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Scott ‘Bow Bow’ Brandon, Drunk Stuntmen bassist, dies at 44

  • Scott "Bow Bow" Brandon, pictured here with his baritone horn in the Taunton High School marching band. He graduated from the school in 1990. The Drunk Stuntmen musician died early Tuesday morning, June 13, 2017.

  • Scott "Bow Bow" Brandon, right, helps his younger brother, Adam Brandon, with a toy trumpet. The Drunk Stuntmen musician died early Tuesday morning, June 13, 2017.

  • Scott "Bow Bow" Brandon, a musician in Drunk Stuntmen, died early Tuesday morning, June 13, 2017. —Submitted photo

  • Scott "Bow Bow" Brandon, a musician in Drunk Stuntmen, died early Tuesday morning, June 13, 2017. —Submitted photo

  • Scott “Bow Bow” Brandon, left, is pictured here in 2016 with his Drunk Stuntmen bandmate and friend Steve Sanderson. Brandon, a co-founder of the Northampton band of 20 years’ standing, died early Tuesday morning.



For the Recorder
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — J. Scott “Bow Bow” Brandon, best known as the bass and trumpet player in the Drunk Stuntmen, died around 2 a.m. Tuesday at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

His friends remember him as a “big, burly guy” with a soft interior and the voice of an angel. Brandon packed so much life into his 44 years, they say, that “his body just couldn’t hold up anymore.”

“His health was declining but he was a rock ’n’ roller, and we have a serious aversion to doctors, if you know what I mean,” said best friend and bandmate Steve Sanderson.

Brandon was born Aug. 14, 1972, in Hyannis. He grew up in Taunton and moved to Northampton in the early 1990s, where he immersed himself in the city’s music scene. At the time of his death he was the daytime kitchen manager at the Iron Horse Music Hall, a job which freed up his nights for artistic expression.

Brandon was always listening to, or playing, music. He loved all kinds, from the Beach Boys to Cheap Trick and Frank Zappa, and if someone ever said there was a genre of music they didn’t like then he took that as a challenge. Sanderson said his friend was perpetually in a state of musical discovery — a gift that powered Drunk Stuntmen during the ’90s and early 2000s.

“He had such a voracious appetite for music that he would turn me onto all this stuff. He just listened to music all the time,” Sanderson said, recalling the time Bow Bow helped him discover My Morning Jacket. “He’d feed you. He’d feed you the inspiration.”

In addition to his family, friends and a larger-than-life onstage legacy, Sanderson said his friend also leaves behind an enormous record collection.

“He’s the guy that shows up to a show three hours early with a sharpie and a record,” he said. “He’s got thousands of records and so many are signed.”

Sanderson said his friend loved life so hard he celebrated it faithfully. Asked about Brandon’s favorite food: “I may catch hell for this, but I’m pretty sure it was Jack Daniels.”

“That’s how he lived his life,” Sanderson said. “You don’t see it as much anymore, but he was a lifer. He was a hard-ass rock ’n’ roller. And you know, he went out a hard-ass rock ’n’ roller.”

Brandon had been admitted to intensive care earlier this month suffering from pneumonia and infection, according to a GoFundMe post from his brother, Adam Brandon. The campaign has raised $3,300 since June 3.

Brandon was fearless, an excellent judge of character and wasn’t afraid to let anyone know what he thought about them. He was most comfortable in a club. At night. Playing music.

He never married, “but there were a few great loves in his life.”

“I won’t name them but they’ll know who they are,” Sanderson said.

He lived for music and the lifestyle that came with it, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We were laughing all the time, except the times we were all fistfighting,” Sanderson said. “And then we’d go right back to laughing, usually with the people we were fistfighting.”

Sanderson said alcohol was both a downfall and a muse for Brandon, and it helped him form lasting friendships near and far.

“I know that alcohol had something to do with his demise, but the funny thing is alcohol can be an incredible social tool,” he said.

“There’s thousands of stories. There’s people mourning right now all over the world.”

Adam Brandon called his brother’s years spent touring a life highlight.

“Really, I think it was the highlight of his life — getting to tour the world with his friends,” he said.

Brandon’s friends and bandmates couldn’t contain their laughter as they recalled those years.

“The van was full of dogs and everybody’s girlfriend, everybody had jobs and it was hilarious,” Sanderson recalled. “We burnt out more vans than I can count.”

Sanderson would do most of the driving, leaving Brandon and F. Alex Johnson in the backseat to concoct ridiculous (or possibly brilliant) ideas, like opening a 24-hour pizza joint called “Cheesus Crust Al’nighty.”

“It’s as if I lost a brother,” Johnson, of Easthampton’s Colorway, said. “I’ve been crying all morning.”

Johnson said Brandon was also a skilled sound technician. He could “throw an equalizer into a turntable” and “shake the walls of whatever apartment we were living in.”

“We had the cops called on us a number of times because he was so good with his stereo equipment,” he said.

Sanderson said Brandon’s brain was so jam-packed with music trivia that “he could tell you what Brian Wilson was wearing when something happened.” He said his friend’s vast musicial knowledge also extended to learning to play new instruments.

“Every time I turned around he was dragging home an instrument he found on the side of the road,” he said. “He could play everything.”

Adam Brandon said his brother lived for music.

“It was almost a cliche the way he lived his life, ignoring everything else,” he said. “He was the rawest, most emotionally intelligent person you’ve ever met in your life. But when it comes to scheduling a dentist appointment — never gonna happen. It took over everything for him. And I think he was happy with that. He lived life on his own terms.”

Like the time when Scott Brandon, at 17, became singularly focused on moving a baby grand piano into his childhood bedroom.

“We weren’t rich by any means but he was able to finagle a baby grand in his bedroom,” he said. “It took up a good chunk of real estate in there but he was quite pleased with it.”

From making his younger brother chortle at their father’s funeral 10 years ago to cracking jokes in the back of tour vans, Brandon was always good for a laugh. He had a “searing, dry wit” and was skilled in the art of sarcasm.

“Bow had a really hard shell that once you got through it you saw what a big softie he was,” Sanderson said. “If he took the time to actually look you in the eye and make a joke about you, that meant he really liked you.”

Adam Brandon said his brother lived for the moment, with wide-eyed abandon.

“He saw a lot of beauty out there,” said. “And I think he was disappointed that people weren’t as wowed as he was. Wherever he was, he was loving it and making the best of it.”

Johnson said Brandon’s friends plan to hold an event this summer in his honor — “a reunion of sorts for all the people who were close to him.”

As for Drunk Stuntmen, the future is uncertain.

“He was the essence of the band as far as I’m concerned,” Sanderson said.

“There’ll always be something but it won’t ever be the same. It can’t be.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.