Oh, I just watched a toddler trip on the sidewalk, bump his noggin and break his heart. It's the whole life cycle right there. I wanted to go and brush him off and dry his tears but, of course, I can't. I'm just the crazy old neighbor from around the corner.
Sometimes it's just too sad out there. Love when you can. Take care of each other. We're all we've got.
How many times has the music saved me when I was sure that there was no way out? Convinced that love had left my life forever and that failure was my natural state? What about all those other folks who don't have the same luck?
Well, I've said it before- it's all about the love. Rock'n'roll has been there for me. I'm hoping that something will be there for all the other lost souls. Love hard, love often. Don't go in expecting anything in return. Don't worry. You'll get it.
As I glanced out the bay window of my new house this afternoon I noticed the black cat that I've seen roaming the neighborhood saunter down the sidewalk. A few seconds later I saw a young man pick up a large rock and throw it with all his might. It knocked the kitty off his feet, hitting him squarely. He got up and ran around the house across the street. Then I watched the guy run up to the porch of the house and retrieve the rock. He ran to the driveway, got down on his knees and looked under the cars to see if the cat was still there, rock still in his hand.
He stood up after a few seconds and walked away. I ran out onto the porch unsure of what action I could take. Obviously, I'm not going to teach him anything about respect for living beings and kindness and compassion that has eluded him for his eighteen- twenty years on the planet. "Hey, jerk," doesn't seem to mean anything or to do any good.
I glared at him as he rounded the corner while he looked back over his shoulder.
I'm reminded that people who have been hurt, hurt. What a sad, frustrating deal. Surely seems unfair to me.
Love is the answer. It's always the answer. Sometimes it's hard to apply it to the situation at hand.
Maybe it was easy to be Little Richard when there had never been Little Richard. I suppose you might say the same thing about Fats Domino or Bo Diddley. Oh, sure, those guys borrowed from other acts that they saw and heard over the years. Most of us had never seen anything like it, though. Once we all washed our greasy hair and combed it down over our foreheads it was the beginning of the end, I guess.
Next thing you know, every guitar player has to smash his perfectly good guitar, every punk has to have holes in his tight, black jeans and every cowboy has to have a hat.
Me? I've never been jealous of talent or envious of success. I've always longed for the passion and the soul to do it my way. Oh, yeah, they've all influenced me. I'm Ronny Elliott, though. That's what I do.
Some hobbies just aren't worth the trouble. I used to lie awake in bed at night when I was sixteen years old worrying about the body on my '32 Ford rusting. Well, duh. It's metal. It's gonna rust.
At some point asymmetry, rust and crooked lines became a big part of my ideal of beauty. I can't help but notice that if some art director for a snooty retail company wants to really pull out the stops, he finds cracked marble floors, peeling paint on crumbling stucco and well worn Persian rugs to show off the company's wares.
Maybe it's just a natural part of the aging process. Who cares. I don't stand so straight myself. Tell the folks that you love how you feel. Love some more while you're at it.
Sometimes I go for long periods steady in my belief that I have no regrets. Suddenly, boom! I'm overwhelmed with uncertainty and remorse. I'm there now.
What about every single homeless person that I passed without rolling down my window and sharing just a little of what I have. Sarcasm? Harrumph! Certainly nothing to be proud of. We sarcastic types hope that it will pass as a "dry sense of humor." I surely could have done more to keep stray animals and pets without homes safe.
Probably my biggest regrets have to do with personal failures that are too sad for me to think about, much less write about. Some things can't be fixed.
To keep this from becoming tedious, I won't even begin to run through the entire list. Let me just say that I'm working every day to make up for my shortcomings. I'm a lazy man and I've got plenty on my plate.
There's a place way down at the bottom of the of the human experience where the soul lives. During my lifetime folks have stumbled across it with the help of psychedelic drugs, meditation, prayer and lots of other devices. Ray Charles and Etta James found it while killing themselves with heroin. Robin Williams knew the spot all too well. His heroes, Jonathan Winters and Lord Buckley, had been well acquainted with it. Yeah, these saints were funny. Watch them on You Tube and see how much they knew about the heartbreak of humanity, too.
