It’s been a tough fall losing friends. Each time it happens I try to remind myself that every day is a gift and to use it wisely, to try and progress ever so slightly towards a better world and to help others, too. The reminder is easy. Doing it isn’t. But let’s take a minute and remember some of our friends who’ve left this earth.
We had the great pleasure of getting to know Doyle Bramhall over the last few years after he moved to Alpine. What stood out for me about Doyle was his genuine graciousness and camaraderie. We had the honor of playing with him at Padre’s. There was no ego, it was as if everyone on stage was old friends – he was totally at ease musically and personally with those around him, and that came through in the music and the performance. He was an amazing musician and I wish I would have the pleasure of playing music with and just being around him more often.
It’s true that Townes Van Zandt used to call Tim Henderson for advice when a song he was writing wasn’t coming together like he wanted. Tim approached songwriting with the same precision and detail as his day job writing technical manuals for Tracor and Texas Instruments. He could tell you the difference between a “refrain,” a “bridge” and a “chorus” and where you would want to use one or the other and why. Not only that but he was damn funny. I could sit and listen to his stories for hours – and did. J.C. was right when he said he was loved by all who knew him.
Drew Castenada was the banjo player on our bluegrass version of Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder The Come” from The Border Blasters’ “Blast From The Past” CD, and my friend since Country Day School kindergarten in Austin in the early 1960s and he was in all our bands through the 1980s. Drew was probably the most technical musician in our bunch – if he heard a banjo break he wanted to emulate he would sit down and figure it out note by note and practice it until he could play it perfectly. It saddens me greatly say but Drew fell on hard times, mainly due to troubles with addiction. Booze mostly. It took a hard toll on him personally and professionally. But the Drew I’ll remember, always, is the one we had so goddam many good times with. Not just playing music but fishing (we’d go down to Town Lake with a pole and a six pack of Pearl beer, find snails in the brush and pull perch out all afternoon; “light perchin'” we called it), driving around as kids, talking about philosophy and girls) – I’ve missed that Drew for a long time.
What can you say about Joe Gracey that hasn’t already been said? Joe was the engineer and co-producer for “Blast From The Past” and was also a friend. JR built him a wine cellar at this place in Spicewood to pay off his fees from the session. I corresponded with Joe fairly regularly and kinda became better friends with him via email once that became common. I helped him and Kimmie with some of their technical web stuff (and still host their web sites). Joe once sent an email or blog post where he mentioned “the best liquor I ever had was a bottle of bootleg ‘sotol’ Todd Jagger brought back from Big Bend.” I remember that bottle and it was good. Bought at the Park Bar in Boquillas Mexico – they would put the booze in whatever containers they had, this one in a Wesson bottle. Joe was one of the undisputed founders of the Austin music scene. I fondly remember his rapid-fire insight, jokes, rants and cussing on whatever brand of ‘magic slate’ he could find – Barbie, X-Men, Care Bears, My Little Pony… and can still hear his long-lost voice signing off KOKE-FM (“Super Roper Radio”): “Drink plenty of water, stay off yer feet and come when you can.” Thanks Joe.