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Jeff Avery - Gone.... But Not Forgotten

Updated: Jun 2


It has been over a year, 9/11/22, since the world lost an incredibly talented musician, our friend, Jeffrey Floyd Avery. I Initially postponed a memorial for Jeff at the request of his wife. But as the time flies, suffering losses of relatives, friends (including member of DC Star security detail “Big Daddy” Chuck Miles) and being embroiled in my brother’s life who fell under my guardianship, it has taken until now to dignify this tribute to Jeff Avery.

Thank you for reading on and sharing the love.  

 

Major details of DC Star’s history are outlined on the DC Star webpages via the “ABOUT” tab. I’ll try not to be redundant for those who already know about us and focus instead on friendship and Jeff’s musical accomplishments other than DC Star.

 

I first saw Jeff playing in a group called “SYN” with high school classmates, "Wonderman" Wade Richards on drums and Billy “Breakbone” Baker on bass. My friend Bill Smith (who was giving me guitar lessons) and I were astonished with the band especially the 16-year old Jeff Avery singing and playing tunes by Cream, Grand Funk Railroad and Black Sabbath note for note. In addition to being bass player and drummer, Billy Baker and Wade Richards were Jeff’s best friends. Their friendships passed all the tests of time even decades after they had both left the band.  



Billy "Breakbone" Baker, Yesterday and Today



"Wonderman" Wade Richards, Yesterday and Today


Soon after we started hanging out and playing music, Jeff answered the mystery of how he had gotten so good. In addition to the fact that Jeff was a natural prodigy and had perfect pitch; When he was 13 he discovered that by putting 12” 33 RPM record albums on older turntables (that also ran at 16 ½ speed for ancient philharmonic records) at 16 ½ speed a 33 RPM record plays the same notes in a lower octave and at one half of the actual speed. With Jeff’s innate talent, playing along at half speed allowed him to learn every lick, note for note, phrasing bends and nuances exactly like the originals. Then he would turn the record’s speed back to 33 and perfect the licks twice as fast - at their normal speed. This is the same method used by guitar impresario Eddie Van Halen who divulged “his secret” decades later.

 


Jeff and I hit it off instantly and he became a musical partner, mentor, inspiration, teacher, and my friend. Jeff was so gifted that after helping me get much better on guitar, he became quite a capable keyboard player without ever taking a formal lesson. Personality wise Jeff Avery was a fun, good natured, music loving “cream-puff” of a guy who was easy going and easy to like.

 

Wade Richards left SYN to drum for full time rock band “Sassafras Tea.” So Jeff and bassist Billy Baker joined Bill Smith and I, and along with schoolmate John Thomas on drums; we started our first band “Spring Fever”. It marked the beginning of my 17-year run of playing in bands with Jeff Avery. When Spring Fever disbanded, Jeff, Bill Baker and I started the band “Medusa” with the late Warren Early on drums. This band also marked the arrival of Kenny Taylor on lead vocals. As time went on Billy was replaced on bass by Henry Farmer. And when Warren Early left the band Wade Richards joined. After a short spell named “Tryst” we became “STARZ” which later “morphed” into “DC Star”. Drummer Pat McGowan replaced Wade when the band recorded their first single “Blue Sparks” but was replaced a year later by Glenn Jones. The lineup that assaulted New York was set.



When contemplating an article about Jeff, the first title that came to mind was; “Boys to Men”. Spanning 17 crazy years that took us from 16-year-old long haired kids to 33-year-old seasoned veterans of the music industry, those mutually shared experiences surely took Jeff and I from boys to men … and beyond. After Kenny hooked up with us, we were hell on wheels … although Kenny was too young yet to even drive.


Jeff’s first car, a broken-down Mini Cooper, was at Ken’s house without tags and needed to get to Clinton so we could work on it. So Ken’s brother David took the rear tag off his (454cc) Firebird and put it on the back of Jeff’s car and would tow it. At that time the area was way back in the country. Jeff was living at Kenny’s at the time so I went on home. Leaving after 3am Dave and Kenny towed Jeff down Floral Park Road with a big rope but halfway there they got pulled over, arrested, and Jeff’s car was impounded. Ha!

