R.I.P.

Sunday Chuckle: My Favourite Picture of Uncle Don Don

1975.  My Uncle Don Don had amazing hair.  Naturally red and with curls, and for a while my hair was similar but never as cool.  But what I really love about this photo is the checkered bellbottoms.  For that reason alone, this has been my favourite picture of Uncle Don Don for as long as I can remember.  You knew he was a rocker just by looking at him!

 

Rest in Peace Charlie Watts (1941-2021)

Charlie Watts, the legendary Rolling Stones drummer, has passed at age 80.

While not the original drummer, Watts joined the fledgling Stones in 1963 and played on every album they ever recorded.  He was as steady as the morning star, and the Stones often said if Charlie wasn’t there, then the Stones weren’t either.  However in recent weeks doctors advised Watts that he should not tour with the band and they enlisted Steve Jordan as a fill-in.  Watts never recovered and passed away in hospital.

The Stones have sold 200,000,000 albums over the last 57 years.  Watts’ steady beat was behind them all.

His style was simple yet essential.  Charlie was one of the steadiest drummers in rock history.  Perhaps his greatest performance was on “Gimme Shelter”, his unmistakable rhythm propelling the song.

Of all the rock star deaths in 2021, this could be the most devastating.  Rest in peace, Charlie Watts.  You helped make rock and roll what it became.

 

Rest in Peace Dusty Hill (1949-2021)

The band that has had the same three members for 50 years has lost a brother. ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill is gone, in the middle of an absolutely brutal week for music. Joey Jordinson, Mike Howe, Don Simmons, and now Dusty Hill.

The bassist with the groove. The mover and the shaker. The guy who sang “I think it’s time to spank my monkey” on a mainstream rock album. He’s gone.

Dusty missed a show earlier and it was most likely the first time ZZ Top ever played without the bearded bassist. After 50 years in the same band together, you can bet that Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard are going to miss their brother.

Rest in Peace, Dusty Hill, May 19 1949 – July 28 2021.

Rest in Peace original Helix keyboardist Don Simmons

Late yesterday we were informed that Don Simmons, the original founding keyboard player from Helix, had passed away. He was 64.

Simmons played in the original Helix band, with singer Brian Vollmer, drummer Bruce Arnold, guitarist Ron Watson, and bassist Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg. Simmons gigged with Helix from 1974-1976, and was still in the group for a short time when Brent “The Doctor” Doerner joined, beginning the transformation into the modern band.

In 2004, Helix staged a massive reunion that included many of their former surviving members. The original band, including Simmons on keyboards, got up on stage for the first time in 30 years and played “Buff’s Bar Blues”, a mainstay of their early sets. The show was released as the 30th Anniversary Concert.

Don never stopped loving music and continued to play keyboard and guitar. Rest in peace, Don Simmons.

#906: Since You’ve Been Gone

Dear Uncle Don Don,

A year ago today we got the message that you were gone.   My first thought was “at least he is not in pain anymore.”  I didn’t like that you had to suffer so much.  I’ve seen enough cancer in this life.

My next thought was for Grandma, and Mom, and Aunt.  They still miss you and talk about you.  Aunt says that it will be weird coming home to Waterloo without you around.  She says she used to like having her morning coffee when only the two of you were awake.  I can picture you guys sitting there quietly talking, and maybe even laughing a little.  That’s how I want to picture it, anyway.

I have a bunch of your CDs with me.  I really liked Jackyl.  I was surprised to find it in your collection.  Looking at your discs here, I have so many questions.  Why Jane’s Addiction?  Why the second Garbage album, and not the first?  Somebody here went to painstaking care to make you a mix CD, but why did she include “Who Let the Dogs Out”?  I’d really like to know your thoughts on that one!

Since you’ve been gone, I followed my dreams and started a YouTube show.  I chat with friends about music and I interview rock stars.  So far I’ve talked to two former members of Helix — a band we used to discuss in the old days.  You knew them long before I did.  Now here I am talking to them.  You were a part of my history with that band.  We also did an entire episode on Led Zeppelin.  That was another band you liked long before I discovered them.  You thought it was cool when I started picking up these old bands you had in your school days.  Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple.

