Friday, September 16, 2011
HB: Hi Darlin’, what’s up.
JC: You haven’t heard [stated more as a sad fact than a question].
HB: [Cautiously] Heard what?
JC: I’m sorry, Dear, I have bad news.
JC: Willie “Big Eyes” Smith passed away this morning.”
It’s a few hours later, and the word “no” is still screaming in my head.
Willie and I weren’t friends on the level of phone calls and “keeping in touch.” No, ours was a Blues Friendship. Those Big Eyes lit up when he saw me, as did mine. He was one of the sweetest, loveliest people I’ve ever known, and I rejoiced every time his agent (for this region), Derek Smith, would email me with dates for Willie. The last couple of time he’s played the Outlook, I’ve had to move local bands to accommodate his schedule. The local bands didn’t complain. Actually, they felt honored to be rescheduled for Willie.
Willie and Bob Margolin were the first national acts to play the Boulder Outlook. They were on the gig together, and it was the first time I went to the place that was to become my home away from home. It was a sold-out show, and the music was superb. I saw Willie (with his band) about a year later, again at the Outlook. It was a rare weekend night that local Blues heros, the Delta Sonics, had the night off, and Willie Panker and John Butler (drums and bass respectively) came down for the show, and we all sat together. It was remarkable.
He’s played for us a number of times since, and each time our friendship grew a little deeper, with more laughs borne of familiarity and history (not to mention mutual friends). He was last here on April 23rd, and we spent a good bit of time together that day, a few hours before the gig. His son, Javik, was with him as well. We had a lovely time, most of it spent laughing. When I went up to him to say “goodnight,” I was met with the type of embrace, so warm, so genuine, that it was the first thing that sprung to my mind when John Catt delivered the sad news. I may not have Willie here any longer, but that moment is mine forever.
~Honey Bee Sepeda~
at 2:03 PM