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04 October 2009

In Memoriam

Since I began working on Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson a little over three years ago, four people who played key roles in various stages of Paul Nelson's life have passed away. I've already written about two of them here: photographer Dave Gahr last year and, a couple of months ago, musician Mike Seeger.

Last night I learned about the passing of Bill "Cupid" Bartolin, lead guitarist and co-songwriter for Paul's beloved band from Youngstown, Ohio, Blue Ash. Paul signed the group to their first recording contract when he was in A&R at Mercury Records in the early Seventies. Bartolin had been diagnosed with cancer early last month and died yesterday morning due to complications.

Left to right: Frank Secich, Jim Kendzor, Jeff Rozniata,
and Bill "Cupid" Bartolin in the mid-Seventies

And in June, Doris Hoper passed away. She was Paul Nelson's ex-wife and the mother of their son Mark. Paul and Doris had been high school sweethearts and married in 1959 in Minneapolis, where Paul was attending the University of Minnesota. They separated in 1968, though didn't divorce until four years later.
 
Doris Hoper

When we spoke a couple of months after Paul's passing in 2006, she told me that, though she always thought that he should've followed his dream and written novels, one of her favorite pieces of Paul's music criticism was his review of Bob Dylan and the Band's The Basement Tapes. (A greatly expanded version of the piece, considering Dylan's career as a whole, will appear in the book when it's published in the fall of next year.) It is indeed some of Paul's best and writing and, not coincidentally, provides evidence as to the fine fiction writer he might have become.

Copyright 2009 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

11 August 2009

Mike Seeger (1933-2009)

During Paul Nelson's five-year tenure at Mercury Records, when he wasn't busy trying to sign the New York Dolls, he was responsible for the release of two solo, traditional folk albums by Mike Seeger: Music from True Vine (1972) and The Second Annual Farewell Reunion (1973). Seeger, founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, passed away last Friday.

Paul and Seeger had known each since 1960 or so when the Ramblers, who were fans of The Little Sandy Review, had visited Paul and Jon Pankake in Minneapolis. When LSR was sold to Barry Hansen in 1964 and the focus of the journal shifted from folk to rock, it was Seeger who wrote a letter objecting to the change.

When I spoke with him in 2007, Seeger wanted to make sure that I understood that he wasn’t anti-rock & roll. "I want people to understand, for instance, when Bob Dylan went electric at Newport, that was the best music I thought I'd ever heard him play and I loved it. I can understand the connection." What he objected to "was the abandonment of everything that went on during the first three or four years for popular music."


Mike Seeger in 2003

Seeger was saddened to hear of Paul's death. "I've seen Jon down through the years, and I'd always ask, 'Well, how's Paul?' and there just didn't seem to be any Paul." He said, "He gave us a lot while he was here."

So did Seeger.

Copyright 2009 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

May 2011

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© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 by Kevin Avery

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