Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm A Folksinger

My pal, Bobby Hicks, told me that I was a folksinger. A Florida folksinger. He was too. One of the great ones. He and his buddy, Pete Gallagher, finagled me onto the bill at the Florida Folk Festival one year. I think they payed me a hundred bucks. Out of that I had to get up to the Suwannee River, feed myself and get a motel room for a couple of nights. I had a swell time.

The following year I received an invitation to come back. Of course I responded that I would be there with bells on. They wrote me right back to say that they couldn't pay me since I had been payed the previous year. I declined the invitation when I checked around and found that this was not a rule that applied to all folksingers. 

As I checked a bit more I was surprised to find that the promoters were paying Emmylou Harris fifty thousand dollars for her appearance. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Emmylou Harris. I mean she was born in Birmingham in 1947 and she sings like an angel. My displeasure had more to do with the idea that the folks who had calculated that I should not receive a hundred bucks two years in a row had made a decision to spend that much money on a performer who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm just guessing that the folks who tow little carts up to sell pronto pups make a little money, too.

I just heard that Arlo Guthrie was given forty thousand bucks to perform this year. Now, I don't want to make Arlo mad, either by sounding like I'm indulging in a little class warfare here or by letting the cat out of the bag that the Florida taxpayers gave Emmylou more than they gave him.

I remain somewhat indignant that someone representing the State Of Florida through something called the Florida Folk Festival puts together budgets that seem to reward lots of folks; just not Florida folksingers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I don't seem to learn my lessons very quickly. I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean that I'm not paying attention. Yesterday sweet, wonderful friends helped me say goodbye to my mom. Some really beautiful strangers, too. Of course they're no longer strangers. So now I'm an old man and I have finally figured out that all lessons are about loss.
 And love.
Having blundered through a minefield of a personal life I struggle through the concept of love, itself. At 5:30 this morning I woke up with the thought in my mind that I'm always in love. That's really dumb but it's true. I love. That's what I do. Oh, I'm grumpy and I'm stubborn and I can be petty and unpleasant. I'm always in love, though. Pity the poor woman who bats her eyelashes at me. 

It seems that maybe I've figured it out to the point that I won't be dragging more victims through the jungle with me. On the other hand, I have a lot more trouble keeping my pants on than most grown men. I won't have naivete as an excuse any longer. If I have figured out a way to keep from falling in love, that's fine. I don't intend to quit loving.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goodbye, Sweetheart

Everybody always tells you that you're never really ready for it. They're right. Saturday afternoon, as I was pulling into the parking lot at Bayshore Pointe, an ambulance was pulling out. It always sends a chill down my spine but it's common when you go to a nursing home every day.

This was the time, though. My mom was on her way to the emergency room and it was her last trip on this planet.

Thursday evening had been Family Night and we sat right up front. Nobody enjoys Jelvis, the Presley impersonator, more than my mother did. I have never had more fun with her. I honestly believe that it was one of the best nights of her long life.

My mother spoiled me. We moved to Florida when I was six years old because I wanted to. She bought me cars and clothes and guitars. I should mention that we were poor. I never knew. A single mom raising a son on a telephone information operator's salary makes for tight finances. To say that she sacrificed for me is a ridiculous understatement.

That's not how she spoiled me, though. I was surrounded with unconditional love from the time that I was born. I never met my father. I never missed anything. Mom thought that I was perfect in every single thing that I did. To her I was always the smartest kid in my class, the most handsome boy in my school, a successful rock'n'roll star.

Now, I'm not the smartest kid in class but I'm not dumb. I have failed in every endeavor. I have skidded through business and fumbled in art. I play with all my heart but I've never sold a dozen records. As a husband I have probably set world records for low achievement. To my mom, though, I was always the best. I know I was never the best son but to her I was.

This was us at Family Night last Thursday. Goodnight, Mom.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hey, Roomie!

It was at what I remember to be the first gathering of the new Americana Music Association and we were at some little lodge in Lake Tahoe. Beautiful setting and a lot of really nice folks but the dirty politics of the music biz was being assembled for the benefit of the New Nashville. I'm slow. I thought I had finally found my niche.

I was there with my pal, Walt, and what we did find was our roommate for the weekend, Doug Sahm. I had worked with Doug when the Sir Douglas Quintet had played the Star Spectacular in 1965 or '66 in Clearwater. He had been a small time rock'n'roll star then. Now he was a legend.

We had so much in common and everything was fun. He never shut up. He never slowed down. We talked about wrestling, Hank Penny, Amos 'n' Andy, baseball and coffee. At one point I was chatting in the hallway with Al Moss as Doug sauntered up to us. Wanting to help me out and enhance my standing in the alt-country community, Al asked Doug, "Do you know Ronny Elliott?"

Doug wrapped his arm around me and exclaimed, "He's my roomie."

One afternoon in our little lodge room Doug was trying to describe the little towns in New Mexico to me. "You know, they ride into town two or three times a year, kill a cowboy or two and they go home."

"We need to write a song, man."

He just looked at me. We did play some and we did mess around with some ideas but we never got back to that. I saw him one more time after Tahoe. He was given a special award at South By Southwest later that year. "Hey, my Florida boys," he shouted when Walt and I ran into him at the Broken Spoke. That was my first SXSW. I got home and wrote South By So What for the new record. The chorus ends with the line, Somebody tell Sir Doug I said hello. Pretty clever line, I thought. We decided that South By So What should be the radio single. 

