My Friend, Logan

Looking at Tumblr the other day I ran into this photo. It was tagged “Julian Koster,” and although I’m not familiar with Julian, I immediately recognized the showman behind him. He was the sidekick of someone I was lucky enough to briefly know named Logan Whitehurst in his band — Logan Whitehurst and the Jr. Science Club.

I grew up in a town about forty-five minutes north of San Francisco in wine country called Petaluma. During the second half of highschool, my life primarily centered around a place called The Phoenix Theater: a former opera house turned movie theater, turned music venue that sits downtown. I was lucky enough to see lots of great bands, get to the know the manager Tom Gaffey, help work the soundboard once or twice, and perform there with my own band several times.

One of the things that made The Phoenix awesome was that it was the right size (about 700 capacity) to have up and coming national acts perform. Of the groups I saw, the one I became most obsessed with and looked up to was The Velvet Teen (who are still together). At the time their lineup consisted of three folks: Judah, Josh, and Logan. For me at sixteen or seventeen, they seemed impossibly cool. For me at twenty-eight, they still seem like they were impossibly cool.

I’d be surprised if my best friend/drummer Justin and I missed any shows that The Velvet Teen played at The Phoenix over the next two years.

I can’t remember the exact circumstances that lead up to me talking with Logan, but I have a pretty good idea. If there was one part of being in a band I was good then, it was ingratiating myself to people I wanted to meet and (hopefully) open for. I think something about being a chubby, nerdy and excitable teenager probably helped with this a lot. Combined with the fact that Logan was — and I say this with no exagerration — one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, it’s easy for me to imagine how we ended up talking.

I emailed him once or twice asking about recording, music, anything else. I remember that he always signed his emails “Your Friend, Logan.” I thought it was cool that I could tell people we were “friends.” Of course, it was probably his default signature. Eventually I asked him if he’d like to help us produce an album, and he said yes. Whenever Justin and I were together for the next few weeks, one of us would usually stop mid-sentence and “Dude. Logan from The Velvet Teen is going to produce our album.”

Logan introduced us to his friend Dan — who was in the construction phase of building a recording space in Rohnert Park — and together they helped us put together a ten track CD over four long days that we called “QWERTY” (primarily funded by Justin’s highschool graduation money). Logan even drew some pretty awesome cover art for us.

Justin and I continued to play music together for about another year and a half. We performed around Sonoma County, The Phoenix, the Bay Area and made a couple of trips out of state. A couple of times Logan and Vanilla joined us.

After that summer I exchanged email or talked to Logan over I.M. a few times, but not much. Around this time — the end of 2003 — he’d gotten really sick, for reasons no one knew. I remember getting an email from him at the beginning of 2004 saying that he’d “just been sick for a really long time.” In May of 2004 Logan found out that he had brain cancer.

Eventually my band broke up, and I moved to Sacramento to live with a girl that I’d been seeing. I can’t remember if it was just before, or just after I moved, but at some point I came back to play a show at The Phoenix by myself. Outside I ran into Logan on the street with his girlfriend. He was always extremely vibrant and gregarious — and he still was — but he was walking with a cane, and his hair was thin. It was weird to see him that way. He looked like someone who was recovering from cancer treatment. I forget what I was running around doing, maybe getting ready for or promoting my show, so I only stopped briefly when I saw him. As I walked away he said “I hope you find whatever you’re looking for,” probably because I was acting a bit spastic and in a rush. This was the last time I talked to Logan.

In 2006, Logan’s cancer was in remission, and recorded and designed the artwork for another Jr. Science Club album. By now I was working at the Guitar Center in Sacramento, and focusing on new things in my life, so I didn’t talk to Logan at all for a while. I did find out that his cancer had come back though, and in December of 2006 he died.

It’s weird that in the scope of people in my life, I didn’t really know Logan very well, but he had a permanent impact on me, and I think about him a lot. It’s funny how something like a picture of a plastic snowman can trigger it to all come back at once.

Collin Donnell @collin