SKOWHEGAN — Eugene Cole couldn’t have known what his words would mean a quarter-century after he wrote them down in songs.

But there they were: five songs written by Cole that are now – four months after his death – being produced in the renowned Hilltop Studios, Nashville’s longest-running professional recording studio.

“I can’t imagine life here without you, and darlin’, I don’t even want to try,” opens the song “Life Without You,” the title track of a CD to be released soon by music producer Tony Mantor. “No, I can’t imagine life here without you by my side. Please promise me you will never go.”

The words of the songs, sung by his brother Tom Cole, were written by Eugene Cole for his wife, Sheryl, who now lives without her husband in the home where they raised a family in Norridgewock.

“Gene” Cole’s lyrics resonate with more meaning today after the Somerset County sheriff’s corporal was shot and killed while on duty in his hometown of Norridgewock on April 25. A Madison man, John D. Williams, 29, is charged with murder and has pleaded not guilty.

“These guys that were playing the music, they went, ‘Man, this is great country music. We cut our teeth on this stuff,’ ” Tom Cole says. Photo courtesy of Tom Cole

Cole, who was 61 and a 13-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was the first Maine police officer to die in a shooting in nearly 30 years. While Cole was well known as a respected local police officer, he was also remembered by friends and family as a talented musician who performed in the band Borderline Express with Tom.


“They still mean the same,” Sheryl Cole said of the lyrics last week, after she and family members returned from the recording sessions in Nashville, “except now I have to live my life here without him by side. But the love we have, I’ll never let it go.”

Sheryl Cole, who also is getting a new house thanks to area businesses donating their time and materials, said going to Nashville was exciting, but she was filled with appreciation and gratitude when she met the talent that showed up.

“To know that there are so many good people in this world is truly inspiring,” she said. “At times, the recording sessions were a bit emotional, but I think that was in our favor. All of the tremendous musicians played our pain so beautifully.”

Sheryl performs backup vocals on “Life Without You.”

The CD is still in the studio being mixed and mastered for release sometime in the coming weeks.

Tom Cole said the Nashville studio gig started when Plateau Music producer Mantor, originally from Madison, who played in a band called Tony Mantor and Mainestream back when Tom and Gene played in the Borderline Express band, heard of Gene’s death.


Brothers Tom Cole, left, and Eugene Cole perform. Photo courtesy of Tom Cole

Tom Cole, who last performed with his brother in Skowhegan in December, said the musicians and studio time were donated with Mantor’s help. The flight to Nashville, the meals and hotel rooms, all were paid for with the help of the many fundraisers held in the central Maine community after Cole’s death, including a benefit at T&B’s Celebration Center in Skowhegan.

Tom Cole said they were in Nashville from Aug. 5 to12, spending a total of 24 hours in the studio. He said the musicians were some of the best studio musicians Nashville has to offer, including a piano player who performed with Elvis Presley.

“All the big greats recorded there – George Jones, Johnny Cash – a who’s who of country music,” Tom Cole said. “All these songs are written by Gene. It’s real country, traditional country. These guys that were playing the music, they went, ‘Man, this is great country music. We cut our teeth on this stuff.’ ”

Tom said there were two days in Nashville when he couldn’t record because he had lost his voice to an allergen that is not found in Maine.

The title song will be released for radio play all across the nation, as a modern but classic country music song, he said.

“The studio was all free. The musicians were all free. They all volunteered their time,” he said. “There were six musicians.”


The other four titles on the CD are: “Room 13,” about Skowhegan’s Kennebec Valley Inn and a night reportedly spent alone by Gene Cole; “Words Can Hurt”; “On My Way To Nowhere”; and “Angel in My Bed.”

Mantor said via social media that when he heard the news of Gene’s death, he knew he had to help.

Tom Cole and other musicians record at Hilltop Studios, one of Nashville’s premier recording venues. “Life Without You,” a five-song CD of Eugene Cole’s songs, which he dedicated to his wife, Sheryl, will be released in mid-October. Photo courtesy of Tom Cole

“Last year, I got to see Tom and him play right before New Year’s, and it was really nice to reconnect,” Mantor said. “It felt like we picked up without any time in between and just talked about the past along with what was going on in our lives now.

“When I heard about the tragedy this spring, I reached out to Tom to see if they had written any songs together. Tom told me (Gene) wrote them and (Tom) sang them.”

Mantor responded that he would put together the session players and create a project where they could sell CDs, with the money from the sales going to Sheryl Cole.

“He always wanted to have a Nashville recording of his songs, so I thought this was a great way to pay tribute to a really good guy and friend,” Mantor said. “We are doing a documentary on Tom’s journey with interviews from all involved in helping me bring this project to them. It’s going to be really good. I have also made a deal with my radio promoters, and they are going to promote it to radio for more exposure on the project. Trying to help Sheryl and the family as much as I can.”


Tom Cole said the family is holding onto their privacy as much as they can, while still being thankful enough to the community for the outpouring of support. He said they all continue to mourn his brother’s passing, but the songs on the CD are somehow reassuring.

“What he’s saying is, ‘I can’t imagine life without you and darlin’, I don’t even want to try’ – it’s a love song to Sheryl,” he said. “They talk about how they had rough times, but they had good times. They worked through the bad times and the good times were really good.

“It was very emotional. It was amazing what they did down there. He’d obviously be very honored. He loved those songs. He poured his heart and soul into them.”

Copies of CD will be available in mid-October by mail at Plateau Music, P.O. Box 947, White House, TN 37188. The CDs will cost $15, including shipping, and will be available online at

There will be also a CD-release party in mid-October.


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