Sunday, November 29, 2015

What's It Worth To Ya?


There are periods where music means everything to the masses. Especially the kids. I'm lucky. I've lived through several of them. The music has shaped my life. Patched many a broken heart. Kept me from feeling alone when I was alone.

We're not currently in one of those periods. Greed finished off the last several. Oh, I could rattle off names but you already know the ones that I blame.

The good news for those of us who hang onto dreams and obsessions is that the music never goes away. There will surely be another golden age. I hope you live to enjoy it.



Saturday, November 28, 2015

"Do You Live Anywhere?"


Of all the social maladies I guess loneliness must be about the worst, huh? Who was it who said, "I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of dying alone"?


Don't Forget Your Change


There's nothing that I wouldn't do for her. Nothing.

What do you mean?

You know. I would climb all those mountains, swim all those seas. I would change everything about me.

Then you would be someone else.

Yeah!

She already has someone else.




Friday, November 27, 2015

Feel Too Much


My memories of the term "anarchist" go back to the seventh grade. They scared us with the idea that there were evil folks on the planet who didn't believe in the concept of law and order. According to my civics teacher, any one of these nuts might assassinate the president or some other world leader at any minute, throwing us into world war. Matching this horrific description with the image of tall, husky men with long, dark beards from old Three Stooges shorts, I had a new obsession. I could add this fear to mad dogs, commies, atheists and child abductors. Of course the atomic bomb still ruled all fear. That and the devil, himself.

Well, I have to admit, I'm no anarchist. I want to be. I've noticed, though, the speed that folks travel on back roads when there are no cops around. Security cameras roll everywhere because that same kid who took your wallet while you were dressed out at P.E. will now snatch a little old lady's purse at the mall.

For the most part, people are wonderful. For the most part.

Naiveté is still my strong point but I have figured out that the bad guys run governments. Record labels, too. Banks, the petroleum industry, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, churches, the NFL.

Wait, what? Churches?

Yeah, present an opportunity for power and money and the greedy will want in.

Happy holidays. Love hard.



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Arrogant Geographer


If I had a nickel for every time... wait! I do have a crystal ball. It's around here somewhere.

Maybe it's time to readjust everything around here. My role seems to have been adjusted to fit too many other folks' rules. Why on earth do I pay a bit of attention to any Pythagorean scale? He's not the boss of me.

You may be wondering what I'm doing up at 3:00 am worrying about such matters. The cat. Yeah, Angel wanted up at 3:00. At sixteen she's in charge around here.

Oh, the love of a good cat and a good dog.




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ain't No Haint


Thanksgiving. My life is good. My heart breaks a little every time I turn on the news, though. Maybe if we all just loved a little more, a little harder it would take up some of the slack. Remember all those pictures of kids putting flowers into the barrels of soldiers' rifles?

Yeah, I'm afraid there may be too many ants in the colony. Make love your mantra and hang on.



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's He Preach


It's easy for me to teach folks who don't think they can play an instrument to tear up the keyboard. I sit them down on the bench, get the band to wail in the key of C and instruct the nervous student to hit any of the white keys any time they feel the urge. Pretty soon the new guy's wailing- dying to quit his job and hit the road, touring.

What can I say? I'm a born teacher. 

My secret? There aren't any secrets. People make too much of everything. Hey, it ain't brain surgery, Ben.

My preaching runs the same course. Anything that I missed in Sunday school I can learn from bumper stickers and t-shirts.

"Jesus wasn't a Christian. Buddha wasn't a Buddhist. Mohammed wasn't a Muslim. They just taught love."

"Just be nice."

"Practice random acts of kindness."

Well, it turns out that I don't much believe in black and white. Kids don't either. Neither do blind people. Yeah, I'm glad that we finally got a good pope. Honestly, though, it's just a really sweet guy who got the good hat and the good job. He would have been a fine presbyterian or Hindu.

I do believe in good and bad. You get to choose. It's all about the love. Just hit the white ones. Keys, that is. Just hit the white keys.







Sunday, November 22, 2015

When All The Cowboys Were Indians



Why aren't there love terrorists? Why aren't we out on the streets recruiting for love, for kindness? Is anybody really attracted to evil? Shouldn't it be easy to make peace and love fashionable?