 

Kenny’s mother Joyce Taylor was known as "Mama T" and looked after us like chicks of her brood. Jeff’s crowded home life was so strained he moved in with the Taylors and lived with them until graduating from high school. Joyce was like a 2nd mother to all of us but me most of all when she learned about my mother’s serious illness. Along with Kenny’s late brother David we all became close friends. In our final years of high school our troubled home lives disintegrated and we quickly became the DC Star family.  

 

You can only imagine: we went from getting driver’s licenses, drinking, losing our virginities, and graduating from high school, to quitting jobs and dropping out of college, moving 6-7 times over 18 years while cohabitating, racking up over 400,000 miles traveling in the same vehicles and going through breakups with women, divorces, and finally; deaths of friends, relatives and even parents … Together.  

    

Being introverted as he was, Jeff spent a lot of time playing and left more of the hell raising up to Ken and I. But the three of us named ourselves “The KGV” standing for Keyboards, Guitars and Vocals; and those were ours to deliver. Jeff was keen at deconstructing the parts of songs we covered and was also good at building vocal harmonies. Those experiences we shared writing, rehearsing and performing would fill chapters about love, jealousy, success, elation and abject failure that make up the lives of young artists.

 

After Glenn Jones and Henry Farmer rounded out the band, Glenn took over the logistics of our road crew and (money) travel arrangements. This left us other four anxious rockers to go on bicycle rides and get into all kinds of mischief when we weren’t working. We were the “DC Star Front-Four Foursome” and played tennis every chance we got. We deemed our grudge matches “The Wimpy-ton” tournaments with asinine adventures, and a little petty vandalism sprinkled in, also worthy of a chapter in the book.

 

Jeff was an avid sports fan and earned nicknames over the years after his favorite athletes. As the list grew we edited a name out or added somebody new until Jeff’s last official sports-joe nickname was: “Azizuddin / Kareem-Abdul / Macken-Ripken / Palmer / Raouf”.  

 

Driving hundreds of thousands of miles together in the same van certainly brings people together. You get a Whole Lotta … Time and then figure out how to kill it. Radio stations faded in and out as we searched for Cab Calloway tunes so Jeff could lead us singing songs like “Minnie The Moocher” and other tunes of the era. Jeff was a master of Richard Pryor jokes and imitated him perfectly. That earned him the short nickname of “Toolum” a hapless epithet from Pryor’s story “Mudbone”. But the nickname used most frequently for Jeff by the other band members was “Bry”, simply short for “Bro” … when you’re trashed. As in: “Hey, Bry … where are you driving to? Hey Bry ... Are we there yet” … or “Hey Bry … want another shot?”.

 

On that note, Jeff, Glenn and I did the majority of DC Star driving because Kenny and Henry went through jags when their licenses were suspended. Once when Jeff was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike (everyone else was asleep) I lit a pack of “Black Cat” firecrackers and threw them in the front of the van. There were 30 or more that flew all over, exploding in the air and everywhere else. Everybody was yelling and hollering as the van filled with smoke and careened back and forth across the 4 lanes of Turnpike. Doctor Gonzo (Glenn) would have killed me except for my high rank in the songwriting department … dear Jeff. He was such a good natured and laid-back guy that he was often the victim of cruel but harmless jokes, usually pranked by Kenny and I. Two full time purveyors of monkey business.



After our successful 10-year run, Kenny Taylor and Glenn Jones decided to leave DC Star. If the band had folded we would have had to declare bankruptcy so Jeff, Henry and I agreed to soldier on until our collectable bank loans were all paid. Myles Evans jumped in on drums and John Frederick became the front man for the band’s last year of steady gigging.

 

When we finally broke up, other than DC Star reunions, it was the last time I performed at that level. I was becoming aware of neurological issues that eventually robbed me of my playing abilities. And, after taking a job in the construction fastener business I could never afford to look back …. So, it’s fair to say: That I, David Simmons, spent my entire 17-year performing career standing next to Jeff Avery. He was a gifted musician; the exact person I needed to add his skills to our compositions and the battering ram bands we built together.

 

In 1988 Jeff and I were still living in a townhouse in Essex MD. We were there, along with my co-writer Ray McCrory, for another year. Then I moved in with my first wife Cindy and step-son Tyler and Jeff moved to Crofton, half way between Baltimore and DC. Before we parted ways, I knew our relationship would change; but never anticipated that over the next 30 years, other than DC Star reunions, I would only see Jeff 2 or 3 times. It’s just as one of my favorite quotes goes: “Life … It comes at ya’ fast” … Wow. Here, and gone.

