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80 Years Ago

Archives 07-11-2001

North County Lines by Bob

An Award Winning Column

For comments or questions contact Bob at bobncl@hotmail.com




Fifty years from now, when scholars write the history of rock and roll, the story will begin with the discovery of Elvis and end with the breakup of the Beatles.

The death of Elvis in 1977 and the assassination of John Lennon in 1980 will be included as side notes.

In 50 years, Nirvana will have returned to meaning a transcendent state free from suffering and individual phenomenal existence that is ultimately indescribable and can only be known directly.

All memories of the band Nirvana, which was mediocre at its best, will have faded, died, and been buried. R.E.M., a band from Macon, Georgia, will follow the same track to obscurity.

Little Richard, a leading founder of rock and roll, is also from Macon. Unlike Nirvana and R.E.M., Little Richard is a true rock and roller. Long live Little Richard.

I met Janis Joplin at a rock concert in Macon. I was a babe in the woods, a mere teenager. I was the drummer for the Tropics, a rock and roll band that performed at the concert.

Can't Wait was our only number one hit. We were primarily a live-performance group. We were an in-your-face rock and roll band.

We followed the Box Tops, the Outsiders, and the Blues Magoos at the concert. Janis followed us.

When the drummer in her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, yuck pooh, yuck pooh, excuse me while I puke, didn't show, I volunteered my services.

Playing drums for Janis was a cinch. After establishing the rhythm, I played a variety of self-invented percussion combinations between primary beats.

Big Brother and the Holding Company played so badly, I pounded and stomped as loudly as possible to drown out their miserable attempts to produce musical notes.

Between my wild banging and thumping and the wailing but perfectly in-tune voice of Janis, the screechings of Big Brother and the Holding Company faded into the background.

Although she was much older, Janis and I hit it off well at a party following the concert. She was what I referred to as one of the lonely people. She wasn't fully alive except on-stage.

Off stage Janis relied on alcohol and drugs to wash away the emptiness inside. An emptiness that returned again and again with increasing force.

I was in the first phase of addiction. My body was young enough and strong enough to recover quickly from the abuse of alcohol and drugs. I could party until three a.m., rise with the chickens, and start all over again.

My breakfast during that time consisted of two tall-boy Pabst followed by two more. A hair of the dog to make me feel alive again.

As I grew older, wrapping my arms around a toilet while throwing up became part of my morning ritual. Worshipping at the porcelain throne. Ah, the smell of vomit in the morning.

Janis and I had much in common. We were both raised in small towns. We were each baptized at the age of nine by a grandfather who was a Baptist preacher.

Unlike me, however, Janis had bought into the hell thing. I knew hell was nothing but a gimmick invented to frighten us into behaving like the status quo thinks we should.

Behaving a certain way because of being afraid not to is not good behavior.

At my invitation, Janis left the party with me. We made our way to Earl's Hideaway, a redneck bar with two pool tables.

A wise man once said pool tables are placed in bars to provide the pretense of being there for a reason other than drinking. Dart boards do the same thing.

Earl's Hideaway was hidden away in a basement under an old hotel, where down and outers and those quickly approaching that condition lived.

Being with Janis was no big deal then. She didn't become famous until she appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. She didn't become a legend until after her death. Her true greatness wasn't fully recognized until she was gone.

When we walked into Earl's Hideaway, the regulars probably thought here comes that Bob dude with a homely chick again.

But Janis possessed something far greater than beauty. She had a tender spirit. She felt the suffering of others.

At my first wife's funeral, the preacher said some people are too sensitive and easily broken to live in this world for long. Janis fit into that category also.

When we weren't drinking in Earl's hideaway, Janis and I spent the next week or so in the hotel above.

The only TV was in a lobby with torn and stained chairs that smelled like wet dogs and recycled booze. A guy with no legs in a wheelchair rolled back and forth changing channels.

Like a bodhisattva doing time, I sat back and absorbed it all. File this under H for how did I arrive here.

The other members of the Tropics came and dragged me off when it was time to be on the road again. Janis and I went our separate ways.

I wasn't surprised when Janis died from a hit of uncut smack. The newspapers reported that her rose-colored shades shattered from a collision with a bedpost as she collapsed to the floor.

Fifty years from now, when scholars write the history of rock and roll, Janis Joplin will be noted as its Queen. No one will remember Madonna or Ricky Martin or any other pop celebrity.





Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570
tel 931.823.6485
fax 931.823.6486

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