Okay, that's it! Brain, you're fired. From here on out, it's all heart. Never let me down. I'm gonna have to tell you, I haven't really relied on the thing all that often, anyway. If I have a purpose here, it's to serve. Wham! Don't ever withhold love. Folks out there need it.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The stories are always the same. Sometimes I feel like I'm dropping names to impress somebody as though being in the vicinity of celebrity makes you special. The older I get, the less interest I have in the famous ones anyway.
You live a long time, though, and lots of folks do walk by. I suppose I started to think about it by the time I was four or five and my mom had managed to hold me up to the window of Roy Rogers' tour bus so that I could shake his hand. Then Uncle Reid managed to get me up close to the Lone Ranger at an air show so that I was able to get a mask from him.
Either working on bills with musicians or promoting concerts with them, I have worked with the Coasters, the Shangra Las, the Flatlanders, Sly and the Family Stone, Pete Seeger, Wilco, Jimi Hendrix, the Band, the Newbeats, Tommy Roe, the Allman Brothers, the Outlaws, Chuck Berry, Steve Earle, the Chambers Brothers, Dave Van Ronk, Bo Diddley, Michael Bloomfield, Judy Collins, the Byrds, Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, Gene Vincent, Sam The Sham and The Pharos, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Bill Haley and The Comets, Van Morrison, John Mayall, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steve Miller, Canned Heat, Donovan, Patti Smith, Rufus Wainwright, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Wanda Jackson, the Dave Clark 5, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Tiny Tim, Derek and the Dominoes, Janis Joplin, the Kinks, Pink Floyd, Billy Preston, the Beach Boys and so many, many more.
Yeah, there are stories. Some of them are pretty good. None of it matters. I've got better ones about pie. Oh, and love. I've got better ones about love.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Some babies are born with broken hearts. If they never heal we refer to those individuals as "artists." It's not a good thing. Oh, it can be. We got Elvis in the deal. Thomas Wolfe, Sylvia Plath, James Dean, Ray Charles, Dorothy Parker. It's not a bad thing either, of course. They don't all grow up as geniuses.
Let me tell you this: if you're born to the caste, you can go to work for the bank; you can marry the boss' daughter; you can take a degree in law. Buddy, you're still an artist.
Don't waste your time on landscapes, hit records or big career moves. Zero in on love and count your lucky stars. It's where we got "What'd I Say," Starry Night and To Kill A Mockingbird.
Love harder. It's the only legacy that matters.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Sometimes I describe myself as a patient man. Sometimes I have no patience at all. Now I find myself just floating in the ether and waiting to see where we're headed. I do know that we're all just where we're supposed to be and that everything is fine. Perfect, in fact.
It's a really small world. All of the secrets are in the rock'n'roll. Trust those voices. Don't settle for anything less than love.
Friday, December 26, 2014
How many times have I started over? Well, enough to know that it's all very doable. Why wait 'til New Year's? Why wait for the sun to come up?
Oh, I probably can't fix everything. I've only run into a few perfect people in my travels. I can, however, take care of some obvious shortcomings and I can start right away to make up for mistakes in my past.
Forgiving has always come easy for me. Forgetting? Not so much. I'm happy with memories but I could use some slimming down in the obsessing department. Right? Wrong? Who cares? When you color as far outside the lines as I do, you need to work on tolerance. Of course I like to think of myself as accepting and tolerant as it is. I don't need reminding that we all do. I guess I no longer need the two page notes from the girls in my seventh grade class or the four page memo from a wife packing to leave to know where there's room for improvement. Yeah, I get it.
Here's what I've got to work with. Honesty and love. If I can match that up with a couple of melodies to melt some stars I'll get you a new record and me a new start. Keep an eye on me. Be still and think about love.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Maybe it's just reassuring to find anything at all in common with the great minds. Einstein knew that the big mystery was well beyond his grasp, his understanding. He valued creativity over intellect. He was aware that nothing was more important than peace. Feynman often boasted that he was smart enough to know that he was dumb.
It seems that the seekers come from the ones who have everything. That would qualify me.
