Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sharing Space With Spirits

The workman walked through the front door this morning and immediately declared, "Well, hello there. I'm friendly."

Oddly, I pretty much knew what he was talking about. He wasn't the first. Of course I had to ask to make sure.

"What does that mean? Who are you talking to?"

"There's somebody here," he replied. "Oh, it's okay. He's friendly."

The junk man hauling away the debris a few weeks back told me the same story. He said that when he walked into the back bedroom a voice very clearly called, "Mark." He said that it was a man's voice and seemed very kind and friendly. He told me that only once before had he experienced anything similar and that the other incident was unsettling and had not seemed friendly at all.

Let me tell you that I don't believe in ghosts. I don't not believe in them, either.

This time, it's not my house. I'm trying to help Leonore get her house ready to move back in to and she doesn't want to hear it. Not my fault. Not my house.

Let me mention that Mr. Hill, who lived in my house, seems to hang around in spirit, too. Also kind, also friendly.

I mentioned that I don't believe in ghosts, right?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Music Teacher

We didn't have a music teacher who came every day. It was the fourth or fifth grade and Miss Dennis came every two or three days. At the start of the school year she came in, looked around and settled in on me.

"I remember you. I don't like you."

Not much encouragement for a sensitive kid. I'm not saying that it hurt my feelings but here I am still telling the story almost sixty years later. My art teachers never were too thrilled with me, either, as I recall.

I'm hoping that my flagging career has not given either of them anything to gloat over.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Seems that every time I try to ignore the voices in my head I pay a big price. I've paid more than one therapist good money to convince me of something that I didn't really believe.

The reason that I have written so accurately about my future is that I have always set myself up for heartbreak. Maybe I don't have big regrets but that doesn't mean that I can't begin to take good care of this old heart.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Love The Soldier, Hate The War

Hate's a strong word and I would really rather not use it at all. I'll make an exception here, though. History will always show us that there are no good wars. Men can't get along. Never could. It's all mixed up with biology and testosterone. Once we "advanced" as a culture so that the rich ones could use the poor ones to fight their battles we moved to a new and terrible game.

There are enough resources on this planet, despite our dumb habits, to provide for the needs of all of our citizens. Enough to take care of our children, our sick, our elderly and everyone without the means to take care of themselves.

Some folks want more than their share, though. Hey, I'm not preaching about capitalism or socialism here. I'm talking about a set of morals that marches off our precious youth for profit and property and ideology.

We owe all of our heroes who have marched off to defend us all of the help and all of the love and all of the respect that we can muster. We owe them our promise to make sure that their kids never march off for some old fool's folly, too. A revolution of love has begun. Let's end war. Let's use our resources to provide for the earth and all of her inhabitants. I am a patriot. I fight for love. I fight for truth.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Only Child

My mom and my grandmother spoiled me so badly as a kid that it's some kind of miracle that anyone can bear to be around me today. I was always right. Always made all decisions. I was indulged in every way and given everything. Everything. We were poor but I didn't know it. Mom made sure that I never needed anything, never wanted anything, at least not for long.

Maybe the saving grace is that I was spoiled with love, too. Overwhelming amounts of unconditional love. When I succeeded I was celebrated and when I failed it was never my fault. Sometimes I lack the patience to accept that not everybody has been so fortunate. I have a huge debt to humanity. I owe lots and lots of love. Unconditional love. I have a karma debt and it's an honor to pay on it.

Now when I screw up there's nobody around to make my excuses. I was raised with rock'n'roll and I'll use it to pay my debts. Pray for peace, search for truth. Spread the love.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Here Comes The Airplane

Most of the big lessons have come to me hidden in some form of romance or rock'n'roll. The universe has to surprise me, trick me. You know, "Open up the runway. Here comes the big airplane!"

Fortunately, I'm easily tricked. Oh, don't get me wrong; I'm not a quick learner. Don't let me put my hand in the marbles.

