Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Terry Charles "TC" Edwards, the lead singer of TC and The Eddies, TC and The Ponies and The Piranhas and one of the most familiar and beloved faces in the Little Rock music scene over the last 25 years, was found shot to death Sunday, Dec. 7, according to friends. He was 43. At press time, police had yet to identify Edwards as the homicide victim.
The news of his murder prompted hundreds of social media tributes and nights of toasts at bars across Little Rock, including his regular hangout, Pizza D'Action. Friends remembered that he knew their birthdays. That he knew the history of their hairstyles. That he knew that when they were young they had a red tricycle and liked to play kickball, or had blonde pigtails and were ballerinas. That he loved to rest his hand on their elbows and guess their weight. That he loved wrestling. That he loved sneakers — so much so that if he found a size 6 or 7 that he really liked, he would endure the pain of squeezing his size 9-and-a-halfs inside. That he loved to give bear hugs. That he loved to smoke weed. But most of all, that he loved metal.
After a fifth-grade teacher gave him a copy of Hit Parader with the band Dio on the cover, heavy metal and hard rock became an obsession that he carried with him the rest of his life. "I bet you used to be metal," he would say to strangers by way of introduction. Whether he was washing dishes at a restaurant or performing onstage, he dressed like a rock star. That often meant suffering for fashion. He would wear a black leather biker jacket in the summer. If he had a new tattoo on his arm, he'd wear a cut-off '80s metal band T-shirt in the winter. Friends remember him manning a pizza oven in leather pants.
When he talked about his favorite bands, a heavy metal encyclopedia would spill out of him, starting with AC/DC and Accept ('80s German heavy metal) and half an hour later ending with Zebra ('70s New Orleans hard rock).
"If people could have a singular pursuit and love like TC did, they'd be a lot fucking happier," Mike "Sterno" Keckhaver, his longtime friend and bandmate in TC and The Eddies, said. "I envied him."
"He loved to sing. He loved to play. He. Loved. To. Rock," another bandmate and friend Krel Philssen said. "Life is so hard. Whenever he got to the stage or the studio, everything else fell away. He was in the moment. He was that moment. That was the only thing that mattered. He was there and he was rock god No. 1."
TC and The Eddies specialized in what later bandmate Bill "Jag" Jagitsch called "experimental, freeform metal." Live, that meant The Eddies didn't know what song to play until Edwards started singing. "He had 5,000 songs in his head," Keckhaver said. And he always wanted his band to play all of them heavier and faster.
Later, Edwards formed The Piranhas with Adrian Bozeman, Jeremy Brasher and Andrew Darezzo. It drew from all of Edwards' favorite influences, "hair bands, the new wave of British heavy metal, maybe a little thrash," Brasher said. At one show, Edwards led the band through all of its songs. When they got to the last one, Edwards kept playing. "Following his cue, we played every one of our songs again. Once we finished the second set, TC was still going strong. We unplugged our instruments and became members of the adoring crowd. TC played for 20 or 30 more minutes."
Edwards' ability to shine onstage was especially impressive considering the fact that he was autistic, his longtime best friend and partial caretaker Mike Poe said. His condition went undiagnosed until 2005, when Poe helped Edwards, who'd been arrested for resisting and possessing drug paraphernalia after police found him sleeping on a friend's front porch, secure a lawyer and see a psychologist. The diagnosis had followed a string of unfortunate events for Edwards — a lost job, an eviction, another arrest — that might have been avoided had someone intervened to explain his condition. Thereafter, Poe became that person, a protector and near constant companion of Edwards'.
"More than any other friend I had, he was in my life," Poe said. "We told each other how much we loved each other all the time. He called my mother his mother. He called my sisters his sisters. He was my brother."
Poe, a filmmaker, shot years of footage of Edwards and his friends and fans for a planned "rockumentary." He organized massive concerts featuring TC and The Eddies and semi-annual flag football games called TC's Punkers vs. Rockers at the Arkansas School for the Deaf football field (a.k.a. Deaf Leopard Field). He took Edwards on trips to see bands in New Orleans, Hollywood and Austin, Texas.
The Hollywood trip was a turning point for Edwards, Poe said.
He got to get onstage with the L.A. glam metal group Steel Panther and won a battle with the singers in a scream off. He got to see all the places where Motorhead's Lemmy Killmister hung out. "I said, 'This is where a rock star sits. Wherever he goes around town, he gets his drinks paid for, he gets his food paid for, he has people smacking him on the back.' " Poe said. "I said, 'That's you in Little Rock, Arkansas. You're Lemmy.' His attitude completely changed after that. He was already a rock star in his own town."