I haven’t been able to write about this for a time. Tim Brooks is dead. Now his brother Gregg is dead, too. Tim and Gregg. Within a month: Tim on 20 May and Gregg last night, 16 June, 2015. Both brothers are gone. Maybe the industry didn’t deserve these guys. They were too good to be ignored by the music media. Bieber and Spears and Kanye get fame and millions while raw talent sits in the heat of GA sweating out fifty dollar gigs. There’s no justice.
I don’t know where to start with Tim. I got a call in 1991 asking if I was interested in starting a band. That’s all I can say about that call… Next thing I know I get a First-Class Envelope full of musical charts and annotations. Oh, and cassette tapes. I listened to the tapes as I looked over the music. There were no mistakes. All I really needed was the music – it was perfect notation for the keyboard parts on the tape. In later years I would witness firsthand as Tim transcribed music notation for me as though he were writing a recipe. Without a recording or an instrument in sight. I could read music; I think that as much as anything made me attractive to Tim at first, and later on. I could also write it on score paper at the time, but to watch Tim scrawl out a keyboard part from his head was, well, instructive. Memories. Too many for a lazy writer like me to type out at once. Some stream-of-consciousness stories:
Tim calls for me to record a piano part on a country tune he’s recording for someone else. I drive to an apartment in Gray. His arm or leg is broken. In a cast. I ask and he frowns and shakes his head as if to say Oh, it was nothing, and explains that some dude said something smart to him at the apartment while he was getting out of that Cadillac and he slipped or something. Before we start recording he asks me to leave the room, and I do. Only later does he tell me that he had to piss in a jug and he didn’t want to do that in front of me. We start work on the country tune and at some point a Steve Morse song, “On the Pipe”, comes up. I play what I think are the first nine notes of the melody. Tim corrects me; the last three notes are incorrect. I assure him that I know what the hell I’m talking about. He dares me to produce a recording of the song, and I do. He is right about those three notes and I humbly eat crow. “Don’t Challenge The Ear” will be a motif between us for the next twelve years.
We are in the Macon studio recording our first “record” (actually a tape). Tim, Skip and I are in the booth. There’s a keyboard in there. I’m bored so I play the keyboard. Tim and Skip are behind me working on that big-ass board, discussing what should be what. Our backs are to each other. I dick around with some jazz, and end on a complicated chord that I couldn’t have immediately explained to you; it just sounded cool. I sustain this chord for a few seconds, proud of myself. Tim interrupts his conversation with Skip, turns his head partly over his left shoulder and says, “By the way, Paul, that chord you just played was D-A-E-A-C#-F”. I turn to him then look at my hands. He is exactly correct. I have always had a better ear than most people in the band. Tim hears shit I can’t hear.
Smith’s Olde Bar, Tim starts “Ever-Lovin’ Love” with a long guitar intro. About halfway in he plays a particularly tasty lick and Creig Harbor, in a state of rapture, shouts, “HAVE mercy!”
Correction, 6/24: It’s at the END of the song, when Gregg is winding it down, that Creig has his rapture. 🙂
Denise has made some fresh vegetable soup using ingredients from their garden during rehearsal in Round Oak. It is delicious, and she sends some home with me. I heat it and start eating and discover that what I thought was some kind of bean or something is a ladybug. I deposit her onto the edge of the bowl and finish my soup.
We’ve started playing a Pink Floyd tune… something off of The Wall, I can’t remember. Of course Tim had sent a tape and a chart. I don’t think we ever rehearsed it, just played it for the first time at a gig. Seems like it was in Statesboro. Anyway, I’d noticed on Tim’s chart that he’d mis-identified a chord. Either that, or I’m going to show my ass again by “Challenging The Ear.” After the set, I swallow hard and point out his mistake. He has marked a Bm7 chord as a D/B. He explains that he is absolutely right because the melody is singing a D. I point out that the melody note doesn’t change the root of the chord. Tim stares down at me. Way down at me. His face is turning red. “GODDAMNED PERFECTIONIST!” he barks before spinning around and stalking off.
Coming home in Tim’s van from an overnight gig in Palatka, FL are Tim, Denise, me and my wife Amy. We played the Azalea Festival down there. The Little River Band headlined. On I75 we have a blowout. No cell phones then, at least not for poor folks. Eventually a State Trooper arrives and contacts someone to help us. Soon two guys arrive in a pickup and within a few minutes one of them has removed the blown tire and replaced it with a used tire and we’re good to go. He charges Tim $85, as I remember. He could have charged $200. The cop could have told us good luck. Southern hospitality, man.
It’s a gig at the Opera House. Fall of 2003. I’ve already told Robin Kurth that I intend to quit playing and my plan is to tell everyone after the gig. It doesn’t work out quite that way, but in fact that is the last time I will ever play a gig with Tim and Gregg or anyone else. It’s a poignant night for me. I know that I’m done. No one else knows yet, not even Robin knows for sure since my plan didn’t play out. But it’s over.
Down comes the curtain, out go the lights. And that is that. The music is over.