LBC’s Picks Vol. 2 – Dysfunktion Junktion: The Grateful Ned Years (2000)

Dysfunktion Junktion

Disclaimer: This post is long. If you are just here for the tunes, scroll on down and enjoy! This is the first time I’m really getting personal on this site. I feel it’s important to tell my story of Ned since he is such a major influence on my life.

Before I tell the story of this collection of tunes, I have to go all the way back to 1994 – Carrollton, GA. Yellow 5 had just started up. For more on that band’s origin story, start here. I can’t remember exactly why but at some point, we had developed a healthy competition/hatred with another young local band called Glass Onion. The beef had something to do with their drummer, Wes stealing our drummer’s gig or something dumb like that. The Glass Onion guys were few years older than me and played mainly cover music – mainly 60’s-70’s rock and heavy Beatles and Pink Floyd catalog. I think they started spreading rumors that we (Yellow 5) sucked but it could have easily been the other way around. Either way, I never paid them much attention. My youthful passion at the time was rebelling against any societal norm, so I just knew they didn’t care for us and we didn’t care for them.

In 1996, I moved to Statesboro, GA to attend GA Southern college. As a broke-ass college kid, I found myself staying on another Carrolltonian’s couch. Who’s couch you ask? Wes, the Glass Onion drummer that stole my old drummers gig. Small world. Wes was a year older and took me under his wing at Southern. I lived in a rundown dorm. He had a nice little house a few miles outside of town. I would stay there most nights. Wes still had ties with Glass Onion and the other guys would travel down and play parties at his house. The parties were great hangs and the music would go all night. This is when I met Ned Simons for the first time. Ned played a black and white Rickenbacker bass through a heavy Mesa Boogie amp, pushing a fridge sized speaker cab. It was loud. He was a really good bass player. I mean, really good bass player. He could show off and play complex runs but he always kept it all in the pocket. He was a great singer and wrote great tunes too. Back to the story – By this time, I was a big Floyd/Beatles fan and become to thoroughly enjoy Glass Onion and their setlist. Ned was always the nicest one of the bunch. The other guys were chill too but Ned made everyone feel comfortable around him.

One of my earliest memories of hanging with Ned was before one of these college parties at Wes’ house. On a side note, this is also when I met “Smiley” Matt Williams. That was like a big ole Smiling Supernova of an introduction. Since Smiley played drums, I always joked that we would one day find another Matt Williams who plays bass and start the band named “Matt Williams”. When people would ask which one of us was Matt Williams, we would both point to the other. Good times.

Anyway, Glass Onion had just finished a pre-party rehearsal and I filmed most of it on a camcorder. I wish I still had this footage but it was lost years ago. (If you’re gonna cook with grease, it’s best to know what you’re doing.) Hanging with Smiley and Ned and the Glass Onion guys was a breath of fresh air during a very confusing time in my life. We laughed about how we didn’t speak to each other in high school, because we were, you know, high school kids. Things were different now. We were in and out of college and excited to be around each other. Being broke, we all pooled our money together. Probably 8-12$ total. Ned was a manager at a McDonald’s in Carrollton and knew the best deals on fast food. He took our money and came back with a bag full of chicken nuggets. He sat on the floor and sorted through all of them. There must have been 80 or so nuggets. He put them into 2 piles. One pile was good and the other, as Ned stated, “you don’t want to eat those”. I’m not sure why that memory sticks with me but maybe it has to do with the first time I trusted Ned. Either way, it still makes me smile to think about it. I didn’t eat any of the “bad” nuggets. I’m pretty sure we fed them to the dog.

Fast forward to 1998, I was back in Carrollton, GA and working as a cook at the Corner Cafe. Ned also worked in the kitchen and so did my best friend and guitar-slinger, Panko. Musically, I had moved full-on into the jam/funk world. At work, we were listening to bands like The Meters, Medeschi, Martin and Wood, Jazz Is Dead, Scofield, Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Phish, Panic, all of the tasty jams with a healthy dose of West Coast Gangsta Rap to keep us on our toes. My roommates at the time, Garret Wilson and Coy Bowles (Zac Brown Band) were musicians as well. After work, we started inviting Ned over to jam. Eventually, this turned into the band, Dysfunktion Junktion. We played a mix of jam covers and our own tunes. Ned was an excellent songwriter and wrote these opus style pieces with groovy bass lines, heartfelt lyrics and wild off-time interludes. Garret went to Mexico for the summer and the band picked up LBC (Joey Dye) as our main drummer. We continued on and scored one of our biggest gigs at The Brandy House in ATL. The Brandy House was home to Col. Bruce Hampton and the Zambi scene and we somehow managed to get on a pretty big benefit show there opening for local acts, Ghost Train and Z93’s Dunham’s. I remember seeing both Bruce and Tensley Ellis hanging at those Brandy house gigs. It really made you bring your “A” game knowing those guys were there. I would get the honor to play on a Blueground Undergrass record with Bruce several years later. Jeff and Marie Dunham ended up taking us under their wing a bit and put us on shows around the city. This trend continued through my years with Captain Soularcat. The Dunham’s were a huge support network for the ATL jam-scene until they moved to Florida I believe.

