Sunday, August 31, 2014

Who Don't?

So Elvis wanted to be Dean Martin or Tony Curtis, huh? And Bobby Zimmerman? Well, he decided on Woody Guthrie only after he gave up on Little Richard it seems.

Seems we all want to be somebody until we finally become somebody.

Be careful what you wish for. That's what they say, right? Don't look too closely at your heroes. There's usually a human being under there. Practice love.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wring Out The Sad

Maybe if we all just sing 'til we're happy it will work out. You know, kinda' like the Sufis dance and whirl. Come to think of it, we may as well dance while we're at it. Oh, I hear the music. I always hear the music. In any fair game, love will win. Remember that.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Under The Radar, Over The Rainbow

We're only here for a little while. Nearly as I can tell we only have one job. Touch as many folks as we can while we're here. Love is the only currency. That other stuff is to throw you off track. To test you. I don't get a chance to sing to tens of thousands at a time. On the other hand, I surely have done this stuff for a long time. I love you all. Believe me, I know how corny and trite that sounds. I love you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Post Post Modern

Some folks feel the need to reinvent themselves several times over the long haul of life. For me, it's more rediscovery. I always come back to that same gawky misfit, intent on making a go of not quite fitting in. 

Funny, sometimes I feel a touch embarrassed and awkward about it and at other times I wear my differences like a royal crown. It took me a long time to figure out that I don't march in step. Keep an eye on me. I may start to skip. I don't care. I love you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"I Don't Sound Like Nobody, Sir"

If you're old enough you remember the first time that you heard Elvis on the radio. It was like nothing that had come before. If you're old, but not that old you remember the first Beatles' song that came out of the transistor radio. It made the hair on your arm stand up. You had to hear more.

On any given day you'll get a different answer from me about my favorite record. The ones that always come to mind are the ones that sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. You know the ones:

Bo Diddley
Peggy Sue 
I Want To Hold Your Hand
I Walk The Line
Tutti Frutti
Heartbreak Hotel
Wake Up Little Susie
Battle Of New Orleans

Yeah, my list is a little heavy on the '56-'64 dates. You can block out any decade and put together a list. Yours will probably depend on your age and the geography of where you grew up.

I want to make records like that.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Shore To Shore

Sometimes I honestly believe that you might really hear the ocean with a seashell up to your ear. I think you can see the future in a crystal ball, too, if you know what you're looking for. It is occasionally obvious to me that all of the answers are right there. There. You don't even have to look for them. You have to keep your eyes and your ears and your heart open, though, so that you don't miss them. Love's not what you've been told it is.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Somewhere In Here

Life just doesn't fit me. You know those stories that run in the newspapers every few years? The ones where they take a homeless man, clean him up and put him in an expensive suit. Voila, GQ!

Well, I can't be "cleaned up." I've always pretended that I don't care. Maybe I do. Life's just too overwhelming for me. Too sad. The pants fall down and the shoulders sag. Some of it's too big for me. Some of it's too small. It's all too sad.

I remember the first time I played music onstage. That was it. That's what I do. Hail, hail rock'n'roll, indeed.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Next Invasion

Well, there was the first time that we thought it was over. Up to our necks in limp-wristed sissies from Philly, we longed for a new wave of the real rock'n'roll stars. We got 'em! John, Paul, George and Ringo led the charge. They brought us back our own stuff! Where's the next savior when you need him?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Another Hero's Gone

Must have been around 1970, '71. I was starting my last quarter as a geography major at the University of South Florida in Tampa and I knew it was time to look for a grownup job.  I called a family friend who was something of a mover and shaker in the community and asked if he could help. I knew just enough to figure out that geographers worked in urban planning and such. I didn't really know what that meant. Still don't. 

The wise gentleman asked, "What do you really want to do?"

Although I hadn't considered such a practical approach, I immediately responded, "I want to work for Roger Stewart."

Roger was the head of a small county department called, at that time, Hillsborough County Department of Pollution Control.

