Clubland: A tribute to J. Scott Brandon — aka Bow Bow

  • Bow Bow paul shoul

Friday, August 04, 2017

J. Scott Brandon — aka Bow Bow, which rhymes with “wow” — is holding up a vinyl record and looking at me in shock.

“Are you telling me you’ve never heard ‘McDonald’s Girl?’”

He asks this in a voice that suggests he’s about to give me a wedgie. Or a hug.

“Oh man. This is going on right now,” he says with a grin as he gets up from his managerial desk at Dynamite Records — a battered folding table piled with unsorted LPs — and pushes past me at the register, heading straight for the store’s turntable, record in hand.

He drops the needle on Dean Friedman’s 1981 album “Rumpled Romeo,” and the place is filled with a chirpy soft-pop ode to a guy crushing on an “angel in a polyester uniform.”

“I'd like an order of FRIES / a quarter pounder with CHEESE / I love the light in your eyes / will you go out with me please?” That’s the catchy chorus, and now Bow and I are both smiling big. 

Working at a record store was the perfect job for us music geeks. That was 2006.

J. Scott “Bow Bow” Brandon, 44, passed away on June 13. He was a passionate, advanced level fan of music. And he loved playing it on bass guitar, trumpet or piano, whether with his longtime brothers the Drunk Stuntmen, or sitting in with others like Mark Mulcahy or The National Convention. 

Bow’s bandmates and other musical and artistic friends are hosting a tribute to him at The Iron Horse in Northampton on Sunday at 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit a Northampton Arts Council grant to assist working musicians in need.

At press time the lineup included Miranda Brown, Philip Price and Flora Reed of Winterpills, Lesa Bezo and Henning Ohlenbusch of The Fawns, Scott Lawson Pomeroy, Rick Murnane, Rob Skelton and members of the Drunk Stuntmen past and present — F. Alex Johnson, Scott Hall, Terry Flood, Kay McKinstry, J.J. O’Connell, Dave Durst and Steve Sanderson.

Miranda Brown, Dave Hayes and Ray Mason will fill in on bass with the Stuntmen set at the end of the show, as will Bow’s brother, Adam Brandon. Marian Kent and others will read poetry.

Clubland asked some of the participants to share memories of Bow, and one of the first to chime in was Hayes, who’s long been a part of the local music scene and remembers when Bow first arrived in the area from Taunton, MA in the early-’90s.

“He was a passionate musician all the way back then. Bow was dedicated to music — playing it, recording it, learning about it, listening to it, and sharing it. It was the very substrate of his life, not some background hum in the midst of other matters to handle. We should all be so lucky to know a person like that in our lives, and I’m glad that my path crossed with Bow's for the time that it did. I’m grateful and honored that I’ll be able to pick up Bow's axe and play his lines on a stage he graced many, many times.”

Singer/songwriter Rick Murnane played with Bow at a number of Transperformance benefit shows over the years (in collaboration with Scott Lawson Pomeroy), and he appreciated Bow’s way with a story. “There would be those moments before a practice session got underway when he’d absolutely captivate the room with some hilarious memory involving a green room or pit stop during those countless Stuntmen tours, and we’d be transfixed. He could hold your attention, that guy. But above all else, what I remember is the unabashed love with which Scott told each story. And it was because it was about family.”

Pomeroy had been talking with Bow earlier in the year about this summer’s upcoming Transperformance, “Rock N Roll Heaven Revisited.” 

“I really wanted to do Alex Chilton. Bow said Chilton was the only performer he was too nervous to talk to when he met him, and would love to play the set with me,” Pomeroy said. “While I won’t be doing [Chilton] for Transperformance, and sadly, he won’t either, I am going to play the songs in his honor at his tribute. Somehow, I think Bow knows I am going to be Ronnie James Dio [at this year’s Transperformance], and is throwing goat horns at me from heaven.”

Bow’s other passions included cooking. He worked at a number of local eateries (including The Iron Horse) and friends agree he was famous for, as Stuntmen co-vocalist Kay McKinstry put it, “finding the crockpot you didn’t remember you owned and making the most amazing meal out of whatever you had on hand.”

He also loved poetry, creating a Facebook page called The Haiku Wednesday Fiasco. Local poet/writer Marian Kent was a member of the online group, describing it as “a creative haven, in which he fiercely encouraged a constant stream of serious, sublime, and ridiculous scribblings from his friends near and far. I'm so grateful for Scott’s presence in my life, and I miss him.”

“He had such a great belly laugh,” said Miranda Brown. “It was the kind of laugh that made you laugh, even if you didn’t know what the joke was.”

Bow became housemates with Kay McKinstry in her second-floor apartment on Market Street (which happened to be the old Stuntmen pad). “He started yelling ‘cah-CAW!’ to people walking by the porch so many times that by the end of the summer, people were cah-caw-ing back,” she said. “And he bought every trashy vintage pulp nurse novel (yes, that’s a thing) he came across to give to me.”

Bow was the one who originally invited McKinstry into the Stuntmen fold after hearing her sing with Bob Hennessy at a World War II Club open mic. “He knew before I ever did that [Stuntmen frontman] Steve [Sanderson] and I sing like siblings, like we’d been doing it forever. He was always thinking, always on the lookout for ideas for the Stuntmen.”

Bow passed away peacefully on that June morning, listening with his family to John Coltrane’s “Ascension,” a tumultuously spiritual piece of music that’s about as fierce as love can get.

His brother Adam was one of the family members keeping people informed online about Bow’s health, and his last message is a simple, perfect and heartfelt summation: “I can safely say Bow loved each and every one of you and would want you to be happy, be nice, watch cartoons and listen to Cheap Trick.”