Jeff Roberts (Right) with former Screaming Cheetah Wheelies’ guitarist Mike Farris at a SXSE event in May, 2008. (Photo by Dariel Bendin)
By Brian M. Howle
Back in the late-’70s, the remaining members of a decimated Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed under the moniker of The Rossington-Collins Band. And one of the more haunting songs on that memorable album they produced in their post-Skynyrd continuation was entitled, “Next Phone Call”, about the chilling effect of hearing one’s phone ring in the middle of the night, when only the worst of news seems to find its way into our otherwise stable lives.
It wasn’t all that late in the night when I got the call, but it did have the same numbing effect of shattering an otherwise peaceful beginning to another week in Paradise here along the Strand – my old friend, Jeff Roberts, had unexpectedly died. I have reached that age where there is no such thing as an understandable loss of life, though ecumenicals portend to comfort me with profound explanations of the mysteries of God’s unknown will, and His great plan for us in the overall scheme of things.
But there is no comfort when someone close to me calls to let me know that one of the nicest, most decent men I have ever had the great honor and pleasure to know had passed away. Far too soon for his time, far too soon for his family, and far too soon for a world that sorely needs the likes of a Jeff Roberts now more than ever.
Now, I consider myself to be an extremely well-versed audiophile and musical history/trivia buff. But it would be foolish (and abundantly obvious) for me, and really, just about anyone else around these parts to challenge Jeff’s encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary music. Equally foolish would be for one to assume that his forte was strictly rock & roll (with apologies to Atlanta Rhythm Section). Jeff’s genuine love for all things music was challenged only by his genuine love for his family and friends – and his son was the center of his world. And that one, simple fact speaks quantum volumes about those he loved.
Jeff’s contributions to the lives and experiences of musicians, writers, producers, engineers, songwriters and fans of music in general are as countless as the stars in the heavens above. The years of immeasurable joy he helped others find as they searched for that “perfect record” while he owned Sounds Familiar, in the original store at 38th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, probably spans the lives of more people than anyone can imagine. A gentle giant of a man, his beaming smile and deep, sincere laugh made anyone who entered his store with a heavy heart forget their problems for the time they spent there. And his expansive knowledge of all genres of music – and the thousands of artists who performed them – made him the ultimate Shaman of advice for all of those who came searching for “that song, you know, the one that goes …”
Sounds Familiar went its way far too soon, but Jeff continued to provide the same service and help with its smaller but no less important successor, Sounds Better, located in the Hidden Village complex along Restaurant Row. Anyone looking for that impossible-to-find vinyl 45, LP or 8-track invariably found their way into his little musical Nirvana, tucked away near the site of his family’s old Myrtle Beach homestead.
And anyone who had the good fortune and excellent luck to experience any of the South By Southeast shows over the last few years will have an extra special memory to treasure, as Jeff continued to help bring excellence in music to us all along the Grand Strand, right up until this past Monday, January 11, 2010, when God couldn’t find his favorite Stevie Ray Vaughn album and called on the best on earth to help him out. Or, maybe He just wanted to show up Hendrix in the weekly Trivial Pursuit game.
So, farewell, old friend. And thank you for filling the best years of my life with the best damn soundtrack known to any man. But take solace in knowing that for us mere mortals, your spirit will live in glorious stereo every time a song – that you turned us on to – drops on the ol’ trusty turntable. That song, you know, the one that goes …
Services will be conducted by McMillan and Small Funeral Home, 67th Avenue North & 17 Bypass. Visitation Thursday evening 6-8. Funeral service Friday at 2pm in the Chapel.
This article was also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine, Nightlife & Entertainment Page 23, January 14 – 28, 2010; as well as online at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com.