Friday, October 16, 2009

Willy DeVille tribute: notes from the day

From Sister Sue -

The story below is also attached to the original post ("And another musical light flickers out" August 2009), but here they in one place, for everyone who asked about the event on Saturday in New York.

Thanks for writing, Sue - it sounds like the kind of loving commemoration of a life all of us would like to leave behind someday. Please do share my August blog post with Nina - and let her know Willy's music will remain in my heart.

Here is Sue's recap:

Hello all. My apologies for taking so long to get back here. As you can imagine, I have been just overwhelmed.

The event was incredible. There was a ton of work to be done getting ready. I mean weeks of work. It consumed my life and at times I had to wonder if it was worth it. It was.

Nina (Willy's wife) had written to me asking if she could come. I had a feeling that she would not show and she ended up deciding at the last minute not to come. That was fine. If she didn't feel it was right for her then I think she did the right thing. I only wanted two things. And I wanted them desperately. To honor Willy and to find someone... ANYONE!... to share emotions with.

We had a good turn out of fans and the bar was perfect (Bar on A at 170 Avenue A, NYC). I spent hours decorating it. Pictures of Willy everywhere. Candles. Signs. Memory book. White roses. Etc... The bar was homey with couches and was intimate and it looked great!!

We had only been going for about 15 minutes. People were eating, drinking and singing (very loudly!!!) to all the Willy songs I was playing. A man in his 30's came in, looked around and immediately became teary. It was Kevin. Willy's nephew. Kevin has lost his mother and father. Willy was everything to him. Everything.

Someone immediately introduced me to him. He grabbed me, hugged and kissed me and told me multiple times how much the family appreciated this. After he calmed down a bit I asked him if he would like to speak when I got the program going. At first he was uncertain because he is extremely emotional still. But he resolved that he wanted to speak. So I told him that we'd let people get drinks, mingle, more people arrive, then start the program.

I had put out a sign up sheet for audience members who wanted to speak. Quite a few signed up. So I told Kevin that I would speak first to break the ice, then he would talk so he could get it out of the way and relax and listen to the audience speakers.

When I went up to the stage to speak, Kevin got a bar stool and put it down right next to me. He would laugh, cry and comment on many of the things I said, often grabbing my arm and pulling me towards him. He made both public and private comments, which I will always treasure.

Kevin's speech, totally unprepared and from the heart, was amazing. People in the audience were literally sobbing.

The event went on for about 6 or 7 hours. Everyone in the place came up and expressed thanks for organizing the event. They all needed to acknowledge, celebrate, remember... whatever... Willy. Willy's son, Sean, showed up as well. He, Stephanie (Kevin's girlfriend) and Kevin expressed thanks many times from the family. It was very touching.

We had a memory book at the event. People wrote thoughts, emotions, and messages to Nina. I am going to send the memory book to Nina on Monday. I had to bring it home because I had not had time to write in it, my daughter (11 years old!) wanted to write in it and a few people here in Kansas City want to write in it.

Would anyone here like to contribute as well? I think it woud be awesome if you would share your thoughts, feelings, emotions, whatever you want to share. I know that Nina will treasure it. If you write something I will print it off and make sure it gets into the memory book and directly to Nina as long as you get it to me before Monday. I really really hope that you are able to do this!!!

If you do write for the Memory Book PLEASE get it to me before Monday. Do not write it here. Email it to You can certainly post it here also if you want, but I need everything coming to one place. Please!! I am completely overwhelmed as it is!

That's the report for now. I look forward to getting your thoughts for the memory book. We all know how much Willy would appreciate us writing to Nina and letting her know our feelings for Willy and his music.

If anyone can tell me how to post pictures I will be happy to post pics of Kevin, Sean, audience, decorations, etc.

Love and Emotion to all! SisterSue


renee said...

From the "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" file:

I received a comment I chose not to publish, since it was basically a personal attack on another comment contributor. I had no way of verifying the negative comment as the whole truth.

