back to photo/press page

Johnny "Sticks" Galway Obit
by Greg Baker

originally published in Miami New Times, March 9, 1995

This space is devoted to musical reportage and commentary. It is not supposed to be an obituary column. Sadly, fate isn't cooperating. I remember nights a lifetime ago watching Johnny "Stix" Galway illustrate what great rock drumming is all about. Often those nights consisted of shows featuring the legendary Bobs opening for Charlie Pickett and the Eggs, for whom Galway drummed. Bob Rupe and Kevin MacIvor of the Bobs didn't have a drummer at the time, so Galway ended up backing both acts, playing the intricate pop rock of the Bobs and the gritty stomp of Pickett in four-hour sessions during which Galway didn't miss a beat. Only Max Weinberg of the E Street Band could match Galway for endurance, power, and timing. Galway died two weeks ago at the age of 38 of complications related to AIDS.

He came to town at the end of the Seventies from somewhere in the Carolinas, a slightly goofy country boy eager to discover whatever punk scene existed in Miami. As Pickett's drummer, Galway recorded and toured; he also worked with other Eggs in an offshoot group called the Psycho Daisies. He later left the scene to take a job as a stagehand touring with Liza Minnelli.

"I grew up down here, and I'll be honest, I was something of a homophobe," Pickett says. "I met Johnny in 1980. I worked in rock pits [quarries] where a steady guy is a common thing, unlike with musicians. But he was a steady guy. Every tour he was the guy who went out in five-below-zero weather to pack the van. Galway never had the fits, and he often made me think that maybe I'm being a jackass. I remember one time in Baltimore, [promoter and band manager Richard] Shelter told some so-called graffiti artist to paint our van, that we'd like that. Well, it was my girlfriend's van, and I was so fucking mad. We had a long way to go [on the tour], and for about two days I acted like Richard didn't exist. Finally Galway says, 'Hey, look it's a shitty van anyway.' If anyone else said that, I would have said, 'It's the only van we got, fuck you.' But from him, there was no bad intent and it was the honest-to-Christ truth. He had a way of putting everything on an even keel."

To nonband members, Galway's diplomatic skills weren't important; his remarkable drum skills were. Pickett affirms that evaluation. "Of our band, you know, Johnny [Salton] was a 75 percent player. I'm 66 percent, Marco about the same. But with Stix, out of 100 shows, 98 he was on. One maybe he's sick and maybe once he'd miss. But night after night, every slap, every cymbal crash, every lick was right there. He played the rim like a tuned instrument. It was like a harmonica, with fade-ins and -outs. Incredible."

back to photo/press page