Friday, November 17, 2006

Adam Sullivan, We Will Miss You

Yesterday on a gray and rainy day, Adam Sullivan was buried in his bib overalls as his family and friends sang "I Saw the Light". He was 19 years old. Over 3 inches of rain drenched York County, PA and the swirling winds necessitated a tornado watch. Only after he was in the ground did the black clouds part and a huge rainbow appeared, much like the light that Adam brought to all our lives. Adam was sorta like a tornado himself, afffecting everything in his crazy path, but with his boundless energy he spread joy and happiness instead of destruction. His short life ended at one of his favorite places, Chickie's Rock, a beautiful and occasionally deadly scenic overlook above the Susquehanna River. Adam enjoyed the beauty and peaceful serenity of nature, never more apparent than from the top of the rock. He would sneak out on the rock late at night and sit and watch the trains go by while contemplating the wonder of it all. While enjoying the view with a friend, he slipped and wound up hitching a ride on the glory bound train to heaven.

I first met Adam in August of 2005 at the annual York County Fiddlers' Convention, a celebration of all things hillbilly and always a fun time. Bands played on the main stage all day long, but, as usual, the main action was up on the hill where the pickers would roam from group to group sitting in with both friends and strangers, playing till long after dark. I was there with my friends Tony Staub and Paul Wykowski who were hoping just maybe they could jam with a bass player who would be a good fit for their non-traditional old time bluegrass harmony band, Waitin On a Train. Eventually this skinny teenager with wild hair and a upright bass stumbled upon their group and sat in, playing with them well into the night. They extended to Adam an invitiation to play some more, and discovered not only had they found an extraordinary bass player, but an extraordinary human being as well.

It was not long before Adam was playing gigs with the band and they morphed into a steamrollin powerhouse of a band, making more of a racket than anyone could imagine with just an acoustic guitar, mandolin and standup bass and an occasional electrified stomp board. What a beautiful racket it was, celebrating the old time music they all loved, like the Stanleys, Bill Monroe, the Louvins and Delmore Brothers but at the same time mixing it with a ton of hi-energy rock and roll spirit. Back in January of this year I first wrote of the band as in a few short months, they had come a long way. You can read that post here. The band continued to grow and gig a lot, writing some great songs in the process. Adam's tireless energy and love of life shone through brightly in his amazing bass work, adding a jazzy feel and occasionally taking the lead as well. Waitin On A Train continued to gig and grow as Adam's spirit, drive and amazing musicianship spurred Tony and Paul to new heights too. They gigged in rock and roll clubs, bed & breakfasts, supper clubs, street fairs and maybe even a few redneck bars and always the results were the same: No matter who was in the crowd, Waitin On A Train won them over with their unique sound. They began working on their first CD together, spolighting their raw and powerful original tunes, Path of Pain. That CD was to be the band's launching pad to bigger things, as it showcased their unusual sound, memorable songs, and some stellar musicianship. Sadly, when the CD comes out in a month or so, it will now be Adam's epitaph to his all-too-short life.

Though it's clear Adam was a stellar musician despite his youth, as I got to know him better, I found out he was a thoughtful and caring human being as well. Despite the nearly 20 year gap between Adam and his band mates, it was obvious Adam was wise beyond his years. He taught us all a leason with his always smiling and laughing demeanor as he never had a mean word for anyone. His grandpa related a story to me of how whenever he encountered a bully as a youth, he would hand them a bible, rather than fight. Adam was truly rich in what really counted and valued friendships more than material things. Not surprisingly, his grandfather found his last two paychecks, still uncashed. Adam' love of life, his zest, his endless quest for knowledge and his loving, caring, and forgiving nature stand as an example of how to lead a rich, fulfilling life. His unselfish actions speak more about him than I ever could. Hearing the parade of speakers at his funeral telling how Adam had touched their lives made us all realize the depth of his beauty. Adam Sullivan we will miss you dearly.

On Friday, November 24th There will be an Adam Sullivan Memorial Concert at Murph's Other Bar in York, PA. The show will feature A. D. Chandler, Johnny Hanks, Waitin On a Train and Horsecop. The show starts at right at 8 PM, but please check the Waitin On a Train My Space for updates. This will be a benefit and the proceeds will be donated to Big Brothers and Sisters of York County in memory of Adam who so touched our lives.