A memorial service last night at the Basement in Nashville for Paul Kirby, the late front man/guitarist for popular Nashville bands Walk The West and Cactus Brothers who died of cardiac arrest at 48 on Sept. 25, ended up as a reunion of sorts not only for Kirby's extended group of family and friends, but also the broad musical community populated by those whose lives Kirby touched.
The evening, equal parts laughter, tears and music, included moving performances by Mike Farris, singer/songwriter Matraca Berg (Paul Kirby's step-sister), songwriter Wade Kirby (Paul Kirby's brother), Kim Collins and rocker Bobby Bare, Jr., who sat in on vocals and guitar with Kirby's band mates Will and John Golemon on the WTW song "Calvary Hill." Bare was formerly the lighting director for Cactus Brothers before embarking on his own solo career.
Earlier in the service, the Golemons, who had played with Kirby since their school days, took the stage with Lee Darby on drums, playing instrumental versions of popular WTW songs like "Precious Times," "Livin' At Night" and "Backside," an empty microphone stand placed where Kirby historically stood. Walk The West released one album on Capitol and the Cactus Brothers had two releases on Capitol Nashville.
In the crowd were former Cactus Brothers manager John Lomax, WTW drummer Richard Ice, Cactus Brothers drummer Dave Kennedy, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band co-founder Jeff Hanna (husband to Berg), songwriter Guy Golemon (father of Will and John), Country Music Hall of Fame writer/editor Michael McCall, Pioneer Coach president Doug Rountree, who helped organize the service, and members of popular mid-80s Nashville rock bands the White Animals and Royal Court of China.
Also present were fans and friends of Kirby and his band mates, many of whom had followed them since their earliest incarnation as a Hendersonville, Tenn., bar band called Rebel Bite, and beyond. A conceptual artist of considerable talent, Paul Kirby's artwork was on display in the lobby of the Basement, some of which will be sold at a later date.