Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley

Excerpt from ‘Dream Brother’ (Chapter 5, page 80-81):

In the mid-60’s, the college market was a lucrative one for musicians lumped into the folk or folk-rock categories – which Tim, to his increasing disgruntlement, was – so Herb Cohen booked Tim into a slew of schools in the Northeast, including Swarthmore and the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island. At Bard College in upstate New York in february, someone had the idea that Tim should be backed by an ad-hoc group of students from the arts-oriented college. So, before his scheduled concert at the Gymnasium, Tim ambled into the church on Bard’s ambling, green-grassed campus for a rehearsal. Among the student musicians waiting for him were two Bard undergraduates, future actor Chevy Chase and future Steely Dan mastermind Donald Fagen, on drums and piano, respectively. With Jane a firm, silent presence at his side, Tim sat down, nodded when he was introduced, and, without a word to the gathered players, launched into a new, unrecorded song, “Hallucinations”, a baroque-sounding ballad with a tricky, stones-skipping-on-water rhythm.

Another of the accompanists was Carter Crawford Collins, a twenty-two-year old African-American conga player from Boston who wasn’t a Bard student but was crashing with friends who were. With his muscular, 160-pound build and green beret (it was, he recalls, his “Black Panther days”), the nearly six-foot-tall percussionist was an imposing physical presence, albeit one with a gentle soul. The student musicians, he recalls, “were trying to play along with Tim, but nobody was communicating”, Collins recalls. “Nobody said what key. Chevy Chase was shuffling cymbals and moving this and that, and Fagen didn’t know where to be. Tim was just playing.”
After two songs, by which time Collins was the only musician keeping tempo with Tim, Tim took off his guitar capo, pulled out a towel from his case to wipe the neck of his guitar, looked up without actually looking at anyone, and, in a meek voice indicating Collins, said, “I just want him to play with me”. Although Collins had never heard of Tim nor any of his songs, he accompanied him for that evening’s concert in the gym. Onstage, the shy LA kid became a wailing, impassioned gypsy, and afterward, Collins forthrightly asked Tim if he could join his band. Tim agreed ……..

© David Browne