It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dalbert Rees Woodard, aka Mr. Richard Reese. To the many people that saw the “Fuck Youth” video, he will forever be known as the “get off my lawn” guy.
Richard was, of course, much more than that. First and foremost, he was our drummer Ricky’s father. Both Freddie and I lost our fathers, so Richard became a surrogate father to us as well; Freddie has known Richard (and Rick) since he was a teenager.
I got a chance to really get to know Reese after Rick joined Superbean. He would bring his dad to most of our shows and occasionally even to our Friday night practice just to listen. Whenever Reese was there, there was a special energy and vibe. The first Superbean show with me, Freddie, and Rick was Richard’s 80th birthday.
After a while, I started hanging out with Reese on occasions outside of Superbean. We would sometimes go to a coffee shop or a thrift store; he came to a few of my birthday parties. I have a flexible schedule, and so did he. That meant, whenever he called, I could usually come over and visit him in the afternoon.
Here he is at my birthday party playing “Blue Monk,” one of his signature tunes.
We’d listen to records, he’d tell me all kinds of great stories, and we’d smoke a lot of weed. He was better than a father because I could tell him things that I couldn’t even tell my old man; my father was also very cool, but I could never get high with him.
Reese was a lover of music, especially jazz. He told me stories about working for Sun Ra and picking him up from LAX while high on LSD. He saw so many great rock shows as well, including Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Over the years, he worked at several different Los Angeles-area record stores, but he is known to many long-time Pasadena residents as the guy from Pooh-Bah Records. When he was working there, he sold albums to many famous celebrities, including Kareem Abdul Jabar.
He was also one of the first kings of the original Pasadena Dooh-Dah Parade. The Dooh-Dah was/is an absurdist spectacle where people could really let their freak flags fly; it also involved a lot of drinking and partying afterward. Whenever I attended the parade with him, people would recognize Reese and bow. Ladies would toss their underwear at him, a Dooh-Dah tradition.
When we filmed his parts for “Fuck Youth,” in late 2015/early 2016 he was still obviously full of life and a great sport about it all. He told me that it was his first acting gig. When he shouted “get off my lawn,” he said he was channeling an old man from his childhood.
When “Fuck Youth,” went viral, I was having a hard time reaching Ricky, who is not on social media much and didn’t even realize what was going on. Frustratingly, he wasn’t even answering his phone! Finally, I called Reese and told him the news. He got a big kick out of the response!
Diagnosed with liver cancer last year, he decided to forgo treatment. It was tough to see the decline in his health. About five months ago, they brought a hospital bed to the house and he could no longer move about without assistance.
One day, I was sitting at home thinking about him and his life. I thought “He used to work at Pooh-Bah, he was the king of the Dooh-Dah…” and then after a beat, I remembered, “he once took acid with Sun Ra!”
I quickly grabbed my guitar and found the right chords – a song was born!
Over the next couple of months, I went over to Reese’s and played the sketch of a tune for him. He liked it a lot, and we started trying to fill it with more highlights. He told me about times when he was too drunk to go home that he’d sneak into a used car lot and pass out in the back seat of an unlocked vehicle to sober up.
Another moment that he was really proud of was when he was house sitting and got to hold an Academy Award. I don’t recall the exact details, including whose it was, but he kept saying “I bet you never met someone that held an Oscar before!”
These stories made up the second verse:
He used to sleep in a used car
He sold records to a hoop star
He once held an Oscar!
We still didn’t really have a chorus, just singing “Mr. Richard Reese” over and over again. But that was around the time when I bought a used copy of the Concert for Kampuchea; on it, the Specials perform “Monkey Man.” That catchy little chorus inspired me to give the song a little bit of a ska flavor (Reese was also a big ska and reggae fan, so it was perfect).
I added the line “what’s in your valise?” not only because it rhymed, but also gave the song a little bit of mystery. Maybe there are drugs in there? Records? Money? A gun?
Finally, near the end, we got him to recount another epic moment in his life. In 1971, he was busted for pot (again) and was put in a Los Angeles jail cell. As he was waiting for his wife to bail him out, he saw Charles Manson walk down the corridor.
According to him, the cops walked a few feet behind Charlie, and as he passed by Reese’s cell, he smiled. This became the bridge:
Busted for reefer, sitting in jail
Waiting for his wife to post the bail
Who should come walking down the aisle?
Charlie Manson, flashing a smile!
We debuted the song at our June 3 show at Lummis Day. Mr. Reese could not attend; he died the following Saturday.
This is just a brief overview of a man who lived almost 85 years. He has a huge amount of friends and family that mourn his loss.
I am honored to have known him and helped give him his fifteen minutes of fame. I’m hoping the song “Mr. Richard Reese” will carry his memory on as well. It certainly will for me, Freddie, and Rick.
“Mr. Richard Reese” performance at Lummis Day:
And, of course, here’s his classic appearance in “Fuck Youth”
If you have a memory to share of Mr. Richard Reese, please do so below!