Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Last Days Of Tampa Red

Once I used my x-ray vision to look through clothing. Nowadays I focus on the galaxies and I burn holes through the stars to make them lighter and quicker. I'd carry moonbeams home in a jar if I had one.

Tampa Red wasn't actually from Tampa. It's a fine name, though, and he surely had a lot of class. I wish I had known him. Seems he never got over losing Frances. Funny how the heart takes charge.

This is a song that I wrote, back and forth via e-mail, with my pal, Terry Clarke. The show was with Til Willis at the Sherbino Theatre in Ridgway, Colorado. There's a very drunk heckler making himself heard in the audience. I don't really mind hecklers. Beats being ignored.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's In The Ether

If we're all concocted of the dust from stars how can we possibly be anything less than grand. I grew up poor and never had the good sense to recognize that I was different from my friends. Most of them were from prominent families and lots of money. Some of those folks are still my friends. Oh, we had plenty of other kids from homes that scraped by, but for the most part my contemporaries were being raised to be the pillars of our community.

I always loved the girls. Still do. I was raised by a single mother who spoiled me with anything that I asked for and a grandmother who showered me with the most unconditional love that you can imagine. A therapist once explained to me that women are attracted to men who are raised by women. They don't generally display the same swagger, I suppose. I don't hike my leg to see how high up on the tree that I can pee. I guess I began falling in love with little Alison Lewis in the third grade. She wouldn't mind me mentioning her by name. She's my pal and she has had to put up with it for a very long time.

Then by junior high school while most of my pals were lined up to get into the monkey races at the Florida State Fair, I was dragging my little cousin, George, over to gawk at the lovely dancers lined up on the runway while the barker suggested that there would be displays of femininity bordering on the illegal inside the tent once the show started. Ah, Club Lido. Closest I ever came to sex education. There was a young platinum blonde who seemed to be there every year. I'm still not over her. Probably wasn't even the same young lady.

By the time I began to actually date it was fairly obvious, to me and to them, that I was never likely to develop any of the skills required to do this successfully. My friend, Harry, describes it, "You fall fast and you fall hard." I guess that's about right on the money.

My failure at romance has become legendary in my own mind. I try. God, I try. I don't really have any regrets other than inconveniencing people that I care about. I didn't say hurt because I seem to be the one who ends up hurt. None of us like it.

I asked a woman to dinner this past Saturday. We had a fine meal and, I thought, a fine time. When I got her back to the place where she was staying, she went inside and I didn't see her again. Oh well. At least we're not married.

Every one of us is special. Truly special. I wrote a line once, "I'll make this toast to motherhood and the women that I have known." I find that I tear up and can barely get that line out onstage now. I do thank the women who have shared their lives with me and put up with me for whatever amount of time that they could spare.

My favorite male friends are the ones who seem to share my reverence for women. I truly believe that the only hope that we have to move our society and culture ahead is through women taking the reins. It was my grandmother, Lottie, who taught me to pray, "Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war." I wish someone had taught little Barry Obama that prayer.

Meantime, if I ask you out to dinner, be kind to me. Don't marry me but be nice about it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

South By So What

I first worked with Doug Sahm at the Clearwater Auditorium for a Star Spectacular in 1966. I don't really remember much about the show but I always loved the Sir Douglas Quintet. I saw him again onstage at the fairgrounds with the Texas Tornados in the early '90's.

At an Americana Music Association gathering a few years later my pal Walt and I were delighted to discover that Doug was our roommate. Of course we hid when he came looking for us so that"us groovers" could go into town that first night where, he explained, the casinos and clubs never closed.

He burned, though. Lit up the room. We had plenty to talk about. Amos'n'Andy, Hank Penny, and, of course, Huey Meaux. He shared his coffee that he made from his special stash that he took in a little kit with him wherever he traveled.

I saw Doug one more time, at South By Southwest where they were presenting him some kind of lifetime achievement award at the Broken Spoke. "Hey, I know you! The Florida boys," he yelled when we walked up.

That had been my first trip to SXSW and my first visit to Austin. I had a fine time. I was a little put off by some of the posturing and some of the posing but I thought that it was a fine little party. I didn't make up the term, South By So What. I took it right out of the newspaper.

I finished up the song when I got home and finished up the record. We decided that it should be the radio single. I thought of the line,"Somebody tell Sir Doug I said hello," as a joke, a throwaway line. We released the record to radio and Doug died the next day. Turned out to be the saddest line I had ever come up with.

Robbie Fulks told me later that the line,"Those jerks from No Depression are an arrogant bunch," was the most singularly suicidal line that he had ever heard. Said that he laughed until iced tea came out his nose when he heard it. I thought that it was just a friendly little poke, too.

My "career" is fueled on indiscretion. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where Am I?

Seems like I just got moved up from the kids' table and here I am, an old man. A very close friend from junior high recently pointed out that I'll tell anything. She's absolutely right. I can keep a secret, alright, but you had better tell me that it's a secret. I'm a therapist's dream. I have no secrets of my own. I seem to be missing some important parts; filters, shields and that kind of thing.

Sometimes I worry that I lack some necessary defense mechanisms, too. On the other hand, I don't get taken advantage of very often. People have always been kind to me. Too kind maybe. I know that I was spoiled as a kid. I think that what saved me is the fact that I was spoiled with love, too. I wish that for everyone. Everybody deserves it.

I want to play outside without my clothes on and I want to eat ice cream. I want to take a nap with friends that I love and I want to listen to pretty music and look at pretty pictures.