Measure Of Success


That smell of alcohol and nitromethane mixed with burning rubber and a metallic odor of brake dust- that's the stock car races from Phillips Field when I was twelve years old. Oh yeah, cigar smoke and roasted peanuts.

Joy? It may be easy to call it up but keeping it handy can be tricky.

Last night I sat through three sets of perfectly crafted versions of music from the sixties played with all the skill and all the soul and all the mastery of my pals in Coo Coo Ca Choo. It doesn't hurt that they're some of the finest people on the planet. Plus I was with my Kentucky friends who have brought me all the joy I can handle for the last several years.

Yeah, so the music and the joy; that's the secret. For me. I suppose I've known that since I was about twelve.

Grow up. That's what's expected of you. Tie a ribbon 'round your neck and wipe that smile off your face. Unless you need it to close the deal. Move up. Get your share. Take some more. You'll feel better about yourself. Choose a side.

Well, sir, I just want to play rock'n'roll. That's where the joy is, remember?

Well, then, get famous. Get rich. That's the ticket. That's where the real joy is.

Oh, you mean like Elvis. Like John Lennon?

Well, I've tried. Off and on. Half heartedly. You have no idea how many wonderful friends have stepped in to "manage" me only to pronounce me "unmanageable" after a short stint. Every one of them has had great ideas and good intentions. None of them ever wanted to be a manager.

Here's to the ones who can't be managed. Here's to the ones who found their joy.

I played a show in Hull, in the north of England, ten or twelve years ago. My opening act was a local guy by the name of Mike Greaves. All of the folks in the venue clucked their tongues and shrugged and spoke in sad tones of his lack of success. His near misses. I wasn't fit to carry his guitar case. I doubt he was much worried about failure or success that night. We hit it off and we shared some songs and some joy. 

I had to make up this little video because you can't really find much Mike Greaves stuff out there. I play him on the radio every chance I get.

Here's to the fifteen year old writer. Here's to Mike Greaves. Here's to the joy and the love.



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Strings To Break And Friends I Haven't Used Yet


My ticker just won't stay on the leash. There are other things that I should probably share before they are wiped from the lobes. For example, life is too short for brown guitars. Fashion doesn't excuse excess. Remember when young African Americans first began sporting "naturals," "afros?"

No, of course you don't! That was a very long time ago. I do, though, and it was a positive trend. For awhile. There was a certain pride factor built in and society agreed that it was all good. Of course they expanded in size until thin young men everywhere looked like great big tootsie roll pops from a distance. Naturally, pardon the pun, the fashion quickly spread to young caucasians and they all looked ridiculous from the get go.

That usually happens when white culture attempts to appropriate black culture. Everything hep around here began with darker folks. You had the majesty of Little Richard with "Tutti Frutti" blasting out of the little Japanese transistors. Then you had Pat Boone's flaccid version, suitable for Sunday school picnics.

That example serves so well that I really don't have to go on, ranting about Vanilla Ice, crooked caps, pants d
      o
    w
n

t
h
e
r
e.

If it were up to me, and yes I know very well that it's not, white people wouldn't dance in public at all. Well, I suppose that I would make exceptions for Donald O'Connor, Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire.

Let me get down from my racist soapbox where one side has Duke Ellington and the other sports Eminem, and get right to my sexist views. I believe that I've written here before that women are superior to men. That is undeniable and I will stand on Hugh Hefner's coffee table in my boxers and beatle boots and tell the world.

My side has Dick Cheney, Adolph Hitler, that guy who raised the medicine prices.

The other team, the good one, has Brigitte Bardot, Joan of Arc, Aunt Jo and all of the ones that I have attempted to mail ears to. They smell good. Of course they have Ann Coulter. The usual unkind attack is that she's really a man. As a man, I resent that. It's probably true.

So I remain lonely over here in my own prejudiced domain, right as rain but terribly out of fashion. The emperor has no clothes. Remember who told you.

Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war. Grandma taught me to end my prayers with that thought. She was one quarter Creek. Don't get me started.







Thursday, November 19, 2015

Spinach In My Pipe


If the world is perfect, and who am I to suggest otherwise, why is there suffering? I look around and see enough food to feed the planet and yet I see children starving. It's obvious to folks like me that there is medicine to ease pain and cure disease that is withheld from sick people due to greed. 

