tard." Due to the bad news from CBS Nashville, I was extremely depressed that night and I've always treasured that memory of Billy Joe barging in to rescue me from my gloom. Over the following years, he and I had several crazy, sweet and memorable experiences together. He was one of the greatest songwriters, not only in country music or Texas music but in all of American music. He was also a complicated, wild, funny, deep and sensitive man. I will miss him.
Gerald Locklin [ February 17, 1941 - January 17, 2021 ]
I can't tell you how much I hate to write this. My old poetry/literature professor/drinking comrade Gerald Locklin has passed away from Covid-19. A million years ago when I was a very young and semi-literate wanna-be poet, Locklin became my writing mentor and a wild, dear friend. His influence on me, both personally and on my poetry as well as my songwriting, cannot be overstated. Locklin, who was one of the most published poets in the world of the small presses, taught me (among many of his wise lessons) the important lesson that poetry didn't have to be written in overly obscure, highly academic language. It could be written with words and images understood by people who didn't normally read or enjoy poetry. Locklin, who was a close friend of Charles Bukowski, exposed me to great, if under-appreciated, poets like Edward Field, Ron Koertge and Fred Voss as well as patiently teaching me the pleasures of reading masters like Shakespeare, John Donne, Flannery O'Conner and Hemingway.
We also shared some memorable, out-of-control, drunken nights hitting all the great old bars that existed in Long Beach back in the '70s. I won't share any stories here of those wild evenings, but I will say that when Locklin quit drinking not long afterwards, I was relieved and happy for him. His poetry became more reflective and lyrical. He seemed more at peace with our absurd, imperfect yet beautiful world as he continued teaching through the following decades at Long Beach State University, exposing young (and old) students to the magnificent powers and joys of the written word.
I have a photo from a few years back on the night I saw Gerry for the last time. It was after he and I had done a reading at one of Susan Hayden's beloved Library Girl evenings in Santa Monica. I remember chasing after his car that night because I wanted to thank him one more time for everything he had taught me about life and literature, but I couldn't catch up to him. I guess I'll always be chasing after him. Thank you for everything, Gerry.
Ray Campi [ April 20, 1934 - March 11, 2021 ]
Very sad to hear of the death of the "Rockabilly Rebel," Ray Campi. The Blasters and I owe Ray Campi an awful lot for all his help in our very early days. In 1979/80, he spread the word about us among the small but passionate rockabilly/roots crowd, then Ray got us our first gig at the Whiskey Au Go Go and a month later took us out as his opening act to the San Francisco Bay area on our first tour away from Southern California. A few years later, we'd bring Ray out to join us onstage when we were headlining joints like The Palace, The Whiskey and The Starwood. My favorite time was when we were playing the Club 88 and Phil suddenly got sick on stage. Phil ran offstage leaving the rest of us Blasters trying to figure out what to do. I looked around at the audience and saw Ray standing at the bar, so I called him up. Ray ran to the stage, grabbed Phil's guitar and we did a whole set as Ray's back-up band. I loved it. Of course, the first song we did was Ray's 1957 rockabilly classic CATERPILLAR. I'll miss seeing, talking and playing with you, Ray, but I know you'll be rocking some sweaty, smokey, flat top joint somewhere on the other side."
Don Hefington [ December 20, 1950 - March 24, 2021 ]
I don't know what to say. Don Heffington has passed away. Goddamn I'm gonna miss him. To say Don was a great drummer/musician just doesn't cut it. I've known Don for forty years and he was always (and I stress always) an inspiration to me. Don was always the coolest guy in the room. He had been a teenage jazz prodigy who saw John Coltrane playing on West Adams as well as hanging out at the Ash Grove soaking in the blues. A few years later, Don worked as the house drummer at Art Laboe's Oldies-But-Goodies club on Sunset, backing up every doo-wop group, one-hit wonder and rock and roll legend that stepped on its stage. Somewhere along the line he also became a rock-solid country drummer that could swing a country shuffle with the best Nashville had to offer.
He played/recorded/toured with Dylan (that's Don on Dylan's surreal opus Brownsville Girl), Emmy lou Harris, Lone Justice, Chuck E. Weiss, Buddy Miller, Peter Case, Victoria Williams, Lucinda Williams, Van Dyke Parks, Rosie Flores, Ronee Blakley, Amy Allison and the list goes on and on. He also played drums on most of my solo records from Ashgrove onwards through Eleven Eleven to parts of my albums with my brother Phil, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and up to my recent From An Old Guitar release (that's Don laying down the groovin' back-beat on my version of HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED, showing why Dylan once said that Don was his favorite blues drummer).