A couple of weeks ago, I was at Altar Bar for a battle of the bands, and saw Erin Payne, bassist for Beware Fashionable Women, playing a cool greenish-brown bass -- a design I'd never seen before. It turns out the bass is a brand-new Music Man Big Al, made by the Ernie Ball company; Payne estimates it's one of about 10 in existence. But the story that goes with it is even more unusual.
In addition to Beware Fashionable Women, Payne, 25, has played in local bands Photo Joe and the Negatives, The Atomic Drops and The Lemmiwinks; he and his wife, Lynn, live in Observatory Hill. In January, he realized he was sick, and was soon diagnosed with brain cancer. He recently finished surgery and radiation therapy, but the medical bills had begun to pile up.
Payne figured he'd try selling a couple of his basses on the Ernie Ball online forums he frequents as stingray96191. He hoped to at least hold onto the Big Al, which he'd ordered before the diagnosis, and was still waiting to receive.
"Well, neither of my guitars that I had listed for sale sold, so I went back on the Ernie Ball forums and posted that I had a limited-run guitar ordered at a very good price," Payne says. His post mentioned that he was trying to cover his medical expenses.
"At this point I left for band rehearsal for the day," he says. "I checked my e-mail while I was at rehearsal and saw that Sterling Ball, the CEO of the Ernie Ball Corporation, had posted in my thread." Ball had read Payne's post, and issued a challenge to the rest of the forum.
The post, on www.ernieball.com/forums, reads in part: "We need to raise $2,400 for this guy to keep his basses while he undergoes chemo ... I will put the first $100.00 in. Don't feel pressured to give but if you can afford a dollar then do what you can. If we raise the $2,400.00, I will give him the [Big Al] that he has on order. He has to promise to never sell the basses."
The outpouring of cash and support was immediate. In less than 24 hours, Payne says, the forum had raised "well over $5,000." One member even raffled one of his own instruments for the cause. All told, Payne ultimately received over $9,000 in assistance -- including a rare instrument with quite a story. Not bad for a bunch of bass players in a chatroom!
Beware Fashionable Women's next show is Sat., Nov. 14, at Club Café. For more info, visit www.bewarefashionablewomen.com.