Thursday, June 28, 2012

All Talk

I'm all talk and I know it. All this hippie, save the world stuff and I still wander the planet harboring anger, hurt and resentment. Of all the beautiful gifts bestowed on me the greatest has been forgiveness. I'm thinking of the times that someone has released me from the burden of guilt. I've been let off the hook my entire life.

Now I'm cleaning house. Funny, Steve Earle just came blasting out of my radio over my shoulder shouting the Chambers Brothers' line, "The time has come today." Yeah, it sure has. Nobody has ever hurt me except acting out over their own hurt.

Forgiving should just be passive. I don't need to do anything. I just need to stop doing things. Keeping score, resenting, watching for opportunities for revenge. I've written songs and I've told stories and I guess I always will. I will always tell the truth as I know it. I've opened my heart wider and I've let out some dark and heavy junk as I've been here at the keyboard. It feels good.

I'm still all talk but I'm not mad at anybody. I've made more room for love.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting' Used To Blue

I suppose that I've become accustomed to unhappiness. I can't recommend it. I'm out of excuses and people to blame. The new record is finished and it will be out in August. I'm heading to Oklahoma in a few weeks for the Woody Guthrie Festival and I love that. I see folks that I love and I get to play music 'til the sun comes up.

The point that I'm dancing around here is that I have nothing to complain about. There was a time when I was younger that I worried about ever understanding the blues. I'm over it. I'm lonely in crowds. I pine for every love lost. I miss my mom and every dear friend who has gone on. I worry about all the living things and all their suffering.

It's who I am.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dogs Of Havana

Havana was calling and I was ready. Always the good citizen, I jumped through all the official hoops and got a license from the State Department as a journalist/writer. I had always dreamed of seeing Cuba. Everything about the place fascinates me. At the age of six I convinced my single mom to move to Florida. If I had given it a little more thought we would have ended up in Cuba.

It saddens me that our friends just to our south have suffered and sacrificed due to our political embargo. Sure they have a corrupt government. Who don't?

Preparation for the journey meant preparing myself for the sights of crumbling infrastructure and lines for food. Yeah, I saw that. The spirit of the people, however, more than made up for the sadness of the decaying architecture and the failing utilities. All of the folks on the street were kind and polite and they seemed to take particular delight in meeting Americans. The innocence of the uniformed school children holding hands to cross the busy streets reminded me of simpler times in our country. The music was phenomenal and seemed to be everywhere. In fact the arts seemed to flourish and it was all beautiful.

Nobody told me about the dogs, though. Hungry, sad and homeless. When the people don't have enough to eat the animals move down a notch or two. There was one stray who hung around Ambos Mundos, where I was staying. I brought him food over and over. It appeared that he was too far gone to eat it. I'll never forget his eyes.

Politics is bad mojo. I don't really care what side you're on. All you need is love. Lots of folks have told us that.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Half full?

The lady at the cash register took my money just now and said with a smile, "Happy Fathers' Day."

"I don't have any kids and I've never met my father," I replied.

Too much information, right? She was trying to be friendly. Polite. I wasn't trying to ruin her holiday or embarrass her. I just say too much too often. I'm struggling with the idea now of whether my heart is half-empty or half-full.

I'm lucky and I know it. I screw up and some god somewhere shields me from consequences. Forces seem to conspire to take care of me.

I'm looking for the truth and often I don't like it when I find it. I really just want to love all that I can, the best that I can. I'm pretty sure that just happens when you let it happen.

Happy Fathers' Day. Everybody.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Boys In Hot Rods

This all started as a concept regarding my position in society and my sense of fashion and style. I wanted to write a song for a girl to sing about changes in our culture and boys who just don't quite make it. When I passed the idea on to my pal, Rebekah Pulley, she quickly wrote some new lyrics. I figure that she should know more about the things that women look for in a man than I would. It seems that I've never known too much about that subject at all.

Every now and then I'm fashionable for a brief moment. My hair was already long when such a silly idea became hip. Of course my hair is still long and I'm decades beyond any fashion statement.

I suppose that it was my good fortune to play rock'n'roll in the sixties when youth culture ruled the planet. I still do. Most of my pals from that era are retired doctors and architects and robbers now.

That peace and love thing? Well, I was there waiting for that one. My grandmother had already taught me about war. She taught me about love, too. I'm getting an extra lap outta' that one. This whole Occupy Movement thrills me and I'm more than a little bit proud to have a small role in it. The mayor asked me, "You're not one of them, are you?" to which I proudly replied, "I most certainly am one of them."

Place your bets. When I go out will I be fashionable or not. The smart money would have to go on not. Even old white guys are out of style now. Good riddance.

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

I'll Get My Romance In The Museum

As a kid I was obsessed with automobiles. Hot rods. Completely indulged and spoiled by a poor, doting, single mom I was on my fourth car by the time that I was old enough to drive legally. In bed trying to sleep at sixteen years old I was often restless and fitful worrying about the body on my '32 Ford coupe. Rust, you know.

Now I look back and thank whatever gods kept me alive through those years. I have no mechanical aptitude. I didn't know it at the time. In fact I guess I've just recently figured it out. Most of those cars only ran about ten percent of the time.

Of course I sometimes wish that I had those cars back... so that I could sell them again. If I ever want to see a hot rod, I'll see it at a car show or in a museum.
I've been through guitars, too. Every now and then a serious collector will ask me about some instrument that shows up in old photos from the past. Inevitably, some variation of, "Ya' have any idea what that thing would be worth today?" comes forth.