I still don’t like sports.  There’s something we never agreed on.  Even being married to Jen and watching all this hockey, baseball and football, I still don’t like sports.  I understand them a little better.  I could converse with you about hockey now.  It wouldn’t be the topic of my choosing, but I could do it.

We spent last summer quarantined between here and the cottage.  You used to love that place.  Long hair, no shirt, cutoff jean shorts.  One summer you were there for about three weeks straight.  I hope you would like what Kathryn has done with it.  She’s kept everything intact.  It’s not as manly as it was in your day, but everything is still there.  It’s a lot quieter.  We all got older!

If it wasn’t for this damned virus, we had an idea for a tribute last summer.  Maybe we can do it this summer, or next summer.  I wanted to buy a turntable for the lake, and play some of your old records in the back yard like you used to.  I kept putting it off, and putting it off, because we can’t socialize.  It’s been a weird year, man!  Grandma really wants a hug.  I’ll give her a big one soon, don’t worry.

Speaking of worry, she used to worry about you so much.  Though we all miss you, at least she’s not worrying about you anymore.  I know she’ll appreciate it when we can finally get together as a family again.  Tell Uncle Don stories in the living room.  Cutoff shorts in the summer, badminton raquet in one hand and a Labbatt’s in the other!  Right?

I don’t drink beer, but I think if you were here right now, healthy and young again, I’d have a beer with you.  I’d think I’d like that.

Rest in Peace David Prowse (1935-2020)

I met David Prowse, the original Darth Vader, in 1978.

That’s not entirely true.  My dad met him and got his autograph for me while five-year-old me was terrified of the Dark Lord of the Sith.  Prowse signed it “Darth Vader”.  In fact nobody knew it was actually David Prowse, the real Vader, until the next day when it was in the newspapers.

Sears announced, to coincide with the latest wave of Kenner action figures, that “Darth Vader” was coming to the store to meet the kids and sign autographs.  (I got the brand new R5-D4 figure that night.)  It was typical for people in Star Wars costumes to show up at stores and wave to kids.  It was usually low budget.  This was anything but, as Prowse wore the real costume and even spoke.  If you’ve ever seen making-of footage, you know that Prowse spoke his lines on set before being overdubbed by James Earl Jones at the end of the process.  Jones, in fact, was not even credited in 1977.

Prowse is the forgotten Vader.  As a trained bodybuilder he was the right size to fill that towering suit.  All he lacked was the voice, but Vader was so much more than the voice.  He was also the body language and the sword fighting.  The sudden, deliberate movements.  The hacking and slashing that terrified Luke, and us as kids!

Prowse joins his friends Carrie Fischer, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing as he becomes one with the Force.  The rest of the world watches A New Hope one more time.  I think I’ll watch the original untampered cut as released on DVD.  I really hope my parents kept that autograph.

May the Force be with David Prowse.

Rest in Peace Uncle Don Don

My Uncle Don was the only rock n’ roller in the family.  When we were kids, we called him “Uncle Don Don”.  Our cousin Geoff already had an Uncle Don (my dad), so my mom’s brother became Uncle Don Don.  It’s just much simpler for kids if everybody has a different name.

Uncle Don had curly, flaming red hair.  Those Scottish roots.  In the old days he wore it long.  Come summer, he’d be at the cottage in nothing but a pair of old cutoff jean shorts.  Whether he was playing badminton with us, or just drinking a beer with the adults, he was always there with the jean shorts.

I can reveal now that it was Uncle Don who inspired a portion of Record Store Tales Part 2:  Gimme An R!

“Occasionally we would hear rumours.  Usually these ‘little known facts’ would come from that one uncle that everyone had, the one who wore no shirt, watched a lot of football, and had a handlebar moustache.  Usually this stereotypical uncle would say, ‘Yeah, Helix have been around a long time, like 20 years, I saw them when they were still a country band.  My buddy was in the band too.'”

Uncle Don was the very uncle who told me that Helix were once a country band.  That was him.  No shirt, football and that moustache!  Flaming red.  And jean shorts.

