Tuesday, March 22, 2016
John Morthland, R.I.P.
This information is just getting to me. The great music writer John Morthland has — as he would think appropriate to say — left the building. John was truly a giant in the field, a legend. His career started when he was in high school, when he snagged an interview with the Rolling Stones before their first gig on their first American tour. He used to tell me that he hoped that wasn't the thing he would be remembered for.
He produced a prodigious volume of work, was maybe the most knowledgeable man I'd ever met about music, especially the blues. When I decided to move to New York City and take a job as the assistant editor of COUNTRY MUSIC MAGAZINE, working under Patrick Carr, John, who I'd met on my first trip, offered to let me move into his tiny apartment in Chelsea until I could figure out a place to live.
In no time at all I was sucked into a world that I had only read of, maybe only imagined...me and John and Lester Bangs backstage (such as it was) at CBGB's with the Talking Heads; drunken revels through the Lower East Side's music clubs, hanging with acts that would one day be either famous or forgotten. We were, as I've said jokingly, "with the band;" Me and John and Lester and Nick Tosches at "The Bells of Hell," a dive bar in the Village and hangout for writers, mountain climbers and mercenaries between gigs. Made for some spectacular arguments, driven by Guinness and Lone Star and tequila, because we were all young and would live forever.
John and Lester and Patrick were my best friends in NYC, my running buddies, my enablers, my teachers, my harshest critics, brilliant writers in their own right who accepted nothing but the best I could produce. Funny, but I'd always been the best writer in the writer in the room, so I never had to go that deep into myself, to be dragged through the English language by masters. I learned music in long, all-night conversations, sometimes arguments, with those guys. Hell, I learned life hanging around with those guys.
I was graced to live in a legendary time and to walk with giants. After Lester died, it all sort of went to hell. We all bailed out, when our different ways, crisscrossed now and then. I saw John when I was in Austin, and he even came to Colorado once to try and convince me that I really would like baseball if I just gave it a chance.
You can find John's books here.
He was the coolest guy I ever met.
Go with God, brother...