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The King Of The Inland Empire

Al Billings

carl on drums

I’d known Carl Hubert for well over fifty years, as an older and accomplished drummer, and a great personal friend. My first bands struggled to become airborne, while Carl tore up San Bernardino, California and it’s immediate environments, often in collusion with the guitarist and composer Jim Messina. I can remember peeking through a window at one of Carl’s rehearsals in his family’s den, rattling windows all the way down to next block. More than anything, I wanted to play in Carl’s band, and that time would eventually come.

He and Jim Messina moved to Hollywood, built studios and rubbed elbows with the likes of Brian Wilson. But he suffered a disastrous marriage, and the onset of increasing depression, gradually losing his confidence along the way. He became angry then, drinking heavily and barrelling recklessly along fog-shrouded roads, as though he’d considered ending it all by smashing into a freeway abutment.

Years later, he ended up in Las Vegas driving enormous trucks and struggling to support his wife, who died several years ago, leaving him emotionally destitute. I’d call him, and we’d talk about guitars, drums, camera, and his past successes. He began ignoring his answer machine, and finally confessed to me that he’d lived an entire year consuming only candy.

When the final decline came, I called him in the hospital in Las Vegas. Liver cancer had begun to consume his body, and the medications they gave him left him wretchedly sick to his stomach. So I called him in his hospital room and whispered, Carl, you were a great drummer, man, you were the King of the Inland Empire, and we all looked up to you. Yea, he said, yea, sure. It was the last time I ever spoke to him.

When the Traveling Wilburys began composing new tunes, they were really just celebrating their success. With Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynn in the band, they certainly had the cards stacked in their favor. And then one day, Roy Orbison suffered a heart attack and died. Tom Petty and Bob Dylan happened to be in the studio together, and they were stunned by Roy’s sudden death. Tom Petty looked at Bob Dylan and asked him, Aren’t you glad it was Roy who died instead of you?

May 1, 2014 7:41 pm

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