The Man Who Taught Me Everything: A Tribute to Russell (Jay) Easter, Jr.

Life & Work

I was recently invited to speak at the funeral of my friend—and “adopted” dad—Jay. He meant so much to me. Here is what I shared.

I’d like to thank the family for this opportunity. I truly consider it the highest honor of my lifetime to speak here and can’t possibly express what it means to me.

I lost my dad in 2001. But quite unexpectedly, I gained another one just five short years later. He’s the man we’re here to remember today. Truth is, I loved my dad so much, but very little if any of my life today has to do with his influence. (Editing note: That’s of course not his fault. He left this world too soon due to cancer, right before my most formative years, and I miss him terribly.) But I do not exaggerate when I say that every single thing I do on a daily basis is either in small or large part thanks to Jay. He was my dad, too. I can’t remember a phone call in recent years where he didn’t end by saying, “You know, you’re like a son to me. I love you, Steve.”

When I look back on his life, one of the coolest things is how he was teaching me so much… but he never let on that he was teaching me. I was too young to understand what was happening. He never forced anything—he simply let me absorb wisdom. I can look back now and see so many lessons, and that’s what I want to share with you today. I hope, by the time I’m finished, you’ll be either reminded of or introduced to the “whole” Jay. He was serious, funny, gentle, sarcastic, loving, adamant, and more.

Here’s just a small snapshot of the stories and wisdom that made me the man I am today.

Professionalism in music

Last weekend I was out playing music. Every weekend I play in church. For years, I traveled on the road and played in the studio. But I didn’t get the kind of training most musicians do. For most musicians, there is “good enough.” For Jay, there is only excellence. There is a standard to meet, and though I didn’t realize it, I was constantly being taught that standard. There’s a joke that I was the only person to ever get fired from the Easter Brothers. I was seriously bad. He was so kind about it, though, that I didn’t even feel like I was being fired! That was 2008. After he worked with me in the studio, I was invited back in 2010.

Another time, I played the Mayberry Days gig dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt. Everyone else was wearing suits. Afterward, Jay told me, “I don’t care what anyone else says or does. But you wear what we’re wearing if you’re going to be on stage. Understood?”

He taught me how to be a professional and conduct myself like one.

Keeping your commitments

During my first ever studio session where he hired me to play bass, it looked like it was going to extend another two or three days. I had a full-time job at Best Buy, but prior to taking the studio gig, I had assured him I’d be there to see it through. When it looked like there was going to be a scheduling conflict, I told him I may not be able to make it. Big mistake.

I’ll never forget him pulling me aside and saying, “Steve, you made a commitment to me. I don’t care if they fire you, you’ll be in that studio tomorrow.” I was. And I didn’t get fired for it. But I am a better man because of it.

Business and recurring revenue

I did my high school senior project and ended up building my entire business around one principle I learned from Jay: “Build residual income. Find a customer who will return to you every year and pay you for the rest of your life.” That one business lesson supports my entire family to this very day, and allows me the freedom to be my own boss and make my own schedule.

The recliner

Speaking of business, I read a lot of business books. But still, 90% of what I know about business, I learned sitting down next to Jay in “the recliner.” He had one, I had one. From those recliners, we bonded, masterminded about world domination, took notes, made endless phone calls, sent countless emails, ate lots of turkey sandwiches, and probably drove Barbara to madness with our new, crazy ideas. I went to Recliner University. My love for business came from Jay.

Single and desperate

October 2010. I was playing guitar with the Easter Brothers, and out of left field (he had never done this before, to my recollection), Jay introduced me to the audience as being “single and desperate.” After the service, the preacher’s wife came up to me and said, “We know someone who’s single and desperate too!” as she introduced me to her stunning daughter. That’s the day I met my wife. A few houses, cars, jobs, and four kids later, even my marriage I owe to Jay.

Gentle critiques and sarcasm

Jay was one of the smartest and opinionated men I ever knew. But he shared instruction in rather… unconventional ways. He was able to use sarcasm and a gentle spirit in such a way that made you feel comfortable and understood, yet his point came across in no uncertain terms! (I often wonder what was going through his mind the first time I set up drums in his living room LOL) It was so natural for him to wrap his love for people together with his desire to bring the best out in them.

And everyone that knows Jay would, I think, tell you that they (1) felt deeply loved by him and (2) are a better person because of him. THAT’S a testimony.

Star Trek

Wow, did that man ever love Star Trek! Growing up, I always thought it was a show for nerds. But Jay was obsessed with it. He told me stories of how he used to watch Star Trek on the TV screen in the control room of the studio during recording sessions. I thought that was the funniest thing! Sure enough, if I came to the house, a good 90% of the time Star Trek was on. He could recite the episodes word for word, and he’d often share wisdom from Star Trek. “You remember that episode of Star Trek where…” was said often.

And yes, I too am now obsessed with Star Trek. Just ask my wife.

Hypnotizing hand motions

Jay was an incredible salesman. He’d only sell you things he thought would truly help you—but he was NOT afraid to sell it. We’d often joke about this silly little hand motion he would make when talking to a new group about recording in the studio, selling them a website package, or something else. One little hand wave with a simple explanation of the possibilities, and they bought every time!

He once told us, “The main thing you need to help people understand is that you’re ‘in the boat with them’.” I still use that analogy today when talking to customers. (Oh and for work, I build websites. I learned how to do that building sites with Jared for our studio clients.)

The adapter

Do you know how hard it is to find adapters in the recording studio?! Many in this room can tell you of hours-long expeditions in search of an adapter you’d find 10 of when you didn’t need it.

I’ll never forget the time me and Jared needed a specific adapter when Jay walked up to the studio for a quick visit, pulled the exact adapter out of his pocket, and said “Is this what you need?” Legend.

When something got lost

On the other hand, when something got lost, there would be no rest for the weary until Jay found it again. I’ve spent hours looking for a camera, guitar capo, and all manner of things before. He couldn’t stand it! And if you needed something, he ALWAYS had one of them somewhere, usually from a horse trade deal he’d made in the past. It was just a matter of finding it! (He also made sure you always had what you needed. He was so giving and generous and always put other people first.)

One of a kind

Believe me when I tell you, it’s impossible to summarize a life like Jay’s in 10 minutes. There are so many more stories and lessons—I will never be able to share (or even remember!) them all.

And for all I’ve said, there’s so much I could say about his sheer love for Jesus, his family, and music, his zest for life, and more. He loved the Lord and was a guiding help in my spiritual development like few others have been.

But I’d like to leave you with this: Jay was truly, in every sense of the words, “one of a kind.” That’s a thing people say. But I’ve NEVER met anyone in my entire life who embodied it like him. He had a personality and spirit like none other. He is truly irreplaceable. There was never a Jay before, and there will never be another.

I certainly can’t be Jay, but I sure hope that when my time comes, there will be those who say of me, “he was one of a kind.” I hope they think similar thoughts and have similar memories of me to the ones I have for Jay.

He was more than a “father figure” to me. He was a father. I’ve never called him “dad” before—a tragic mistake. But I hope I won’t offend anyone now when I say, “Love and miss you, dad. See you soon.”

Jul 5, 2024

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