Bass guitar player recovering after car wreck that killed fellow musician

The bass guitar player for a popular area band needs to give his once-dislocated shoulder another two weeks to heal, and then he can start physical therapy.

This means Morrison, who plays for the Dave Matthews Cover Band, can think a little more about getting back to work.

In some ways, however, he’s just lucky to be alive.

Morrison, 27, was seriously injured in a car wreck driving back from a late-night Cinco de Mayo gig in Chattanooga. Lance Tilton, a long-time friend and drummer for the up-and-coming Atlanta band Ben Deignan and Suburban Soul, died in the single-car accident.

The week before, Ben Deignan and Suburban Soul beat out other musicians to win the Ambassadors of Rock Atlanta finals at the Hard Rock Café. It was their last show together.

The band is now among 10 others competing for an opening slot on a bill with Sir Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam and Stevie Wonder in London's Hyde Park in June. But Deignan now has to compete for that spot without his longtime friend and bandmate.

Morrison spent five days at the Hamilton Medical Center. He asked his doctors if he could leave a day early to attend a memorial show for Tilton that was held at the Tin Roof Cantina in Atlanta.

Morrison said he came pretty much straight from the hospital, and, using a wheelchair, entered the popular spot for local musicians.

“I don’t think anybody expected me to show up,” Morrison told the AJC.

Morrison said the Grammy-winning Zac Brown Band was in the middle of playing a song when someone spotted him.

“The first thing someone did was put a bass guitar in my hand,” Morrison said. “I finished a song … I was just trying to keep my arm from hurting and to keep playing the correct notes. It was kind of an amazing thing.”

Morrison was a passenger in the car. The 29-year-old Tilton, who was driving, fell asleep, according to the Georgia State Patrol. The car ran off I-75 in Whitfield County. It struck a guardrail and then a tree.

Morrison woke up hours later and called 911. Unsure of his location, Morrison said it took authorities a while to find him and Tilton. He crawled up an embankment to the side of the road to wait for help.

“I was trying to do something, pain or not,” he told the AJC. “I couldn’t just sit there, as much pain as I was in, and as bad of shape as the whole situation was.”

He was hospitalized with a dislocated shoulder, cracked ribs, minor spinal injuries and a lacerated liver, along with a cracked foot and some cuts and bruises that likely happened from the seatbelt.

Morrison said he and Tilton looked for inexpensive hotels around Chattanooga to stay the night but couldn’t find any. They were both having trouble staying awake but decided, as most musicians often do, to make the trek home.

Tilton’s brother, Troy, set up an online fund to raise money to help Morrison pay for basic living expenses since he can’t work. The Park Bench pub in Buckhead donated a night’s worth of cover charges as well.

“It’s really been amazing. I don’t even know where to start,” Morrison said. “I’m starting to write ‘thank-you’ letters. I’m doing the best that I can.”

Morrison said he's not surprised by how the local musicians rallied around him. That's just how they operate.

"That's how the community works," he said. "It's word of mouth. Everybody stays together, and they take care of their own."

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