When you find love you know perfect beauty. All those sayings about love being blind have it backwards. Love, real love, opens your heart and opens your eyes. When you are in the presence of the one that you love the perfection and radiance of the universe is revealed. There is nothing to change, nothing to "fix."
If you want to wish for everything, wish for love.
Maybe I believe in some rules for romance. Maybe I should have thought about it a long time ago. Why would anyone bother with a relationship if the person on the other end wasn't absolutely, positively head-over-heels in love? It seems completely crazy to me to worry about a partner's loyalty and fidelity. If the one on the other end wants someone else, let's face it, your romance is worth less than that bucket of warm spit that John Nance Garner used to describe the value of the vice president's office.
Love? Oh, I believe in love. With all my heart I believe in love.
Loud, stubborn, drunk, poor and old? Yeah. What's your point? If I'm ever in love, I'm in love, LUV. I'm a slow learner but I never give up.
While the other kids were counting sheep or enjoying wet dreams I lay awake in bed at night worrying about rust ever starting on my '32 Ford body. Hot rods were really not in style at my snooty high school. Neither was I. We were poor. I didn't know. My mom managed to spoil me with everything that I wanted and she did it on an information operator's salary. A single mom, she paired up with my grandmother, Lottie, to spoil me with love, too.
Now I find that I don't care so much about stuff. I like hot rods but I don't want one. It took me years to figure out that I have no mechanical aptitude. I love guitars, too. I always seem to have too many. I've had every one that I could ever want. Only one means anything to me. It's my pal, Rock Bottom's old National steel body. I played it on one of his records. Jack Bellew gave it to me. He said he thought that I should have it.
The point that I'm trying to get to here is that the love mattered. The stuff- not so much. I don't worry about rust any more. In fact, I like it. Pardon me for boasting but I've got a lot of love. It was given to me.
Well, I accidentally found the scared little boy who lives in me over this weekend. Several times, in fact. Oh, I know he's always there. Most times I can keep him hidden from other folks and from me, too, if I need to.
I guess that I'm just so terrified of loss that good sense abandons me at the starting gate sometimes. With a self destructive streak a mile wide it's time to figure some things out. I'm not threatening to grow up, just to figure some things out.
Other folks rejoice and dance in the streets. I wring my hands. Gays can serve in the military. Women can fight in war. I hold out hope in my universe that every soldier will put down his weapon and refuse to go to any more wars. Let the rich men who have disagreements wrestle naked in jell-o. I love the soldiers. I hate the wars.
In college I took a class, Idea Of Utopia. To all the rest it was about utopian literature. To me it was about changing the world.
It's all about the love. It's all about the service. As long as there's one hungry baby out there we can't afford the luxury of war.
Torn between my identification with the underdog and my wild ambition to save the world I find myself frequently washed up on the shore of confusion. If you ask your Sufi neighbor who their superstars are he'll patiently explain that they have none. None that you've ever heard of.
I've never struggled with my obscurity. I've reveled in it, wallowed in it. I have read in the magazines more than once that I am geographically challenged. I've come to accept my role as limited. Really limited. Well, I love Elvis and I idolize Gandhi. Einstein and Jesus are my heroes. Same with Marilyn and Gabby Hayes.
Makes me chuckle to hear kids ragging on Mumford and Sons. Heck, we all know that Uncle Tupelo invented country music, right? Wait a minute. These guys with the silver ponytails are over here are puffing up, defending the Byrds and Gram Parsons. Everybody knows that they put the drawl in rock'n'roll. Now when I was growing up in Birmingham there was only one kind of music and Hank Williams played it the best and if you turned on the radio and let the tubes warm up, Hank would sing it for you. I didn't find Jimmie Rodgers until later. He was gone and out of fashion by my time.
I don't know. Maybe somebody is at the front of the line. I don't care. We could go through the same exercise for rock'n'roll or jazz or blues. Can't we just all get along?
It must have been about 1961. My mom took me to the armory in Tampa again to see a rock'n'roll show. It was the Sam Cooke Show. On the bill with Sam was LaVern Baker, Marv Johnson and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. What a show! I like to think that I never had any racial prejudice of any kind. We all do.
