Tuesday, December 31, 2013

That Close

Oh, I've been wildly successful in showbiz, something of a legend in the music business. Well, of course, that's not true. It was in the eyes of my mother but I guess she wanted to see it that way. I was always the smartest kid in class, too, in her sweet eyes.

Truth is I've never sold more than a handful of any of my records. That's going back to 1965. Maybe I should have considered barber school.

We've been through plenty of my close calls with success. The Red Baron was brought to Tampa for us. Then Phil Gernhard wrote in the Snoopy part and recorded it with the Royal Guardsmen, instead, due to draft problems. Oh well.

Next, Dick Holler insisted that my pal, Spencer, and I record his song, Abraham, Martin and John. He didn't like it and we didn't either. Our version was never used for anything except to show the song to Dion. What the heck.

When Kent Lavoie brought in Me And You And A Dog Named Boo, Phil and I looked into each other's eyes. A hit! An obvious hit. Phil didn't want to do it with Kent, though. He didn't think Kent had any star quality. He had us work it up to record in Duckbutter. Well sir, I put the backbeat on the one and the three and I brought out the lap steel. Great stuff but no longer sounding like a hit. Phil didn't hear it until we showcased at Ungano's in New York. He rushed Kent into the studio as Lobo and, voila!

Oh, I've got a million of them. Bob Ezrin, Fresh Air, Norman Petty, Bo Diddley, Berry Oakley. Pretty much all good stories but so what?

I wouldn't change a thing. Nobody loves to go to work more than I do.

Monday, December 30, 2013

No Nets, No Chutes, No Set List

What do Little Richard, Lucky Teter, Eddie Graham, the Wall Of Death Riders and NRBQ have in common. Well nothing other than a lack of good judgement on the surface, I suppose. Maybe some kind of career suicide wish.

They were all out there for every show. When the Q boys had a bad night they were just a great bar band. When it all worked they were the best rock'n'roll band in the world. When Lucky screwed up it killed him. Eddie Graham knew that real blood, real human blood, really contrasted with peroxide blond hair.

Don't show me an act. I've seen 'em. Give me all you've got. I sure hope I learned something.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fair Vibrations

Everybody's good. Some folks are scared. If it's all so simple, why aren't we happy all the time? Hey, that's not a rhetorical question! Love hard and fix it all. It will be obvious at the end, I'm pretty sure, so don't waste a second.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Fix

Okay, so I've never been big on New Year's resolutions. Oh, it's not that I haven't noticed my foibles and my shortcomings. Maybe it's always been a lack of ambition or just plain laziness. Well, sir, I'm changing all of that. I'm taking control of my life and I'm making decisions. 

My life has come around to exactly the set up that I've always described as my dream. Well, the romance department has floundered but it's really that I just can't get that right. It's okay. I can't really play the violin, either.

This next year, though, will find me finishing up my play and maybe a book. There will be a new record so there will be new songs. Jamaica will get lots of love and lots of attention. 

I'm gonna love whenever I can and I'm gonna walk away from places where it's not wanted. 

I'm making plans to see things from other folks' perspective and to help when I can and move on when I can't.

So, let's see here: peace and love and rock'n'roll. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Where Do You Learn Soul?

Well, we know that Otis loved Sam Cooke. We remember that he listened to a lot of Little Richard, too. He said so. How do you learn to be a soul singer, though? There ain't no school for it. By the time Elvis was tearing up and tearing' up the fairground crowds with his version of Old Shep, he was already certified. He just had to get to the adolescent line and finish up the package.

You can't just copy a soul singer. Oh, you can. You might wind up on American Idol. You can't learn the craft, I'm trying to say, by study and practice. You've got to be able to pull back the curtains and expose the heart. The real ones have always been rare.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weather And Man

Why does anyone choose to live where the weather is rough? If you like rain, shouldn't you be in Seattle? We moved to Florida when I was six. It was my idea. Yeah, the weather here suits my clothes. My sunny disposition, too, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Who Moved The Goalpost?

Sometimes I'm amazed at just how hard we'll work to avoid "happy." If you sit at the miserable table you're gonna have to feast with the broken hearts. I'm a slow learner, fast eater. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tongue Tied With Writer's Block

Writer's block? I don't much believe in the concept. I've probably told you before. Just write, right? For some reason, here on Christmas eve, I've got nothing. Maybe I'm not the man who has everything after all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

All The Hits

So I'm wasting my time wondering whether or not I should have regrets. Don't worry. Time, I've got. Every now and again somebody comes up and thanks me for the music. Thanks me! Can you beat that?

Heck, I've been places and I've seen things. I've loved and I've been loved. I've spent my time in the company of the sweetest folks I can imagine and I've heard the prettiest music ever played. I didn't mean to get in line twice when they handed out good fortune but, what the heck, I'll take it.

