Doug Evans, bass player for the seminal punk band the Didjits, died on December 28 in California. He was 53.
Evans hailed from Mattoon, Illinois, and hooked up with Sullivan natives, brothers Rick and Bradley Sims, who would become the powerful punk trio known as the Didjits. The band first kicked off in Champaign in the ’80s, after Evans’ skateboard buddy Randy Kilwag encouraged him to move to town. Champaign’s burgeoning music scene at the time included many pop-punk outfits like future Wilco members Leroy Bach’s Bowery Boys and Jay Bennett’s Titanic Love Affair, but the Didjits tore the town apart like no other band. Most of the mania can be attributed to frontman Rick Sims, who gleefully ranted his way through the band’s tight and compact punk anthems (full albums barely topped a half-hour), often dumping beer all over his besotted audience, as Evans and Brad Sims met him every step of the way on the rhythm section. The Didjits had a yen for 1950s rock legends, covering Little Richard’s “Lucille” and penning an ode to “Jerry Lee” (“We went over to Jerry’s house / Everybody did a little acid / We watched him kill one of his wives / We didn’t care because we were so high”). This made sense, as Sims’ guitar licks could occasionally sway into rockabilly, and he had the unhinged star charisma of performers like Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, all the while ably backed by Evans and Brad Sims.
Unsurprisingly, the Didjits soon got snapped up by Touch And Go records, which Rick Sims called the only label they were ever really on. The 1986 debut Fizzjob (on the band’s own Bam Bam Records, eventually re-released on T&G) kicked off with “Jerry Lee” before segueing an ode to a “California Surf Queen” with guitar sounds to match, soon followed by the more somber “Pet Funeral.” The band not only had tremendous energy and inspired musicianship, the songs were frickin’ hilarious, like making fun of a hick in “Fix Some Food Bitch” (“Where’s my TV Guide?”) Their first official T&G release, Hey Judester, featured “Skull Baby” (“You’d cry too if all you had was a skull”), an homage to “Joliet,” and frequent show opener “Under The Christmas Fish.” Other T&G albums included 1990’s Hornet Pinata (which kicked off with the catchy “Killboy Powderhead” and featured odes to “Captain Ahab,” “Evel Knievel” and “Sweet Sweet Satan” himself), 1991’s Full Nelson Reilly, and 1993’s Que Sirhan Sirhan. Evans only sang lead on the band’s version of “Foxy Lady,” and gamely posed for a Prince-inspired cover of the Lovesicle single in 1989.
The Didjits broke up in the early ’90s. The trio reunited for the Tough & Go anniversary show at the Hideout in 2006, leading to a brief Didjits resurgence.
Evans eventually left the Midwest for Calfornia, where his partner Merilee Kuchon reports that he was happiest on his motorcycle, and still playing music in their band, Blöwer. Evans’ death at such a young age comes as a shock, and his Facebook feed has been flooded with remembrances by his many friends and admirers. The consensus is that not only was Evans a kickass bassist in a kickass band, but was about the nicest and most generous guy that you’d ever want to meet. Touch And Go head Corey Rusk posted on the label website:
When my ratty old Mustang wasn’t running right, [Doug] kindly offered to rebuild the top end of the engine. I stood around asking him dumb questions, which he patiently answered while he expertly rebuilt it. Ran like a top when he was done. The car’s long gone, but the fun we had working on it isn’t forgotten.
These kind of anecdotes are par for the course for Evans. Kilwag reports that “Doug used to do this thing where he would just give away everything once he accumulated too much. Usually ‘too much’ was enough to fit in the back seat of a car.” Rick Sims agreed, “Doug was one of the most generous people I know.” Sims and Kuchon are attempting raise funds for Evans’ children and the expenses related to his death. Says Sims, “He, like me, might have figured he was invincible—that 53 was young or that he’d still be kicking it at 80. Who needs to plan for dying?” Any donations will be gratefully accepted at the Doug Evans end-of-life expenses GoFundMe page.