The friend told me that he didn't really know Mr. Stewart but that his first suggestion would be to call him personally and ask for an interview. I suppose that Roger recognized a twinkle that made up for a lack of sophistication and experience. I spent a few months as an intern, graduated and went to work full time as an air quality specialist. I tilted at windmills along side my hero for years until finally I was the head of enforcement with a staff of ten or twelve dedicated zealots working under me to protect the environment that we loved.

When the county commissioners fired Roger illegally in 1974 a small group of us hardcore loyalists hung on, longing for justice to reign. Who knew.

The feds forced the county commissioners to give Roger Stewart his position back based on an obscure federal law that had been violated in the firing. I still remember my grandmother calling from Alabama to tell me that she had seen me on an episode of 60 Minutes blubbering to Roger that I would work for him for nothing before I would do anything else.

Well, I spent ten long years in those trenches, the longest stretch away from my beloved rock'n'roll. My side of the story is that Roger caved in, compromised, sold out. His side would be backed up by former wives and girlfriends. Mine, not his. We both failed at romance on a regular basis.

He couldn't fire me. I never did anything wrong. He finally took my staff, my office, my car, my files and my salary out of the budget. Felt like I was fired.

A couple of years ago I was convinced to attend a special event at USF honoring Mr. Stewart. We hadn't crossed paths in decades. When he saw me he hugged me, his eyes filled with tears. Neither of us had to say much.

He left this polluted planet yesterday. I will always love him. He will always be my hero.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Deepest One Yet

What a funny world. Animal rights are finally becoming something of a reality while we still have policemen shooting unarmed young men of color. Nothing moves straight ahead. Paul Ehrlich insists that the planet is "done", at least as far as supporting man. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to get much wrong.

Love and wisdom are in big demand. We seem to be coming up a bit short.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kindness Brings Happiness

Where's that line between playing fair, doing your part and making yourself the victim? I've spent a lifetime surrounded by beautiful people. Finally I find myself with big decisions ahead of me. Oh, I suppose they're always there but I'm behind the wheel here and I pretty much know where the passive role will take me.

Guess what? I choose happiness. I reject drama. Head for the light, the love, the rock'n'roll. If I've ever learned anything, anything, it's time to swing for the fences. Keep an eye on me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Post Office Art

Well, I suppose the wallpaper went. I surely didn't. Why do you suppose they write all the sad songs about the rain? Maybe I should start over. With everything. I don't know much but I know more than I did. I know where the beautiful melodies are hidden. That's a start.

Use your love. Waste it, in fact. There's more where that came from.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wake Up, Kid

All I got, all I want is some sign that you care if I live or I die. Whew. This road's rough out here. Roundin' up ferrel kittens at the abandoned station in Okemah has worn me out; taught me lessons. Me? I'm on the wagon, on the mend. Send love if you've got it to spare.

Wear chartreuse or magenta if you get the chance. Don't ever be tricked into the beige family or, worse yet, the taupes.  Shout bam a lama, bam a loo.

Keep an eye on me, buddy. I've got lessons to learn and sermons to preach. I'll tell you about the secrets of rock'n'roll if you'll cuddle with me. 

Sometimes it's in 3/4. That's even sadder. Love just as hard as you can. You won't regret it. Have I ever lied to you? Love from Florida.

Glorious Technicolor

These days it's getting easier for me to see the perfection. Everywhere. Those fools running the music business need to be ignored. Those idiots running governments should be de-funded. Any church that subjugates women should have their art sold on e-bay to feed the poor. Wall Street? Let them play with their own green paper- with each other. Let's deal with love, the only real currency.

Wham- bam, it's all about the love. I guess I'm the luckiest man alive. I love you very much.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

They're Here....

... and they're coming to take me away. I did a radio show today and, of course, I had to play a Nervous Norvus cut. Now my mind runs wildly and randomly through the catalog in my mind of novelty records.

I'll put my favorites up against any of your classical treasures or any of your precious jazz numbers any day.

