I was very saddened to hear that the touring crew of the Drive-By Truckers suffered a MAJOR loss today. In fact, the whole world is poorer for losing a good, funny, kind man in Craig Lieske. Craig served as DBT’s “Merch Guy” for close to ten years. As a long time fan, I saw a lot of Craig at the Rock Shows, and he always had a smile and a story, if you had the time. He was a hell of a guitar player too. He died very suddenly last night after playing what is said to have been a GREAT set with his band Thundercrack. “I can’t die now…I’ve got another show to do…”
The last time I saw Craig was at the Pageant here in St. Louis–the night the Cardinals won the World Series, no less. I’m not sure if he recognized me or not–though many people online contend he recognized EVERYBODY if you ever talked to him… But he was so, so kind when we talked. I was wearing the shirt I bought at my very first DBT show (circa 2003-2004?) and he did a little bit of a double-take on it. He said, “Man, where’d you get THAT?!” and I said, “I bought it about 10 years ago from (drummer) Brad’s WIFE when SHE was running the merch!” Craig paused, then his eyes got wide and he gave me a big “WOOOOOOOOW!” and a slap on the back.
In the past, Craig has knocked a few bucks off a purchase or two once he’s realized you’re a regular. I have this poster hanging on my wall.
In the corner, you can see a post-it with the price on it (which, incidentally, Craig wrote himself).
He sold that to me for half-price because it was the last one and he’d been using it in the display. The poster’s now a nice memory of a great concert…but also a nice memory of Craig. I’m glad I didn’t take off the post-it when I framed it.
Craig would often jump up on stage with the band during their encore and play a little lead guitar. He seemed to get a kick out of it any time I’d ask, “We gonna see you on stage tonight?” before the shows. Last time I asked he said, “Probably not, since they got me back here tonight” (the Pageant has a merch room that’s outside of the main stage area) “but thanks for asking!” Always cordial. A Southern gentleman. Pissed off that I’m not going to hear him play “Buttholeville” again. (Yes. “Buttholeville.” I can’t excuse everything they’ve ever written…)
I’ve got a handful of other stories I could tell about brushes with Craig. But I’m almost starting to feel like I’m bragging and dropping names. The truth is that Craig and I weren’t on a first name basis. We weren’t best friends. We never visited each others houses, and we didn’t keep in touch between stops to St. Louis on a 500-day-a-year touring juggernaut…
But god damn it, it sucks that he’s dead.
Over 10+ years of following a band, sometimes you feel a little bit like you KNOW them…but Craig is the first merch-guy I ever felt that way about. Probably the last. Rest in peace Craig. See you at the Rock Show in the sky.