Dan Conn was my friend. I was stunned to stumble across his obituary in Tuesday’s Star
. He was 55.
For about eighteen months in the late ‘80s, Dan and I shared a small office in Olathe. ("It's an Indian word for stupid place to be," Dan would joke.) I was an ambitious kid and I’m sure I really irritated him. But as he was with everyone, Dan was unfailingly kind and generous. He didn’t hesitate to show me the ropes. We shared a passion for music, and he taught me the finer nuances of the bluegrass, folk and jazz artists he loved.
Dan was extremely fastidious, which often made him a painfully slow coworker. And he was filled with quirks, many of which still make me laugh. For instance, he saved empty toilet paper rolls. I still don’t know why. Dan would unleash his quick wit in his rare lighthearted moods. Before the advent of email and fax machines, salespeople in the field would dictate orders to us over the phone. Once, after enduring a lengthy, disorganized order from our abrasive Chicago rep, Dan asked her in his distinctive central Kansas twang, "Was I supposed to be writing all this down?"
Life was especially difficult for Dan. He was unhappy much of the time. He seemed to be afflicted with agoraphobia, which left him heartbreakingly lonely.
Yet he managed to work steadily, and you probably ran into Dan if you shopped at Kansas City’s independent record stores over the last thirty years. Among his employers were Penny Lane on Broadway (back when it was an exciting store), Disc Connection (north of the river), and the Music Exchange (for the last several years). Dan had silver hair and a short, graying beard. His brother Dave looks just like him.
I last spoke to Dan on New Year’s Eve. We made tentative plans to get together in the new year.
This sweet, gentle man will be missed.
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While I could rarely talk Dan into going out with me to see music, I trust that you’re different. Per my post last Friday, I’ll be at Mike’s Tavern on Troost tonight from 6-8pm. UMKC’s jazz students will be on the tiny stage. I’ll be the nut with the crazy hair, a pitcher of beer, and a tear in my eye.