This picture was taken in September of 1978. Yup, that's me in the hat, Gene Spencer in the jacket, the bearded white boy is Mark Smith and Jay Dickson is in the blue-T and shorts.
I met Jay when I moved back to DC from the NYC metro area and rejoined the band I had been a member of when I left. He had become the bass player and, aside from myself, there were only two other original members. We seemed to just pick up where we left off before I moved. but, like all good things, it changed and Jay and I left and just hung out for a bit before forming our own band "Columbia Rose".
Jay and I lived in the house in the background of the picture and the four of us had just finished a recording session early that AM in Baltimore. Jay was the bass player in just about every band I played in and he transcribed my compositions as I never learned to read music. He took my songs and wrote them down after I fumbled my way through the bass lines or tried to replicate the chords I heard in my head on his guitar.
Somewhere in the mess of my office there's a tape of two of my songs, my favorite two, that remind me of those days. I can't find the tape but, no matter, I can still hear them in my head and remember how many times we heard club owners and managers say stupid shit like, "But people won't like that kind of music!"
And then, after we begged them to let us play, audiences would actually get up and clear tables and chairs out of their way so they could dance. We fused jazz, Latin, folk, and rock. After replacing Mark with a more versatile guitarist and picking up a sax player we had a two year run that is my most favorite period in my life to remember.
We fucking destroyed people with what we could play and how we played it. It didn't matter if it were covers or our originals, we bored so deep people couldn't shake our sound out of their ears!
Jay was an enigma. He was extremely talented, very bright and well read, could play (and sing) just about anything.
Mark called a little while ago and said he just found out Jay died, cause-alcoholism.
I saw Jay many years ago, working in a sandwich shop, missing teeth he still gave me a warm hug and bright smile but very quickly went back to work, cleaning up and making people their lunch. I watched for awhile.
He never looked up, or at me again. I left carrying memories of late night jam sessions, teaching Jay how to play Afro-Cuban percussion, talks about how we wanted to carry messages of peace and brotherhood into the world, and a warm friendship that somehow slipped away.
Just like he apparently did.
All I can think of now is the old Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song: "Carry On"
This next one, Jay, is for you.