This is the fourth installment of several I'm doing on the Flora-Bama, located on Perdido Key, Florida, right at the Alabama line. This one is a bit more personal than the others because sometimes, just when you think you're getting to know someone or something about them, they're not there anymore.
Such is the case with "Captain Eddy."
His occasional appearances at the club were always memorable. He didn't do it for the money . . . anymore. He did it to be around people and because he loved playing his saxophone. He died too soon at 66. His name was never famous beyond the gulf coast, that I know of, and yet two hundred people attended his funeral. The regular customers and the staff and especially the ladies were very fond of the Captain. He had a warm personality and a relaxed way about him. About six feet tall, his silver grey hair in a ponytail, he usually donned a ball cap, jeans and sandals. He had sparkling blue eyes that held an abundance of knowing emotion. He had a great smile and a wide-open laugh, and though he had his serious moments in conversation, he was always ready to turn it back to a happier subject.
He lived down the road a mile or so from the Flora-Bama in a small trailer park. He seemed to be a loner, but he wasn't at all. I have the feeling he just grew tired of the demands of that "other" world out there and lived the life he wanted to for the last ten or twelve years.
He had been in the U.S. Navy Band when he was younger. He had also played clarinet and piano in high school and was a drum major. He played in clubs from the time he was fourteen and continued well into his forties, fronting Eddy Saton and the Flames for eleven years in the New Orleans and Mobile regions.
Born Edward McCook in California, it's a little hazy just when Captain Eddy landed in the gulf coast region and moved around a good bit, leaving behind a wife, a son and a daughter. His daughter Mary had been looking for him for eight years when she heard of his passing. She thought he had gone back to California ages ago. His son, Eddie L. McCook, now 27, had seen him play, never knowing he was his father. He was loved by many, known by few. He spoke to me of having songs stolen from him by one of those "send us your songs" scams years ago. He talked bitterly of people who were in the business just to make a killing.
But most of all he loved doing what he did. He played with pure heart and soul. He was a real entertainer, not wearing out his welcome with any audience. He'd wait until the moment was right and start playing along with whatever was going on out on stage. Then he'd walk slowly from the back room where the musicians hang out between sets, and work his way out into the crowd and eventually up onto the stage. Sometimes he'd venture back out into the audience during solos. He made a great impression on me, enough that I wrote him a song.
I'll always remember Captain Eddy and his advice for the young musicians: "You gotta know when to get off the stage, man."
So long, Captain. Though I didn't know you long, it felt like I'd known you all my life.
Alan Rhody is a Louisville native and hit songwriter who has resided in Nashville, Tenn., for the last 16 years. He can be reached for concerts and workshops at P.O. Box 121231, Nashville, TN 37212, or phone 615-251-3325 (Double J Music Group).