Our pal, Duff . . .
Decades ago it was, a smashup between sports and music, a reminder that the best nights often start with one purpose and finish with another.
Something was happening with Ole Miss football. I forget what. It was 30 years ago. After covering a basketball game at Tad Smith, Rick and I wandered over to The Gin (may it rest in peace). “The Tangents are playing,” he said. “Bound to be some football players there.”
I don’t remember whether we got anything on Ole Miss football for the paper that night. I do remember the band — Winter time? What wintertime? — and he drank a lot of beer and they played a lot of songs I dearly loved then and still love today.
That was my introduction to Duff Dorrough, one of the all-time great guys. Duff died today after a long and Duff-like weirdly cheerful battle with liver cancer. He was to get a liver transplant a couple of weeks ago. Duff was the Pied Piper at the hospital, one doctor told a friend, playing his guitar and charming the other patients into random moments of care-free fun. But the cancer had spread out of control and the liver went to someone else, who, to my way of thinking, is now responsible to squeeze as much life as possible out of that organ.
You know, the way Duff would have.
There are a thousand stories about a guy who had thousands of friends and spread music and happiness around like they were peanut butter and jelly on Wonder bread.
Here’s one more:
Long time ago, we’re sitting on Lallah Perry’s porch in Sleepy Hollow at the Neshoba County Fair, Lallah and me and Duff. She taught him art at Delta State. It was late morning, lazy time, no where to be and nothing to do. Coffee. A roll. Maybe a thought to the day’s first beer, Lallah telling stories about Duff.
He goes inside, maybe to find a top to pop. Lallah said, “You know, Duff is a deeply talented painter. The soul of a poet.” I nod like I know what she’s talking about.
“He’s good at everything,” she said. “Especially at being a human being.”