Haines Fullerton: Pulling it together and falling apart
"It's kind of like John Nash," says one friend, likening Haines Fullerton's counseling to the character who inspired the recent film A Beautiful Mind. "The math was real even if he was schizo."
For the people who got together to share their burdens and life's pains and joys, "Haines was about honesty," says Lisa Olsen, now a resident of Port Townsend, Washington, and the mother of one of the late musician's two children. She scoffs at the rumors that he ran a cult.
"A cult is when someone is telling you what to do and being in control of your mind," says Olsen. "What Haines was about was questioning yourself."
Moreover, Olsen bristles at the suggestion that Haines pushed his views on people. "He absolutely did not try to push his views. People sought him out," she says.
Even the talk of circles of believers sitting around Haines in downtown Charlottesville's Lee Park strikes Olsen as a little over-wrought. "It wasn't like there was a meeting space," says Olsen. "It was spontaneous– you'd see Haines, you'd go talk."
Friends and family say that Haines believed that God would answer any question. (Even what kind of shoes to wear, his mother notes.)
"He thought we were all children of God," says Olsen, who employs the word "transition" to describe his death. "He did not leave us," she says. "He still has work to do."
It wasn't just the final years of Fullerton's life that were filled with deep thoughts. Read this timeline and find out:
January 23, 1959 - Haines Fullerton, the youngest of three boys, is born in suburban Minneapolis. He was followed 20 months later by the final child in the family, a sister.
August 21, 1965 - Six-year-old Haines futilely begs his mother let him join an older brother at a Beatles concert downtown. "I don't think he ever forgave me," says his mother, Shirley Milnor.
Circa 1967 - By the age of eight, Haines has taught himself to play guitar. "He never had a lesson," says his sister, Claire, who marveled at her brother's understanding of music. "The guy was an antenna," she says.
June 1971 - The Fullerton family moves to Memphis, and he immediately befriends Allen McCool, who marveled at Haines' talent. "If somebody played him a song they'd just written in raw form," says McCool, "he could arrange the instruments and the harmonies– and not just simple harmonies. He had perfect pitch."
Circa 1975 - Haines meets noted Memphis musician Jody Stephens who would go on to run Ardent Studios, a Memphis landmark. "Haines was a really bright guy," says Stephens, "so he caught my attention."
Circa 1976 - Haines makes such an impression on the young Alex Chilton (long before Chilton would influence such musicians as U2 and the Replacements) that Haines joins Chilton at Ardent Studios as session musicians on two songs by the John Byrd Band, "Friend At a Very Good Time" and "Earthman Blues."
November 1976 - At the age of 46, Haines' father suffers a fatal heart attack.
Fall 1977 - Although accepted into Brown University, Haines opts for UVA and begins his freshman year.
Spring 1979 - Haines joins Mark Roebuck and Eric Schwartz in an acoustic trio, the nucleus of The Deal.
Summer 1979 - Mark, Haines, and Eric record four songs at Ardent Studios in Memphis with Haines's old friend Allen McCool playing drums.
Fall 1980 - The Deal begins playing its special brand of "power pop" live in Charlottesville and beyond, and they soon become an East Coast sensation with a regular gig at Richmond's Hard Times nightclub.
Spring 1981 - English major Haines graduates "with distinction" from UVA.
Summer 1981 - Haines convinces longtime friend McCool to move to Charlottesville from Memphis to be the band's soundman. "He understood things about you and gave you a great feeling about yourself," says McCool.
October 1981 - The Deal earns a full-page spread in Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, which says the band is dedicated to "high harmonies and low morals, the East Coast answer to the Beach Boys sound."
Fall 1982 - Haines begins carrying around garage tapes of the music of Mark Roebuck and Eric Schwartz as evidence of The Deal's sound. "He lived it and breathed it," says McCool. "He would do anything to get it recorded. He spent endless hours on the phone."
January 1982 - Haines's efforts begin to pay off. Noted rock impresario Linda Stein (then managing the Ramones) signs The Deal to a five-year contract– contingent on their winning a deal with a major label.
