Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Life's Passages Sometimes Too Short

The recent passing of Hank Thompson at the age of 82 brought an end to an incredible 60 year career that spanned eras. Only silenced by death, Hank kept playing and performing right to the end. A few years ago I saw Hank at the Dover PA Fireman's Carnival. He was all decked out in cowboy attire and pickin and grinnin like a country fool. Smooth as can be, and forever bubbling thru his hits despite having to be saddled with Billy Walker's band who apparently didnt know the Hank Thompson songbook too well. Despite that slight, Thompson oozed downhome charm as he efffortlessly sang his classic western swing and honky tonk. It was obvious Hank was enjoying himself in spite of things. That ability, to make the best of a bad situation, and his love of music are no doubt responsible for his longevity that surpassed most of his contemporaries. It was the same tireless energy and positive vibe that emanated from Adam Sullivan, who but for a tragic twist of fate, could have had a long fulfilling career in music. Hank's death came just a few days before the one year anniversary of Adam's falling off a cliff, and naturally it brought back the sad memories from the year before.

Adam was only 19 and was enjoying life, jammin with whoever he could, playing whatever he could and soaking up life like a sponge. His bass had been anchoring, and at the same time, stretching out, Waitin On A Train for a year, and the band had just finished recording their In the Path of Pain album. I was looking forward to seeing Waitin On A Train at the First Capital Dispensing Co. later that night when their gutiarist Paul called to break the news. I had him repeat it cause I didnt want to believe it was true. Tony Staub and Paul Wykowski from Waitin On A Train were friends for years and Adam had became a good friend too. The finality of it all was heartbreaking. Waitin On A Train had evolved into a smokin rock and roll band who played bluegrss, and Adam quickly became an integral part of their unique sound. We were all devastated and in shock for awhile and the band cancelled their gigs, except for one show in Adam's memory that raised some money for Big Brothers of York.

So many people die everyday, you almost develop a numbness or insensitivity to death until suddenly it hits home. Its a grim reminder of the fragility of our lives when our loved ones die. I guess the world is a dangerous place, made even more dangerous by our own actions(now more than ever). Adam was a positive force, and I will always remember his smile and laugh. His life was way too short, but he has taught us by example, to carry on, be free and follow your dreams way. I'm glad that Waitin On A Train decided eventually to continue playing. Before long, Adam's friend
Johnny Hank would take Adams place on bass, and once again the band became a potent musical force. Johhny had already played trumpet on "John Garrett's Barn" on In the Path of Pain and he fit right in. In an attempt to get the band some wider exposure, I put their CD out on Bona Fide. The stunned music world can't figure out if they are country, punk, hillbilly, or just rock and roll. Waitin On A Train added to the confusion when the only cover on the CD was a Canned Heat song, complete with a fuzzed out mandolin solo! While the rest of the world might be just a tad slow catching on, those lucky enough to catch their live show are ready converts. Adam's
spirit still pervades their performance, and their energy level reminds me both of Adam and Hank Thompson. Two great people whose lives took separate paths. No doubt Adam's jamming with both Hanks in Hillbilly Heaven, still wearing his bibs, and my brother Bill,who also departed here way too soon, will be sitting in on mandolin as they all play "Death Don't Have No Mercy."

Dont miss Waitin On A Train if they come to your town, or pick up their In the Path of Pain CD to see what the fuss is about!