Friday, March 30, 2012

Call Your Doctor!

One happy thanksgiving day you're nestled among cousins at the children's table. Next thing you know, BAM!, you're old and you just hope to wrangle an invitation to any family's holiday function so that you don't end up hurrying through a bowl of Grape Nuts to get to the cheap, Chilean wine.

Jamaica is either six or seven, depending on when I do the counting. Angel is about the same age. My only ambition at this point is to live about as long as they do to make sure that they're properly cared for. I was wallering in the blues when this occurred to me. I'm on top of the world now and it still makes sense. 

I've seen all of the Charlie Chan movies. I've over-extended myself in romance. I've had erections that have lasted for more than four hours and I've seen London. I have not seen France and, probably, not your underpants but I did shake Roy Rogers' hand.

If I have ever hurt anyone, I'm sorry. I hope that I have mostly told the truth. I have few regrets. I look forward to everything to come. I'm planning on peace and enlightenment but I'm not betting money on it. I don't have any money. I'm waiting for new songs, too. The ones that just write themselves. The ectoplasm is full of 'em.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Can't We All Just Get Along

We just inch along, don't we? I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama in the fifties. Of course I remember all of the White Only signs. The O. J. Simpson case was a stark reminder of the polarization of blacks and whites in this country. I have spent all my life with the dream in my heart that color blindness was coming. Now the Trayvon Martin case exposes a new step backwards in our culture. It breaks my heart to hear the racist comments from all corners.

My new worry is that a society that is weak and scared is a society that looks for culprits. High unemployment and unfair distribution of wealth cause fear and distrust. A government that allows us to pay for their own families' health care and medical insurance while smugly denying millions of us access to any affordable quality of care for our own is unfair and unreasonable.

On the ropes, I believe, we look for the ones to blame. The same old racial stereotypes drag their chains back to haunt us. 

I have hope and I have love. I admit that I lack patience. Race, I fear, has become a convenient wedge issue for the 1% to use against the rest of us. Actually, for us to use against one another. Love your neighbor and play fair. I don't care where you were born, you can easily develop color blindness. Stand up for the disenfranchised and take care of the ones who need your help. We're all brothers and sisters and we all need each other.

In my opinion this culture peaked with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Our debt to the ancestors of the slaves that we brought to this continent can never be repaid. My life has been enriched with Little Richard, Amos'n'Andy, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali, Lead Belly and Barack Obama.

Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war. Bless us all; black, white, red, yellow and brown. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chuck Berry High School

We need to be careful about the heroes that we pass along to the next bunch; the kids, the ones who wait in line to decide what to do with the planet. Seems to me that Jesus, the person, was a nice guy. Sweet and funny, concerned with the plight of the poor. Poor himself and brown, too.

I've had about enough of the Thomas Edison stuff and I believe that it's time that we painted over some of the Thomas Edison High School signs and put the sign painters back to work. We need some Chuck Berry High Schools and some Captain Paul Watson federal courthouses.

Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled to have light bulbs in the house and I'm partial to my record player, too. I'll give him some credit for some of his work but I want kids to learn the whole story. Not only did Tommy borrow heavily from Nikola Tesla for his technical work on AC but he seems to have cheated in competition with his rival, George Westinghouse, who was the champion for DC.

At any rate, he invented the electric chair as a gimmick to scare the general public into his corner based on fear of direct current. He sent his PR lackeys out into the countryside to demonstrate death by electricity. They would pay the neighborhood toughs to round up stray dogs to be electrocuted on steel sheets for the benefit of the local press. We remain the only first world country to boast of capital punishment.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Start Now- Go!

My musical career begins, wait... 4,3,2,1, now! I have often worried that I'm one of those nuts with a built-in anti-success mechanism. You know, avoid all achievement at any cost. Believe me, I've looked into it. I don't believe, after careful consideration, that to be the case but I'm not absolutely sure.

Who cares. Today I plan to write songs pretty enough to make me cry. I'm gonna finish up some of these plays lying around. I'm buckling down to get my James Dean/ Liz Taylor/ Rock Hudson historical fiction novel rolling.

Let's call it a late life crisis. If I fail, it won't be because I haven't worked hard. It won't be because I haven't  tried. I still have plans to save the world, too. I'm ambitious. I love you all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nothing To Prove

Guests in the attic and I'm not lonely.There are nails to cut and weeds to pull. I've got new songs piling up on each other like Delta jets on the tarmac in Atlanta. Sometimes I worry that I may be a bad example for the dog. On the other hand, I don't growl at the mail lady.

What do you do when the writing's on the wall? I've used up my quota in terms of romance. They shoulda' pulled me out several innings sooner. I'm not complaining now, mind you. It's just frustrating to think that you never got to throw the fast ball.