It would surely be nice to add just a little something to the world, to make just a person or two feel loved, understood and appreciated.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


My favorite acts are always the ones who become the act. I never cared about any professional wrestler who could just go home, put on a suit and take the family to Red Lobster. Give me Haystack Calhoun. I always loved the Graham Brothers because they always insisted on using the razor blade on the forehead trick so that real blood flowed through those platinum locks. That's color. Of course Gorgeous George started all of that. We never would have gotten Muhammad Ali from that shy, skinny Cassius Clay if not for George's mighty influence. Don't forget Bobby Zimmerman.

When that scrawny little fellow rolled into New York from Minnesota he was just one more folk singer. He knew he was never gonna be Little Richard. He probably had a better chance at becoming Woody Guthrie. Of course most of the world didn't really know or care about Woody at that point.

Mix in the Gorgeous George mojo and you've got an act. I'm pretty sure that the man is the act now. After decades of teasing us with Jesus and motorcycle wrecks, the Band and double talk, eye makeup and Mavis,  Traveling Wilburys and China and Victoria's Secret, we seem to have a real character. A larger and weirder than life legend. An icon.

I was never one of the true Bob Dylan fans. I'm fascinated with the current model. Seems real to me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Cousin, George, and The Future of Sport

I'm working on a new business venture and the experience has caused me to look back at some of my previous ideas. One of my favorites was Figure 8 Bicycle Racing. Never got around to doing anything but dreaming about it. I don't remember when I first thought about it but I know that I had in mind inviting Princess Grace of Monaco to cut the ribbon to open the first race so it's been awhile.

When you think that soccer is the world's sport, except for the USA where we tend to prefer monstrous robots who don't much resemble anything human when suited up, it's easy to realize that most folks want to identify with their sports stars. They want to see the faces, the sweat, the grimaces.

Now, let's move on to NAASCAR where the U.S. does bring something to the table. Let's face it, we all want to see flesh and metal mixing. Dale's biggest career move was that one right turn. Audiences can't wait for mayhem.

I figured we would mix the snob appeal of polo with the real excitement and drama of professional wrestling. Banked indoor track made of hand polished beech. Champagne iceys, the only refreshment available.

The best part- the racing. If you have ever attended a figure 8 stock car race you know that it is not for the faint hearted. If you're approaching an intersection at the same time as someone crossing from the other side you really have but one option: SPEED UP!

In his prime my cousin, George, would have been the sport's biggest star. He was fearless. He seemed to have lacked the fear that most of us come with. I picture his bike as plain, frail, no brakes. Green, of course. It would have to have been green.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fool #1

Did I ever tell you about my romance with Brenda Lee? I always had a huge crush on her. I guess that it was around 1959. My mom had dropped me off at the armory to see a big rock'n'roll show featuring Brenda Lee, Ray Peterson, Johnny Preston and Benny Joy. I was minding my own business standing in line at the box office when Little Miss Dynamite strolled right up next to me and asked, "What time is it?" I think that I managed to mumble something clever, along the lines of, "I don't know."

"Do they dance in there?" she asked.

Always the ladies' man, I managed, "I don't know."

She stood there for a few seconds which seemed like an eternity to me and sauntered off. We never saw much of each other after that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Diamond Dust & Broken Bottles

It's past time for a new record and I know it. Over time you stack up some tears and fears and heartache. I've made that record, though. Several times. My pal, Walt, tells me that I should be writing happy songs, love songs. He's right. I look around at all of the wonderful folks who come through my life and I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. I have known love and kindness and passion. I surely regret any sorrow or hurt that I may have caused in this world and I know that working for peace and truth and love is the best that I can ever do to make up for any of it. I don't want to break any hearts with music. I want to pump 'em full of joy and hope and wonder. The Beatles did. Little Richard did. Let's celebrate life and love. We've got that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How Are You Gonna Break Their Heart If Your Heart Ain't Broken?

I never claimed to be that much a writer. I'm more "moon, June and croon," than Bob Dylan or George Gershwin. I always set my sights on happiness, too. I have to say that I hurt a woman once. No excuses. Karma has been reminding me of that for decades now.

Never much of what anyone would call a singer, either, I would like to be able to stir something in the folks that I play for. If they don't trample your heart every now and then, where are you ever going to find that well of sadness, that reservoir of heartache. I'm pretty sure that there are easier ways to get this work done. I believe that a brighter man would have come up with a shortcut by now, a way around having your heart torn out and trampled. Oh well.

This is my song about Sid and Nancy. Seems like one of the great love stories of our time to me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ain't no haint gonna run me off!

Ghosts share my house. Some of them are real. Mr. Hill, who had the home designed and built for his family in 1938 still wanders around. He seems friendly enough but, I have to say, I've never really spent any time around many spooks. Not that I've known about.

Then there are the memories. Those are just getting harder to shake. I'm needing a fresh supply of happy ones.

It's been about eighteen years now. I've never lived in one place for so long. Oh yeah, it's home in that I can walk around in the dark and not stumble over furniture. I've got a dog here, though, needing a fresh load of joy and fun. I've got a cat who wants everything happy again. Remember that? Jamaica and Angel deserve all the fun and all the love and all the peace in the world. That's my job.

I'm thinking about selling the house and making us a real home again. This one can be a wonderful place for another bunch. There's a loving spirit here and I think maybe he's ready for the fun and the joy again, too.