6 years ago I was on my way to Dallas to play at the House of Blues and I was coming from Baltimore, heading West on Rt. 40 towards Little Rock so I could take Rt. 30 South to Dallas. It was a beautiful day, the sun roof was open and the windows were down and I was having a nice easy drive heading towards Memphis, where I was going to stop for the evening.
I was 30 miles or so from Nashville when I felt a slight jolt, and watched the ground fall away as my beautiful little 2009 Chevy Blazer with 498,000 miles on it, rose slowly up in the air and then slammed into the side of the 18 wheeler next to me! We bounced back pretty hard and hit Rt. 40 pavement broadside at 70 mph and went over and over and over…
Then the Chevy suddenly popped up, turned over in mid-air and slammed back to the pavement, wheels up, and skidded for 100 yards or so in a hail of sparks and burnt rubber, until it sopped under its own weight: a smoking, creaking hunk of junk that used to be my beautiful Chevy Blazer 90 seconds earlier.
…turned over in mid-air and slammed back to the pavement, wheels up, and skidded for 100 yards or so in a hail of sparks and chunks of burnt rubber, until it stopped under its own weight: a smoking, creaking hunk of junk that used to be my beautiful Chevy Blazer 90 seconds earlier.
Everything I had sailed out the window and was scattered all over the side of the road and in the median; traffic was backed up for 5 hours and they took me to Lebanon Medical Center in Lebanon, Tennessee. The only reason I survived was the two JBL Eon 15 speakers behind the driver’s seat prevented the roof from crushing me, although the steering wheel nearly impaled me anyway.
I spent 4 days in the ER and then, when I couldn’t present any info or insurance papers that had been strewn all over Rt. 40, they wheeled me out of the Hospital and left me outside, under the drop-off sign, in front of the lobby doors. With a cell phone and pain killers, I had to find a taxi to take me 20 minutes away to Carthage, TN, and the only hotel that would check me in with no credit card. My beautiful Gretchen found the hotel…
Broken, in terrible shape, and unable to stand on my own for more than a few minutes, I was cut loose with nothing except the clothes I was wearing and a cell phone.
That was the start of 70 days on my back, recovering from collapsed lungs, broken ribs, and a bad case of the “all-shook-up’s”. I was so far from anywhere, no one could come and help me. Nobody knew what had happened to me or where I was.
Fortunately, the story made 250 papers across the country and someone saw it, passed the details on up the ladder and I was eventually able to speak with people I knew: my parents, Joanie & Bill.
When I was finally able to move, I was able to walk around Carthage a bit and get the lay of the land. This was rural Tennessee poverty and hardscrabble life, and very little was joyful or uplifting. It was a sobering experience: they had one gas station and one restaurant. The Carthage Diner was tucked inside one of the gas station bays and other than a decent paper-plate breakfast with catfish, they served frogs legs and Spam for lunch. Every day.
My physical therapy in Carthage at the Medical Center started as soon as I could walk up there, and then had to look for a new car. This was another nightmare that seemed to go on forever and I wrote a song about it: “That Car Won’t Drive” Eventually one was found, so I loaded it all up, collected all the guitars and gear, speakers and mics that had not been damaged, and headed off to continue the schedule.
I was coming out of Chicago three months later, heading to Philadelphia and I hit a deer at 6 am that just came out of nowhere. The Blazer flipped, cab crushed, and another real mess on the highway near Terra Haute, Indiana. This was mild: scrapped arms, lotta blood but nothing too serious, except I had to hang out in the hotel again, heal as best I could and pick up a rental car to keep heading East.
“If there’s a place for musical perfection, it’s wherever you’ll find Eric Sommer – A blistering acoustic style plus a variety of slide and open tuning formats will knock you for a loop…” wrote Studdie Burns, New Melody Maker/UK in 2013. “How one guy can do this so well is remarkable, but if you look a little deeper there’s a batch of road miles around this lad… and it all makes sense.”
Eric started his musical career in the Boston area under the eye of legendary promoter Don Law and was onstage at The Paradise Theatre in Boston for a record 40 appearances. He has been a regular player on many national and international tours and showcases, and worked in Europe for two years with Nick Lowe and acts Bram Tchaikovsky and Wreckless Eric; during this period Eric worked on Danish, German and British rock stages, returned to Boston and formed The Atomics.
As a founding member of Boston’s legendary pop/new wave cult trio “The Atomics”, who toured non-stop with Mission of Burma, Gang of Four and The Dead Kennedy’s and were on the leading edge of several musical transformations, Eric never lost sight of his acoustic roots, returning to his heroes and mentors often: David Bromberg, Steve Howe(YES), Duane Allman (Allman Bros.), Bert Jansch, Davy Graham, Robert Johnson. Mr. Sommer’s current project with power trio “The Solar Flares” shake up Chet Atkins and David Bromberg’s influences with those of Randy Travis and British Rocker Elvis Costello – a remarkable mix.
And to keep track of it all, Eric started keeping notes, which evolved from napkin scribbles to paper and pen efforts, writing stories, making poetry and capturing the roads and bridges as they went by, plus people, places and… more people which become his notes, then become characters for songs, stories, and prose.
Eric currently has four volumes of verse, 5 studio albums, a LIVE in AUSTIN DVD as well as an electronica project titled “The Smallest Particle” and more on the way… this blog is an attempt to keep track of it all…
You can reach Eric directly at ericATericsommer.com and see more of his projects here on this website. Red Chairs, Black Pancake and Blue Turtle are all available here, as well as all current releases. Please share and comment below.
Singer/songwriter Eric Sommer is an unbelievable intersection of improbable influences and experiences channeled into an amazingly diverse catalog and a résumé that reads more like a musical adventure novel than a series of career bullet points.