Extended trips out of town have kept me from posting much lately, and I returned to read in yesterday’s Denton Record Chronicle, that small bits of charred human remains have been discovered on the roof of the Denton County Courthouse – some few blocks from here – presumably from the breakup of the shuttle Columbia, which began to disintegrate almost directly over Denton town this past Saturday morning. Then while checking up on Old 97’s correspondence, I learned that Ken Bethea checked in on Hitchhiking on January 30 to break this sad news:

A member of our Old 97 family was killed in a car crash early Monday morning in Austin.

Joel Svatek, the burly guy with the goatee was hit by a drunk driver. He lived a day or so on life support before he passed away. He was from Sealy, TX and I belive was 33.

“Handsome” Joel has been selling t-shirts and cd’s for us for about three years or so at our Texas shows. He also did a small tour with us up to the St. Louis/Columbia area I think in 2000.

He was a great worker and wonderful guy to eat breakfast with. I’ve been sad all week about this. Joel always made something special for our shows. A poster or candle. I have a candle upstairs that he made for the Trees/La Zona Rosa shows he worked last month. It has a covered wagon on it with our band name.

We met him through his buddy Noah Polk. If you see Noah this week, give him a hug. He’s had a rough go.

Services for Joel will be tomorrow in Austin. Noah says he will be cremated wearing his black Old 97’s hat.

Ouch. It hurts.

Philip, Murry, Rhett, and my prayers go out to Joel, his family, his friends and especially Noah. He was a good man.

🙁 🙁

PS… please PLEASE call a cab when you’ve been drinking….

Be safe folks,

ken bethea

In happier news, Rhett – or his songs anyway – have popped up twice on network TV this past week. “Question” was used to close out last week’s episode of NBC’s Scrubs and “World Inside The World” was featured on this past Monday’s episode of “Everwood” on the WB. Had I known I would’ve mentioned it, but now you can at least try to catch the rerun! Also catch this great 1/29 interview with the Rhettster in the Detroit Metro Times. Finally, word is that Rhett may be showing up as opener on some dates of Tori Amos’ new tour as well, so if you miss him with Neil Finn (shame on you!) you might catch him with Ms. Amos. Now take care of yourselves, and check back soon!