Tribute to Keith Anderson “ A Roadie Brother who we will never forget”
Tribute to Keith Anderson “ A Roadie Brother who we will never forget”
Written by Brenda “Chiefbear” Long
Editied by Chris Kuenning
On January 29, 2012, the touring industry lost yet another roadie brother – Keith Anderson. He was a devoted father, son, brother and friend, who will be remembered for his big smile and contagious laugh. He will be sadly missed by all his roadie brothers and sisters who loved him.
Keith’s roadie background began when his cousin, Ed Swink, started him into the business in the 80s. Some of the artists he worked for were John Cougar Mellencamp, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Van Halen (Monster of Rock), Tina Turner, Brooks & Dunn, Rascal Flatts, Transiberian Orchestra, and many other artists.
Keith’s funeral was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I traveled to attend. I had no idea how this would touch my life. Keith had a way about him – when you first met him, he made you feel like you were his best friend. When Edman Skinner told me that a few of the Brooks & Dunn crew members were going to get a tour bus to make the journey to say goodbye to their roadie brother, I remarked, “This is so fitting, and I know Keith has a big smile on his face.” When Edman and I drove to the funeral home for calling hours, there were many, many people there. That is when I realized that the community he had lived in for so long loved him so much.
The number 37 followed him everywhere. While on the road with Brooks & Dunn, everyone on the crew had a number to call each other on the radio. Keith’s number was 37. The number 37 was the year his dad was born. Keith chose this as his lucky number and it seemed to enter his life in many ways. In fact, on the day the luggage tags were given out, Keith got the number 37 and it was not by request – it just happened that way. It was also the number on his workbox and his radio call number on tour. The only time boxes are numbered on tour is if the shipping boxes are going overseas. The only box ever numbered on the Brooks & Dunn tour in 18 years was Keith’s box.
When I walked into the church with Jay Marks (from Transiberian Orchestra), he pointed out the hymn board where there was hymn number 37 – he was still making his presence known!!
I immediately looked up the hymn, looked at Jay, and said coincidentally it was Chief Loebig’s favorite hymn – “How Great Thou Art”. His brother told me later it was put into the service at the last minute. I felt both Keith and Chief’s presence in the church. After the service, the temperature was 37 degrees. It seemed it was like Keith telling us he was okay, he was with Chief (and I bet Bob Butler was there, too).
The family asked the Brooks & Dunn crew to be pallbearers – Edman Skinner, Larry Boster, Randy “Baja” Fletcher, Johnny Seay, Mike Bischoff, Jeff Kersey, and Sonny “Magic” Slater. Just watching them carry their roadie brother into the church would have brought tears to anyone’s eyes. I could sense it was an honor for the crew to be asked to do this for Keith. The service was so beautiful, especially when Keith’s son, Kyle, got up to speak about his father on behalf of him and his brother, Tyler. You could feel that Keith was a hero in his sons’ eyes. The one thing that got all of us laughing was the story about Kyle reminiscing on how his father taught him one thing – and that was to pack a proper suitcase. All of us in the touring industry that attended could relate to that! Then Sonny “Magic “ Slater got up to speak about Keith. He asked for all of us to give this man a standing ovation – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. His niece, Tracy, played a video she had made about him.
Afterward, something happened that really touched my heart forever. As I stood outside and waited for the Brooks & Dunn crew to bring their roadie brother out to the hearse, I watched them cry as they knew this was the last thing they would do for their brother. Then they had a crew hug and stood at attention as the hearse drove away. I cried as I knew then how strong the road family is – when one of us hurts, we all hurt and all support one another.
Keith’s funeral was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Sorry Baja, I knew Keith would want me to say that as he was a huge Steelers fan!) Randy “Baja” Fletcher knew there also needed to be a memorial service in Nashville, Tennessee where all of Keith’s friends could come together to pay tribute to their roadie brother. What better place to have the service then at Soundcheck! So again, the Brooks & Dunn crew and friends worked together to pay tribute one last time to Keith. The stage and lights were built and it was time to start the service which was attended by Keith’s family and many of Keith’s road family. Trez Gregory sang the Irish Blessing and Angela Rowland sang “Amazing Grace”. Many of Keith’s roadie brothers spoke about him and also talked about his number 37 road box. (Miss Bee brought the number 37 road box to Soundcheck for the service.) Next was a video Keith’s niece made in memory of him, and lastly the service was concluded with the song “Load Out” by Jackson Browne.
