Hello Stranger from Issue #28
I first got to know Kim Webber through a notorious AOL message board which had a little something to do with the name we chose for this magazine. Kim was part of a small contingent from Knoxville who had stumbled upon our online community, sometime around 1995 if memory serves. I’ve forgotten what her AOL screen-name was when she first started posting to the board, but I recall we all had a hearty chuckle when she changed her handle to “MiniPrlJam”.
I do distinctly remember the first time I met Kim in person, at a Jimmy Webb show in Austin during South by Southwest in 1997. As I made my way toward the stage, a woman next to me peered over at my SXSW badge, smiled, and held up her badge for me to read: Kim Webber. Many of us ND board folks, knowing each other by name but not by face, have met that way in Austin each year.
By that time, though, I already felt as if I knew Kim pretty well. She was clearly not only a devoted follower of the music we discussed and debated passionately on the board, but she was also someone who translated the talk into action. When Linda Ray, one of our contributing editors and another ND board regular, got this crazy idea to compile an alt-country cookbook, Kim got behind it and became a coordinator of the project.
Not long after she joined our online community, Kim decided to move to Nashville, eager to add her talents to the alt-country undercurrent lurking in the shadows of Music Row’s corporate beast. Before long she was helping out several artists around town, most notably managing Tommy Womack. She now works at The Press Network, a prominent public relations firm for roots-oriented acts.
Kim also spent about a year booking the Sutler, a Nashville venue that featured some of the best shows in town during her tenure there. Nashville Scene, the city’s alternative weekly, recognized her efforts, naming her best club booker in its 1999 Best of Nashville issue.
She was a big help to us as well. When we moved our SXSW shindig from Yard Dog to the larger Broken Spoke in 1998, and needed someone to take on the utterly thankless job of stage-managing a boatload of artists playing 20-minute sets, Kim took on the task (and did so the following year as well).
Kim had an impact on our lives in another way as well. She moved to Nashville around the same time my co-editor, Grant Alden, relocated here from Los Angeles, and she introduced Grant to her roommate, Susan Thomas. Grant and Susan are now married.
So it was quite a blow to all of us when we learned a few weeks ago that Kim had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The outpouring of support has been considerable. A four-night “Kimfest” benefit was held at Nashville’s 12th & Porter in early June, with performers including Ryan Adams, Bare Jr., Paul Burch, Peter Case, Jolynn Daniel, Steve Earle, Rosie Flores, Robbie Fulks, Hayseed, Mike Ireland & Holler, Bill Lloyd, Tift Merritt, Buddy & Julie Miller, Scott Miller, Will Rigby, Jason Ringenberg, Matthew Ryan, Trent Summar, Brian Waldschlager, Joy Lynn White, Webb Wilder, Lucinda Williams, and Tommy Womack.
Another benefit is tentatively scheduled for July, and the good folks at the Twangfest gathering in St. Louis (which happened to fall on the same weekend as the Kimfest shows) pledged to help Kim’s cause as well.
Such support is necessary because, like so many who work in the independent ranks of the music industry, Webber has insufficient health insurance.
The political, inevitably, becomes the personal. The single greatest failing of our country is that, in a time when U.S. economic prosperity has reached unprecedented heights, we still fail to ensure that all of our citizens receive the medical care they deserve as human beings.
In the long term, to benefit everyone — and we will all eventually face this situation, if not with ourselves then with someone dear to us — you can support legislation that changes the way our country allocates health care.
In the short term, to benefit Kim, you can send a donation (checks made out to Kim Webber) in care of: Tommy Womack, P.O. Box 41682, Nashville, TN 37204.
She’s earned it.