A good friend of mine died earlier this month and I will never forget the positive impact he had on my life.
The friend I speak of was a gifted musician from Dallas, Texas named Jeffrey Carter Albrecht. Carter, as he was known, was an only child. I first met Carter when he and his parents began attending a non-denominational Christian church in Wichita, Kansas, where I lived during my high school years.
Carter and I hit it off immediately. He lived in a suburb of Wichita and attended a different high school than I. However, during our youth group meetings, he and I would discuss pop music, particularly the new wave and alternative "college rock" that was popular in the late 1980's. We would spend long hours discussing music and would exchange awesome mix tapes. His were peppered with the likes of Kate Bush, Talking Heads, XTC and R.E.M. My tended to lean towards the "classic rock" and British Invasion 60's music. I thought we complimented each other quite well. I still have a number of those mix tapes stored away in boxes. They sound great, even today.
Sometimes, I would drive down to his town and we'd hang out in his room. His walls were covered with CD long box art (back when they were packaged in LP-sized long boxes as the record stores were transitioning their bins to stock CD's). We were also into the work of David Lynch, particularly the popular series "Twin Peaks." In fact, a few years later, Carter would write and perform a song about "Twin Peaks" character Laura Palmer called "Curtained." It was brilliant stuff for a guy barely 20 years old.
But that was Carter. Always listening to music. Always writing music. Always playing music.And you know what else? Always laughing! The guy could not keep himself from laughing, like when my Dad called my younger brother "little one." He thought that was hilarious. And when Carter laughed, you couldn't help but also laughing.
In the summer of 1989, Carter and I were asked to accompany a Christian performance art and music team called Choice Lifestyle. I was brought along due to pressure from a Christian musician named Rich Mullins. I later found out, through Carter, that the team was not excited that I was coming along. Still, I excitedly agreed to go on the tour, which covered the Appalachian states, Mid-Atlantic and New England states. It was a great trip and Carter played his heart out on the piano before largely young crowds of kids attending church camps.
While I didn't particularly get along with many of the Choice kids on the tour, Carter, Rich Mullins and I got along swimmingly. We were all into music. We listened to lots of U2 and Indigo Girls, as I recall. In fact, in one of Carter's last Myspace messages to me, three days before his death, he wrote that he "learned hi-hat from me." That was an amusing reference to my proclivity to make the "hi-hat sound" featured on U2's "With Or Without You," a song we heard a lot that summer in the stuffy tour van.
Carter would go on to date my younger sister briefly and we would stay in touch even after high school. He went on to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and I went to a small Christian college in Arkansas. I would see Carter on occasion, including a night in September 1992 when my friend Kirk and I drove down to Dallas to see Pavement and Sonic Youth. Carter hosted us and we crashed in his dorm room that night. I remember we had a great time, even taste-testing a can of then-new Crystal Pepsi. Yuck.
As the 1990's pressed on I saw Carter less and less. But the times I would see him we'd pick up exactly where we left off. After graduating from college and taking on a job at a newspaper in a town near Dallas, I would hang out with Carter and my other Kansas friends like Scott, Josh and Chris. Carter, by this time, was regularly performing in Dallas Grateful Dead cover bands like Minglewood and Dead Thing. I saw him during this time and he was awesome on the keyboards. He looked so natural and always seemed to be having fun.
Of course there were the countless other side projects and bands that Carter played in like The Limes and The Cosmetics. By 1999 he was performing with the reformed Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, going on to record with the popular Dallas band on several recordings.
All the while, Carter remained the humble singer-songwriter-performer who preferred to live in Dallas, rather than moving on to Los Angeles or New York or London, cities where he could've certainly found steady work.
At this time, I was living in Louisiana. I still stayed in touch with Carter and in 2004 he agreed to come down to my town with his band Sparrows to perform in something called the "Alexandria Music Project." The performance was great and it was fun catching up with Carter, particularly on my turf.
More time would pass and I would see Carter one more time - in Gainesville, Texas at the wedding of my friend Scott. While I talked with Carter on the phone and through Myspace, I never saw him alive again. He was unable to make it to my wedding this past spring, although he wanted to. In fact, he emailed me on my wedding day telling me that a year from that day I would be celebrating my first wedding anniversary. It was nice. It was Carter.
In the early morning hours of September 3, Carter was shot and killed by a neighbor who suspected Carter to be a dangerous burglar. It was all so tragic and unnecessary. The details, as I know them, are that Carter and his girlfriend Ryann were taking a new antismoking drug called Chantix and that Carter had been drinking. The mixture of the drug and the alcohol may have played a role in Carter's bizarre change of behavior. In any event, a fight ensued between Carter and Ryann after he became physically abusive. It was so unlike Carter, when I heard what had happened. Anyway, Ryann managed to get Carter out of the house and locked out. Why Carter went to the neighbor's house and began banging on the door remains a mystery. But most people I spoke to in the aftermath of the shooting was that this drug Chantix played a major role. That it was making Carter more isolated and volatile somehow.
In any event, the memorial service, which attracted hundreds of people, was beautiful. The video/music montage celebrating Carter's 34 years of life was simply beautiful.
I'll never forget Carter Albrecht or all the happiness and joy he brought to me and others over the years, be it through his amazing music or honest friendship. I just wish there were more people like him.
And now the angels in have a new member of the heavenly band.
And the music is gorgeous.
- September 17, 2007