucks to the Comet on a Wednesday in June 1997 for an amount that probably covered part of a night’s drinking — summarized in the Memo line as “Things.” That right there is pretty much the entire hard-luck story of “Losering” on one small piece of paper.

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Paying the bills on “Faithless Street”

DRAcheckSpeaking of folks with closets-full of Whiskeytown artifactsThomas O’Keefe’s latest eBay auction lot consists of a dozen items circa 1997-98, including a page of handwritten lyrics; an original copy of the “Theme for a Trucker” seven-inch vinyl single; and assorted pieces of tour and promotional paraphernalia connected to Whiskeytown’s time on Outpost Records. The lyrics, from a Forever Valentine-vintage song called “House for Sale,” probably have the most historical significance. But what caught my eye was this canceled check for $150, which Ryan Adams started to write to pay for his power bill before scratching that out and writing it for his phone bill. This is a snapshot of a moment in time, and not just because “Bell South,” “CP&L” and “Wachovia” were all swallowed up by other corporations long ago. The July 30, 1997 date is one day after Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac album was released.

It’s also a document of a place. I always thought of the Logan Court address printed on this check — in Raleigh’s University Park neighborhood west of Sadlack’s and north of the Hillsborough Street strip right behind Bruegger’s Bagels, at the intersection of Logan, Chamberlain and (ha) Hope streets — as the real-life Faithless Street, the setting for that time period’s songs. I lived just a few blocks away back then and remember going by his house a time or two, including one quite memorable afternoon in the spring of 1996 when he played me a bunch of demo recordings of excellent new songs that I don’t think ever came out (that’s in chapter six of “Losering”).

Meanwhile, bidding for this lot currently stands at $100 and closes on the afternoon of Thursday, March 12.

UPDATE (3/12/2015): The winning bid, $445.

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Welcome home again

DRAgtrsmashWith four days to go before it closes, the top eBay bid for Ryan Adams’ smashed Vancouver guitar stands at $530. Auctioneer Thomas O’Keefe has added a few more pictures of the wreckage, viewable here, the aftermath of a show described in Chapter 10 of “Losering.”

But the pictures I’m more interested in show the item Thomas is offering as an accompanying bonus, Ryan’s handwritten lyrics to a lost song called “Welcome Home Again.” It might even be more than one song, because the lyrics on the back side of the paper seem unrelated to what’s on the front.

Whether it’s one song or two, it looks like the handwriting I remember; and the sentiments are familiar, too. Dated Dec. 6, 1997, “Welcome Home Again” was never recorded or performed live as far as I can tell, and it’s obviously a rough sketch that needed work. Still, it reads like something that would have fit right in on Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac.

Expressing regret for things lost and bridges burned, “Welcome Home Again” describes the sensation of feeling like a stranger in one’s own hometown. And given Raleigh’s ongoing building boom, which has taken down many a Whiskeytown-era landmark in recent years, the line about “Businesses opened and businesses closed but it’s almost the same” sure does feel up to date.

Welcome home again, indeed. I can just about hear the song this might have been. Would be fun if Ryan came back to Raleigh someday and played this one here, but it will never happen. Maybe this is another job for Elliott Humphries?


DRAWHAWelcome Home Again

The voices have faded from the halls of the houses
where I used to live
And the mirrors reflecting are seeing the damage
I’ve caused since then.
Businesses opened and businesses closed but it’s
Almost the same
Almost the way that I dreamed that I left it but never the same
You try and never seem like a stranger
But you know you are in a way
In a way that just puts you in danger
In danger of just staying that way, welcome home
It just comes and it goes and nobody knows
And I never am welcome home again
All the pictures on the mantle, they become all the
People who I barely knew
And all the money that I earned became the
Streets where I turned to face the drugs that I do.
Businesses opened and businesses closed but
It’s almost the same
Almost the way that I dreamed that I lost
it but never the same.

