Getting phone calls at three in the morning on a Saturday night are never a good sign, and the one I got last night is no exception. Fred Weaver called and left a message on my voice mail which I immediately returned to get some of the most grim news of my life.
Jerry Fuchs, drummer extraordinaire, illustrator par excellence, Chunklet contributor and rock solid friend, died last night. I’m still awaiting to get more news, but here’s what I know: Jerry was at a party in Brooklyn and fell down an elevator shaft. He was immediately rushed to the hospital where he was admitted in critical condition. Shortly after, he died in the early hours of Sunday, November 8 while an entire waiting room of friends were there for him.
I originally met Jerry when he was a newly enrolled student at UGA in 1993 at the University of Georgia. He and I met at Frijoleros on Lumpkin in downtown Athens while I was on assignment to write a feature about his band The Martians for The Flagpole. Thanks to our mutual adoration of Bitch Magnet and Bastro, it took but a few minutes for us to become quick friends. Even in his teens, Jerry was a spectacular drummer, but you could tell he was just starting to grow into his talents.
We’d routinely drive into the big city of Atlanta to go record shopping and see his family up in Marietta. Upon meeting his family, I could see why Jerry was as irrepressibly sweet, cordial and kind as he was. His younger brother, Adam, was still a little kid when I met him and he would always worship the ground his older brother walked on. His mutual interest in illustrating took him to work at Adult Swim for the past several years, but has always been his brother’s biggest cheerleader. He did the illustrations for a Maserati video a few years back and has always been in the front row of his older brother’s gigs. Adam’s twin sister was always around and although she had special needs, you would never know it by being around the Fuchs family. I never met Jerry’s elder sister, but I knew enough of her to know that they were all very tight and loved each other very much. And of course, Jerry’s parents were overwhelmingly supportive and loving of their son Jerry’s undeniable talents. They cooked dinner for me a number of times and would show me embarrassing photos of a younger Jerry with dreadlocks and then take me around to the room where Jerry’d practice his drums. I always felt that they were unbelievably proud of their four children.
As Jerry’s time in Athens wore on, our friendship blossomed. The band he was in, The Martians, was a temporary situation. Once he was out of the band, he started performing with a number of musicians in town. Most notably, he played with Space Cookie and Nuçi Phillips in an as of yet untitled project (which’d eventually be called Koncak).
To me, Jerry seemed frustrated in Athens, and that’s when fate stepped in. One day, while I was goofing off at my job at the University of Georgia, I was trawling the usenet newsgroups when I saw Jon Fine (formerly of Bitch Magnet) soliciting for a new drummer for his band Vineland. I reached out to Jon and told him of the best under-utilized drummer in Athens named Jerry Fuchs. Not knowing how Jerry would react to me doing this on his behalf, I went to Jerry and told him I involuntarily threw his name into the ring for drummer of Vineland.
Soon thereafter, Jon and Jerry were routinely chatting on the phone, and shortly after that Jerry took a school break to go up to New York. What the hell? It couldn’t hurt to try something new, right? Of course, almost immediately, Mr. Fine enlisted Jerry to his band. Jerry wrapped up his semester and then quickly moved to New York. Through Vineland, I became pals with Jon (who interviewed Roger Miller for Chunklet) and Fred Weaver (who wrote the brilliant Don Cab tour diary in issue 16) and those friendships still resonate today. I helped put on Vineland’s gig at the Landfill (at 660 Reese Street) in the spring of ’96 which was the first time I saw the newly minted NYC Jerry in action…and it was oh-so-sweet. Jerry worked on the stock exchange floor during those years and he seemed happy.
Shortly after that gig in ’96, Jerry started jamming with Scott and Justin from Pitchblende in a band that would eventually become Turing Machine. During his tenure in Turing Machine, he came back to Athens to finish his design degree and we spent time together when we could fit in each other’s schedule. In total, Jerry contributed his unique and hysterical illustrations to seven issues of Chunklet.
