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Author: Subject: Bill Ector and Skydog: The Duane Allman Story

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 06:16 PM
I am forever indebted to Bill Ector. Without him, “Skydog” would never have been written. That’s one of the reasons I dedicated the book to him (and to his two partners in crime, Joe Bell and John Lynskey).

I first met Bill backstage at the Beacon in March of 2004. We hit it off instantly, spending many an evening over the next few years, sitting on the equipment cases, listening to the music and enjoying the vibe.

He used to call me up and say, “Brother Randy, this is Brother Bill Ector.” But he didn’t pronounce it “Ector” the way the rest of us do. He’d always pronounce it “ECK-torrrr,” with major emphasis on the “ECK,” followed by a long, drawn-out “torrrr.”

I always got the impression he only did that when he called me. But over the last few weeks I’ve read so many posts about Bill that I’ve begun to realize he had a talent for giving every one of us the impression that we were special to him. And that’s because we all were. His sincerity was among his many beautiful qualities.

When Bill learned I was working on a biography of Duane Allman, he jumped at the chance to help. I had a lot of back issues of HTN, but certainly not all of them. When he found out which copies I didn’t possess, he sent all of them to me in a big box via FedEx. The next day he called and said, “Brother Randy, some of the issues I sent you are the only copies we’ve got, so please send them back when you’re done with them.” I was truly moved by his show of trust. I Xeroxed the pages of those early issues of HTN like I was Xeroxing the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Although I knew Tommy Dowd, he passed away before I came up with the idea of writing “Skydog.” I knew what a major source Tommy would have been for the book, and I was desperate to find any existing materials that included Dowd talking about Duane and/or the band. But everything I found consisted of interviews that focused on his early jazz productions, or were overviews of his entire career. When I told Bill my problem, he said, “Use mine.” In the early 1990s, Bill conducted what has to be the most thorough series of interviews anyone ever did with Tommy on the subject of the ABB. In “Skydog,” I wrote that the HTN article that came from Bill’s conversations with Dowd was “the Rosetta Stone of the producer’s decades-long involvement with the Allman Brothers.” Like I said earlier, without Bill Ector, “Skydog” would never have been written.

When I finished the original manuscript, I sent it to Bill before I even sent it to my publisher. I asked him to assemble a team of Duane experts and go through the whole thing with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. He took on the request with relish. After a couple of weeks he called me up and said, “Brother Randy, this is Brother Bill ECK-torrrr. Do you have a couple of hours to go through the manuscript with me?” The work he and his gang of experts had done was incredible. And he handled the author with kid gloves.

With every proposed change, correction, deletion, or addition, Bill gently explained how I had gotten this or that wrong; how he thought I might better word a sentence; how I might better describe a musical passage, and on and on. There is no way I could overstate Bill’s contributions to the book.

When “Skydog” finally came out in September of ’06, Bill was one of the first people I had the book sent to. And, true to his nature, he began sending me emails suggesting others who should receive copies – always being careful to try to keep everyone in the camp happy.

When Kirk West was kind enough to have a book signing party for me at the Big House in November of 2006, Bill was one of the Atlanta crew who went down to Macon for the event. He and Joe Bell were both with me in Duane’s bedroom when I opened my laptop and discovered I’d just received an email message from Deering Howe. Deering was writing to tell me he had just finished reading the book, and that he felt I had captured Duane just as he had known him, "warts and all." I turned my laptop around and listened to the excitement in Bill’s voice as he read Deering’s email out loud to Joe. (For those who might not know, Deering Howe was one of Duane’s good friends. Duane was with Deering Howe and John Hammond, Jr. the night before he made his final trip back to Macon in late October of ’71.)

The last time I saw Brother Bill was at a fund raiser for him at the Beacon Hotel. HTN had invited bands to play at the event, and had asked me to be on hand to sign books. The party was great. Derek and Susan came, as did Oteil. But what stood out to me – as always – was Bill’s smiling face. I was pretty much stuck behind a little podium, signing a book every few minutes, so I wasn’t able to hang out with Bill that day as much as I wish I could have. But it was wonderful to see the Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) in full swing as Bill spent the whole afternoon meeting and greeting. And every now and then – knowing I was landlocked – Bill would bring folks like Devon or Derek over so I could meet them. It was a beautiful event, and I’m glad I was there to spend one final March day with Brother Bill.

I did get to speak to him on the phone several more times, and I cherish each one of those conversations. The beauty was that I never knew when they were coming, and I never knew what the subject matter was going to be, but I could always depend on them to start with, “Brother Randy, this is Brother Bill ECK-torrrrr.”

Thanks for everything, Brother Bill. You were one of a kind, and I’m going to miss you more than I could ever properly express in mere words.

Randy




 
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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 06:23 PM
That's beautiful, Randy. Thanks for that.

 

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 06:27 PM
Thank you I was at the book signing party. It didn't surprise me at all when Bill told me he'd be there. He loved Duane, anything about Duane and the Brothers, and people. He was a happy camper that night. Of course, Bill was always happy

And the book is fabulous, Randy. Thank you.

Terry

 

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 07:08 PM

Thanks, Randy. Bill was as humble as he was loving -- and that comes across very well in your post.

 

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 07:20 PM
Thank you Randy.

 

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 08:30 PM
thanks randy..this is so surreal

 

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 09:11 PM
Thanks for the Bill story Randy...

