A genius gone way too soon
by Jane Gallup
I have so many memories of seeing Chris at various clubs and talking with him, but my favorite memory was seeing him play at this little club in Providence, RI on a Tuesday night, April 8th, 2003.
I drove from Hartford alone to see him, not knowing the area. Turned out it was a pretty tough side of town. I walked in, there were maybe 25 people there. I sat on the floor in front of Chris while everyone else had no idea who he was. I was the only one sitting on the floor in front of him, he walked up and said hi Jane, can’t believe you’re here. I said of course I’m here, if you’re within driving distance you know I’m there. He kind of laughed and then proceeded to play! And play he did, like he was playing to 10,000 people! He kept looking down at me and he made me feel like we were the only ones there.
After he was done I was getting ready to leave and talked with him for a couple of minutes, he thanked me for coming and someone took a picture of us together. I treasure that picture and that night more than anyone could know. He was then walking out at the same time as I, and he asked me where I parked. I pointed up the street a ways, and he said I’m gonna walk you to your car if that’s ok, this is not the best area. So he did, he waited until I got into my car, and waved as I drove away. I then stopped and said see you next time! He waved and turned to walk away, I never saw him again.
by Justin Evers
music has always been very important to me, then I found chris. I hope I live to see someone else play so true to what music is. always alive in my house mate
Had to pull over
by Chip Hunt
I first heard “Kick The Stones” on the car radio in September 1991. I believe it was getting airplay from the Thelma and Louise soundtrack well ahead of Living with the Law, according to release dates online.
I was on a business trip in Denver and was able to fly my Dad out from the east coast to visit at my hotel for a week and do some car touring on the weekend. Dad passed away 2 years later, so it was one of our last times together.
On this day we were driving up to Rocky Mountain National Park, heading north on the plain east of the front range when that voice and clanky resonator guitar came smacking out of the speakers. I had to pull over and wait for the song to finish, hoping for a DJ credit so I could find out who it was and write it down.
Thankfully the credit came and I first learned of Chris Whitley. Picked up Living With The Law at first opportunity and that was my start with Chris.
by P. Graceffa
It was late September or perhaps early October of 2001. I do not recall the month but I do recall that it was shortly after 9/11. My friend had just started taking guitar lessons. I am a drummer. I told him “If you want to see some guitar playing that will blow your mind, come with me to see Chris Whitley at Bill’s Bar.” We went. It was an early fall evening in Massachusetts and the multi-colored leaves were blowing off the trees in a cool, damp wind. I remembered that Chris once said that Boston always felt “colder” or perhaps “grayer” than other places. This was certainly true that night.
Bill’s Bar is not a huge place. As opener Chocolate Genius closed their set, I saw Chris enter out of the corner of my eye to the left. He stopped before heading backstage and smiled as the lead singer of Chocolate Genius pointed at him and laughed. Chris appeared on stage after a short intermission, wearing that traditional white “wife beater” (I have always disliked that term), jeans and boots. He ripped into “To Joy” and then peppered the blistering set with songs from “Rocket House,” “Din of Ecstasy,” and “Living with the Law,” along with some covers from “Perfect Day.” This was my fifth time seeing Chris in and around Boston after attending a Tom Petty concert in 1991 that Chris opened. He made a fan forever that day.
My guitar-playing friend was truly blown away, as I knew he would be. I loaned him my entire catalog of Chris’ CDs (although I also had “Living with the Law” on cassette!). By early 2005, we were playing together in a “hack/older guys after work/our time to be ‘cool’ has likely passed but screw them” band and we were covering “Border Town,” “Poison Girl” and a few “Rocket House” songs that were really hacky and unrefined but disjointed just enough to have made Chris proud.
How do you fail to miss a talent like Chris? How do you replace him? I think the answer to both is, you cannot.
A Pint of Lotion
by Trip Watson
As a Guitar player (no longer), I bet I spent 200 hours trying to learn this song. From the moment I heard Chris, I loved his fingerboard play. For most, we were just mortals who tried to play. For Chris, the fingerboard was his playground… His poetry along with this was amazing. I never saw him in person, but many times on TV.
Trixie, his daughter, I go out of my way to see. I hear so much of Chris in her.. From Dallas to Montreal to NYC to Nashville.. I’ll go where I need to go to see her… Will not make the same mistake…
Saw Chris Live in 2001 at the Roxy in LA
by Ted Moreno
I first heard about Chris in an article in Esquire Magazine about Dirt Floor. I bought it and loved it. I mentioned it to a friend of mine who told me he had “Living with the Law” and asked if I wanted it. I got it and loved it and became a fan. I’m not a big concert goer, but somehow I found out that he was playing at the Roxy. My friend and I went to see him and my friend fell asleep. However I was transfixed by Chris who was promoting Rocket House on this tour. As I continued to immerse myself in Chris’ music, I began to feel as if I had found a valuable treasure. Then I learned that he died. My only regret is that I was not able to see him live as the huge fan I am today.
Since then, I’ve become a huge fan and continue to explore this man’s incredible and mysterious music. Chris was born the same year as me and died within days of my daughter’s birth. I learned that he wanted some of his ashes scattered in the desert outside of Tucson, AZ, a place I love and lived for 20 years. I feel a deep sense of connection with Chris Whitley and through his music, I get to walk in his landscape of life, death, love, pain and joy.