Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FUNNY SONGWRITER KILLS OTERI'S FATHER


Richard Fagan, the guy who wrote George H.W. Bush's campaign theme song ("Americana," first recorded by Moe Bandy) is a murderer. He killed Cheri Oteri's father, Tom. (You know Cheri from her role as an irritating cheerleader alongside Will Ferrell in a series of SNL sketches.) [Update: April 15, 2011. If a murderer is someone who takes another's life deliberately, then Richard is not a murderer. Just a killer. See the full update below.]

Saturday night (April 26th) ended violently when Gaetano Thomas Oteri got into an argument with Fagan. Oteri co-owned ofmusic.com and managed Richard Fagan's career. They were also roommates.

61 year-old Richard Fagan was liquored up that night and he slashed Oteri's wrist. Police didn't know of this until after they arrested Fagan for DUI and checked his home.

Fagan, who came to Nashville in 1988, tended to write loopy songs for redneck comedians, as well as novelty tracks for major C&W stars. He also could knock off more traditional fare, and his list includes "Be My Baby Tonight" (John Michael Montgomery), "Why Can't We All Just get a Longneck" (Hank Williams Jr.) and "The Good Lord Loves You" (Neil Diamond). "Around Here" was recorded by George Jones, "She's Tough" by Chris LeDoux, "Crime of the Century" by Shania Twain, and "All Over But the Shouting” for Shenandoah.

Fagan grew up in Philadelphia, and it was there that he tried songwriting, helped along by the man who became his manager - Tom Oteri. Together they produced demos and sent them out, and together they ended up in Nashville as partners.

Fagan's publicity release, probably written by the late Mr. Oteri, notes Fagan's "father died when he was 3, and he was raised in the housing projects of South Philadelphia. His mother cleaned homes and offices for a living while her boy ran wild in the streets." Fagan recalled of his teen years, “I had grown up playing early rock ‘n’ roll in South Philly. But by the 1980s, pop had changed so drastically. I was starting to get away from it when new-wave and punk came in. By the time rap came along, the whole landscape had changed. So when I came to Nashville, I thought, ‘Country music is closer to what I grew up with, early rock ‘n’ roll.’ So I think I had good reason to be confident..."

The funny Fagan wrote the “Universal Adjective Song” in 1990 for Pinkard & Bowden, and a bunch of items for Cledus T. Judd, including a lightweight snicker-ode to "Mindy McCready." He co-wrote "“Put the Seat Back Down” for Kacey Jones as well as the obvious "I Miss My Man (but my aim's gettin' better)."
The Philly fool schooled himself well on how to write like a redneck.

His uptempo novelty tune "Sold," was a #1 for John Michael Montgomery. It's about a motormouth moron using a Grundy County auction to babble a "bid" at a pretty girl. Punchline: "We still love to laugh about the way we met that day!" Right, and it's just about as funny and entertaining as a slit wrist.
The tune he wrote for Pinkard and Bowden is better, but the version you'll hear below is pointlessly censored with beeps. And that's f--ked up: "The universal adjective is f--kin' up my life."
The parody song "Mindy McCready" is really just drooling, not fooling, and the Kacey Jones feminist kick in the nuts has these lines: "I miss my man, but my aim's gettin' better. He turned into a pig and left me for a big ol' sow...If I'd a shot him when I first met him, I'd be outta jail by now!" Next stanza, she just missed the guy with...a Ginsu knife.
"Overnight Male," your typically obvious C&W pun-song, was a honky tonk hit for George Strait. "Let me be your mailman and I'll always come through. There's no denyin' come rain or shine I'll deliver my love to you. I do things by the letter, you can put your stamp on me. 'Cause there ain't nobody better for a special delivery." Very clever. Except the songwriter went postal.

Morbid curiosity would have you wondering, "Well, what kind of funny songwriter could a guy be, who turns on his partner and slashes him with a knife on a drunken night?" To quote Poe: "What demon is like alcohol?"

It doesn't say much for songwriter royalties if this guy had to live with his partner and share a place to stay. Now, Fagan's going to be a guest of the state.


OVERNIGHT MALE
SOLD
KACEY JONES
PINKARD & BOWDEN
JUDD: Mindy Mcready

UPDATE:

(Apr 15, 2011). I just noticed Richard's "fuck you" comment, which led me to wonder, "well, what the fuck is he talking about?" Did he explain WHY he ain't no murderer? Nope, he di-ent. He could've directed everyone to an updated news article where he was ultimately exonerated. So...let's do it for him.

At the time this piece was written, the Fagan-Otero affair was a fairly obscure news story pretty much only of local interest. It was picked up here, because this blog so often reports on oddball novelty songs and obscure singers and songwriters. And, it also would serve to underline the fact that getting drunk is a fucking stupid thing to do, whether you get behind the wheel of a car, or just get into an argument.

