When Richard Patterson died, at the age of 66, at least two important unwritten books went with him. Actually, they had started to fade some three or so years earlier. His mind deteriorated as a consequence of early onset dementia, considered to be related to a known side effect of heart bypass surgery, which Richard had undergone in his mid-50s.
When Harvey Glatt took me to meet Richard, he was having difficulty expressing himself in the present. He would start to cry, knowing that he was not expressing himself as he intended. Yet when he was shown a book–one of many–in which his bands were featured, it all came back. He could talk clearly about the past, for the moment, and then it would fade.
Richard Patterson was a walking encyclopedia of Canadian music history. He also didn’t only experience it, or know it, he also collected it. He was a hoarder of music history. More than the albums, he had the ticket stubs, the posters, the newspaper clippings, the unreleased tapes. But no book.
Happens so often. One of my clients also experienced much the same world as Richard. I bought him a digital recorder. Please speak into this for 10-15 minutes a day, recounting what you have recounted to me. Every time I get out with him, I walk away amazed at how much music history he has lived, and contributed to. No book. No digital recordings. Needs someone to ask him the questions, to direct his mind, as happens in lunch conversations or just about any moment of social interaction. I should have been recording him when he was signing his will, as he was recounting meeting Richard Pryor in a Montreal hotel room, in the late 1960s. Should have been recording him when he talked about meeting Dion at Le Hibou. Should be recording him every time I meet him, because he isn’t going to do it otherwise.
I wonder if the reason Keith Richards’ Life is such a successful autobiography is because it is so rare. Coherent and comprehensive, without the star package self-aggrandisement. Richard Patterson could have written Volume 1 and Volume 2 in the same tone. No books, now.
There are so many unwritten books now permanently missed. I wish Randy Jo Hobbs had written or recorded his memoirs. Going from the heights of being a teen idol, with The McCoys, to being a respected bass player with Johnny Winter, playing on all of those seminal albums from the early 1970s. Saw him once, with The McCoys, in Ottawa, at the Coliseum in 1967. and then at Maple Leaf Gardens, New Year’s Eve, 1970, playing with Johnny Winter. Then dead in some motel room, in 1993, at the age of 45. Here he is, with Johnny Winter, at a time when Hobbs is so strong and forward-looking, doing a version of “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo“:
Here is Randy Hobbs on the original:
Hope that the lesson of Richard’s loss–to himself, and to history–will be appreciated by others. There are others from Richard’s time who are still alive, and played with him in several of the same bands. Digital recorder, 10-15 minutes a day…