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Dwight Yoakam remembers Duane Jarvis

April 2, 2009 | 12:49 pm

Dwight400 Dwight Yoakam struggled when he called me from a road trip Wednesday to find the right words to describe his friend and former band mate Duane Jarvis, the guitarist, singer and songwriter who'd died earlier that day at age 51 after an extended battle with colon cancer.

But the roots-country singer and songwriter kept coming back to the phrase “He was just a smile away,” to sum up Jarvis’ unflappably upbeat outlook.

“It’s not like he never had a bad day, but whatever fracas may have been going on onstage, if there were glitches and things were not quite right, I’d look over and see that smile of his,” Yoakam said. “He was not only an accomplished musician, but he was a terrific accomplice for anything I ever did musically, whether it was playing baritone guitar, click bass or lead guitar — he was like a great utility fielder.

“The thing about Duane’s illness is it really made me cognizant of how music is such an elevator in each of our lives -- especially for those who are lucky enough to do it for a living. Ultimately, when it’s all said and done, we better all enjoy this. That would be the lesson from Duane Jarvis. He had almost a conspiratorial kind of sense that he would remind me of that. He was always glaring over with this look that we were really lucky, that we were getting away with something, and we were getting paid for doing it.” 

Yoakam noted Jarvis’ role not only as a musician who put out a string of critically lauded solo albums but also as a player who had worked with dozens of other artists, among them Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Rosie Flores and Ben Vaughan. “He didn’t necessarily end up with the kind of career that some others ended up with," he said. "But he certainly was one of the support players who helped a lot of folks with their music.”

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Dwight Yoakam by Bill Waugh / Associated Press