It all runs together in that sacred place. Of course it would be naive and egocentric to think of it purely in modern terms. Buddha knew it. Jesus tried to tell his pals about it. It seems that Kurt Vonnegut was, unfortunately, an expert on the subject.
Maybe the concept can never really be described, much less explained. I suppose that we tend to think of the ones with the connection as enlightened. They're soul singers. Truth tellers. Lunatics. Sometimes we form cults around them. Say it too loud and they'll nail you to a cross.
That cranky little Jewish kid who wanted to be Woody Guthrie fell off his motorcycle, conked his noggin and hurt his neck and decided to croon love ballads after dancing too close to the flame for awhile. Good for him. We don't need any more martyrs.
It's a dark, weird, lonely place down there. Of course it's where all the big women slip on banana peels and everybody's his own grandpa, too.
When I think about the first time that I heard Elvis on the radio, the hair on my arms stands up again. Same with "What'd I Say." I was ready for the Beatles. I had read a little something in the newspaper about their impact in Britain and I had seen a short newsreel on Jack Paar. Still, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" almost killed me. They still do.
Somehow my joy seems to be returning. Oh, it's not nostalgia. I hear stuff on the radio now and I have to rush home to check the playlist to see who it is.
Yeah, the radio's fine but live music is still the real deal. I've never enjoyed playing live as much as I do now. All the magic and all the love and all the spirit are just right there waiting to be found. Begging.
Five or six years ago when life was unraveling a bit, I realized that I had to make a big decision and I had to make it quickly. Circumstances pushed me towards going on the road and touring full time. The two major obstacles were Jamaica and Angel, my dog and cat. If I let them keep me from playing, I knew that I would resent the circumstances. On the other hand, if I made the conscious decision to stay home with the girls, then I was taking control of my own destiny.
Well, I never leave for more than a week at a time now. I never look for work. I'm happy to take what comes looking for me. The music thrills me more than it did when I was fifteen years old and it was almost more than I could stand then. This rock'n'roll just can't be beat. Love, that's the whole deal.
Well, sir, there's pressure to make me feel insecure, inadequate. I may very well be. My so called writing has never won anything. You've never heard a single song of mine on Your Hit Parade. I had the best teachers in the world for love but I never learned a single thing about romance.
Well, I know how to clap along with the music so that I don't give myself away as a white person. I usually manage to keep my pants on at social gatherings. Calm down, I didn't say always.
It seems that I have not always lived up to expectations. I've tried. Everything was always available for me. Sometimes I fear that living a life true to what you believe is pretty much the same as laying about. I should tell you that I've never fallen out of love. I read Romeo and Juliet and I cry. I listen to Shirley and Lee, the Sweethearts of the Blues, and I bawl. They weren't even a couple.
Sometimes the most beautiful music comes up and attacks you. Sometimes it just slips up on you. My life has always been on shuffle play. I like that. I seem to always be around the sweetest, kindest folks in the world.
Yeah, my degree's in geography and all it has ever gotten me is a fair seat at a dinner party. You know, they may place me next to some lonely widow who is fascinated with the state capitals.
If I have ever put any of it to use in any practical sense, however, it's all about the rock'n'roll. How on earth did all of that sweet, sweet music ever come out of New Orleans? You can explain the specifics to me all day but it never really matters. You surely know it when you hear it. Oh, to have been there at Cosimo's to see and hear that magic happen.
As the good fortune rolls in I find myself feeling almost guilty. Now I've never considered myself unlucky by any measure but I have to admit that I've done more than my fair share of whining and bellyaching. Especially over the last four or five years.
Somehow everything just seems to fall into place. If I stay out of the way it all seems to work like it should. I hope everyone has all the love they need. Pray for peace and remind yourself that it starts with you.
Pretty sure that I've told you about crying as a kid whenever company would leave. Even Uncle Jakie, Grandma's brother, and his tiny little shrill wife, Annie. Yeah, I'm big on company.
Let me admit that I'm weird about neighbors, too. Of course I've been in this same house for so long that some of my favorites here have gone on and I don't just mean to another neighborhood. My neighbors are spectacular. I guess I'm always lucky like that.
When I told the mayor, who lives across the street, that I was moving I could see the smile that he politely tried to suppress. If nothing else, I'm sure that he imagined property values on the rise.
