« RIP Jim Pupplo »

jim pupplo. tall and lanky and buff, shredding on his guitar with Slaves by Trade, 1994.Jim Pupplo in 1994I just found out that a guitarist I used to play with back in 1994 was killed in a Navy plane crash over near Iwo Jima. In the extremely rare instance of my watching TV, tonight I happened to be right there when the story came on the local news. There can't be many Jim Pupplos who were in the Navy, so I went to see about it on the net. Sure enough, he was from New York, was once an enlisted sailor on a sub, still stationed in Coronado, and was 34.

I met Jim on April 14, 1994—exactly ten years and four months ago today. He called me in the morning from an ad I placed, advertising myself as a drummer. He told me he had a gig that night with his band Slaves By Trade and his drummer had flaked, and could I fill in, with just one rehearsal? I was not particularly interested in the music, but it wasn't hard to play and had some punch. The show went okay, but was technically a disaster. The band and the crowd were nearly all associated with the Navy, and specifically a department most of them worked in. The friends of the band got together a lot and were really supportive, so I felt good about being in their midst. Jim started the band as a guitarist, but while I was in there, he assumed the vocals too. He had a strong voice early on, and later on went to another band as vocalist only, then eventually reformed that band again around himself on guitar and vocals. I'm not sure I got into his music or lyrics, but I had fun playing, and once we became a trio in SBT, we got a lot better. I don't recall seeing him since early 1998 or so.

Ten years ago yesterday, I bought a new set of drums—my first "real" set, and the set I still use. Later on that night, at a band related party, I met Robin Williams (no, that's her real maiden name!) who became my short-lived fiancee, and partner of over two years. (I just wrote about some of this in my blog yesterday, in some sort of ten year reflection. Needless to say, August 13 is etched into my mind as a day when a lot of things changed in my life.) Two weeks later, the band recorded a nine song demo at a local studio, which still is probably the best recording of me as a drummer. Two weeks before SBT broke up in the end of October, I got my first guitar for my 21st birthday, and it was Jim who showed me some meat and potatoes chords and scales. Most of our relationship was done by the end of that year, but in the absence of work with SBT, I got interested in playing drums more, auditioning for bands, and once I got fed up with that, I finally hit my stride, choosing to record my own stuff, using any instrument I had available to me, with guitar being the newest. That of course, led me to all of my music history since then.

I didn't know Jim too well, but I did get the idea he was good at whatever he decided to do. He was a solid guitarist who could play extremely well. He took on the vocalist duty with aplomb, and he apparently made the jump from being an enlisted sailor to being an officer. He was friendly but New York at once. Even from my outsider's perspective, it was easy to see he could be counted on to be a good friend. All the SBT and submarine shop buddies got along famously, particularly when the booze flowed. He gave me a shot at being a better musician, among other things that changed my life.

Listen to a song I wrote lyrics for and that Slaves By Trade recorded in August 1994. Pull My String.

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