Who cares? Stuff. So what?

Now, inundated with loss, I feel as though I may finally be on the verge of really learning about attachment. I love people. People leave. Trying to hold on is the hardest part. It's possible to love without attachment. I'm a slow learner. I love you all.

Friday, June 8, 2012

He's On The Keyboard

Well, I've had some bad jobs in my life. I scooped mud from the bottom of barges right out of high school. I've played dive bars where the favorite pastime of most of the patrons was to hurt the band. I've swept floors and I've picked watermelons in the rain.

I have to say that the lowest point of employment for me, however, was promoting concerts. It is a dirty, lowdown endeavor that will suck the breath from a decent person. It was built for and by evil scalawags. It attracts the same element of humanity that most "get rich quick" businesses seem to attract. I suppose that politics or evangelical preaching would be today's equivalent.

From the late '60's into the mid- '70's I was stuck in this sewer. My record producer, Phil Gernhard, hated to pay me to sit around between records and projects so he began promoting concerts in and around Tampa to keep me busy. He would make a couple thousand bucks on a show and then we would lose ten thousand on two or three in a row. A lot of money in those days. I'm here to tell you that losing a lot of someone else's money stings more than losing your own.

In 1970 we had a shot to bring Elton John to Tampa. I see that he's coming back to the Sun Dome and I'm hoping that those guys have a better time of it than I did.

His second LP had just come out in the states and he was getting very little airplay. No one knew much about him but he was getting a good deal of attention and starting to receive a bit of critical acclaim. Your Song had just been released to radio so we all thought that he was one of those easy ballad guys who all washed ashore around that time. There was no hint of the showman, influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis and Gorgeous George, that would come later.

There was only one music store in Tampa at that time that dealt in Steinway pianos, Cannon Music at 516 Tampa Street in downtown. We had always rented grand pianos from them when the contract rider called for them. When I called to reserve one for our show at Curtis Hixon I was told that they would no longer rent pianos for shows. After begging and finally pleading the gentleman on the phone explained that Jerry Lee Lewis had recently damaged a perfectly fine baby grand at the fairgrounds in Tampa.

I explained that this British singer-songwriter from England was no Jerry Lee Lewis. I finally wore the kind clerk down to the point where he checked to see what they might have available. After all, we were regular customers. We had recently leased a concert grand for Ray Charles. We were local. Solid. 

Finally he determined that there was only one Steinway concert grand in the house and it was brand new. Of course they could not rent it. I finally made a deal where we would pay the difference between the value of the new piano over a second hand model in addition to the rental fee. We had no choice regarding the contract. So far, so good.

Elton John showed up that afternoon wearing corduroy shorts/overalls and a t-shirt. Not so wild for what we would come to expect from Sir Elton over the decades. Funny thing, though, Bernie Taupin was there with him in a matching outfit. Now I'm aware that Bernie is supposed to be straight, and I'm sure that he is, but that seemed odd to me. Still does. I have lots of gay friends but we seldom coordinate our wardrobes.

I always made sure that my fiends in the local press had good access for our shows and the freedom to roam the dressing rooms as well. On this night I had front row seats for my pals, Rick Norcross at the Tampa Times  and Bob Fiallo at the Tampa Tribune. Both frequently shot their own photos. Both were fine photographers.

When the spotlight went on, Elton stormed the stage in a long pants version of the corduroy overalls and began to rock as though his life depended on it. Now, I'm never going to admit to being a big Elton John fan but if this version had lasted for long I surely would have been.

A few songs into the frenzied performance he hopped up onto the top of the new piano and danced his heart out. To say that he destroyed the Steinway would be an understatement.

Rick's photo showed Steinway & Sons in perfect focus. He sold the photo rights to the international company for lots of money as Elton John made a name for himself and climbed to the top of rock'n'roll.

We were stuck with an enormous bill that insured another unsuccessful concert, monetarily, at least. Cannon is out of business. Phil would eventually blow his brains out. Elton John and I still play rock'n'roll.

Monday, June 4, 2012

One Of Us Is Gonna Have To Go

Oh, I don't want to panic all the ex-wives. This one is about my love/hate relationship with the music business. A half way intelligent man would walk away from an unsuccessful career of fifty years. I have never wanted to be considered half way intelligent.

There is probably no one out there who loves what he does more than I do. I do it because I have to. I suppose I'll quit it when I have to.

I love you all. I really do.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I Was Always Wrong

My friend Rodney just called. I answered the phone and he said, "Ronny, it's Rodney." I stammered and stuttered. I had just posted on a photo of his old band, The Mystics, that he had put up on Facebook. It was too soon for him to have seen the post but it was impossible to believe that he just happened to be calling. He was contacting me to express his sympathy on my mom's passing. 

I have bragged about this before; I have the sweetest, most wonderful friends in the world. The only reason that I can boast so shamelessly is that I have nothing to do with it. I am living proof that whatever God you believe in won't let fools starve.

Sometimes I go for years at a time without seeing Rodney. If I need him, though, he's always there. Some force contacts him and lets him know.

Now I have thirteen songs almost completed for the new record. I had told Rodney some months back that I was working on a song about Handsome Harry "The Hipster" Gibson. He said that he would really like to sing on it. Well, if I haven't mentioned it, Rodney is a singer. No, I mean a singer. Hey, I'm one of those who generally goes for the non-singer. I want soul. I need to have my heart broken. Well, Rodney sings and breaks your heart. He's the real deal.

I can't wait.