As I was showing someone around my jungle awhile back, she remarked, "You better be careful. They're gonna start thinking of you as that crazy old man on the corner."
I've stayed here until I am that crazy old man on the corner. Oh, I'm gonna come back and visit. These are the best neighbors in the world. Hizzoner, too. If he ever needs help in his career, I hope that I may help. Really.
Not only will the space people make contact and explain all the mysteries, every little thing will go where it's supposed to go if you'll just be still and wait. You can hear it in the pretty music. You can see it in the stars.
As I pour through all the junk and all the treasures I'm reminded of all the joy and all the heartbreak in my life. If I've not loved well enough, and I haven't, please know that I've loved the best that I could.
It's been twenty years since I last moved. A lifetime. Memories are forever. The good ones and the sad ones. Don't ever miss a chance to love. Ever.
Maybe if I spent more time worrying about my own misinterpretations of life's events I wouldn't worry so about other folks and their desperate attempts to avoid blame and bad judgement.
Hey, I was born with the rock'n'roll, a fire and a joy down in my soul. I'm not in the music business. I play music. It's not where I've been, it's where I'm going. Keep an eye on me. This old dog is ready to learn whatever tricks he can find in the ether.
When we look into the face of a baby or we stare at the innocence of a puppy or kitten, our hearts melt. It's a big part of the design. After a life of loss and hurt, the sweetness is often back in the face of the older folks, the aging dogs and cats.
Let's face it, the ones in the struggle need the love, too. We work hard to justify withholding love and affection. It's a weapon. It's a mean one. I suppose all weapons are.
Flat on your back, the stars in the sky will show you the way.
Yeah, maybe I spent too much time worrying about the rhyme. Probably paid too much attention to the muse. Every single song that's worth singing is about love. We've all seen Townes quoted, "It's either the blues or it's Zippity Doo Dah."
Close but no cigar there, buddy. I love Zippity Doo Dah. It's either about love or you really should have saved your breath. Love is the glue that holds together the stardust that is us. Please disturb. I love you.
Maybe everybody does have a dark side. Maybe there really is no light without dark, positive without negative. Shouldn't we be moving towards something like light and lighter? Let's let the good guys run the show for a century or two. Let's not shoot them in front of the Dakota, nail them on a cross, burn them at the stake.
When I was a kid they took me hunting a few times. I went fishing once. Oh, I never shot anything or caught anything but I tried to like it. I guess I always knew that it wasn't for me.
When my cousins went camping I often got taken along. I thought I was enjoying it all. Looking back, I was miserable. I hate sleeping on the ground. I can't stand that mildew smell that permeates the inside of a tent. My idea of a good camping trip involves a penthouse suite at the Pierre with room service. I would have liked that at twelve, too.
When I tell you about my adolescence I seem to mention "building hot rods" frequently. Oh, yeah, I had some fine, fine cars but, truth be told, I never built much of anything. It has only been in the last few years that I have finally figured out that I have absolutely no mechanical aptitude. None. I never killed myself in my '32 Ford because it usually wasn't running.
I could go on and on. I've tried to like Miles Davis, kale, big roller coasters and church sermons. I hope I'm not a fraud.
A friend asked me to play a couple of songs for her mom's funeral a few years back. She asked for Amazing Grace. Well, fine. Of course I had never played Amazing Grace but it made sense. Then she asked if I might do Sentimental Journey. She told me that it had been her mother's favorite song. It's one of mine, too, but I worried that I might not do it justice. I promised that I would see what I could do. Well, even with all the minor 7ths and augmented chords, it sounded just like any other Ronny Elliott song when I did it.
It has taken a long, long time but I'm pretty sure that I've got some idea of just who I am. My only regrets have to do with hurting others on the long road to finding out. I love old dogs and banana pudding. I'm crazy about pretty girls and babies. Great hot rods drive me wild; I just can't build them. I could listen to Duke Ellington or Stringbean for hours and be satisfied. Sometimes. On another day it's all Ernie K-Doe and Billie Holiday. I'm happiest when the music's on shuffle.
My heart fills with love and sometimes I don't know what to do with it. That's crazy, I know, with all of the living things out there that need it so desperately. It's all about the peace and the love and I'm really, really lucky that I know that. Make someone happy with love. That's the deal.