Pray for peace. Search for truth. Settle for love.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Do you ever wonder why we don't use the unlimited energy from the sun instead of petroleum? Do you find yourself wondering if there is, in fact, enough food to feed everyone? Let's make it simple. Love is unlimited yet we have perpetual war. We are a species that hoards love fercrissakes!
There are people out there who measure their own worth by comparing what they have with what others have. In this country lots of those folks spend some of that money during this time of the year to show off and to celebrate the birth of Jesus to a homeless couple.
Oh, most folks are wonderful. The bad ones we read about in the paper and watch giving speeches on TV. The rest of us are gonna have to pitch in. Love more. Love harder. Go!
Monday, December 22, 2014
Looking back, it's been a pretty good life. Lots of comedy. Just a little tragedy. Very little if you don't count heartache. Romance? Well, I'm no Mickey Rooney but the numbers are dumb. The cast has been just the best. If I ever win anything I'll cry my eyes out thanking them all; Mom and Grandma, all the cousins and aunts and uncles. I've had the wonderful fortune of having the best co-workers and bosses that you can imagine. Even my waiters and waitresses have been superb. How about the bit players who spent time in this mess? Elvis, Garlits, Berry.
It's the soundtrack, though, that brings me to my knees. It seems that this old life will have pretty much tracked the trajectory of rock'n'roll, itself. Great goodness!
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Maybe it's the contradictions that keep me on my feet. You know, all that "you can't have light without the dark" stuff. It really is a small world, isn't it? Truth comes to me from the strangest places. Frequently through the mail. What do you suppose that cats know that dogs don't?
Here's another one- be careful what you wish for. We all get tired of hearing it, right? Yeah, well, here I am. Alone. I've seen sad holidays with other sad folks and I've surely seen sad holidays by myself. Live for a long time and all the possibilities play out.
I hope you have the merriest holiday that you use. Save your money, waste your love. There's more where that came from. Ho, ho, ho.
Friday, December 19, 2014
With all the belly achin' that I do I don't leave myself enough time to express my joy in what I do. You've listened to me go on and on about the wonderful musicians that I've shared the stage, the studio and my life with. I consider these folks to be my treasured family and I know how lucky I have been.
The rest of the story is the bunch of beautiful folks whom I've been lucky enough to meet because of the music. They're scattered around the world. Ireland, Texas, Wales, Uruguay, Oklahoma, California, Great Britain and spots like Bhutan and Burlington. Some of them work in the music business or the music press. Some of them just love the music.
I suppose it's a good thing that the marine biology thing never worked out. Brain surgery and rocket science, too.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
My license from the State Department listed me as a journalist. I was off to Cuba to write about the music. Turned out to be just too overwhelming. I might as well try to write about "American music" over a two week period.
Oh, I loved the music. Every bit of it. It was terribly naive and ethnocentric to think that I could figure out anything at all about the wonderful culture of Cuban music in a short period of time.
At least I got to see some of the island. It is as beautiful as the old postcards. The people are wonderfully sweet. To watch the younger schoolchildren holding hands to cross a busy street is to be transported to a more innocent time. The architecture, at least what still stands, is magnificent. The ancient American automobiles, painted brilliant island colors, make any heart skip a beat.
The dogs, though; nobody told me about the dogs. The Cubans don't feel that there is enough of anything to spare to take care of the strays on the street. It was too much for me. No animal should suffer because old men can't get along. Love is the tool. The only tool.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
One more sad holiday. Bah, humbug. All I need is Huey "Piano" Smith's version of Silent Night or maybe the Drifters doing White Christmas. When Clyde McPhatter's verse comes in we all believe in miracles. You know Huey's masterpiece carol with the Clowns was headed to the top of the holiday charts when some busybody radio hack pointed out that Bobby Marchan was clearly singing, "round young virgin." Makes it all the more special if you ask me.
Probably my least favorite holiday song has always been Little Drummer Boy. Then I heard Ray Charles version. Great goodness!
For the past several years I have leaned on Mike Nicolai's classic, Christmas Is For Losers. Makes me feel better about myself.
