In December 1995 I played bass with The Gun Club for what would be the band’s very last show. Jeffrey Lee Pierce passed away three months later due to a health condition. It’s hard to put into words what it felt like to play with someone who I admired but also knew that he may be terminally ill. I had gotten to know Jeffrey earlier in the year before he went back to Japan.
I had been a fan of the Gun Club since 1989 after running into Greg Davis at The Palomino, a country and western music venue in the San Fernando Valley. He told me about The Gun Club and how they had influenced his band Blood on the Saddle. I had never heard of The Gun Club before for some reason, so I went out and bought “The Las Vegas Story” on cassette. That was shortly before I moved to New Orleans and then later went on to New York City before coming back to the west coast and finally back to Los Angeles. In 1993 I saw The Gun Club play at The Whisky A Go Go. Until the mid 90s I only had heard the one Gun Club album “The Las Vegas Story” but recently I had been given some copies of the newer Gun Club CDs by Neil Kellerhouse who had designed the covers for them.
How I met Jeffery was through my friend Steve Martinez at my job where I played my own CDs while I worked, I often played the new The Gun Club CDs I had been given by Neil. I didn’t know that Steve was a friend of Kid Congo Powers. One night Kid and Steve came to an art show I was in in downtown Los Angeles, that was when I first met Kid. Later Jeffery was considering me for the bass player position so he and I jammed with Brendan Mullen at Brendan’s house in Hollywood. Jeffrey ended up hiring the rhythm section from Wayne Kramer’s band, they played a few gigs (I went to one of them at the Viper Room), but then the bass player joined another band and had to leave to go on tour so Jeffrey asked me to play with them. Since starting this post I’ve been thinking about the sequence of events and I now remember that the first time that I met with Jeffery after we jammed was when we had a meeting at the Viper Room. He had been hanging out there, his mom’s condo was just down the street. Jeffery invited me into the office of the Viper Room, we sat on opposite sides of a desk and also in there was a man, sitting at another desk, that I recognized perhaps by his last name when introduced but now I’m not sure who it was, it may have been David or Richmond Arquette. I remember whoever it was he was an actor with sibling actors. I mentioned that I had just taken delivery of my long awaited Power Mac 7500 (my first computer ever) but that I was going to put off learning how to use it until after I learned to play The Gun Club songs. The actor said he would not be able to wait to use the new computer. I was working full-time so I had to make a choice and I chose The Gun Club. Jeffery wrote out a long list of songs for me to learn. I think that was shortly before Halloween 1995 because on Halloween I met Jeffery at his mom’s condo where he was staying, we went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner, then hung out in his mom’s living room where he made me a mix tape of music he liked. Another time before the gig, I went with Jeffery to the bar at a fancy hotel where he was meeting some Japanese journalists for an interview. They seemed mostly interested in the fact that Jeffery was friends with Johnny Depp. I remember mentioning to Mike Martt that Jeffery and I had gone there and Mike was annoyed with me that Jeffery was drinking, I told him that I had not been drinking, I was trying to discourage Jeffery not to drink but that I couldn’t control what Jeffery did. I had about 5 weeks to learn the songs on my own. I listened to their recordings and played pretty much what I heard them playing. It was more strenuous than I was used to playing. As I practiced my wrist was rubbing annoyingly on the painted black surface of my bass so I adopted wearing a wrist band. Shortly before the gig, the band rehearsed a couple of times even though Jeffrey was not well, he had a cold in addition to his other health problems, and it was cold and raining. On December 18th, 1995 we played a short set with several other bands at The Palace in Hollywood for a benefit show organized by the Ringling Sisters. After that Jeffrey went to stay with his father in Utah to try get healthy and to work on his book, but while there, he passed away.
The band picture was taken by photographer Jeffoto just after we finished playing at the Palace. I look pretty happy and I suppose I was because it was my first gig with them and I thought it went well. The band was Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Kid Congo, Mike Martt, Brock Avery and Elizabeth Montague. I remember when we first went in the room at the Palace to get our picture taken, the photographer had a large roll of backdrop paper set up and a very drunk woman became unsteady on her feet, so she grabbed hold of the paper to steady herself but the paper just unwound and got crumpled by her grabbing it. I thought it was amusing and laughed but Kid gave me a fatherly disapproving look to curtail any further laughter.
There’s a video of the show but for some reason they’ve been holding back from publishing it. David Travis, the videographer gave me a copy, I cherish it, I wish I could share it with everyone but that might require getting permission from the estate of Jeffrey. See below for screenshots from the video (other than the first pic, the band pic which was taken by photographer Jeffoto).
Gun Club Set List Final Show at the Palace in Hollywood Dec 18th 1995:
- Bad Indian
- Cousin Kim
- Like Calling Up Thunder
- Goodbye Johnny
- Sleeping in Blood City
This post is a work in progress.