When I got word two weeks ago that Robert Nix had died, I dropped what I was doing and sat down and cried.
I had first met Nix some twelve years ago, and we started talking on the phone a good bit at the time. Robert had written the first chapter of a memoir he intended to release called The Days of Love and Blood
. At the time he was asking my advice on the best way to go about finishing the book and getting it published. I offered a few suggestions, but my primary thing was encouraging him to write more. He had it all in his head, and it was going to be a good book. He was going to have me help him put it together. Then we lost touch for a while. He always wanted me to share what he had so far, so I will be posting it soon on the UNT website.
One thing I recall is talking to him right after the Bill Murray film Lost in Translation
came out. There was a scene where someone in a hotel bar in Japan was singing one of his songs, “So Into You.” He was thrilled that the song was in the movie and would be making him a little more of what we call “mailbox money.” Heck I was happy for him as well.
When we were doing a benefit for the Archangel Project in Huntsville, Alabama, I invited Robert and Alison. Of course they canme, and Robert sat in with several of us on a few songs. Before the show, Robert and Alison brought me to the stage for one of the coolest surprises I have ever received. He presented me with a brand new Atlanta Rhythm Section Champagne Jam
platinum record award! The plate was engraved “Presented to Michael Buffalo Smith on the Occasion of the Fifth Anniversary of GRITZ Magazine. From Robert Nix and Alison Heafner, ARS.”
Now, that meant the world to me. I keep it in my office, and take it down to clean it every few weeks. To me it was like getting a Grammy. I will never forget him doing that.
As time marched on, we spoke on the phone a few times, and over the past year I hove been trying to schedule him and Alison as guests on my radio show. They were going to be on, and then he went back into the hospital. He was also going to try and make the Hearts of the South get together at Grant’s Lounge in Macon, but he was much too ill by that time.
I just have to say, Robert Nix was one of the nice guys. So full of energy and ideas. I am really going to miss him, but he will never be forgotten. What follows is the obituary I wrote for Alison. With all of the emotion and confusion after he passed, I’m not sure if she was able to use it, but I am happy to post it here for you all. In memory of a friend, a great drummer, a true artist. See you in the light Robert.
Robert Nix, drummer, songwriter and founding member of The Atlanta Rhythm Section, died Sunday morning, May 20, 2012 at his home in Batesville, Mississippi. He was 67.
Nix’s music career began at an early age, performing in Roy Orbison’s backing band The Candymen. He would later co-found the southern rock band The Atlanta Rhythm Section, writing songs and recording on nine ARS albums. He co-wrote many of the band’s hits, including “So Into You” and “Champagne Jam,” from platinum selling album of the same name, released in 1978. He was with the Atlanta Rhythm Section from 1971 to 1979.
Nix had been suffering from complications due to diabetes, and a few months ago contracted a staff infection which spread to his intestines and other organs. He had undergone a series of surgeries in an attempt to clear the infection.
Robert Nix grew up in Jacksonville, Florida where he graduated from Paxon Senior High School in 1962. He had close ties to the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and had been a friend of the late Ronnie Van Zant since his school days. Robert was asked to play drums on the classic “Tuesday’s Gone” which appeared on Skynyrd’s debut album. The friendship with Van Zant propelled Nix to purchase Ronnie’s home (dubbed “Angelus”) in Doctor’s Inlet, Florida following Van Zant’s death in 1977.
Nix’s music career spanned five decades, and he added his powerful drumming to many a record and live show along the way.
- Michael Buffalo Smith