I'm writing this online tribute months later than I wanted to. It's about my friend, San Diego musician J.D. Boucharde who died in June 2021.
Posted by Charlie Recksieck
We Lost A Really Good Guy
The delay is partly because I'm not sure if I should. I don't want to write a self-serving piece about a person who's gone - which is the worst kind of humblebrag, to make it about yourself (he was great, but can we all see how great I am for recognizing these things).
Also, I didn't want to jump the line to eulogize somebody who I didn't know all THAT well. If J.D. had a party where he would invite 50 people, I'm not sure I would have made the cut. Not because he wasn't a generous soul which he really was exceptionally generous. It's just that he had a lot of friends and a wide circle of people he touched.
That said, who cares. He was a great guy and I feel like sharing a few things I knew and liked about him.
Who He Is
J.D. was an artist. Yes, he played bar gigs as a singer/pianist. He regularly played at The Turf Club. He played at the crummy Mission Bay Boat & Ski Club - no aspersions there, it was long one of The Bigfellas favorite places to play.
He also was an artist without genre or format. He made films. He wrote extensively and remarkably honestly about issues with depression and addiction. You know, life. When younger, J.D. had studied to be in the ministry. I only met J.D. years later and based on his love of the ladies, that career path was always going to die on the vine.
But his favorite thing was being a father. It's not easy being a dad without principal custody - a lot of those dads pay lip service to being a father. J.D., on the contrary, really busted his ass to be an involved father when his daughter Suraya was away, and a doting father when she was around. I have no vested interest in saying this since I find most other people's children uninteresting bordering on annoying. But she really was and is a great girl.
First Meeting Him At Gigs
I first came in contact with him while playing a piano set and sitting in with Christopher Dale here in town, I believe it would have been at the Handlery Hotel lounge. Chris asked me if it was ok if his friend J.D. used my piano to sit in for a couple songs. Normally, that sort of thing pisses me off, like when somebody asks if his drummer friend can sit in with the band (and kick our regular drummer offstage). Fuck no. And upon first glance, J.D. is pretty tatted up which makes a stranger look like a real wild card.
But within minutes we talked, he looked me in the eye (a rarity for musicians), seemed interested in what I thought. All very disarming and instantly sweet. He and I liked and played a lot of the same stuff. I mean if you're playing piano in a bar, you're both gonna be playing a good deal of Elton John and Billy Joel.
We weren't close enough friends to go to the movies or hang out on the couch after a long day. But we did both attend each other's shows every once in a while, and actively shared booking and promotion information. Again, right there that's not a typical local musician friendship where you actually help each other.
Then As Piano Teacher
Then in 2013 I started long-term dating a woman named Phifer whose son was taking piano lessons from J.D.. I was there one day and he came in to teach the lesson and we both did solid double takes, "What are you doing here?"
Edward, Phifer's son, notably briefed his proper Southern grandmother about J.D.'s tattoos once before a lesson, "Now don't worry Granny, J.D. looks scary but he's not dangerous. He’s a really nice guy."
I got to see J.D. a lot there at the house, away from gigs and time that we both spent babysitting drunks with music. He always had a smile. We got to talk about life; a conversation with J.D. was less trivial and surface than most chats with friends. But he also was frank about when he was having a hard time. There would be a week or two here and there where he skipped lessons to deal with his mental health. That is seriously admirable. J.D. always scheduled that in advance; he wasn't struggling so hard or was always considerate enough to just not be a no-show and leave people in the lurch.
Last year, deep into pandemic times, Phifer saw a notice on Facebook that J.D. had suddenly died. There were no details posted, which in itself seemed very mysterious. Of course, hundreds of people posted there about how they loved J.D. and were in shock. He really was one of those guys who touched a lot of lives.
The poster on Facebook I believe was a close friend of J.D.'s and he was being intentionally oblique about the cause of death. With J.D.'s acknowledged history of depression and addiction, it was a very short leap for just about everybody to assume he might have taken his own life.
Phifer broke through to the friend to eventually hear the truth that J.D. had died in a freak diving accident. It was actually part of some unusual sounding underwater meditation therapy with air tanks but something went wrong. I kept thinking, "Why don't you tell people that instead of letting friends think it was suicide?!" Not that suicide SHOULD have shame attached to it, but I'm sorry - people treat suicide deaths differently, and unfortunately always link the person with their worst end moments when there’s a suicide.
Here’s another reason it wasn't suicide but extra sad: His daughter Suraya was about to come to town in a couple of days and there were going to have something like a month together and he had big plans. This is trite but death really can suck.
By the way, that photo at the top of the article was from the 2021 San Diego Music Awards. Not that the In Memorium part of an award show is a contest. But it was no contest who got the most rousing ovation in it.
We shouldn't focus on the end of J.D.'s life. Go ahead and listen to some of his songs on Apple Music
, watch an interview with him
or watch him playing at House Of Blues
More than that, just keep doing your best to be a little like J.D.: Be a parent, take care of your elderly parents (which J.D. did with his dad), be kind to people and follow whatever artistic aspirations or impulses you have. Life is short.