Rockin' with Duane
One of the great things about hosting a blog is the education you get. There we were shooting the breeze with Bill McDonald in comments on a post about the relationship between jazz and rock when the subject of Duane Jarvis came up. Little did we know that Duane left the planet a few years ago. That was a real loss.
Jarvis was a country rock guitarist and songwriter in L.A. best known as a side man who toured with acts like John Prine and Lucinda Williams. He and Williams co-wrote the song "Still I Long for Your Kiss," which appears on her acclaimed recording Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. We saw Jarvis, Williams, and Steve Earle play to a tiny crowd at Champoeg Park one summer in the '90s -- other-worldly good. A short time later, Jarvis was in town promoting solo work, and we stopped by for a handshake outside the old Music Millennium outlet on NW 23rd Avenue. That was the last we saw of him.
But the way we will always remember Jarvis is as the guitarist in a four-piece Portland rock combo known first as the Odds, then as 2 Minutes 50 when there was a name conflict with another band. (The other Odds were from L.A., as we recall.) The Portland version of the Odds was steaming up the windows at Portland nightclubs in the early '80s -- a little before the rise of Billy Rancher, if we're remembering the timeline correctly. You'd get the Odds one week, the Burnside Bombers the next. The Odds would play mostly rock covers -- they'd do an awesome Doors medley in which lead singer Ben Davis would channel Jim Morrison -- but they'd also throw in a song or two that Jarvis and Davis wrote. They even cut a single that some of us ran out and bought:
Top: Ben Davis, left, and J. Wallace. Bottom: Kip Richardson and Duane Jarvis.
One week, the Odds shocked their fans by trading drummers with Johnny & the Distractions. Duane's brother Kevin switched from the Odds to the Distractions in a straight-up trade for Kip Richardson. It happened on a Monday, and by Friday night the two bands were off playing their separate gigs, in places like the Last Hurrah (the basement of 555 SW Alder).
Duane was around 24 at the time, but he looked 17. We remember that he was battling asthma in those days, and would need a pop of the inhaler on occasion. Given how much smoke there was in the bars in which the band played, it must have been a tough line of work. He always seemed to be enjoying it, though -- a humble guy and a little bit in awe of the power of rock.
We miss 2 Minutes 50. They disappeared from the scene pretty quickly. But while they played, they were young and fresh -- at least as much as the Seattle band of the era known as the Young Fresh Fellows. And Duane was a real talent who brightened many a night. Years later, we had the V-Roys from back east -- but that's another post entirely.