It occurred to me that I’d known Greg Haymes, also known as Sarge Blotto, almost since I moved to Albany in 1979. Greg DEFINED Albany for me.
FantaCo, that comic book store on 21 Central Avenue in the city, where I worked starting in May 1980, also sold a handful of music-related items. That would mean Japanese imports of Beatles EPs and Goldmine magazine.
It would include Hello, My Name Is Blotto, What’s Yours? a four-song EP by a bunch of folks who, like the Ramones, weren’t REALLY related. The store sold a second collection called Across and Down. Blotto performed Lightning Strikes on a regional compilation called Hudson Rock, another item we sold.
A Blotto member also found a couple of copies of a single called Wings in Japan by the Spastic Phono Band, which you can listen to HERE. I secured a rare recording at that time.
Then MTV happened. The music video for I Wanna Be A Lifeguard, with the lead vocal by Sarge, was played on music television’s very first day on the air in August 1981. The awe and mystery that was Blotto put Albany, and the band, on the music map.
The guys primarily interacted with Raoul Vezina, FantaCo’s resident artist, and front-of-the-store guru. When he died unexpectedly in November 1983, it was unsurprising that the fellows in the band all went to the funeral.
Afterward, and I’m not sure how it happened, I ended up at a restaurant in Troy with the band, swapping Raoul stories and complaining about the church service. (The priest, several times, referred to the deceased as “Ralph.”)
Eventually, I left FantaCo, and did the librarian thing. But I would run into Greg Haymes fairly regularly at some concert or art opening, usually while he was doing his job as a reviewer for the Albany Times Union. My wife agreed he would be at an eclectic mix of performances. He refused to allow me to promote him to Lieutenant.
His greatest gift might have been Nippertown, the online magazine he and Sara Ayers produced. It was “based in the greater Capital Region and Hudson Valley regions of New York and western Massachusetts, writing about local art, music, theater, film and anything else that interests us.” It published from May 2009 until April 10, 2019.
Metastatic cancer, while in his mid-60s. “A prolific writer, musician and visual artist who was a vital part of the Capital Region arts scene for more than 40 years.” I can scarcely believe it. Fellow musicians, writers, and fans are all devastated by the loss of his generous and talented spirit.
Here’s Chuck Miller’s take, which includes musical links.