Chris Quillen

Born: 1970 Florence, AL

Died: 5/1996

Chris Quillen

Rock Guitar Fiddleworms

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame



Chris Quillen Music Camp

We are getting ready for this years music camp which will be held at the W. C. Handy school on June 12th , 13th , and 14th . For more information about the camp and the Chris Quillen Scholarship Fund go to our web site under the Monster heading . I should have some stories to tell with the instuctors that are coming . Kelvin Holly , Rob Malone , David Hood , Max Russell , Carol Quillen , Spooner Oldham , Gary Nichols , Mike Hollander , Scott Boyer , Russ Randolf , Zion Godchaux , and Tom Risher have all signed on to teach . I hope to have some pictures as well . We recorded two nights in Atlanta , Georgia at Smith's Olde Bar May 7th & 8th . Russ Randolf has agreed to produce the record which we plan to release before the end of the year . We thank all our friends , old and new , who support us in all our musical adventures . Anything is possible through music . Russell

Source: Chris Quillen Music Camp by Fiddleworms on Myspace


Fellow founder and Fiddleworms member was the guitarist and singer for the band. Chris is known to play drums, bass, barrel-house style piano, mandolin, sitar, harmonica and probably a few more. According to all those that heard him speak, or sing, they'll agree he had perfect pitch. According to friends, "Chris was a true musical chameleon in the grandest sense." He formed metal bands, a pop band, he played punk, country and R&B.  Known as "Monster", Chris was killed in a car accident on May 26, 1996 and the following December, the band release their debut album "Yellowhammer".


Source: The Band


Ten years ago today I lost one of my best friends. Chris Quillen played guitar, bass, barrel-house style piano, drums, mandolin, sitar, and harmonica just to name the instruments I saw him play. He probably played a few more. I heard rumors that he was adequate on fiddle but I never saw him prove it. I do know that he had perfect pitch and one of the most beautiful and versatile singing voices that I have ever heard. He had a sense of melody that easily rivaled that of anyone I have ever met and was an amazing performer. He was also a great and hilarious guy. I loved him dearly, as did everyone else I know that ever met him. Next to my grandparents, he is the closest person to me that I ever lost and it still hurts ten years later with nearly the same intensity that it did ten years ago.


I heard about Chris before I ever met him. Cooley gave guitar lessons at a local guitar shop and kept talking about this young kid who would come in the shop and play the living shit out of everything in there. Soon he was playing in several local bands, none, honestly nearly as good as he, but all improving exponentially upon his addition. Furthermore, he wasn't the same in any of these bands. Chris was a true musical chameleon in the grandest sense. If he joined a metal band, he became a metal guitarist. If he joined a pop band, he became a melodic wizard finding counter-melodies, usually far more interesting than the original. If he played punk, he played like a punk. His country was as flawless and impeccable as his R&B. His blues was very black. He seldom sang lead, but was to this day the best harmony singer I ever met. When he sang with me, he mimicked my voice as he harmonized with me as if I was dubbing both parts, except that he could take his places that I never dreamt of reaching.

Shortly before my band Adam's House Cat broke up (in 1991) our bassist left the band and Chris, who preferred to play guitar and was already busy in a fulltime band, agreed to play with us until we found a fulltime replacement. The three months that he played in that band were the best times, musical and personal, of the six years that band played together. He literally learned our show in 2 days and played it flawlessly for the first time in Birmingham AL at The Nick.

Only jambox cassettes exist of the shows and rehearsals we had together that summer. We worked up a handful of brand new songs, the best of which "Pollyanna" I recently recorded for my next solo album. In fact there are few recordings of him at all, as sadly most of his work was in the live performance realm, something I'm sure he would have corrected if time had allowed.