While I hope the blog will be place of communication, I can't in good conscience publish comments that insult or otherwise aggravate individuals. Good, substantive debate? Yes. Anything beyond that - no.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to thank you for organizing the event. I was there in spirit, if not in person. I loved Willy's music and hope the renewed interest in his music since his death will bring him a wider audience. He deserves a big audience. Thanks, Renee.

James from San Francisco

renee said...

Hi James -

Many people helped make this happen; I was happy to help spread the word.

I agree - could help more people discover and love Willy's work.

Thanks for your note -

SisterSue said...

Just making my way back here. Yes, as Renee said this was a multi-person effort. The original idea by Carol and Karen was to get together. As Carol put it at the event, she "had the seed of the idea, Karen gave birth to the idea and I raised the baby."

Carol has a way with words! Maybe the event will draw some people in. For the most part all of us there were already big fans. But, multiple people came over from the other side of the bar to ask about the music and tell me that they liked it a lot. Did anyone else have that happen? Was great.

Aside from the event I know that personal efforts (ie: sharing my grief with total strangers) has opened some people's eyes to Willy's music. Have kept up communication with someone on crew of Hothouse Flowers (Irish band) because of a schedule error for their concert. Now this guy has become a big Willy DeVille devotee and is buying everything he can find. Small steps.

My 11 year old is a fan. Personally I think getting kids to listen is important. That is the future. Luckily my child is not very interested in Disney type bands. She seems to have pretty much adopted my taste. I can't tell you how many times she has run into my office and asked me to immediately load whatever I'm listening to onto her iPod.

So I suggest that if anyone has kids that you introduce them to Willy's music as well. When my child turns 12 in a few weeks the house will be rocking all night for her sleepover party. Guess what I plan to play. A house full of kids. Good start!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm very interested in Willy (fan since the 70's) Where will I find information, pictures or videos about his funeral, celebration at october 10? Here in Holland we have the memorial Willy deVille night at february 27

renee said...

Hello Anon from Holland -

Thank you for your note! I've asked Sister Sue for some information and possibly a link to pass along to you.

Will certainly post anything I receive here on the blog for your and others to connect and enjoy Willy's music.

thanks again -

SisterSue said...

Hello Anonymous. Renee passed your request along to me. Since you have been a fan for a long time I'll assume you are aware of many of the sites out there that have great pictures of Willy. I also imagine that you are aware of all the YouTube performances and interviews.

Regarding the private memorial that was for family/friends only, there is not much on-line about that. Here is a YouTube video of John Hammond doing a song at the memorial.

When that was originally posted it was about twice as long. But very quickly it was trimmed to the song only. In the longer version Hammond talked about Willy, Nina, Hammond and his wife going out to dinner. I don't know why it was decided to cut that out.

I know that I have seen just a few pictures from the private memorial too. I thought that Trudy Jost has posted them but I cannot find them.

Regarding the October 10 fan memorial in New York, I created a Yahoo group so that people can go there (you need to join it, but that's no big deal and there is really no email generated by it) and see the pics.

Go to
At the top left, click on "View Yahoo Sites".
Under the letter "G" click on "Groups".
Search for Willy DeVille in the search box.
Our group is "WD-LoveAndEmotion".

Once you have joined go to the group home page and click on "Photos" at the left side of the page. I have an album of pictures that I took. We may or may not ever get any more photos. But there are about 50 pics there so it will give you a little taste of what the evening was like.

Please let me know if you have any more questions. If I miss it I know that both you and I appreciate Renee passing them along to me.

I recently found a song that I was not aware of. It is Willy doing a cover of Johnny Thunders' song, "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory". It was done as a tribute to Johnny. It is amazing. It sounds like what Willy might have said to Johnny had John not died before they got a chance to see each other again. One of the most touching and thought provoking songs I've heard in a long time.

I hope this helps and that it is the kind of thing you were looking for. If not, just clarify please and I'll see if I can do any better.

Take care! SS