Saturday, November 30, 2013

What's It Worth To Ya?

Oh, I sat through so many hours of rock'n'roll shows and hillbilly shows and rhythm and blues concerts and dances at my mom's side. Always had my eye trained on the bass player. It was the perfect job for me.

When I began playing at the age of sixteen I knew my station in life. There are the guys born for the spotlight. Stars. The ones who could thrill you. I always wanted to be a part of the team. A member of the band.

Somehow, over time, I've ended up the showoff, the singer-songwriter, the front man. It was never my destiny, never meant to be.

Now I realize that I want to give my music away. I have never been able to sell anything any way. Anything. I would make a record a month and they would be free to anybody who wanted one if I could figure out how to finance that business deal.

They say that folks won't value anything that they don't have to pay for. I remember to this day that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's explanation for charging to learn TM was that the people wouldn't place any value on meditation techniques unless they shelled out a few bucks for a mantra. I'll bet he was right. I shelled out a few.

Here we are. I play rock'n'roll for you. I have to. I'm blessed and I know it. It's a little late to die young and it's a little late to get rich. It's always time to rock'n'roll.

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

Friday, November 29, 2013


Who decides if it's a rare, beautiful, exotic plant or some weed that threatens the native flora? What separates bebop genius from noisy kids who can't play? Why do we find "beach glass" for sale for big bucks on eBay and cuss the broken glass in the road? Why is love so very grand while other things that hurt your heart are considered health problems? It's a wonder that I ever get to sleep at night.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

For Better, For Worse

If we're going to make every second count we had better get started, hadn't we? Go! How about Pope Francis? Yeah, he's still got a lotta 'splainin' to do but he's turned the train around.

The Affordable Care Act? Well, besides being the grandest tool in the Republicans quiver, it is, at least, a beginning for Americans to have some form of health care.

Now, we shouldn't be settling for second class choices. At this point, however, I'm grateful and thankful to be on a planet that inches forward at any pace at all. 

Peace and love.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Back To The Well

Sometimes I worry about all the books and all the music and all the fun that I won't get around to by the time the party's over, if you know what I mean.

I read somewhere that more than 50% of us are with someone other than our first choice. That's not good. Look around. If it's not you, then odds are, you're pardner there has other aspirations.

Mix that stuff up with my hand wringing over turkeys' stress over the holiday and you've got a mess.

I shoulda' stayed in bed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making Memories

Every friend that I talk to on the phone. Every stranger who comes up and thanks me for the music. Every walk around the block with my lovely Jamaica. Each and every squabble that ends with love and affection. Do the memories just keep getting better and sweeter?

I've cleared room in my heart for the new memories. I gotta tell you, I've never heard prettier songs; never seen grander sunsets.

If you've got love to spare, somebody out there needs it. If you're lucky enough to have the rock'n'roll running through your veins, somebody out there is waiting to dance.


Monday, November 25, 2013


I suppose that if there's one thing that I'm thankful for it is that I am always amazed. Broken glass, the kindness of people, the love all around. What about puppies and kittens?

Fight for peace and do it with love. Use some rock'n'roll, too. Maybe I should write a cookbook.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

No Club, Lone Wolf

Re-invent yourself. Yeah, good plan. I surely admire the ones who can, the ones who have. Me? I have to wade through long droughts of bleak nothing, waiting for some part of my "show" to become fashionable again. Then it lasts for a short time and I'm back to familiar ground. As I examine my repertoire I'm lucky to have ever had anything at all. Someone recently noticed, "That sounds like something you wrote before." 

Yeah. They all do!

If it sounds like I'm whining and feeling sorry for myself, you're right. It's not this music business crap; my real life works the same way. The two are joined at the hip. My "act" is who I am. Oh, for the makeover. What I wouldn't give to be the suave leading man. You know, the one who gets the girl.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Okay, the concept of responsibility for your own happiness I get. You really have to put it together with the idea that you can't make another person happy to have anything worthwhile, though.

Oh, you can please another person. You can cherish and love someone. I recommend it with all my heart.

If you take on another person's happiness, however, you're doomed. You're likely to make that other person pretty miserable in the process, too.

I'm happy when I'm making music and I don't get to make music nearly often enough. Whose fault is that, you're probably asking. Oh, yeah. That's my responsibility, too, isn't it?

I suppose I learned about misery and heartache from the best. I'm gonna learn about joy and happiness on my own. Come on, Jamaica, let's laugh. I don't care what the question is, love is the answer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Good Old Days

Let's start to make the new good old days. Spread love. Peace is at hand. War is unfashionable. Sounds easy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oh, The Stories We Could Tell

You live a long time, you wind up with stories, simple as that. Honestly, I can't remember what I've babbled about here. Well, some I can, lots I can't. Yeah, I wish I had lots of lurid sex tales. I don't.

