I consider myself blessed in many ways, mainly because I have been able to do things that a lot of people dream of doing but never dare get out of their comfort zone to attempt, and I have met a lot of awesome music folks because of that. Definitely far from least of the people I have met in my travels was Duke Collins. I first met Duke when Deadlights did their first tour of the states in support of their Warner Brothers release ( which you should go and find if you never heard it- because OMG- still think it was amazing!) opening for Danzig and Type O. I was lucky enough to get to sit and chat with Duke about life and music and his hopes for the band and the future. We did 2 more interviews after that- the last one being by phone when he was driving down the 405 in Southern California and I was sitting in my living room in Vegas, after he had left his band and he was weighing out the options he had and deciding the next step musically. Seems like a lifetime ago now, and little did I know that that last interview would be the last ever- why should I think that? The man had talent and I was sure we would see bigger and better things from him to come. It was just a matter of time.
When ZRock’R was doing the radio show on LV Rocks which I co-hosted, I would play Deadlights stuff now and then and one night, after playing “Falling Down” I said to my co-hosts on air how awesome the band was live and I would love to know what Duke was up to these days- and we proceeded to look for him and I was really happy when I was told he had been found- but I never expected to hear the words from my assistant, that we were just a matter of days too late, that Duke was gone, and his funeral was to be in just a few days. I was in disbelief and truly saddened by that news. Duke was a powerhouse on stage- a force to reckon with, and, he was one of the sweetest and most kind people you would ever meet off stage. How could it be he was gone? Just like that? We shared the news here and on the radio show and again were reminded of how short life really is. When we learned what the cause was that led to his early departure from this big blue marble, the people that he so loved, his music and his beloved Southern California, it was really heartbreaking to hear…..
Almost a year later and I got a call from fellow journalist who also works in PR, Brenda Starr, and she told me that Duke’s Mom was putting together something to honor her son’s memory and to try and help other musicians who are dealing with some of the same things that Duke hadd and that she would like to talk with me. I felt both surprised and very honored to say the least. Sharon Gipson, or “Mama Duke” as she is known to Duke’s fans and friends, is a very humble lady who loved her son dearly and like all Moms, tried her best to help him anyway she could. Mama Duke is now putting together a foundation called “Bridging the Gap” as a way of honoring Duke’s memory and trying to assist other musicians that, like Duke, want to get clean but because of the costs and the downtime required to do so, can’t afford to for fear of losing their home, or their car, or the only means they have to make money. Yes folks, there is something called being a functioning addict and it happens more than you know and sadly, it is hard to break the cycle- no matter how badly they may want to… That is where she hopes Bridging the Gap will come in.
So on a Sunday afternoon, I got the chance to sit and chat with Sharon ” Mama Duke” Gipson about the great things she has going on in Duke’s honor and about the show that is coming up in the area of California that Duke knew and loved….
ZR: Coming up soon is the memorial for Duke in Santa Ana. What made you decide to go public with everything and put together the memorial and work with getting help for others who are possibly in the same situation Duke was in?
Mama Duke: The biggest deciding factor was, I call it ” the Dukeness”. I woke up one morning in early July, and it hit me. I was really tormented. I felt like I must’ve missed something for this to happen to him, and I thought there’s gotta be a way to make a bigger awareness so people can stop and look at their loved ones and say, “Okay, something’s not right.” I thought of all the things that Duke and I talked about; about him going into rehab and the reasons why he couldn’t go. I thought about his whole life and everything that he would’ve done had he still been here, and I decided that this is something that he would have done. It was based on a comment that he had made to me. He said, “I don’t want to be that guy, Mom.”He didn’t like being an addict. He was beautiful, respectful, kind, and sweet. I kept seeing him in that light and thought, “Well, maybe it can’t be that bad, and
we’ll get through this.”, but it was. I just feel like the most important thing I could’ve done was to get out of denial, myself. I had to be able to stand up and say, “My son is an addict.” because in order to
help your loved ones, you have to see through clear eyes. If you’re in denial, then you’re not helping them. He was my first born. I have two other beautiful children, and this has caused me to look at them in a different light and say to myself, “Wait, I’m not going to miss anything this time.” Other parents need to do the same thing. We all need to not be at the point where we say should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. We need to do everything that we can now, while they are here. I looked at all of the people that loved him so much and listened to everything that they had to say at his memorial. I sat there for two and a half, three hours, listening to every person come up and say “He is the reason I’m sober. He encouraged me. He made me go to AA. He went with me. He was there for me.” I thought, “You saved all these people, but you couldn’t save yourself? Why?” I went back to the things he would say to me. “I can’t go into rehab, Mom. I won’t have anything when I come back. I won’t have a job, a place to live, a car, I won’t have anything.” While it is a personal decision for each person who needs to be in recovery to find that one moment when they wake up and say they are going, once they do make that decision, who’s going to be there to help them? Whether it’s a father who is leaving their wife and kids worried about how his kids are gonna eat, or whatever, those kids are going to eat. We are going to make sure that happens. We are going to make sure there are no excuses so that person can spend their 90 days in recovery and come out a whole, new person again.
