Kevin Sutter

He died.

Shortly after my ex-wife moved out, in the spring of ’89, I heard from two people, Daniel Glass and Kevin Sutter. This had nothing to do with my ex being gone, it was serendipitous, but both of these connections served me well over the years, got me through the nineties, which were hell. The fact that I got through them at all was a miracle. I was broke, my dad died, I had an horrific operation…if it weren’t for psychotherapy, I never would have made it through, I wouldn’t be here right now.

Ironically both Daniel and Kevin had worked together at Chrysalis, but Kevin had moved on to RCA, he was staying at Le Parc, where he always stayed thereafter, at least until his fortunes took a turn for the worse, and I believe we went out for sushi, some kind of meal, and then in the bowels of the building, in the parking garage, he slipped a cassette into the tape deck of his rental car and he played me the new Silencers album, “A Blues for Buddha.”

You probably don’t know that record, it was their first one that had the semi hit “Painted Moon,” but “A Blues for Buddha” is also spectacular, and it begins with the song “Answer Me,” which fades in like a pied piper coming over a hill and then lights into a groove and it’s undeniable.

Kevin turned me on to other records, I remember one by Slim Dunlap, but that was after he’d moved to Seattle to work with Jim McKeon.

You see Kevin was a promotion man. A salesman. He started off at CBS in Buffalo, after RCA he worked at East West, but then the major label gigs dried up. For a while there, radio promo people were making seven figures, not that Kevin was ever in that league, but even a regional guy did very well in those years, and they were mostly guys, but there have been spectacular female promotion people too.

And once you get the music business bug, you can’t let it go. It’s very hard to go straight. First you go independent, hoping it’s just an interim gig, before you land another major label job. Then you go to work for somebody else on a full time basis, an established indie, and then ultimately you work for yourself, on ever more minor records.

And this was in an era when there were still six major labels. And the casts changed on a regular basis. That’s not so true anymore, then again the labels don’t have the power they used to, they’re sharing it with the promoters.

So Jim McKeon was a radio guy who’d set up an indie shop in Seattle and Kevin moved there. The timing was right, he was just breaking up with his wife. He never got remarried, and neither did Glynnis. Actually, I never heard of another girlfriend. Glynnis called him for a while, from Arizona, where she had a relative, where she’d gone to get a gig in the airline business, but I haven’t gotten a report recently, that all dried up.

I got the impression that Glynnis’s family always thought Kevin wasn’t good enough for her. They’d met in Buffalo. Neither graduated from college. But Glynnis’s family was full of high achievers, her father was a doctor. And Kevin was arrested his first night at college.

It was somewhere in the Midwest, Memphis I recall, I can’t remember the name of the institution, but it was a wrong place wrong time kind of situation, and college did not stick.

As for Kevin’s background, he came from the Island. As in Long Island. And I remember his father was ill, from either a work accident or something from birth, and had passed, and Kevin was flying high in the music business…

And then he was not.

Kevin was doing well in Seattle. Ultimately McKeon left and Kevin ran the operation himself. He had a car, one of those early Acuras with that sloping rear end. And then a boat. And he insisted I come visit him. This I did. In the summer of ’93.

You see Kevin called me every week, not to pitch me, but to talk. In an era when my phone did not ring. He introduced me to his pal Jeff Laufer, who’d also worked at Chrysalis, and I fell in with Jeff’s family, they were very good to me.

But when my fortunes started to turn, upon the arrival of the new century, I…was ultimately too busy to talk to Kevin for an hour every week. And he did not have a computer at first. You may not remember those days, when everybody was not computer literate, but that was the case in the music business until about ten or twelve years ago, when computers were easier to use and there was no choice.

But then I heard that Kevin had a heart problem.

It’s a terrible story. Business had gone bad. Kevin had to sell his boat, and then his car, and then he let his health insurance lapse.

And that’s when it happens.

He went for help a little too late, but he made it through and was upbeat. Most of the time Kevin was upbeat.

And he was really into collecting physical product, especially DVDs, that was his idea of a good time, to pull up one of his DVDs and watch a movie. He continued to do that.

And he continued to be an indie promotion man. With ever more obscure indie records.

But last fall he called it quits. Or maybe it was the fall before, I’d have to look at my e-mail to be sure, and I don’t feel like doing that, it will wound me further. He said he was fed up, it was too hard, with too little money.

He moved from the city to the suburbs, and ultimately his mother died and I heard he was going to inherit some money, which I felt good about, he’d make it through.

But then when I wrote about not taking Social Security early, he immediately e-mailed me angry. He had to take Social Security. His accountant told him it was the only way he could make it through.

But Kevin continued to e-mail me. Especially when I wrote something political. You see Kevin was a dyed-in-the-wool left winger. A classic liberal. He was pissed off the way things were going and he was not afraid of saying so. And Kevin knew the story, he was not uninformed. It made me feel good to hear from him.

But I won’t hear from him anymore.

I remember Kevin was a couple of years younger than I am. He was tallish, slim, never overweight, and always alive, he was optimistic. But he could be intense, almost all promo people can be that way, especially when they feel a favor is not being repaid.

And now Kevin is gone.

The details? I don’t know them, I might never know them. I got a text from Jeff, he didn’t know them either, just that Kevin’s landlord called him, he’d found his number in Kevin’s desk. But probing deeper Jeff told me Kevin’s health had not been good, and Kevin insisted Jeff not ask him about it when he called.

So another member of the tribe is gone.

Kevin was a rock and roller through and through. Once he got bitten, he never went straight. He still got excited about new records.

People are complicated. Relationships are complicated. They go through changes. But you remember when someone has been good to you, and if you’re someone like me you keep repaying that debt, because they helped you make it through.

I don’t know why Kevin couldn’t make it through. Jeff said he’d been depressed. But he’s not the only one. Sell your soul for rock and roll and it can look very ugly at the end. Kevin’s not the only one, I know other record company employees who could never go straight, could never accept being on the outside, and lost a hell of a lot in the process.

So I’m off-kilter. Numb.

But life goes on.

It can end any day. Embrace it. If you don’t do it now, you’re just going to do it one year later as Warren Miller said, or maybe not at all.

And too many people care about unborn babies more than older people down on their luck. Kevin should have been living in Margaritaville or some other retirement village, with people just like himself, not alone.

But now he’s alone forever.

It’s a tragedy.

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