Monday, May 28, 2012
This national day of remembrance found me wearing a t-shirt from 1980, promoting a 5K race to raise funds for John Anderson for President in Tucscon, AZ. It was a gift from a friend who died last year. Obituary notices are becoming another phase of our generation whether they are for our high school chums or our musical heroes. There seems to have been a rash of what The Washington Post called, “the boomer icon death flood of recent weeks,” roiling the tweetisphere with expressions of sympathy for Robin Gibb, Donna Summer, Adam Yauch, Chuck Brown and Davey Jones, among others. Each fallen star produces a round of tributes made possible by the visual and audio recordings left from their hey days. The mass media can’t resist jumping on the bandwagon and despite the predictability of the tributes, it is still nice to see remembrances of stars, like Etta James, who struggled for and then with fame while alive. And it is endearing to hear musicians pay tribute to those, like Levon Helm, who influenced their careers and the evolution of rock and roll.
A couple of lesser but influential lights may have passed unnoticed during this recent media flood.
One is bluegrass banjo player Doug Dillard whose family group began as the house band on The Andy Griffith Show. He went on to play with many members of the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds and the Eagles and became one of the key movers in the Southern California rock scene, touching the work of everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Rickey Skaggs.
And one of the early members of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Ethridge died last month of pancreatic cancer. His collaborations with Gram Parsons began in the International Submarine Band and he is credited with co-writing “Hot Burrito # 1 and #2” and “She." He toured for eight years with Willie Nelson and his bass guitar playing is on “Whiskey River” and “Stardust.” Ethridge became one of those quintessential California session men, playing with Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, Leon Russell and Jackson Browne.
In future posts some more upbeat stories about aging rockers still going strong. Today seems a time for nostalgia.