The metal community is still stunned by the tragic passing of Black Tusk bassist Jonathan Athon. I didn't personally know Athon, but many of my friends did, and to see the tributes posted about him on my Facebook feed, he clearly touched a lot of people.
One such tear-jerker tribute came from the incredibly well-spoken frontman of Baroness, John Baizley. Baizley grew up with Athon and they clearly had a strong bond. Here are his unedited words:
Some folks shine more brightly than others. Today we lost our dear friend and brother Athon, who distinguished himself, unknowingly, by shining just a little more brightly than the rest of us.
I remember clearly the night I met Athon about 15 years ago. I was a punk rocker, new to Savannah, and I was struggling to find a group of kids who would accept me into their circle. I met Athon one night in the typically trash strewn back alley of a punk-house party on the west side of town. He was the only person there who didn’t stonewall me, or seem to care that I wasn’t a regular; and he immediately offered me a drink, a smoke and an told one of his many off-color jokes (as was his style). Our friendship started that night, but continued to develop over the years as we shared company at many more parties, shows, rehearsal spaces and eventually tours.
When I was a young man, my father cursed/blessed me with the wisdom that “a man is only as good as his word,” a standard I continue my struggle to live up to. For Athon, the embodiment of that idea came as naturally as the intake of air; and he remains one of the few people I’ve ever met who consistently and unquestioningly followed through on every project he set out to do, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential. He silkscreened his own band shirts, he was a photographer, a bass player, a carpenter, a drum/bass/guitar builder, a whiskey distiller and a BBQ master of the highest order. He was a genuine, earnest and honest man par excellence; and it would be difficult to make even a perfunctory attempt to list the impact he’s had on everyone around Savannah and the rest of the world. I defy you to find an enemy of his. He was unafraid of telling the hard truths; and while he most definitely liked to see what he could get away with saying, he never spoke a word, however humorous or offensive, without his full conviction.
I’ve had the express pleasure of working with his band Black Tusk on nearly every recording they’ve made, and it was always Athon who had a very clear vision for the look and direction of their album covers, without contradicting my sometimes difficult-to-deal-with artistic eccentricities. He had an easily definable vision as so few seem to have; and I am honored to have been with Black Tusk since their beginning and to watch them grow into the rock-and-roll powerhouse they have become. Athon’s onstage exuberance was a huge part of what drew me to them initially and that pure love of onstage performance had not dimmed over the years, propelling them to tour not only outside of Savannah, but all around the world. I think back on a show we played with Black Tusk last fall in Denmark, and my eyes well up with tears at the reality that the show at Loppen was the final time I’ll ever get to see Athon play that monstrous bass of his. His spirit touched everyone he came across; I spoke to my mother just this morning as she walked around her house, unable to count all the different places Athon had fixed things. In fact, it’s impossible to walk the streets of Savannah without feeling his presence. He truly was a man-about-town, and loved by everyone. He had an insatiable appetite to fix things, an uncompromising honesty, and an enviable ambition to learn new skills. He was a unique person to say the least, hard working till the end, and with a lust for life that sometimes left us all spinning. I don’t know what will happen next, Athon but I wish you were here to be a part of it. I love you buddy.