Doug passed away the week that it was released to radio. Turns out to be the saddest thing I ever wrote. They don't make 'em like Sir Doug any more. Never did except for that one time. I never throw anything out, though.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is He Dead?

"Hey. You wanna be on a tribute CD for Peter Case?" I recognized the low bellow of my pal, Chuck Prophet.

"Did Peter die?" I gasped.

"No, he didn't die. Do you wanna do this or not? You'll have to have the finished cut, mastered and everything, in the hands of the charity that's doing this by the end of the week. It's Hungry For Music in D.C."

Well, I still don't know why we did a tribute record but I do like Peter and the charity is a fine one. The three disc set turned out a beautiful piece, too. I had never realized just how many great songs he had written. 

Last time I saw Peter was at the CD Release party at the Cactus Cafe in Austin. Fine show, too. I don't remember everyone on the bill. I was over served. I recall watching sets by James McMurtry, Joe Ely, Peter Mulvey and Gurf Morlix. I remember that Peter brought James Hunter along with him. Most of what I remember about my set was ranting somewhat obnoxiously about Dick Clark and No Depression. What's new?

Last time I saw Chuck was last Saturday night. He's supposed to be finishing a track for a Ronny Elliott tribute CD, put together by Hungry For Music. His cut was due two years ago.

My cut, Horse And Crow, from the Peter Case tribute record, A Case For Case.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Giggles In The Ether, Guffaws In The Ectoplasm

My seemingly bottomless well of sadness provides all of the inspiration that I need for my life's work. I have always read that most of the comedy comes from tragedy, from loss and from loneliness. I remember listening to a little flexible disc of an interview with Elvis. It came on the cover of a magazine, Elvis Speaks, that I bought in 1956.

Elvis told the interviewer that sometimes he was lonely in the middle of a crowd. I never forgot that. Maybe the saddest thing I ever read.

I suppose that Elvis Presley has had more to do with shaping my life than all of the prophets and politicians put together. I always wanted to play rock'n'roll. I never wanted to be sad. I never meant to be lonely.

Well, I've got a new batch of songs and I'm trying to finish up a new record with The Nationals and the rest of the usual suspects. I would love to report that it's all about romance and rainbows. It's not.

I choose to be happy. I hope I get good at it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Maybe This Explains It All

This was my first blog, just over two years ago. I never planned any of this. I was reading some smutty thing and a screen popped up and asked, "Why not start your own blog?" Well, okay. I lost my mom right after that and of course she's on my mind with Mothers' Day here. I love her and miss her every day. All I ever wanted was love. All I ever had was rock'n'roll.

"My mother took me to see Big Joe Turner. If there's a satan in hell, he's sure gonna burn her for taking me down that road to rock'n'roll. She let me stay out all night long to hear Little Willie John sing his song. Thank God for mothers with no better sense than mine."

True. Every word. I can't believe that this little 89 year old woman turned me on to Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Benny Joy and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

I'm heating up the oven now to warm up a frozen pizza to take over so that we can spend some time together on this Mother's Day. I must be the luckiest man alive. I love you all.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm Not Like Other People

I'm not like other folks. It took a long time to sink in. I'm not better. I hope I'm not too much worse.                          This is the best that I can do. I love you all.

Ronny Trying On Clothes

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Got Time For A Beer?

Never give up on your dreams. Any of 'em. My president has let me down and broken my heart over the last three years. Oh, I think he's smart and I think he's a pretty nice guy. That's not enough for me, though. I want war to end, the hungry fed, the sick cared for. I want taxes to be fair. Let's play nice with the rest of the world. I want to hear the truth. Every time. We have an obligation to provide for our veterans and to educate our kids. We surely don't deserve to be coming in at #29 in infant mortality. Let's take care of the ones who can't take care of themselves.

Now, I'm not particularly bright but I am very much aware that President Obama spent a lot of time huddled with his closest advisors today before he came out supporting gay marriage. Certainly some of them cautioned him against the move based on politics, if nothing else.

This time he stood up for right, though. Now he's the guy I want to go have a beer with. I'm hoping that over the next four years he gets down to all my other issues. That's my president.

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

Monday, May 7, 2012

Joanne Woodward, I Presume

The concept of pure good versus pure evil has always fascinated me. Can't be valid, right? I mean, "Let he who is without sin...," and all that. I am painfully aware of all of the hurt that I have caused and all of the opportunities to help that I have let slip by without doing the right thing. I'm not proud. Of course I really don't want to consider that I may be entirely bad. It's hard enough to get up in the morning as it is.

Lately I find myself fixated on facing my failures and making as many things right as I have time to deal with in whatever time that I may have left.

If I owe you money, call me. If I lied to you, remind me and I apologize. Worst of all, I suppose, if I ever hurt your feelings, please forgive me. There are no good excuses. I won't do it again.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Love and Hope and Stuff

Sometimes you learn a lesson and then you just have to learn it  again. The act of loving is natural or at least it's supposed to be. The emotional baggage that we all carry with us determines how much love we can accept. Loving without expecting anything in return is our highest calling. It's what the universe is designed for. Maybe you never get good at it so that you can just keep practicing.

It's all beautiful out there. I wish all the love in the world for all of the lonely people.