Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Death in our family (Pat Ramsey)

Death In Our Family (Pat Ramsey)

Today I write to let you all know that a man who has been more of a real father to me than my own and one of the most important innovators and players of this instrument has died today at 3:11 pm after a long, painful, and frustrating battle with Hep C.

Pat Ramsey is in my book the very first real rock and roll harmonica player to play the blues. Pat played what he heard those musicians around him do, they were not harp players. That's how he came up with the sound he had. He never cared about harmonica licks or other players, although he loved, admired and appreciated them all very much, Pat was interested in creating music and navigating his instrument the way other musicians do like Johnny Winter, Julian Kasper, Walter Trout and so many other greats he didn't care about trends, industry behaviors or anything else besides the music he was making. He just played and the way he played made me move from Maine to Memphis in 1995 to be at every one of his shows and learn from him. What I learned was so much more than scales, licks, and ways to navigate different chord changes. I learned slowly and stubbornly, how to tray and start being an accountable human being and take responsibility for my actions at least the ones that were getting me in trouble. Because of Pat I learned I was a drug addict. He never once pointed a finger at me either.Never even told me directly that he thought that. He simply told me stories about himself and his past that were exactly the same mistakes I was making and would make and even though I didn't listen much I remembered them like nightmares. Those stories became a sort of check list for me as the years, crimes, nights in jail and failed ventures and relationships piled up until I could no longer be in all out denial anymore. Pat was patient, loving and always available for me even when I was strung out at 4:00 in the morning. The people I hang with now call this "planting the seed". When I turned myself into the cops for a crime I had not even been caught, suspected or charged for in order to get into jail where I knew I could be away from the drugs for the most part, I did it with Pat's guidance and the only person besides my mother who bothered to write me (and I didn't even deserve anyone in my life!) was Pat Ramsey. He sent me Shirts, hats, and smokes. My mail was screened in there because it was this boot camp like scenario offered for individuals that wanted help instead of simple incarceration. Pat's letters after being screened were more than once read aloud to the all the inmates as an example of positive living. That's how powerful a person he was.

I would be nowhere in my music, my life or my sobriety without the guidance of this incredible individual named Pat Ramsey who truly never got his due. Pat's love obviously extended much beyond me he was a huge influence on Sean Costello who I came to know through Pat when he appeared on Pat's first solo record: "It's about time" in 1995. Sean was fifteen years old and Pat knew before almost anyone how talented he was. Sean's playing on that record to date is still ground breaking as the record itself remains so as well. Billy Gibson is the young man who I first heard at blues city café in 1995 on a jam night that after stepping down from the stage and accepting my compliments, told me: "You think I'm good....Wait till you hear this next guy." Billy went on to produce that record ("It's about time") and hire the young Costello. Pat never had the opportunity to touch as many players as even I have had. Some of that is bad luck, music business bullshit, and some of it is just plain Pat's fault, but those he did touch remained changed forever in a way that very few players have ever been able to do. I am one of those. Pat would have crowds gathered around him on Beal ST. in between sets laughing and hanging on his every word as he told music business war stories, Jokes and tales of Johnny Winter, and the Allman Brother with his pessimistic and cynical sense of humor. He may have appeared bitter and he certainly was often, but he never gave up, never lost the love of music and always inspired and demanded respect!

Pat was very sick for many years with Hep C, The Interferon never worked, back problems and other medical ailments plagued him without pause until finally early this summer he was hospitalized, after that it has been a painfully slow winding down process and in one way his death has come as a gift, as it has ended his suffering at last. Five fays ago he was moved from his house to hospice. I got to spend some time with him, Jimmy and Clyde Ramsey two weeks ago. I had never met Jimmy Ramsey before so that was cool too. Pat looked like he was 90 years old and was very sick. He was in good spirits for the most part, I gave him a Joe Spiers harp, and some bread we had raised for him at our Nathan P Murphy's Benefit. Pat was well enough to get a little jealous of me that I was going on tour with Walter Trout but then congratulated me of course. It would have been unlike him to not be a little pissed at that and he certainly does in many way deserve to be doing this tour instead of me. We called Walter that day too, Pat had never met him but was a big fan and very much a peer and kindred spirit. Walter made Pat feel great and Pat seemed to be in perfect working order at least for that phone call! Pat told Walter: "I love what you have done for this music"!

Pat was only in Hospice for a little over a week. His drummer Steve Howell has been incredible, keeping everyone informed sometimes two or three times Dailey, taking care of Pat every day and being an incredible help to the family. Steve has been a hero through out all of this and has my utmost admiration, respect and gratitude! Steve Howell is an incredible human being and friend to all of us! Without Steve Pat's passing would have been very hard on me in many ways too personal for me to describe here.

Pat is survived by his two son's James (Jimmy) and Clyde Ramsey (Who sings and plays just like his Dad) and his wife. He will be missed but never forgotten his influence serves to date as the skeletal structure behind everything I play. To Pat: my friend, the man who called me his "Son", my mentor I commend your life and your music here in print now and in every positive word I speak, and every note I will ever play and most I have already, God Bless You and Thank you Sir for your Love, creativity, strength guidance and appreciation for truth. Play on in heaven where no one will care how many notes you play only if they count, and you made them all count here on earth. Thank you my Father! So much of this story is about me and others as a life so often is. I am proud to write this here, and very proud to have known this man. I have shouted it my whole carrer from the stage, on you tube and to any one who will listen. He lives on in me and in you. Go buy some records at do your homework and get that man in your harmonica vocabulary. You can also donate money to his family there as well. To the "Reverend" Pat Ramsey as Billy called you. We miss you already my friend.
Jason Ricci

Jason Ricci & New Blood

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Jason,
Thanks for sharing your love and honor for Pat.