Sunday, October 7, 2012

Nick Curran 1977-2012

I wanted to deviate from my usual content to pay homage to a great talent that passed away yesterday.  Guitar virtuoso and all-around nice guy, Nick Curran, lost his arduous and brave battle with cancer and was taken away from us at an all-too-young age of 35.

Sometime in 2000, I went to a friend's place and he played "Women and Cadillacs". I stopped in my tracks and asked who that was. I had heard a little about this young buck tearing up the Rockabilly circuit and had heard his playing on a Kim Lenz album. That was the day that I became a lifelong Nick Curran fan.

The years went by and I purchased all of Nick's new releases. This was back in the day before CD stores became a relic of the past and you could actually find cool music in the racks next to the same 500 tired old classic rock albums.

 Canada can sometimes be a bit of a musical wasteland. My contempt for Canada Border Services is no secret, and they are the main deterrent to US bands wishing to play in Canada. Their petty, arcane and convoluted rules ( not to mention complete arbitrary powers) discourage many touring musicians from attempting the border crossing ( especially bad-ass ones with tattoos). This why many of us have to make the annual pilgrimage to Viva Las Vegas to see bands that we would otherwise never get to see up here.

In 2009 I embarked on that journey once again. One of the first shows that I saw upon my arrival was Deke Dickerson's guitar geek festival. One of the guests was Nick Curran. That blew me away and pretty much set the tone for my whole trip. I briefly hung out with Nick and he reminded me that he was playing with Kim Lenz the following night.

Having indulged in the inevitable debauchery that is Viva, my brain was a bit fuzzy on that second night. The six dollar twelve packs of Pabst weren't contributing to my clarity either. I made my way up to the ballroom and Nick called out my name. As the Pabst induced haze cleared, I realized that I was talking to Nick and smacked myself in the head for emphasis. Kim and her Jaguars completely tore the roof off the place, and I hung out with Nick for a while afterwards. We ran into to each other a few more times during the event but I soon had to leave. The evil machinations of airlines resulted in an early flight and I had to arrive at the airport at the tortuous time of 3 am.

At that time Nick hadn't set up his tour, but later that year he was somehow able to navigate the Kafkaesque doctrine of Canada Border Services and had secured a date in Vancouver BC at the venerable Yale Hotel. The people who book bands up here are sadistic, or possibly insane, because they seem to take great joy in having shows start at 7 pm. or even earlier. A good friend of mine, Steve Kozak, was slated to take the late slot. Steve was understandably apprehensive, as people usually clear out immediately after the main show leaving empty glasses, tumbleweeds and the sounds of crickets in their wake.

Steve had come up with plan to keep the folks rockin' and asked me to do a guest spot and belt out a few Rockabilly tunes. At that point, I realized that I was going live one of the coolest ( and most surreal) moments of my life: I was going to be on the same bill as Nick Curran. Rockabilly is the Lichtenstein of the music world: It's small, very few people have heard of it and all the inhabitants know each other, but small or not I still think that it was an amazing series of coincidences that led me to this night.

Nick and the boys arrived with their van and we helped them set up. We also warned them that a van with Texas plates was going to attract crackheads like flies so we removed anything of value and found a good parking spot.

What can I say, Nick Curran and The Lowlifes rocked the house. One of the things that stands out from that incredible evening was the way Nick charmed the audience with his disarming between-song banter.

The night was young, so Nick decided to hang out and check out Steve Kozak's band. I was called to the stage and did my short set and decided that I really needed more beer. Nick motioned me to come over to his table and we did indeed get more beer.

What struck me the most about Nick was his absolute lack of pretension. Someone with that amount of talent could possibly be permitted to have some kind of ego, but not Nick. His virtuoso guitar playing was coupled with humility and sincerity. He was a down-home boy from Maine and he never lost touch with that. Nick's friendly demeanor brought it back to the basics; just a couple of good ole boys havin' a beer.

The night went on and Nick was invited on stage to do a few songs with Steve, which he seemed to enjoy immensely. The time to pack up rolled around and we helped the boys load their van. I said goodbye to Nick and promised that we would hang out in Vegas the following year. Sadly, that did not happen, because of that pesky condition known as lack of cash.

Me and my friends took heart, however, as Nick was slated to return to the Yale later that year. We never got to see him, because unfortunately Nick had a relapse as the evil C-word got a hold of him for a second time. Nick was a fighter and remained upbeat and optimistic throughout the whole ordeal. He had the support and encouragement of thousands of friends from all around the world and we all hoped the best for Nick.

On Oct. 6 2012, this young man in the prime of his life was taken from us. Nick will leave behind a legacy to all who loved his music and those, like myself, who were fortunate enough to have our lives touched by this gentle soul. My sincere condolences go out to his family, and tonight during Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, we will all raise a glass to Nick and we will not forget him. Rest in Peace, my young brother.



  1. Beautiful tribute. He has been one of the greatest, touched by the magic wand. A fighter with a unique talent. The disease defeated him, but he and his music are already immortal. I can´t believe it. He was too young...


  2. Serge, thank you for writing such a nice tribute to Nick. It was wonderful to see Nick grow up with so many musician friends and mentors here in Maine. I remember him following me around our house while I did chores, and he would play a few notes on the guitar. I had to guess which guitar player he was "being". We will miss him deeply!! - Nadine