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Saying Goodbye to someone I never knew

posted 3/25/2009 1:14:14 PM |
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A couple of weeks ago, Billy received a phone call from an old friend and bandmate...someone he hadn't heard from in a number of years. At first he didn't know who it was and assumed it was someone he worked with. Then the guy mentioned Steelewolf and Billy realized he was talking to "Lucky"...aka Greg.

Greg had some bad news; another friend, Alan, was gravely ill. He had been sick for some time but had his illness controlled with medication. Then he got cancer.

At the time Billy received the call, Alan (or Booger as he was known to his friends) was in ICU on life support. He was not expected to live much longer and was already comatose at that time. His family was contacting everyone they could. It was time to say goodbye.

Last friday we made the hour long drive to a small town called Hickory. As we drove to the edge of the mountains, Billy reminisced on the times spent with this man and his bandmates. He laughed at the memories, the good times and the drunk times. When we reached the hospital, and went up to where the family was; a surreal atmosphere pervaded the room. Some were talking quietly, others were just barely holding back tears.

I never met Alan, as his family calls him. However, listening to his mother, aunts and uncles, and his grandmother talk of him I know I have truly missed out on knowing a very special person. Probably the kind of person I would have butted heads with, and maybe not even gotten along with well...but someone I would have respected. I felt an instant empathy for his mother who exuded strength and even a certain peace at the worst possible time for any parent.

I knew there was nothing I could say, not having known Alan; as well as, well there just isn't anything one can say at a time like that. All I could do was hug this woman and tell her it was okay to cry.

The following is Billy's tribute blog to "Booger":

Michael Allen Roberts, a.k.a. “Booger”…

About a week ago an old friend of mine from back in the day tracked me down… Last time I’d seen him was years ago… He was a guitarist for a band that my band played a lot of shows… He briefly stepped in and helped my band out at a time when we needed a guitarist, but the distance was to great as he lived in the mountains… His name is Greg…
The bassist of that band, Booger, was truly a one of a kind person. He had an infectious happy go lucky attitude, a zest for life, and a penchant for living on his own terms. Irascible, rogue, loyal, funny, smart ass and humble are all descriptive terms that fit this man.

Booger was a bassist as was I… and bassists generally tend not to hang around together like guitarists do… We don’t trade licks, or jam together… we’re quirky that way… secretive and guarded of our styles.
At that point in time in my life I was hell bent to be the best bassist n the world and become a rock star. I practiced continually, and constantly. I was vain, proud, arrogant, egotistical, and tended to snub those I considered to have inferior skills. It wasn’t just me that was the attitude of the music scene at that point in time.
I was in a band called Steelwolf, when I met Booger, their no frills, stripped down power punk while good for that genre… was well behind my playing ability… but a bond was formed just the same… we had all been screwed by a night club owner out of a night’s pay!

The two bands played several dates together in and around the state of NC
Time marched on and I was later in a band called Str8jackit… Out of the wild blue Greg calls me up to see if I was still playing and if I had a band that wanted a gig…
His new band featured a second singer guitarist, and a new only slightly more sober drummer, Booger still anchored the band with his eight note driven basslines.

By this point in time, my playing was above and beyond even my own expectations… I was a monster in more than one sense of the word. I was drinking heavily, angry at the world due to my failing marriage, my son’s medical needs kept me working a job I hated, and having hooked up with Henry Juarez, having sharpened my playing skills to such a point only gave rise to Frankenego…

I confess, I not only hated a good many aspects of my life, I hated music as well. I spent too much time and got too little reward out of it. In my mind’s eye; I’d spent so much time and energy attempting to reach a level of fame, only to find myself duty bound to provide for my son… I only continued out of habit, and two habits that helped me forget my woes… my drinking obviously and my penchant for infidelity. While I fault my ex wife for a lot of things… I was no prize myself either in those days.
While in my mind I had nearly reached superhuman bass skills… Here was booger, still playing the same simplistic style… Yet I couldn’t help notice he was always over joyed just to play music.

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Mar 25 @ 1:15PM  
On top of Pat’s Tavern in down town Charlotte NC in the wee early hours, I asked him point blank why he’d never developed chops over the years…
He shrugged and said it just wasn’t that important to him.
I pressed him further asking him why it wasn’t, in my world being the best was all that was important.
He said “I just play in a band because I love music.”
Now I sit here at the nearly famous Six One Six. Pursuit of other things, responsibilities, arthritis, and apathy have robbed me of a good deal of the dexterity and finger speed I once held as a prize above all, yet I still play music, not as an avenue to fuel vices, not because I know nothing else… I play because I love music.

Booger taught me that.

Later I would hear from the wife of one of his band mates that Booger idolized me for my playing ability, proof came at the next show when he brought a newly purchased five string Ibanez, the very first new instrument he’d owned. He held it up for my inspection like a child with a new toy and in the middle of whatever shit hole red neck dive it was asked me to play it “so it could know what playing was at least once.”

Having a friend and near constant companion, (due to playing schedules) bestow that type of compliment to me has always meant more, much more than the hundreds of empty “great shows” or “Dude you rule that bass” I’d heard before and since…
Back to the point… Greg went to such a trouble to find me to let me know Booger was not likely to live much longer. He’d contracted H.I.V. and while it was being put under control, cancer tore through him before his T cells decided to destroy his white cells.

I finally made the drive west last night, to the little hospital on the edge of the big mountains… I had written an abbreviated version of this blog on my MySpace as a self therapy thing, to put in words some of my feelings… His mother loved my words and recognizing me from the web page hugged me and allowed me a few moments to say goodbye.
Late this morning Michael Allen “Booger” Roberts’ light went out of this world, leaving at least my little corner of it that much darker for it’s extinguishing.

I told him quietly, he was crossing the bridge of swords ahead of me, but by the time I get there he’d damn well better be a better bassist…

He won’t listen, he was Booger, he lived on his own terms… but I will miss him.

Mar 25 @ 1:16PM  
Billy and the other guys are planning a memorial jam session in two weeks.

To "Booger"

Bydd i ti ddychwelyd

There will be a returning for thee

Mar 25 @ 2:39PM  
My condolences to you Billy for the loss of your friend. Your tribute to him was an awesome read. Hugs to you and a kudo for sharing this with us sundance. I think we all have friends in our past that have left their footprints on our lives. This is a good reminder for us to remember who they were.


Mar 25 @ 3:11PM  
sundance please tell Billy I am very sorry for his loss. I know it has to be a hard time for him. It always is when you lose someone that has been in your life as I'm sure he was in Billy's. Although the circumstances are bad it is always good to see you. You and Billy are both missed around here. Take care of each other.

Mar 25 @ 3:34PM  
Sorry for your loss Canu and what a beautiful tribute to him!! Kudos SunnyD, thank you.

Mar 25 @ 3:42PM  
My Heart, Thoughts...and Prayers..go out to Both of you!!! didnt know this Man.. You Love his friend(Billy)...and that Spreads over..when we share Hearts!!! May God Bless!!!

I'm with Max...
Although the circumstances are bad it is always good to see you. You and Billy are both missed around here. Take care of each other.

Mar 26 @ 12:00AM  
Wonderful tribute Billy has given to a old friend.. Thank you for sharing it with us Sundance Kudos to you...

Jun 27 @ 11:38PM  
What a beautiful tribute. I'm crying. I know what it's like to bury a good friend, and how if feels to write a great tribute to them. Canu, you done good.

Play a riff for me at the tribute. From one musician to another. Thanks


Jun 28 @ 12:06AM  
Love and Strength to you both.

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Saying Goodbye to someone I never knew