I love you and I hope all of your holidays are beautiful. Pray for peace.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Clearly there was nothing new about the Nazis' extermination of the Jews except for the horrible, grand scale. Genocide has always been with us. Still is. It goes hand in hand with hatred and bigotry. The history books in the rest of the world aren't so easy on us when it comes to the native Americans, the cowboys and the indians.
Good thing we get a chapter crediting us with the birth of jazz and the beginning of rock'n'roll because we show up as the last civilized country to abolish slavery. Oh yeah, there's that atomic bomb thing, too.
Shouldn't we figure out a way to abolish war? It's not enough to argue over what constitutes torture. Most soldiers who give their precious lives on a battlefield never voted on any rules for combat. We think the bad guys cheat because they strap bombs to their backs. Funny, they think we're the bad guys and that we cheat because we send drones with bombs to incinerate their families. Can they really brainwash so many of us into actually believing that we have God on our side and that we play by some divine rules that insulate us from the evil of killing?
Hey- peace ain't rocket science. You can quote me. Study love.
Monday, December 15, 2014
As much as I wring my hands like any thoughtful person does over the tragedy of lives being lost to harmful drugs, I have to say that Harvey Fuqua and Etta James were certainly the poster children for smack in 1960.
Genius is genius. Ray Charles showed us that. There's nothing that junk is gonna do for the everyday artist. On the other hand, pumped into the bloodstream of these two, it showed its stuff.
Oh, yeah, I'm glad that they both straightened up. I'm really happy that we have this as a soul souvenir, too.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
You may very well run out of money before it's all over. You might lose some of your hair. The memories, though, just keep piling up.
I owe so much to so many. It's easy to be overwhelmed with the debt. I don't seem to love very well but I do love hard. My advice to you: get really good at it and love hard. Write it all down and take lots of pictures.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Yeah, I suppose I've been accused of wanting people to like me. I may defend myself but never by denying the charge. Don't we all want to be loved? Doesn't everyone need to be needed?
It's Saturday and here we are, me and the dog and the cat, my wine and my regrets.
All the power's in the love, dear friends.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Well, I've told you all about being sent home from the playground with my little box of 45's. The other kids just never wanted to hear what I wanted to play. If the Beatles had never come along I would still be sitting alone in my room pouting and feeling sorry for myself. Hey, wait...
Never mind. That's a different chapter.
Today, from 2:00 'til 4:00 EST, you can catch me on WMNF, 88.5, Tampa. I'll be sitting in for my pal, Reverend Billy C. Wirtz. You can tune in from anywhere around the world on the internet. I'll be spinning most of those same 45's that got me sent home. You know, some Wynonie, a little James "Sugarboy" Crawford, maybe a Kitty Wells number. All stuff chosen to make the hair stand up on my arm. You're on your own.
Bull you way through with love.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Don't cavort with writers if you don't want to be written about. This sweet old world deserves a whole lot better than us, don't you think? Seems to me that all the other animals have figured most of it out.
Sometimes I have a hard time imagining the jump from Pythagoras to Beethoven to Chuck Berry.
You fall in love alone and the consequences are all yours.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
The songs are all out there in the ether. See 'em? I suppose that Oscar Wilde invented my job. You know, be the art. Of course not many since old Oscar have been anywhere nearly as good at it.
Some of my favorites have been Gorgeous George, Harry the Hipster, Annie Oakley, Muhammad Ali, Tiny Tim and Lord Buckley. It's a crowded field and there is absolutely no demand and no security. No gold watch, no big pension plan.
On the other hand, you never have to worry about a resume and you can't really oversleep.
Romance may, indeed, conquer desire but nothing beats love. Give it all you've got. Make sure that regrets don't dim your spirit.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Have I told you this? You hear all those stories from writers who claim to be mere conduits for the stories. I never believe them.
Several years ago I had decided to write a song about Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. I didn't know all that much about them. I had more or less missed the whole punk thing. I knew enough to know that it was a storybook romance with all the horrible trimmings.
In the car, on the way to Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa to play a show, this song started going through my head.
"Shine, shine, shine like a vein of gold for me. I'll open like a bag of jewels and I'll set you free."