When Sam took the stage in a white jacket the young black girls screamed, wept and tore at their hair. It had never occurred to me that the African American culture had their own separate sex idols. Of course Sam was part of the beginning of all this. The music business had attempted to keep it safe with the first rock'n'roll stars. Fats? Loveable, no threat. Little Richard? Beautiful, less threat. Chuck? He teasingly toyed with us but always played it sly.
Now Sam had put together his own brand of lurid appeal during his gospel years. Thanks to Mr. Guralnick's exhaustive research we know all about that.
Oh, the white girls loved him, too, but he just burned right through those young black girls' hearts. Lotta' wet seats in the armory that night and it wasn't just tears.
That show changed my perception of rock'n'roll and it altered my views on equality. Sam would have loved that.
All my favorite songs sound familiar the first time I hear them. That's no coincidence. There are only so many notes in our scale, only so many words in the English language.
While I've always found it easy to overlook Chuck Berry's sources and anything that Bob Dylan borrows, I'm always worried that I'm using something from someone else without crediting them. It's starting to mean less and less to me.
A friend sent me a link to a You Tube performance of Bob Dylan onstage doing "Money Honey." Always been one of my favorite songs. Funny, it was always one of Little Richard's favorites, too. He claims that he loved "The Girl Can't Help It" because it was copied from "Money Honey." I've never been one of those detectives looking for Dylan clues. Who cares? I mean there are obvious things out there like "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Too Much Monkey Business" but when it comes to combing Rimbaud or poking through old Scottish folk songs from other centuries, count me out.
Here, though, Bob points the stratocaster towards the ceiling and starts dancing. Yeah, dancing. I immediately see it as the little steps that Carl Perkins did on all of his early television appearances. So here this old Jewish guy from Minnesota, sporting a hairdo taken from his early hero, Little Richard, croaking in a voice that came directly from Woody Guthrie, singing a song from the Drifters is now bopping like Carl Perkins. I don't want to start talking about the fact that Little Richard took the hairstyle from Esquireta or we'll never get out of here.
Art has sources. Without a foundation we've got no way to communicate. I love you. I didn't make that up.
Sad songs. Folks have had to point out to me that I write sad songs. Really sad. I poke back through them or hear them on the radio and I wonder where that stuff comes from. Now I'm setting world records for happy. I'm not complaining. If I ever get the blues again I'll just sing those old ones. In the meantime I'm gonna write some happy ones and I'm gonna help save the world.
Digging through the rubble in my head I find manipulative rubble that I have used to get my way. I like to hold myself up as honest, direct, straightforward. Now I see that over a lifetime that I have gotten pretty good at manipulating circumstances to move things my way. No more. Fixed. Feel free to buy used cars from me again and thank you for listening.
When I think of the beautiful people who have passed through my life I am overwhelmed. Some of them were famous. That probably meant a lot at the time. Every time. Of course most of them were not. What a quilt, what a wonder.
Maybe we should figure out a way to make everybody famous. Heck, we put a man on the moon. If every kid got all the love that he deserved it would be a fine world.
It was sorta' a scene from "Hoarders." At least I guess it was. I've never actually seen an episode of "Hoarders." There was junk piled everywhere, though, and dog poop on a piece of paper at the front door. Newspapers and magazines were everywhere.
He had a D.U.I. so I had come to give him a ride to a show that we were playing together. He had tried to avoid me coming in but my tire went flat at his apartment and we had to call AAA. I was surprised but only a little.
Funny thing, hanging right near his phone, all nicely framed, was a big photo of me. I still think about it. I miss him every day.
It's too late to die young and I've already run through more good fortune than most folks could pack into a lifetime. I've met the sweetest people and I've seen the prettiest flowers. I wish my good luck on everyone else. This snapshot fascinates me, by the way. Is that pig mimicking me or am I doing a fair impersonation of the pig at midnight?
I told Walt the story last night about running into the living room in my underwear to see the relatives soon after we moved to Florida. Kind of an Adam and Eve moment; I didn't know to be ashamed. Well, once Sandra and George began pointing and laughing, I knew. I guess I was six. Funny thing is, that would make George about four at the time and he knew.