Mama Duke: We have so many fascinating people coming to the event, and it has been so much work. I really appreciate everybody who has helped put it together. I have never done anything like this before. My son was so protective of me, that being his mother, a lot of people go “How could you not know all of these people?” He was insanely and selfishly protective of me. I would go to one of his shows and he would make sure that someone was babysitting me. I’m not kidding! His eyes were on me at all times, even when he was playing. He’d make me be b
ackstage by one of those huge speakers or somewhere else where he could physically see me. As soon as he was done playing he would jump off the stage and say, “Hi, Mommy.” He’d grab me and whisk me off. He might introduce me to one or two people and then we’d run off to dinner or a movie. He didn’t let me hang around. He was always like that. The very first show that I ever went to was way back in the day when he played a little place in Newport Beach or Costa Mesa. I’d come to visit and my brothers said that Duke was playing, and I wanted to go and he goes, “No, you can’t go, Mom.” I asked him why and he goes, “Well, because. You just can’t go. That’s not a place for you.” So, he walked off and my brother said, “Oh, you’re going.” So, they snuck me in. The minute that Duke saw me, he almost flew off the stage. He finished his song and flew out and goes, “Oh my God, Mom! What are you doing here?” Well, to watch him play, and he goes, “Mom. This is not the kind of music a woman like you should be listening to.” He was like that all the time! He looked at my brothers and between gritted teeth said, “Get her out of here.” and they said no, haha. So, he goes, “Oh my God, Mom. Stay right there. DON’T MOVE!” They had a mosh pit and stuff going on. So, he was always like that. He never raised a fist to me. He never swore at me. He treated me like I was the most precious rose that had ever bloomed on a bush. He treated me like a queen in every fashion at all times. He never missed a beat. He’d do little things out of the blue like send me Chanel No. 5. The Christmas before (he passed), I am adopting two of my grandchildren, and he called me up and said, “I’m not going to make it out, but I ran into Wal-Mart and saw a bunch of things for you to get the kids.” I was hoping it wouldn’t be too much because I’m just a regular working Joe. He told me he had sent money. That’s how he was. The kids got new bikes and toys and games. Uncle Duke made Christmas. It gave him pleasure and joy. That’s just what he always did.
Mama Duke: I would like them to remember that he had a great care and a great love for everyone around him. It didn’t matter who they were, what they did, or how they came into his life. He had a great respect for humanity. I have his journal, and one of the things that he wrote in there that was most profound to me was something to the effect of, “I don’t understand how people treat others the way they do. It’s not supposed to be like that. You’re supposed to care for other people. You’re supposed to look out for other people.” I think that is how I would like them to remember him. He was not a scumbag who was looking for his next hit here or there with a paper bag in his hand, sleeping on the sidewalk. He was walking around just like we do. I want them to remember him as the kind, beautiful person that he was. Like I said, if he were here, he’d be doing the same thing for them now. ”
Here are all the details:
Duke Collins Memorial & Concert to benefit the creation of Bridging The Gap w/ The Deadlights, Death Division, Sunflower Dead & Radiodrone at The Underground DTSA, Santa Ana, California- This Saturday, March 19, 2016
You can get tickets at: Duke Memorial TICKETS
There will be a Special Presentation by Wes Geer from Hed PE & Korn
There will also be a raffle for an Avenged Sevenfold autographed guitar donated by M. Shadows at the event.
Proceeds will go to benefit Bridging The Gap
All Star Jam Sessions with:
Dave Buckner Papa Roach
Bill Hudson Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Joey Gold Love/Hate
Sonny Mayo Snot & Sevendust
Carl Benseley Snot
Wes Geer Hed PE & Korn
DJ Product Hed PE
Nate Lawler Death on Wednesday
Clinton Calton D.I.
Mike Dupke W.A.S.P.
Loyd Grant original Metallica guitarist
Ronnie King – Offspring & Platinum Selling Music Producer
Tumor from Snot
Mike Duda W.A.S.P. Nation (Official)
Marcelo Moreira Circle II Circle
and more to be announced
The show is age 21+
You can get show updates here: DUKE MEMORIAL UPDATES
If you are unable to make the show, you can still help. Please send your donations for Bridging the Gap HERE