Thursday, May 17, 2007

Topper Price

What makes you feel alive
inside this slowing shell,
this stifled air
I dream of cutting away the flesh
peeling it apart to free the soul

He sings to bring the days
an ever after youth
with a yowl and a beautiful scream
I'm half his age and only dream
of that sort of release
that sort of return

At the Scott Boyer benefit a few weeks ago, as Donnie Fritts wailed and writhed at the microphone, as the forever jam blasted out into the room, two men raced to the back-up microphone. Paul Thorne took the long way around, pushing back the stage curtains, careful to walk behind the musicians onstage...he stopped, midstride as he caught sight of Topper Price swaggering across the stage, in front of Donnie, David, and Scott, stepping over cords and around amps. Topper took his place, with a sideways smile, at the microphone beside Bonnie Bramblett, and pulled out his harmonica. I turned to John and we both wagged our heads and smiled. Topper.

"Hey little girl." He tugged on one of my ponytails as I sat outside the Nick. I looked up and saw Topper's curly mess of hair and crooked grin. I had never met him before, but I knew exactly who he was. Most of my musician friends had played with him at one time or another, always coming back from a late night/early morning liquor soaked roustabout with story after story. That night, almost 7 years ago, that I first met this Force of Nature will always stick in my mind....because beyond all of the stories, beyond of the tall tales, I found some kind of magic. When he pulled out his harmonica and closed his eyes and began to play, stomping his foot, bobbing his head, the crunching blues notes became something pure and true.

Topper passed away yesterday. The Magic City has lost one of it's bright, burning lights. But the stories, the legend of this extraordinary, wild-eyed music man, will live on.

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