The Living Bubba September 19, 2010Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: drive-by truckers, Memphis, song dedication, The Living Bubba
I’ll have a complete recap of Friday’s Drive-By Truckers concert tomorrow, but for now I want to tell you about a particular episode dealing with the show, one that was quite poignant and special and that raised my affection for the band to an even higher level.
That evening before the show I drove over to the Midtown home of my friend Chris to join with him and some other friends, Berry and Meredith, so that we could go to the concert hall together. We had some time before the show began, so we stood around in the backyard for a while, nursing beers and catching up on life in general. It was all general pleasantries at first, but then Chris told us about something that put a whole new spin on the night.
Chris: I emailed them earlier this week.
I looked at him quizzically, not exactly sure what he was talking about.
Chris: The Truckers. I emailed them and I got responses.
Now my interest was even more piqued, but I was still in the dark and he could see that, so he told us the story.
Chris: I had a close friend, Keith, who died last month from AIDS. So, last night at midnight, I thought ‘What the hell?’ and I sent emails to every address I could find on their site asking if they would play “The Living Bubba” in his memory. In a short time I heard back from three reps for the band and they said they would pass my request on.
He then went on to tell us all about his friend of the past 14 years and about his life-ending struggle with AIDS. At some point Keith moved to Colorado and in his final weeks Chris made a trip out to see him. While there he introduced this song, by the Drive-By Truckers, to him.
There is a lot more to the story that I’m not going to go into, partly because I don’t remember the details and partly because it isn’t my story to tell, but at the end of his remembrances it became obvious that Chris was at peace over his friend’s death. In his words, he grieved for two difficult weeks before moving on with his life with a sense of calm acceptance. It was one of those moments in which the words seem to hang in the air, suspended in time as the listeners (at least me) struggle with what to say next.
Soon our meeting adjourned and we headed the short distance to Minglewood Hall. I’ll go into more detail about the actual show in my recap, but when the Truckers hit the stage, the first words out of singer Patterson Hood’s mouth were, “This one is for Chris and Keith.”
The shout of jubilation from our small group would have been deafening if the rest of the crowd had not begun their beginning-of-the-show cheering at the same time. They did it. They actually did it.
Chris was all smiles, jumping up and down with his fists in the air, yelling at the top of his lungs and I realized that moment, that one transcendent tick in time marked something special, something that would live in a man’s memory forever. It was cathartic and beautiful and a really special thing to pay witness to.
The band then launched into “The Living Bubba,” an early song in the Truckers’ catalog about their friend, Gregory Dean Smalley, who died of AIDS back in the 90’s. The song is told from the perspective of Smalley as he is nearing the end of his life, punctuating every few lines with the refrain, “I can’t die now ‘cause I got another show to do.”
My respect for the band grew greatly that night as well, for there are probably very few artists out there who would respond to a fan’s email in that way, not just playing the requested song but doing it as the show opener. I was completely blown away.
This isn’t from the show we saw, but it is a video of them playing the song. Enjoy.