Guitarists and singers get more than all their share of worship. People even give the drummer some from time to time--if they're generous they'll even let him solo interminably. But for whatever reasons no one ever coined the phrase "bass hero," a handle that suited Arizona bassist Kevin Lee Pate. A month ago on March 15, when he died of cirrhosis of the liver in a Yuma prison, no one was prepared to say goodbye to Kevin Pate, especially not in a manner that most suited him.
Kevin was never one for histrionics. I once saw his amp head blow up into a fireball behind him at a gig. With the calm of a yogi he turned around and asked, "Does anyone have a towel or something?" He'd probably be equally nonplussed--but still appreciative--of the dual Kevin Pate Memorials planned for him in Tucson and Phoenix this weekend.
On Saturday, April 13, Club Congress in Tucson hosts "Kevin's Rock N Roll Heaven - A Celebration of the Life And Music of Kevin Pate," featuring Silver Bell (with David Slutes, Chick Cashman and Robin Johnson), Lonna Kelley, Silver Fox, Greyhound Soul, and Gentlemen Afterdark. The latter features lead vocalist Brian Smith, who played with Pate in the Beat Angels for many years, and Robin Johnson, who with his wife, Anastasia Palmer Johnson, organized this event and the "Memorial and Life Celebration of Kevin Pate" which takes place on Sunday, April 14, at Carly's Bistro in Phoenix.
"Time heals everything," says Robin Johnson, who now seems ready to celebrate a kick-ass life instead of ruminating over its sudden end. "A month down the line, that's exactly the way it should be: A celebration, raise a glass, have a nice evening, play some music like the goddamned Rolling Stones. That's all Kevin ever wanted to do anyway."
Johnson is also comforted that Kevin dying in prison wasn't as dire a scenario as it seemed. "If Kevin was on the outside, he wouldn't have gotten any medical insurance. Kevin actually had guards come in and checking on him. There were people there that totally dug Kevin. It wasn't quite so bad for him because of the built-in good will. He always had a band room where he could play. Playing guitar goes a long way with a lot of the morons in there. In Kevin's case, the people at the prison found out he had a lot of people on the outside that cared for him."
While Lonna Kelley and Greyhound Soul played with Pate in the new millennium, Johnson goes way back to the early 1980s, when he and Kevin first played the Mason Jar in rival cover bands. "I knew Kevin when he was playing in Raven Payne. [...] It didn't make a lot of sense; you know how that stuff goes. They were a good-looking band. If they had their own songs, they could've been something. But Kevin stood out like a sore thumb, he was so much better than the rest of them."
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David Slutes agrees. "Kevin was just a wonderful fellow. One of those rare, extraordinarily talented musicians who never told you how extraordinarily talented he was. I was fortunate enough to be able to call on him for spot gigs here and there and was always grateful--he was usually the best musician in the band. Nicest fellow too."
"Rock N Roll Heaven - A musical tribute to the life of Kevin Pate" takes place on Saturday, April 13, at Club Congress in Tucson at 8 PM.
"Memorial and Life Celebration of Kevin Pate" takes place on Sunday, April 14, at Carly's Bistro in Phoenix at 5 PM.