A week or so after joining Adam's House Cat, Chris suffered a mishap in which he broke his right hand. He didn't have insurance, but found a doctor who was willing to set his hand in a plaster cast. Unfortunately, we had a show a few nights later and he found the cast too restricting to play, so shortly before sound check, he found a hacksaw and cut out two fingers so that he could improvise the bass parts and get us through the show. His hand never really healed correctly and although it never seemed to impair his playing, I'm sure it eventually would have caused him a lot of grief, but he was never one to think of things in that way. To him, he had a job to do and did what he had to do to pull it off. He was just made that way.

At the end of that summer, Cooley and I moved to Memphis in hopes of relocating the band there. We broke up instead, but never shook the notion of playing again with Chris. Our dream was to maybe one day form a band where all three of us played guitar, although we would have been first to admit that the notion of a band having three guitarists is pretty ridiculous and certainly seemed outdated and stupid in 1991. Instead, Cooley and I moved from Memphis to Auburn AL and played as a duo called Virgil Kane while Quillen played on in various bands back home in Muscle Shoals.

I moved back to North Alabama in early 1993 without Cooley, who I had fallen out with for a time. By this time Quillen had acquired the nickname Monster (I think our friend Jenn named him that, but I'm not sure) and we immediately began playing together under the name Prom Needles. In that band, I played acoustic guitar and he played electric guitar. Sometimes our friend Earl Hicks played this old air organ. I was really prolific in those days and wrote around 150 songs during the eleven months that we played together in that incarnation. Out of the overflowing notepads from that year, I had 30 or so keepers that made up the bulk of our shows then. An early incarnation of "Feb. 14" dates back to those shows.

Early in the tenure of Prom Needles, Monster had another mishap, this time breaking his left hand. Again, a doctor set his hand, and again, he took the hacksaw to it to cut out enough fingers to play his guitar. He played guitar better with nine fingers and a plaster cast than most people ever dream of with all their capacities.

I was very unhappy then and living back home was doing nothing to cheer me up so I saved every penny I could get my hands on to move to Georgia (Atlanta being my initial plan until fate changed it to Athens). Monster, on the other hand was in his element there. He had everything he needed and had no desire to ever move away. He didn't drive, and there he had an endless supply of folks who would gladly take him anywhere he needed to go, or bring him whatever he needed so that he didn't have to go anywhere. All he had to do was play and he did it all day, everyday. He would occasionally hold down some crap job (usually to buy a new guitar or something) but usually got by on very cheap living and a lot of playing.

Once I ended up in Georgia, I didn't get to see him very often. He would talk of coming to see me here, but with no car nor money it never really happened. Around that time I reconciled with Cooley and we would get together once a month or so and 4 track new songs that I was writing. Again, talk would return to dreams of one day having a band that included Monster. Talking with him was also a rare treat because he usually didn't have a phone and when he did, he notoriously never answered it. Playing with Monster meant arranging (in person) any practices or shows and always picking him up and taking him home. He was just that way.

In the fall of 1995, I planned a trip to a cabin in the North Georgia Mountains. Cooley and his gal Ansley came, as did Monster and Tim (Facok who currently works for DBT) and Rob Malone and some other close friends from back home. I brought a new friend I had recently met in Georgia named Jim Stacy. The cabin was very old, filled with antiques and heirlooms belonging to my then wife Donna Jane and her family. There was really nothing to do but sit around and much picking and grinning ensued.

Jim and his date Debbie brought a bunch of great old-timey country compilations featuring Porter, Loretta, Tammy, Faron, and tons of others that sounded like new nectar to my ears that had grown so weary of all the same old crap I had been listening to. Jim also brought a banjo and played us a song cycle he had just written about circus life called Big Top. Later, he staged it as a punk rock circus that also shaped some of my opinions about performance art, but just hearing the songs on banjo was like a light being turned on. Later that night, Rob grabbed the banjo (which I don't think he had played before) and he and Cooley and Monster and I stayed up until sunrise reinventing songs (old and new) and passing around the bottle. We had so much fun that we made plans to repeat what we had done over Thanksgiving weekend at a venue back home. By Thanksgiving, I had written a few new songs to include and we called this show Pizza Deliverance.

