Thursday, December 29, 2011

No Beats, No Punks

When I was in the eighth grade I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to a beatnik party. I didn't know what a beatnik was but I knew what they looked like. I borrowed my mom's black turtleneck, combed my hair down and got out my Levis and Jack Purcells. Looking back, I'll bet that I was the best beatnik there.

In the mid-seventies a bunch of my pals put together a Russian punk band with me, Nikki And The Boys. We were doing it as a one off deal for a show in Ybor City. We threw together a bunch of short, fast songs like "Come Dance At The Communist Party," and "Nikita Was Right."I bought us a dozen or so marching band uniforms, black and red, and handed them out without regard to size. They were too good a bargain to pass up. Of course we didn't rehearse much. That would have ruined it. Now I'm left thinking that I was one of the few, true punks. People wanted to hire us for other shows. I could never make sense of it.

A pin through the nose doesn't really mean anything and a beret and a goatee don't shape a lifestyle.

"Whatta ya rebelling against, Johnny?" "Whatta ya got?"

Remember Marlon Brando's snappy retort in The Wild One? That really was about the peak of the entire beat movement. Sure Jack changed some lives when he wrote without form and Allen got a lot of press when he was dragged into court. Overall, though, Kerouac was an insecure, right wing bully with a drinking problem and a confused sexuality. Ginsberg was a gifted poet who just wanted to be famous. I'm afraid that Maynard G. Krebs was the ultimate beatnik.

The best remembered punk songs are probably the biggest "hits" that the Clash had. Why? They were the only real songs from the era. It was charming and somewhat refreshing for a bit that rock'n'roll was back in the hands of kids, amateurs and innocents. Then the Sex Pistols signed with Warner Brothers and the hoax was over. Jerks made money out of the joke for a decade or so. Middle aged folks who just couldn't learn to tune a guitar posed and spit and pogoed shamelessly for too long a time.

Mostly we're posers. We all need to burn for something. A few of us are artists. We struggle to communicate something inside. We sacrifice dignity and privacy to do it. It's nothing to be proud of but it's nothing to be ashamed of. There were no beatniks. There were no punks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

I believe it all. Beautiful story, this Prince Of Peace fellow. I guess the literal translation is "I am a son of God." This is for the ones who need it and I suppose that's all of us.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Are We At Bottom Yet?

As we approached our bicentennial some five and a half years ago I was approached by a friendly, if naive, publisher of a new regional magazine, The Link. I was asked to write a brief essay on the state of our union along with ten or twelve other locals. The economy hadn't yet rolled over the cliff and we were still being told on the news every evening that the war was being won by the good guys. Of course the local newspaper was not just a flyer and they cheered on the establishment and the mighty military. We were still in the days of "U.S.A., U.S.A." and "Mission Accomplished."

My little piece must have seemed terribly pessimistic and more than a little unpatriotic at the time. My pal, Walt, ran across a copy of the magazine as he was clearing out some of that junk that accumulates and brought it over for me to read. I wish that I had guessed incorrectly and I wish that all those other guys had been right. We had to fight them over there to keep from fighting them over here, remember? We were gonna get everything fixed as soon as the Dixie Chicks shut up. You know who's side God is on, don't you?

Well, I still believe that a golden age is coming and I hope that it's the one that the Occupy Movement kicked off. In the meantime we have hungry, homeless folks out there and a lot of veterans returning to a bleak economic landscape.

We have figured out that all three branches of our federal government are failing us and making bad guys wealthy in the process. With love in our hearts we can fix anything. Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.

Monday, December 19, 2011


"You're stupid. You were always stupid."

That's what my good friend, Karen, said to me when I reminded her that I had always taken "No" to mean "No," when dealing with the opposite sex. She was in town visiting and it was the first time that I had seen her in years, probably decades.

We had become fast friends in the seventh grade and had gone through lots of growing up together, more on her part than mine, 'til she left for Atlanta and college after high school graduation. Of course she was kidding, mostly.

There are differences in my overall approach to women than my friends' techniques and I have begun to attribute some of that to the fact that I was raised by women, my single mom and my grandmother. I certainly don't mean to imply that I'm better at romance than my pals who came up in more traditional families. In fact I am batting zero in love and I'm not proud of it.

There are terrifying statistics available, however, regarding rape, attempted rape and sexual abuse from the U.N., the Department of Justice and plenty of other reputable organizations which compile such numbers. The credibility of the specific statistics is always in play due to the elusive definition of the terms "rape" and "sexual abuse."

We do know that rape is the most under-reported violent crime in this and most other cultures for many obvious reasons. Most of the most reliable, current statistics indicate that in this country at least one in six women have experienced rape or attempted rape.