 

In my fondest memories of Jeff he will always be just as he appears in the opening “Portrait Vignette”, a 28 year old world beater, just as I was … as were we all in 1984. Jeff may be gone but I will never forget him. Nor will anyone else who called Jeff Avery a friend.

 

Jeff’s first project after DC Star was working with Bob Feister in his band “Dreamer”. With the club circuit in disarray, Dreamer’s focus was more on recording original material than playing live shows. Their keyboardist Mike Salas had written a song DC Star recorded as part of our last demo sessions for Atlantic. Dreamer spring-boarded from there working with College Park music producer Ray Tilkins. And as most professional musicians must, Jeff also jumped into a full-time live band with high school classmate Jimmy Lally named “Detour”. Jeff started singing more lead vocals at that time and became more of a frontman.



Unfortunately, Dreamer demos never led to major label interest and for Detour the live music circuit was struggling. Jeff’s friend and roommate Victor Temple told him about the HVAC trade which led to Jeff joining the Steamfitters Union Local 602. Jeff worked as a union mechanic while doing music projects on the side until 1991. That was when southern rock road warriors “Great Train Robbery” came calling and invited him to jam with the band.

 

The group GTR (as they are widely known) formed in 1977, the same year as DC Star. With lots of experience and high ambitions on their mind Jeff joined and set off to conquer the world and snag that coveted recording contract. And work, they did, and hard. And the hard partying goes right along with it. Curiously; you will note in the picture of GTR that Jeff and keyboard player Kurt have no mustaches. In my memory, Jeff had a mustache when I met him when he was 16 years old and had a mustache for the whole time we played together. When he joined GTR everybody had mustaches. So Jeff and Kurt shaved theirs and for the first time Jeff went with the clean shaven look and it stuck for a good while.



After 14 years of touring and recording GTR had built up a solid following. But when Jeff teamed up with their front man and guitarist John Giles, the 2-man power punch resulted in explosive new shows and was a driving force behind GTR’s 1994 release “Texas Highway”. Texas Highway garnered interest from labels that led to offers through an indie promoter. But sadly, red tape and small print in GTR’s management contract caused the band to fall short of landing a major deal. Jeff Avery left GTR in 1996 and guitarist John Giles moved to Nashville shortly thereafter. The band GTR carries on to this day commandeered by bassist Dave Capozzoli.


 mar

After another letdown, Jeff moved back to his hometown Clinton, MD and began working as a steamfitter again. When Jeff married his longtime girlfriend Linda in October of 2002 they had a party near the water at Kenny’s house in Accokeek, MD. There was a jam session for fun and Kenny played bass when Henry Farmer couldn’t make it down from NY. It was a wiry musical mashup like “I Drink Alone” and “Wishing Well” to Rolling Stones favorites and ZZ Top. The party went by in a haze. I was late getting there from Baltimore due to traffic and only got a couple pictures before jumping in the jam for an hour or so. Jeff looked a lot like his first major influence Eric Clapton, when he was young and even moreso later in life. He sure as hell played like him.



Jeff always managed his time to include performing and recording. For a while he played in a band called “The Shot” and still played with “Detour” who amassed a big name in corporate and festival gigs. The Detour photo is courtesy of drummer Buffalo Lee Jordan.


Most notably Jeff showed off his favorite blues and jazzy playing styles with “The Carl Hupp Project” on percussionist Carl Hupp’s 2004 “Hyperstatue” album and “Live at Orion” in 2005. Here is a great track “Talk to your daughter” featuring Jeff's blazing, blues guitar from the “Live” release. Its followed by a jazz-fusion cut "Paper or Plastic" from “Hyperstatue” that punctuates the diversity of Jeff’s musical interests and talent. At the end of the article there is also a link to "Seven for Seven" from “Hyperstatue” which was co-written by Jeff.



 

 

While back to work in the HVAC business Jeff put together a plan to give guitar lessons online. It was a novel concept but fueled only with his love to play, and little knowledge or understanding of that early online space, it didn’t get much traction. But the videos clearly showed: Jeff Avery loved playing music. It was at the heart of his innermost nature.