Pizza Deliverance was played with Cooley and I on guitars, Rob Malone on banjo, and Monster played drums. I have a video of the show and believe me, it was a total train wreck, but it was also the most fun I had had on stage in years. Among the songs played that night were "The Company I Keep", "Nine Bullets", "18 Wheels of Love", and "Box of Spiders". After the show we stayed up all night, drinking and making plans of turning this experience into a "real band" in the not too distant future. Later still, Quillen slept with Cooley's car keys stuffed down his underwear to make sure that he didn't do something stupid like driving his drunken ass home.

Quillen was always doing things like this. He was a constant reminder to "fasten your seatbelt" and not drive drunk. He was a believer that in order to live carefree, you must be a little careful. I can't count the times he hid someone's keys or talked someone out of doing some stupid shit that could get you killed or arrested. He had such an endearing way of doing these things that made it all the more effective.

I don't think I ever saw him again after that Thanksgiving weekend. I returned to Athens GA where my idea for a band morphed into a recording project I renamed Drive-By Truckers. I continued writing at a fast pace and trying to save up some money for a day of studio time to record some of these new songs. In March, I wrote "The Living Bubba" which was inspired by the final days of Gregory Dean Smalley and either a week earlier or later (can't remember now) I wrote "Bulldozers and Dirt."

The day I wrote "Bulldozers and Dirt" I was walking my dogs in the field behind where I was living. Our house at the time backed up to University land that was undeveloped and perfect for walking Aretha and Loretta. I was somewhere out there when the song hit me and I ran home as fast as I could to write it down before it was lost forever. In this case, I knew I had written a song that would be important to me and because when I heard it in my head it had Quillen's harmonies all over it, I couldn't wait for him to hear it. I knew that the odds of him answering the phone were next to zero, but I called him anyway and to my surprise, he answered on the second ring. Before even saying "hello", I sang him the song, a cappella, in its entirety. He was blown away, saying it was the best song I had ever written. We then talked for over half an hour, making grand plans for him to catch a ride to Athens with Cooley for us to record it and a few more. I was so excited that I went ahead and booked the studio time (June 10, 1996) and began casting the other players for the session. I never spoke with him again.

As I was working to put together my own band, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pick up some shows being backed by one of my favorite local bands The Possibilities. They agreed to back me up, under the name The Lot Lizards. We were invited, by Greg Smalley (right before his death) to play at Atlanta's famed Star Bar at their annual Bubbapalooza Festival. This was only my second time to play in Atlanta with a band and I was very excited to be there. After the show (May 25, 1996) I spent the night at my friend Amy's apartment in Atlanta. Amy was from back home also and the next morning we were awakened by a phone call from another friend who told her that Chris had been killed the night before in a car accident.

Nothing about Monster's death made sense to me (then or now). The next several days were a blur of tears, grief and disbelief. We all met up at Tim's apartment (where we had rehearsed Pizza Deliverance a few months earlier) and cried uncontrollably for days and nights on end. Quillen, who preached against drunk driving, was doing just that, sans seatbelt, when he hit a telephone pole and was killed instantly by a blow to the head.

His last night had been somewhat triumphant for him as well. His then band The Fiddleworms, had released their debut album that week and played a huge outdoor festival in downtown Florence AL to celebrate. Later that evening, they all convened at the singer's lake house and partied into the night down by the pier. Sometime before sunrise, Chris excused himself to go up to the house to sleep. Sometime later, in some kind of stupor, he took a car and evidently tried to make it to his own bed. The fact that he was killed on another side of town from where he was living only adds to the confusion and disbelief. No one who knew him understands any of this to this day, as the whole episode is completely uncharacteristic of him and all of his beliefs.

