I think it was 1980 that I first heard The Skeletons. In those days, it was customary to write to an act that floored you and I duly ordered a box of 45s to spread around people that I figured would like them. This was the first time I came into contact with the force of nature that was Lou Whitney. Recipients of these 45s included Lux and Ivy who subsequently name checked the band in ZigZag as a result.
When it came to the point of getting the chance to start a label, the band was the obvious choice. To my mind they should have been bigger than something like The Eagles. A+R people loved them but they didn’t know what to do with something so pure. So somehow, Lou granted me the wish of compiling the singles plus other tracks for “Rockin’ Bones” which was later followed by their debut “proper” album, “In The Flesh”.
In August 1992 I made the pilgrimage to Column One in Springfield, Mo. I clearly recall Randy and Donna dropping me off for the adventure that would entail travelling with them to shows in the Chicago area including a memorable night in DeKalb, Illinois. I stayed with Lou and Kay during those days and enjoyed their wonderful hospitality.
The Heartbreak Hotel in Malmo played host to the Dave Alvin/Scott Kempner/Skeletons ensemble during the Skeledanavia 1992 was like a dream come true. The guys from Uncle Tupelo were there that night also and somewhere I have a tape.
We kept in touch over the years and I always hoped I’d get out to see him again. Never imagining that there would come a day when that wouldn’t be possible. Last time I spoke to Lou was when Mary McBride made a pit stop in Glasgow with the Rt. Hon Joe Terry and she graciously called him.
Then there’s the music that he and the guys made. They should have been a household name. Their chemistry made them utterly unique and that’s why other great artists gravitated toward the buckle on the bible belt. Listening to Ben Vaughn’s “I’m Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” the other day, it was if he was channelling the big guy and it made me plotz.
To tell the truth, I’m finding it difficult to process the fact that he’s taken the final taxi. The music he made with the band and with others will live for all eternity. Lou’s alt-Wrecking Crew was always ready to work up their magic when the need arose.
They broke the mould after this one popped out and we’ll never see his like again. Hey may not have been rich in monetary terms but the guy was a veritable gazillionaire in terms of being a wonderful human being. It was impossible not to love Lou Whitney. Lou inspired everyone that he ever came into contact, being the archetypal gentlemen in every sense of the word.
The big fella never compromised his integrity for one second over the years and it is an utter privilege to have been able to call him my friend. A world without Lou in it is a daunting prospect. His wisdom and forthright manner gave him a quality that made him a natural leader. He was someone you could believe in and someone you could believe. He made his mark alright.
My condolences to Kay and his immediate family, to his compadres - Lloyd, Joe, Donnie, Dave, Andy, Scott, Eric, Amy, Ben, Robbie and Syd and everyone else that will miss the hell out of the guy.