Art wasn’t famous. He played in bars and restaurants, small gatherings and festivals. He made some records of his own, but they weren’t exactly chartbusters, so he made a living writing songs and playing with other musicians in Nashville (with some side trips into other jobs to pay the bills). People didn’t talk about A.J. Masters; the paparazzi didn’t follow him. But I always knew who he was.
See, my aunt was his friend. She knew Art for something like forty years. She used to go watch him play in those bars and restaurants, and sometimes she’d take me along. We went to see him last a couple years ago, in the courtyard of a little church. His father had just passed away, and he was in town for that sad business, but he made some time to visit old friends and play some tunes. When my aunt dropped by this morning to wish me happy birthday, she also delivered the news that Art had died a couple weeks ago. She said it was the first time she could talk about it without bursting into tears. There’s already been services and memorials in Nashville, but they’re hoping to get something done out here in SoCal for him soon.
Really, that’s all I’ve got. Enjoy the music. Artie sure did.
I remember being knee-high to a grasshopper, getting gussied up in my pretty party dress, and going to a restaurant/bar in Long Beach called Lido’s. At Lido’s I got a Shirley Temple, and my family and I listened to my aunt’s friend Art sing. Now this was a long time ago, sometime PSW (pre-Star Wars), back when people still called him Art the Fart (to be fair, it might’ve just been my family that called him that). He played some originals and quite a few covers; it was what the crowd at the bar wanted to hear. I remember going with my aunt as a teenager to hear Art sing at a restaurant in Cerritos called Clinkerdagger’s; I remember one of those shows as being the first time I heard “Please Don’t Bury Me.”
He goes by A.J. Masters professionally now, lives near Nashville, TN, and has had his songs sung by some very popular Country stars (Faith Hill is the first one that comes to mind). He was born and raised out here, though, so he still comes back to see family. He usually plays a gig or two with his friends when he’s here. He’s not a star, but he makes a living as a working musician and songwriter.
Why is any of this important? It isn’t. It’s just happy memories for me and occasionally, like tonight, an evening out listening to a guy who’s voice is a familiar one, even though I’ve never heard him on the radio. He played this song tonight, although he didn’t tell any stories about it. I know its one of my aunt’s favorites.