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A Salute To Megadeth Bassist and Co-Founder David Ellefson

by vaughn skow July 24, 2017 5 min read

A Salute To Megadeth Bassist and Co-Founder David Ellefson

So, as I pen this blog I'm sitting in a small coffee shop on "main street" in my hometown of Jackson Minnesota, which sits right on the Minnesota/Iowa line.  This is farm country plain & simple.  But something seems amiss; the background music playlist is an interesting mix of Metal spanning several decades ... yes, Metal, as in Heavy.  Then there's the clientele!  In a town barely large enough to warrant a dot on many maps, the folks sipping coffee around me are from South Dakota, Northern Minnesota, and strangely enough, my home of the past 30 years, Nashville TN.  Either 1) I've just slipped into the twilight zone, or 2) This ain't your ordinary small town mid-western coffee shop.   Okay ... I'm NOT in the twilight zone, so where am I ... I'm in the world's most "metal" coffee shop, Ellefson Coffe Company, let's talk about that!

David Ellefson Memoriabilia at Jackson MN
Memorabilia at the Ellefson Coffee Co. Shop from his days in High School Band and his career in Megadeth.

First a quick trip down memory lane (here's where David comes in).  David and I both grew up on farms just outside this cute little town of Jackson MN.  We both played music and had dreams of stardom, in fact our musical paths crossed throughout our school years.  Any one who knows me or reads this blog knows what a true gear head I am ... and in high school Dave was the ONLY other gear head I had to talk to about speakers, pickups, amps, etc.  But Dave was different.  He had two things I didn't ... young players, this is where you need to listen up!  First God gifted Dave with an abundance of natural musical "talent" and Dave was willing to do what it took to truly hone this raw talent into a finely tuned machine.  Another key difference was that Dave had a true vision of who he was, he never strayed from his chosen metal path.  While Dave was like a locomotive on rails heading toward a certain destination, I meandered around in all kinds of musical styles, mostly catering to whatever the local bars wanted to hear.  Now, here is a BIGGIE: while I quit Jazz band in 9th grade because I realized it was going to be a lot of work, Dave not only stuck with it, he ate it for lunch, and even played the very un-metal saxophone in the schools Marching band.  I thought that was crazy; I was wrong.  What Dave knew, and I did not, was that he was becoming a mature well-rounded MUSICIAN.  I'm inserting a bit of conjuncture here, but I can't help but believe that the time spent in High school Jazz band and marching band were key factors in developing a sense of being a "team player" and served as valuable training in getting along with other musicians.  Is it possible that these traits have served him well in his professional career ... particularly as Megadeth bassist?  I say YEAH BOY!

So, that was then, what about now?  We all know how these stories end; drugs, drinking, broken families, jail stints, rehab stints, until finally the only time the media points a camera in your face is when you've done something outrageously stupid.  Now that's where Dave's story really gets inspiring.  Again my young musician readers LISTEN UP!  Sure the early Mega-Days got a good bit out of control leading Dave to a fork in the road:  One fork was the one I just described, the other "less traveled" path was to get clean, stay clean, be a solid husband and dad, and consider others above himself.  In other words to be a good guy ... or put yet another way: to live live as if he were NOT a rock star.  And yep, for some reason that may just be beyond human understanding Dave chose that less traveled path.  One wife, two kids who are proud of Dad, and a legacy of lives that are better for his having touched them.  Call it a man-crush if ya want; I simply call it giving respect where respect is due.

I think that brings us up to the coffee shop I currently find myself in.  Like Dave, I prefer the "up" of coffee to the "down" of booze, and so it's sorta logical that Dave would choose to promote the goodness of the bean.  But why here in such a tiny little out of the way place.  I think it has a lot to do with giving back.  There's a great song my friend Tom Douglass wrote the House That Built Me, I think that Dave is simply giving back to the "town that built him".  Cool.

Ellefson Coffe Co Jackson Mn
Ya just can't beat the smiles of Midwestern girls Lacy Schneekloth and Maranda Esparza behind the counter at Ellefson Coffee Co. in Jackson, MN!

So, for those of you at the beginning phases of your musical careers, you can either follow the all to well known big-broad highway of stardom that ends with you homeless, friendless, and maybe even dead with a needle in your arm or a gun in your mouth.  However, might I suggest you  follow Dave's example.  Here it is in musician-friendly step-by-step form.  Just follow the steps and you'll do great!

  1. Take your music seriously, keep that nose to the grindstone and HONE your God given talent.
  2. Learn to play well with OTHERS.
  3. Stay true to your vision.
  4. If you have to choose between drugs and alcohol or music, choose the latter.
  5. Avoid the endless supply of road skanks and hoes.  Find someone you want to spend your life with and love them with all your heart.
  6. Having done the above, success will come.  Don't let it change you.  Be a friend, think of others, not yourself.
  7. Give back.
  8. Enjoy your success!  Oh, and be grateful, VERY grateful :-)

So, can you have your cake (stardom), and eat it too (a good life)?  Far too many examples would tell us "no" ... but the curious case of my buddy David Ellefson would point to only one answer: hell yes!

Here's Dave "Before" stardom as I knew him in high school and "after", on a recent tour.  Dude look all old and burned-out to you?  I think you get my point...

David Ellefson Before and After

Next week we'll be back to talking about pickups, speakers, and geek out as usual ... it'll be awesome!  Y'all come back.

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