But it’s miraculous that Case, who is 56 and got his start with the mid-1970s Punk/New Wave band The Nerves (originators of the Blondie classic “Hangin’ on the Telephone”) and the Power Pop group The Plimsouls, is still around to record and release Wig!. After completing a tour in late 2008, he returned home to Los Angeles feeling bad and went to see his doctor.
“It had been a pretty grueling road trip and my blood pressure was really high,” Case explains by phone from L.A.
“They did some tests and told me I needed a stint because my artery was 90 percent blocked. I knew I had problems — both my grandfathers died before they were 60 from their heart stopping and my father almost did. So I knew there was going to be some kind of reckoning, plus I’d lived pretty hard.
“It would have been a pretty simple procedure, but they couldn’t complete it on me because of a problem. So it turned into an emergency where I needed to have an operation immediately or have a massive heart attack. They gave it to me and saved my life — no questions asked. The president of the hospital did the operation on 20 minutes notice.”
Case didn’t have health insurance, though, leaving him stuck with a six-figure medical bill. So his friends and admirers — T-Bone Burnett (who produced his first solo album in 1986), Dave Alvin, Loudon Wainwright, Geoff Muldaur, Sam Phillips, Syd Straw and others — staged benefits at the McCabe’s club in Santa Monica. And a fan even started a Web site to seek donations.
With his debts reduced and his strength renewed, Case played his first official gig back in August 2009 at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace music ranch near Athens, Ohio. He then played McCabe’s with guitarist Ron Franklin and drummer D.J. Bonebrake. Those three subsequently recorded Wig!, mostly in a daylong session.
“This thing was an explosion of energy,” he says. “So I’ve come out of it.”
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