Friday, December 25, 2009

A Memory of Vic Chesnutt

After I graduated from high school, I got on a bus and went to Athens for two weeks, and had the best possible experience an 18-year-old music junkie could have had at the time. It's unbelievable but true. I met Michael Stipe (how exactly is a story in itself) and ended up spending almost a half day with him. We hung out in the R.E.M. office in downtown Athens while listening to Pylon rehearse in the basement. We went to his house and had a drink. We went to a cafe and later, before he dropped me off at the city park where I was camping, a bar. The next morning I got kicked out of the park and ended up camping uninvited on the roof of the R.E.M. office. The woman who ran the fan club noticed me through a window sleeping in the sun. I woke up with a bag next to me; it had a tube of sunscreen and some fruit. Turns out her boyfriend, Armistead Wellford, was the bass player in Love Tractor. She arranged for me to stay in a big old house where a lot of the band members lived. All of that was more than I imagined would happen when I got on the Greyhound bus in Fargo, North Dakota.

But in retrospect the most significant thing I saw there was when Stipe and I were at the cafe. He introduced me to some people at a table -- two women who I don't remember, and a man in a wheelchair, Vic Chesnutt. A cassette player played recording of one of Vic's live performances. While we sat at the table and talked, Stipe told Chesnutt that he'd like to help him record a record. It was the summer of 1988. Two years later New West Records released Chesnutt's Little, which Stipe produced.

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