Monday, March 21, 2011

Aashid - More Thoughts

The obituary I wrote below for the Blues website tells Aashid's story as succinctly and straight-forward as possible. Culled from my interviews with Aashid, the artist bio we worked on together for the All Music Guide, and from the biography on his goarchie website, this obit combines a lot of truth, some hyperbolic opinion, and a little mythology as only Aashid could spin it....

But, the obit doesn't tell the entire story, my story, and I'm betting, the story of many of his fans. I first met Aashid in the early 1980s, at an Afrikan Dreamland show. We would run into each other frequently through the years, at various local shows, and he was always hyping not only his own band, but those of various young rockers that he supported. It's safe to say that Aashid was the local rock music scene's biggest cheerleader, and while I wrote at length about local bands for out-of-town rags like Progressive Media, CMJ New Media, Trouser Press, and others, Aashid got more exposure for local artists by allowing them to open for Afrikan Dreamland's typically sold-out shows.

When Gus Palas launched The Metro magazine in 1985, he was already a big Afrikan Dreamland supporter, and I penned a number of articles on Aashid's band during the zine's first couple of years. Sometime near the end of The Metro's 6 or 7 year run, Gus decided he wanted a lengthy interview with Aashid, so I spent a lot of hours with the big man both at his house and mine, taping conversations for the article. Later, Aashid and I would work together on a pet project of his, the induction of Deford Bailey, the first African-American star of the Grand Ole Opry, into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Aashid and I worked on a big article for The Metro on Bailey, Gus commissioned a great painting of Bailey from local artist James Talley, and we interviewed Deford Bailey, Jr. The result was a great article that had little impact on the country music community...until a few years later, when it was reprinted by my friends at Big O magazine in Singapore. It caught the eye of country music fans in Australia, who began to write the Country Music Hall of Fame in large numbers, asking why Bailey hadn't been inducted? The popular harmonica player was finally honored with induction in 2005 or 2006.

During the 1990s, I moved from Nashville to a farm outside of Franklin, living with my (future) wife Tracey. Aashid was a frequent guest in our home, his visits usually announced by a phone call saying "I'm coming out," or by an unexpected knock on the door. We always had a lot of young visitors, especially during the early part of the decade, and Aashid would hold court, sharing stories, playing songs, and teaching the young 'uns his philosophy of life. On occasion, some other musician friends would be hanging out when Aashid showed up, and some great music would ensue. I only wish that I had the digital audio and video equipment then that I do today, to have been able to document the events.

Aashid and I sketched out his book together, worked on gathering photos for the project, and kept in touch into the 2000s on various things. We celebrated the induction of Deford Bailey into the Country Music Hall of Fame by long distance after my move to West New York, but we had sadly grown apart the last couple of years as he battled his own problems in Nashville and my wife and I adjusted to our new lives and responsibilities in WNY. But I never totally lost touch with Aashid, and still listened to his music frequently as I worked on The Other Side of Nashville book project.

I had planned on contacting Aashid a couple of months ago to talk about the book, get some more quotes to use, and ask some questions about his lengthy (and often confusing) discography. But then I heard about the tragic death of his wife Kristina from cancer in January, followed shortly thereafter by the health issues that eventually took Aashid's life. More than a missed opportunity, it was also a lost moment to let him know the influence he and his music had on so many lives. Aashid's immense body of work is unassailable, and his death leaves a big hole in the Nashville rock landscape....

Photo courtesy Ross Smith

Afrikan Dreamland - "Television Dreams"

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