Music » Music Issue

The triumph and tragedy of the Cabbagetown sound

Part 1 of 2: Have you heard death singing? An oral history



Page 6 of 7

ON APRIL 26, 1992, several hundred people gathered in Little Five Points in honor of Deacon Lunchbox, Rob Hayes and Robert Clayton. They marched up Moreland Avenue to Euclid Avenue, then paused in front of the Variety Playhouse before going down to the Austin Avenue Buffet, one of Deacon's favorite hangouts.

Bill Taft: Nobody thought much of God, so a church wouldn't work. The grief really wouldn't fit structure, so we had to go outside. Having a parade seemed to be a good way to remember, and also to celebrate because a parade is kind of a celebration. Death is terrible; are we going to give in to it or are we going to celebrate their lives? So a parade was good because you could say, "Well, we're going to have a parade." That was comforting, because someone on the other end of the phone could go, "Oh, yes, a parade. When's it going to be?" I'd say, "Sunday." "What can I do?" "Bring a float. Make something." People had a purpose and a task. You can do something physical with your grief.

James Kelly: "We stopped in front of the Variety Playhouse and instead of a minute of silence, we had five minutes of noise. People had pots and pans and hammers and drums. There was literally a marching band. There were hundreds and hundreds of people.

Brian Halloran: When Deacon Lunchbox died and he was cremated, they were going to scatter his ashes on a North Carolina mountaintop. And Bill had the idea: "Let's put his ashes in a leaf blower for one last blow job." They didn't go for that.


THE MUSICIANS IN CABBAGETOWN carried on, but in one terrible moment they had lost one of their guiding beacons and the scene's most vibrant band.

Bill Taft and Kelly Hogan formed a duo called Kick Me and released a cassette of new songs. Taft also joined back up with the Opal Foxx Quartet, which was going through changes of its own in the wake of the death of Deacon Lunchbox.

Doug DeLoach: Losing the Jody Grind ripped out the heart of the music scene, and obviously put an end to whatever broader influence the Cabbagetown scene might have had in the larger music industry. The accident, of course, devastated Kelly and Bill. As a by-product of their grief, it affected so many musicians in terms of what they were thinking and what they were doing and the directions they were moving in. It hurt in ways we'll never know.

Bill Taft: We didn't have anything else to do except songwriting. I wanted to write songs. I didn't know how to write songs. That's sort of what that project was. It was really just Kelly and me."

Doug DeLoach: It took a lot for them to get back up. And they only could have done it by getting together. They both knew they could only do it for a short period of time. It was that "get back on the horse" kind of thing, but then you have to leave that horse alone and move on.

Bill Taft: With the Jody Grind, we reached the level of opening for bands with tour buses. I quickly learned those people with tour buses weren't nearly as much fun as the Opal Foxx Quartet. So after my friends died, I thought, "I'm alive for some reason. I'm going to spend what time I have doing what I believe in." So that was really the Opal Foxx Quartet.

Steve Pilon (Long Play Records): When Jill Kalish and I started Long Play, Opal Foxx Quartet was already one of our favorite bands, and a band that we knew we wanted to have on the label. But by the time we had built up the company enough to be able to put out their record, the band had broken up. We decided to do it anyway, because we felt that the band was something unique and special that needed to be documented and preserved, and it was clear that nobody else was going to step up.

Todd Butler, who played in both Opal Foxx and Smoke, helped us gather a lot of live recordings, WREK broadcasts, and the studio tracks that they had recorded with Michael Stipe. Out of all of that material we assembled the album that we had always wished existed. Benjamin gave us the photos for the cover art and the title "The Love That Won't Shut Up." We had no expectation that the band would reunite to play again, so we were as excited as everybody else was when that happened.

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