Reflections Upon the Passing of Charlie Williams

Bay City Sound Technician Played a Pivotal Role in the Regional Music Scene

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   By: Matt deHeus

18th June, 2021     0

No one is prepared for the shock of the news of a friend’s untimely passing.  When word of the death of Charlie Williams began to spread last Tuesday that was certainly the case.  For his friends, family, and the people in this area’s music scene, the cycle of disbelief, grief and sorrow has roiled our worlds in the days since.

Many knew Charlie for his work as a sound technician who supported many of the artists working in this area.  This belied his total package of talent, as he was also a musician in his own right, a fact he sometimes revealed during sound check or troubleshooting when a band was on break.  While he easily could have had a spot in a gigging band if that’s what he wanted, it was the support roles that really allowed him to be himself. 

Whether it was doing sound for a top shelf act like Barbarossa Brothers, or popping in to make that night’s band at Bemo’s sound just a little bit better, or stage managing an event like the Sunshine Daydream Festival – if you saw Charlie behind the board, that is when he was in his element and when he was at his best.

He was a hard worker.  He hustled when he was on the clock.  He was a gear head who could talk shop for hours.  He solved problems with a smile on his face. He was a good hang and a great friend. 

Known for his distinctive gravelly voice and one of the firmest handshakes in town, it was always great to run into Charlie because he made you feel good about yourself.  He wanted to know what you were working on, and he wanted you to be successful.  Just like he wanted your band to sound good, he wanted your show to be a success, your new song to catch on, or your new romance to make it. 

That last bit takes on added importance when you realize that Charlie and the people he supported were part of the local music scene. 

Let me be honest with you for a moment.  Most of us aren’t playing in bar bands because everything has gone the way we planned.  We all handle that fact differently, but we all rely on the encouragement of our peers to keep going.  And sometimes not just in music.

As I read tributes on social media over the last few days a lot of them included the phrase “I didn’t know him very well.”

Well, in another moment of honesty, those of us that did sometimes worried about Charlie.  He was not being singled out in this way.  The thing is, the same personality, talent and creativity that makes us entertaining to people also leaves many of us vulnerable, especially for people in the music world operating without much of a safety net in the event we are diagnosed with a horrible illness or encounter some other variety of tragedy.

It affects our ability to handle bad news.  Sometimes it gets poured into the art; sometimes it simply feels like it is all too much.  Talent comes with trade-offs. It does not come with a benefits package. These are likely some of the conditions that leave us where we are today.

It’s pretty common on social media to see posts where people cut and paste statements indicating that you can always call them and that they will always be there.   From personal experience I find such sentiments, at a minimum, to be gross exaggerations of how people act when you actually do reach out for help – or even when you don’t reach out.

Music and musicians are often described as circles and ours is broken right now, just like our hearts. 

I’m going to miss Charlie Williams. 

We will come to grips with this eventually, but it’ll never be the same around this town without him.

Rest In Peace, Love and Rock & Roll. 

 

 

 

 

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