By now I suppose I have a huge karma debt. I'm gonna pay back all the love I can just as fast as I can go. It's hard work but somebody's gotta do it. I love you.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Architect

No disrespect for any of our religious icons but do you suppose the day will come when people all over the world celebrate the birth and the life of Little Richard? Count me among the early followers. Oh my soul.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Heroes Where You Find Them

Well, yeah, sometimes I wish I were an anarchist. Maybe that's the less than subtle message of Imagine. The horror of John Lennon's murder serves as a reminder that we need laws and we need for some among us to be taken off the street. As much as I dream of perfect freedom, I have to say, I'm aware that there are folks out there who will steal my wallet. I'm counting the ones on Wall Street and K Street here, too.

Whatever your feelings about Edward Snowden, you have to admit, he's opened lots of new cans of worms. We're all reminded that while we don't have resources to feed our homeless children or climb out of the infant mortality cellar, we can manage to pay to get every record of every phone call that any of us make.

Isn't it perfectly obvious by now that the next "big one" will be fought in cyberspace, not in the trenches? Yet our military budget still funnels fortunes into big old boats and airplanes. We need a government that fixes the mess that we've put together over decades, not one that takes care of war profiteers. We don't have to put those greedy jerks out of work. Let's pay them a minimum wage to plant trees, patch bridges, fetch bedpans. Let's get them healthcare, too.

I know a great story when I hear one. I don't have to be labeled anything special to appreciate a celebration of a Prince of Peace.


Friday, December 20, 2013

When Funny Things Aren't Funny

Must I learn all life lessons right at the holidays? Me? I'm gonna start getting ready for Christmas and New Year's. 2014! 

Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war and, oh yeah-bah, humbug.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Money and Time

A couple of unrelated incidents yesterday gave me a little self-understanding that I didn't really know that I was looking for. Okay, I know. I've just ended another sentence with a preposition. Let me get on with my story, please.

At a wonderful birthday celebration for a beautiful friend I played a few songs. Really enjoyed it, too. When the hostess insisted that I take a few bucks for my trouble I felt guilty and uncomfortable. Of course I realize that my accountant and my dentist and my attorney are all pals now. I wouldn't dream of having them take care of me for free.

Correspondence through Facebook brought gratitude for knowing hurt and expressing heartbreak. A new friend wrote to thank me for sharing what can't really be shared. True despair that comes from love lost.

It almost makes it easy to understand what has kept me on this journey for all this time. Originally I insisted that I was in it to "pick up girls." After decades of no girls, I had to give that one up. Yeah, of course, I had plans for fame and wealth. Ha! Might as well have planned to pick up girls. 

Every now and then some sweet soul lets me know that I have reached into their heart and I know that I'm well compensated. For those of you with more discriminating taste, go listen to something else. I'm not talking to you. Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Second Bananas

Like I've said, I never wanted to be a rock'n'roll star. Don't misunderstand me here, I coulda' done a little better and it wouldn't have broken my heart. I mean, I've been poor and I've been really poor. Poor is better.

I always aspired to the lower ranks. Lots of my heroes barely made the cut. "Big Daddy" Don Garlits is a legend but "Starvin'" Marvin Schwartz has the mystique. Oh sure, Elvis is my idol but Benny Joy held all the real cards.

Be careful what you wish for, boys and girls. This obscurity comes with a price. My big benefits include low taxes, just like the wealthy. Wild privacy. I can walk down any street in Hollywood without being harassed. Nobody's gonna come up and interrupt my intimate candlelight dinner at a fancy restaurant for my autograph.

My art is my life, too. No record company executive is dying to tell me what to do. In fact, no record company executive who has been alive for the last few decades even knows that I exist. I can write and record and play anything that comes to mind. You can probably tell!

Yeah, life is good. Success would have complicated things.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

White Christmas, White Santa

Last year I was stood up for my holiday plans. Christmas eve and Christmas day. Now, I've gotten pretty good at self pity and I half-heartedly worked at being miserable. Just couldn't work it out. I had a fine Christmas all by myself. 

I do worry about the lonely ones out there, though, watching all the tear jerking commercials with all the bright images of families romping together in the pure, driven snow.

Use your love. Share what you have. Smile at everyone you meet. It doesn't matter what you believe, it's good to help celebrate peace and love.

Monday, December 16, 2013

All That

Maybe I can just ease all negative thoughts from my mind. Forever. I really don't see any use for keeping them around. Every wrinkle in my brain that is filled with hurt or hate is wasted. Every heartache is wasted energy. Stepping around politics and bad karma is easy, seems to me. Look how ridiculous all those fools arguing in Washington seem.

My significance in this galaxy is about the same as any grain of sand on any beach. Oh, I'm not whining. I worship every single grain. We're all part of the beauty of the big picture. Even those that I called fools.

