I’m sure many of you know by now of the fire that devastated the home of three San Francisco musicians. The two-unit building in the Lower Haight neighborhood was the home of Pam Brandon, Tom Drohan, and Gayle Schmitt.
Pam Brandon aka Belle Monroe is a longtime CBA favorite. Tom plays bass in Belle Monroe and the Brewglass Boys (along with the Shut-Ins). Tom’s wife, Gayle, performs folk and bluegrass music for children along with fronting a country band, Gayle Lynn and Her Hired Hands.
Besides being outstanding performers, Pam, Tom and Gayle are three of the nicest, most generous, and supportive people I know. I’m proud to call them my friends. Now they face a huge challenge, as they have lost their home and most of their possessions.
Pam had been in France to visit her parents and was in the air on her way back to San Francisco when the fire broke out on the evening of July 20th. Tom and Gayle were still in Europe on vacation. Alerted by friends of the situation, Pam arrived only a couple of hours after the fire was extinguished to find her home a smoldering wreck.
Out of the tragedy came a few bright spots. Pam’s beloved cat was rescued, and a firefighter grabbed her Martin D-41 and saved it from at least smoke and water damage, if not total destruction. Pam, Tom, and Gayle are also getting a lot of love from their friends within and without the bluegrass community. Plans for a benefit show are afoot and a Facebook page – The 434-436 Waller Fire Relief Page – has been set up to coordinate information on upcoming fundraising events, messages of support and donations of any kind. A bank account has been set up to accept donations. It’s great to see how many people are stepping up to see what they can do to help.
It has often been noted on this site that members of the bluegrass community are some of the most helpful, generous people you could ever know. I think of Montie Elston’s story about the difficulties he encountered on the way to the Lake Havasu festival. It involved a truck breaking down, mismatched trailer hitches, and I can’t remember what all. But I do remember that Slim and Charlene Sims went above and beyond the call of duty to help Montie when it looked like his whole trip was a wash. I can’t recall just who drove who where or how they worked out the trailer hitch thing, but I was impressed at just how much time and energy the Simses put into the effort.
Now it’s time for all of us to step up and do what we can for our friends who have contributed so much to the San Francisco bluegrass scene. Any support you can offer, whether it’s a message of support or donations of money or goods will help them get through this difficult time. A raffle and/or silent auction is being planned and any prize items will be gratefully accepted. Details will be on the Facebook page.
I should be amazed at the outpouring of sympathy and offer of help for the victims that we’ve already received, but I’m not. It’s just what I’d expect from our wonderful bluegrass community. Thanks to you all.