Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Burn, Burn, Burn

It took years to really sink in. Everybody's special, Lord Buckley said that. There are some, though, who burn for truth, burn for justice and burn for everybody who needs somebody. I thought Kerouac was talking about running hard and running fast. Maybe he was. I hope to burn for a long time and I hope to be around the other ones who do, too. Pray for peace. Search for truth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Wait 'Til You Meet Tim"

It was winter in 1967 and we were playing in New York for the first time. Ever. Any of us. "We" were Noah's Ark, an aspiring psychedelic rock'n'roll band from Tampa, Florida. I suppose that we had been pretty cocky up until that time. Big fish, you know.

We were in Manhattan to record a new single for Decca Records and our pal, Rodney Justo, invited us to play at set at the Scene, in midtown at 301 West 46th Street. His band at that time, the Candy Men, were the darlings of the hipster crowd in the Big Apple.

Van Morrison had "Brown Eyed Girl" on the radio at the time and he was sharing the bill. We had the same publicist at the time, Morty Wax, and Van had him approach us about becoming his band. I don't remember all of the members of his outfit at the time, only that Danny Armstrong was his bassist and that they were amazing. Van got fired that night but that's a different story and a different blog.

Blood, Sweat & Tears were on the bill, too. They were an instrumental quartet at the time, mostly featuring Al Kooper's electric piano. Great stuff. Even the audience was intimidating. We were certain that we would be found out as hicks and hacks. Rick Derringer was there. He was still Rick Zehringer from the McCoys, then. We had heard that Jimi often dropped in. He was playing in the Village that week. He didn't show but Jim Morrison did.

In the early afternoon when we arrived for a sound check of sorts, the young stage manager introduced himself and showed us around. More than once he grinned and said, "Wait 'til you meet Tim."

All he ever answered when we would ask who Tim was would be, "You'll see."

When the crowd showed us attention and affection we quickly realized that nobody in New York City knew anything more than anyone in Tampa and we had a swell time. We weren't hip but they couldn't tell.

Suddenly there was a murmur that grew to something of roar and in the middle of this adoring hipster crowd a pudgy, pale vision of beauty in a madras coat, carrying a paper shopping bag with the neck of a ukulele protruding, made his way from table to table. Rodney took me over and introduced me to Tiny Tim. I had never seen anything remotely similar. I still haven't. He was so kind and so personable and so sincere that I was totally mesmerized. I remember that he asked about my mother and that's about as much as I can recall about that first brief exchange.

When he took the stage I was overwhelmed. He belted out "Hound Dog" with every bit as much fire as Elvis or Big Mama ever created. When the crowd called out for "Hey Paul, Hey Paula," he brought the house down switching from one personae to the other. I had never heard "Tiptoe Through The Tulips," until that night. He would tell little stories about the songs and the artists who had done them.

In fear that I would never be able to describe what I had seen and heard I approached him and asked if he had a picture that I might have as a souvenir.

"I'll bring you one tomorrow night," he responded. "Will you be here?"

I promised him that I would try to be there but we were not on the bill for the next night.

"I'll give it to Mr. Rodney if you're not here," he promised.

I assumed that I would get a glossy 8x10 with some agent's name printed across the bottom if I had any luck and Tim remembered.

Rodney, who remains one of my dearest friends today, brought me my picture two days later. I suppose that Tim stopped at the photo booth at his subway stop on his way in the next evening and had it taken for me. The ultimate prize in a fairly bizarre collection of rock'n'roll memorabilia.
Some time later when Tiny Tim strolled out onto the stage on an early episode of Laugh In I was delighted. I was pretty sure that this would be his only television appearance and that, at least, I could convince my friends that I had not made all of this up. A month or two later when I found his first LP, God Bless Tiny Tim, in the record store I was thrilled. Tim was gonna be famous.

Of course they made him a clown and treated him without dignity and without respect. Young girls married him to use him. Imagine that. 

I have my memories, though. The last thing that he said to me was that he would see me in heaven. God bless Tiny Tim, indeed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Walk To The End Of The World

Loco Siempre was a failed concept in comedy/hillbilly/soul/magic. I kinda' liked it, though. It was                  an uphill battle in lots of ways. Where, oh where did my downfall begin?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Don't Have A Dog

"Doc, the best way that I can describe it is I feel like my dog has died and I don't have a dog."

That's the way my pal, Ed Brown, described his feelings of despair to his physician. The good doctor made him promise to get his gun out of the house and sent him to a psychiatrist who could prescribe something for his depression.

The miracle drug was supposed to take a minimum of four to six weeks to take effect but Eddie was a different person in a day or two. Thank heavens. Ed was a curmudgeon of the first order on a good day but there had always been a twinkle if you knew to look for it. We never did figure out what pushed him off the high dive to begin with. He did tell me later that he had never gotten over his father's death and also that the loss of his only dog, Snake, had never been dealt with in any proper manner.

Ed died a couple of years ago and I can't completely come to grips with that. I lost another of my closest friends last Thanksgiving and I don't dare let those memories in at all. My losses have been big and profound and out of the clear blue for me in the last few years. Funny thing is they didn't surprise the people around me.

Now, as much as I hate to admit it, I feel like my dog has died. I do have a dog, of course. Jamaica is my everything. I have a gun in the house but it's the blank gun that I got in the Smokies as a souvenir when I was a kid. Unless I beat myself to death with it there's not much threat there.

