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CESAREO GARASA: Singer brought love to his family, local music community

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Everett Lee "Eddie" Erwin Jr., pictured singing in front of the Fox Theater during the Downtown Island Festival with his band Eddie and the Islanders, died Nov. 19 due to complications from COVID-19. There will be a funeral service for Erwin on Friday at the Bakersfield National Cemetery in Arvin followed by a memorial service at the Bakersfield Elks Lodge.

Everett Erwin, better known as "Eddie," was the charismatically buoyant singer of the local classic rock cover band Eddie and the Islanders and the co-owner of the influential music venue Studio 45.  It's hard to fathom a man with such a joy for life is no longer with us, but Eddie passed away on Nov. 19 from complications due to COVID.

"He always lived for the moment in the moment," said his son Chris Erwin.

A joyful man, Eddie loved being around those he loved and loved people being happy around him. He was the first guy with a joke, the first guy to say "HEY BUDDY" in his melodiously gruff voice.

He established a mood of easygoing happiness at all times, even when the times weren't necessarily easygoing or happy. He'd make the serious joyful without diluting either. That was his gift.

Originally from Lamont, Eddie was the brother to five sisters and a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe. He spent some time in the Army and married his wife of roughly 43 years, Carolyn (nee Weaver), in 1981.

"We had a great life," Carolyn said.

Eddie's introduction to live music happened quite fortuitously and, in proper fashion, casually at a backyard party with friends in the mid-1990s. There, a cover band was performing.

"Of course, Ed's singing along with all the music that's being played," Carolyn said.

He was offered a gig that night, to put together a band and perform at the upcoming Island Fest that was going to happen outside of the Fox Theater. There a small section of downtown Bakersfield would be closed off and patrons could feel the (imported) sand under their feet in a beach-themed event. And even though the name Eddie and the Islanders seems so on-the-nose appropriate now, that almost wasn't the case.

"They had to come up with a name," lead guitarist Laurence Impastato said. "Because they were practicing in a lawn mower repair shop they called themselves the Lawnmower Men. That wasn't going to cut it for an Island Fest, their big coming out gig, so they called themselves Eddie and the Islanders."

The event was a hit and so was the band.

Impastato, now 62, didn't play that first gig with the Islanders, but he ended up playing with them for many years after.

"Eddie was full of groove, energy," Impastato said. "He danced the entire time that he sang. There was no way he could separate it. If you made him stand still, he wouldn't be able to do it."

"He was very entertaining, loved people. He was just a great entertainer."

Around 1997, Eddie and Carolyn, with the help of their kids Chris and Daniel, would open up the professional live music venue/rental rehearsal space Studio 45 located off of Buck Owens Boulelvard, across from the old Costco building.

"He called it Studio 45 because he was 45 years old (when we opened it)," Carolyn said.

"He also thought he was really clever because it was the opposite of Studio 54." Chris added.

The venue, with its constantly evolving professional light and sound system, helped showcase and foster the rising generation of local rock bands that emerged after the explosion of Korn into the mainstream. The ones who were creating their own emo/screamo/indie rock/post-hardcore/post-punk identity.

The rental rehearsal rooms were also incredibly important. Bands had their pick of either the main stage or one of the smaller rooms to rehearse in. Having the benefit of being able to hone their craft outside of garages and living rooms was a boon to local bands. It afforded them a home base where they could get loud, establish a serious work ethic, and focus on their craft in a controlled setting. As far as I know, we haven't had a place like that since.

I even taught some drum lessons out of there for a while. The venue quietly shut its doors around the mid-aughts.

Carolyn and Eddie moved to Reno around 2017. He was policy writing for a power-generating company in Kansas when he passed.

"He was so hyper and energetic, he would not retire," Carolyn said. "He insisted on constantly working."

"We were all just flabbergasted," Impastato said of his fellow Islanders. "It's just not something we thought of. He's so full of life, loved everything he did, was a good working man, took care of his family."

"His real legacy is, with his wife, Carolyn, they raised two fantastic boys who are family men, who are successful, doing well and he was very proud of them, should have been very proud of them, and he did a great job."

The funeral service for Eddie will be held at 2:15 p.m. Friday at Bakersfield National Cemetery, 30338 E. Bear Mountain Blvd. in Arvin. There will be a memorial afterwards at Bakersfield Elks Lodge, 1616 30th St.).

There is a GoFundMe set up to help pay for the family's expenses. It can be found at gofund.me/1973f529.

Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa writes about local music and entertainment.