It's a cliché to say of the deceased that they never spoke an unkind word against anyone. Last week, after a memorial service for longtime Murfreesboro musician and scene fixture Mike Mahaffey, whose sudden death last Wednesday shocked the community, his friends decided to put it to the test. "We challenged ourselves to think of something bad Mikey had said about someone," says Gary Welch, his close friend and brother-in-law. "And we couldn't. You'd never meet a sweeter guy."
Mahaffey, 38, who died in his sleep of unknown causes, was best known for playing guitar alongside his brother Matt in Self, perhaps the highest-profile of all the Murfreesboro bands who signed to the local Spongebath label in the mid-'90s. At the height of the buzz, which included major-label interest and a Billboard cover story, Self toured with Welch's band The Katies, where he and Mahaffey became close friends and ultimately roommates.
Then as now, there was no such thing as being in one band in Murfreesboro's tight music community. Lineups recombined almost nightly, and Mahaffey was usually at the center. "Everybody played with everybody else," says Sam Baker, a veteran of the scene who now plays with Lambchop, "and everybody loved to play with Mikey."
With his brother, Mahaffey created the twangy musical stinger for the Expedia.com commercials. But Welch says he was too humble ever to tell people he was a musician. (On the other hand, he was proud to tell people about his day gig: picking up trash for the city of Murfreesboro.) Above all, friends remember him as a sincere churchgoer and doting parent. When they shared an apartment together, Welch recalls that Mahaffey would sleep in the same twin bed with his two kids. To accommodate both children, Mahaffey would sleep sideways with his feet dangling off.
News of Mahaffey's death caught everyone off guard. His brother Matt had just gone to London to begin a tour as Beck's guitar player; as the band sat down to dinner, the phone rang. With his wife, Welch's sister Jessica, Mike had a new baby who turned 2 months old the day of the memorial service. A memorial fund is being established for their children. Through Welch, the family wishes to extend its thanks to the many people who have offered their support, including those who have filled the Self message board with fond memories.
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That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!