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Andre Pope – Photo: Scott Smallin

On Tuesday, the world lost a real gem – Andre Pope.

I met Pope with my brother on the same day we met veteran podcaster Dave Slusher, whom Chris had arranged to meet after listening to his podcast and discovering that he lived in Conway. I had agreed to tag along that day probably 12 years ago. We got together at Bummz Beach Café in Myrtle Beach.

I knew nothing about both of those guys, except for the fact that my brother always mentioned Slusher when he talked about podcasts. I was still relatively new to the Grand Strand, having moved here in 2005.

Andre must have been like 27 then, although I perceived him to be younger than that. He was cordial and kind – and as I would find out would be a through-line in our friendship, always willing to help.

He told me that he was then a partner in an outfit called 803 labs. We talked about blogging, podcasting and social media – and it wasn’t long before the subject of tech meetups came up – and how cool it would be to launch an event in Myrtle Beach.

I’ll be damned if those guys and others didn’t put together an event called CreateSouth, which took place for several years.  My brother and I provided the entertainment for two of these. Another friend, Paul Reynolds, helped me get set up with my first Blogspot blog.

Andre leaves behind a wonderful wife, Heidi, and two awesome kids – Memphis and Ryder.

I’d have to say that Pope was a renaissance man, and somebody else recently referred to him on Facebook as a doer. He was a major proponent for cycling in our area, an expert pit master, entrepreneur, designer and family man. He taught graphic design at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and was creative director at a graphic design/marketing/advertising firm called Design Cypher.

At Bummz circa 2007 – Seated: Andre Pope, Dave Slusher / Standing: Roger Yale, Chris Yale

Early on, he invited me to lunch at Magnolia’s at 26th, a southern-inspired buffet here in Myrtle Beach. The man genuinely loved meeting and getting to know people, which is why I wasn’t surprised that he was also involved with a coworking space called Cowork MYR. He was a consummate connector.

Andre was one of my go-to sources for stories, especially during my time writing for Weekly Surge, a McClatchy product and local alt-weekly under the umbrella of The Sun News – and this covered a variety of subjects from tech to social media to cycling and more. He was a busy guy, to be sure, but never once did he turn down an interview request. He provided credibility to whatever piece I was working on, was always patient and never failed to teach me something.

For a while, he would look slightly different every time we saw him – perhaps with low sideburns at one time or a totally different getup the next – so much so that my girlfriend always told him that she was never sure if it was him. That was a trip – and I wonder if anybody else noticed that over the years.

Pope at a meetup at Liberty Tap Room & Grill Circa 2008

He was also a part of a group that I call the “yeah, man” guys – meaning that this was his way of saying “you’re welcome.” I loved that.

When I last saw him, he was resting in a camper outside The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach, where a packed benefit was going on in his honor. My brother, his wife and my girlfriend and I only visited him for a few moments. I gave him a hug and a peck on the top of the head and told him I loved him.

I swear to God, the man said to let us know if there was anything he could do for us.

That was Pope for you.

My heart goes out to his sweet family. Andre leaves a void that can never be filled. I will miss his intellect, his humility and his “yeah, man.”

Two of my friends died recently. Both were excellent musicians, and both were doing what they loved right to the end. One collapsed onstage at Wild Wing Cafe in Myrtle Beach, and one died in his sleep.

They were roughly the same age, give or take – and I was closing in on them.

My dear friend Tim Hoback was also a former member of Sick Stooges, the Grand Strand-based classic rock outfit of which I was also once a part. His passing sent ripples of shock and grief across the music community here.

The other friend was Nick Walusko, a guy who was always obsessed with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. I always found this fascination curious when we were young men in Hollywood. If there was anybody who knew all there was to know about Wilson, it was Nick. I hadn’t seen him in years, but damned if he didn’t wind up playing in Wilson’s band for many years. He was still playing guitar with Wilson when he died.

It’s tough to get my head around this – my friends dying – and the last thing I want to do here is to go off on a self-serving existential tangent or start lamenting the march of age. The idea here is to honor my friends.

Let’s start with Hoback. I called him Hoback, and many of us did. It seemed incomplete to just call him Tim.

Tim Hoback, Tim Dyer, Barry Allen, Kenneth Auerbach, Roger Yale

Hoback joined Sick Stooges after the departure of bassist Steve Panetti (yes – we called him Panetti (there is a through-line of middle school-style last-name calling), who left to work with a band called One I Open.

A left-handed bass player who was quick to laugh and smile with a gravelly voice and wicked sense of humor, Hoback was from Southwest Virginia like my girlfriend – and this was a great source of bonding between them, even down to calling each other “bitch” when they saw each other. “Hi bitch…” “Bye, bitch…” You had to be there. In their accents, it sounded almost like “beach.” Hilarious.

He was a monster bass player – just as comfortable with classic rock as he was with R&B and funk – and he knew his theory, too. Much of that was over my head, although I was a music major in junior college – like, don’t tell me about, the circle of fifths and relative minors. This was a classic rock cover band – and I wanted to party like a rock star.

Hoback did too, and so we did. Thankfully, that distracted him from explaining a turnaround to me.

I have been sober now for more than five years – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my fun.

Hoback was a sweet soul. What confirmed it the most to me was when he was talking to one of my neighbors about a guy they both knew in Roanoke who had died. After a while, Hoback became overcome and started crying midway through a sentence. I will always remember that moment. He loved his friends. He loved me. And I loved him. And he knew it.

Nick Walusko was a sweet soul too. When we hung out with him in Hollywood, he still lived at home with his parents, who I believe were Russian immigrants. He was all about music – production, history and culture – and from what I remember was not only big on the Beach Boys, but also British Invasion bands. He too had a wicked sense of humor.

In the circle of friends he hung out with, my twin brother factored in to this much more than I did – as did other friends like Steve Kobashigawa, whom I knew since my brief days at Hollywood High. He was also, briefly, a bandmate in one incarnation of an outfit we had in Hollywood with my brother. Another friend, Darian Sahanaja, formed The Wondermints with Nick.

The Wondermints were lucky enough to have contributed to the soundtrack of “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”  And they were ultimately hired on by Brian Wilson.

Darian is Wilson’s keyboardist and musical director.

Nick wasn’t a partier, preferring lofty conversation and music over such nonsense. Nonetheless, he had an almost pathological aversion to the police. I never really understood why, but usually found this vaguely entertaining. I wonder what made him feel funny about that.

But he was tolerant about the excesses of others and never judgmental. I am sure he put friends first. Well, at least second to Brian Wilson.

I hadn’t seen Nick in almost 30 years, but Chris and I got an email from him, inviting us to Raleigh to see the Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Show in 2016. We both declined because of our schedules, but Nick’s last words vie email to me were, “Let’s keep in touch, please.”

I said yes, but, to my regret, I failed to do so.

I will miss these guys.