Let me just tell you how proud I am to share my favorites with friends who have been deprived access to some of the best art. Take my pal, Pete Flynn. He was born and raised in Sheffield. Imagine my surprise to discover that Lonzo and Oscar apparently never got much airplay on the BBC. I guess those stuffy Brits were not raised in a barn.

Well, boys, today I can just mention "I'm My Own Grandpa" and Peter Flynn loses all control over his bodily functions and laughs for extended periods. Hey, I'm a laugher.

There is no reason to begin listing my favorites. I would just leave things off the list and kick myself later. Just a sampling though should always include:

Anything by Nervous Norvus, the Mad Magazine Laughing Record, the Chipmunk Song, Dick Holler's Put A Sack On Her Head, the Flying Saucer Record, Goodbye Old Booze by Homer and Jethro and, of course, I'm My Own Grandpa.

If you love enough and you laugh enough it will all work out fine. I love you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hot Shots and Hot Rods

Funny, nothing much impresses me these day. I hear beautiful music and I see magnificent art. I certainly respect the hard work that goes into the creation. Sacrifice for results, however, leaves me cold somehow. Art, seems to me, to be the creation, itself.

Only kindness and love seem really to measure up. That's where the real beauty lies. That's all that will save us now.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Satan Is Really, Really Real

"Have you met Charlie?" my pal, Lee asked. I was doing an instore show with Charlie Louvin at Vinyl Fever, Lee's great record store. It was about 9:00 am on a damp, cold morning. I really didn't expect that Mr. Louvin would show up early enough to hear my set. There he was, though, grinning and nodding as I had come through the front door. He was leaning against the front window, outside in the weather.

"Come on you have to meet him," Lee insisted as he dragged me back outside.

"Ronny, this is Charlie Louvin. Charlie, this is Ronny Elliott."

He smiled again, shook my hand and held out the little styrofoam cup.

"Want some coffee?"

Well, Charlie and I strolled up and down the aisles, talking about music on the cd's and records that we found on the shelves. The Everly Brothers came on the store system and I innocently asked, "Did you ever fight like that?"

I felt the glare. "Fight like what?"

"I just wondered if you and Ira ever fought like Don and Phil," I stammered.

"Where did you hear that," he demanded.

"Well, you know, it's the legend. Isn't that why they broke up the first time?"

"No, they did not. They are lovely guys. They're brothers. They're family."

Suddenly I remembered all the stories about Charlie and Ira's terrible fights. Ira's terrible temper and drinking problems. I seem to recall that it was the end of their act.

Somehow, I managed to change the subject and he was soon laughing and telling stories. I'm just glad the Kinks didn't come on.

Sometimes I wish I had a brother.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy Lottery

Rich? Yeah, I suppose that would be okay. Oh, I know all about how hard it would be for me to get into heaven. It's no shoo-in as it is. Famous? Well, I guess I wouldn't mind. My social life would pick up a bit. Happy? Hey, now we're talking! 

Here's what we're gonna do. I'm starting, right here and right now, a Happy Lottery. You kiss someone around you right now. You win! How easy was that? Tell somebody you love them. Mean it. Show them. You both win.

What do you want from me? No, I mean really. I'll write you a song. I'll sing it for you. Or not. This is my version of Kickstarter. Who needs them? You send me love, I'll send you rock'n'roll. You can send it via airmail, e-mail or telepathy. I don't care.

Just like those guys at the fair used to holler, "Everybody's a winner!" I believe that. I love you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Go On Without Me

They say that some of us are too fragile for this world. Honestly, I think most of us are. Yeah, we have to keep an eye on the sensitive ones; the artists, the poets. If it weren't for the fact that we come from the factory hardwired for survival few of us would survive our first breakup. I remember being scolded in the first grade. It still hurts my feelings. We would probably love better, harder and more often if we weren't terrified that love wasn't coming back. Rest in peace, Mork.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Can I Borrow Your Hat?

