ORIGINAL POST: This is the first non-beer post I've ever made here. Actually, it sort of beer-related — I've certainly drunk plenty of beer while dancing to this guy's music.
Chris Gaffney is a very cool musician from Oakland, who has made both some wonderful solo albums and currently is in a killer outfit called the Hacienda Brothers, who play this really unique music that is a blend of 60s soul and honky-tonk country. They're quite popular in Austin: I've enjoyed them at the Continental Club, South by Southwest, and the Grand Emporium in Kansas City. You should really go out and buy his stuff now.
But before you do that, Chris could use your money in another way – he was recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and he needs cash for chemotherapy. Please, please, please go to http://www.helpgaff.com and contribute to his medical expenses. You'll be doing your part to keep some great music playing in our world.
UPDATE: I completely overlooked this Austin event:
Austin benefit for Gaff at The Oaks
When: all day Sunday, May 25th.
All proceeds are going directly to Gaffney's expenses.
So far confirmed are Ponty Bone, Billy Bacon & Forbidden Pigs, Rosie Flores, Dave Insley & the Careless Smokers, Ted Roddy, & members of The Iguanas.
Any bands interested in supporting, please contact Steve@ firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Oaks is located at 10206 FM 973 N. Austin, Texas 78653 (512) 278-8788
ANOTHER UPDATE: I meant to add this some time ago. It is written by a friend of mine who played on one of Gaffney's albums. This is reprinted by permission of The Rockdale Reporter.
So long, Gaff — not well-known, but well-loved
By Ken Esten Cooke
Are there honky tonks in heaven? If there are, Chris Gaffney will be booked to sing real soon.
Chris, or “Gaff” as most of his friends called him, died last Thursday after a very aggressive form of liver cancer and complications from a fall during chemo treatments. It’s a shame he’s gone so soon, but anyone who ever got to see him isn’t likely to forget.
He had one of those voices that sticks in your mind, not super-slick, but soulful, like a Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash. He sounded like a sand-papered Ray Price sometimes.
He just never had those guys’ level of fame. But to hear him sing, especially a ballad, was to experience a bit of heartbreak.
A quote in an article in the Orange County Register was dead-on: “In a lot of ways, he was the sort of guy who music critics dream of walking into a bar and finding their whole lives,” said Jim Washburn, a music critic who befriended Gaffney and saw him play scores of shows. “Someone who’s just there and is undiscovered and phenomenal.
“It gets kind of grating when the decades pass and he’s still undiscovered, but that was also part of Chris’ charm,” Washburn said. “On any night, you could go into a bar in Orange County and see one of the best shows you’d ever seen in your life.”
I was lucky to get to see quite a few of Gaff’s shows, though mostly years ago, before family and business obligations brought me back here. When I was in-between apartments after joining a new band, Gaff let me crash at his place for several weeks. And on nights when I wasn’t gigging, I’d tag along to his shows or follow him to the recording studio.
The Arizona-born singer had an encyclopedic knowledge of music and soaked in all the nuances of famous voices. But he wasn’t a cheap impersonator. Gaff’s voice was honest and heartfelt.
And he wasn’t a prima dona either. He worked manual labor jobs during the day and performed at night. And Gaff always had the attitude that he could go back to that and it wouldn’t damage his ego one bit.
A band I was in had the chance to back up Gaffney on a short Southwest tour. Occasionally, he’d throw in an exaggerated Johnny Bush tremolo and look back at us with a wry smile.
And he was funny. After one late night, I asked him the next day how his wife Julie reacted.
“You know when you see a badger backed into its hole and think you’ll give it a kiss on its cute little furry nose?” he asked, with a subdued smile, drawing on a cig. “It was kind of like that.”
But he also told me he was doing his dangdest to “make this one work.” He’d been to the altar twice before and slowed down on the touring at that time to try and make an honest go of this marriage.
Gaff was also a huge sports fan and we’d talk about his favorite Oakland Raiders. We’d talk about boxing his Golden Glove days and he’d point himself out in the front rows of the televised “Fight Night at the Forum” in Los Angeles. Unlike most musicians, he always seemed just as excited to meet someone well-known from the sports world as from the music business.
Fifty-seven is too early to be gone from this earth. But we’re not much in control of that.
Now Gaff is in a better place now and he’ll add his smoky voice to the choir of angels.
Rest in peace, brother. (See Gaffney sing 'What's Wrong with Right?' here.)