Sunday, September 02, 2018

The 3-Fingered Bassist

    No way I’m going to remember where the gig was – a lot of strands in the ol’ duder’s head, you know – but I’m sure it was at some high school dance, maybe in Pine Bluff … or Russellville.  It was the first song of the night, and we wanted to come out swinging: Pinball Wizard. You know, 
that guitar intro, the best part of the song. Andy Buschmann and Tommy Lewis were killing it, note-for-note on the 335 and Les Paul, respectively. Clint Allen’s drums and Robert Doom’s keyboards erected a wall of sound behind them that had the teachers and various volunteer chaperones quaking in their shoes, wondering if the roof might be about to come off that gymnasium. I was dreading the vocals – very high, and somewhat painful – but before my part came, I had to wait for those bass lines – VROOOOM! … VROOOOM! Terry Horn brought the first one, right on time; and then the second one. And, just as I raised the mic up and opened my mouth, the bottom dropped out of the song. The bass was gone, and I turned to see Clint taking hold of his cymbal to silence it. The guitars and keys quit. And there in the silence stood Terry, in the middle of the stage behind me, waving his arms over his head like a man trying to flag down a firetruck in front of a burning building.

My first thought was that an amp had blown up. Something was always blowing up. So I, like all those kids on the dance floor, stood silently while Terry took the strap over his neck and walked back toward his amp. He stood the bass guitar up leaning into the cabinet and, without saying a word, took off his shirt.  His bare back to the crowd he picked up the bass and put the strap back over his neck, lit a cigarette, then stuck the filter end down on one of the string ends at the tuning key –in lieu of an ash tray.

Then he walked back to his spot on the stage, smiled that smile, and said “OK, man. I’m ready!” And we started again, as if nothing had happened.

This past Thursday, I made a post on Facebook about a strange dream I had Wednesday night. In it were a bunch of guys from the old rock ‘n roll daze – Andy, Tommy, Robert, Jerry Lewis, Ransom Weaver, Nick Fudge, and even Mike Foster, who we chased for years, unsuccessfully trying to talk him into joining our bands. The scene was an amplifier graveyard – a field somewhere around Batesville, full of old non-working amps. I was with Brent & Logan Gleghorn, a couple of firemen, looking through that graveyard for parts for a Hammond B3 organ. My old band was playing on a stage across the field. Everybody was where they were supposed to be, except I didn’t see Terry, because, obviously, this was after Jerry (Bird) had taken his place as bassist; and, oddly, Cindy Barber had assumed my place as lead singer.

So, I thought that was funny, and I made that post Thursday, not reading any mystical significance into the dream because, well, you know, dreams are weird.

Then, Saturday, as I was sitting at my desk, looking out the window at a Cardinal on my pecan tree, I got a message from Steve Caraway letting me know that Terry had passed.

Stay with me here while I try to connect some of this stuff.

I didn’t know Brent Gleghorn in those old days; and Logan hadn’t even been born. But, as I said, they’re firemen. And my favorite story about Terry has always been the one about the time Sheila accidentally set his hair on fire in the back seat of my Mustang, right there on Main Street in front of Ray’s Corner.

The amplifier cemetery is self-evident.

Then, there’s the Cardinal – a visitor from Heaven, it is said. A bird. “Bird,” aka Jerry Lewis, eventually took over as bassist for our band, Orion, when Terry left.  And that Cardinal was literally sitting on a branch, looking into my window as I read the message from Steve.

I’m not a “spiritual person.” But if I can figure out Cindy Barber’s connection to all of this, I may become one.

I don’t know why you came to see me after all these years, you three-fingered wild man, but thank you for doing that.

I get it, man. You were ready.

Now, rest in peace, old friend.