Jill is music. What a great story. I love this series. I love how music is (should be) with people every step of the way. We all have a music story. Jill has one hell of music story.
Everything after this is all Jill so enjoy:
My life in music has been one big noise.
So let’s call this, “Peeling Folks Off The Ceiling With A Spatula”
I can’t point, shoot or say where it began or where it’s going. All I know, it’s there in me, beside me and running around me in circles. I’ve heard The Beatles, The Allman Brothers Band, The Stones, Shaun Cassidy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ALL The Military Service Bands (living in the DC/VA area it was mandatory), Ronnie Milsap, Godspell, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat, Annie, Grease, Elton John, Billie Holliday, The Cokesbury Hymnal, Ella Fitzgerald, Duran Duran, Blondie, Linda Ronstadt, Rick Springfield, Chic, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Fleetwood Mac (both sides), PRINCE, Eric Clapton, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, The Black Crowes, Dave Alvin, Buddy Miller and many others…
But it was Julie Miller, who made The Atlanta Star Bar crowd go silent and all you could hear was the ice machine crackling in the way back.
It was a song called “Broken Things.” It was on the list of songs to listen to when 911 happened – along with her song, “All My Tears”.
I went to see U2 during their Joshua Tree Tour, and we sang “40” all the way home with my four best high school friends. Now only two of us are left as friends.
I saw The Black Crowes HIGH AS THE MOON tour, and that opening light bulb curtain; was awesome. My buddy in NOLA saw the same show. I saw The Urban Shakedancers with them twice. Rich Robinson gave Richard Paige his Gibson guitar. I saw The Crowes, nine times. I saw the Shakedancers WAY too many times. I gave all my piano music their B3 player, Dan.
One of the few times I had a musical orgasm was with Texas, a band from Scotland when I ordered their CD RED BOOK. I drove from my boss’ house/home office in Dunwoody to the Buckhead Tower Records and back home to Marietta via the backroads of the Chastain Park area. Just like when I would drive through the George Washington Parkway in D.C. after a night in Georgetown during college summers with tunes blaring and the windows down; it was cinematic.
I felt like Steve McQueen.
I also get one during the horn climb of Otis Redding’s classic, “I’ve Been Loving You” and I get gooey when I hear The Clash, frustrated when I listen to the Bee Gees, and I get chills when I hear the Guns N Roses cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”…yeah go ahead and shoot me… I like it.
I can pick out Issac Hayes’ piano fingers, Nile Rodgers’ guitar sound, and sometimes when I’m listening, I can hear who the drummer is, the only ones that count, Charlie, Ringo, Tony, Steve G, Steve F, Bonham and maybe the guy who played on Robert Palmer’s solo work, and maybe that guy, who plays with so n so… I dunno.
I have piles of music, some bad, some good, some I borrowed, some stolen and most of it bought.
I went shopping when Bowie died; I was 10 when Lennon got shot, I was seven when Elvis died. I was on Howell Mill Rd in Atlanta, GA when I heard the news about Kurt Cobain in front of a Sensational Sub shop. Me and my co-worker at Lamp Arts just stared at the radio. I was at the Tattoo shop visiting my artist guy talking about how Prince died. I’ve told bad jokes to Cyril Neville, directed Maria Muldaur to my doctor for her sore throat and sat on the phone with someone that wanted me to fix the modules of MySpace when you couldn’t. That call lasted four hours.
I have heard stories of privilege, neglect, love, struggle and worry. I have peeled people of the ceiling, floor and drove Bonnie Bramlett to a show. I have sat in many a studio from Southern Tracks with Brendan O’Brien to a friend’s studio down the street. But all of it’s the same – pure, honest and out of this world.
I’ve taken photos of a lot of folks where I feel like it’s an art form, where I am using my medium art photography taking pictures of the musical act. It’s such a creative vibe that I almost like doing that than sitting through a show. I pick out one person, usually the drummer or the lead singer or solo act – and watch them direct and then I shoot.
There are so much more. I never played in bands, but I was in the marching band, choral groups and bought an electric piano that serves as a great sculpture in my upstairs room. I can write and read music; I can direct it, but I don’t play much anymore. Scott Joplin can wait.
(BTW the high school marching band I was in was like being on the UGA Football Team. We were special.)
When I worked with local rock legends, drivin’ n cryin’, their personal manager put on the Ace Frehley and Peter Criss show at Center Stage in Atlanta. I was the runner, the assistant, and the hand shaker. yes I got a dozen roses with the thorns taken off for “Beth”. Met Ace didn’t meet Criss. Called an ex-boyfriend to tell him so – had to leave a message. To be a fly on the wall that day…
I have worked with so many artists, and I can’t recall a lot – but what I do remember are a few moments that were special. I was trying to call Dave Alvin when he was in Poland. After doing the time zone math, I called the club where he was, and if I was correct, it should’ve been the last song of the night. Perfect timing right?
