League City bass player inspires others after losing leg in horrific accident
Last year, when League City resident Matt “Scootch” Appleby appeared in The Grizzly Band’s music video “Stand Up,” he was one of several people holding a hand-written, dry-erase board sign with the words, “I will win.”
The song is about overcoming personal obstacles and Appleby, a bass player for both The Grizzly Band and Card-Castle Deluxe, had no idea how poignant his role in the video would become later that year, when he would be faced with the biggest challenge of his own life — surviving a nearly fatal accident followed by learning to live and to continue playing the bass, minus his left leg.
A day after the accident, Chad Lyles, The Grizzly Band’s lead singer and guitarist, posted on Facebook a still frame image from the video of Appleby holding the sign. That image quickly became an icon of inspiration for hundreds of musicians and non-musicians alike from Galveston to Kentucky and beyond.
The accident occurred 1 a.m. Oct. 17, along Interstate 10 in Louisiana, headed toward New Orleans. Appleby was sitting on his motorcycle on the side of the road after helping some friends he was convoying with repair the truck they were driving. Appleby and four of his friends were planning to attend a car show.
Appleby had just put his helmet back on and was preparing to enter back into traffic when he was struck from behind by a car, whose driver, according to police reports, had fallen asleep at the wheel. Appleby was thrown through the air, careened off his friend’s truck and landed in the far right lane of the freeway.
The impact, taken mostly by Appleby’s left leg, left him helpless on the road as his friend, Chris Langley, raced to pull him to safety. Appleby was conscious from the time of the impact until he was sedated in the ambulance and recalls each moment happening in slow motion, he said.
“Chris got there in seconds,” Appleby said. “I would have been hit by another car for sure if he hadn’t acted so quickly. I knew immediately after I saw my leg I was going to lose it. I was in shock, but I immediately started thinking about what it would mean to my life. Walking, playing music, doing the things I like to do. But at the same time, I felt thankful. I was alive.”
Playing music with his friends has been a passion for Appleby since he was 13 years old and obtained his first bass guitar. The album “Appetite for Destruction” by rock band Guns N’ Roses inspired him to “get serious” about playing, he said. But it was at the Bay Area Christian Church in Webster, where his mother, Katherine, sang with the church band choir, that Appleby was first drawn to the bass sound.
Occasional childhood trips to various truck and auto repair shops where his father, Leroy, worked, inspired Appleby’s lifelong love of motorcycles and cars. He acquired his first motorcycle at age 16. And he’s looking forward to riding one again. With a high-tech prosthetic leg, Appleby is confident he will be walking, riding and doing things he did before the accident, within a few months.
Although he knows it will take time to get used to working with the prosthetic, he’s optimistic — with good reason. He has amazed everyone, from his friends who witnessed his devastating injuries, to the doctors at Clear Lake Regional Hospital, with the speed of his recovery.
Although Appleby’s determination to ride a motorcycle again hasn’t yet come to fruition, his desire to play music with his friends has.
On Dec. 12 last year at Ronnie’s Ice House in Dickinson, just 57 days after he lost his leg, Card-Castle Deluxe bandmate Anthony Puskus helped to coordinate a benefit concert and auction to help pay for Appleby’s medical bills.
Appleby that evening triumphantly took the stage in his black wheelchair and played to thunderous ovations.
The daylong benefit raised more than $16,000 and featured 12 bands, including Those Crosstown Rivals, a popular Kentucky band, and drew nearly 1,000 people.
“We live in a great community of supportive musicians and people,” Puskus said. “Scootch is the kind of guy who would be the first to lend a helping hand in any situation, so it only made sense to help out a friend in need.”
As his wounds heal, Appleby will continue living with the passion that has been an inspiration to many.
“Maybe it’s my calling to inspire people with what happened to me,” Appleby said. “Maybe it’s why this happened. If I can help just one person get through whatever they’re dealing with, that makes me happy.”
Appleby has been a regular on Galveston beaches since he was a child and has performed many times on the island with various bands. For Appleby’s performance information, look for Matt Scootch Appleby on Facebook.