Dysfunktion Junktion became a Carrollton local jam staple from 1999-2002. We would sell out most bars around town and there was always a late-night jam to follow at one of our houses. Hours and hours of sloppy, outreaching, energetic music. So many fun nights of musical freedom and improvisation. Ned was the heart and soul of this band – the center that we all bounced around. He pushed us to play things that may have seemed out of reach. He pushed us to bring the heat every night.

Sadly, one day Ned didn’t show up for rehearsal. We had a run of shows coming up so this was very concerning. No one could get in touch with him. We called our buddy Steve Abercrombie to fill in at the shows. Steve fit in great but we had still not heard a peep from Ned in several days and we were still worried. A couple of weeks later, one of us got a call from Ned. He wanted to meet with the band and explain what was going on. When we met with him that evening, we all cried for hours. Ned went into details that I won’t go into here. He was fighting drug addiction and needed to step away from the band. He was so sad about it. He wanted to continue to play with us but knew that it was a trigger. He didn’t want us to quit and told me he would kick my ass if I did. We fully supported him and carried on without him at his wishes. Although Ned fought it for years, his addiction eventually took his life. He was way too young. The first friend I ever lost that way and unfortunately he was not the last. I’ve lost too many close friends this way. It makes me very sad thinking about it.

I think about Ned often and find myself talking to him on long car rides. Before he passed, Ned became my biggest fan. I will never forget his reaction when I joined Blueground Undergrass in 2005. In Ned’s eyes, I had “made it”. I was carrying some sort of musical torch for him and he would spam the Panic message boards with all of my show information. He would insist people check out my music. Ned gave this to people. He lifted them up and encouraged others to do the same. At some point, Ned started playing music again with a local band called Head Change. I would sit-in every chance I got and look back on that reunion fondly.

Like many others, I have been face to face with addiction. We all deal with it in our own way. Ned inspires me to live a life without alcohol. He inspires me to remain calm when things are stressful. He inspires me to find balance within chaos. He inspires me to smile and enjoy my limited time on Earth. He inspires me to help others who struggle. He inspires me to share music and stories. Please comment below if you have a story about Ned. He lives on through the music and stories.

Now without further ado…

LBC went through the old Dyfunktion Junktion audio vault (Big Mike taped hundreds of shows with a DAT recorder) and came up with this playlist: LBC’s Picks Vol. 2: the Best of the Grateful Ned Years. It features lots of familiar jams from some of those Brandy House shows and other local spots. It also features two of Ned’s original tunes. Do yourself a favor and listen to The Mess . Ned wrote this great tune. I had completely forgotten about this one. His bass playing on the middle jam says it all. It is so funky and has a Ned-hiccup in the time-signature that my guitar fingers could barely keep up with. Grateful Ned was slaying it! Fixin’ to Turn is great too with it’s soulful chorus. His bass is so fluid and hearing his voice makes me smile. Big thanks to LBC for piecing these tunes together and bringing back a flood of memories. When you are done here, be sure to check out LBC’s Picks Volume One over on Steve’s site for more Dysfunktion Junktion. For now, check out the playlist below and join us as we remember our dear friend, Grateful Ned.

“Grateful” Ned Simons- Bass & Vocals
Matthew Williams – Guitar & Vocals
Jason McPanko – Guitar & Vocals
Michael O’Keeffe – Percussion &Vocals
LBC (Joey Dye) – Drums
Garnet Faulkner – Sax


  1. I love hearing about the past, but am saddened, too. Matt never , ever got over Ned’s death. His glasses stayed on a wooden mask from Thailand that JuJu had brought him and was always on his dresser or in his living room. He loved playing with Ned and he loved playing with you, Matt. Addiction is cruel and steals the soul. These two talented young men just couldn’t get a handle on it. But when they loved you, they loved you deeply and wholeheartedly.

  2. Matt,
    Reading this flooded me with some emotions. Ned was always kind to me. Even though I never thought I really deserved to be playing with you guys he always made me feel good about what I was doing. I miss him and those wonderful times we had together.

  3. These people are the best group of friends I have ever had and will ever have. Ned and I were extremely close.. we lived together multiple times in multiple cities. We have celebrated together and we have mourned together. I have so many NSFW stories to remember with the two of us. example: when kids at school were talking about going to Panama City or Daytona for spring break…. well..Ned-Rob Volbeer- and I …we went to Amsterdam ( kinda the same I guess)…. I love these people and these times..I am very bless to have know them…especially my dear friend – Grateful Ned …

  4. I love these words, that bring me back to some great memories. I had started my first “real” job in Atlanta about that time and was having some difficulties with that transition. Obie and I would hear about a DJ show and hop in the car back home or wherever y’all were playing. It wa so fun to dance and spin and listen to music I loved played by people I loved. Addiction is a mother fucker, it steals the magic in their souls while they are on this earth and steals our hope of getting them back when they leave this earth. Ned and I shared a birthday, we had been in school together since 4 year old kindergarten. Just like you said, he was a solid, calming presence when he was around. He also had really bonded with my dog, Rex, too. At Ned’s memorial service I received a stack of pictures he had taken of my dog while we were all 4 on road trips together. Obie and I would be in the front seats and Ned and Rex in the back. Oh, those days.

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