In the mid-1980s I became obsessed with locating all things related to Duane Allman and began an organized and relentless search for information, recordings, and video. It was during this time that I first discovered fellow travelers Kirk West and Bill Ector and spoke to them by phone.
I first met Kirk at the 1986 Volunteer Jam, and the next year he drove from Chicago to Atlanta to visit me. Even though Bill and I both lived in Atlanta and had talked many times, we had not yet met in person. Kirk’s trip to Atlanta was the perfect opportunity to finally meet Bill — plus to have him meet Kirk as well — and what better way to do it than at a show?
I had been a fanatic follower of the Atlanta super group, the Stained Souls, with Col. Bruce Hampton and Tinsley Ellis, and they happened to be playing while Kirk was in town. I arranged to have Bill meet us there, and of course there was an instant bond.
Bill has spoken many times over the years of his experience that night — meeting for the first time me, Kirk, Ray Pavlovic (R.I.P.), and hearing the Stained Souls! It was an auspicious beginning to a long friendship, and I added another brother to my family.
Bill and I compared notes about Duane Allman early on, and it was a thrilling experience to discover that Bill and I had been at the same pair of shows — Duane’s last shows in Atlanta — on 7/17/71. Although we didn’t meet until 16 years later, to know that my dear friend had been there was one more strong bond between us.
That night Bill had been working for Carlo Sound and he’d watched the show from onstage — while I was in my usual fifth row, left of center seats, directly in front of Duane. Bill told me that when he was breaking down the stage after that show, Duane walked right by him carrying his guitar case. He always regretted not saying something to him, never expecting it was the last time he’d see Duane.
Bill and I spent many wonderful times together after we finally met in person, going to shows, listening to tapes, and swapping stories. We were elated beyond the power of words to describe when the Allman Brothers Band reunited in 1989. A couple of years later when the Brothers played at Lakewood Amphitheater, I was at the soundboard after the show with my video camera when a fellow stopped by to introduce himself — it was Joe Bell, yet another kindred spirit.
I gave Joe a call the next day and arranged for him to stop by my house. Unbeknownst to Joe, I called my Allman Brother buddy Bill and suggested he come over before Joe’s visit. I told Bill, “Bring your whole Allman Brothers collection, Bill. When this guy comes over, between the two of us, we’ll blow his mind!”
Later that year, Kirk called me with an idea — the Chicago-based ABB newsletter, Les Brers, was ceasing publication. Would I be interested in starting a fan club newsletter to fill the void? You bet!
The annual Allman Brothers Revivals were held at Mike ‘n’ Angelo’s bar in Buckhead — what better place for an organizational meeting? I called my closest Allman Brothers buddies, Joe and Bill, and asked them to meet me there. So it was in a booth at Mike ‘n’ Angelo’s that Joe came up with the name, Hittin’ the Note, and the contents of Issue Number One were decided upon. We all knew that Duane’s last night on earth was spent with John Hammond and noted that John was appearing at the Variety Playhouse in January. Bill volunteered to interview him and write an article — the very first HTN interview!
You can read Bill’s first HTN article here.
We only printed 125 copies of that first issue — if you have a copy that reads, “Original Run,” on the cover, then you have a collector’s item! About the time it was printed, Joe, Bill and I, along with a couple of other friends, traveled to Macon in Joe’s van. Bill was our tour guide — he knew all the special places we wanted to visit, having spent a great deal of time in Macon. Bill wrote up the story of that trip and it became the cover feature of HTN’s second issue.
You can read Pilgrimage to Macon here.
To me, Bill was neither a saint nor a great man — instead, he was a friend and brother. He had his vagaries and faults as do we all. No one will deny, however, that he was a man filled with love, and that love was reflected back to him many-fold. I have always thought of Bill as an inspiration — thank goodness I knew him so well for so long!
Regarding that remarkable show on 7/17/71, I will never forget the day I located an audience tape of that concert on a taper’s list — the very first person I called was Bill Ector! Bill hoped I’d get my hands on it before 7/17/96 — the twenty-fifth anniversary — but ultimately, it took me more than a year to finally get a first generation cassette copy of that incredible afternoon show. When I finally had it in my hand, I didn’t even listen to it. Instead, I called Bill and told him to come over NOW. We heard it the first time together — who better to share it with than my brother who was there that day?
I knew that Bill was a musician, but it was many years before I found out just how well he could play guitar! The first time I saw him really rip a guitar solo was in 2002 when he sat in with Donna Hopkins — he told me he’d loved Donna’s music ever since he’d first seen her play, but he didn’t really understand how powerful a player she was until he was up on stage with her! Only later did I find out he was equally comfortable on bass, organ, and drums. Is there anything this man couldn’t do? All I’d really counted on him to do was to write an article, or two, or three … and he could sure do that!
I’ll never forget driving to Bill and Theresa’s house in Marietta at Christmastime one year. I met Hannah and Ben — still quite young — but also I met his dad, Howard Ector. What a burden it must have been for Bill to fill his dad’s shoes!
Howard was a football star for Georgia Tech — an all-SEC quarterback during his junior and senior years. In 1939, he led Tech to the Southeastern Conference Championship and then to a victory over Missouri in the Orange Bowl. As a Tech grad, it was one of my personal football highlights when Bill took me to a Georgia Tech game the day the Howard Ector Room at Grant Field was dedicated. Bill’s dad’s jersey, his trophies, and a statue adorned the beautiful space overlooking the football field.
It was to Bill’s great chagrin that his daughter Hannah now attends arch-rival UGA! Howard served as an artillery officer in the Pacific in the Guadalcanal campaign and was fascinated when I told him of my dad’s experiences as a Jap POW after being captured on Corregidor.
One of Howard Ector’s quotes: “I’ve been blessed,” Ector said. “One of the great blessings of my life has been my friends. I know a lot of people, and I have a lot of friends.”
Like father, like son.
While Bill remained one of my closest friends — ever — he lived in Marietta and I lived in Brookhaven, then Dunwoody, so we didn’t see each other as often as we would have liked. Still, we continued to chat on the telephone often. We shared not only a love of music and of Georgia Tech, but we also were of the same political persuasion. Many was the time we had a late-night conversation solving the world’s problems.
Bill worked as the Hittin’ the Note publisher for more than five years — the longest he’d ever held a single job in his working career. I guess he must have liked it! As an ambassador to Allman Brothers fans there could have been none better. To know Bill is to love him.
And love is what the world is about. There is no man I’ve met who was more successful at living his life in love than Bill Ector. He was a human being with flaws and warts, but he was a Brother filled with love and kindness.
I loved Bill — and all the facets of his complex personality. I am a better person today because I met Bill 21 years ago.
God bless Bill Ector.