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Stupid bitch. It’s Chick-fil-A, for crying out loud. You don’t know what they serve? Eight minutes to place an order? And this is the only cashier? All I want is a large iced tea for the ride to Macon. It’s 10:25 AM.
Up I-75 there are cops everywhere, people pulled over everywhere. I’m so fast they can’t see me. Boo!
Find the gig, but it looks like parking is a problem for the people in front of me… I notice a closed car loan business to the left so I quickly pull in there and park.
Throw on a blazer and head across some grass for the funeral home. Oh, joy! Here’s a very formal, professional guy handing me a pamphlet and apologizing for the lack of parking. I assure him that it’s no problem – we’re musicians accustomed to improvisation.
In I go. I see people everywhere. Recognize some heads, some faces. Thank God there’s Benny, siting by the aisle with his brother and inviting me to sit. Butterbean(sic) is in front of us. Perfect. I ask for Lisa and Doyle. Lisa’s up there and Doyle is somewhere – he’s going to play later.
I hustle up to Lisa in the front row and stand behind a lady who is talking with her while I watch a very good slideshow of pictures of Gregg. It dawns on me that some of the pictures are ones that I took, but none of them show me! WTF? It’s OK. There’s one of me, holding up a huge poster that I stole from France. Only I’m behind the poster. I make a note of this. Lisa can expect a letter from my attorney.
I hug Lisa and give her what I brought, explaining what it is. Pictures of Tim and Gregg for her and Doyle, and a gift from my Mama. Lisa stares at me in disbelief that this guy – who hasn’t seen Gregg in years, this guy she only met a couple of weeks ago – his mother has sent a gift. Mama’s a sweet lady, I say. And Mama monitors That Site We Shall Not Name. I tell her to go ahead and open her picture if she wants to. Return to my seat with Benny. A minute later I see someone placing the picture I brought on the table in front of the speaker’s podium. It is the only picture there and I am moved.
The clock chimes ‘leven. Kyler Mosley takes the podium and delivers extemporaneously a welcome/tribute that Faulkner might have been proud to have composed. He then introduces Glenn Harrell, who produces some notes and moves us all to laughter and tears – not an easy thing to do. Glenn does so with grace. By the time he is done any composure left in us is shot.
After that, a man whom I do not know comes to speak and to sing. Apparently, he spent a lot of time with Tim and Gregg talking about Jesus. He speaks with eloquence of their faith and – of particular interest to me – of Gregg’s attitude towards the bullshit of life. Make jokes when you can. Be serious about stuff. But don’t stress over it. Chill. This man hits a note we haven’t heard. Then he sings. I like this guy.
Then Gary Porter comes to the podium, and explains in careful detail how Gregg was not a Gregg Allman impersonator, but a true original – influenced, but not derivative. Too many people made that mistake about him. Gary begins to sing, beautifully. Rhonda, his wife, joins him at the podium and begins “Amazing Grace” and Gary joins in harmony. This goes on a while. Before they’re done, most of the guests are singing with them. Most of us are in tears. At least one of us is covered with tears and snot because there are no tissues handy. You don’t need religion to have spirituality and transcendence – this I know.
Music has been the one constant of my life. It’s taken me places that nothing else could have; it’s made friends I wouldn’t have made; it, and the people who taught me how to play, have given to me solace and relief and belonging. Tim and Gregg Brooks were the biggest part of that. I should have told them that I love them. So long my friends.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
— Dr. Seuss
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.