When the case finally went before a judge, Fagan was able to convince him that Oteri's murder was in fact just a drunken accident, and that he hadn't aimed the weapon at Oteri's heart or inflected the fatal wound in a way aimed to kill.

It's easy to understand Richard's anger in being called a murderer (as news reports had it at the time...Oteri was...MURDERED...) when perhaps the word is just "killer," or, if George Carlin was around to invent a word, "accidental inflicter of mortality." But yeah, even a drunk driver who kills someone resents being called "killer," as it implies intent...and no remorse.

Below, the story Richard could've forwarded us to, but hell, he was angry and just wanted to offer "the old two-word suggestion," so it's understandable that he didn't feel like adding a link. Here's a link he could've sent:

http://blog.gactv.com/blog/2010/01/11/songwriter-richard-fagan-rebounds-from-friends-tragic-death/

Here's how it opens:

When songwriter Richard Fagan performs Wednesday evening at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird CafĂ©, the evening will be wrapped in personal symbolism. An installment in the Bluebird’s annual series of benefits for Alive Hospice, this particular show is dedicated to the late Tom Oteri, a former Alive Hospice volunteer who was Richard’s publisher.

Tom’s April 2008 death, in the aftermath of a fight with Richard, forced Rich — best known for writing John Michael Montgomery’s “Be My Baby Tonight” and “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)” — to confront his addiction to alcohol and his perpetual irresponsibility. Wednesday’s performance, with Rob Crosby and “Three Wooden Crosses” songwriter Doug Johnson, marks the first time Richard has performed at the venue since completing rehab, and he’ll no doubt be feeling Tom’s spirit.

Richard and Tom shared a house and had been business partners for 32 years, so when Tom died — apparently, it seemed at the time — by Richard’s hand, it shocked Nashville’s music community. Tom was being treated for a broken rib with fentanyl, an opiate that can create breathing issues. He’d gone through a long stretch of depression, and Richard — unused to seeing his associate in that state of mind — wasn’t dealing with it well. He got high April 26, 2008, on tequila and antidepressants, then got in a fight with Tom that turned physical. In the process, he slashed Tom’s wrist with a knife. They both went into immediate shock over what had happened.

“He basically sat down cross-legged, Indian-style,” Richard says in the home they previously shared. Blood “was pouring very badly. It wasn’t pulsing like an artery. But he said, ‘Give me the phone, get me so-and-so’s number and get the [hell] outta here.’”

When Richard did that, he got arrested for drunk driving. Instead of calling an attorney, Rich dialed friend Joe Collins and asked him to look in on Tom. Richard got bailed out, but as he was on his way home, the bondsman was told to return to the precinct. An officer asked Richard about the altercation with Tom. Rich told the story as accurately as he could, and as soon as he finished, the detective leaned across the desk.

“Your friend’s dead,” the officer said. “Murder one.”

Amazingly, Tom’s children — Tom Jr. and Cheri Oteri, a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member — and Bridgette Fox, their mutual publishing associate, were supportive of Richard, convinced the entire fiasco was unintentional. Richard was held on reckless homicide charges, and the Oteris pleaded with the court and with Richard’s attorney to get help for their late father’s friend.

Richard’s addiction had been an undercurrent of their relationship ever since he and Tom first met in Philadelphia in the mid 1970s. Rich showed up for a meeting two hours late — and drunk — and knocked over three beer cans and a terrarium.

“I like the act so far,” Tom quipped. “If he can sing, we’re taking him with us.”

* * * *

Later in the article:

After that fatal night in 2008, a judge agreed with Richard’s attorney and the Oteris that Richard needed help. He was enrolled at Discovery Place in Burns, Tenn., and began his journey back.

He went through an enormous amount of pain, recognizing his inexorable connection to his friend’s death.

“I was crying, ‘It should’ve been me. It should’ve been me,’” Richard recalls.

* * * *

And so the correction is duly made here. At the time it was written, the fact was simply that Fagan had killed Oteri, and not what punishment, if any, he'd get. The point too, was "what demon is like alcohol." Without alcohol, the incident would not have happened.

Best of luck to Richard Fagan, who does have a lot of friends rooting for him. His plight these days includes how difficult it is for anyone to make money from writing funny country novelty songs. Or, come to think of it, any songs at all.

7 comments:

Richard said...

Folks,

You called me a murderer... My mother always told me, "If you can't say anything nice, go fuck yourself!"

Sincerely,

Richard Fagan

Bridgette Fox said...

