Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vic Chesnutt, friend and talent

Vic has left the building. We'll honor him Sunday December 27:

[Vic's] memorial service will be held at Bridges Funeral Home, 3035 Atlanta Hwy, Athens, GA, 30606 on Sunday, December 27, 2009, from 3:00-6:00 pm. Following the memorial service, family and friends invite you to join them at Cine, 234 West Hancock Ave., Athens, GA.

Vic was my next-door-neighbor, for a time, circa 1988-9. We met about 1986-7, when he joined us at the original Grit cafe with bandmate Todd McBride during a monthly Song Swap. The Athens Folk Music & Dance Society would gather there, and so would Vic. The moldy figs of the Folk Society delightfully met their match... He once told me he wanted to write a song for everyone in Athens. I thought of him as our bard, together with the late John Seawright.

So, when George Norman's place was burgled, his guitar stolen, Jennifer Hartley suggested a benefit at the Grit. Vic, Vic wrote the song, y'all: George Norman, Victim of Crime.
("Yeah, Geo-oorge Nor-MAN/ He's a friend, friend of mine/ Geo-orge Nor-MAN/ Unfor-tu-nate... victim of CRIME.") One AFMDS hoot the folk society songstresses sang backup behind him at Sparky's, and we billed them as Vic Vegas and the Vixens. I've been humming the song he wrote about Vernon J. Thornsberry ("Yes, he's a dishwasher by trade, but with loftier career goals/ At night he paints lovely nudes, in charcoal/ and he left New Orleans just a couple of Mardi Gras's ago.") There are so many great Vic songs: New Town, Elberton Fair... Who is Pulling Brezhnev's Chain... I have more favorite early ones, because I left Athens in 1994. My favorite album of his is West of Rome... bought one night with Tom Waits' Bone Machine and REM's Automatic for the People, and much loved.

AFMDS gave a concert for Vic to play for his parents at the old Unitarian Church, and he illustrated the songs on poster board. It was a magic evening, a great success, not long before they both passed. I loved his art as well as his writing.

The thing is, I loved his singing voice. He could sing a moldy standard and make it his own: "The Falling Leaves;" "Wonderin';" name it, he sang it. But the writing... One time, I went to pay rent, and my alcoholic landlord came to the door in briefs, and said, "Song titles come to me in dreams. Here, take this." And he gave me a song title: "Another One, Darlin'..." Well, I walked down the street to Vic, and later, a pretty good country song was the result.

One summer, the Augusta Heritage Center gave Vic a scholarship to attend a songwriting workshop with Nashville's Fred Koller. I drove with him, in his van. Great trip, filling me with respect for Vic; it was just before he started his regular Tuesday gig at the 40 Watt. During an outdoor evening session, listening to Whit and Barbara Connah of Atlanta up there, he named them The Fabulous Sticks, enjoying the phraseology. But, I think Koller realized Vic was already something special.

Seeing and hearing Vic made you glad to be in his presence. He was always troubled. But man, he could be happy.

Let's tell more Vic stories, sing more Chesnutt songs.

Here's a link, or three:
  • An appeal to help with Vic's outstanding debt, at

  • The online Guest Book

  • And, Nuci's Space, in Athens, Georgia:

God bless...

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