The night before his funeral, several of us had the exact same dream, in which he spoke to us clearly and candidly about what was up and what it all meant. I've never been one to put much faith in "out of body experiences" or ghost stories, but I awoke with vivid memories that I have to this day. Upon talking with several others, we all realized that we had had nearly the exact conversation with our beloved dead friend. I remember asking him if he was all right and he said he certainly was. He laughed in his trademark way about the irony of his having passed in such a ridiculous way. Towards the end of the dream I asked him if he would ever "visit" me again, but he said that it just didn't work that way. At this point, my dream took a turn that the others didn't, in which he said with a smile "watch this" and then, as if shining a flashlight onto a path in the woods, he showed me a path to follow, A path that I have followed ever since regarding my music and artistic life. The specifics of this are hard to explain, but it was literally like a road map that has led me from where I was then to where I am now.

On June 10, 1996, I convened at Andy Baker's studio in Athens GA with five friends. Half of us knew and loved Chris while the other half had never met him. We recorded five songs "Bulldozers and Dirt", "Nine Bullets", Margo and Harold", "Zoloft", and a brand new song that I wrote about Chris' senseless death called "Careless". To say we felt his presence in the room that day would be a severe understatement. Even those that never knew him could feel the electricity in the air that day and the performances, worked up on the spot, with no rehearsal, attest to it. Of the five songs, two ("Nine Bullets" and "Bulldozers and Dirt") were issued as our first single (on a long out of print vinyl 45). The take of "Margo and Harold" (the musical and emotional highpoint of the day) was later included on our second album, which we titled Pizza Deliverance. A few years later, we re-cut "Careless" for inclusion on our fifth album "Decoration Day".

Cooley and I recently celebrated 20 years of playing together. Rob Malone (who also shared the dream) joined our band in 1998 and played with us for three years, including our album "Southern Rock Opera". Our band will mark its 10th anniversary on the opening night of our upcoming tour opening for Black Crowes (Seattle is the opening city). A few of the songs we played together appeared on my first solo album, but with me attempting to sing his old harmony parts. He has made cameo appearances in various songs I have written, but never in a literal way. "Plastic Flowers on the Highway" tells of a friends death in a car accident, but under far different circumstances and his funeral is mentioned in "Tales Facing Up."

Chris' family erected a beautiful monument in the cemetery where he was laid, and area musicians still take guitars and leave offering of picks, and records and assorted musical memorabilia that he would like. The community has also started a scholarship program and a summer music camp in his name, which continue to this day. I still think of him all the time and try my best to honor his memory with my music and the band that he was supposed to have been a member of.

I haven't been to his gravesite since his funeral but the next time I return home, I intend to take my wife Rebecca, daughter Ava and my guitar to his monument and sing him a song. Maybe I'll have a new one for the occasion.

We love you Monster.

Patterson Hood

May 25, 2006 - Athens GA

Source: Drive-By Truckers: News





I met Chris a year or so before meeting Patterson and Cooley, when I fancied myself a writer and did horrible little reviews of silly little rock bands. Chris was playing with Stained Mecca at the time and I came to see them, then misspelled his name in the article. He ragged me mercilessly about it, and it was the beginning of one of the closest friendships I'd ever had. I nicknamed him Monster and he easily lived up to the name by playing the fuck out of any instrument he laid hands on.

Chris wasn't only the best musician I knew, he was also the most entertaining person on earth. He was rarely depressed or angry, and if you were, well he'd jerk you right out of it. Even my then-boyfriend Jimmy, a notorious grump and pessimist, had to give it up when Chris was around. In an instant he'd make you laugh - even when he was pissed off, he was funny as hell. I can't remember the times I found myself doubled over with laughter in his presence.

It was a strange place to be in, Muscle Shoals in the early 90's. Lots of small-time bands with nowhere to play, except for a couple of hole-in-the-wall clubs and Club XIII, where dance music hemmed in the band of the night's sets and getting 20 people to a show that wasn't a Whitesnake cover band was considered success. Quillen shone above all there, as did Cooley, Patterson, and Rob, all of whom Quillen would eventually introduce me to.

Chris fit into any situation as easily as he played any instrument. He was crucial in making things enjoyable. Everyone wanted to spend time with him - you'd call in sick if he wanted you to drive him to the river, or buy beer if it meant he would stick around another couple of hours. 'Never a dull moment' is an understatement when it came to that boy.