You try and never seem like a stranger
But you know you need a way
In a way that just puts you in danger
In danger of just staying that way
Welcome home
It just comes and it goes and nobody knows
And I never will be welcome home again

DRAFlipsideAnd the flip-side, which I believe is a separate song (though it has no title):

Take me to the valley where the horses
And the stables are free of all the fences
I’ll be rested to the railing
Provided your ancestry demands another infamous
Heart to destroy like a thousand before
So take me to your leader
And I’ll take you to my gallon
I probably should’ve kissed you
But my spaceship hadn’t landed
Provided my misery demands another infamous heart
To destroy like a thousand before
If I’m not dreaming, then I’ve been drinking

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More Ryan Adams history for sale

DRAgtrsmashFormer Whiskeytown road manager Thomas O’Keefe has been cleaning out his closet of Ryan Adams artifacts of late, and he has a doozy of an item up for sale now on eBay: the remains of a 1964 Gibson Firebird that Ryan smashed onstage in Vancouver in 1998. It’s not playable or even fixable, but for those who care this is a pretty amazing artifact. It was destroyed during a particularly difficult stretch of touring for Whiskeytown that fall, including an infamous near-riot that happened onstage at The Fillmore in San Francisco a few nights later; see chapter 10 of “Losering” for particulars on that.

Meantime, bidding on the guitar (which includes a set of Ryan’s hand-written lyrics) closes on Feb. 28. I’m guessing that John Hiatt will not be putting in a bid, but you can do so here.

UPDATE (2/28/2015): The winning bid, $1,302.77.

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Whiskeytown treasures from Thomas O’Keefe

SAtourbook

If you’ve read “Losering,” you might remember Thomas O’Keefe — a man I only half-jokingly described as “Whiskeytown’s long-suffering tour manager.” He probably spent more time alongside them in the trenches than anyone else they ever worked with, and hilarious tales aren’t all he came away with. Thomas also amassed quite a pile of Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams mementos that he’s been hanging onto for the past two decades. And as fate would have it, the time to sell some of them off is now, for the very good cause of raising money to help out the family of his late sister (who passed away suddenly in November, leaving behind three children).

The auction just opened and will run through Jan. 14 on eBay. Included in this lot of items are laminated and sticky passes to various Whiskeytown shows and tours, one of Ryan’s guitar picks and what Thomas calls “the crown jewel” — his notebook with tour notes, guest lists and such from Whiskeytown’s last leg of Strangers Almanac touring. Gotta say, that one makes this whole package mighty tempting.

Anyway, you can scope out details and pictures of it all here.

UPDATE (1/14/2015): Below is the winning bid. Have to say, I’m surprised this didn’t come in higher. My estimated over/under figure was $500, so I figured it would go for at least double that $205 price.


 

TOeBayFinal

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Thomas O’Keefe, road manager to the stars

While he wasn’t an onstage performing member of the group, road manager Thomas O’Keefe was a part of Whiskeytown for longer than just about anybody except for Ryan and Caitlin. So he was there for some of the most notable onstage dust-ups of the “Losering” story, including Kansas City, East Lansing and San Francisco — and if Caitlin was the one doing the apologizing afterward, O’Keefe was the one who had to pick up the pieces. Fortunately for him, he is a stout individual that few people want to mess with.

Post-Whiskeytown, O’Keefe has managed the Ohio rock band Watershed (subject of this book, which you should read immediately if you haven’t already); and also worked as road manager for Train, a fairly ginormous pop band from San Francisco. For more on just how busy Train keeps him, see this. One reason Train has been so much more successful than Whiskeytown is that they’re willing to play the game.

“I always figured Ryan would be Tom Waits, someone you and I know but the average joker doesn’t,” O’Keefe told me in 2010. “Going to work for Train has shown me the work they do to be successful. They still get up at 6 a.m. and visit the radio station. The amount of that kind of thing it takes to be massive is incredible. We just did two weeks of top-40 shows with Katy Perry, and that was just us kissing butt at the radio stations that played us all year. But it’s a necessary evil, and Ryan would never ever do that. So he’ll never have the commercial success that Train has, but that’s never been his motivation, either.”

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