A little mockery never hurt me. I'm nobody's martyr, nobody's victim. If you come to visit and I'm glad to see you, I may run into the room in my underwear. Or worse. I like the story better before the snake butt in.
Wouldn't you know that it would happen on Elvis' birthday! My mind has been tumbling the question of my purpose and my role here for a long time. I guess that I've always been what is kindly referred to as a seeker; deridedly, a dreamer; or, as Crash Mitchell sees it, a musician.
The last four or five years have taught me the lessons of loss that can't be translated from some book on the life of the Buddha.
Somehow, I suppose that I've always known that I was right where I was supposed to be. My grandmother planted the seed of peace and love long before I had to ponder the question of whether or not I was a hippie.
Now, it's 11:01 here on January 8th. In ten minutes I'll call it official. I've crossed that line that I've always sought. All those movies like Roogie's Bump and They Might Be Giants served their purpose. I believe! I'm here to help find peace. I'm here to help, to love. I'm here to save Tink!
As a kid my heroes were cowboys and race car drivers and rock'n'roll stars. Oh yeah, movie stars and bleach blonde wrestlers, too. I suppose I'm still a sucker for a good pr campaign. Now, though, I find my real heroes all around me. I'm always amazed at what everyday folks will do to help others. I see some of the hard work that friends do on animals' behalf and I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and wonder. When you can tap into your true spirit, there's a fountain of love there. No reason to be dainty about it. Slosh it all over the place.
"He has no filters." I don't know if this hackneyed jewel is making it onto any of those lists of phrases that should be dropped or not but it's got my vote. Of course I have no filters.
It's one of those traits like eccentricity, I suppose. Sorta' comes into fashion for short bursts. I never really thought of myself as eccentric but folks will let you know.
So, here's the deal. I'll tell anybody anything. If you've read much of this drivel you know that by now. I've always been just a little bit shy about the women in my life, however. "Ronny's got a girlfriend. Ronny's got a girlfriend." I'm a foot-shuffler by nature. I'm usually pretty shy and tongue tied around folks that I don't know well. My big fear, looking back, was that the chatter might escalate to "Ronny and Alison, sitting in a tree..."
I would like to think that it's merely a measure of my chivalry and that I have tried to protect the reputation and the honor of the women that I love. You don't buy that one, do you?
So it's time for me to admit to you, and more importantly maybe, to me that I truly love the women in my life. As romances fade and marriages crumble, as crushes dissolve and girlfriends vanish, I have always claimed boldly that there was no basis for the relationship to begin with. My heart lets me in on a secret: I love, I love hard and I love forever.
I've been mean and I've been angry and I've used hurt as my excuse. There is no excuse. I rode my bike by Alison's house several thousand times between the third grade and the sixth grade. If she lived there now I would probably go today. She's still my pal but I never asked her out. No rejection! I was never angry at her and I'm glad. She never loved me. At least she never was in love with me. Lots of folks have never been in love with me. I get it.
Now, though, I take some kind of weird inventory and my heart threatens the seams. I have love, and lots of it, for everyone. I have big love for the women who have taken up space in my heart. The inventory is more extensive than the photos available to me. It's not really important. They're all in my heart. I hope I have some small part in theirs. Now, I guess, I've told you everything.
Eleven eleven. A.M. and P.M. I find myself looking at some clock, somewhere, at least half a dozen times a week at 11:11. I'm not really one of those folks who find hidden meaning in everything. I'm aware that our minds seek out patterns but, if anything, I've tried to ignore this thing to death.
Don't try to reason with me. I'm not a reasonable man. Maybe I'm just getting hungry just before lunch. That's what you're thinking, I know. The fact is I'm always hungry. If I'm at home I try to get to bed before 11:00. Doesn't change a thing. Frequently I'll wake up suddenly and sit up to glance at the clock on the cable box.
Sometimes I try to remember whether or not this happened before most of the clocks around me were digital. Maybe I just never noticed. If anyone out there can explain this to me I will be very grateful.
There's no such thing as "The Nationals." When I started my first Ronny Elliott cd, my pals from the Leonard Croon Band were planning to play on the recordings. I was recording it at home. The dining room was the control room and the living room the studio. We were using a borrowed eight track. One track was busted so it really was a borrowed seven track, I suppose.
