Friday, April 24, 2009
Wandering into Loss.
Just a few hours ago, I got the news that an old friend and band-mate has passed away.
How can I put four years of our mutual lives into words? We shared much more than a stage, hotel rooms, and bad restaurant food.
There were the endless hours of traveling from gig to gig, often through the night. Stephen made those endless drives bearable with his stories and jokes.
Stephen’s love of the sea was well documented, not only in his Coast Guard record, but in song as well. “Silver Sea” on the Garrison Brothers ‘Songs and Stories’ album was testament to this. Once when on tour in Southern Ontario, we found ourselves on the banks of the Welland Canal as a huge ship was passing through. Stephen stood silently, watching. Then, without changing expression, he asked, “You know how most young men hear the train whistle and get the urge to jump aboard?” He nodded to the ship. “That’s my train.”
As in all situations where many personalities are involved, the Garrison Brothers had their share of conflicts. Stephen was the one we all turned to for guidance and support. His life experience made him capable of wise council and he was able to quickly defuse a troubled situation.
Stephen could see the humour and often the absurdity in every situation. Just as things began to go wrong, there would be a chuckle from Stephen and within a minute he’d have us all laughing and adding our own jokes. The hours, and the miles, passed quickly when Stephen was around. At social gatherings, Stephen was a prolific storyteller, silencing the whole room with his tales. We were never able to tell if his stories were true or fabricated, but always he told them with the conviction of reality.
But it was onstage where Stephen really shone; not as a bass player or singer (although he had his moments of glory) but as the band’s spokesperson. Stephen was comfortable in front of an audience, and could calmly tell a joke while a guitar player changed a broken string or a sound tech tracked down a faulty cable. Stephen took on the role of “MC” with ease, introducing the upcoming song, often with the history of its origin and some insight of the author’s thoughts. He never missed an opportunity to poke fun at his bandmates, and hecklers in the audience had no chance against his sharp tongue and razor-sharp wit.
In the twenty-five years since we worked together, I have thought of Stephen often. I have missed him in life as much as I shall miss him in death. Stephen’s number one priority was first and foremost to see that the audience was entertained. He was well loved and will be greatly missed.
Rest in Peace Stephen, dear friend.