As I got older and into classic rock, we started to connect a little bit.  We were closer in the late 80s and early 90s.  He used to come over to the house and borrow tapes off me so he could record them.  He liked my Zeppelin and my Deep Purple.  From him, I recorded Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits — my very first Alice.  That happened in the summer of 1989, and I had no idea what to expect from Alice.  I also have a fond memory of us hanging out at the beach one afternoon, just the two of us.  It was a wavy day in August 1992.  I wonder if he wore the jean shorts that day too?

As the years passed, Uncle Don became more reclusive.  I had not seen him in many months.  He was not well.  Cancer was slowly starting to take him.  He knew he was going, and he knew he didn’t have many days left.  At least we had time to prepare.  My mom and aunt, and especially my grandmother, will miss him very much.  Uncle Don was the “baby of the family”, born much later than his two older sisters.  In many ways he had to live with being the “baby of the family” for his whole life.

Uncle Don passed away this afternoon at Freeport hospital in Kitchener.  As a family, we are all relieved that he is no longer in pain.  It is going to take time to process these feelings.  I worry about my grandmother, who still lived with him.  She is 95.  I spoke to her just yesterday.  She is prepared to go on without him, but I worry all the same.

There was nobody else in the family with long hair, listening to Alice Cooper.  It was nice having somebody else with the same tastes.  I thought a bit about what song he would have liked for this post.  I thought about “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Zeppelin, but I think I need a song for me this time. From Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, it’s “Teenage Lament ’74”.  The song that jumped out at me immediately as something really special.  The song I played over and over again, trying to figure out the words.  The song that just inexplicably connected with me.  I thought it was neat that I was going into my teens, listening to the music he listened to in his teens.  I started collecting Alice Cooper immediately.  Trash was next, followed by Billion Dollar Babies, School’s Out and Welcome to My Nightmare.  Thanks for introducing me to Alice Cooper, Uncle Don.  You changed a life.  I will never forget you.

 

What a drag it is,
In these gold lame jeans.
Is this the coolest way,
To get though your teens?
Well I cut my hair weird,
I read that it was in.
I look like a rooster,
That was drowned and raised again.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
I’m going to leave today.

I ran into my room,
And I fell down on my knees,
Well I thought that fifteen,
Was going to be a breeze.
I picked up my guitar,
To blast away the clouds,
Somebody in the next room yelled,
You got to turn that damn thing down.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
Well I’m going to cry all day.

R.I.P. Little Richard (1932-2020)

I don’t know when I first heard Little Richard, but I do know when I first loved Little Richard:  1987.  Predator.

Richard Wayne Penniman was 87.  He’ll always be remembered for “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally”, and “Good Golly Miss Molly”.  His piano work was astounding and his voice unmistakable.  I’m gonna miss Little Richard.  Rest in peace.

 

R.I.P. John Prine (1946-2020)

I’m not qualified to write this; Tom Morwood is the guy who should be eulogizing John Prine.  Many of us are crushed.  As much as Neil Peart hurt early in the year, so John Prine pains us now.

John Prine, age 73, has succumbed to Covid-19, the latest in a list of artists who did not survive the pandemic.  When this is all over the view will be very different.

When you have earned the praise of Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and Tom Morwood, you are the real deal.  Prine was that and more.

 

Rest in peace.

R.I.P. Kenny Rogers

When I was really young, my mom bought my grandpa a copy of Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits for Christmas.  He ended up getting two copies.  I liked the song “The Gambler”, so I asked my mom if I could have the extra copy.  Surprised, she gave it to me, and so in my earliest record collection, I had the Flintstones, Star Wars, and Kenny Rogers.

Several years later, after joining Columbia House music club, my mom purchased a new Kenny Rogers hits cassette for the car.  That’s when I discovered “Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In”, a song that we first found hilarious and then realized was funky and cool. Lebowski just made it cooler.

Kenny Rogers passed away at age 81 peacefully at home. Known for his many hits like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”, “Lucille”, and his duets with Dolly Parton, country music will always remember Kenny Rogers.

Rest in Peace.