Memories of Theron Brison, Part Two [[Click here for Part 1, published in October]]
On October 14th, the funk world lost a tremendous talent in Thee Ram Jam, the “weird, strange, and hardcore” master of the bass (as Bootsy puts it). Thumpin’ under Bootzilla Prpductions and spreadin’ the love of the One as a professor of Funk University, also created by the Bootsy Collins’ Foundation, Thee Ram was becoming an enigma to his fans on the internet. While music forumists had argued that the man, masked as a ram and wearing a long flowing black cape in all concerts and videos for Funk U, had to be Victor Wooten or Bootsy or maybe Les Claypool in a clever disguise, the true man beneath the mask, Theron Brison, had never seen the worldwide fame or respect of those legends. Most of the time he was an unmasked musician, known for being in the Southern California bands DFunktion and Cheaya & Her Dar Secret, while also playing in church and community theatre. Still, the unmistakable talent and style of Theron’s playing had caught Bootsy’s attention years ago when Bootsy was picking up his new bass at NAAM, and the two were friends from the one. The two started making tunes together about two years ago when Bootsy signed Theron on to become a mysterious space-goat bassist for Bootzilla Productions.
Theron Brison had led a life of talent, joy, friendship and resilience. Acting as a drug abuse councilor for over twenty years and offering endless support for those struggling with addiction, Theron touched hundreds of lives who swear his helping hand lifted them from darkness. Friends recall him as humorous and deeply caring. One close friend of Theron, Natalie McDonald, says “The mask he wore in the funk world hid the most luminous and contagious smile you could imagine, a gateway to a brilliant and loving heart.” Tina Langford met Theron 16 years ago at the recovery center, where she later went to work and struck up a friendship with the man who helped her get clean. She recalls, “Theron is a lover of life. He taught me that people are people no one better than the other. He showed me it was possible to love and be loved. He showed me what it takes to be a good counselor and a great friend. He has helped hundreds of people find a better way of life. His laughter was infectious and his smile brightened up the room. He was kind and gentle for those who needed it and tough and to the point for others. He called you on your bullshit then gave you postive direction. He made you cry then walked with you through the pain. Amazing he was/is.” Friends and fans poured comments in response to the article published by FunkMusicNews.com in October, remembering Brison.
In a tragic story still yet to be explained, if never justified, Theron was found severely injured outside his long-time workplace, Valley Wide Counseling Services addiction treatment center on South Santa Fe Street, at around 8:30 in the morning on October 14th. Although medics were called, Theron slipped away at the scene. His coworker, Zahir Ma Zhid Sardar Masih, 27, of Hemet had been arrested, but released after one day and Valley Wide staff shared with us that Zahir was sharing in the grief of the treatment center. Police continued investigating the area and on October 17th, arrested Corney Lamonte Macedone, 34, of the Riverside area and charged him with complicity in the murder.
The investigation is still open, and anyone with information is urged to contact Josh Button of the Central Homicide Unit at 955-2777 or Cassandra Pemberton of the San Jacinto Police Department at 791-3400.
Now, two months later, Theron will be celebrated by friends, family, and many lives he’s touched in a funk festival in San Bernadino, CA. Bent Not Broken Inspired, the community theatre group that Brison was a contributing musician for, will be collaborating with Bootsy, Cheaya & Her Dark Secret, DFunktion, Cisco Robles, and other performing artists to celebrate and remember, with stories, music, excitement and pleasure, all the amazing gifts Theron gave before leaving this world, and all the encouragement he gave others to see through to a brighter tomorrow.
TOUCHED BY THE FUNK, a memorial funk fest celebrating Theron Brison, will be held Saturday, December 10th, at 7pm, at the Sturges Center For The Fine Arts in San Bernardino, CA.
Thee Ram Jam Music Education Fund has been set up by the Bootsy Collins Foundation to award scholarships to Funk University. The students truly appreciate this gift. (One of Funk Music News’ writers, Chelcie, won a scholarship for this year to Funk U and has been loving the gift of funk lessons. She created the following tribute for her professor.)
Tere Quevedo of Watson Guitars recalls snapping the shot above, “This had been stored in our archives, since his real identity was not supposed to be revealed.
[It is from when] I drove his custom bass down to him in Hemet one evening, and we met up in a parking lot at the Gosch Ford dealership down there. He had not yet seen his bass fully assembled. This shot captures the love of his music, his instrument and the absolute joy that we knew him to be and share. THIS is the Theron we came to know and love.
The magnitude of our loss is just now…taking form.”
In October, Cheaya wrote to FunkMusicNews.com with a personal message. “I wanted to share our live performance with Thee Ram Jam aka No’Fass on Bass with our group Chaeya & Her Dark Secret. You can see how his genius brought our little project so much light. We’re really grieving over here because he wasn’t a hired gun, he was part of the band which he kindly took the time out of his own projects and with Bootsy to play with us.”
Bootsy also made a tribute video in October, about how the two first met. “He introduced me to my star bass. He was the first to play it!”