 

After DC Star vocalist Kenny Taylor passed in 2011 “Hot Licks”, the music store where Ken had been giving vocal lessons, sponsored a cancer benefit featuring members of DC Star. I warned people promoting the event that I was in Nashville on important appointments that day but the event was scheduled anyway. Henry Farmer’s son Eric Dalton sang lead vocals at the jam, joined by DC Star members Jeff Avery, Henry Farmer and Glenn Jones. Local guitar hero Frank Clark, the leader of popular southern Maryland cult rockers “Frankie and the Actions” took the stage in my absence to round out the group.


At the time Frank was contemplating the reinvention of his long-running band. After having such fun at the benefit, Frank asked Jeff Avery if he wanted to hook up with he and bassist Jeff Huffman and start a new band. Avery agreed and they named the band “Last Remains”. A year later drummer Mike Mann left and Frankie asked DC Star drummer Glenn Jones if he would like to jump into the group. And voila … Glenn and Jeff were united again.



With the strong cult following from “Frankie” and fans of DC Star & GTR, Last Remains became quite the popular classic rock party band. For the next couple years they filled clubs throughout southern Maryland. Sometime later Jeff decided to only play part time due to health issues and finally left the band permanently in 2014. The group played on without Jeff through 2018, even performing arena Led Zeppelin tribute concerts under the name “Hammer of The Gods”.

 

Back to his hazardous job as a steamfitter, Jeff hurt his arm 2018 and couldn’t play for a while. He went on disability with the union and never returned to work before he retired. While this was going on, Frank Clark, who had become close friends with Jeff, had major health crises of his own. And just when he seemed to be back, sadly, Frank Clark passed away 5/8/2020. It was a heavy blow to everyone especially Jeff.

 

The COVID era was heavy at hand. It was an awful time for everyone especially musicians with nowhere to play and nowhere else to make money. The isolation was too much for so many and like so many others, Jeff’s health issues including COPD became acute as he spiraled into depression. Many of us knew Jeff wasn’t doing well and tried reaching out to him to no avail. But none of us expected when he was first hospitalized, he would quietly pass away barely over a week later on September 11th, 2022. When he learned of Jeff's dire condition, Glenn Jones rushed from South Carolina to the hospital to meet Jeff's wife Linda. He arrived just in time to say farewell. It was the day after the DC Star “Unfinished Business” Trilogy souvenir CDs that Jeff would never get to hear were delivered to my doorstep.

 

Although it is long overdue; I am relieved to finally publish a fitting tribute to Jeff Avery.

He was a good friend and person who had nothing but music in his heart and soul.

Looking back, we were so young and worked so hard we took friendship for granted.

 

In retrospect I realized how close Jeff and I really were. This, in spite of the fact that in life; we were truly Felix and Oscar. The musical Odd Couple. I was Felix for sure with Felix the Cat mixed in.  And Oscar, Jeff was. With relish. I always knew; When there were no dishes or bowls in the kitchen, they were all in Jeff’s room. Just waiting for room service.

 

As the Bad Company song goes on …

“When you listen to the wind blow you can still hear him play …

“Don’t you know? Don’t you know?”


“Don’t you know that you are a Shooting Star … Don’t you know? …”


Rest In Eternal Peace

 Jeffrey Floyd Avery

And with the fondest memories of our great friend Chuck Miles …

Rest in Peace as well “Big Daddy”

 

David Simmons

David and Goliath Music

 



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4 Comments


This was a really great read.. And this may seem random, but, did you know Patrick McGowan personally? Or have any photos of him?

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This was such a joy to read, Dave! Jeff was such a wonderfully talented, gentle man whom I will never forget. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul.

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Such a touching tribute to Jeff "Maha Vicious" Avery. I can see him reading this with his crooked grin crossing his face from time to time. Some of the best times in my life were spent with you guys. I would like t think that he and Kenny are jamming. Thank you for sharing so deeply from the warm chambers of your heart. God bless you, my brother.

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Good Job Dave...I met Jeff back in the day through my younger brother Tom. During breaks at gigs I would approach Jeff and say Hi. He would say Hi Tom. We would chat until Tom would walk up and Jeff would see Tom and realize that I was Mark and Tom was Tom. We would all laugh...It happened all the time. I still get a smile on face thinking about it.

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