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this letter. Toms death ( murder ) what ever spin you put on it has scared many peoples lives. EVERYONE LOVED TOM. After almost four years of trying to get my life back together, I can tell you the pain is debilitating. I loved Tom he was like a father to me and he was family to myself and to my children, there is not a day that I do not miss him. This being said, His death was a tragedy !
There is nothing good out of causing PAIN. Tom being gone is hard to live with, Rich and Tom loved each other like a father and son. YES LOVED, the only good that CAN COME from this tragedy is TOO HEAL, move forward and keep Toms dreams alive and the dreams of EVERYONE he loved, because for us that still grieve with each breath we take. We actually know TOM would want us all to be happy, successful and taken care of and our pain healed. enough damage has been done. I Bridgette Fox, on behalf of myself and my family stand beside the Oteri familys decision to FORGIVE doesn't mean the pain goes away, but to move forward and do in My heart what I know Tom would want. FORGIVENESS and to keep Toms dreams and legacy alive just as he would want us to keep our dreams and OUR LEGACY alive. Tom lives forever in all of our hearts, and loved nothing more than humor, so if you must laugh at a painful situation ? the saying is laughter makes you grow stronger, so with this new given strength My wish for you is to" be the change you wish to see in the world", GANDHI.

Bridgette Fox said...

And yes, I DO BELIEVE WITH ALL MY HEART AND KNOW THIS WAS A TRAGIC ACCIDENT..... A TRAGADY !

Ill Folks said...

Hello Bridgette,

Your comments are heartfelt and I appreciate them.

After Richard Fagan left his, I did respond. Apparently in reading my piece, and my after-piece, you think I should not have written anything at all.

Unfortunately, a Google will bring up more references to the tragedy besides mine. That's something that will never go away.

"There is nothing good out of causing PAIN..." I'm sure that for most, my piece caused them to ponder, at least for a moment, just how destructive alcohol can be, how one bad night can bring darkness for so many family and friends forever. It might also have brought some attention to Fagan as a guy who brought laughter to a lot of people...and still does, since his songs are being played by a lot of people.

Time heals wounds, but it doesn't change facts. A good man is gone, and alcohol is a big part of the reason why. Maybe it needs to be reported, time after time, just how important it is to drink responsibly. Maybe somebody read this piece, and the irony of it, the sadness of it, made them think twice about abusing alcohol...maybe this piece was the "last straw" for them in reading about the dangers of booze.

I hope some good has come out of what I and several newspapers reported. Your report on how your family and the Oteri family forgive what happened, is a very, very important part of the story and I'm glad you shared it.

Unknown said...

For the record, and it's still there with the comments, I NEVER said "Fuck you"... What I posted was, quote, "You called me a murderer... My mother always told me, "If you can't say anything nice, go fuck yourself!"... Now are you going to start picking on my mother too? and you on the other hand DID accuse me of murder... It was not murder, and anyone who knew Tom and me would never believe such a thing regardless of the headlines. Your article was extremely insensitive and uninformed... and poorly written. So first you accuse me of murder, then of saying "Fuck you"... I did neither, not do I wish you any ill will. Have a wonderful life.

Anonymous said...

WE NEVER KNOW WHAT A PERSON IS GOING THROUGH, ONE OR ANOTHER - WE SHOULD BE MINDFUL OF THINGS WE SAY AND DO. IT IS EASY TO EXPRESS HATE, TO DEMONSTRATE ANGER - HOW MUCH EASIER IS IT TO SHOW LOVE. PAIN DOESN'T HAVE A PERMANENT STATION, IT VISITS ALL IN DIFFERENT WAYS ON DIFFERENT DAYS - WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY STEERED TOWARD NUMBNESS, LOATHING AND DECEIPT - IF WE SEE THAT AND DO NOT LIKE IT, LET US NOT BECOME IT BUT BE CONSIDERATE AND COURTEOUS. LOST OF A LOVED ONE, A DEAR FRIEND IS NEVER EASY ON ANYONE. SOME THINGS ARE MERE ACCIDENTS, OTHERS OUTRIGHT AND CLEARLY INTENDED - LET US REVEL IN LOVE MAKING IT A CEREBRAL PART OF OUR CONSCIOUS LIVES WHILE WE YET HAVE A DAY TO BREATHE IN THE AIR OF THIS REALM OF OUR EXISTANCE. THANK YOU MR FAGAN FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE BEST THING NEXT TO LYRICS = MUSIC :) AND THANK TOM FOR SHARING HIS LOVE OF LIFE, HIS TALENT AND HIS TIME WITH THE WORLD AS HE KNEW IT. SOME WOUNDS TIME DOES NOT HEAL...PEACE <3

Anonymous said...

Eh em, pardon me - it is impolite to infringe upon one's right to freedom of speech and i hope my words did not come across as such. This is your creative space to express your self and your understanding...of which, you also have a right. Alchohol is destructive and alters characters within people, hence why it's also called 'spirits' - and some 'spirits' come tuffer than others...from the brown or the white lightning. Destructive and legal - alchoholism can also be a sickness, for some it is abuse (irresponsibility) for others it is a lack of control once the hatch is open, the bottomless pit summons more and more to the point of many extremes we have seen in the news. It is sad for the person experiencing the addiction or abuse as they are not even aware most times of what happened, same as folks in manic rages.
I still reiterate, we never know what another is going through, what toll life choices -be they purposeful, erroneous or by chance - has taken on another. Be well