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Monday, March 3, 2014

Zac Adams R.I.P. (1979-2014)

STREETS IS ROUGH: Zac Adams at Blind Willies during happier times.
  • Jennifer Boxley
  • STREETS IS ROUGH: Zac Adams at Blind Willie's during happier times.
"Sometimes, I think people get to an age or a place in life where they've seen so many things change, and watched so many of their friends die that maybe death isn't such a bad thing."

Zac Adams said these words to me at a funeral in 2002. It was the day Mr. Frank Edwards was laid to rest. Mr. Frank was the last of a dying breed - one of the original Chicago bluesmen, and a regular at Blind Willie's in Virginia Highland. He had his own seat at the bar, and to this day there's still a plaque on the wall marking the spot where watched the bands perform every night. That's where I met Zac Adams around the year 2000 - he got a job there working as a bar back. I was the doorman. My girlfriend Laura was the bar tender. Over the last 14 years Zac and I attended many funerals together: There was Mike Lorenz who sang and played guitar for Blind Willies' house band, the Shadows. Then there was Atlanta garage rock icon B Jay Womack. There were others. The words that he said to me over a decade ago came rushing back when I woke up to a text message from a friend on the morning of Feb. 27, telling me that Zac had taken his own life.

Zac held death in high regard, often drinking to his departed friends and family, of which he had many. He had his own code of ethics when it came to pretty much everything, and every one of his philosophies were summed up in simple, colorful axioms that he repeated often: "Streets is rough," "stop lyin," and on nights when you'd had a few too many drinks, he'd look you in the eyes and say two words: "Rice Street!" That meant it was time to straighten up, or spend the night in a Fulton County jail cell. And he spoke from experience.

Zac was a fixture of the Little 5 Points, Inman Park, Old 4th Ward, and Virginia Highland neighborhoods. He was a Grady baby, and a true Atlantan who had spent his entire life here. He personified the sense of place that each of these neighborhoods possess. Some people called him "Little Five Zac," because they'd seen him around the neighborhood since he was a child. Others called him B.G. This latter nickname referred to an L5P street gang he'd been a part of throughout most of the '90s. Some say it stood for "Bubblegum Gang." Others say "Born Gangstaz" or "Baby Gangstas." Either way, B.G. were young hood rats, and a true force to be reckoned with back in the day. They weren't angels, but their only true rivals were the packs of skinheads that also roamed L5P at the time. Their street battles are now the stuff of legend for anyone still left to remember them. All that remains of B.G.'s legacy are the initials carved in the pavement at intersections, parking lots, and in tree bark from the Inman Park Marta Station to Virginia Ave.

Of course, by the time I met Zac B.G. was a thing of the past. I knew him as a kind and gentle soul - a hard luck case, and the eternal momma's boy. On many nights at the bar he would call his mom and hold the phone in the air so she could listen to the bands while they performed on the stage. He lived with her for most of his life, and cared for her until the day she died.

His father passed away when he was young, and he had no brothers or sisters, no immediate family. He once mentioned that when he died, he wanted 2Pac played at his funeral. 2Pac/Makaveli's The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory was his jam. The name Makaveli, is a play on Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, who faked his death to exact revenge on his enemies. But Zac didn't have any enemies. Anyone who knew him adopted him as a son, or a brother. With his identity inextricably bound with the city streets he called home, Atlanta's residents were his extended family. With his death, the city lost a genuine local, an unwitting statesman, and a loyal friend. The neighborhood won't be the same without him. "Streets is rough."

On Sun., March 9, Blind Willie's is hosting a gospel music tribute to Zac Adams featuring performances by Francine Reed, Sandra Hall, the Breeze Kings, Bill Sheffield, Nate Nelson, Andrew Black, and many more. A private service will be held at 2 p.m. Doors will open to the public at 3 p.m. Free (donations accepted). 828 N. Highland Ave. 404-873-2583.

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