Born to rock'n'roll, I've lived it. If not well, completely. I veered off several times, sometimes for years at a stretch, but I always came back. For years, no decades, I was nervous before I went on. I read John Lennon quoted once that he always threw up before he went onstage and it made me feel better. I decided that it was an important element in professionalism, a sign that you cared. Then on a European tour years ago, it went away. Just like that. This is better. I suppose that some cosmic messenger wormed his way into the frontal lobe and suggested that it wasn't going to get any better. It occurred to me at some level that I don't sing pretty or on-key. I can't play guitar very well. I'm just Ronny Elliott. That's what I do. If they don't like it, there's not much I can do about it. I'm still Ronny Elliott.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Blue Skyys Beauty

I suppose that it was just a busted Skyy Vodka bottle. Crushed by repeated car tracks, it shone with all of the beauty of the rarest jewels. Who decides that one stone is valuable and that another is just road debris. The incredible blue gleam took my breath away this morning as I headed down to the diner for breakfast.

Not long ago I looked out my kitchen window and there was the end of the rainbow shining on my garden gate. Really. I guess beauty is all around if you keep your eyes and your heart open.

I wish that I could be in Ireland with my pals, the Burns Sisters, for St. Patrick's Day but I'll drink a glass of green Kool Aid tonight at the Flamingo Bar and celebrate the life of Jack Kerouac instead.

Here's a live version of Billy's First Ex-Wife. I miss Billy Artlip.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Fever And The Blues

When the weather gets really pretty I seem to come down with the blues. I don't really know how long this has gone on but I started to recognize the pattern at least a decade back. Now, it's a perfect Florida day: bright blue sky without a cloud in sight; cool, clear air without  all the shirt-soaking humidity; and vivid colors of all kinds of things starting to bloom. Mix in some mockingbird tunes and a little jasmine fragrance and you're talking chamber of commerce paradise. Perfect for self indulgent suicidal thoughts, right?

Well, I'm on top of the world, thanks. There's a planet out there that needs saving and a world needing love. Mine.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Meet Harry

Have I introduced you to my pal, Harry Hayward? He was drunk before it was fashionable and sober before it was important. He is crazy and he had about the best dose of OCD that I've ever seen long before any of us knew that such a condition existed, much less had a name. Everybody should have a friend who will stand behind them and stand up for them like Harry has done for me. He wears a hat well and most folks don't.
                                               Ronny Elliott& Harry Hayward ca. 1970

He should have been the biggest thing in show business. In this universe a few of us get to brag about seeing him perform and working with him. Fortune and fame would have made him very hard to live with.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

All The Oxygen, All The Luck

Sometimes I worry that I may use up all of the good fortune allotted to the planet. It hardly seems fair that another old white guy gets everything that he wants, whenever he wants it. I've never had any bad luck. I've never been cheated or abused. Folks are good to me. I'm Ronny Elliott for a living. How hard can that be?

Oh sure, I've had a few jobs that I complained about. Probably just enough and for just long enough to remind me that I was designed and built to play rock'n'roll. I was even born at the time necessary to get in on the ground floor.

It's hard to bellyache about the loved ones that I've lost. The blessing of them passing through my life has given me the real gift of love that makes it all worthwhile.

I surely would love to give some back. I love just as hard as I can but, starting today, I'm gonna love harder. I have an obligation to stand up for the ones who can't and to carry the banner for peace, too. I've got songs to write and stories to tell.

I suppose that the luckiest part of the deal is knowing just how lucky I am. Boy!

By the way, happy International Women's Day, too. Did I mention that everything good in my life has come from the women in it? I bow to the sweeter, stronger gender. Thank you for everything.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wall Of Something

Record producer. Record producer. Record producer. What the hell is a record producer? The term meant nothing to any of us until Phil Spector self-promoted himself into pop culture history. Before Phil we had Mitch Miller or any suit with a job at a major label who happened to know how to play the piano. At the small, independent labels we had A&R guys or independent producers who made records at their own expense and then when something stuck to the wall, stole all the royalties from the kids who were just thrilled to get onto American Bandstand and hear their songs on the radio. Beat bolting fenders onto Buicks, settling down and raising kids.

Suddenly we all heard about this "wall of sound" and read about the first teen tycoon. They were fine records, too. He bummed around and got cheated until he learned to do the cheating himself. He opened the door for Leiber and Stoller and Johnny Otis and lots of guys who had already opened the same doors for him. Now there was a mystique. Now there was a RECORD PRODUCER.

The sad tragedy that ended the Phil Spector story was a long time coming. It was pretty predictable.

Everybody of a certain generation knows of Jerry Wexler, John Hammond, George Martin, Bob Johnston and Jack Nietzsche. We can thank Phil Spector for that.