Last year, friends of Nowhere Man and a Whisky Girl found themselves between Bisbee and Tucson carefully carrying around their broken hearts in one hand while trying to figure out how to keep the memory of their friends alive.
The band, husband and wife Amy and Derrick Ross, played regularly in Tucson venues like Delectables on Fourth Avenue and the former Plush (now The Flycatcher), and the Copper Queen in their Bisbee home base. They were taken too soon as most sane folks agree—Amy dying of complications from lupus in mid-October 2013 and Derrick taking his life shortly after.
Clearly, it's a narrative several friends close to the couple said they'd like to turn around. Rather than focus on how they left us, it's best to focus on how they lived and the music they wrote, performed and recorded.
Last year in their grief, friends of Amy and Derrick worked together on an All Souls Procession memorial and then a Lupus Foundation benefit concert of mostly area musicians close to the couple, which raised $4,000. This year, close to the year anniversary of their passing, that benefit concert returns bigger than before, along with an online auction—again, proceeds benefiting the Lupus Foundation.
The 2nd Annual Benefit for Amy and Derrick Ross: A Celebration of the Lives, Love and Music of Nowhere Man and a Whisky Girl is Saturday, Dec. 6, at Café Passe, 415 N. 4th Ave. and The Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St.
According to photographer and NMWG friend Jimi Giannatti, the Café Passe show is acoustic, featuring some of the best acoustic singer/songwriters from Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona and Bisbee playing NMWG songs, as well as songs that influenced Amy and Derrick. That show is from 6 to 9 p.m., and then down the street, The Flycatcher show is electric and louder from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
In total, Giannatti said the evening features more than 30 bands and musicians, such as Dry River Yacht Club, decker, Amy's sister Lindy Minick, Carlos Arzate and the Kind Souls, Lonna Beth Kelly, the Sundowners, Bisbee's Terry Wolf, Keli Carpenter, Bryan Sanders, Sweet Ghosts and Courtney Robbins.
The online auction part of the benefit started in mid-November and continues shortly after the benefit concerts. To see what's up for bid, visit www.nmwg.org.
Giannatti with fellow NMWG friends musician Keli Carpenter and writer and musician Bryan Sanders sat down recently with the Tucson Weekly to talk about the benefit, as well as Amy and Derrick. Sanders recalled how last year, the grief was almost overbearing and the All Souls Procession memorial and first benefit concert a needed distraction, because even though Amy had been sick for so long undergoing regular kidney dialysis, the hospitalization and ultimately her death seemed to happen too fast.
"But that's one of the things that makes lupus this sleazy, horrible sneaky disease," Giannatti interjected.
You don't die from lupus, he added, but complications from the disease, such as kidney failure, a blood disorder or liver failure. "But it never says, 'Death by lupus.'" In Amy's case, she got the flu on her birthday in September and almost a month later was hospitalized in Tucson and then passed away.
Sanders and Giannatti echoed a frustration that the narrative surrounding Amy and Derrick's death gets too much attention, being cast sometimes as some Romeo and Juliet story, while to them it was a tragic loss and nothing romantic about it. Instead, their desire is to celebrate and remember NMWG's music.
"We get upset at people who attach too much importance to the way they died and not to way they lived," Giannatti said.
The photographer recalled how everyone who saw them instantly fell in love with them, which is how he became friends with the couple when he lived in Bisbee, catching their show at the Copper Queen Hotel. Their musicianship won people over, but as Amy struggled with what lupus delivered it was impossible for the husband-wife team to tour beyond Arizona, particularly that last year when she received dialysis in Sierra Vista almost every other day, driving down for the treatment at 4:30 a.m. and checking in with Giannatti by phone from the dialysis room at 5:30 a.m.
The only person who could call him that early without making him angry, he joked.
"I think the silliest part of them being dead is that nobody gets to see them play anymore," Sanders said. Their music was "their reason for waking up."
Sanders will perform several songs from Derrick's Bisbee Slim album, what he said Derrick described as Southwestern stalk-hop and an ode to Derrick's love for Beyoncé. "We want people to hear their music," he said, adding that recordings will be made of the acoustic and electric shows with the goal of creating future albums further benefiting the Lupus Foundation.
Giannatti recalled the first time he visited them at a remote house they rented in Willcox for a short time. Throughout the house, the couple hung affirmations, such as "We pay our rent making music," and "We don't have day jobs, we play music."
Sanders recalled Amy's biting sense of humor, and the onstage banter the couple were known for—both their love and relationship visible on stage from time to time. They really were in love, he said. "That little shtick they put off was totally real."
Carpenter, who sings with Carlos Arzate and the Kind Souls, took the lead acquiring an amazing collection of items for the online auction. There's lots of art and hand-made items, as well as a weekend in Bisbee with dinner at the Stock Exchange, breakfast at the Quarry and a night at the Shady Dell. The auction closes midnight on Saturday, Dec. 13.
"I'm sad I can't squeeze them anymore," Carpenter said. "I go on with them always in my heart and I want to continue to learn their songs and share them." Carpenter will do an acoustic set with Arzate and then an electric set with Sweet Ghosts at the benefit concert.
For more memories on Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl and the benefit, go to Daily.TucsonWeekly.com.