Tim Flannery & the Lunatic Fringe Make Their Way to the Civic
● By Jon Lewis
On the FringeMarch 2015
By Jon Lewis
Photo by Cameron Smith
For most of his adult life, Tim Flannery has traveled down parallel roads. On one path, he was a musician with a baseball habit; on the other, he was a professional ballplayer who just couldn't put his guitar down for very long.
Fate brought those two paths together along with his competing worlds—the stage, the recording studio, the dugout and even the third-base coach’s box at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
It was opening day of the 2011 baseball season, Flannery’s fift h as a coach with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants were playing their rivals, the Dodgers, in Los Angeles. Following the game, Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old Giants fan and father of two who had traveled south from Santa Cruz to take in the game, was assaulted in the parking lot. Stow was left with a debilitating brain injury and Flannery was left with an opportunity.
A fan who had heard Flannery perform his Irish-tinged bluegrass music in San Diego, where the ballplayer spent 11 seasons with the Padres, asked if he’d be willing to perform at Yoshi’s in San Francisco to benefit Stow and his family.
He readily agreed and the show was booked shortly aft er the 2011 season ended. “I felt it was a great opportunity to raise awareness and some desperately needed money for the Stow family,” Flannery says. Flannery and his band, the Lunatic Fringe, sold out Yoshi’s that night.
A second show was booked in Napa. Bob Weir, the longtime Grateful Dead guitarist and an ardent Giants fan, got wind of the show and joined in. After the last note rang out, Flannery was able to give Bonnie Stow, Bryan’s sister, an envelope stuffed with more than $70,000.
The following year, after the Giants captured the second World Series championship during Flannery’s tenure, the Lunatic Fringe played four straight nights of benefits. Other musician friends, including Jackson Browne and Jackie Greene, pitched in at times. Coupled with proceeds from the sale of “Outside Lands,” Flannery’s 12th CD, and a series of other gigs Flannery played, the coach handed the Stow family another $96,000.
Why? “I fell in love with the family,” Flannery, 57, says from the rustic off -the-grid home he shares with his wife, Donna, in a canyon north of Santa Barbara. “That’s why I’m doing it.”
Pretty impressive for a guy who vowed to keep his musical life behind lock and key when his longtime baseball sidekick, Bruce Bochy, asked Flannery to head north in 2007 and help him coach the Giants. “When I came up, I was not going to let anybody in on my music,” Flannery says. “Th at didn’t happen.”
It didn’t happen because music has been an inextricable part of Flannery’s life almost since birth and it accompanied him throughout his 35-year career in baseball. As soon as the final out was recorded each fall, Flannery would store his cleats, pick up his guitar, get his band back together and start playing shows.
Flannery's ancestors emigrated from Ireland in the 1700s and settled in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, bringing with them a musical heritage and an appreciation for whiskey.
Flannery’s father, a “hillbilly preacher,” shook his Appalachian roots and brought the family to Southern California, stopping first in Redondo Beach and then Anaheim. Music and baseball were both big in Flannery’s upbringing and he pursued both with a passion. One of Flannery’s uncles played banjo; another, Hal Smith, was a songwriter who also starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“We settled in California but I was kind of raised on that Kentucky mountain ancestry with the whole feel of mountain people, but I was also around that cosmic California kind of music. A lot of Gram Parsons,” Flannery says.
Now, after making the decision in November to step away from baseball, Flannery says he has more time to devote to his music and his new cause, the Love Harder Project. He’ll continue to support the Stow family while expanding his efforts.
“I want to get into anti-bullying, maybe set up a network with crisis counselors, get people involved and shine a light on the ignorance of the crime. You can’t fight hate with violence: the only thing is to love harder.
“That’s the great thing about music,” Flannery says. “I enjoy the people I play with and we’re doing something more important than playing a ball game. We won a World Series, and that’s what we came up there to do. And then the demands to do it again. And again. I felt like I held up my end of the contract. To be a part of that baseball history is a great honor, but I felt like I just didn’t need to keep running up and down that line till I dropped dead.
“I felt it was a perfect time to heal up and do other things in my life that I hope people will remember. After three World Series, I’d like my legacy to be known as somebody who used their music to help others.”
Tim Flannery & The Lunatic Fringe perform March 21 at the Redding
Civic Auditorium. Doors open at 6 pm and the show starts at 7.
Tickets $20-$60; call (530) 229-002 or