Seems that everything that matters falls into one of two categories, love or loss. You can't really separate those two, either. Heck, maybe there's only one lesson. I'm loving just as hard as I can go. I recommend it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Go First Class

So, according to the New York Times there are lonely people and there are chronically lonely people. I suppose that all of us who fall into that second category spend a lot of time feeling like we are the only ones that far down in the mire of emptiness.

On the good news front I see an article posted all over the social networks listing the attributes that happy people share. Seems I'm in that club, too. Who knew?

So I'm a happy, lonely person. I can't decide whether to celebrate or slit my wrists.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I've Seen 'em All

Looking back at my first introduction to my pal, David Amram, I remember being something less than overwhelmed with the stories that swirled around him. He was pals with Kerouac and Ginsberg and all those guys that we now refer to as "the beats." Yeah, well what does that make him, right?

Of course as the stories mount it begins to become obvious that nobody's in the right place at the right time all of the time. Ambassador of Jazz with Louis. Best friend of Leonard Bernstein. Then the big one. David was with Lord Buckley in Manhattan on the day that he died. Okay, now I'm impressed.

Sometimes the stories cloud the value of David's music. His philosophy of music is original and spiritual. He's a genius and, believe me, I don't throw that term around.

Now, time has gone by and I have stories. It comes from living a long time. Elvis offered to teach me karate. I held up Jimi's Marshall cabinets. Speedo took me to a party that the Coasters were throwing. Yeah, well, what does that make me, right?

Oh. I stood and watched Moondog on the corner in the city and Tiny Tim told me that he would see me in heaven.

I have a philosophy of music, too. I truly believe that it is the ultimate expression of all of the love and all of the intimacy that cannot be expressed with words. I'm positive that love's DNA is wrapped around the musical scale. I love you all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Don't Know Much Biology

"If a bullfrog had wings he wouldn't bump his butt so much." That's what my grandmother always told me and I suppose it's true. I've run out of excuses. I've got books and plays to finish, songs that collide in my head and places to go. I have a life to live and a heart that is overflowing.

I've read that only a fool has no regrets and that makes me feel a little bit dumb. Yeah, I would do pretty much all of it again. I'm looking for a clear head and an open heart and I'm hoping that the ecstasy will take care of itself.

For the time being, the tragedy and the sadness in Oklahoma reminds us all of the goodness in the heart of people. If there is any lesson here beyond strong hinges on the storm cellar door, it is love. Use it up if you think you can. Squander it on the living things around you. Don't finish up with a bunch of it that you think you've saved. It's like green stamps or ripe tomatoes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Well, I have a lot of folks all over Oklahoma who mean the world to me. So far, everyone seems to be in one piece. Nature is always ready with a reminder, though, that life is precious. Don't wait to start living and don't settle for anything. Hold tight to what you love and love what have. I love you all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Honey Hush

Let me ask you something. If we put together a rhythm and blues band based on foolishness, along the lines of Duckbutter, will you come to see us? Looking for ways to avoid starvation and yet not stooping to actual work this seems to be a logical scenario.

We already have a working title for the first cd, "Turn Your Head And Cough." I hardly see how we could fail. Let me know.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wrap My Turban

Always wanted to wear a turban. I've got a crystal ball in the house, too. Really. Turns out I know stuff. My fascination with mind reading and mentalism is settled in the theatrics but I know a little something about the history of the stuff. Yeah, Theo Annemann shaved a widow's peak as a young man so that he could look the part. By the time that he took his own life he had blurred the line between real life and the other world.

Maybe I have avoided the showbiz mentalism to keep away from that pesky real stuff. It finally occurs to me that "reading minds" can be too much to handle. I can sing you song after song that I've written about big events in my life. Before they happened. Sensitive means way more than I once thought it did.

It's not always a drag knowing what the stranger on the elevator is thinking but it can be tedious listening in on the hearts of lovers.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Glory Hole In The Ether

The joy in my life is threatening to take over the wheel. I've sung the line, "The joy in your soul means more than what you earn," for so long that I'm starting to believe it. I've never had more fun. I've never been so thankful for what I have.