The more I see of sadness, the more sense it makes to me. Sad people raise sad children. Without love it's hard to have hope. When hope is gone, it's over.

Me? I know about love. I always have hope. If I can't always tune out the blues I can sure turn up the rock'n'roll. Just love, that's all. Expecting anything in return ruins it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Let The Kids Dance

My first hillbilly band was Your Local Bear. I was trying to put together a rhythm and blues outfit. You know, horns, keyboards, a bunch of girl singers with short dresses...

It must have been late 1967. Sweetheart Of The Rodeo had not yet seen the light of day. Everybody had dabbled in country music but nobody had really moved to start an out and out country & western band.

Well sir, I couldn't get enough musicians in one place at one time to get anywhere with my R&B dreams. I finally ended up with three drummers and me, a bass player. Fortunately, one of the drummers could play guitar well enough to teach one of the others to play a bit. We wrote a bunch of songs that we considered hillbilly tunes and voila!

We played our first real show on August 16th of '68, opening for Jimi Hendrix. I remember that we played our strongest number, "Country Music's Back On the Radio." Of course it was not.

On August 30th Columbia released Sweetheart and things began to change.

Note to radio programmers: Uncle Tupelo didn't invent country music. Neither did the Byrds or Gram Parsons or the Beatles or Hank Williams or the Avett Brothers or Johnny Cash. We're back to holding up those mirrors to mirrors.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Under The Bed, Over The Moon

If the primitives worship the sun and wonder at the rainbows, I want to go with them. The magic is always there. Sometimes we seem to forget all about it. When that sax solo makes the hair on your arm stand up, that's it. Prop me up and pin a badge on me. The love flows in your veins all the time. Pay attention, pal. Pay attention.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Last Heart I Broke

The privilege of watching a young sixteen year old play one of her first shows tonight was wonderful. I sat right behind her proud parents and it was almost as much fun watching them. When she sang about having the blues and lost love I was amused.

Of course she can't know much about broken hearts and love gone wrong. She's sixteen, remember? Then it all came back to me. My first broken heart. The next one. The last one.

A close friend told me yesterday that I wasn't the only one she knows who mixes up love and lust. It was meant to be a compliment, I think. I had to explain to her that those are the regular crazy folks. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm big on lust. I don't, however, confuse it with love.

Yeah, friends, I fall in love. If I had my way, I'd sing about moon, June, croon. I'd sing about peace and love and saving the world. I don't even much like the blues.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Just The Joy

Yeah, sometimes I like to just sit and let some of the memories of the rock'n'roll wash over me. It was just thrilling to watch Bo Diddley take the stage at the armory in 1956. Oh, yeah the thunder moved the floor but the real excitement for me was the fact that he was wearing glasses. Spectacles! I'm pretty sure that I wasn't the only kid around who felt like the dream was still there even if we couldn't see the numbers on the blackboard.

Watching the Midnighters' lascivious antics as they oohed and aahed beside Hank Ballard on the same stage a few years later provided all the sex ed that had come my way up 'til that time. I had no idea what they were doing but I knew it was dirty. Really dirty. I probably wouldn't get it today.

When Tiny Tim tucked that uke under his arm, pointed one finger into the mass hipster face of Steve Paul's Scene in New York and growled, "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog," in the winter of 1967 I shared the ecstasy of a crowd that knows intuitively that they are witnessing pure joy and history, wrapped in a pudgy package of love and innocence.

My first real encounter with Chuck Berry, whom I frequently described as "the greatest living American," in those days, was tense and unpleasant. The 4:00 soundcheck began when he strolled in at 7:30 and coldly lectured us for four or five minutes. When he stooped to begin a duckwalk across the stage during the solo of Nadine, his opener, later in the evening all was forgiven. I smile now to think about it.

What a life. I could bore you forever with these things. I've got memories. I've got joy. I've got love.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Perfect World

It's fairly obvious to any conscious being that I don't have the good sense to be of any use advising other folks what to do. I do, however, know the good stuff when I see it. Lord Buckley is a particular hero of mine. His work is okay. His comedy isn't really even comedy. It's the messages that he tucked in everything that moves me.

