Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bill Brown - There's the man I want to see right there!

My friend Bill Brown died in a fire a few years ago along with his friend Don Shipps. It was a really horrific fire. Bill’s service was meager while Don’s was a full Catholic send off. The Knights of Columbus have really groovy hats. The Groovy Hats, that should be their band name. A giant wake was held in Bill and Don's honor at the Shrine Mosque to celebrate their lives and their contribution to the local music scene. These guys contributed a lot. Don was the blues staple in the Queen City. He played with everybody. Bill came up in rock and power pop bands like The Misstakes and eventually was a member of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and The Bluesberries and Don Shipps and the Titanic Blues Band. Bill taught me how to play guitar.

I think of Bill, like I do, when I’m prowling through my music collection. Bill was regarded as this fine blues player, which he was, and his wake was full of blues and rock music as if these genres defined him. They did not.

The Bill I knew, the Bill Brown I loved, was the funniest guy I had ever met. He was an older brother, a statesman, a historian, a wizard, a true star. Bill gave me the uncanny ability to be all The Beatles at once. His McCartney became my McCartney. He redefined humor on a daily basis. He gave me his green Ibanez tube screamer. He always had a new record he loved and couldn’t wait to share it. But why do I think that songs like “Little Wing” didn’t define him? Because Bill Brown loved a perfect pop song. He worshipped the Beatles. He thought Difford and Tillbrook and the entire Squeeze catalog was a must. Bill would not shut up about XTC and when Apple Venus / Wasp Star came out he insisted that I go for a drive to listen to them both. Bill loved the songwriting of Neil Finn and played Crowded House incessantly. Elvis Costello and the Attractions and no Attractions, it didn’t matter, Bill made damn sure that Costello was tattooed on my brain. He couldn’t get enough of Cheap Trick, Badfinger, Raspberries, Rundgren, and on and on and on. When I moved to San Francisco, Bill gave me an envelope full of rare baseball cards in case I should ever fall on hard times. Or if I just wanted to read stats out of lack of anything else to do in The City.

His kids play music now. Drums and guitar. They’re good kids.

Man, I miss him. What I wouldn’t give to hear him ask in his best scouse accent, “What are you doing with your nose in that booook?”

ap - 2009


Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better myself!


Anonymous said...

I knew, Billy, a bit and saw him play many times, with the Mis-Takes. He was one of the greatest guitar players ever. The real Johnny Be Good! Thanks for posting this. Regards Eric Clayton Heard ;)