We had a falling out about a year before his death. Chris was playing below his level, I felt, and I wanted him to get out of Florence and find something better. I thought he shoulda been in Athens with Patterson, getting out of Florence, getting somewhere he'd be appreciated. He didn't think so, and was persuaded by others who had use for his talent to stay and turn from my preaching. I can't blame him much; he had everything he needed, and I took my own unhappiness with my situation out on him by expecting more from him than I did from myself. At any rate, we hadn't spoken much in a few weeks when one morning, about 3 am, he showed up on my doorstep with Rob Malone and convinced me to break out half a bottle of Boone's Farm and sit on the front porch swing with them. We spent the evening coming up with gross names for the colors the sky was turning as daylight came across the Tennessee Valley. With Chris, a fight lasted exactly as long as he wanted it to; you could not resist him when he decided to make up. I'll always be grateful for that night.

I was in Nashville, planning on a night of seeing The Posies, the morning we found out Chris had died. My friend Matt and I had run to the store and when we got back to the house where we were staying, my beautiful cousin Bethany called me onto the back deck and told me the news. I remember falling to my knees and literally blacking out for some period of time, and I don't believe I've fully recovered yet.

We went to the show anyway; I was in shock and Jimmy said it's what Chris would have wanted. I cried all the way through it and still can't listen to "Flood of Sunshine" without intense sadness.

Everyone in our close circle gathered at my house crying and staring at each other in shocked silence. Evan, who'd been on a camping trip and arrived home to see it in the newspaper. Matt, who'd been right by my side since I'd fallen to my knees in Nashville. So many people in and out, weeping with disbelief. It was a great, great loss.

It was the biggest funeral I still to this day have ever been to.

All I really remember is that huge line of cars going to the graveyard, and someone's mother pointing to me in my incredible grief and saying, "That's what happens when you don't get to say goodbye."

One day after his death I had a dream that he came and sat in my lap and hugged me, as he used to do when he was alive, and told me I was worrying too much. He was laughing, and said he loved me and that I should not cry. It was little comfort; I could in no way reconcile the pain of losing him with my dream Monster's wishes.

I was on my way to the graveyard to visit his grave two weeks later when a lady ran a red light, and I t-boned her Cadillac and spiralled into six months of pain pills and agony - broken wrist, shattered femur, and 18 stitches across my forehead. By the time I came out of it, most of my friends had gotten through the grieving process. I was alone with mine, and I don't think I ever really recovered. The pain is still fresh and I miss Chris as much as I ever did. I can hear his voice clearly to this day; he could be sitting right next to me.

Listen: a track of Quillen jamming around with Rob Malone and Cooley, many years ago. That's Monster and Cooley joking around at the end. Thanks to Brad Futrell for that.
Chris Quillen Memorial Scholarship. Recipients shall be students majoring in one of the Entertainment Industry programs. High academic achievement shall not be a criteria for selection. Preference shall be given to applicants who demonstrate the need for financial assistance to undertake their internships. This scholarship is for one academic year only, but prior recipients may apply for subsequent years. Selected by the Department of Music.
Fiddleworms - Yellowhammer CD Cover Art

dec. 1996 this album was recorded and before it was released our friend, background vocalist/lead guitarist, chris quillen died in a automobile accident . we recorded these songs over 6 days at revolution sound studio in nashville . the band traveled through a snow storm;( from birmigham alabama to nashville)when they closed interstate I65 at the hwy 157 exit in cullman alabama we drove around the barricades. chalmers(dumplin') was in los angeles and asked little richard to fly him to nasville to make the session . we spent a lot of time on the road playing these songs , 165 shows in 1995 and we were very hungry . the plan was to cut some tracks to pitch to labels . through our attorney steve baccus and producer rodney good we were able to record these songs . long may you run ...

Listen: Yellowhammer: Fiddleworms: MP3 Downloads

Listen: Fiddleworms | Yellowhammer | CD Baby




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