Belated RIP to Frank Hackney

Last night I played bass at Rumples Pub on Main Street in St. Charles with the Michael Feldman Group.  The gig went well.  Lots of friends came out to see us, and the bar had a good ebb and flow of foot-traffic that made the numbers pretty good throughout the night.  A lot of people hung out on their patio area that was a few degrees cooler than the inside of the pub.  It was right at that level of hot that the air really should have been on, but at the same time it wasn’t quite worth firing it up either.  They opted to open the doors and try to create a breeze that never really found us…but if it had it would’ve been a nice night.  🙂  As it was, it was a little hot, but the crowd was good and the folks who run the bar are good people (and make an EXCELLENT prime rib, by the way!).  So it was fine.

However, I was saddened to hear that one of the good people from Rumples is no longer with us.  I found out when Mike dedicated a song to him that the bar’s owner up through last year, Frank Hackney had passed away after a battle with brain cancer.

I’d only met Frank a few times, and I think in those times we only had one real conversation, so we weren’t best friends or anything.  But I liked him.  He had a reputation in the area as being an excellent musician and a crabby but loveable old curmudgeon.  That seems about right from what I could tell.  He had all the saltiness (not a word!) of a seasoned musician/bar owner, but there was a heart of gold under there too.

The first time I met Frank was at a two-fer gig with Mike.  We played two nights back to back at Rumples.  The night before New Year’s Eve and then again ON New Year’s Eve.  I remember on the first night, Frank showed up briefly and we were in full swing.  The night had gotten going and we were playing song after song in rapid succession.  The crowd was into it and it was going well.  At one point, Frank came over, gave us a thumbs-up and said, “Good job Mike.”  That’s about as good as it gets when you’re playing a bar—if the owner’s having a good time, you’re doing something right.  (Even more-so when you know the bar owner’s also a musician.)

The next night was New Year’s Eve and that’s the night I actually got to have a few words with Frank.  I’ve played a lot of bars and met a lot of owners, but the conversation I had with Frank was very different from most and sticks out in my mind.  I don’t remember if I introduced myself or if he introduced himself first…but I remember him asking how long I’d been playing with Mike (he and Mike were friends).  Then he went on just to ask me stuff about my life.  “So what’s your day job? What do you do for fun?” etc.  He laughed a good belly-laugh when I told him that I was (at the time) “a Librarian—quiet by day, loud at night.”  It was my stock line in those days, and Frank liked it.  Most bar owners don’t ask you those kind of questions and they’re certainly not nice enough to laugh at your jokes.

Later that night, Frank ended up being very funny by accident.  It was coming close to the time for the countdown to the New Year, so the band stopped playing and Frank took to the microphone and turned on the TV for the local countdown.  He started counting. “10…9…8…7…” and he got all the way down to “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”  The only problem was that he’d looked at the TV wrong.  He’d been counting down from the SECONDS, but there was a full minute left when he got to zero.  We all just kind of went with it, then he realized his mistake and said, “Oh the hell with it.”  The band started playing again and Frank brought out bottles of champagne.  He was trying to fire the cork of one bottle across the room and make a big splash of foam, but it just kinda flopped out of the bottle and nothing happened.  Can’t win ’em all…but it stuck with me as a memory of a fun, funny, good guy.

And it’s a shame that there’s one less of those in the world now.