"one for jack" by byron coley


“one for jack”

jack rose was one of those guys
with whom one feels an immediate bond
he wasn’t a physical giant or anything
but he had an immense presence
something, perhaps, more spectral than tangible
which filled a room easily
enveloping you in a kind of bear hug
that could seem either threatening or comforting
depending on the look in jack’s eyes
and on the level of self-assurance
in which you held the quality of yr record collection

jack was an excellent drinking partner
even if you weren’t imbibing yrself
he would see that yr portion was duly taken care of
without so much as a peep of complaint
and he had a set of ears and hands as big as his heart
which was huge as his thirst
once he’d left pelt and started his serious acoustic journey
we’d talk sometimes about guitarists and how they did certain things
i could almost never follow him after a while
but i figured his observations were right, because almost every time i saw jack
his technique would have moved to a whole new level
beyond his models, beyond his friends, almost beyond the bounds of the possible

occasionally we’d see each other for an intense string of days
then not again for a year or so…even more, i guess
but it was always great and easy to hang out with him
we’d make fun of each other’s cooking and record collections
maybe arm wrestle a bit, or at least talk about who was stronger
jack was just one of those people you knew you were gonna know for a long time
there was an agelessness about him that gave you the sense
he was built to last, like a bull
or a china shop
although what i guess he resembled most
was a bull becoming a china shop
his transformation from drone thug to master primitive
was amazing to behold
and we are so lucky – all of us
to have known him, or at least his music
because that music will always be available
as long as people can still perceive brilliance
and let’s hope that’s forever

so long, jack
tell fahey he’s goddman fatso
i’ll never forget you, man

–byron coley
deerfield ma 12/08/09

photo by dan cohoon

Categories: POETRY | Tags: , , | 22 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

22 thoughts on “"one for jack" by byron coley

  1. I agree with Byron. The transformation from drone thug to master primitive is a singular accomplishment among humans or gods. I never met Jack, but all accounts of him seem to point to the latter group as his origins. Too much for this world, too soon to the next.

  2. I was finally able to catch Jack live (late September) this year in Indiana – his performance was remarkable and the aura you’ve described here absolutely reflects the Jack Rose I met that night and in town the day after the show.

    I am quite grateful I had such an opportunity.

    Well Done Byron.

  3. Byron,

    thanks for writing this, Jack really loved you and had immense love & respect for your family and the clutch of friends that made up the W. Mass clan. You were always his champion and we may think of him as this strong bear of a man but if a gig was bad and he got treated poorly by a promoter it really hurt him and pissed him off. You always took great care of him as you will his memory.

    Patrick Best

  4. I had forgotten that the first time I ever drank sake was with Jack. Thanks for shaking more memories loose and celebrating his life so beautifully, Byron.

  5. Pingback: RIP Jack Rose (1971-2009) | URB.COM

  6. It was always such a pleasure to see Jack play, and I was lucky enough to bear witness from his last days with Pelt to the glorious past days/years as the solo
    mu(s)jician we knew and loved. I was honored to have shared the stage with him several times with Cul de Sac, and our guitarist, Glenn, was very close with Jack. I once gave him a ride from Boston to Philly on my way to DC. We talked music for 6 hours and the time flew past like the scenery. I kind of took it for granted that I’d be seeing him play live for the rest of my life, being about the same age. One of the last times I saw him was at the Byron-organized “No More Bush Tour” at PA’s Lounge here in the Beantown area. It seems like yesterday but I’m realizing that was a year and a half ago! There’s my reminder…you just never know when a good thing might run dry, so enjoy it while it’s flowing.

  7. Beautiful memorial, Byron. Like Jonathan, the last time I saw Jack play was the No More Bush tour you organized, and I figured I’d see him play many more gigs in the future. It hurts to know that’s not true.

    here’s a photo I took of you and Jack from that night, listening to Damon:

  8. Pingback: Down In The Flats: A Jack Rose Tribute

  9. the last time i visited US he played in Baltimore on “No More Bush tour” that Byron did, we had nice chat about his italian gigs and the weird and cool people he met. and I could feel nothing but closeness for this man who seemed so “far away” when he played his beautiful music. his furious elegance will be with us forever.

  10. Byron, your tribute was quoted on NPR today, I remember you with a great big lion heart. Great to know you’re out there doing what you love.

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