Stop me if I've told you this. It was 1965 and our band, the Raveons, was booked for a big show in Miami. First time we had ventured so far away from home. We were pretty cocky and fairly certain that fame and fortune lay some three hundred miles south of us.
We loaded all of the equipment that would fit into the back seat of my '61 Chevy and filled a small U-Haul that we hooked to Warren's '57 Thunderbird. I was way ahead of the T-Bird with our drummer, Don Smith in the front seat with me, by the time we approached Yeehaw junction, the halfway point of the journey. The explosion of that big 348 big block was dramatic. With a cloud of white smoke behind me, I coasted to the shoulder of the highway.
Don and I waited for what seemed like hours for Warren and Steve Newman, the other guitarist, to pass by us on the road. It was probably a long fifteen minutes. Well, we managed to cram everything into the trailer and all four of us piled into the one seat of the Thunderbird.
When we got to the Florida Turnpike we were turned away at the ticket station. It was illegal for the four of us to be on one seat. Of course the car only had one seat. We had to go back a few hundred feet, so as not to be detected, and rearrange. I crawled onto the top of the amps in the little U-Haul, flat on my back, with my nose mere inches from the ceiling. I rode in that position until we got off the turnpike forty five minutes later. The worst part was knowing that I would have to repeat the ordeal to get home.
Now, I'm not gonna try to convince you that this explains anything about what's wrong with me today. You figure it out.
I will tell you that I don't remember anything about the show. What I do remember is that once I got home to Tampa, I had to convince my pal, Larry Rardon, to drive me back to Yeehaw Junction in his Corvair to tow the big red Chevy home. It was on Easter Sunday. I'm here to tell you that Arlo Guthrie could have made a fortune with this stupid story.
Well, now, I've been accused of having too high an opinion of myself and I've been told that I don't have any conception of my true worth. I've sometimes been told these things by the same people in my life. Maybe they're right.
You see, I'm with Lord Buckley here. Honestly, I think that everyone is special. Really special. Unique. Seems to me, though, that the only perfect characters are fictional. Even the Jesus of the new testament seemed to enjoy the company of the riff raff. John Lennon seemed determined to show us his dark side, all the while preaching peace and love.
Me? I've racked up so many things that I'm ashamed of that I could fill several volumes. You don't have to strain your imagination. I've told you lots of it.
Lazy. I've been called lazy. I have to say that I'm comfortable working the imagination and that often results in callouses that don't show up on the fingers. If the universe needed me to learn how to tune a guitar properly the gods wouldn't have made Steve Connelly and Terry Ware. If I spend too much time thinking rationally about songs and career moves then I won't have time for my muse.
If I have any conceit, I suppose that it all has to do with my good intentions. I want to do right and, in fact, I still really want to save the world. I do the best I can and while I appreciate good constructive criticism, I'm well aware of my personal shortcomings and failures. I've done lots of apologizing over the years, knowing full well that it doesn't undo anything wrong that I've done. I regret every unkind word, every hurtful thought.
I'd sing on key if I could, too. I give you what I've got and I try to do better. I know about love and I will try to be better at it. When I get quiet, when I get still the space people still talk to me. They tell me about the joy.
When I think of the ones who have passed before me and shown me something of value, I guess the common element has always been class. Talent? It's everywhere, isn't it? Passion? Sometimes it's good and sometimes you're on the wrong end of it.
There are teetotalers out there who are shrill and judgmental and there are sober folks who know how to have their fun. I know plenty of drunks that I would never refer to as "common." We've all seen our share of the crude ones.
Some of my favorite folks are rich. Some of them are really rich. Yeah, I've known rich people with class and rich people without any. Of course I know more poor people. Same deal.
Elvis had class. Ricky had class. Marilyn had class; Jayne, not so much. My neighbor, Derek Jeter has class. Michael Vick? You tell me.
You can learn to have class. You can't fake it, though. It's all about the compassion and the kindness, I suppose, isn't it?
The man on the radio yesterday told me that we're losing fewer people to war today than ever. There aren't as many folks killing other folks in general. Our perception that war is everywhere and that murder is rampant has to do with our sources of information. In other words, it seems that war is everywhere and that crime is overwhelming us because we see it on the news all the time.
