on my deathbed muttering—tom smith— sept 2020
This month in Frankly Green Bay I had planned to review the new albums by Tyler Keith and also Beach Patrol. Sometimes the best-laid plans of mice and record store workers, gets detoured. Recent events in music some good, some bad, some others also bad, happened. To make this up to Tyler Keith and Beach Patrol next month, I will not only be reviewing their awesome new releases, but interviewing Tyler Keith and Domenic Marcantonio (singer and guitarist of Beach Patrol).
I'll start with the bad news. August 21, 2020, Walter Lure legendary and iconic guitarist who played on and wrote or co-wrote many songs on the Heartbreakers album “L.A.M.F." passed away following a battle with lung and liver cancer. The others members of this band that recorded this classic rock album were Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, and Billy Rath.
Yep this is one of my favorite albums and the music on this record and the many bands it inspired is the foundation of the Rock N Roll I love and live for. A foundation as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. If I didn't fall into music such as the Heartbreakers, I don't think I would have had the passion and energy to work in record stores since 1984, nor set up shows since 1986.
Walter left the Heartbreakers and had his own band I quite liked called the Waldos. I pulled out their “Rent Party" cd the night I heard of his passing and it truly does capture quite well all the many aspects of what Walter brought to the table. Great songwriting, guitar playing and singing. Walter played guitar on some Ramones albums including “Too Tough to Die" which is a huge personal favorite of mine. If I were only allowed to own one Ramones release I would pick this album. This was a loss of a true heavyweight and a huge part of the magic, which was the New York music scene in the mid to late '70s.
Now the other bad news: sad night on August 18 when I saw a Facebook post alerting me to the passing of Ron Heathman AKA Rontrose— the blistering guitarist formerly of the self-proclaimed World's Greatest Rock N Roll Band The Supersuckers.
Ron was an original member of the Supersuckers when they formed in Tucson, Arizona in 1988. Ron was briefly out of the Supersuckers and didn't appear on their third album “The Sacrilicious Sounds of The Supersuckers" (Rick Sims of Didjits fame replaced him on that album), but was on every other album through 2008s “Get it Together" and left the Supersuckers in 2009. Ron being taken from this world so young was crushing news. I probably saw Ron with the Supersuckers 30 times and had the honor and privilege of working with Ron and the Supersuckers not once, but twice setting them up at the Concert Café.
Every conversation I can recall with Ron has been running through my mind this past week, has done nothing but reinforce the widely held notion by many that Ron was one of the sweetest souls we have ever encountered. I must point out that these folks who echo my sentiment on Ron are the cream of the crop of the World's True Rock N Rollers. Some royalty, some elder statesmen, some are those who make every thing run smoothly behind the scene in the live touring world.
Good people who I look up to and have the utmost respect for.
Another thing that we all agree on is that Rontrose is one of the most badass guitar players who ever walked the earth. Danny Bland said it best in regards to Ron's guitar slinging ability when he said, “No one put the hurt on a Goldtop like you xx."
I have been obsessed with Guitar players since 1981 (my favorites back then were Angus Young, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Rick Nielsen, Ted Nugent, I think you get the picture) and I can honestly say to you, I think Rontrose blows all those cats away. Truth be told, the only guitar player I would rank over Rontrose would be Rick Sims. Ron's guitar playing was a huge part of why the Supersuckers are one of my favorite bands of all time. His style was relentless: charging, fast, electric, and time and time again gave my brain pure unadulterated musical pleasure. I remember one time we were talking in Columbus, Ohio. I followed the Supersuckers around one tour for their shows in Cleveland, Columbus, and Chicago.
The lineup of this tour was of Monsters of Rock proportions because it was The Hellacopters, the Supersuckers, Zen Guerrilla, and the New Bomb Turks (they didn't do the whole tour, but they were on all three of these dates). The conversation I remember with Ron in Columbus was about one of the Supersuckers songs called “I Want The Drugs." I was trying to explain to him what exactly about his guitar playing I loved on that song and he totally got what I was saying and remarked that part was difficult and was glad that I picked on that.
Of course Ron made everything he did on guitar not look difficult at all. You came to see Rontrose play and you had to first mentally prepare yourself for what you were about to see (didn't matter how many times you had seen Ron play already live each time was as magical as the first time) because you had to be ready because you wanted to savor every lick, chord, and solo like Christmas morning when you tried to not rip open all your presents too fast.
Yes sir, watching Ron play was like that Christmas you received the Millennium Falcon—one of my favorite moments of Ron playing guitar was in Chicago on that tour I briefly followed around when Ron came on stage to jam on Born Broke with The Hellacopters. Those three guitar players blazing away together are something I might mutter about on my deathbed. Probably be as puzzling to those around me at the end as if I had muttered rosebud. I remember quite well that time I went to see the Supersuckers in Green Bay at Doubles with no idea Ron was no longer in the band (and even worse that I had seen him play for the last time ever live with the Supersuckers the previous time I saw them).
I remember standing positioned to where I assumed Ron would be stationed on stage. I learned long before this that when seeing the Supersuckers, you position yourself in front of Ron. I was wondering where Ron was as it was getting closer to showtime. I was thinking maybe he flew in by himself and is rushing from the airport. It wasn't until they started that it hit my dumb ass that there would be no Ron tonight.
I think I had the same look on my face like the time I got dragged out of the Northridge Mall in Milwaukee by my mother, grandmother, and aunt when I wanted a dog in the window at a pet store. The dog looked like Superman's dog Krypto. Yes I do have a white cat I named Krypto (which was also the same name I planned to name the dog I was not allowed to have).
Rest in Power Rontrose, you will never be forgotten. I think that if Green Bay can have a statue for Buddy Holly because it was his second to last gig ever we can have one for Ron Heathman just because he played his 169th last gig ever in Green Bay. Yeah I made that 169 number up because I do not have the research department to find the exact number, but I think you get the picture.
I saved the good news for last. On August 23, 2020, I arrived to work to discover UPS had arrived 15 minutes earlier and had a person hanging out in front of my store sign for a very valuable package. The package contained 30 autographed Taylor Swift compacts discs of her latest album Folklore. The person (Brandy) who the UPS driver had entrusted with these CDs was lucky for me the area's biggest Taylor Swift fan.
Brandy had wisely deduced what was in the box and was honest enough to wait until I arrived and presented them to me. Brady said to me, “Taylor Swift would not have wanted me to walk off with these."
I was so impressed by an honest soul's act of kindness, I tweeted about it and Kendra Meinert of the Green Bay Press Gazette saw my tweets and called me at the store. Meinert shortly thereafter, published the story and soon after that, many national news services picked up the feel good story of the year and the story went viral big time.
I'm guessing Brandy eventually will be getting a call from Taylor Swift and a future meeting. If I get a chance to talk to Taylor Swift, my two-part mission will be to convince her to cover a song by the Muffs for an ALS benefit. The other part of my mission will be selling Taylor Swift on the idea of playing Lambeau Field with the Jesus Lizard.
Live, long, and do what you can to improve your corner of the world.