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

All The Ghosts

What do you give a man who has everything? Well, I suppose you could send me fruitcake. I don't hate it nearly as much as some folks do.

Eggnog. Yeah, send eggnog. I suppose there's something of a logistics problem here. I'm going through a quart about every two days right now. I know that I'm a helpless addict but I'll quit after New Year's.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gearing Up

Sometimes you just know. This is heading for the best holiday season that I've ever known. It's all about the love, isn't it? All of my memories with the ones that I have loved swirl in this worn out head and this overwrought heart. 

As a kid I was a sentimental fool. It's only gotten worse. Every decoration thrills me. Every kind act by some stranger on the local news brings me joy and brings me tears. There surely are a lot of good folks in this world.

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Demand For Genius

Well, by now you have figured out that I change my mind routinely about the future of my beloved rock'n'roll. It's not complicated when I stand on my soapbox and holler, "Rock'n'roll is dead! Long live rock'n'roll!" I just change my mind that often.

Clearly the music business is on it's heels just now. Fine. The music business put it there. You have new crooks, young crooks trying to pick up the pieces. Buzzards scavenging the bones left by the "major labels."

We've got geniuses out there, too. Some of them will be in the right place at the right time when the bip bam boom rises from the ashes. If Ray Charles had come along a decade earlier we might never have heard him.

Leave the front porch light on, Pops.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

King Of Fashion

You've read my hand-wringing, tear-jerking accounts of my failures at romance. You know all there is to know when it comes to my so called career in the music business. Let's talk fashion now.

To say that I have my own sense of style is to kindly avoid any direct assault on my taste in clothes and personal grooming. Just like my music, my sense of style comes into fashion once or twice a decade for a short stretch. You know, like a broken clock; right twice a day.

I vividly recall finding a layered look that appealed to me on a fishing trip when I was about five or six years old. I put my orange baseball cap on over my chartreuse cap, leaving the tip of the bright green bill showing elegantly under the orange. 

Well, Aunt Jo told me that the boat wouldn't hold the weight of the extra cap and that I would have to choose one or the other. Of course I knew a bum excuse when I heard one. I was young, not stupid. I suppose that she was embarrassed to be seen with me, even out in the middle of an Alabama river, with two hats on.

You might check with women in my life today. I don't try anything as flashy as two caps at once these days. I'm older and more sophisticated now. I can still be the source of foot shuffling, though, with lots of, "You're not going to were that, are you?" If I tell you how much I love Aunt Jo you will appreciate the fact that I empathize with all who try to help. I'm going to a party tomorrow night. I don't want to cause any problems.

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Doing right doesn't seem to be my strong point. I try. I could use some feng shui advice regarding my heart. Meanwhile, there's eggnog.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Full Glass

My goldarned glass isn't half full; it's overflowing. It always has been. I don't know much but it doesn't take much of a detective to look around and see just how lucky I am. I moan and groan here about loneliness and loss while I live a life that should make anyone happy.

Somehow fate keeps putting articles in front of me about working at unhappiness. I don't mean every now and then. I'm talking about now. 

When I haven't been able to make sadness out of my lot I find someone else with problems and I assume theirs. When the misery sinks the relationship I seek the next morbid chapter.

I've wasted a whole bunch of life, waiting to start living. Every once in awhile I catch myself and I engage in real life. Pretty soon, though, I slip back to that comfortable bus stop where the next one never comes.

Here's my promise to me. I'm not gonna miss another minute. I'm using my love to fix things and I'm wallowing in the beauty all around me. I don't live by the Christian work ethic. I play rock'n'roll.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I'm Looking For

Sometimes it seems that I'm only happy when I get to rock'n'roll. I don't get to rock'n'roll often. Opportunities for work are slim for whatever it is that I am. I don't mean to be blaming politicians here. It's not the current economy. It's a matter of simple supply and demand. I shoulda' gone into rocket science.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sad Songs, Sad Lives

We were talking about sad songs with no resolution yesterday. A friend suggested that there was no reason to write anything that didn't take care of the loneliness or the heartache. Of course I realized immediately that life is the same. I wouldn't write this junk if I could come up with happy endings. I wouldn't live this life if I could do better.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Leave Memories

Just read something from my pal, Uncle Ralph, in Oklahoma. Reminded me that one day you'll be nothing but a memory. Leave a good one. Loving happens if you don't get in the way.

The pendulum in our culture has swung all the way over. Let's swing it all the way back. Peace and love, that's all.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Go On , Try It

My failures take up most of the room in my memory bank. Business, romance, art, blah, blah ad nauseam...

Sometimes I try to make myself feel better by telling myself that I'm just not a salesman. I'm not. How do I know that anybody would have ever bought it if I had been a salesman.