Sometimes I wish that I played five hours a night, seven days a week. This rock'n'roll is magic. Cutty smutty!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Whole Pie

Once the big bucks are squeezed out of the music business the rock'n'roll will flow. Of course Clive and the last of the crooks will be long gone. It will come from the kids, of course. It always does. It will be built on all of the gospel and hillbilly stuff that came down from the hills. We'll still be indebted to the Africans and the Irish and all of the heroes who cooked that stew the last couple of go 'rounds.

I won't likely be here to hear it but some kid who knows he's hipper than the pack may find some obscure tune of mine... wait, they're all obscure; damn! I was saying, some punk may stumble across something that I've done and hold it up as something primitive, something so unsophisticated that it deserves a listen. Voila!

Oh, you have no idea how many friends have suggested death to me as a career move. Honestly, I'm content with obscurity. It suits me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Arrogance Of Youth

Funny, I thought I knew everything at seventeen. Now I look around and find that I still suffer such foolishness. At least I have enough disaster in my history now to be reminded that I don't know much and I never did. Have I made mistakes? Well, yeah, of course. That's not so bad. Having made so many of them over and over is a touch dumb, though.

I have always worried that the ultimate comic book light bulb would appear over my head in the last frame.

Peace and love were taught before I could walk, though, so I can't complain. Mix that up with rock'n'roll and it's a pretty good life. All that stuff that seemed so important at various stages of my life have settled into the ether.

A-whap- bob- a- lee- bop- balop- bam- boom!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Talkin' Animals

Don't go playing Old Shep if I'm around. I'll embarrass us both. Even Old Blue can start the waterworks for me. I don't know of many cat songs but it would be the same.

The animals that have passed through my life have changed my entire world and all for the better. There is no way to imagine having gotten through without my animal pals' love and companionship. More of the karma debt and I'm proud to have it.

That's me and Jamaica. Angel wouldn't pose.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Emperor's Clothes

How long do these bozos think that we're gonna put up with their philandering and plundering? Our lawmakers have job security, healthcare and a fine retirement plan. All at our expense.

We send our kids to fight their wars, not for justice and democracy, but for profits for their financial backers. Our infrastructure crumbles and our environment sputters to appease crooks who keep these guys in office. I use the term, in office, because I won't refer to it as "working."

I've never had anything against capitalism and I still don't. They have appropriated the term and use it to describe thieves and cheaters. I learned enough in Sunday School to know that I need to stand up to this.

Fidel Castro turned out to be a bad guy. That fact doesn't say anything positive at all about Batista. You can't replace scoundrels with scoundrels and make the world a better place. Rise up in love and let's fix this country, this continent, this world. Pray for peace, search for truth.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Just My Luck

Sometimes I wonder just how much luck is out there. Mine seems never to run out. I know I've used up my quota and I just hope I haven't dipped into someone else's.

I'll leave the worries about string theory and black hole thermodynamics to the scientists and poets. I'm wrestling with the phonograph record, the thermos and luck.

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

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"One Cop In Wentzville"

Working with my all time hero moved pretty quickly from the thrill of a lifetime to something in the nightmare category. Chuck Berry was a great guy when he chose to be. Often he made other decisions.

The last time I played with him, though, was a highlight of everything that has passed before me. He had made us an offer that we couldn't really refuse through the promoter. We packed a borrowed van and headed for Miami. The show was at the Jai Alai fronton and the opening act was the James Gang. 

We had grown more or less accustomed to Chuck's uneven performances. Oh, the good ones were always special. The lesser shows always had more predictable material and less duckwalking. This evening was special from the opening chords of Nadine.

The set lasted two and a half hours. Chuck ranted, he raved. He dropped to his knees to recite poetry. He was on fire and the young crowd stayed on their feet throughout the workout. He bragged on the Mike Douglas Show the next week to John and Yoko that he had just played the longest set of his career.

