You know how the Levis rip in the knee when you finally get them just where you want them? I'm hoping that there's no life analogy there. I'm pretty sure that I finally know myself. Politics? Over it. Religion? I've taken what I need. In fact, I'm back to square one where it all happens anyway. Be good. Don't hurt anyone.
I'm here for the honor of serving and you are, too. Rock'n'roll is my calling. My only tool is a heart full of love. I hope to spill it and use it up in the time that I have. Great goodness!
All or nothing. What makes me see things this way? No wonder I never understood physics. I seem to be unable to play for the fun. Funny, too, I have no competitive urge. I write my songs, make my records. I can't do anything as a hobby, though. I have to devote everything I have to every endeavor.
You have to worry for the well being of anybody who picks up drumsticks with me or any woman who gets too close to the flame. Is it hot in here?
Getting through this tunnel that we call life sure challenges the soul, doesn't it? No matter how much I look for peace and tranquility in my situation I seem to look across the checkerboard at some kind of gotcha' grin every day or two. Yesterday it was the city code enforcement lackey who asked why I didn't have a broad expanse of St. Augustine grass in my parkway since all of my neighbors did. Well, I wouldn't have any problem with some fellow out to do his job who wanted me to clean up a mess and improve the neighborhood. This guy wanted to let me know immediately that he didn't like me and that my work would be complete when he liked what I had done. No rules, no specifics, just please him.
Now, if I'm not mistaken, he works for me. I'm a good citizen. I've been in this house for twenty years. I'm proud of my yard and I work to take care of it. The parkway is in a transition just now. I have planted and moved many things over the last few months. Honestly, it needs some trimming and cleaning, too. We've had lots of rain and some things are really flourishing. Nothing is haphazard or neglected, though. Folks often stop me in my yard to tell me how much they appreciate and enjoy my landscaping.
I'm not interested in fighting with this bureaucrat. I want to enjoy my yard.
So I've always read that we're all a little bit prejudiced. Of course I don't want to consider that since I was born and lived my early years in Birmingham. Nevertheless, Donald O'Connor gave me hope for the white guy when he put his genius to full throttle in Singin' In The Rain.
So if I whine all the time about everything that's wrong what would I do differently if I had it to do over? Almost nothing. I would spend more time with the folks that I have loved, the animals, too. I suppose I'd write prettier songs but I've done my best. I would never miss an opportunity to tell anyone that I love them and I would never withhold love as some sort of dumb tactic because I had my feelings hurt.
I have really good intentions. Keep an eye on me, would you?
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Good thing I'm not a salesman. I woulda' starved. Wait a minute, I am starving. I don't have any mechanical aptitude. None. I worked on cars, as a hobby, for years. They never ran. I thought I was having fun. Once I worked as a bureaucrat for ten years, saving the environment. It took me that long to figure out that the government was not going to save anything. They had to unfund my position. Dang!
Of course I would love to be an artist. Paint my masterpiece. Every time I take an art class the instructor always loves my stuff. I think it fascinates them. None of them have ever asked for a piece. I'm really bad at it. I have a great attitude, however.
Good fortune is mine. I do what I do. Writers from other places refer to me as a cult artist. That's a very polite way of saying that only a handful of people care. Maybe someday I'll be a big cult artist. We'll see.
Okay, I guess an atheist doesn't believe in something and an agnostic doesn't believe in anything. Once again I find myself No Club, Lone Wolf. I believe in all of it. The message is always pretty clear and straightforward: be nice, do right. I'm trying, I'm trying.
Sometime in 1956 I listened to an interview with Elvis on a little flexible disc. He said that he had grown sideburns when he was sixteen or seventeen because all of the truck drivers that he admired had them. Well, I couldn't grow sideburns at nine so I had to wait.
Seems that all of the Beatles sported some version of an Elvis hairdo 'til Brian Epstein convinced them to wash their hair and comb it down. I was there, I was there.
I had planned to go on and on about rock'n'roll and hairdos but I don't have the attention span to do that and get to my point here: peace. I don't mean to bore you here but if I must, I will. I know that I babbled about this same stuff yesterday but, let's face it, it's more important than Chris Christie's standings in the opinion polls.
I encourage you, all of you, to print your own currency. We'll all sell these peace bonds for kisses. After all, love is all you need.
Pretty sure that I've mentioned that the first thing I learned to recite was, "Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war." My grandmother, Lottie, tagged that onto the traditional , "Now I lay me down to sleep..."
It took John Lennon to show me that rock'n'roll has a few subjects but one at the top of the heap is always peace. Now, I'm big on sex and I love the hot rods as much as the next hillbilly. I have to say, though, that I sing for peace and I'm proud of it.
Maybe I've never put enough effort into growing up. I've been advised to look into it a bit. It has occurred to me lately, however, that every person in my life has had a positive effect on me.