Occasionally I have been close to the right place at close to the right time. I've zigged as fashion zagged. When it's time for psychedelia I've moved to hillbilly music. When Americana gets hip, I quit the club.

I would battle dragons for love but I surely won't beg someone to stay.

There's a fine line between principle and self destruction. Success and suicide aren't many pages apart in the dictionary.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

No Trouble At All

Oh, I wish you could have seen some of what I've seen. I witnessed the Von Brauners whip the Volkoffs so that the dirty commies had to leave town.

My mom held me up to the tour bus window so that I could shake Roy Rogers' hand. Actually, he shook my two fingers, as I recall, but that was some time back.

The only time I ever skipped school was to go see President Kennedy speak at Plant Field in Tampa. We lost him a week later.

Gregg Allman took me outside the Electric Zoo to play me rough mixes on a cassette from the first album. It was pretty good.

I saw a fistfight, and I use the term loosely, that involved Don Garlits, Art Malone, Chris Karamasines, and Bobby Hunt. Good thing those guys didn't fight for a living.

The Lone Ranger gave me a mask at an air show in Birmingham. I seem to have misplaced it.

Pop Staples and I were left in a room together with this; "Ill leave you two alone. I know you have a lot to talk about." We had nothing. After a bit he had the good sense to leave.

I hope I live a lot longer and a lot more stuff happens.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cuba Called

Well, the fellow assigned to me from the State Department wasn't just helpful, he was downright friendly. I had applied for a license to visit Cuba as a writer. I was planning to write about Cuban music. My guy called from D.C. and asked if I had anything available that I had ever written for a newspaper* or magazine.

My most recent newspaper articles were from The Tampa Tribune from the late '60's and early '70's. He assured me that they would do just fine. I sent him clippings of stories about cars and race car drivers and reviews of rock'n'roll records. The only magazine pieces that I could find in the attics in the trunk were my Ask Dr. Underwear columns from Go! Magazine from the '70's. That had been my "advice column" that I did with Harry where I made up the questions so that I could match it with  snappy, clever answers. I split my paycheck with Harry so that I could use ridiculous photos of him for the column. The fact that decades had passed since this drivel came out didn't seem to matter.

Well, like most of us, I had dreamed of seeing Cuba and it was as special and spectacular as I could have imagined. The beauty of the land and the architecture, at least what's left of it, was beyond my wild expectations. The people were the sweetest that I had ever met.

It didn't take long to realize that I was in way over my head to write about their music. It was as though some wild and crazy guy from another culture decided that he would write about "American music." Every club that I entered slapped me in the face with something wonderful that was nothing like the music from the previous venue. It was all over the board with no boundaries. It didn't take long to recognize that I won't live long enough to know much about all this magic.

Maybe I was ready for some of the splendor and most of the heartbreak. What I had not been made aware of was the situation of the domestic animals on the streets. The dogs of Havana captured and broke my heart. I'm hoping there's a heaven.

*remember them?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Somebody Call Security

"I laughed because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no socks." Ronny Elliott

The only thing that keeps me from being a self important spiritual leader is that I have nothing to say. Heck, I'd be a rock'n'roll star but I can't sing on key. Stand up comedy interests me but I can't remember jokes. Well, I remember that one about the thermos but that's not much of a show.

Living life is my calling but I've not quite gotten the hang of it yet. I know what you're thinking: better hurry up, don't you think? Now, is that nice?

I remember that Jackie Wilson clutched his chest, crying, "My heart! My heart!" as he was closing his show, singing Lonely Teardrops. That was the end.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Electric Cigarettes

While I hardly consider myself a Luddite there are certainly times when I wonder if all technology automatically improves our standard of living. Is it my imagination or was it just a year or two ago that the garbage hauled out to the curb in suburban neighborhoods all contained cardboard boxes from giant, flat screen tv's in the week following Christmas? Now it seems that all of those same consumers and taste followers are comparing notes about how much they love watching their favorite reality shows on their tablets and their phones.

Imagine if texting had been with us for the last century or so but there had been no way until now to actually speak to someone on a phone line. Now imagine a Steve Jobs moment where the magician in the spotlight pulls out a telephone and actually converses with another human in another state. That's right, no typing! You can actually speak, in real time, to someone in Kansas City. Human emotion can be expressed without emoticons.

You play prettier music, I'll be the first one on the dance floor. 

Let me know when someone tops the wall of death for a thrill.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Don't Get Your Dreams On Me

We can never really feel the other one's pain, can we? I guess a mother's concern is as close as we get, as a culture. My mom suffered more with my trials and tribulations than I ever could have. Maybe that's why loneliness is such a major part of loss. Loss of love, possessions, power. All of the lessons are right there. Love is the only remedy. Use your love. It's not like money. You won't waste it or run out of it. Hey, I've got answers.