When we started this site a few years back, it was never my intention to write so many tribute pieces. But Time remains the only true undefeated champion of the world. And he seems to take someone from us on such a regular basis.
And so, I write what I know and what I live. That’s what I have always tried to do with articles or essays or song lyrics. It is the quality I most admire in art and in people, a certain realness.
And that sums up to me one of my most influential friends, Ben “Cephus” Johnson.
I can think of no one I have ever known who was more real, more authentic.
When I went to EKU I did not rush. But my best friend and roommate Dennis Pitcock did. So did a couple of guys we had met on the 18th floor of Commonwealth. And so did Ben.
Through those connections I came to know Cephus. We clicked immediately. We both loved outlaw country. And I played guitar. So did he.
I was a singer, songwriter type. A guitar strummer. He was an electric picker. He loved to bend those strings. Many a late night in Richmond was spent putting on impromptu concerts on Manna Drive or somewhere in the vicinity. Or, sometimes we would pick by ourselves and maybe a handful of buddies. And from those sessions so many cool lyrics were formed.
None of those tunes will ever be hits or anything of the kind, but they were special. The kind of tunes created as if from a witches’ brew somehow magically fomented into life.
And then there was Redmon.
I had never heard of him, much less seen him live. but one night he was scheduled for Taswells, a little hole in the wall downtown. Cephus made it a point that I should go.
It had a lasting impact on me and the rest of my life really in that seeing Larry Redmon for the first time cemented my view of music and in a lot of ways everything else about the world. And none of it happened without Cephus.
After we graduated I would have him do my taxes. He was willing to oblige even though I am sure he had other things to do and I certainly could have found someone more local to do my taxes. But, it was just a way to get to talk to each other and stay in touch.
On an occasion or two, he and a friend would stop by and have a jam session.
But as life normally goes, our interactions waned until he was mostly just a really cool memory that I drew on from time to time.
I had it in my heart to travel down to the eastern part of the state and visit one day. I so wanted to play some music with him one more time. Sadly, that will be just another thing I meant to do…
…but even in his absence, he made an impact on the world. He leaves behind a family and so many friends and I know they are all sad but happy that Cephus was a part of their lives. I certainly am. And I am sure that I would not be me today without him.
“I like old outlaws…and old outlaw ways…”