There are foreclosed properties in all our major cities, empty houses. Those same cities teem with homeless men, women and children. Mentally ill men, women and children are among them. 

We destroy dogs and cats by the thousands every day while we sell puppies and kittens with papers at pet stores in malls. 

We interfere with governments around the world if we perceive that our economy is compromised. In the meantime we arm both sides in skirmishes all around the globe.

In our rush to dominate nature we push the planet beyond precedent. Before I'm gone we're likely to have seen our last polar bear, wild elephant, tiger, panther, white rhino. At the same time we destroy our atmosphere with methane from cow flatulence on inhumane farms. We degrade our water quality with runoff from nightmarish pig farms.

Our culture puts enough food in dumpsters every single day to feed everybody who needs something to eat.

Now you try to tell me that all this and all the rest can't be fixed with love.

,

Things I Know To Be True


Now, I'll admit that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens never called me for a drink. I'm more the type who tends to believe everything. We would have fought. At least Hitchens and I would. Richard seems like a very sweet guy.

It does seem odd to me that strawberries have "whiskers." Shouldn't that have been caught in the design process?

We have an entire festival coming up in Plant City when the season for picking the things rolls around in February. Most of the undocumented laborers who take care of the harvest will be priced out of the carnival. The governor will be on hand, of course. He's one of us! Well, to be honest, if you're rich, unscrupulous, ugly, mean and crazy, he's one of you. Whatever I am, I'm not one of those.

You've probably been wondering here lately, "What's become of Ray Stevens?" I know I have. Well, here ya go- he'll be headlining the Strawberry Festival in Plant City this year. I wish I had the imagination to make stuff like this up. Can you imagine the grandstands swaying with the wave of inter-married hillbillies singing along with Ray at the top of their voices, " Let me tell ya 'bout Ahab the Arab..."?

The arena will empty out to make way for the tractor pulls and pig races before the stage crew sets up for the evening show.

I'll be at the hoochie coochie show and the monkey races waiting for the legal excuse to take off all my clothes and run up and down the bleachers singing along with "The Streak."

Is this a great country or what?!








Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jump Down, Turn Around


Maybe playing the music that I love for folks that I can't see is what I've always needed. Oh, I've always been drawn to the radio. Seems odd to me that I get to go on the air now and play stuff that couldn't get played when it was new fifty, sixty, seventy years ago. I play hits, too. Contrary to what you've heard, I'm not obstinate. I'm just a man of taste. Not good taste, not bad taste. Strong taste.

I get to tell strangers that I love them, too. If I go up to folks in Krispy Kreme and try that I'll get locked up.

New songs are beginning to stack up around here. It's time to make a record but I can always find an excuse to put it off.



Terrorists Win!


As a culture, as a people, we're scared. We're divided. The left hates the right, the right hates the left. Our economy has fizzled. Except for the ruling class, that is, and the rest of the population now plots to storm their gated communities and burn their Lexuses at midnight.

We have a comb-over, jack-booted, billionaire bully spewing hate and bigotry and misogyny on television and tens of thousands flock to see him in person, drooling, "He's one of us!"

We're armed to the teeth. Some pitiful, deranged whacko walks the aisles of a classroom every other week or so, shooting our kids.

In school as a kid, I frequently heard the question, "How did Germany ever fall for Hitler?" With the din of, "U.S.A., U.S.A." ringing in my ears I fret that I now understand, at least a little.

Since when did love and compassion become shameful? If we've decided to give up science and kindness, our team, my team, has lost.

Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.





Sunday, November 15, 2015

Geography Book


All my life I've fretted about the movie ending, the company leaving, going home from the fair. Yeah. How do you make the love stay?

Anxiety will give depression a run for its money any day. Don't those wise ones say something about anxiety being about living in the future and depression being about living in the past. Some of us spend too much time with the covers pulled over our heads, avoiding the future, trying to forget about the past.

Here's to now. Right now. Oh, and love. I guess love connects the past with the present. I just need to remind myself that it passes right through now.



When They're Gone


And now, "we'll always have Paris." As we all grieve innocence lost once again, we come together in loss as we splinter in fear and prejudice. Sing about peace and love and they will call you naive. Preach about ending war and they might give you a prize but they're gonna laugh behind your back.

