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Sounds Local: Friends remember J. Scott ‘Bow Bow’ Brandon

  • Contributed photoJ. Scott (Bow Bow) Brandon of the Drunken Stuntmen died at the age of 44 in June. June.

  • Sheryl Hunter



For The Recorder
Wednesday, August 02, 2017

This past June the local music scene suffered a terrible loss when J. Scott “Bow Bow” Brandon, 44, of Northampton passed away after a brief illness. Brandon was the bass player/trumpeter of longtime Pioneer Valley favorites The Drunk Stuntmen. He was raised in Taunton and moved to Northampton in the early 1990s to join his hometown friends, Steve Sanderson and Terry Flood, who were in the process of forming a band. The band they formed was originally called Soup, but by 1997, had changed its name to The Drunk Stuntmen.

The Stuntmen played countless shows in the area, including memorable appearances at the annual Transperformance shows at Look Park and at The Route 63 Roadhouse (now Pioneer Tavern) in Millers Falls.

On Sunday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m., Brandon’s bandmates in the Stuntmen, as well as many other musicians from the local music community, will join together at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton to celebrate Brandon’s life through songs, poems and stories.

Performers scheduled to appear include Scott Levesque, Mark Mulcahy, Rob Skelton, Dave Hayes, Zip Cody, Lesa Bezo, Henning Olenbusch, F. Alex Johnson, Terry Flood, Scott Hall, Dave Durst, Flora Reed, Philip Price, Ray Mason, Kay McKinstry and Steve Sanderson.

All proceeds from this show will go to a fund yet to be created by the Northampton Arts Council to assist working touring musicians.

While the Drunk Stuntmen are a Northampton-based band, Brandon and his fellow musicians have close ties here in Franklin County.

“Technically we are a Franklin County band,” said Steve Sanderson, the lead singer/guitarist for the Stuntmen. “We literally started at 25 Bridge St. in Montague Center, and our first gig was at the Montague Bookmill.”

The group also honed their chops at local venues like Taylor’s Tavern and the defunct Green River Cafe, both located in Greenfield.

When Carol Cameron and the late Jamie Synder took over ownership of The Route 63 Roadhouse in 2003, the Drunk Stuntmen soon found the perfect home for their rootsy rock music. The band played at the Roadhouse so frequently. It was as if they were the unofficial house band. The shows were raucous affairs that had the crowd up and dancing as soon as the first note was played. Be it a regular ole’ Saturday night or a special event like New Year’s Eve, it was a party every time the Stuntmen played in Millers Falls.

“It was always so wonderful to have them play the club,” recalled Cameron. “It was always one of my favorite nights when they were there.”

Sanderson agrees that the Roadhouse years were a special time in the band’s career.

Cameron said that she became close to the band members, including Brandon, during this time. While she has not seen him in recent years, she was deeply saddened to learn of his passing.

“When you first met Bow, he was always quiet and reserved, but that’s not really who he was,” said Cameron. “Once he got to know you, he’d open up more, and he always had these quips of wisdom — just things he would say, and they were always so appropriate for the time.”

Cameron’s recollections of Brandon were filled with laughter, like the time she recalled him climbing up on the steps of the Roadhouse to play “The Star Spangled Banner” on his trumpet to open the yearly horse shoe tournament that the Stuntmen hosted at the club (and played “Taps” when they lost.) “It was just perfect, and he would give you that impish little smile,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing that I remember about him.”

In addition to his good humor and warmth, Cameron appreciated his talents as a musician.

“Everyone who knew Brandon, knew that he lived for music. He loved playing it and also was an avid, knowledgeable fan who enjoyed everything from jazz to rock.”

According to Sanderson, Brandon’s greatest passion was touring, which is something that the Stuntmen did a lot of until recent years. Sanderson added that’s why a fund is being established in Brandon’s honor to aid touring musicians.

Because the Stuntmen were not on the road a lot in recent years, Brandon directed his energy elsewhere. He played in a rockabilly band with musicians Rich Murnane and Scott Lawson Pomeroy — both of whom will perform at Sunday night’s tribute.

Brandon also established a popular Facebook page called, “The Haiku Wednesday Fiasco,” which became a Facebook phenomenon and inspired hundreds to write haiku poetry. Poet Mary Anne Kent, who cites Brandon as an inspiration and the first person to publish her work, will be at the tribute to read some of her work.

The format for the Sunday night show is that each performer will play a couple of songs, followed by the Drunk Stuntmen, who will close out the evening. Ray Mason, Dave Hayes and Miranda Brown will share Brandon’s bass duties for this show. It will certainly be a difficult night for the Stuntmen, who will step on stage for the first time without their band mate of many years.

“I’m trying to grow a thicker skin so the show won’t be an emotional mess,” said Sanderson, with a laugh. “But I think what’s going to happen is that everyone is going to rise to the occasion and the music is going to be amazing.”

Advance tickets are $13 and are available online at: www.iheg.com or at the Northampton Box Office or by calling 413-586-8686. Doors for the show open at 5:30 p.m. The Iron Horse is at 20 Center St. in Northampton.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com