Few people have the luxury of total, complete and unconditional love surrounding them for the first couple of decades of life. I did. I'm not bragging. Oh, I believe that I deserved it. I believe that everyone deserves it.
Now I'm left with a big karmic debt to the planet. Kinda' like some giant student loan that needs to be paid in full using a currency of love and service and understanding. A pure heart gets that way using the regular cycle, not the gentle wash.
When I was a kid I hated carrying those big, heavy amps. Breaking down at the end of the night was worse. Tired and sleepy, I would curse the decision to buy the biggest and heaviest equipment on the market. To make matters worse there was beer and coke all over the thing by this time. Good roadies were the ultimate status symbol.
Now the stuff is small. Lightweight. Doesn't really matter anymore. I haven't had a roadie for decades. It seems like an honor these days. I wish I played six nights a week, four hours a night. I won't live long enough to play all I want. Don't misunderstand me, I plan to live for a very long time. It's just that I love what I do. I get to dominate the "conversation" and preach about peace and love. I get to tell off color stories and complain about politics and religion. I can take my pants off and nobody arrests me. I'm shy around folks that I don't know very well. How many other jobs would allow me to yak endlessly to friends and strangers? The pay's not much but the benefits are beautiful. I was born for the rock'n'roll.
You read about dogs and cats who make their way across the continent to reunite with a family after three or four years. That's what I want. In my pets and my friends. I want love that ignores geography and just doesn't quit. I hope I'm that kind of friend.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war. Use your love to change what needs changing.
Quoting myself again, "I don't make good records and I don't make bad records. I make Ronny Elliott records." Oh sure, I wear shiny, tacky clothes onstage sometimes. It's not because I think I'm in showbiz or something. I wear shiny, tacky clothes whenever I get a chance. Don't invite me to the funeral. Every now and then I can make myself put on a dark suit. I can't promise anything.
When I overhear attorneys or bankers sharing work stories over cocktails I thank my lucky stars that I've been lucky enough to live this life. Success? Well, I've never made any money to speak of and I've never sold many records. Little Richard is Little Richard. That's his job. That's what he does. The weekend rolls around or it's Presidents' Day, he's still Little Richard. He's rich and he's famous. We don't argue about whether or not he's made it. Ask your mom. She knows who Little Richard is. We've seen pictures of him with the Beatles. Elvis sang his songs.
Well, I'm Ronny Elliott and that's my job. I guess I'm about the luckiest guy who ever lived. I love you all very much.
Maybe your pop can scrub the internet if you do something wrong. Well, it helps if he publishes the local newspaper, I suppose. For the rest of us, maybe we better try to do right. I can't keep my pants on but I try not to bother anybody.
What are we gonna do when records and cd's and books are like buggy whips and spats? Do we really need any more reminders that stuff doesn't have any value. How much longer are we likely to invest in gold and accept green paper for showing up at a workplace that sucks the life out of us.
Will the tech revolution change things as much as the industrial revolution did? Bonobo or rat race? It's your call, I suppose.
If bread gets old but wine gets better, where do I fit in the grand scheme of things? Just how deep does sadness go? Maybe bittersweet is the best that we dare hope for. Oh, I could go and listen to some Lonzo and Oscar or some Homer and Jethro. I gotta tell you, though, the very idea breaks my heart. Those angels of haha are gone.
What's the going rate for happy? I've always heard that the best clowns are the sad ones.
Yeah, I know that Jack only wanted to be with the ones who burn, burn, burn. It took me years to figure out that the burning all happens in the heart and in the head. If you don't understand that soon enough you may end up ashes on the barroom floor.
Me? I suppose I only want to be with the ones with an open heart. Lord knows I've had enough wrong often enough so that I try to keep myself available for a sudden turn. If I haven't walked in your shoes I surely can't relate to your plight. It's a rough road for everybody out there. A little love goes a long way. Don't hoard yours. In fact, squander it if you get the chance.
Some folks are rich. Some are smart or sexy or strong. So what? I'm friends with Harry Hayward.
Remember that story about a young, drunk Mick Jagger pounding on Charlie Watts' hotel room door yelling for his drummer to come out and join him at the lobby bar for a drink? Story goes that the door finally swung open, Charlie punched the fool in the nose, knocking him down, and quipped, "I'm not your drummer. You're my singer."
Well, I'm Harry's singer. It's been a very long road. I don't have to make up stories. Happy birthday, dear, sweet friend.
Sometimes I'm aware that I know too much. Don't misunderstand. I'm not particularly bright or very quick on the draw. I'm no Jeopardy challenge or rocket scientist. It's just that I'm sensitive. No, I mean really sensitive.