We've had several "princes of peace" throughout history. We've killed most of them.

Don't let them dim your light. That's terrorism. Don't study war. Love. Just love.



Friday, November 13, 2015

To The Lonely Ones

Without love there is no hope. That is the foundation of terrorism. We tend to fight hate with hate. Terrorism wins.

Don't preach about love. Love. Don't write about love. Love. Don't sing about love. Love.

We're all lonely when the lights go out and we're all scared when we're lonely. Oh, we can save the world but we're gonna have to do it one person at a time.

Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.



Thursday, November 12, 2015

Purple Paint, Blue Dreams



You can learn facts from the grownups but you might want to get your wisdom from the kids.  Greed and sarcasm take time. Learn all you can but never let go of your innocence. It's all about the love.



Unnatural Blondes and Tall Dwarves


The heart opens slowly. Sometimes I ponder my impatience with the ones that I consider maybe a touch less virtuous than I am. Shouldn't I be worrying about what the good ones think of me? Hey- what are they doing judging to begin with? Oh, yeah. Caught again.

It's hard to be good. It's hard to keep my pants on. I'm a work in progress and I know it. I've got new songs for anybody who wants to hear them. Love everybody you come across and tell them about it.




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Demolition Derby And Unicorns


Nothing is worth much if you can't share it, right? So why are we jealous, selfish? Once I took a class called "Idea Of Utopia." The University of South Florida actually had an idea department. Ah, the good old days.

I don't know much and the little that I do know, I should probably keep to myself. Yeah, I can still rattle off Elvis' army serial number. I would be willing to bet that Elvis didn't remember it by 1960. REdwood 73314. That was my cousin, George's telephone number when he was eleven years old.

Bar bets! That should be my calling. It's not brain surgery but at least I don't claim to have taken a hammer to my mother. I certainly was not offered any scholarship to West Point.

I've scooped mud from the hulls of barges, picked watermelons, swept floors, written an automotive column and worked for the government. Oh, and I've played rock'n'roll.

My whole life has been one long episode of Bad Lip Reading. Really long. 




Monday, November 9, 2015

Silver Spoons And Golden Beetles


The best art is without pretension. Picasso just painted and sculpted stuff. George C. Scott just became. He didn't put much stock in acting. He was pretty sure that anybody could do it. Marlon Brando agreed. Bo Diddley just was. 

That connection to the heart, to the joy, to the dark part, to the god- that's art.



How Do It Know?


Let's just agree to not speak of folks in negative terms. Well, except Dick Cheney. Maybe old whatsername, too. 

Kindness will always take the day. These days of politics in the U.S. make it hard to keep the spirit up. Oh, it will be over but no time soon. Then it will start over. Bad guys will take the game. Every time.

Keep finding new games. They can't take love. Oh, sure, Hallmark can print all the valentine cards they want but they can't sell them in July.

That was once the promise of rock'n'roll. All art, for that matter. They can market Taylor Swift and they can promote The Voice but they can't copyright the joy of a wop bop a loo bop. 

You know what they do best? War. That's their most lucrative endeavor. Ike warned us. They're not the boss of us.



Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Peaches, My Tree


Pretend not to care. Don't give her the satisfaction. Go on with your life. It wouldn't have worked out, anyway. You can do better. You're better off. Couldn't you tell? You can't miss something that you never had.
  


                                          


Keep loving, that's all.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Art, I Suppose

Sir, these people don't know you. Me and Popeye, we are what we are. Bama lama bama loo. I can no longer be bothered with pleasing anyone. This is the best that I can do. I'll put my hand on the burner for your entertainment but I won't sing in b flat. My favorite color is whatever I say it is and my heart is guarded and under video surveillance. Thanks for your interest.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Wear Me Tonight


If I had known then what I know now...

They spoiled me with love and they spoiled me with rock'n'roll. A fellow can never get too much of either one.

Sometimes I wish I played in a big rhythm and blues band, five hours a night, seven days a week. Then I think about leaving my dog and cat home and I recognize that "grass is greener" thing.

There aren't any secrets in the universe, there are those of us too blind to see. I'm trying my best to be still so that the messages get to me. Maybe if I wore a watch on my wrist more often, I could keep my heart in my pocket. On a chain.






Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Free For All, Free Us All


Biology + physics = love.

That's all there is. We're nothing but vessels for the genes. Well, I shouldn't say nothing but. It's a pretty heady vehicle. I'm not aggressive. These genes end with me. 

Let's make magic. There are colors that we haven't seen and sounds that haven't been within our range of hearing. Jamaica hears them. There is beauty everywhere and joy is right in front of you.

If there is a design here, explain heartache and suffering to me. Please. I surely wish I believed in heaven but I sure am glad I don't believe in hell.

Looks like they've all got something to sell and I'll buy anything. Here- scooch up to me.
  



What Lottie Said

Oh, I've had a few bad teachers I suppose. For the most part, though, I've been blessed with the most wonderful, kind and wise folks in the world who have been patient enough to help me in my bumbling journey through life.

Nobody has had the impact and the influence on me that my grandmother, Lottie Louise Sawyer Adams, has. I'm not a superstitious man, not unless it came from Grandma. Then- no exceptions. I still have to put my right shoe on first. It's bad luck to put the left one on first. I have to bite my tongue in the locker room at the Y two or three times a week. I hate to see anybody tempt fate but I don't want to be locked up or thrown out of the Y, either.

Her teachings run the gamut from the spiritual and sublime to the bawdy and ridiculous, usually combining all those elements. Most of these things that come to mind fall under the "old wives' tales" category. We've all heard them for most of our lives. Some are regional and of her time. She was born in Warrior, Alabama in 1889. My favorites came from her, from the heart. Here are a few of her sayings and a sample of her wisdom.


     _ "Don't handle a frog. If he pees on you you'll get warts."

     _"He's gone to see a man about buying a horse."

     _"Yes, and if a bullfrog had wings he wouldn't bump his butt so much."

     _"Get out from here now, Sir!"

     _"It's raining and the sun's shining. The devil's whippin' his wife."

     _"Here, scooch up to me."

     _"Don't make me cut a hickory!"

     _"Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war."




There are more, of course. Lots more. Itchy palms, broken mirrors, walking under ladders, black-eyed peas on New Year's and sneezing. Mostly, she taught me about love. She was love. She is love.



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I'll Get Your Ding Dong

98.6, huh? How do it know? So what banged? I mean what was around to blow up to make this explosion? Around where? Is there just one blue dot? 


This stardust stuff, man!

The wisest folks I know don't know much. They know they don't know much. That separates them from lots of presidential candidates and newscasters.

War never settled anything. Not for long. Look at the history of hate and intolerance.

Maybe you don't agree with me that love can fix anything. You have to admit- it can't hurt. It sure does make a lot of things a lot better. A whole lot better.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Changed My Mind

There is no drama  in my life. None. This is such an alien situation for me that I find myself feeling guilty about feeling good. Oh, I look for it. Seems that I've always had a knack for creating soap opera circumstances from scratch.

I've looked heartache in the face and it laughed at me.

Why, oh why does everything good happen to me?

Study love- that's my advice to you. Do it all for the joy, yours and everybody else's. Don't let any of them trick you with money and power and position. When they look you in the eye as they squeeze your hand and ask, "What do you do?" you tell them, "I study love."



Teach Me Tonight

So, did I ever tell you about the time that my pal, Sam Baker, and I did a songwriting workshop? It was in Okemah, Oklahoma for the Woody Guthrie Festival. They charged good money for this thing! Luckily, the dough, as I recall, was going to the Huntington's Disease Foundation and that probably prevented a couple dozen curious dupes from rioting, demanding refunds and hurting me and my buddy.

I seem to remember something about Sam watching old movies on TV and then dreaming lyrics from them. Well, I just thought that was nuts and, of course, it was. Meanwhile I was babbling something about LSD and mail-order catalogs, pretty sure that I was making enough sense for the two of us.

Why on earth didn't they round up a couple of presentable characters who actually sell some songs. Don't get me wrong; Sam Baker is one of the finest songwriters that I know of and one of my favorite human beings. He doesn't forget to tell you that he loves you. I'm always proud to be associated with the likes of Sam.

Truth be told, I don't think you can tell anybody how to write a song. You just write.

That's my free advice for today. I love you and I'm pretty sure that Sam loves you, too.