I'm trying to write and I'm trying to record. I want to go out and be social but it was a struggle to stay up until 7:30 last night.

I don't need sympathy; there's nothing wrong. I do love my friends, however, and I am truly thankful for them. I love everyone else, too, because I know that we should be friends, as well. I will give thanks this year for all of the beautiful people who have taught me so many wonderful lessons. I miss my friends who have gone and I will always be grateful that they passed my way.

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Edison & Jumbo

Don't name any more high schools in the U.S. after Thomas Alva Edison. Let's have some Chuck Berry Junior Highs and maybe some Screamin' Jay Hawkins Elementary Schools. They were real heroes. They changed our culture for the better.

Edison, on the other hand, stole inventions; cheated business competitors; played dirty; had animals mutilated and murdered for publicity; and, worst of all, gave us the electric chair. It was all part of a gigantic campaign to scare the American public and drive them away from George Westinghouse's direct current version of household electrical power which was competing with Edison's alternating current plan.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

R.I.P. Rock'n'Roll

When was rock'n'roll born? Who knows? Who cares! At some point it's like holding mirrors in front of mirrors, isn't it? You think you've stumbled across an original, the Killer, for example. Then someone turns you on to Harry "The Hipster" Gibson. You argue with another drunk at the bar about Chuck Berry's invention of sacred rock'n'roll guitar introductions and he drags you out to the car to play you some Carl Hogan licks off of Louis Jordan's records. There may be a beginning back there somewhere but I can't find it.
I'm afraid that I have lived to see the end, however. It's not that sad, not for the kids. They will have something great and good to live for. Something that's theirs. I never was big on nostalgia. Of course the spirit of all of that godliness will be with us forever. I've lived a life for this stuff. As I came of age, I thought it would save the world and maybe it did. Hail, hail rock'n'roll, indeed!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Nationals

The Nationals are badasses, every one. We don't play much any more, not since we lost Jim. We did get together last week to celebrate the life and the genius of Harry Hayward. David Lane sat in with me and Natty and Steve and Walt. We were joined by our pal, Crash Mitchell, who helped shout it all out. This is Room 100, my ode to the great love story of Sid and Nancy. I love these folks and I love all of you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It Turned Over Once

"This is not my century, boys. Neither was the last." Seems pompous to quote myself. Can't get past the thought, though. "I've got a lot of miles on this old heart of mine already." Yeah, that's me again.

Remember when a hundred thousand miles meant the end of a car? Today more companies than just Volvo brag about their models going over a million miles and the proud owners pose for the ads that the manufacturers and agencies use for the magazines.

I've been accused of an unhealthy addiction to heartache and drama. Of course I jump to my feet to defend myself but the evidence is stacking up against me. I was told once by a promoter in Europe that folks over there worry about me.

"Why," I asked.

"They all think you have drug problems," he replied.

If anybody over here ever furrows a brow on my behalf it probably has more to do with alcohol. I don't really overdo the juice but it seems to show in a tacky, dramatic fashion onstage when there are too many refreshments available backstage.

These new charges scare me a lot more. What if there's something to them? In my mind and in my heart I have finished with romance. I should probably say that romance has finished with me. Believe me, it's difficult for a Romantic with a capital "R" to make such a statement. After this amount of time, however, to have batted zero is at the core of my sadness. All of my heart and all of my good intentions have come up short. I feel that I have tried but not everyone would agree with that. Suppose that I did have some kind of sad agenda.

I'm well over the 100k mark. I shoulda' taken better care of my heart. This one's worn out and I really wouldn't lie and try to pass it off on some unsuspecting sucker.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Grandma & Elvis

I know that I've told you the stories of my adventures traveling up to Crystal River as often as I could get someone to drive me in order to spend time with Elvis Presley while he was filming Follow That Dream. On the first couple of trips we would arrive before sunup and have him pretty much to ourselves. He was too sweet and too polite to walk away. He would stay and talk until he was late for the filming.

On the third or fourth trip I convinced my grandmother, Lottie, to come along. She had always loved Elvis. Let's face it, she was southern. She did truly believe that we were all a bit overboard to make a trip for a couple of hours every day just to see him and she told us all the way up there.

As soon as we stepped out of the car, however, the King stepped from the doorway of his cottage at Port Paradise, the resort where he was staying. Grandma left us in the dust and made a beeline for Elvis. She grabbed him in a bear hug and burst into uncontrollable sobs. While she cried her eyes out, Elvis laughed his head off. I don't think either of them had ever enjoyed a moment in life more.
                                                               Lottie, Elvis & Mom

He spent lots of time exchanging stories and posing for pictures. The next trip up she took him a coconut cake that she baked for him. A fresh coconut cake. We had always read that that was his favorite dessert. I read in an interview in a movie magazine months later that a little lady from St. Petersburg had taken him a coconut cake. Close enough.

Grandma made several more of the pilgrimages up with us. One afternoon we sat around outside of the Colonel's bungalow. My grandmother told Elvis about all of the fights that I had been in during grade school standing up for him.

He smiled one of those really exaggerated crooked ones and mumbled,"I'll teach him something to take care of that."

"Karate?" I asked, hoping to sound worldly or at least somewhat sophisticated for a thirteen year old.


I've got lots of stories about Grandma and lots of stories about the King. My favorites are the ones with both of them. I'm a very lucky man.