And Thanks for writing the book...

 

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 10:42 PM
I soooo enjoyed that book... Thanks for the book and the sweet story you posted "Brother Randy!"

 

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  posted on 7/10/2008 at 10:48 PM
Thank you Randy. I enjoyed reading that.

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 02:31 AM
Thanks for the story Randy ... I had no idea Bill was quite so involved with your book ... and, as Hop said, Bill was far to humble to ever mention it even when I chatted with him at that HTN party and we were discussing the book.

I intend to come back over to NYC for the 40th Anniversary next year ... and I just know that twinkly eyed smiling Bill will be at that party to greet me, along with Duane and Berry

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 05:56 AM
Thank you Randy! What an incredible story of love, friendship, and music
 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 06:16 AM
Thanks Randy for sharing and for your wonderful book!! When a friend of mine asked which book to choose, there was no hesitation on which to buy...

http://www.hittinthenote.com/cart/pc-573-42-skydogbrthe-duane-allman-story. aspx

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 07:04 AM
Maybe I'll pull this out for a re-read on vacation.

Thanks!



 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 07:06 AM
Great story Randy, love hearing some of the background on the book. I had started the book a while back but got sidetracked before finishing it. I've just gone and pulled it off the shelf so I can finish what I started.
 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 07:47 AM
Randy thank you for your post and wonderful book. I was at the party and remember Derek getting his copy. I have probably read the book three times and always find something new and fascinating in the book.

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 08:18 AM
Randy, great post. I was at the HTN party that day, met you and got a signed book. I enjoyed reading it very much and your description of that day was spot on. A fitting memoriam to a great guy.

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 09:48 AM
Dear Randy,

Your post brings back sweet memories of a very special time and project that we were all proud to be a part of. It meant the world to Bill to be involved in honoring the man that inspired us all...

JNB

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 10:12 AM
I bet numerous little gems like this about Bro. Bill come out over the coming weeks and months. Stuff nobody knew about. Speaks to his inner nature.
 
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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 11:31 AM
Very Nice Randy...
 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 11:31 AM
Randy, thank you for this lovely post and shared memories of this gentle soul. (PS - loved the book )

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 11:45 AM
Great reflection Randy....enjoyed you sharing your tho'ts at this sad time. I was at your book-signing at the Beacon party in NYC that you describe and can relate a little story from that day. It goes to the core of the makeup of 'Bro-Bill'.

A little history will help. I came to this 'table' from the early GABBA years. Attended probably 8 or 9 GABBAfests in a row from #2 on....have stayed--at least in spirit--with the organization thru both 'admininstrations' (Willet & Potter--I think the world of them BOTH, by the way). In recent years, life's challenges, living 'way up north', and the somewhat floating schedule of GABBA events have not allowed me to attend as I once did. Thus, I never got acquainted with some of the 'new' blood such as "Big Dave'', "Bluedad'', "Haisija" and many of the "Jam for Duane'' musicians that have joined the ranks of our extended family. Having met Bill tho', during the early GABBA years, our familiar faces and friendly greetings were always consistent no matter where our paths would cross in the passing years. (As I related on a different thread in recent days...Bill would always say: "There's that BUCKEYE!") In this context, Bill saw our band that we brought down from OHIO to play at the GABBA concert on the GMHF plaza circa late 90's....memory has faded. He went out of his way to compliment us that day....We were BY NO MEANS great! But we were honored to play in Macon, Georgia and we didn't embarrass ourselves that day by any means.

ANYWAY....as said, I found myself in NYC at the Beacon party you describe with the 'jam' that afternoon in full swing. As it progressed, people were sitting in with the core group of players at a rapid pace. I had mentioned to one of the guys that I played drums and would love to play. These guys--understandably--didn't know me from Adam. As far as they knew, I was some bum who staggered in off of Broadway and 75th street. At some point, Bill walks up and says..."Dana, are you gonna play?" I responded.."Bill, this is killing me! These guys don't know me!" He responded...."Hang on a minute". He walked to the little stage area and motioned for a couple of the guys to a 'whisper'. He walked back by me, smiled and winked...."Hang tight!". After the next song from the stage I heard: "We're bringing up a guy named Dana from Ohio to play some drums." I made my way to the stage and climbed onboard. Again--as in Macon--I wasn't great...but I didn't embarrass myself. The opportunity however, made my day, and.... my whole trip.

From Bill's gesture, I finally got to sit-in with the JFD guys and lay down the groove with BigDave and even Junior Mac.....and yes, after Dave played a couple, Bro-Bill got up and thumped that ole bass on a couple of tunes smiling over at me as we rolled.

That's my favorite "Bill story'' and goes to the heart of the man. I hope he knew how much he was appreciated by all of us...and in particular, an old "BUCKEYE'' on that Saturday afternoon in NYC.

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 11:51 AM
nice Dana..

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 12:14 PM
Thanks for the info on Bill's input to the Skydog book, I shoulda known! I will be re-reading the book on my trip this week.

 

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  posted on 7/11/2008 at 10:54 PM
SWEET!!!! Thanks Randy!

 

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  posted on 7/12/2008 at 12:07 PM
Thanks Randy!!!
it is amazing how so many of us got to share a little piece of Bill,
and are so grateful that we did........
the experience will never be forgtten -
he had IT.......

[Edited on 7/12/2008 by PeachNutt]

 

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