Posts Tagged With: WKNC

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.

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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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Taking to the airwaves

With the local Triangle-area readings starting up next week, the “Losering” PR campaign is about to move into its multi-media phase. I’ll be on the radio talking about the book a couple of times during the coming week, so please do tune on in.

First up is this Saturday. If you’re an early weekend riser, tune in between 8 and 10 a.m. on WKNC-88.l FM, where I’ll be a guest on the psychedelic-rock show “Mystery Roach.” The station streams live from here.  Then next Wednesday, I’ll be back on WKNC at around 8 a.m. to talk to morning deejay Jacob Downey.

In between those two WKNC appearances, I’ll also be on “The State of Things” on WUNC-91.5-FM, talking to show host Frank Stasio about  local-music history as well as the book. That happens at noon on Tuesday, and you can listen to the live stream here.

And as long as I’m at it, here’s the schedule for readings in North Carolina:

Sept. 27 — Quail Ridge, Raleigh (7:30 p.m.)
Sept. 28 — Flyleaf, Chapel Hill (7 p.m.)
Oct. 4 — Bull’s Head, UNC-Chapel Hill (3:30 p.m.)
Oct. 4 — Regulator, Durham (7 p.m.)
Nov. 3-4 — NC Writers Network fall conference, Cary
Nov. 12 — Barnes & Noble, Greensboro
Nov. 16 — Park Road, Charlotte

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