Monday, January 20, 2003

What's up, people?

I can't help but weigh in on the Skynerd thing, albeit a couple days late. I tried early Sunday morning, but it wouldn't take. Maybe the Southern Rock gods were intervening. Anyway ...

I love Skynerd. I probably ragged 'em as hard as anybody, but that's only because I had to play some of their songs hundreds of times in honky tonks and lounges. I'm over it now, and can once again listen to "Gimme Three Steps" without thinking of a certain nameless grandmother dancing around in circles, drooling and unaware she still existed in the Split Rail on the Bristol Highway, back when it was a 2-lane. Previous dissertations on this blog were outstanding, by the way.

One night in winter 1984, my underage ass was sitting on a drum stool in the Kingsport Ramada Inn when the guitar player, "Long Haired Country Boy" Jay Wood, staggered up, incredibly drunk off natural light and whiskey, and called out "Freebird." We had never played it before, but the rest of us were also drunk enough not to care, so it began. The drink had killed the Jay's hearing, so he slurred into the most out-of-key version imaginable. The steel slide against the neck of his SG revealed an utter lack of intonation, and his 50-watt Peavey was turned to 10. His voice, OK when he was sober, took on a pitch-poor whine that I was sure would shake Ronnie Van Zandt from his grave and draw him from Gainsboro all the way to Kingsport to deliver an ass-whupping from the beyond. But there are no such things as ghosts. I wasn't sure whether to laugh, pass out or protect myself with my crash cymbal. In the end, I decided to look at the 7 or 8 fuckers still left in the room -- three others had left by the time he went into the second verse. They watched and listened intently, seemingly unaware of the train wreck they were witnessing. It was 17 minutes of the most perverse, ear-grinding cacophony I've ever heard, if you don't count the Rude Street Peters, and it included every tweedly-tweedly-tweedly-tweedly etc. he could offer at the end, albeit about a half-step flat except for the couple times he seemed to sway to his right and actually hit a correct note.

When it was over, he put on his burgundy Member's Only jacket, stumbled outside to his Maverick, and drove off into the moonlight, the perfect coda to a night of song and frolic.

A couple of quick notes before I go. First, to Brook: Cameron Crowe is not the devil. I've seen Crowe's work, and if he were the devil, it would be much better. Second, to all who are wondering what this blog is, has been, will be: All of the proceeding are probably on target, but I see it as a good hangout, like the bars and houses where we used to meet back when we were all in Johnson City. Now we're spread out all over the place, with a few brave souls remaining in the tri, and this is about the best way to get that good old information and bullshit exchange without ringing up phone bills that force us to file for chapter 13. There are pictures, too. I like pictures.

Tad Dickens


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