ROCKINGHAM — Members of Richmond County’s music community were reeling last week from the loss of Joe Harris, bass player and vocalist for local band PondeR.
Friday night, they will be rocking to the music and memories he left behind.
“They were originally scheduled to play Friday night, and I just couldn’t bring myself to re-book anybody,” said Robin Roberts, manager of Hudson Brothers Deli.
Roberts said she contacted Bobby Pearce, the band’s sound man and asked if he would come and play videos instead of booking a band.
What would have been PondeR’s concert was turned into a celebration of life service for Harris — who, along with Billy Whitlock, was one of the first to perform at the venue in the early ’90s, which features live music every Friday night.
“Coming from Austin and being around music my whole life, I just wanted to place to have live music,” Roberts said. “Joe and Billy started it all off for me.”
It was while Harris and Whitlock were playing together that PondeR guitarist Tommy Adeimy became associated with the man he said was like a brother.
“He was already playing with Billy Whitlock and my guitarist and drummer started playing with them,” he recalled. “They asked me to start running sound for them…then asked me to join them.”
The new five-piece band played together for a few years as Stark Raven, before disbanding and reforming with the lineup that would become PondeR Blue, according to Adeimy.
The band recorded a CD in 2003.
“We were a cover band, but also working on original music,” he said.
The following year, the band dropped “Blue” from the name and featured Harris on bass, Adeimy on guitar, Shot Allen on drums and Pearce running sound, while also providing backing vocals and percussion.
“It was a part-time band because we all had day jobs,” Adeimy said.
Throughout the years, PondeR played clubs from Charlotte to Wilmington and some in South Carolina.
Harris wasn’t just proficient at laying down the low notes on the bass, according to Adeimy, who said his late band mate started off as a guitarist and even played the trombone in high school.
“We never did get around to learning any Cake so he could break out the Trombone,” he said. “He was a great musician. He was a natural. He didn’t even have to work at it. He was a great singer, he was a great guy.”
It’s only been just over a week since Harris passed away, and his friends and family are still in mourning.
“This has just been devastating,” Adeimy said. “It’s like losing a brother.”
He added that all of the band members and their families got along and spent a lot of time with each other, including vacationing together.
Harris even met his wife during a New Year’s Eve Party at Adeimy’s house.
The band has had a rough couple of years, with both Adeimy and Pearce battling cancer.
“We had all been worried about my health,” he said. “And then this happens.”
Harris was the youngest member of the band and his death had his comrades shocked.
“You just don’t ever know, man,” Adeimy said.
The band is supposed to meet this week to discuss moving forward.
“We’ll never be able to replace him,” Adeimy said. “I’m sure we’ll keep playing, but it will take two people to replace him. He was that good of a singer and bass player.”
He added that Harris had “reinvented himself several times, career-wise,” going from being a cabinet maker to a physical therapist.
Adeimy said Harris had been in the middle of remodeling the family kitchen at the time of his death.
As for the service, which will be from 9 to 11 p.m., Roberts said, “We decided that we would make it a fundraiser to give money to the family,” by selling Joe Harris beer huggers and Ponder T-shirts and taking donations.
Another local band, Mother Reign, donated its tips to the cause after playing there last week, she said, adding that she and the restaurant would be matching it.
Roberts said the service will be a time for everyone who attends to “have fun, tell stories of the good times they had with him…and all the fun we had here.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.