I'm unable to tune out the thoughts and feelings of the folks around me. It's as though I eavesdrop on the feelings and emotions of the people I'm with. We all have things that flash through our consciousness that we'd rather not share. Well, don't get into the elevator with me.
Nothing to hide, nothing to worry about. I suppose that I got used to feeling guilty a long time ago. Seems most folks do, to some extent. Now, everybody knows all my secrets. The NSA has no worries with me. Give me a call, boys. I'll tell you everybody that I've talked to.
The people around me have accused me of spilling the beans in my songs for a long time now and I guess there's some truth to that. If there's anything you want to know, ask me. Really.
Yeah, that's the old Jack Tar Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater behind the young Don Knotts impersonator in the snapshot there. It was summer, 1965. The Rolling Stones had brought the British invasion to us just as I was breaking out of high school. Mr. Pendergrass, my pal, Buddy's dad, took us to see the show at Jack Russell Stadium. Tiny little baseball field that advertises a capacity of 3,000. It wasn't full.
The legend is that as the mini-riot broke out the Stones had to be chauffeured out of the facility for their protection after a mere four songs. In fact, that was pretty much the story by the time that I was back to the classroom. Close.
The sparse audience was already excited as Pam Hall and the Catalinas opened the show. This was as close as the Tampa Bay area would get to the Beatles.
Seems comical now, thinking about the tiny Vox columns that made up the P.A. The boys played more than four songs. I don't remember how many more. Give me a break, it's been nearly fifty years! At the time, though, I was able to run down the entire set list. My favorite moment of the show was when Mick announced, "Our drummer will introduce the next number." Charlie got off his stool, walked to the mic and said, "Little Red Rooster," and went and sat back down. Now, that's show biz!
A chubby kid toppled over the wall and a couple dozen teenagers followed him. The lads casually piled into the Cadillacs parked by the stage and drove off into the humid Florida night.
If legend and Keith's memory are to be trusted, that's the night that he recorded the original idea for Satisfaction on a cassette recorder before he fell asleep. The little guitar riff, of course, was lifted from Nowhere To Run, the Martha and the Vandellas hit.
Rock'n'roll history, I suppose. The hotel is now Fort Harrison, headquarters for the Scientologists. That was the only time I ever saw the Rolling Stones. They've done well.
Remember when the Volkoffs battled the Von Brauners to see who would have to leave town. Man! I suppose the reason that I'm working on my play is that nobody else is supplying the art that I need.
Why would anybody sit through someone else's play unless there was nudity and lines so dumb that milk ran out your nose? Music, too. Something to make you tap your foot and sing along. Oh, I can't wait. I know about as much about writing plays as I do making music. You're in for it!
We all do the best we can with what we've got. Use your love to help make this a better world. There are hungry people out there and animals that need homes. We have damaged a planet and now she needs our attention and our help. It's never too late. I wish I had done more. I've spent far too much time paving that road of good intentions.
Well, I've scooped mud from the bottom of barges, managed real estate offices, mopped floors and picked watermelons. None of those activities ever defined who I am. Thank goodness. Sometimes I'm proud of being a rock'n'roll musician. Sometimes, not so much.
I don't think I could have made it this long if I thought of myself as an architect or a dentist, a Republican or a Catholic. Oh, I'm jealous from time to time. It must be comfortable to have a self image that all makes sense.
I'm not a musician. I play a few things just well enough so that I can communicate with musicians who help me tell my stories. Nobody ever called me a singer. The only reason that I have the nerve to refer to myself as a writer is that I have to say something every now and then. When the insurance man asked my occupation on the phone the other day I told him that I am a writer. Felt just a little bit sheepish immediately. Well, I write.
I've never understood the concept of competition. Oh, I get it in evolutionary terms. The weak ones lose. The peaceful tribes get pushed to Patagonia. They freeze. They starve. I've just always considered that competition is for high jumping, not art.
It has taken me a good, long time to unravel the mystery of just who I am. Patagonia, here I come!
Okay, here's what I think: the sex industry doesn't have much to do with the glory of sex but it can't destroy the real thing. In the same way the music business has little to do with real music but real music keeps coming back.
I can't help noticing that really old pornography is dirty. Fun, too. By the time some bald guy in LA began lining up the money shot where the dwarf clown cums on the pretty girl's back while she rolls her eyes back in her head and hollers, the formula had pretty much shot its load, pun intended. My pal, Ed Brown, explained to me long ago that the classic nude art from the past was the porn of its day. Of course it was. Folks began to disrobe and mount each other as soon as we had the movie camera, too. Thanks, Thomas Alva.
The public began worrying about music going away when the radio and the phonograph record showed up. What's music that's not live? Then when sheet music lost its grip it was obvious that we were done.
