It’s been 5 years since I last heard from my cousin, Will T. Massey. He had already reduced contact during the prior year as he started slipping back into the shadows of his schizophrenia. He would call or text me but would not answer my texts or calls. I could see the deterioration but could do nothing about it.
One week prior to his last call, I had been with Will when I got word that our house in Austin had sold. Will was literally the first person to know. He didn’t react much to the news, but I suspect I slipped over into the questionable column in his mind: I would be leaving. I had been his ace in the hole more than once while he battled his demons. But that was in Austin — and we were moving to Colorado. That meant I would not be available to help him once we left.
I said “No,” to Will on that last day 5 years ago. Moreover, it was the second “No” in a row to his request for me to ferry him to his bank. I said no just before Christmas because I’d just driven him only a week before. He was pushing me to drive him on this errand weekly, but the “errand” required nearly two-and-a-half hours driving for me. He had a wild idea about getting his family to pay me a drivers’ stipend so he could have me drive him more, but I told him I already drove him whenever I could. Making me some kind of paid driver would not change that.
I should have known better about the 27th, though. It being Will’s birthday, I should have known he would want a ride and made myself available accordingly. But our son, Lucas, was home from college for the holidays and it was time for annual medical checkups. So, I had scheduled both dental and eye appointments on the 27th without thinking about Will. Sure enough, Will called. And I had to say “No.” And he never called back nor responded to any of my attempts to contact him after that.
I wrote about this in greater depth 4 years ago and that’s a better telling of Will’s story. He’s just been on my mind and it’s hard not to think about him on his birthday and wonder where he is and what he is doing. I remain hopeful that he might still emerge again from the darkness.
Meanwhile, I will continue to blog about him and his music. In addition to the over 70 songs with lyrics I’ve published here, I’ve also reposted the blogging I did in 2006 from the 2-week tour when he returned triumphantly to Italy, where he had a fervent fan base from 15 years earlier. Since I have been blogging about Will, I have also heard from several people who remember seeing him years ago as a rising star.
I will continue publishing Will’s songs here. There are still so many more to share. But I want to do more to bring Will’s music to light, especially now that he is not actively adding to the already voluminous catalog. I just don’t want the world to miss out on Will’s legacy.
To that end, I plan to work on a project called “Mansion of Memories” — a phrase from “I Ain’t Here,” the opening song to Will’s MCA album. It seems appropriate to an effort dedicated to collecting more of Will’s music, from both recordings and live performances, to keep it available for the future. With the the song collection here and various YouTube videos on my Casa Dexter channel, I’ve already laid the foundation for building that mansion of memories.
I’ve shared a few songs from the Flipnotics recordings made by George Fremin as part of the collection of Will’s songs. Listening to those recordings makes me want to arrange additional post-production and release of those recordings, both as a series of full show recordings and as selected songs. The Grateful Dead used a similar two-track release for live recordings with great success. There is another model for releasing archival recordings in the Roky Erickson CD club, a fan group that has collected all known recordings of Roky, studio and live, and makes them available to other fans.
Will may not be as well known as the Dead or Roky, but I know from that Italy tour and the comments I regularly receive when I write about him that there are Will T. Massey aplenty out there to support this concept.
Beyond the release of the Flipnotics recordings, I see a Will T. Massey songbook, hopefully with appropriately evocative photos or illustrations. A number of his songs would lend themselves nicely to being made into framed art pieces with lyrics and matching image. A tribute album of some of Will’s songs recorded by other musicians would be an amazing — but appropriate — crowning victory for the “Mansion of Memories.”
Highly unlikely, sure — but dreaming big is exactly how Will did it. Only seems appropriate to try and match his bravado when building his Mansion of Memories.