I did not want to go to the Colonel’s birthday party. In fact, I was kinda mad about it. It was a weeknight, for God’s sake. I’m old now. I don’t hang with the big dogs anymore. Hell, I can’t hang with the big dogs anymore. I had been tired all week. Our new pain-in-the-ass puppy had been driving me Crazy-yes, with a capital C and our new routine of getting up at 4:00am was not sitting well with me. I was going to be proctoring Georgia Milestone testing all morning at work on Tuesday, and I could not be one second late-something that was becoming a challenge. Our weekend had been fun but hectic, with a house full of family and commitments. I needed a weekend to recover from the weekend. “Going out” is no longer relaxing for me. The major problem is that I cannot stand crowds, and this one was going to be huge- the show sold out in minutes. I just don’t like to be surrounded by people. I’ve never really liked it, but it has definitely worsened with age. I started to tell JC I did not want to go, but I did not want to disappoint him. I knew he had been looking forward to this for a while. He assured me that it would all be over by 11:00pm and we would be home by midnight. I bucked up and went. I was a little taken aback at how close our seats were. Row L, Right Orchestra is only 12 rows back. I was on the aisle and JC was right next to me. I was shocked at how well I could see. Most people would have been thrilled to be so close to the stage. Not me. I felt closed in. That night, it felt like I was going into a pit of quicksand. I knew that the later it got, more people from the back would make their way down to the front and fill in any open spaces that happened to be there, and there was nothing the ushers could do about it. Everyone was chanting “Bruuuuuuce” the way they always do for The Colonel. Most of Widespread Panic was there-JB, Jimmy Herring, Dave Schools, and Duane Trucks. John Fishman of Phish. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Peter Buck of REM. Oliver Wood. Tinsley Ellis. Warren Haynes. Chuck Leavell. Kevn Kinney….I am sure I am leaving lots of important people out. The kid who played Zack in School of Rock on Broadway- Brandon Niederauer – was there (The Middle Child and I saw that show with Mothah last summer when we were in NYC). When Leftover Salmon came out and played “Working on a Building”, the entire place was bouncing and rocking like I have never seen before. Those guys reminded me of The Country Bears. I started to feel a little uneasy. The guys that shared our row with us left their seats at least 800 times. I guess they were going to get beer, and subsequently, going to use the restroom. It was worse than being in a car with a bunch of little girls drinking juice boxes on a road trip. It got so annoying that I started to tell them that next time, they needed to make sure they got themselves aisle seats. I got beer spilled all over my feet three times–twice by the people behind us, and once by someone coming down the aisle, who tripped. I was not pleased, as you might imagine. I was wearing sandals. I expect more out of people at the Fox. At 11:00pm, there was no end in sight, and I turned into über bitch. Of course, it was JC’s fault that the show was not over! Who else could possibly be responsible?! I lit right into him: YOU SAID IT WAS OVER AT 11:00! I HAVE TO PROCTOR MILESTONES IN THE MORNING! I HAVE TO GO HOME! JC looked at me like I had lost my ever loving mind. (I had. For the millionth time, at least) I did not even have my phone or my purse in the Fox. Apparently an email had gone out before the show-saying they were going to measure bags at the door and there was a size limit. I am not sure what they thought somebody might bring in there. That crowd, my crowd, (I’ve been part of that crowd since 1988-I think I can call it mine), really doesn’t strike me as the gun-toting type, and if they were worried about drugs…well, I doubt anybody would have taken any huge quantity of anything into a show-but hey-whatever. Lucky for me, we rode with friends-and one told me of this email while we were still at the car. Also lucky for me, I had my trusty tape measure in my big, giant bag. I measured said bag, and sure enough, it was about 5 inches over the limit (and no, I do not carry a gun or large quantities of drugs in case you are wondering) so I left it in the car, along with my iPhone 6 plus big ass phone that would not fit in my pocket! BUT…unlucky for me, this meant that I could not call myself an Uber and get the hell out of there! I was Screwed. With a Capital S. When I am Screwed, it makes me even MADDER because it means things are completely out of my control–as if they were in my control to begin with BWAHAHAHAHA 😉 I looked like a two year old having a fit and I knew it and I did not care. I literally stomped my foot and crossed my arms. I finally came to the realization that I was stuck and I was just going to have to deal with that fact. I had certainly been out later than this and made it to work on time the next day. Colonel Bruce launched into “I’m So Glad”–his signature ‘last song’, and JC leaned over and said this is the last song. At the end, we headed up the aisle to the lobby. The thought of trying to beat that mob of people out the doors of the Fox was terrifying to me. We should have known that they were not finished when the mob did not follow us. We checked the monitors in the lobby, and it appeared that the crew was taking down the stage, so we headed to the car. Still, there was no mass exit behind us. It was eerily quiet. We were at the car for about 5 minutes when the ambulance came screaming down Peachtree. This is not an unusual sight for that part of town at that time of night, though I did wonder if someone had overdosed inside the Fox. About 5 minutes later, we walked back up to the street from the car to wait on our friends. People were finally starting to trickle down Peachtree. When we saw our friends, we found out that I’m Glad had not been the last song. They had gone into Turn on Your Lovelight and The Colonel had collapsed on stage. The other musicians played over him for a few minutes-thinking he was joking around. He had a propensity for doing things like that. When they finally realized he wasn’t kidding, they turned him over and he had wet himself. The ambulance we had seen was for him. I knew instantly that the Colonel was gone. He died right there, surrounded by all of the people who loved him–at the most fantastic birthday party anyone could ever imagine. Of course it was not announced that way. The next morning, we read that they were able to regain a pulse before taking him to Crawford Long, where he died a few hours later. I will never believe that. I believe that The Colonel died on stage at The Fabulous Fox Theatre.
I first started seeing Colonel Bruce in Athens, Georgia at The Georgia Theatre when I was 18 years old. He was a fixture in Athens at the time–with his band, The Aquarium Rescue Unit. Colonel Bruce would come out in his Colonel’s jacket with all of the buttons. The music was funky and we loved it….Strange Voices. Basically Frightened. The first time I saw Derek Trucks play, Derek was about 14 years old and he played with Colonel Bruce at The Georgia Theatre!
I keep hearing people say that they cannot believe that Colonel Bruce died the way that he did….or that he is gone…..This is a man who could guess your birthday after talking to you for just a few minutes! This musical genius who helped some of the finest musicians the world knows today….I know he is missed by so many. He made such an impression on so many people. The first time Mini Me met The Colonel, it was at Shorty’s Pizza in Tucker. JC introduced them and told The Colonel that Mini Me played guitar. The Colonel looked at Mini Me and yelled out “YES!YESYES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!” and then turned around and that was it! LOL. That was The Colonel. Of course he went the way he did! He wouldn’t have gone any other way! It makes total sense! It was the perfect ending for him. We should all be so lucky.