The Brooks & Dunn crew would like to thank Soundcheck for donating the rehearsal hall for Keith’s memorial service. They also thanked me for making the memorial shirts. Thanks to Kyle Gusty for donating the tour laminates. Finally, thanks to so many people who helped with the planning of this service – we could not have done it without all of you and you know who you are.
Keith had a multitude of friends and family and I have captured some of their thoughts, feelings, and parting words.
“You know, it could be a 103 day at load in and Keith would still be there with that smile on his face. Sure gonna miss that SMILE.”
“Endless love never dies. My brother Keith: Fly Free, Fly Free, Shine On, Shine On, ‘till we meet again.”
“I remember meeting Keith seven years ago when Brooks & Dunn opened their tour to Roadie.Net. He came up, introduced himself, and within minutes you felt like he was your best friend. He thought what I was doing with “Chiefbear on the Road” was cool. I explained to him I wanted to write about the unsung heroes of the business. He gave me a bit of advice I will never forget and still practice: ‘Always go by the rules of the tour’. He followed with, ‘Darlin’, if you ever need anything while you’re here, just call #37.’ Keith, I will miss your big smile and your friendship. Oh and how we loved the Pittsburgh Steelers!”
“I had the honor of working with Keith for the past couple of years on Transiberian Orchestra. He was a hard worker and a great friend. You will be missed, Keith. Rest in peace.”
I met Keith as a rookie on the Rascal Flatts’ “Still Feels Good” tour. I was one of the new guys that came with the new PM, need I say more. I worked as a stage hand in Charlotte, North Carolina for 13 years prior. I knew who Keith Anderson was, but he knew me as “Kendall’s boy”. Again, need I say more. I was honored to be working with the best in the business, even knowing he disliked me. Four years after, we were the best of friends and I was learning every day alongside of the man. We were in old fashion terms best friends – everyone knew that wherever Keith was, so was I – BROTHERS on tour. I was excited and proud and knew one day with hard work and Keith, I would start to get my name in the business. In our third year touring with Rascal Flatts, I received a phone call from TSO to interview for the head carpenter position. After the interview, I was hired and was asked if I could bring a carpenter with me. It took one second and I told the PM that I knew just the guy. I recommended that Keith come as the head carpenter and I come as his second. Deal done!! Call me stupid, but I still had more to learn from Keith and we did it with hard work and perfection. Keith returned to TSO this past year, and while I wanted to, I had taken another one of those calls from the Foo Fighters and decided to put what I had learned from Keith Anderson to use. I left Rascal Flatts and Transiberian Orchestra to pursue my solo run. The Foo Fighters made a stop in Pittsburgh and Keith just happened to be in “Steel Curtain Land”. Yep, Keith came in and observed the load in, and his brother came to the show that night. That was the last time spent together for us. We talked almost every day, either on the phone or texting. I love you Keith. I am so sadden with the loss of my best friend.
Ricardo Jay Laney:
“My boy just left wardrobe for his wing fittings, he went with black and gold ones. Gonna miss you bro.”
Jimmy James, Jr.”
“Keith, you will be truly missed by all the people whose lives you touched every day. What a true blessing it was to know you and call you a true friend. You are now with the ‘Biggest Entertainer’ of all. Enjoy your fabulous ride. Love ya brother.”
“It’s been a long night, and even a longer day. The last time I was lost for words was the day my dad passed away. Thinking about the first time I met Keith was on the lake – in Party Cove – go figure! We became great friends. Then I got to work for him on Brooks & Dunn. He always was smiling. No matter how bad things were going on stage, he always made it happen before show time. Keith never met a stranger – everyone was his family – and he treated you that way. I’ll really miss him. One last thing Keith, when you get the big stage set, please get my dad a ticket down front next to a lot of pretty ladies, he would like that. You and he get to meet again, I love you little brother.”
John “Schmee” Schmiemeier:
“What a huge loss to the biz.”
“I love you, Brother. Hope your journey will take you to great places. I know you are watching over us now and I will see you on the other side!!! Love you! R.I.P. Keith!”
We have lost some light down here but we have gained a beautiful and wonderful angel!!! I miss you!!!