If I just skim over them and run them together it gives the impression that I've had a lot more exciting life than I really have. Hoping desperately to impress you, here we go:

Elvis stood on my piece of wood for me while he signed autographs.

It was my job to hold up Jimi's Marshall cabinets to keep him from knocking them over after we played a show with him in Tampa.

Jackie Wilson took me into his dressing room and showed me the scars on his chest from bullets and knives.

Donovan stopped his sound check and introduced himself. We talked about Buddy Holly.

Tiny Tim told me that he would see me in heaven. I'm not much a believer. I hope he's right.

Don Garlits took me to lunch. He asked if it would be okay to pick Connie Swingle up on the way. It was.

Gene Vincent invited us to visit him in L.A.

I was with Benny Joy having coffee when we found out that John Lennon had been killed.

Janis began changing her clothes in the dressing room in front of me and, gentleman that I am, I left the room.

Van Morrison wanted to hire us to be his band when I worked with him for the first time in New York.

Chuck Berry invited us to visit him at Berry Park, his amusement center. He told us, "There's only one cop in Wentzville and I have Polaroids of him."

Elvis offered to teach me karate.

Driving Creedence Clearwater Revival from the airport, John Fogarty and I argued loudly about Chuck Berry's worth when he came on the car radio. I claimed that he was the greatest living American. Fogarty insisted that he was a "worthless drunk" and made me turn off the radio. I was right. Fogarty's a jerk.

After a show together, Robbie Fulks and his band and the Nationals and I all went to a redneck karaoke bar. Harry and Robbie did fine show tune renditions and I feared for our well being.

B.B. King invited us to his hotel room and gave us life advice.

The Coasters invited us to a party in their hotel room. Young girls, dope and booze.

Bo Diddley asked if he could produce our next record.

Sam The Sham pinched our singer's butt as we were leaving the stage and he was coming on.

Doug Sahm brewed me coffee from his personal stash with his travel brew kit.

I could go on but I'll leave some for the next time. Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Love Lucy

As I was motorvating over the hill, literally, there she was in the middle of the four lanes, lying flat. I hoped that it was just a paper bag but I knew better. I stopped in the middle of the road, jumped out of the car and swooped her up into my arms. I was too worried about keeping me and her alive to take much notice of the fact that she was mostly bald and smelled to high heaven.

There were packs of wild dogs at that time that roamed the area around the overpass in Tampa on North Boulevard between Ybor City and Tampa Heights. I guess Lucy had been born four or five weeks earlier into one of them.

First I got her home and fed her and scrubbed her down. I've never seen an eating machine like that. She would eat for as long as I put food in front of her. She would drink until she emptied the bowl and then do it again.

When I got her to the vet, Chad took one look and laughed until he cried. 

"You realize that nothing has gotten her through except for the incredible desire to survive," he preached. "She has mange and every parasite there is."

Well, I loved that little puppy with all my heart. I nursed her to health and got her to smelling okay. She never got over her eating habits. When the family came to pick her up from the newspaper ad she was perfectly happy to leave me. She had no concept of love. It was an alien concept to her. Survival was her only goal. I'll always wonder if that made me love her more.

Boy, can I pick 'em!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Positive Energy

Okay. I began rambling about personal drama and realized in the middle of the second paragraph that it doesn't even interest me. Here's my advice today: love. Don't force it on anyone. Just love. If someone wants it, great. If they don't? Well, it didn't cost you anything. Broken hearts are cheap. Not free, but cheap.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Christmas Songs

You've come to expect me to be cranky, haven't you? Admit it. I know it. I've got to say, though, that I've just been putting together playlists for Christmas and I'm all worked up. Unlike the true grinches who complain about the mall being decorated before thanksgiving, I'm ready to roll. Every old favorite brings a grand memory. Oh, I'm happy enough when Nat 'King' Cole croons The Christmas Song but I have to be physically restrained when The Drifters launch White Christmas. I need to be put to bed by the time Huey 'Piano' Smith and the Clowns roll out Silent Night.

I've got better memories than anyone deserves. I miss everyone that I've ever spent Christmas with and I look forward to this one most of all. I don't want to hear any of that stuff about the true meaning of Christmas. I surely know the true meaning. It's all about peace and love. They didn't call that kid the Prince of Peace for nothing, you know.

Don't worry. This isn't premature. I'll be back. I'm just getting an early start.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

What You Don't Know

I'm no mystery. Never was. I will tell anyone anything. Oh, I can keep a secret if you ask me to. I suppose that I could flatter myself and try to tell you that I'm just more honest than most folks. Truth is, I just don't have the good sense that is required for discretion.