Steve Connelly was the producer/engineer. He had never done either one. See, I had been hired on to produce a Steve Connelly cd and it was never completed. How we came to work together is another story. Remind me to tell you that one.
Any way, most of the guys from Leonard Croon failed to show up at the house for the sessions. They had decided that they would be "The Nationals" as a joke. We all thought that the name was so bad that we took a shine to it.
I relied on friends like Natty and Harry to play when the tape rolled. On that first record, Ronny Elliott And The Nationals, I remember Mark Warren, Philip Booth, David Lane and a bunch of other friends who happened to be around lending a hand. Of course Steve would add a little guitar on some of the sessions.
The band wasn't really "The Nationals." That was just the name of the cd. It was supposed to be funny.
We were pretty lucky and it immediately began to get some airplay all around the country. Some in Europe, too. Funny thing is, no one worked that record to radio. I didn't even know that there were radio promoters working that stuff. The term americana wasn't being used yet. I was just playing what I've always played. In fact, there are songs on that cd that I had written in the '60's and '70's. There were brand new ones, too.
Randy Wynn, the program director at WMNF in Tampa, called and asked if I would play on a bill at the State Theater in St. Pete for the station. They were bringing in Jimmy LaFave for the first time and Peter Case. He asked if I could put together a "crack band" for the show.
Well, I had played bass on another failed project, this one for Walt Bucklin, in the recent past. I called and asked him if he would play bass for the show. I knew that I wanted to work with him but I really didn't know him. He had to borrow a bass. My friend, Harry Hayward, had tried to play drums in bands for years. Decades. In fact, I had taken him off the drum kit and moved him to singer/magician for Duckbutter. He put together a kit from old scrap drums that he found around town. Steve Connelly agreed to play guitar. I added Natty Moss Bond to the ensemble, hoping that she would be the actual singer in the band. That never panned out because she just couldn't learn all the songs in that short period of time. I seem to remember that we had about two weeks to throw this "crack band" together.
Well, the Nationals are still together. I took the quotes off. I guess it's a band now. There have been others and sometimes there still are. Jim McNealon became a real National and died. We miss him. We really miss him. Rebekah Pulley and Rob Pastore play with us often. Harry loves to have a second drummer. Spencer Hinkle and Wally Watson have been the ones filling that role. We've had other guitarists; Mark Warren, Bob Rippy and Johnny G. Lyonn. Pamela Epps has played sax; Roswald Darby, trumpet; Andy Karpay, mandolin; and Drew Farmer has played piano with us.
It always seems to come back to that original "crack band," though. Heck, I've been through a number of wives over the same period. This is from that first show at the State Theater. Jimmy LaFave and Peter Case have become good friends of mine since then. The Nationals? Bad asses, every one.
With apologies to Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan, I was, I suppose, never a contender. I could never have been somebody. I've always known to zig when it's been time to zag. Don't get me wrong. I'm not whining. My life is blessed and I've seen things that still thrill me.
Take Harry Hayward. Please.
He probably blames me for making him an obscure, has been cult figure. A born clown, well-studied magician, self-taught singer. In the late '60's, early '70's Harry honed his skills as a professional fool as the frontman for Duckbutter, our bad intentioned hillbilly jazz ensemble.
His dance, the Mullet, had always been fun. We had entertained drunks everywhere with it. Later Gary Dobbins and I wrote a song just to use for the dance using Harry's four steps:
Row The Boat
Throw The Net
Bring 'Em In
Put The Mullet in The Bucket
Now, one thing about Harry; he's not prolific. By the time that we threw together Loco Siempre at some point in the '80's or '90's he was still working the Mullet. I've gotta say that an old white man in a sheer harem girl outfit singing and dancing his heart out while instructing a barroom full of delirious yahoos the Mullet is better than seeing any of the seven wonders that I may have missed.
Yeah, I guess my pal, Walt, summed it up pretty well when he pointed out to me a few weeks ago that I'm a "solo act." He said, "You can play with a band. You can get married. Let's face it, though, you're a solo act."