It probably took me forty five minutes to get to Skipper's and I couldn't get the melody out of my head. I couldn't figure out what those words meant, either. I found a pen in my bag when I got there and scribbled it down. I didn't really need to. That refrain was completely stuck in my mind.
When I finally sat down to work on the song about Sid and Nancy a week or two later it occurred to me that it was the chorus to the song. There's not much more to it. The facts for the verses just happened to rhyme
Sunday, December 7, 2014
It's all about the passion, isn't it? The wrestler who's willing to slash his forehead for the real blood to flow; the young Brando channeling all the angst and pain of a generation leaving us with decades of amazement. It's Little Richard tearing the keys off the piano with sweat beading up on his forehead like raindrops on a new Buick. He's making plans in that great big head to tear off his coat and his shirt by the middle of this solo.
Skill? Talent? Gifts? Hey, I was in the wrong line and I know it. That's alright, that's alright. I mean it when I sing it. Make "love" your mantra. If they hear you babbling it in the line at Starbucks, it may catch on.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Nobody's ever accused me of being a salesman. Oh, I pedaled the regular magazine subscriptions in junior high school and I tried to sell some real estate to keep from starving when I couldn't find a real job. In general, though, I would rather just give stuff away.
Lately I've been thinking about stuffing all this sadness in a paper bag and leaving it prominently on the front seat of my unlocked car in the parking lot at the mall. I hate to put it off on anyone else, though. Any better ideas?
Friday, December 5, 2014
The sads keep getting sadder and the happy is off the scale. Big Joe Turner just thrills me to my soul when he sings out of my radio and he's been dead for a very long time.
You know, I've always loved those pants that painters wear and those splattered floors in an artist's studio. The bright, vivid, undiluted colors. Now I paint my house like that. I don't have anyone to please.
My songs don't go through any re-write routine. Of course they never did.
Holiday stories and Christmas songs? I tear up and memories take control.
Do I think about her? Not much. Just every waking hour, almost every dream. So what.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Of all people, you would think that I would have some kind of strong feelings about the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Nope. I wish they had spelled it right. That's about it.
Nobody worships the heroes more than I do. I doubt that many others have had as much of their life consumed by the beat.
There's just a certain irrelevance for me. It just happened, that's all. I'm not a nostalgia nut. For me, and probably for lots of others, nothing like that is ever likely to happen again. Not in my lifetime. I do thank my lucky stars that I lived through it.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
I suppose they're asking because I've moved for the first time in twenty years and yes, I suppose it is. I finally know enough to know that I'm not in charge. Oh, I'll make decisions. I can't very well leave it up to that dog and that cat. Why, they would trade the family fortune for treats and catnip every time.
Whatever's to become of me, though, is decided by powers beyond my vision and my intellect. Don't worry, I'm not about to preach here. It may be divine or it may be random. It's not so much that I'm not a believer, it's really more that I believe it all. The stories are all the same to me. Be nice. Love. Yeah, I guess I can do that. I try.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Somehow the collapse of the music industry fails to break my heart. Of course I never raked in any big dough when times were good. Seems to me that there's wonderful stuff happening musically every place I go. What if Elvis had never played outside of Memphis? What if the Beatles had never left Great Britain? What if Tiny Tim never got beyond New York?
Magic is magic. I don't have much interest in the tales of Leonard Chess or Ahmet Ertegun. I don't think buying a second hand echo system made Sam Phillips a genius. Yeah, Phil Spector made fine records but his real genius was in the field of self-promotion.
My love is for the music. I never cared much for the business and it never seemed to care too much for me.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Yeah, that combover doesn't fool a soul. That bald spot shines under the fluorescent glare. She chews with her mouth open and she laughs too loud. They're beautiful. They're in love.
Most of my social life is spent by myself at the diner down the street. To say that people watching is my hobby is to understate the obvious. It's my life. Nothing makes me happier than being around the lovers. Is it some vicarious, weird thing to fill some void in my soul? How would I know? Who cares?
All I know is that the glow of romance makes them all beautiful in some unique, radiant fashion. I don't have to worry about making the love stay or the little spats. It's none of my business how they raise their kids or when the in laws are going back up north.
Here's to love. Here's to romance.