Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jod

I lost a good friend yesterday, and a small part of me with him. His name was Jody Duncan, but I knew him affectionately as Jod. (Not to be confused with Jode, which rhymes with toad, but rather Jod which rhymes with God.) Although I never met his family and probably never mentioned him to mine, I considered him like a brother, and I will miss him in ways I can't imagine just yet.

We first met in Memphis, at Newby's on the Highland strip, moments after my little ragtag garage band opened for our heroes, the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet. It was the greatest night of my life up to that point, and it was about to get better. After exiting the stage and making my way to the bathroom, I found myself standing beside this character with little round glasses squeezed between rosy cheeks and a pork pie hat, wearing a thriftstore tweed blazer over a well worn t-shirt. I must admit that I felt a little uncomfortable trying to handle my business with a complete stranger staring and grinning at me.

"You guys were great! Best opening band I've seen, except for Bill Kirchen, who opened for the Q last week!". This was the highest compliment anyone has ever given me (still is to this day), and it was completely undeserved. We were never in the same league as Bill Kirchen or NRBQ, but we did do a pretty good cover of "I Got A Little Secret", so Jod knew we were Q fans, and that was enough for him to overlook our imperfections, which were many. I was caught offguard by his genuine kindness and was unsure how to respond, but I never forgot this brief exchange.

It was months later, this time in Nashville at The Exit Inn, that he made a formal introduction. Just before the Q took the stage, up walks the same blazer, hat, and glasses shouting "Dude! I saw you open for the Q in Memphis! Remember me?". As if I could have ever forgotten him. From his breast pocket he produced the pen and little notebook he carried with him to jot down the setlist of every NRBQ show he ever attended, scrawled his name and number across a page and then tore it out and thrust it at me. "Next time you go to see the Q, call me!", he said. And I did exactly that.

For the next few years, we travelled to Louisville, Lexington, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, and anywhere else we could afford to go to see our favorite band play and bring us together. Long roadtrips were filled with music and conversation and fueled by alcohol and other unmentionable pastimes. We crashed on each others couches, plundered each other's records, and made each other laugh. We were on the road, we were free of our dead end jobs, and we were making memories to last a lifetime. It was great.

Somewhere in there, I started to grow up. My job got more serious, I moved further south, and we lost touch. The Q wasn't touring as much, and the shows were fewer and farther between. Still, every time we got back together at a show, it was just like picking up where we left off, like we had only spoken yesterday. And then we drifted apart again. But I always knew he was out there, and all it would take was a phone call and an NRBQ show to get that freedom back, that unexplainable joy.

Just last year, I dragged my wife to see what was left of the Q, namely Terry Adams and his marvelous Rock and Roll Quartet in Charleston. Just as the band came out and the first notes of "Sunny Side Of The Street" were tickling my eardrums, I was struck with the urge to record the setlist for my old friend Jod. Scrambling for a bar napkin and a pen, my wife was making fun of me, calling me a "geek", but I didn't care. This was for Jod. (By the way, she loved the show... an instant disciple, and told me, "I haven't seen you that happy since our wedding". Sweet, isn't she?) I couldn't wait to get to a computer so that I could post the setlist for Jod and everyone else on the NRBQ list. It wasn't long before I got an email from my old friend, and we picked right back up again.

We spoke on the phone like the old days, and made plans to go to Connecticut, but, alas, I couldn't make it. I called him when he got back, and he gave me all the juicy details of the show, making me jealous and sorrowful and envious and delighted for about forty-five minutes or so. The next day I heard through friends that he had been admitted to the hospital in Evansville, after suffering a series of heart attacks. He was 41 years old. I called him, and we spoke briefly, but I could tell how tired he was, and I felt him fading. It was just a matter of days before he was gone.

I'm no doctor, but I suspect that his heart was just too big to be bound inside that body any longer. He had so much love for his friends and the music they shared together that his heart had grown too big, constricted by spine and ribcage, until it could no longer stand it. Anyone who knew him could hardly argue my theory. The guy never met a stranger, and if he liked you, you couldn't help but like him back. He was kind and caring and outgoing to a fault. He was genuine and intelligent and those of us who knew him were better off for it. He was a fountain of musical knowledge, and a supernova of spirit. But, a star that bright can't burn forever, and when it burns out, it leaves a void, a vaccum in space that can never be filled. Jod is gone, and the world is a little bit darker because of it. There is no longer a light at the end of the roadtrip, and I will never know freedom like we once shared again. Miss you, Jod. You'll have to travel the spaceways without me for awhile.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Blaine, your accounts are great. I only got to hang out with Jody one day but I feel like I had known him forever. He gave me some great CD's to listen to like Sergio Mendes and Gary McFarland. We hung out in my room at Clang! Thang and listened to my Walter Wanderly LP's. My wife and I always bring a little record player with us when we travel. Jody loved that cool 60's latin jazz. You're lucky to have known him as long as you did. I wish I had met him years ago. Thanks again for your words about Jody.
Chris Ligon.

StaceyQ said...

Blaine-

Thank you for this incredible tribute to our friend. I sat at my desk (art teacher) and just had a good cry...again. Man, I loved him and I'm so grateful he came in April and we all got to hang out together. And thank you, Chris, for reminding me of the great time we had in the courtyard after the show Sat. night listening to the records. He truly was a one-of-a-kind.

Stacey

Theodore said...

Simply beautiful Blaine.

Thank you for sharing.
Todd Remley

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute to Jod.

vunico said...

a good story well told...
thanks,
richard bean

Fred said...

Blaine -

As one who had some similar (mis?)adventures with Jody in Q-land, I have to say, "nice job". I think you summed up Jody quite well.

Geez, I loved that guy, and boy-o-boy, do I sure miss him.

Graveside service in KY Friday 6/5 at 2pm CDT. I can't make it from this little peninsula we call Cape Cod, but I plan on raising a glass of Kentucky bourbon and listening to a whole mess of NRBQ at that time.

Anonymous said...

Blaine....
It feels like we could have written almost the same story. I never got to ride in the car with him, but we spent many many nights sitting up in hotel rooms in Godknowswhere USA.
He really wanted you to come to CT. a few weeks ago. He wanted you and I to meet. I have twins too. He thought that maybe i could share some insight with you.
Before all this went down, I always thought that Jody and I had a special bond, that i was his special friend. Now I can see that he made everyone feel that way.
Your tribute was very touching. I wish i could put it in words the way you did. Thanks for sharing with us
Jeff Wilson

Anthony said...

I'm truly sorry for the loss of your friend.

Anonymous said...

Blaine-
I just had to come back and read your story again. I'm glad I did. I need to be reminded of who he was, and not just who I am without him.
Beth