R.I.P. Jukebox 1953-2013

As most of you have probably already heard John Thomas Jackson, better known to most as "Jukebox", founding member and former lead guitarist of the Hickoids passed away last Saturday (November 16th) in Ouray, Colorado. To say that Jukebox was a colorful individual in all aspects of his life is an understatement. He will never be forgotten by anyone that ever had the pleasure of crossing paths with him.

Below is a personal eulogy I posted on Facebook earlier this week. We have added 5 tunes that highlight his guitar work from our first two releases "We're In It For The Corn" and "Hard Corn" to our Reverbnation player for free download. We hope you enjoy. We'll be back with another e-mail next week featuring some happier news. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and fans for the loss of the man who played such a big part in our lives and the band.

- Jeff Smith/Hickoids

It has taken me awhile to digest the death of Jukebox. I know many of you have messaged me wanting to know specifics I didn’t have, I apologize for the delay.

I’d like to preface all this by saying that Jukebox was my best friend for several years in the mid-80’s. We’d been largely estranged for the past 25 years, partly due to some fairly inconsequential band stuff, more so due to geography and ...pride on both our parts. When I found out on Sunday that he had passed away I was enveloped by a wave of guilt for not having actually spoken with him in the past several years, and not letting him know that I cared about him, loved him and wished him well with whatever it was he was doing. But, as those who knew him are aware he could only be found when he wanted to be found and communicated with in his own time. That doesn’t excuse my inaction-- but it wouldn’t have been as simple a proposition as just picking up the phone and calling him.

Here is what I do know about his death. He had recently been treated for a blood clot at a hospital in Colorado. He was supposed to return for some follow up treatment but did not for whatever reason. He died of a pulmonary aneurysm on Saturday November 16th in Ouray, Colorado. His real name was John Thomas Jackson. He was 60 years old (born August 2nd 1953) and had recently began to collect Social Security. He leaves behind a mother, sister and brother.

I met Jukebox when I was 17 or 18 (he was ten years my elder). He was different from anyone I had met in my fairly sheltered existence up to that time. Jukebox was street smart but could toss off a lot of country wisdom. He was one of the folks around Austin at that time (along with Prince and Biscuit, notably) who bridged the counter-cultures of 60‘s and 70’s hippie philosophy with the newer punk ethos. He made a living selling psilocybin mushrooms.

He had an outlandish sense of style...favoring bright colors and loud patterns, manly baubles, trucker or cowboy hats, sunglasses, and in almost any weather his trademark short-short cut-off jeans that would quite often reveal one testicle or the other. Somehow he managed to tie this all together into a look that was simultaneously punk, western and not at all gay seeming. Homeboy knew how to accessorize. On his worst fashion day he showed more balls (literally and figuratively) and imagination than 10,000 hipster tattoos.

I have no recollection of where we first met, but I’m thinking it was at a show or party, probably at Club Foot or “The Colony” (a particularly run down West Campus apartment complex, something of a glorified squat) where I believe he was living at the time. We started hanging out -- drinking whatever was handy, smoking pot and of course, eating mushrooms. In the summer of 1983 he told me that he wanted to start a band with me. I’m not sure that I even really knew that he could play guitar at that time but he was an interesting and funny cat so I was game. We started writing songs, mostly from chord progressions he’d already had in the works. It quickly became apparent that he was a lot more accomplished than I would have ever dreamed. He could play rock and country styles well and employed the whammy bar in a fairly inimitable manner, combining the recklessness and power of Jimi Hendrix with pulls similar in feel to a pedal steel guitarist. He was easily the best and most original guitarist I’d play with up to that time, and still the most original to this day.

We accomplished a great deal in the short amount of time we played in the Hickoids together. What I can remember of the first couple of years of the band were the most fun I’ve ever had, a crazy dream where things just keep getting better, so much so that you never want to wake up. I owe much of that to him. I know that he carried hard feelings about his exit from the band but this is not the time to examine that or cast judgment. I will always be proud of what we made together.

He would talk at great length about a desire to “go live with the Indians”, and about how he thought the modern world was all fucked up. His spiritual longing was real but the West and the Indians he was looking for had all disappeared when “Little Big Man” wrapped production. Serenity and peace seemed to constantly evade him.

Women also caused him great consternation. He was handsome and could be very charming --- but would go from “hello” to “we’re gonna’ get married!” in the space of twenty minutes. His heart seemed always to be broken. I believe he gave up on love after the second of two long-term relationships I know of.

I say all this not to disrespect or belittle the man I knew but to let you into the window of time that we spent together. He was an outlaw, a dreamer, a romantic, a talented visual artist and brilliant visionary musician always at odds with circumstance, the world, himself and often those around him.

It’s not any secret that he burned many bridges, usually with those closest to him. He was a survivor and took what he felt he needed, not out of greed or a sense of entitlement, but as a result of this instinct. If you knew him you forgave this because you realized that he couldn’t help himself and also knew that he could be very generous. His sense of morality was entirely his own construct tempered by all these qualities and shortcomings and he didn’t play by anyone’s rules.

He was a small town hustler and would-be shaman with big dreams, a heart of gold and a silver tongue more suited to live at the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th Century than in today’s world. He was a perpetual outsider and definitely the truest rebel I’ve ever been close to.

Jukebox - I hope you find all the things that escaped you in this life on the other side. I hope you will forgive me for not letting you know that I understood and respected you for who you were while you were still on this earth.

I will always carry some of you with me brother.

I wish you peace my friend.

Posted on 11/22/13