It's probably a good thing that I don't know any more about myself than I do. The more layers I peel away the more I seem to surprise myself. All I want is peace and passion. Seems that they're not always packaged together.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Stuff

Thinking about moving after twenty years. I've never lived in one house for so long. Time to test all the Buddhist attachment ideas, I suppose. I never needed any of this stuff.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The British Were Coming

It's almost impossible for me to imagine my life without the British Invasion. Elvis had changed my life once. I grew up knowing from the third grade that I wasn't like the rest of them. That can be hard on a kid. Really hard if one of the differences is that you're more sensitive than the rest.

Elvis was God, simple as that. He justified my sneer and my guitar and my attitude but that was it. In my monotheistic world there would always be only one Elvis. True today.

Oh, I had plenty of other heroes. Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Fats Domino. I was even less like them. I suppose that I resigned myself to living my life as a spectator. Seems that I was caught in a no man's land. Not like the others, not invited to the party.

The Beatles changed it all. They brought me my own American music. I had only known the name, Arthur Alexander, as the guy who wrote Every Day I Have To Cry that was something of a hit for Steve Alaimo. Oh yeah, I was a big Carl Perkins fan but I hadn't even heard Honey Don't.

They were young guys, white guys. They wrote songs and acted silly. They didn't dress or talk like the rest of them. Girls loved them.

Well, I've either wasted a life or I have had the most amazing ride in the world, depending on the day that you ask me. I never got the girls. I never made any money. I wouldn't change a thing. Oh, wait- I would love to get the girl.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


If you let all the love into your heart there won't be room for anything else. If you keep giving it out, more just keeps pouring in. I know, I know, it's not the way they taught it in physics. Have I ever lied to you?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

For The Man Who Has Everything

Knowing that I'm merely a product of everything that came before me makes me nervous. Really, I just want to be like Elvis before Germany with maybe a little Swami Yogananda mixed in. I have good intentions.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Under Your Nose

Oh, how many times have I whined about spinning my wheels, waiting to start living? You know, as soon as I finish school or when I get this new job. Maybe, once I can afford this new car or as soon as she moves out.

I suppose I've had it disappear for a few months or even a year at a time. Usually, though, I'm passing time with excuses for living without passion.

Now, I've lived a long time and it's here. It showed up once I stopped looking.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quiet Hearts and Rock'n'Roll

I don't have the imagination to paint a picture of my life without rock'n'roll. My mom really did bring me home the best hillbilly and rhythm and blues records in the world. She took me to shows to see Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Little Willie John, Benny Joy, LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter, the Drifters, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Big Joe Turner, Marv Johnson, the Platters, Brenda Lee and, oh, so many others. The best one was Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.

She had bought me loads of their 45's on King and Federal and I loved them all. My favorite, of course, was The Twist. Hank recorded it 55 years ago today. Hank seems to have told several versions of just exactly where the song came from. All of the versions tell the story of him seeing a girl dancing the twist in Tampa, providing his inspiration for the song.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Load In

1. Disrobe
2. Eat Candy
3. Smile
4. Put on some Screamin' Jay
5. Fantasize 
6. Make plans to repeat tomorrow*

*Louis Jordan may replace Screamin' Jay

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Things Talk

Just keep loving. That's my only advice. They may take your guns or your money or whatever you lie awake worrying about. You become a perpetual motion machine when you just keep loving. And they said it couldn't be done!

Friday, November 8, 2013


Somehow it doesn't seem right to waste time hoping for the end so that you won't have to shave any more. Seems like only yesterday that the excuse for not bothering was that the end would come too soon. What happened to the promise, the love, the fun?

On the positive side, one day you won't have to dust or mop; cut the grass or your nails; do your taxes or floss.

Count me as an optimist. An optimist with the blues.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Colonel's Half

When I grumble about Dick Clark and Clive Davis, keep in mind that there are crooks and hacks going back to way before my time. I don't much like them, either. Yeah, I'm very much aware that we might never have known about Elvis if the Colonel hadn't worked his magic, but 50%? If we're going to give awards for prescience here, shouldn't it go to Sam Phillips or Bob Neal or Dewey Phillips?
Young Mr. Presley and Bob Neal, His First Manager

By the time of Brian Epstein's death, the Beatles, as we were told, were bigger than Jesus Christ. He had done a fine job of putting the fab four in front of us. His real job was over by then. The lads really just needed to agree to a battery of attorneys and accountants by that time.

Sometimes it can be difficult putting up with a diva's attitude. We shouldn't have to suffer the manager's or the producer's or the publicist's as well. There's a reason that we call Ray Charles The Genius, not Ahmet Ertegun.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm a big fan of Leiber and Stoller's. I love almost everything that Huey Meaux recorded. Phil Spector made some masterpieces, as he will tell you. Jack Nitzsche claimed that he was responsible. Heck, even the hacks need hacks.

