Jon Rans, drummer for Lonely Lonely Knights, is gone.
I met Jon at a Lonely Lonely Knights gig early this year. He came up to me and gave me a pair of 3D glasses. “They want me to give these out,” he shrugged, grinning. Then he took his place behind the drum kit and slugged out the backbeat for what was certainly one of the best garage bands in New Orleans. I’d see Jon on Desire Street, outside of Euclid’s after a band practice, laughing and nonchalant. There was something about him, about all of those guys, I always really liked.
The Knights had the true garage band spirit — sloppy in the best sense, self-deprecating without ever feeling sorry for themselves, great scholars of pop arcana, very, very funny and mocking at times, but most of all united by the sense of how awesome it was to play songs like “Let It All Hang Out,” “Psychotic Reaction” and “Pushing Too Hard” alongside their own stuff. Naturally they worked in record stores and mind-melded with ancient vinyl. Two guitars, bass and Rans on drums, slamming the beat without ever seeming too concerned about it, often smoking that cigarette, carefully balanced on his lower lip as he played. They were a fixture in my life, the Tuesday night hang at the Saturn. Lightnin’ Lee at the bar thinking I’m Dr. John and me not correcting him.
Then the horror-stricken Facebook post from bassist Lefty Parker: “Our drummer and a good man, Jon Rans, passed away suddenly tonight [Sunday]. I loved him, and his achievements were many. He had been a supporter of many scenes and bands, he had a club, and booked many hopelessly awful and great acts. Also a record store owner giving much to his scene.”
Saying he died before his time is an empty phrase but this is another in a way-too-long list of people I’ve known who’ve gone away before I could get to know them like I would have liked to. The band looked good from behind those 3D glasses that night. And when they announced they were gonna play what has been a personal anthem since I was 15, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” by The Kinks, I screamed affirmation from my bar stool. Jon broke his nonchalance and craned his neck to see who this nutter was screaming at the band, then gave me an approving nod.
The Knights will honor their commitment to play the Hurricane Sandy benefit at the Howlin’ Wolf tonight (Tuesday) with Eric Lindell, Susan Cowsill and Russ Broussard, The Radiators’ Camile Baudoin and Friends, Hot 8 Brass Band, Katey Red, Johnny Dilks and the Highway Kind. The Knights will perform with special guest Joe Adragna on drums… dedicated to Jon Rans.
There will be a memorial for Jon Rans at the Saturn Bar Friday at 7 p.m. Look out.