February 11, 2007

The woes of clutter, the wolves of Ebay and the great Dane. (Part 1)

After my father passed away in 1995 all of his relevant personal effects were to be put into a memorial room at Bellarmine College with the help of guitarist/teacher Jeff Sherman and Dad's last companion Ola Miracle. We put in a letter of intent and kept a Raney Estate accounting with Ola at the helm as administrator. This went on for years. The room was reserved and she made her best efforts to hold the remaining Raney possessions: original paintings, old photos, albums, tapes, scores, correspondence, and assorted nick-nacks. She had a large condo in Louisville with most of the rooms filled with just about everything she had ever owned from her childhood, her children's childhood, her adult life and on top of that, tons of Jimmy Raney things, all of it comingling. Ola had to relocate to a smaller condo. The heap of stuff followed her but distribution now spilled beyond the closets and rooms into storage areas within the basement of the building as well as commercial storage. An attempt was made to account and remove the Raney things at one time but it didn't happen. I didn't know about these things at the time being in NY. I find out later. I assumed the things made it to Bellarmine based on what I heard from Ola. Maybe I should have paid more attention in retrospect.

In September of 2005 I found out that Ola had contracted terminal breast cancer a long time before. She had been in her daughter Linda's care in California for about 4-5 months and was in the last stages of her life. When she died, I went down to be pallbearer and if time permitted, review the whereabouts of Dad's stuff. I began to find out about what had happened during the 3 days I spent down there-that the stuff never got to Bellarmine and we had lost the room at Bellarmine subsequently. I couldn't find anything of value in Ola's house and a trip to the basement revealed nothing. I took a few things with me and returned to NY with the hope of hearing from Linda about the whereabouts of Dad's personal things. I also had to take over administratorship from Ola.

Linda was able to find some boxes of things, including some records, audio cassettes and a video or two and she fowarded them by mail to NYC, but In January I began hearing from saxophonist/educator Jamey Aebersold that other possessions of Dad's were showing up on Ebay. A DJ from Indiana, Joe Bourne had contacted me about it and sent me the links. It was true. I saw my grandmother's old keepsake album of Dad's glossy Woody Herman band photos prominently displayed. It was bizarre. I used to look at all those photos all the time. At that point I thought they were stolen from the house and pawned by a family member (who shall remain nameless). I started a criminal investigation and contacted one of the sellers at Ebay, threatening legal action. As it turned out, none of this was true. The Ebay sellers obtained these things legally through an Estate auction. Dad's things, as it turned out were in commercial storage for a long time. When Ola contracted cancer, she was already behind in the payments. When her daughter Linda was asked to handle the remaining storage space, Ola had owed 11 months of storage and there was a big heap there to be sorted out. Linda had no idea that Dad's valuable effects were mixed among her baby boots and old forgotten photos. She let the storage house liquidate them. One of the sellers I was in contact with, feigned sympathy about the situation but was inferring that the way to "show my love" was to bid on the stuff myself. I made a public statement about the situation in the Ebay community just to vent and tell the story. Some commented with understanding comments, and others-one in particular--saw fit to say things that were downright derisive. There was the potential for getting into some "flaming wars" with the ebay seller but I decided to let it go and the other members seemed to bury his lack of sensitivity for me.

The last straw for me was when I logged into Ebay and found my father's self portait/abtract painting up for sale. That was what I specifically had gone to Louisville to try to retrieve without success. Dad had offered to give it to me on a few occasions and now it was already sold to the highest bidder at Ebay. I wept for about an hour straight. I decided to stop bothering logging in to Ebay and let it go.

More next time. (There is a fortunate twist to this story stay tuned)


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Chris Johnstone said...

That's terrible Jon. I often wonder about Tal Farlow's possesions too. Where is that beautifeul ES 350 that he played 'Meteor' on? Where is his blonde Farlow model Gibson? I know he remarried but he had no children to pass them down too.
Wes Montgomery's guitar ended up in a house fire and then found in a pawn shop where it had to be restored.
Really sorry Jon


Jon Raney said...

There is a silver lining to the story, though. The "great Dane" pun was not clear enough of a hint about my the intended follow-up post planned for part2. I edited the original post a few minutes ago to make it more clear.

Re: Tal. I don't know. I played at Tal's memorial at Michelle's invite but I really don't the details of his estate.

One of my father's guitars ended up being sold by a guitar collector. The picture of the instrument is displayed at the forum.