By this point, watching Jerry play drums was like eating cupcakes while getting a deep back massage. His moves were getting more and more powerful while looking more and more effortless. One time Turing Machine played in Atlanta in 2000, Jerry got in a fender bender using his parent’s minivan as the rest of his band and I were more quickly saying "Jerry… Jerry?!? JERRY?! JERRY!!!!!" in the backseat as he zoomed closer to a car in front of him. It’s random moments like that which are popping up as I type this quasi-obituary for one of my closest friends.
As the new millennium started gearing up, there was a obvious reason why Jerry started playing with all the DFA-affiliated bands (The Juan Maclean, !!!, etc.) as time went on: He was an invaluable monster on the drums that could recreate those motorik-like disco beats and make it sound human. Goddamn, the hair on the back of my neck stands on end when I think about it. Recent years saw him reaffirm his roots in Athens as he became the incredibly propulsive backbone to Maserati after they gave their original drummer the boot. And man, again, watching Jerry perform was always a treat. ALWAYS.
The last time I saw Jerry was in the early morning hours in Toronto at NXNE a few months ago. We were staying at the same hotel and bumped into each other in the lobby. He was just coming back from a gig with The Juan Maclean and I was coming back from a show I had curated elsewhere in town. We had a frazzled and hasty, yet friendly, late night chat concluded with Jerry saying "I’ll call you soon." And that was that.
Which brings me to the early hours of this lovely Sunday morning in Georgia when Jerry’s family, bandmates, loved ones and friends had the floor yanked out from underneath us. Jerry Fuchs (aka Gerhardt, Gerard, Jerry J. Jeromey, Jerome, et. al.) is dead. The vague details of how he died in the first paragraph is all I know right now. But what will I remember about Jerry? There’s so much that I don’t even know where to start. I’d have to start with his kind-hearted nature. He was a sweet man. Thoughtful. Generous. To add to that, he was easy to make laugh and laugh at. A robust sense of humor punctuated with genuine bouts of derisive laughter. Jerry was prematurely grey even when I knew him in the mid-90s which I always found entertaining. He was modest while being self-effacing and incredibly accommodating. His illustration and design work was strong and unique. The drawings he did in Chunklet always made me laugh because Jerry "got it" so quickly (unlike many illustrators that have come and gone). And his drumming? I’d confidently put Jerry in the pantheon of stellar drummers and I don’t know anybody who even casually knew or saw perform Jerry who would disagree with me.
Jerry Fuchs is survived by his parents, an older sister, a younger brother and sister along with nephews and nieces. Additionally, Jerry is survived by an impressive canon of records on which he’s performed, countless mouth-agape audiences in awe of his work, dozens of heart-crushed former bandmates, and an endless parade of true friends around the world. Jerry, your influence was profound and far-reaching.
UPDATE: Gothamist report.
OBITS: New York Times, ABC News, Philly Burbs, AJC, WNYC, Rolling Stone, Brooklyn Vegan, Village Voice.
VIEWING (NYC): November 11 from 6 to 8PM at Senko Funeral Home, 213 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11211, Tel: 718-388-4416.
MEMORIAL SERVICE (NYC): Friends of Jerry are gathering at Enids in Brooklyn this Thursday November 12 at 7PM.
MEMORIAL SERVICE (ATLANTA): Services for Jerry will be Tuesday, Nov. 17th at 7:30pm, St. Anns Catholic Church in East Cobb, Marietta, Ga.
MEMORIAL (ATHENS): 40 Watt Club following the service in Marietta.
CONDOLENCES TO THE FUCHS’ FAMILY: Please contact me directly (henry at chunklet dot com) and I’ll give you pertinent info. Out of respect to the family and their privacy, I will not be posting it on the site.
POSTSCRIPT: As news develops about Jerry’s funeral arrangements, you can come visit this site for up-to-date information. My sincerest condolences go out to Jerry’s family.