|Author: Rhynes, J.D.
|MY FRIEND, WARREN HELLMAN, AKA, "FIVE BUCK'S"
Dear bluegrass family. Ever since "Da Rick" asked me to write the
fourh thursday welcome message, I have always tried to dredge up a
story from my "Bluegrass journey" of years past. However, this month
is dramatically different and emotionally challenging fer me due to
the unexpected loss of my dear friend Warren Hellman. As you all
know by now, Warren lost his battle with leukemia on Dec. 18th. I'm
not going to try to tell you his life story, because others that knew
him better have already told more about him than I will ever know. I
am going to tell you some of the human aspects of the man that I was
able to observe first hand.
To start with, I dont think i have ever met a man that loved our
music more than Warren, unless it was it's originator, Mr. Bill
Monroe. I first met Warren at one of the spring Strawberry
festivals, in 2008. It was at the Sunday morning Revival by Birch
Lake, when an elderly gentleman walked up beside me with a banjo in a
gig bag strapped on his back. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked
if he was Mr. Warren Hellman? He allowed as he was, and I gave him
one of my CBA Director's card and introduced my self. We shared some
small talk, and I invited him to our FDF, and that was it unitil the
fall of 2009 Strawberry festival. I was backstage on Saturday
evening, and Warren and his close associate, and secretary, Colleen
asked me to join them at their table. I was glad to see them and we
sat and talked for an hour er so, and got better acquainted. Marty
Stuart was appearing there that nite, and as he came by., I hailed
him with the greeting; Marty, I'm Les Leverett's pal J.D. Rhynes, and
he told you I was gonna be here, and I have something fer you. He
came running over, shook my hand, and said; YES Les did! J.D., stay
right there, as I gotta go do the sound check and we'll talk as soon
as I'm through. Well true to his word, Marty came back and sat and
talked with all of us fer the better part of an hour. Natcherally, he
already knew Warren, since he had played HSBGF fer Warren in the
past. I gave Marty a piece of my metal art for a kind deed he did fer
our music way back in 1979.
[ That's a story fer another time] That was a very special nite fer
all of us, as Warren told me a couple of weeks later when he called
me one day to thank me fer letting him hang out with me, and listen
to my stories about pickin' with Vern and Ray and Rose Maddox,
among a lot of others along the way. In my mind, I thought I should
be thanking you fer jes putting up with an ol country boy that jes
happens to love the same music. I knew then that Warren was one of
us, and there wasn't a phony bone in his body! I was to find out
this year jes what a true friend I had in him.
Now here's the REAL human side of Warren, and how he loved to help
those in need. I swore that I would never tell this story , because
Warren didn't think it needed telling, but since he's gone on to his
reward in Heaven, I'm gonna share how he helped my family, in a way
that no one else could have. About two years ago, my sister who
lives in Rancho Cordova, Ca. had her house mortgage bought out by a
LARGE U.S. bank,[ that will go unnamed]. As a rsult, they demanded
her monthly payment to be doubled from the original amount! She
tried for a year and a half to get them to reduce their demands, all
to no avail. Finally they gave her an ultimatum of $15,000.00 by
next wek or we are gonna take yer house. Our family SCRAPED up that
amount , ONLY to hear them tell her a week later; Thanks fer the 15
K BUT, we're gonna take yer house anyway! WRONG! This gave my
sister a heart attack and damn near took her life ! It was then
that I called my friend Warren and told hm I needed a favor. He said
sure J.D., jes what is it that I can DO fer you? I said Warren, I
dont want any money, I jes need yer influence. I then asked if he
knew the president of the bank that was gonna take my sister's
house? He sez, Yep, I know that person very well! Jes send all of
the pertinent info on yer sister's loan and I'll take care if it.
Long story short; I did , and he did. My sister called me that
afternoon and was in tears! THE PRESIDENT OF THAT BANK, called her
to assure her that thay would make her payment one that she could
afford ! He said that when you have Warren Hellman fer a friend you
have a friend fer life! THAT was my friend Warren helping a fiend
Now fer the humorous side of my pal "FIve Buck's" Hellman. I'll get
to how I gave him that nickname after a side note. Warren, myself
and a few friends were setting backstage at Strawberry a year er so
ago, when the subject of earthquakes came up. This one person said,
ya know it would be kinda neat if we all got stranded here at the
festival because of an earhquake, and couldn't leave fer a month or
so. We could jes set around and play music until they got the roads
open again. I told him, are you NUTS! After a week er so, all of
you flat landers would be killing and eating each other! He asked
me; WELL, jes WHAT would you do? i sez, I'd strap on my two .44 mag
pistol's, get my survival back pack full of food, ammo, etc., hit
the Pacific Crest trail north, and go home. He then turned to Warren and asked; What
would you do? Warren pointed to me and said; I'm goin' with J.D. ! Ha
ha ha ha.
Here's how the nickname "Five Buck's" came about. A bunch of us
were backstage in the hospitality tent at Grass Valley in 2010. Beth
Weil came motoring in, in her electric wheelchair, and was looking
fer something on the table behind me. Warren looked over my
shoulder and asked her if he could get her somehing? She replied
that she was looking fer some juice. Warren said, there's some
cranberry juice,over here on the side, and can I get you some? Beth
allowed as to how she would love some, so I got up to get out of the
way, while Warren poured her a cup of it. As he handed it to her he
got this devilish grin on his face, and in a real low voice where
only I could hear him, he said: That'll be 5 buck's! I dropped to
my knee's laughing, as sweet lil Beth motored out of the tent .
After I finally got my breath, Warren sez; HEY, I'm a Jewish banker!
Whaddaya expect? Ha ha ha ha!
THAT was MY friend ! Warren was a man that could have hung out with
Kings and president's of any country he chose to, but he chose to be
with his music friends . I asked him jes why we were the ones he
liked to be with one time. Here is what he told me. J.D., I learned
a long time ago that my music friends are the really genuine people
that I know in this world. When I was starting to learn to play the
banjo, I lived in New york city. I read about Pete Seeger and his
music, and I figured that who better to learn from than Pete
hisself. SOOO, I called him and asked if he would give me some
lessons. I told him that I was a REALLY IMPORTANT person, but that
didn't phase ol Pete, as he told me he didn't give banjo lesson's
and hung up on me! Talk about a lesson in humility! I never forgot
that lesson, and that's when I started to learn that's there's more
to life than money.
Warren was one of the bright stars in this ol country boy's life. I
only wish that we could have spent more time together here in this
life, but as he put it one time; J.D, it's probably a good thang we
didn't meet earlier in life, because with yer sense of adventure and
my resources, there's NO telling where we would've ended up!
Welll, as my Cherokee ancestor's would say, Warren has moved on to
the "other camp". Walk slow my dear friend, because it wont be that
long till a lot of us join you. May GOD bless and keep yer soul.
Yer friend , J.D.Rhynes
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