Well, you can't have idiots and lawyers cramming stuff down the public's throat forever and expect them to keep shelling out money for junk. Ahmet and Art and Leonard and Phil and Lew may have been crooks... no, wait, they were crooks; but they were music lovers, too. In fact, they were music lovers above all else.
We don't know yet what the new business model for music will look like. You can safely bet that it will come from kids and it will involve the internet. Fun will come way before money. Then when some old fool recognizes an opportunity the decline will start again.
Ronny stayed too long at the fair. When I think about things that mean so much to me I can trace most of it back to the Florida State Fair. Thanks, Mom.
It was actually at the fair in Birmingham when she started taking me to the Wall of Death, the wooden ring that the daredevils rode on those old rickety motorcycles. I learned that no act worth its salt uses a net. That remains a major part of what I do. Any set of mine teeters on the edge of disaster. A safe set is not rock'n'roll. Oh, I admire those guys who can tell the same stories and pause for the big laughs and build up to the encore where everybody sings along. I just could never do it myself.
Harlem in Havana, with the wonderful rhythm and blues musicians and the beautiful, chocolate hoochie coochie dancers showed me that the highlight of our culture was all from our African American branch. That message was far stronger to that young boy than any negative, racist vision that passed in front of me.
Holding a girl's hand and the pure joy of the feeling came first from junior high school "dates" at the old fairgrounds. Pretty much my entire sex education, in fact. Well, that and the little, dirty comics that you bought during intermission at Club Lido.
The sprint car races instilled in me my love of the underdog. When the Chevy challenged the Offenhauser I was in heaven.
I don't enjoy the fair so much these days. Everything changed. I do swoon when I hold her hand though and when I think of heaven I believe I smell sawdust.
Ermine stoles and hot pants everywhere. I had never seen anything like it. Sly wouldn't go on 'til the promoters figured out a way to construct a ramp that lead the limo right to the edge of the indoor stage. At the end of the big show all of his equipment was loaded into white trucks by husky, well dressed guys. I.R.S. agents.
Dr. Diddley wouldn't speak to Mr. Berry for the entire three days. In fact, he wouldn't look in his direction. He's the one who called him "Mr. Berry." He told stories about Jimmy Reed and lectured us about child raising. He made plans to produce a record for us.
We were excited to play Steve Paul's Scene in New York. The headliners were our pals, the Candymen. The bill included Van Morrison who had just gone solo and released Brown Eyed Girl and Blood, Sweat and Tears. They were still an instrumental quartet featuring Al Kooper's piano. Of course Tiny Tim dropped by and brought the hipsters to their knees. Van was fired that night after asking from the stage, "It's hot in here. Where's the little shit that runs the joint?" We had the same publicist, Morty Wax. Van wanted to fire his band and hire us. Jim Morrison was in the audience.
Stuff just happens. If you wait long enough the stories seem interesting. Boy, if phones only had cameras!
Living with Ronny Elliott is close to impossible. Oh, I don't mean sharing a house with me. Just trying to get by on the same planet is a challenge. I try to keep it all to myself, all this peace and love and rock'n'roll.
Over the years I have built up a following that probably approaches a dozen, leaving Arnold's Rug in the dust. I plan to visit all of you in your homes over this next year to sing my heart out and preach my smutty sermons to you. Any of you who don't have room for me can visit here and get the same treatment.
Hey, I'm a musician. Seems like I should have some kind of strong opinion about drugs. I don't. Oh, I hate the waste. Specifically the waste of life, health and money that we have come to associate with addiction and self medication. It's hard for me to distinguish between the same waste from alcohol abuse in our culture. I believe all of those arguments about the legality of alcohol being based on taxes and profits for giant corporations and the government. They always told us that moonshine was illegal because it would kill you after those hillbillies ran that corn mash through dirty copper radiators. When yuppies decided that they wanted to swill 'shine that was flavored with cherries at frat parties it was suddenly fine.
Marijuana is a weed, fercrissakes! It's hard to stop it from growing once it gets started. Two groups align oddly to oppose legalization. Drug dealers who make a fortune selling the stuff and the government who can't figure out a way to tax the stuff.
Wouldn't it be nice if none of us needed to numb ourselves from the pains and tribulations of life. Yeah, well I once took a class in school, Idea Of Utopia. Now, I just try not to judge.
Meanwhile we have prisons chockfull of young men for minor drug possession charges. Big profits, once again, as we move further towards privatization of all social services.
Love everybody you come around. It's contagious. If, at some point, we don't need dope or booze we won't have to worry about any of this stuff. See? All you need is love.
If you do something wrong for long enough it may be hard to turn the train around and do it right. We'll see.
I've seen the best lightning lately that I can remember. I'm banking on the stars aligning and this lucky rock that I have here somewhere. Measuring good fortune by the pound and ignoring the metric system, I'm rolling. This is the Class A feature. I've got the stuff.