Musicians gather to help friend

By Craig Harris

Special to Reminder Publications

"Sammy's Big Night" Sept. 20 Chapin Auditorium, Mt. Holyoke College Rte. 116, South Hadley $15 Advance $17

door For further information,

call 413-586-6886

The bond holding together the music community is often put to the test. When word got out that Chris Haynes, a music professor at Springfield College and a highly respected session player, arranger and producer, lost his wife, Heather Egan Haynes, from complications relating to childbirth, that community did not hesitate.

The musicians gathering at Chapin Auditorium at Mt. Holyoke College, in South Hadley, on Sept. 20 to raise funds to help Haynes raise his son, Samuel Owen Haynes (born May 23, 2007), represent only a few of the many wishing to donate their services.

"I could have probably put on a twelve hour concert," said benefit organizer Pete Nelson by telephone, "if I had let everybody who wanted to play do it. Chris Haynes is an old, old, friend, one of the most generous people. He's helped a lot of people with their music, their performances and their records."

An accomplished novelist, playwright, non-fiction writer and singer-songwriter, Nelson worked with Haynes many times in the past. "Chris produced my two CDs 'The Restless Boys Club' and 'Days Like Horse'," he said, "and he was my arranger. He plays everything. He's a synthesizer genius, too."

Plans for the benefit were hatched during an informal discussion that Nelson had with Katryna Nields and Jim Armenti of the Lonesome Brothers. "We knew that Chris was going to need help as a suddenly single father," he recalled, "and everybody wanted to do something to help."

When Armenti suggested doing a show, everyone quickly agreed. "It was like a giant light bulb going off over our heads," recalled Nelson. "As musicians, our pockets aren't very deep and money was not the way that we were going to help. But, with our talents and our music, we could do something."

Nelson had no problem pulling together, what plans to be, a memorable evening. "Everybody said, 'Let me know what to do, anytime, anything, whatever you want'," he said. "We lined up a professional sound man, a professional stage manager, a production manager. Everybody who could contribute came forward. I've had very little to do except to coordinate things."

Many of the evening's performers worked, or played, with Haynes in the past. "Cliff (Eberhardt)'s played with him at parties and socially," said Nelson, "and the Nields know him. It's just a community of people helping one of their brothers."

Nelson's connections enabled him to persuade singer-songwriter John Gorka and vocalist-turned-Northampton-based-attorney, and younger sister of the late Mama Cass Elliott, Leah Kunkel, to participate. "All I had to do was tell (Gorka) the story and he said that he'd be glad to help," Nelson said. "A lot of people, on his level, are asked to do benefits and they have to pick and choose. But, he was immediately on board. Leah is one of my poker friends."

In addition to the proceeds collected for the Samuel Owens Haynes Fund, Nelson plans to present the youngster with a DVD of the evening. "We're going to record it," he explained, "so that, when he grows up, he can see what people did for him. It's a memorial for his mom but at the same time, a celebration for little Sammy."