Well, I called and talked to the bartender to see if I could leave a message for him. The song coming over the phone was Alvin’s hit with the group X; “Fourth Of July” – everyone in that Polish club knew every word.
“HEEEEEEY BAY-BE-EEEE IT’S THE FOURTH JULYYYYYY!”, everyone sang.
I hollered at my then boss, legendary publicist, Mark Pucci – “hey they’re singing with Dave Alvin!”
He called a few days from a dinner table in Italy.
Then speed up to about three or four years ago when I was working with Royal Southern Brotherhood – and then member Devon Allman, son of Gregg Allman, wrote a travel blog for Relix mag while in Australia. He was to send me a day to day journal entry for the magazine along with content and photos/videos. I set all my clocks to Australian time and ran with it. I had no clue what time it was at home. It ran for six days, and we had a blast trading info and filing with it the mag. ALL DONE ON MY IPHONE.
Then go back to 1996; when Atlanta had the Olympics. Again, my former boss, Mark Pucci and I were working with Tish Hinojosa, a Texan singer-songwriter that was playing one of the side stages. Well after her show, Rufus Thomas came up to Mark, said something and Mark asked if I could stay. We did. We stood in the backstage area and watched people from all over the world climb trees, walls and each other to see what Stax Music was all about. William Bell channeled his Otis Redding and his own song “Born Under A Bad Sign”, Rufus Thomas called all the girls up to dance the “Funky Chicken” and Ann Peebles charmed everyone with “I Can’t Stand The Rain.” The drummer didn’t sweat in the hot summer night air; the b3 player wore leather head to toe, and Willie Mitchell’s grandson proposed to me for his grand-daddy.
Steve Dollar, a then writer for the Atlanta Journal-Consitution, had people come up to him in their broken English asking him where was this Memphis and how can they get there for hours on end.
I have snuck into shows, I never had a fake ID, I didn’t sit in with folks, I watched from the side of the stage or the camera lens. I have been in mosh pits, camera pits and behind the curtains at the Fox Theater watching Tim Easton play a 1972 Gibson Heritage of mine.
I have had to deliver bad news, a few times. One time, blues artist James Armstrong, who was living in California, got attacked and his one of his boys was thrown off the second story balcony. The man stabbed James many times while James was holding his other son under him –and left the guitarist with limited range in his fret arm/hand. His boys are fine.
The man who did all this, was high on PCP and eventually was arrested.
I had to deliver the news about Eddy Shaver dying. He was fresh off to a new start. He was trying to heal. Billy Joe Shaver was ripped a part. Willie Nelson said, “You need to be around your friends.” He was right – now look at Billy Joe. He’s walking tall and through the light.
I had to deliver the news about Sean Costello, a local young blues guitar-slinger who died at 29 of an overdose. I went to the wake. It was so hard cause I was working with him when he was 15; he was raw, young and dressed in a suit onstage.
I am in the music business which is entirely different than making music. But the two always mesh well. I have a horrible memory about stuff like this. I tend to go all over the yard. But what I do know is that I have had some great working relationships with many a musician over the years, and it always made the music sound sweeter.
I have been called out, thrown under the bus, given the pink slip, held my ground, cried, laughed, yelled, hollered, thrown and broken things, praised, let down, put down and sat down. I’ve walked out of shows, meetings and record stores, hung up on everyone, been hung up on and called every name in the book. I love it. I really do. Don’t ask why cause I don’t know. Maybe cause I wear awesome shoes and do 50 sit ups?
I’ve had to figure game plans, networking admin info, postage counts, web site pages and most of time zone math. I can read a map, a bad bio, find a good quote in the middle of a bad review and iron out any wrinkle in the musical shirt.
Being creative is hard. Working with creative people is difficult. You have to think like a madman, speak like a rock star – what would (insert name of someone doing well) do? and drive the car going backwards while reading the map. It’s crazy. I get turned down more than a nerd at an 8th Grade High School Dance. I have skin like an armadillo, a heart like a puppy dog and a hiss like a cat in heat. I can’t explain what I do very well so all I can say is “I’m in the mafia.”
Just don’t put on Ray Charles, Billy Joe Shaver, Roy Orbison, Beth Hart, Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks, Pat Benatar, The Band, Bruno Mars, John Coltrane, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Smokey Robison…. I might forget to turn off the stove –