Saturday, January 12, 2008

September 2nd 1979

My life went down a new road on September 2nd, 1979. My band’s agent was a guy named Buzz Butler. He was the hardest working agent in show business representing bands like Street Corner Symphony and Walnut Park. Walnut Park later changed their name to The Heaters.

He had us booked at The Stagger Inn in Edwardsville that evening. For some reason my mother and brother decided to drive out to see us that night. My father originally said he’d be there but backed out at the last minute. He had decided to go the DuQuoin State Fair with a girl friend.

We had finished sound check and were relaxing in a back room before the show. Mark Gray was our sound man. He came into the room in hysterics. His face was red and his body was convulsing. I wondered if he was having a bad reaction to some drug. He looked at me and said, “Your dad is dead.”

Everything went yellow.

Mark’s mother Suzy was on the phone. I could barely understand anything she said because she was crying and having trouble catching her breath. She later told me I was able to comfort her enough to give me details.

They had decided to go to a friend’s property at Holiday Shores, a man made lake that happened to be close by. My father was swimming from the side of a boat. He went under the water and never came back up. Everyone panicked and they eventually found him tangled in the weeds at the bottom of the lake.

This all came to me 15 minutes before we were to go on stage. In a trance like state I went on. At our first break my brother Patrick and I went to the local morgue to claim his body.

I was given his personal affects. Patrick refused to believe he was dead and insisted on seeing his body. The mortician was reluctant but my brother persisted. We went into the basement of the mortuary to find him with tubes pumping liquids into his body. It was unreal for me and I was angry with Patrick for making us go through it. There was an open casket at the funeral home and I was never able to get closer than 30 feet from him. It felt like there was actually a physical barrier.

Somehow we made it through the show that night and everyone told us it was one of our best. After loading up to leave it was time to get paid. Buzzy said the bar short changed us $25.00 but he made up for it by stealing an expensive bottle of scotch. Dominic was still drinking at the time and was more than happy to take it as part of his pay. Buzz always looked out for his acts. Everyone loved him. He’s gone now too.

The funeral service was held in South St. Louis and the procession went from there all the way to Calvary Cemetery on the north side. In the lead car on the highway I looked back at the cars that in the procession and I couldn’t see the end.

"He who dies with the most friends wins."


tonpatti said...

Finally writing about somebody I know. So much to tell. I remember Jerry telling me about the time he was completely broke and didn't know what he was going to do and he looked under the bed and saw Saloon under there with a twenty dollar bill in his mouth.

Doggie said...

Remember his heat was shut off and we invited him to come sleep at our new apartment on 18th street. You and I came home late from partying and he was shivering in his sleep on the floor. We hadn't gotten the heat turned on yet and it was the middle of winter. We talked my mom into letting us all crash on her floor. I'll never forget Boomtown was playing on TV.

tonpatti said...

When he first moved in at Victor Street he slept on a sheet over bare wire springs. Your dad was made out of iron and rocks. He really enjoyed drinking us under the table. He enjoyed playing his records for us, too. I'll have to put up some of the sound files I have of his voice. His voice was like nothing else - your kids will not believe how different he sounds from you.

Kyría Ioánna said...

I was at that show! And indeed it was one of your best. I was a huge Wacks fan. I didn't know you personally (though I think we partied together once or twice), and had no idea of the tragedy you were going through that night. That you played so well says something about the human spirit ...