Quoting a purely made-up explorer, Cabenza De Gasca, Lord Buckley spouted, " ...there is a great power within. When it is used in beauty and unselfishness and clarity of devotion to love, can heal and cure and cause miracles."

I don't need churches and books when the comedians are reminding me of the perfect world that I live in. 

Be patient with me. I've told you that I'm slow. I'm trying, though. I'm trying. None of the good stuff is buried very deep. Open your eyes and open your heart and it's everywhere. Check the kids. Jesus hinted that you could see it all there. By the way, that kid is still there within you. That kid could still use your love and your nurturing. Sometimes it's good to be reminded.

Let 'er rock. Let 'er rip.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

All The Lessons

The folks who drop out make me really jealous. I'm dying to vindicate myself by ignoring this blog, closing out on Facebook and writing songs for myself that nobody else gets to hear. Yeah, I know that the magic is in the music and I'm always chomping at the bit to tell folks that I love them. I worry, though, that it's just my ego demanding my attention.

Not only does the world have plenty of Ronny Elliott material, there is an obvious surplus. If I had stopped decades back there might be a mystique. Any live recordings of Elvis end with faint chants of "More! More!" Then the wonderful, "Elvis has left the building."

Well, you know, if Elvis had vanished on a saucer at the end of '56, we'd have a real cult!

My uneasy feeling that I'm showing off battles regularly with my desire to communicate with you. I love you. Sometimes I think that maybe that's all I have to say.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Real Life

My life's way too weird to ever be made into a movie. These new chapters are out to rival some of the old ones. Keep an eye on me. It all goes up in smoke at some point.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Keep Your Mind On Your Driving, Keep You Hands On The Wheel

Onstage, I'm alright. The folks who don't like it can just leave. They do! A man politely walked out yesterday as I explained that oral sex was the subject of "Double Shot Of My Baby's Love." Hated that dumb record by the Swingin' Medallions. Love the real version by Dick Holler and the Holidays. I have already digressed.

In real life they can leave, too. They do.

My point, here, is that I don't have an act. That raving bozo up there, playing his heart out, is me. Finally I have either become the act or the act just became the performer. I use that term loosely.

Honestly, at this point, I'm just grateful when the folks in my life leave without hating me. I'm always a little bit surprised when people in my life take the time to explain to me what a bad person I am. Now, I've heard it from enough people at this point that I don't deny it. Any of it. I surely don't hop to my feet to defend myself.

Here's a note to all the ones who have left, all the folks that I have wronged. I am sorry for everything bad that I've done. My intentions were always sincerely good. I truly hope that there was some positive effect from the time that you spent with me. I hope to be a better person in the future and I hope that you have some positive feelings about the time that I was with you.

This includes the guy who didn't like my version of "Double Shot."

This reads like some kind of sarcastic spoof. It's not. I love you.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Hippie's Dream

"Are you a hippie?"

Oh, I remember the question so well. The innocence and the sincerity were real. The kid was only a couple of years younger than I was. I was naive but I was a seasoned, worldly scholar compared to him. It was probably 1965. 

Except for the original misunderstanding, the negative connotations hadn't set in yet. This was before the summer of love. We had yet to see roofers with mullets in line at the convenience stores for their Big Gulps. The few kids with long hair and bell bottoms in a city like Tampa felt a kinship that had everything to do with peace and love and rock'n'roll. Drugs were coming but they weren't here yet. The vultures had not yet figured out that there was a buck to be made here. Free love was something that we read about in the East Village Other.

Yeah, I was. I am. I was against that war and all the other ones. I believe in peace and love and understanding. I'm a tree hugger. I don't kill bugs. I'm devoted to rock'n'roll. They tell me that I'm a folk singer. I'm disappointed in our leaders and I sincerely believe in humanity. Sometimes I have trouble keeping the faith.

All you need is love. Love is all you need.