In addition to these horrifying numbers we have to consider the additional horror of child molestation. To take a child's innocence is to steal something precious that can never be replaced. Something wonderful and something holy. With it goes a piece of the heart, a piece of the soul. Forever. The ability to accept love is altered. Trust is tarnished. Victims tend to grow up with a spiritual void in their heart and the truly fortunate few find help through counseling, hard work and the love and patience of very special friends who pitch in to provide support and understanding. With these "lucky" ones we're still talking about a lifetime's work.

Help explain to the kids that "No" does, indeed, mean "No." Speak up against any attempt to make humor out of hurt. The world doesn't need any more Sandusky jokes. Support tough laws that will help curb sex crimes. Do your part to end this chain of terrible abuse. If you find someone in your life who has been victimized, pour all of the love and compassion that you can muster into them. It's a fine investment. Love will fix anything  but it's not a quick fix. Give us peace on earth.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tell The King The Killer's Here

The best songs are written for you in the newspapers. What will I do when the last one has closed up shop?

Jerry Lee's misadventures are legendary but this one tops most!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TheTwist Came From Tampa

No matter how many times Hank told the story and regardless of changes made, the twist always came from Tampa! My mom took me to see Hank Ballard and the Midnighters at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory on a bill with Sam Cooke, Laven Baker, Little Willie John and Marv Johnson. The Midnighters put on the best rock'n'roll show that I have ever seen and I've see a few. Pray for old Dick Clark.

The twist democratized rock'n'roll. White folks could pretend to dance. Funny thing is that it all sprang from a gospel song. We need a new twist. Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.

Elvis Presley Didn't Like Tampa

Wrote this with my pal, British porn legend, Laura Canyon. Fiction, for the most part. You know the other. Mae Boren Axton, Hoyt's mom and the co-writer of Heartbreak Hotel, interviews the young bebop hillbilly     for the radio. Changed Florida. Changed me. Changed the world.

                                                                      Ronny and Elvis

                          Probably the sweetest person I ever met. There will never be another one.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"What do you preach, Ronny?" "Whatta' you got?"

Stop me if I've told you this. All of my early aptitude tests in school indicated that I was destined to be a preacher. Nothing even came in second place. Puzzled me, baffled the teachers. You must believe something to preach something, right?

My problem is that I seem to believe it all. It never escaped my young mind that Jesus was always quoted saying pretty much the same things that Buddha had muttered hundreds of years before. All of those special guys and girls have always stuck to the message. I'm not about to ask for a donation to reveal this big secret:

                 This is heaven and there is no hell. Be nice. Love, because that's all there is.

Of course I have thought that I was spending my time as something of a rock'n'roll musician for these past forty five or forty six years; a hillbilly soul singer, a bass player, a songwriter, a folk singer. I'm no more a musician than Lord Buckley was a comedian or Mark Twain was a novelist. I'm not trying to ease my way into some lofty club of beloved genius. The only connection with these fine guys is some fire within to preach truth regardless of the consequences. I'm talking about Truth here now. Not that bunk that we suffer through in our political debates and not any of that malarkey where nut cases sling smoke and water and babble in languages that we haven't spoken in ages.

What do we really remember about Jack Kerouac? His face on a t shirt is more familiar than anything that he wrote. He only wanted to be with the ones who burned, burned, burned, remember? He was his work. He invented "Jack Kerouac" and then couldn't get comfortable with it.

Oscar Wide, magnificent writer, huh? What's the last play of Oscar's that you went to see? Dorothy Parker?

If your mission is to preach the truth it's all pre-ordained. You don't get any say in the matter. Doesn't seem to be very fashionable just now and I probably should have found a career with better health benefits. I have to remind myself that Lord Buckley was supremely hip and totally honest during the Mad Men era. He never tasted much in the way of fame and he never made much money. He died in 1960 at the age of fifty four so he would never have been aware of his influence on our culture.

I don't kid myself. My sphere of influence is minute. My gifts are modest. I am rewarded with the notion that I have stuck mostly to the truth. I love with all of my heart with what purity remains. I love you all very, very much.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Maybe It's For Sissies, After All

It may have started with Key West. I love all the rust. I'm fascinated with the crooked shutters and the peeling paint. Maybe it's just part of the aging process. Looking back I suppose that I've always loved old things. Cars, art, movies, guitars and of course, people. Don't get me wrong, though. There is no bigger sap than I am for a puppy, a kitten or a baby.

I spend way too much time worrying that the final light bulb will go off over my head at the last minute. Literally. It's the continuum, stupid! I love it all. How can it be possible to have lived this life? Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.