Warren Haynes’ longtime and beloved guitar tech, Brian Farmer, died Sunday, August 24, at his home near Nashville. Farmer died peacefully in his sleep. He was 53.
"He was a close friend, a devoted worker and a lover of life,” Haynes said. “We traveled around the world together and shared many experiences—mostly while laughing. He will be missed by a huge circle of friends and family."
Farmer was extraordinarily dedicated to his craft, to the world of guitars and amps, to Haynes and all his projects—and to the music itself. People like Famrer keep the wheels turning and the gears greased and the guitars in tune. The shows don’t happen without them—and no one did any of this better, with more dedication, heart and soul than Farmer.
Farmer began working for Gov’t Mule in 1998, brought to the band by his old friend, bassist Allen Woody, who died almost exactly 14 years earlier. Prior to joining the Mule crew, Farmer worked for Johnny Cash for eight years before the Man in Black retired from touring. Farmer was exceedingly proud of his close relationship with Johnny and June Carter Cash.
“When Johnny retired, I ran into Allen and said, ‘You need to hire me, you need to hire me,’ Farmer told Hittin' the Note magazine.
Months later, Gov’t Mule needed a guitar tech and Woody called his old friend. In the subsequent years, Farmer became an indispensable part of the operation, teching Haynes’ guitars and serving as the band’s equipment manager and stage manager.
Farmer has been by Haynes’ side for every gig the busy guitarist has played since 1998—with Gov’t Mule, the Allman Brothers Band, the Warren Haynes Band, the Dead, Phil and Friends and others.
Farmer and Haynes developed an extremely close working relationship.
“We have looks that we give each other,” Farmer told Hittin' the Note. “An eyebrow, a flick of the wrist… a shrug of his shoulders …I've learned to listen for things. I can tell sometimes when he's close to breaking a string. With the Mule, I sometimes come out to adjust his amplifier before during and after songs.”
"He was one of a kind,” Haynes said. “He lived and breathed his job. He knew a lot more about guitars and gear than I did so I could trust him to keep things working in a technical manner so I could concentrate on the music.”
Said Allman Brothers Band manager Bert Holman, ”Brian was a very dedicated, very loyal, very skilled technician. He was from the old school and would help anybody and everybody do their job. If something of Derek or Gregg’s blew up, he’d be the first guy to grab a flashlight or tool and run across the stage because he was a team player. His standard line to any request was, ‘Just tell me what you need.’ Brian always had your back. He was kind to the fans and tried to give them as much time as he could without taking his eyes off the ball, which he never, ever did.”
Farmer also had a very close relationship with the Gibson Custom Shop, working with them on all of Haynes' custom guitars.
“Brian was more than a visitor to Gibson Custom,” said Rick Gembar, Gibson senior vice president and general manager of the Custom Division. “We were blessed to get to know him over the years as he came and went on behalf of Warren. During those years, he built relationships with everyone, from the front desk to the craftspeople, to me personally. He was a friend, well respected as a technician and genuinely admired for his kindness as much as for his tireless work ethic and attention to detail. Seeing him come through the door was always a welcome sight to the people here.
"On behalf of everyone here at Gibson Custom, I send our deepest condolences to his family, Warren, Brian's friends and all others that he touched during his time.”
Farmer’s death was greeted with shock and grief across the Internet by fans and musicians alike. It is hard to imagine many other rock and roll road crew members who were more respected and beloved. Among those expressing their sorrow and respect on Twitter were Phil Lesh—“Fare thee well, Farmer; I love you more than can words can tell”—and Derek Trucks.
The latter summed things up beautifully in a series of #ThankYouFarmer tweets: “People like Brian Farmer are the backbone of all live music. Without the hard work of folks like Farmer we'd be lost.”
Alan Paul is the author of One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. (opens in new tab)