Final Rocket Launching for Daredevil Bad McFad
By Ardie A. Davis
John Raven, PhB, Commissioner of Barbecue, one of the iconic barbecue personalities who dwelt among us for a brief 76 years, passed away last January. When I got the call from one of John’s relatives in Taylor, Texas, that John wanted me to know he was in the Hill Country Hospital and hospice had been called in, I was devastated. I called the hospital, but I couldn’t talk to John since I’m not a relative. Through a good friend in Dripping Springs who knew John, I managed to send a message that a hospice worker promised to read to him. I am thankful for that. Although John was in a coma, I have no doubt that the message got through to him. I hope it gave him comfort.
Daniel Vaughn at Texas Monthly wrote an excellent summary of John’s life and some of his contributions to barbecue. These few quotes I harvested from some of John’s email messages reflect his humor and personality:
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee....The Golden Years suck but the semi-functional brain that remains is capable of producing a decent life.
I have a new one for you. “LSB”. This goes after a name like Ph.B. does. It is for the folk who think the amount of barbecue they taste makes them an expert in the field... LSB stands for “Liquid Smoke Breath”. I’m coming out with two liquid smokes – plywood and bed slats.
Another “Ravenism” has come to be: “He is such a good salesman he makes a living selling porcupines and rattlesnakes to petting zoos.”
Just between you and me, I’m going to start ground work to take control of the chicken fried steak faction. It will be next big food item in Texas.
You and Paul should start working on the pig snoot sandwich faction. Start with a news release that you are injecting pigs with elephant genes to get pigs with larger and more flavorful snoots...I can set you a whole program when you get ready. Be prepared to pay in small unmarked bills.
Bad, always a step ahead.
Got a note from Billy Bones. He’s bemoaning the loss of “The Good old Days”.
I sent him a few words to keep his faith intact.
Got to go to the drag races for my 75th birthday. I went to see the nitromethane burning cars at Sanantone. I have been a nitroaddict since 1958. If you do not have the addiction there is no way you can understand it. A “Nitro fix” is like sitting in a room full of poison gas with cannon firing on all sides. Like I said a nonbeliever cannot understand it.
John worked on an autobiography. His working title was, I Know More About Barbecue Than Anybody. I don’t know if he ever finished it. With his typical humor, he told me his autobiography is “mostly about myself.” If anyone decides to do a John Raven biography, I’ll be glad to share what I have from him.
When I got word on January 15 from former Mayor of Luckenbach, VelAnne Howie that John had died, I imagined John strapping his Daredevil Bad McFad rocket to his back and preparing for takeoff one last time. That rocket was mostly smoke and drama back in his younger days. On January 15th, it launched him all the way to Heaven!
John’s earthly cremains were, per his wishes, scattered on the grounds in his beloved Luckenbach. He didn’t want a memorial service, but I understand there was a service of sorts anyway at the annual Hug In on Valentine’s Day.
You are dearly loved, John Raven. Save a place for us at the table and say Howdy to Bob Roberts, Gary Wells, Brian Heinecke, Billy Bones, Doc Gillis, Joe Phelps, Butch Lipinski, Fred Gould, Angelo Lucchesi, John Willingham, Cheryl Litman, Silky Sullivan and the rest of the gang that’s waiting for us.
Photo courtesy of Ardie Davis
One of John Raven’s aliases
PhB, Commissioner of Barbecue