One of my best friends passed away Thursday. This is not the way to start my vacation.
With each passing of a friend or family or musician, it is a reminder that nobody here gets out alive. The only two things that are certain are birth and death, whatever comes between that you make your own way.
I've known Bruce Stanley for at least 25 years. We shared time together chatting about music at various stores, either Omni and Relics Records, then over at 16th Avenue Music. We even helped Chris Proctor pack his gear one night. Legend is that Bruce was a damn good drummer for Redwing (later Sargent Rock, with troubled guitarist Barry Binger) but I always known him to be one of the best guitar players in town. He played a lot in the 1990s with The Merles, the band he was in with Jerry Scott, who owned Relics from 1990 to 1996. I spent many a time in both Relics, on the edge of town (now the Best Buy parking lot) and the downtown Hood.
Everybody loved Bruce, and if Bruce considered you a friend, he'd go out of his way to say hi to you and bullshit awhile. He did that even while busy at the pawnshop, that he'd find time to chat. There isn't many people I let in my life to tell my troubles to, Bruce is that rare person.
We share one common trait, we loved music to the point that both of us never had a bonding relationship with women. I think I've seen him with somebody one time in the late 1990s and that lasted about almost a year. Bruce and I did managed to go see a few shows in 1997-1998. One was The Honeydogs and Blue Mountain, the other Big Back Forty opened for The Honeydogs to which that billboard still hangs over my closet. We also seen Gary Louris and Mark Olsen down at CSPS around 2009 or 2010.
Once 16th Avenue Music closed their doors, Bruce moved to Siegel's Jewelry and Pawnshop, to which he had to deal with some of the lowlifes of this town. And I continue to bother him up there, but I did buy two guitars from him, in 2003, I got a Gibson Les Paul (ole Blackie) and two years later sold me my favorite acoustic guitar, a Guild. Bruce also was instrumental in selling me a four track hard drive (which died in 2015) and a Line 6 Amp (on life support). He knew music gear and I'm sure he still had his guitars at his place of residence. I never been there to his new house, which he bought not even a year ago.
I think he gave it his all, helping fellow musicians and friends along the way, but I think he had been in declining health the past few years. He smoked too much and and probably didn't exercise enough and the usual factors of life came into play (stress and dealing with people pawning their stuff off). The last time I chatted with him, we talked about the new Jayhawks album Paging Mr Proust being a disappointment and the new Foghat album. He got busy and I decided to leave him be for the next time. The last time I seen him was during the Rumors Metal Jam but didn't get around talking to him. This week, I wanted to tell him that I finally got to jam with Rick Clay on Dreams and how fun it was but had errands to do and would have to catch him next week. To which, like Dennis Pusateri, the next time is to pay final respects with him.
Life is tough, it's hard and then you die. For the past year, I have to deal with job layoffs, pushing my vacation back to get things down at my place of employment and hopefully there would be hope that we can get more contracts to keep going, but at this stage in life, I'm tired of it all. It hasn't been a good month, my good friend Jeff Kewley's dad passed away at age 94, but he lived a long and fruitful life. Thursday on his day off, Bruce went home, watched a bit of TV and then took a endless nap. The guess is that he may have suffered a heart attack. But perhaps he was just worn out from life and gave it all.
I didn't get the message till 2 AM after hanging with 50 Shades Of Rock at the J and A Tap all night. It was a fun night till I got the sad message that Bruce departed from this world. I went to bed weeping. I lost the best friend to talk music to and to tell bad jokes with since Dennis Pusateri. And it's not going to be the same again. The friends I still have around are fun to be with and there'll be more fun and laughs with them but only Bruce had the knowledge of knowing who Blue Mountain is, or The Sand Rubies or The Jayhawks. Let's face it, the era of life as I know it is coming to an end. The closing of Hastings, and the days of Relics are history. Can I ever be a fixture at a record store and chat into closing about music with anybody else like Bruce? I doubt it.
I thought about saying the hell with it and close up shop for a while but that would defeat the sense of purpose. I'm sure Bruce would come into my dreams telling me to keep looking for new music, keep playing music, keep going as if nothing changed. So for the most part, I cried a bit more and then went up to Waterloo for another bargain hunt. I'm sure we'll cry some more when we say one final goodbye to Bruce sometime next week at his visitation. And life will go on, till the next person that I know passes on. We're not getting out alive in this life, and I rather not live forever. Lemmy is gone, Dennis Pusateri is gone, Merle Haggard is gone, and so are 40,000 other people in this world.
But I want to remember Bruce as one of the best friends I ever had and this life and for the past 25 years a highlight to chat with him. But I wanted to remember him most as the guy behind the counter at Relics, saying in his own way. Hey Rod, I got a Japanese import of an Matthew Sweet album. One for me and one for you.
I'll have to find that cd around my archives to take a listen to it.
BTW, the Brat says she'll miss seeing you too.
Special Thanks to Carol Becker for the use of her photos of Bruce during the Relics years. The Top Picture, The Merles picture and the Relics with Jerry Scott above.
Jeff Lawrence shares this 1994 performance photo at Big Dogs. The band was called The Merles, which he played alongside Jerry Scott.
Lyndal Anthony took a couple of interesting photos of Bruce during the 1980s. Here's a rare pic of Bruce jamming on a Bo Diddley Type guitar.
Another late 80s photo.