Rock Stories: “Deadwood” actor W. Earl Brown remembers his friend Lemmy Kilmister

By on December 31, 2015

Night Flight’s friend W. Earl Brown — you may know him from his many, many appearances in feature films and on TV shows like David Milch’s great revisionist western “Deadwood,” where his character Dan Dority memorably got into one of cable TV’s most gut-wrenching, eye-popping street fights ever — shares with us about first meeting and then becoming friends with Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, who died on December 28th.

Lemmy is said to appear among the background actors in this scene from season three of “Deadwood” (“Tell Him Something Pretty,” episode 12 — airdate: August 27, 2006), which features Franklin Ajaye, as Samuel “Nigger General” Fields, arguing with a man who questions whether he should get to vote in a town election before a white man does. We weren’t able to see Lemmy in the background, but we’ve been assured this is the episode he appears in. We’re marking this one NSFW for language, by the way.

W. Earl Brown:

I once did a film in which I was being chased by wolves. I had a scene where the Alpha of the pack leapt on the hood of my car and stared me down through the windshield. I will never forget staring into those eyes, this wasn’t a dog — not even a tough, bad-ass dog — no, this was a Wolf. Those eyes were feral, primal, part of some spirit that has connected Wild Things since the beginning of time. It was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.

I felt the same way when I first met Lemmy.

My friend, Zachary Throne, was playing a gig with Lemmy and the Upsetters. Knowing of our shared love of Motörhead, Zach called me up and invited me to the rehearsal. It was a Sunday morning, around eleven a.m. (for rockers, that is the crack of dawn). “Hey Lemmy, this is my buddy, Earl. Earl, Lem.”

Lemmy was shirtless, wearing skintight jeans and white cowboy boots. He gives me the once over, head to toe, then, in that voice that sounded like bourbon filtered through gravel and smoke… “Earl?” I gulped hard, then nodded my head... “Earl, would you like a drink?”

My first thought was — it is Sunday morning, I really should be in church. But when the coolest motherfucker on the planet offers you a drink – you drink. Makers Mark on the rocks, served from Lem’s custom built carrying case. We drink. One. Two. Three. We start to sing Beatle songs. After a half dozen or so, Lem turns to me and says “Earl, you ever listen to Abba?” Thinking he is pulling my leg, I say, “Uh, NO.” “Well, you missed the greatest sense of pop melody outside of Lennon & McCartney. Zach, you know any Abba?” Since Zach knows every song ever written, we launched into Abba tunes.

I was drunk on a Sunday morning, trying to harmonize on Abba with Lemmy Kilmister, thinking I really, really should be in church… Then it dawned on me — I was.

I got to know Lem a little better as time passed. We exchanged numbers. Talked a few times. When Patrick Stone started working on “Deadwood,” he found that I knew Lem and suggested we invite him out to play cowboy.

So, we did; we had Metal Day on set. Lemmy, Scott Ian [of Anthrax], Pearl Aday, and Charlotte Taylor spent the day playing with us and I got to know Lemmy even better.

I asked him once about his love of rock and he said it dated back to 1957 when his dad took him to see Buddy Holly and Little Richard in London. Lem said he was eleven years old, but as soon as he saw little Richard play his first song, he said to himself, “I’m doing THAT for the rest of my life!” And he did.

Lemmy was the coolest motherfucker on the planet (aside from his own badassery on the bass, he was also Jimi Hendrix’s first roadie in London after the Experience was formed AND he followed the Beatles around starting when they were still known as the Silver Beatles), but he was as down to earth as any man I’ve ever known. He lived and breathed Rock and Roll but he was never too-cool to share it with anybody.

If you loved Music, Lemmy was your friend, regardless of who you were or where you came from. He loved the Ramones and he loved Johnny Cash (the only musician he didn’t like – at least as far as I know – was Jimmy Page [“fuck him, the prissy lil cunt, but I will say Jimmy always wore nice trousers.”]).

Lemmy was a voracious reader and was whip smart. I asked him once about his huge collection of Nazi paraphernalia and the rumors around it. He said, “I’m not a fucking Nazi – never have been. It is just that my earliest memories were that those were the bastards who were trying to kill me with their fucking Nazi bombs – they’re the ones my dad went to war against – and now, I am still alive and I have got all their shit.”

From what I gather, Lemmy turned 70 on December 24, found out he had cancer on December 26, and died on December 28. That’s just like Lem – when the time comes to get the show on the road, you get on the fucking road.

While I do not want to live my life like Lemmy chose to live his, I can’t help but admire the strength and determination it took for Lem to do it all on his own terms and remain true to himself.

One final piece of wisdom passed down to me by Mr Kilmister on that first day I met him: in discussing some long lost friend with his son, Paul, who’d just moved to LA from London – “He hates me.”

“No, Dad, I don’t think he hates you.”

“He does. He’s hated me for 25 years.” Then Lem turns to me and says, “I screwed his Bird. He never forgave me.”

Not being an Englishman myself, my first thought was that was a peculiar thing to do a friend’s pet; my second thought was that was a really long time for his buddy to hold a grudge. Then it dawned on me, “Ohhhh, you mean his GIRLFRIEND.”

“Yeah. Sweet girl… She had inverted nipples. Ya ever had a girl with inverted nipples?” I had not. “Well,” Lem continues, “it’s quite the tasty treat if ya willin’ to put in the work.”

Lemmy Kilmister – there will never be another like him. He didn’t break the mold, it fucking melted when he stepped out of it.

By the way, W. Earl Brown just happened to be the last man standing at Tower Records on Sunset — he was their last customer before they closed the front doors forever — which we told you about here.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • I_KICK_HIPPIES

    Question : Who would win in a fight… Lemmy or God?