The Woman on the Right and the Godfather of King Drive | Bleader

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Woman on the Right and the Godfather of King Drive

Posted By on 02.11.10 at 12:57 PM

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Helen Wooten
  • Jim Newberry
  • Helen Wooten
I don't think I'm being a homer when I say Jake Austen's cover story this week (the second great cover story he's written for us recently after he located Michael Jackson's first studio recording), about Zelig-esque veteran music promoter Helen Wooten, is fantastic.

But it's not the first great story inspired by a Numero Group release. Dave Kehr's Bob Mehr's 2005 cover story on Arrow Brown, "The Godfather of King Drive," is one of the best pieces that's ever run in the paper; it made me want to work here:

Brown's outsize lifestyle matched his outsize character. He was rarely without his signature cigar, .38 special, and black homburg—a rogue image that even served as Bandit's logo for a time. Among his other accessories was a wood-handled ice pick, which he would idly pull out and hurl at some target—a tree stump, a can. A simple backwoods boy to start, a migrant to Chicago from the small-town south, Brown saw in the big city all the things he was not—sharp, tough, powerful, glamorous—but wanted to become. With a silver tongue and an iron will, he carved a life for himself of little work and lots of pleasure. To some he was a predator, to others a protector. To many he was both.

Brown was not an educated man, but he understood the cruel verities at the core of the music business: looks fade, voices deteriorate, the weak are exploited, carefully tended dreams are stillborn. Savvier than many small-time operators, he surrounded himself with multiple generations of young people who could serve as the rungs on his ladder to wealth and fame. As his son Kevin recalls, "He dared to dream. Only he let that dream become a nightmare for everyone else." In the end the nightmare would become Brown's too: he died abandoned and unfulfilled, his life's work to be strewn about like garbage.

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