At the little reception table a sweat drenched Dr. Berry kept up the party mood inviting us to come visit at Berry Park. "There's only one cop in Wentzville and I've got polaroids of him!" he shouted. I thought it was just a little tasteless joke. Of course several years later I realized from assorted news items that it probably wasn't altogether a joke.

I sure am glad that we ended our run with the greatest living American on such a high note. He's still my hero.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Power Of The Song

When I hear George Jones sing those heart breaking words from "She Thinks I Still Care" I can't help but marvel at the feelings that Dickey Lee and Steve Duffy packed into those three minutes of song. Of course the Possum's clenched teeth delivery is what you're drawn to but it's those gut wrenching lyrics and that sad, sad melody that pack the wallop. The same with "I Go To Pieces" whether it's Peter and Gordon's hit version or Del Shannon's original. How can such sadness be contained on a little piece of plastic? Don't even get me started about Hank Williams or Ray Charles. I'm thrilled to hear that Steve Martin and Edie Brickell possess the stuff with "When You Get To Asheville," the radio single off their new collaboration. Heck, they're rich. They're famous. What do they know about heartache and heartbreak?

On the other end of the scale if "I'm My Own Grandpa" by Lonzo and Oscar comes on the radio, my pants are wet. Don't worry. It never even came on the radio in 1947 when it was new. Hmm; 1947.

I struggle for the power to break hearts, to wet pants. That's what I do.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Little Bang Theory

Oh, I feel all the rock'n'roll that came before well up in my soul. It screams to get out and wash over the folks. Great googly moogly! Do you feel it?

For those of us who are called, it's a blessing. It's funny and it's sad. Bo Diddley wanted to produce our band. He never got around to it and now he's gone. Berry Oakley did, too. Same thing. They live on. They all do. If you really want to live forever, my advice to you is to go into the business of rock'n'roll. Call in well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cover me

It takes lots of nerve to sing a song associated with Elvis or Frank Sinatra or Sam Cooke. Maybe if you came with pipes like Aaron Neville you could get away with it. For most mortals it's really not a smart move, however.

Then you have Otis Redding. He was fearless and he could make anything his. Satisfaction, Down In The Valley, Shake. It never really mattered. Often he wouldn't even bother to check up on all the lyrics.  I'm an eskimo and he sold me more than one refrigerator.

If you can still find a dictionary, look up soul singer. If there's not a picture of Otis, throw it across the room.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

As Time Goes By

My mom left the planet a year ago. I missed Mother's Day with her and I suppose I'll miss it all the more this time around. Her passing ended a five year "losing streak," however, and my life began to pull itself out of the mire.

Over cafe con leche yesterday my pal, Larry, told me, "Hey. You're well. I know you've been telling me for awhile now that you're doing better but now you really are. You don't even look the same."

All of my pals who had been kind enough and patient enough to stick with me had told me over and over that only time passing would make things okay. Time passed. I'm okay.

I love harder than ever. I just don't expect anything in return. I rock'n'roll with all I've got. I get plenty in return. I can't take it to the bank but it has made me a rich man.

I love you very much.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mr. Romance

As my failures mount I probably regret my romantic batting average more than anything else. I read somewhere that any man who claims to have no regrets is either a liar or has lived a dull life. I'm no liar and there has not been a dull moment.

All of my memories are good ones.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hands In My Pockets

Sometimes I tell myself that it's all about my desire to communicate. On other days I wake up worrying about the arrogance of blogging. I have the simplest message. Love. Love hard and love a lot. Love unconditionally.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

God: "I Am What I Am"

"Who made God?"

"Well, that's a good question, Paul, "Reverend Simmons responded. "I can't give you the proper answer. It's like holding up mirrors to mirrors."

We were taking a class to prepare us to join the church, Trinity Methodist. Elsworth Simmons was a good guy and Paul Alfieri was quite a bit brighter and more mature than the rest of us in the class.