Fall 1982 - The Deal catches the eye of rock and roll icon Albert Grossman. Former manager of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Peter, Paul & Mary, Grossman brings The Deal up to his hallowed Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York. Within a few months, Grossman has signed the band to his Bearsville Records label, then a division of Warner Brothers.
Fall 1984 - Having parted with Warner Brothers, Grossman brings The Deal back to record again at Bearsville Studios. Todd Rundgren offers a guitar solo on a Deal song entitled "5:45."
January 25, 1986 - Grossman flies to Europe on the supersonic Concorde to forge new alliances for his now-independent label. Midway through the flight, he suffers a fatal heart attack. "The master tapes remain legally tied up with Bearsville," says Roebuck. They are never released.
Fall 1987 - Unable to get a major label to bite, the band releases an independent album, Brave New World, which the Washington Post calls "remarkably assured pop classicism." The Raleigh News & Observer lauds it as "one of the best independent releases by a regional band to surface in years."
Fall 1988 - The Deal breaks up. Within six months, Fullerton's girlfriend of four years leaves town. Some friends say these dual break-ups hurt him deeply.
June 1991 - Haines and Roebuck are both bartenders at Eastern Standard restaurant (now Escafé). There, Roebuck gives the Dave Matthews Band its first regular gig: Monday nights for $50 and all the booze they can drink.
Circa 1991 - Haines befriends Dave Matthews. "His motivation was never about money or notoriety– he connected with Dave as a human being," says Fullerton's sister. His mom adds, "He said Dave was the greatest guy in the world, and he thought he would go global. I didn't know if Dave Matthews would go anywhere– just like I didn't know the Beatles would go anywhere."
Early 1990s - Haines creates a following of sorts. Rumors fly through Charlottesville that Haines thinks he's the son of God. "He didn't think he was Jesus," says Sherry Rivet, one of two women who would eventually bear his children. "He had a way of immediately connecting. It was the first time many people had been in the presence of total acceptance and unconditional love, and they ate it up."
Early 1992 - Haines begins a relationship with Rivet. "The striking thing about Haines was how magnetic he was," says Rivet. "Within minutes, he had people pouring their hearts out."
June 1992 - Haines brings Dave Matthews Band to his hometown of Memphis to record some demos at Ardent Studios. The songs recorded there include "Dancing Nancies," "Tripping Billies," "Satellite," and "Cry Freedom." What became of these tapes (which include early DMB keyboardist Peter Griesar) is unknown.
Summer 1993 - Haines comes out of what Roebuck terms "self-imposed post-Deal exile" and begins "jamming informally" with Dave Mathews and other Charlottesville musicians.
September 1994 - RCA releases Under the Table and Dreaming by DMB. This platinum-selling disc includes "#34," co-written by Haines and Dave Matthews. Within a few months, Haines begins receiving quarterly royalty checks from Dave's publishing company, Colden Gray.
Circa 1995 - Along with Dave's muse, Ross Hoffman (who later sued for a cut of the DMB's profits), Haines finds himself cut out of strategy sessions with the DMB. He steps away without complaint. "He didn't want to get involved in the chaos," says his sister, "so he peacefully dealt himself out."
1996 - Haines tells friends and family that he's suffering numerous physical ailments. Says Rivet: "He felt like his skin was being fileted."
September 19, 1996 - Haines, now living with Rivet, tells her he's "ready to see what's on the other side of the veil." He returns safely to their Belmont home later that evening.
September 20, 1996 - Haines remarks on the meatballs Rivet is cooking and asks if she'll launder three of his shirts. As he's leaving, ostensibly to go swimming, he says, "The only thing you are responsible for in this life is to follow your heart." Around 9:30 that evening, his body is found in the poolhouse at Ivy Gardens apartments.
Late September, 1996 - After his death, police reveal that there were three bullets– intermittently spaced in the gun's six chambers– as if Haines were asking God whether it was his time. His family has his body autopsied, and no abnormalities are found.
–sources: Mark Roebuck, Shirley Milnor, Claire Fullerton, Jody Stephens, Sherry Rivet, and Allen McCool