This land is, indeed, your land. This rock'n'roll is ours, too.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Popcorn and Brandy

So what am I doing at 5:30 in the morning looking for clues in some drama that seems to be a mystery only to me? I can tell you this, the brandy won't keep the kernels out of your teeth but it will make you forget that they're there.

Why do I get the Karl Malden role? I don't want Marlon's, either. I seem to be assigned a number on a very long list. I accept the position, I suppose, because another person's drama is appealing when held up to the bleak nothingness. 

Yeah, I've got my own list. Number one hung herself. Thirty something years had bleached the innocence of pure love but her mother blamed me. I guess I do, too.

What am I supposed to do with this magic orange stone now?

Are you ready for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Under The Covers

Well, it occurs to me that the term, cover band, has become something of a derisive description of any band that plays mostly music from sources outside the group. It wasn't always the case. In fact, pre- Zimmerman, going back to big band and jazz, it was the standard. Oh, sure, Ellington was a magnificent composer and he had the added weapon of Billy Strayhorn after awhile. He took material from all over the map, though. Elvis never really wrote anything. His name shows up on credits because Colonel Parker got it there. Playing six and seven hours a night in Hamburg, the Beatles relied on Larry Williams and Arthur Alexander and Carl Perkins for songs that made drunks dance. Yeah, they began writing because they could.

My good fortune was to start right off playing music with an artist. A lunatic. A writer.

Don Smith was bagging groceries with me after high school and had bought a set of tangerine sparkle Gretsch drums. He knew that I was sitting home on nights off learning to play bass. When he asked me to start a band with him I declined. I didn't have the confidence that I was ready to play. I had been onstage just once, filling in for my pal Charlie Suza, with the Tropics.

Don convinced me to go with him to meet Warren Novak who was the guitar player that he was beginning to work with. Well, I rode with him to the Dog & Suds and we walked across the parking lot. A young man with hair half way to his shoulders crawled out of a maroon '57 Thunderbird and stuck out his hand. I had trouble looking into his magic eyes because I was staring down at his candy apple red, patent leather shoes, with brass zippers. I know rock'n'roll when I see it! Warren was rock'n'roll.

At an early practice I stopped to advise Warren that Buddy Holly had, in fact, put a turnaround after the verse that we just breezed through. Without one. Those crazy eyes fixed me and he drawled, "So what?"

Doesn't sound like any big deal, I know, but it changed everything, on the spot, for me. Still one of my grandest lessons. I still don't know whether to file it under Zen 101 or Rock'n'Roll For Dummies.

Oh, and Warren wrote. They were all terrible but they dripped passion. Yeah, we played Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. Gene Vincent and Little Junior Parker. We weren't a cover band. We were a rock'n'roll band.

The Raveons

Ronny Elliott, Warren Novak, Don Smith and Steve Newman

Monday, November 4, 2013

How Do You Make The Love Stay?

"Go ahead, write your sad little songs," the taunt went. Well, the truth is, I don't have any. Seems I've always worried about making the love stay. She told me once that she worried that I had fallen out of love. I hadn't. I haven't. It has taken me a very long time to feel like I have any kind of handle at all on the nature of romance, at least from my perspective.

Someone once wrote, "If you don't want your life written about, don't love a writer."

If I don't write about my life, I don't work. Oh, I make up murders and wild times every now and then. I might make up something so that a line will rhyme or change a story to amuse myself. For the most part, though, I just jot down ramblings from the front of my mind.

Over a lifetime I now see that some form of conflict was necessary to end a love affair. Anger or jealousy or some form of hostility had to wash away the passion. Blame is always handy.

Finally, finally, I see that falling in love is like falling anywhere else. You may get up and dust yourself off. You may climb out of the hole. Nothing changes about your fall, though. The love, if it is love, stays. That's not sad.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Slow, The Boy's Slow

Maybe the subtle lessons are the hardest. Dynamics. Spencer always preached dynamics. That's where the soul lies. It sank in but it took thirty or forty years.

It was a proud day for me when Steve told me that I had taught him his most difficult lesson: "when not to play." Boy, did he master that one!

Love hard without trying to get anything back. Find the beauty. Make the peace. Become the love.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Rock By Any Other Name

I suppose that I was always something of an Elvis snob. Oh, I was always glad that the multitudes worshipped at the right altar. It's just that I thought of myself as one of the ones who got onboard on time. You know, that special bunch who knew before Ed Sullivan. The ones who treasured the 45's before the first LP. It wasn't until I saw some of that early footage that I realized that he was already the first "Elvis impersonator" by the time that I saw him. Awareness that you're separate from the rest of the race changes everything, I guess.

Sometimes I wonder how it must feel to be old Bob Dylan.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Well, gotta get my hair washed and it's off to my modeling job. What are you laughing at? It's true.