Larry’s place, 1984

I looked at a 24-year-old videotape the other night. Larry was the cameraman, shooting video of the nascent Nun of the Above band in his living room. They were playing a Subhumans cover and having a great time. There were journalists and artists and writers and shady characters scattered throughout the apartment. I was still in Cape Girardeau and had no clue that these people would launch me on a series of adventures within months.

Soon, though, I would join them. They changed my tastes in music, taught me how to play guitar and harmonica, exposed me to a greatly expanded life in what seemed like a mighty big city to my small-town self, made me start to appreciate art, and just were flat-out cool.

Larry recorded it all on his video camera, and I still have hours of that stuff. Eventually it would be me singing the Subhumans, and Johnny Cash, and the Beat Farmers, and Junior Wells, and Neil Young and lots of originals. It would be me hanging out in the old warehouses with makeshift stages at one end. It would be me shaking off my small-town upbringing and learning to love the South in a way that still sticks with me, 18 years after I left.

Larry’s gone now. He was middle-aged even then and he died last year. Some of the people in his videos still live in that Southern town, and one or two left and came back, but most of us have scattered to the winds. In the subsequent years, I got married, had success in the work life, started to approach AARP age and tried not to get too fat. But I still think about that scene, when I was usually broke and far more lean, and it shapes me to this day.


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