A night that played out as life intended
Saturday, May 11, 2013 8:21 PM
A bit of history collided in Greenwood the night of May 2, but hardly anyone noticed.
The season's second Live After Five concert went on as scheduled that evening, despite the dark clouds and occasional misting of Uptown.
The band was Royal Southern Brotherhood, itself steeped in rock and blues history, with members Devon Allman and Cyril Neville. Yes, those Allmans and Nevilles.
Devon is the son of legendary southern rocker Gregg Allman and Cyril is one of the Neville Brothers band members.
Uptown was treated to the sound of RSB as it played songs from its self-titled CD. The crowd mostly consisted of Greenwood-area residents, but one man came from Columbia, joined by his wife, and was on a mission. Bentz Kirby had to get something done, something he's wanted to do for a couple of years now.
REWIND TO JAN. 7, 1971. A couple of Bentz's friends went to an Allman Brothers concert in Statesboro, Ga.
During a break in the show, his buddy, Alfred Schneebeli, jumped up on the stage and grabbed a couple of guitar bottle slides off an amplifier. The slides belonged to Duane Allman.
Aflred gave one to his buddy, Charles Singletary, and kept one for himself. Alfred went on to work for the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
Charles and Bentz have stayed in touch through the years; they went to the same school, attend high school reunions and have a long concert history together that includes Jimi Hendrix, the Stones and Allman Brothers. It was Labor Day weekend 2011 when Charles came to visit Bentz in Columbia.
HE HANDED HIS FRIEND A POUCH and said, "You need to be the caretaker of this, not me."- He did not tell Bentz what was inside. Bentz later opened the pouch. It contained a slide just like Duane Allman used, he told his wife. He didn't realize a piece of paper that was in the pouch had fallen on the floor. He found it a couple of days later and nearly threw it out. He read the note from his friend and realized he did not now own a slide like the ones Duane Allman used; it was a slide worn on Duane's ring finger.
Bentz is also a musician. In fact, he organized a show in 2011 in which his and other bands did covers of the music that was performed during the Atlanta Pop Festival. But he doesn't play slide guitar.
"What am I gonna do with it"- he thought. He figured his own children would probably throw it out after he passed on; after all, it's just a Coricidin medicine bottle, readily available in any drug store.
Yes, it was exactly that. But it was also the slide of choice for Duane Allman. Why? Because it fit perfectly on his ring finger and, more important, the glass was seamless, which, along with the sound it delivered, was the reason Duane chose it instead of any number of other objects used by slide guitarists.
BENTZ MADE SOME ATTEMPTS to contact Duane's brother, Gregg, thinking Gregg would appreciate having the slide. One day, Bentz found Gregg's son, Devon, on Facebook. He sent Devon a message, telling him what he had and that he was trying to return it to Gregg.
Devon told Bentz he did not own anything of his uncle's. Most items related to Duane's musical career were either in a museum or with Duane's daughter. So, the two figured one day their paths would cross and Bentz would give the slide to Devon.They did not stay in regular contact, but on May 1, Bentz fired up the computer to look up Devon's schedule. He noticed Devon and the band would be in Greenwood the next day, so he and his wife quickly made plans to leave after work and come to Greenwood. They arrived in time to hear the band's final song. Bentz and Devon gathered at the clock tower after the concert. Gray skies and a cool breeze had already disbursed most of the crowd.
There, Bentz carefully took an off-white cloth out of a black leather pouch. He carefully unwrapped the towel to reveal the small, clear glass bottle. He treated that drugstore bottle like it was a rare jewel. To Devon, that's precisely what it was.
A moving and meaningful moment for Devon? Absolutely. But it was also a moving and meaningful for Bentz.
"It was a thrill to pass something along to Devon so he has something of his uncle's,"- he said.
DON'T THINK ALL THIS WAS serendipitous? Try convincing Bentz of that. Too many events lined up perfectly and spanned four decades.
It began in 1970. Photos Bentz took during the July 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival in Georgia appear on the back of the Allman Brothers 2-CD set produced from the festival.
Rather than keep it for himself, friend Charles Singletary decides Bentz should have the slide stolen some 40 years earlier during an Allman Brothers concert.
The night Devon was given the slide in Greenwood? It was Charles' birthday.
Certainly the Greenwood exchange would not have taken place, given the circumstances of Oct. 27, 2012. Bentz and his wife were driving from Travelers Rest to Westminster and Bentz had to pull into a parking lot in Easley. Sudden cardiac death syndrome. Bentz was clinically dead.
Two men pulled up and traded off administering CPR to Bentz before an off-duty paramedic with a defibrillator in her car happened on the scene, shocked his heart three times and brought him back. He was then whisked to a hospital 10 minutes away and into the operating room, where two surgeons saved his life.
What if Live After Five had not been revamped for this year? RSB would not have been in town. And what if Bentz had not bothered checking the Internet to see what Devon was up to?
A FEW PICTURES WERE TAKEN at the clock tower before Devon, Bentz and his wife quietly walked down the sidewalk and into Buffalo Grill where they talked over a cold beer.
Standing at the bar, Devon, with the care and delicate approach shown by Bentz, unwrapped his uncle's slide to show his fellow band members. Cyril touched it and looked heavenward, sharing the moment with Duane.
And now, Greenwood can add to its chapters the night of Thursday, May 2, 2013, when history took place.
It was a night not when a series of coincidences came together, but rather when life put Bentz Kirby and Devon Allman exactly where they needed and were intended to be.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email email@example.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.