Trinity has been gone for years now. Flattened. I still think about that concept often, though, and use it any time that something is beyond my verbal skills of explanation.

My concept of a god changed radically that day. Like most kids my idea had been something along the lines of Robert Young's Father Knows Best character but dressed in some kind of long robe and sitting on a golden throne surrounded by angels.

Now I understand that I don't know any of it. That's fine. I do know god when I see it and I see it everywhere. The hitch, as I have come to understand it, is that biology has made us selfish in order to preserve the species. In our arrogance we have decided that power has to do with dominance and with gold and authority. We have actually convinced ourselves of our dominion over all the others on this planet. I'm going out on a limb and suggesting that my dog, Jamaica, knows and understands more about god and love and order and all that matters than any philosopher working.

Nobody made god. God is. Like Popeye, he is what he is.

I can't change the world. Why would I want to? When I let go and just love I know truth. The code has been programmed. Let your love and let the truth flow. Listen to the music. Breathe the air. This is heaven and it's ours.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Don't Know Much Geography

Maybe I'd move if I had somewhere to go. There are certainly better fits for me than Tampa. San Francisco. London. Key West. I don't want to starve, though, or get hit by a car from the wrong direction. I surely don't want to slide off the earth into the ocean.

We moved here when I was six years old; me, my mom and my grandmother. When I tell the story, it was my idea. To a kid Florida was all beaches and palm trees and Hawaiian shirts. Looking back I was probably set up. Mom probably used me as the excuse to do something fun and irresponsible.

Now I'm a solo act here. No family left. Folks call me by name most places I go. I've been here for a long, long time now.

To quote some journeyman folksinger, "Sometimes I wish I had someone to come home to. Sometimes loneliness cuts just like a knife."

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Threat Of Rock'n'Roll

Wasn't rock'n'roll a lot more fun when there was something naughty about it? Now the generation that went nuts over Elvis and Little Richard and then the Beatles is the geriatric set. All of the guitar gods wear hearing aids.

I really wish that every new bunch could have the thrill that we all shared disregarding our parents' demands that we limit our input of pop culture in order to avoid fire and brimstone.

Of course my mom strayed from the role a bit. She introduced me to the art form and the life. Even at the end, while she pretended to regret that I never amounted to anything, she always let me know that she was filled with pride over my music. To quote somebody, "Thank God for mothers with no better sense than mine."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Feelin' Good Feels Good

Is it bright in here or is it just me? My optimism is pegging the meter. Coming on the heels of four or five dark years I'm more than ready for all the joy that comes before me.

To quote myself again, "I've got strings to break and friends I haven't even used yet." Seems that all I needed was to clean the lens on my rose colored glasses. I love you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stage Fright

I remember an interview with John Lennon where he mentioned that he was always so nervous before going onstage that he usually threw up. I think it ran in Playboy. It made me feel good because I had always been so very frightened of walking out onto a stage, too. The fact that a hero of mine shared this fear seemed to validate my feelings. I just assumed that it was something of a professional liability. You know, just a sign that it all really matters. The very first time that I played a show it was with my pals, the Tropics. Buddy Pendergrass turned to me as we started out and asked, "Are you nervous?"

When I nodded he replied, "Don't worry. As soon as you make your first mistake and you realize that nobody has stopped dancing, you'll be okay."

That probably kept my fears to something manageable for years.

In Europe, Germany I think, it just all went away one day. I've never been anxious about it since. I gotta tell you, this is better. I don't know what happened. Trying to make sense of it I suppose that an awareness came over me; this is it. It's not going to be better or worse, this is just it. Don't misunderstand me. Every show is important to me. I want to tear the house down every night. I want to break hearts and make folks cry. I'm dying to make 'em laugh and to have a good time. It would be thrilling to think that I really touched a heart once or twice over all these years. This really is just what I do, though. It's not gonna get much better or worse than this.