I don't know about you but I'm still hoping for more for mankind. I want to end poverty and cure cancer. I'm looking for equality between the races and genders. I want the homeless taken in and that includes the homeless animals. I may as well wish for the planet to be taken care of while I'm wishing.
When I was a kid I would sit for hours with the Sears & Roebuck catalog. I would go through it page by page. I'd select one item on every page for every cousin, aunt and uncle. Grandma would be allotted one thing and there would be one for my mom. In the lingerie section I would skip things for the boys but I didn't spend any less time there. My commune existed in my head. It was all love and peace.
Now, I'm an old man. I want to buy the world a Coke. Well, a healthy juice.
Maybe we are inching along. I hope so. We're all in it together. I love you.
Well, it's 60 degrees out there. Beautiful. It's time for me to settle in for gloom. When the weather gets nice, I grow melancholy. Could be worse. It could be spring.
I've often described myself as an acquired taste, the brussel sprouts of americana. It now dawns on me that I'm more a moldy loaf of bread as a mate. It's clearly time to re-invent myself and I don't know how. There was a time when I merely went to the barber shop, asked for a flattop, and- voila,
Well sir, as I begin to pack to move away from the snooty part of town I worry that I'm not much better prepared to fit in with the hipsters. First of all, how has the term taken on a derogatory twist? Oh, I suppose it always happens.
The beats quickly became the butt of their own cosmic joke. Heck, I still want to be a beatnik. Of course the term hippie pretty quickly became "dirty" hippie. Excuse me but what's so funny about peace, love and understanding?
Now I see all the pretty young moms pushing their well scrubbed babies up and down the aisles in Publix in my new neighborhood. Their tattoos are exemplary and some of their piercings are incredible. Their partners with their fedoras and black t-shirts are looking for the new local brews on the shelves.
We all need to fit in, to be part of some tribe, somewhere.
I didn't do this particular photo-joke of me. You can give credit to my pal, John Fullbright. If he weren't from Oklahoma, he'd qualify as a hipster.
When I think of all the joy that Little Richard records brought me as a kid, I get chills. Growing up, Elvis was my role model. I guess he still is. The Beatles changed my life in the most profound ways and I learned far more about life from those four than I ever did in any school classroom.
Yeah, I could blather on and talk about Hank Williams, Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry and Bill Haley. I wouldn't know where to stop.
If I could ever think that I made a single person happy for just a minute or that I had opened a floodgate of tears with a weeper, I would be satisfied. You paint because you have to. You sculpt because you have no choice.
There comes a time when you look over your shoulder to see if you've touched anyone. My life's work is all about love. My degree's in geography. I don't know much about that, either.
Always loved going to the post office in Jemison to look at the wanted posters on the wall. Aunt Marion was the post mistress and I spent hours studying the criminal faces, memorizing the dates and the crimes. Then I would head over to the drug store to check out the new rock'n'roll magazines. Dig, Hep Cat's Review... all the good ones.
All I've ever wanted, really, is to know who I am and have some girl's hand to hold. Nothing changes. Ever. Take care of that little kid in you. Love. That's the mystery. That's the answer. Loneliness is the enemy and we're all lonely.
Maybe it's because I've had such good heroes. I don't know. Uncle Reid was probably first. Uncle Morgan, Uncle Murray and Uncle Moss were always there for me, too. Oh, I have great female influences in my life as well. Grandma was the wisest and sweetest human who ever lived. She taught me to pray, "Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war." I suppose I must have been three or four. I never learned anything more important.
My mom brought me home records. Hank Williams, Elvis, Little Richard, Wynonie Harris. She took me to see Hank Ballard, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, Lavern Baker, Bill Haley and oh, so many others. That's where the heroes came from that shaped my identity. I'm a rock'n'roller. That's what I do.
I'm a feminist, too. I was raised by women. All my aunts, Josephine, Marion, Pauline and Wilma- they showed me that it's women who run the show. The real show. Now Aunt Jo is the only one left. She's ninety eight years old and she's a firecracker.
It's a struggle for me. What if I'm never the man that I should have been? What if I never live up to what they all had in mind for me? I do believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Heck, I have. I know that it's not enough to preach love. You have to love, love hard, love unconditionally and without fear or reservation. Keep an eye on me. I'm trying.