“Hey you young whippersnapper! I really miss you a lot! Tell everyone in heaven that Jonesy the Crossman said hi! Thanks! I will see you again in heaven Amen! ♥ Jonesy the Crossman “
“I was thinking about how much it’s going to suck to never see Keith’s contagious smile again when I realized that I’ll always see it in the memories we shared and it’s still just as contagious today. My favorite part of touring with Brooks & Dunn was carpooling with Keith and Johnny. I got to hear all the good gossip of who got tanked and jacked something up or dropped $15K on the tables! One of my favorite stories to tell friends has always been regarding Case 37 and being issued a shot of Crown before the shows. Lots of smooth, fluid-like movement from the camera ops! Keith wanted everyone to have a good time and his presence alone insured that you had a blast! Miss you bro.”
David Vincent Gagric:
“I AM GOING TO MISS YOU DEAR FRIEND AND THE LAUGHS WE HAD WHEN WE GOT TOGETHER, YOU ARE ONE OF THE KINDEST MEN I KNOW. MAY GOD BLESS YOU. JESUS, WELCOME HOME OUR BROTHER KEITH. I MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU. GOD BLESS.”
“Rest in peace, Brother. I’ll never forget the good times we had those two years Brooks & Dunn and Reba toured together. You will be missed.”
“This guy made a huge impact on a lot of people! Hope I can be half the guy he was. Peace Casey.”
“Keith, with the lump in my throat, it is hard to put my feelings into words. You were a friend and mentor from the day we met and a person who was there to help us through tough times in our lives. Always a giver, sharing your talents and your wit. So many great memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I am a better person for having known you. Rest in peace my friend – I love you.”
“Thank Keith for the good times. You always made the carts disappear. Love ya, Keith.”
“The Brooks & Dunn crew taught me a lot about the business. I’m really going to miss you Keith! It’s always sad losing a brother, but we’re all blessed to have known you.”
Samuel B. Simpson:
“R.I.P. Keith. Save me spot in FOH.”
“You will be missed. Godspeed to all your family and friends.”
Joe C. Bush:
“Keith, Ed, Joe C., Tommy – we all were on the Brooks & Dunn tour for years. Keith, it is so sad to find out about your passing. I will miss you brother. R.I.P.”
“To my dear friend Keith Edward Anderson: ‘Friends are the siblings God never gave us’. You will surely be missed. We shared many laughs and tears – great times. I know you’re up there watching over all of us with that big Keith laugh and smile. For now, good-bye my friend and brother. See you on the other side someday. Godspeed and rest in peace.”
“R.I.P. #37 Keith Edward Anderson.”
“A friend of mine I toured with passed on. Keith Edward Anderson was a wild man who loved life. He was fun guy that I had the pleasure of getting to know. I wish I could share more stories about him but I don’t want to offend anyone. LOL! I often think of my time on Bus 7 and it was something I would not trade for the world. I love you Keith and the rest of Bus 7. R.I.P. Brother Keith.”
“Just shocked. Keith Edward Anderson, you taught me what it meant to be a good stage manager – how to run a crew, turn over a stage in less than four minutes, where to hide the crown, always found me a private shower (if there was one), where you place your trucks at the dock so you don’t get backed-up during load-out. You even let me run your pre-show crew meetings a few times. You always had a smile on your face and a way to fix all the things that went wrong. Finding out you were the guy who shot Jon Bon Jovi in the air during ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ was the icing on the cake. I miss you my friend, you will be missed many. Rest in peace, 37.
“R.I.P. my friend. I can’t believe that crazy laughter from you is silenced so soon. YOU will be missed!”
“We had a great ride together. R.I.P., Keith.”
Mike ‘Moses’ Beck: “I am sad to say that my pal, Keith Edward Anderson, has passed. He was a helluva good guy. R.I.P. brother.”
“I as well had the honor of working with Keith on the Brooks & Dunn/Reba tour of 1997 – two bands, two crews – but to Keith it was just one big ‘ole happy family. He always had that smile and laugh. We have lost one hell of a road brother!! Gonna miss ya bud and how ’bout them Steelers!”
In conclusion, Dave Shadoan, one of Keith’s good friends, stated, “I sure will miss you on this long road we call home. R.I.P., Keith – see you when I see you!”