Who can I pay to haul these beautiful memories away? The sweeter the memory, the truer the love, it seems, the wetter the tears. If I ever told you that I loved you, I loved you, by God. If I didn't tell you, I just didn't get around to it.
Too shy or just socially awkward in some cases to express myself, I've let a few off easy. Little Miss Dynamite got away unscathed. I've annoyed and bothered more than a few to the point that I had to remove myself from their worlds. Poor little Alison. It's been steady, if uneven, since the third grade.
You know that old hillbilly saw about dogs chasing cars, "Well, what would he do with it if he ever caught it?" Buddy, I've caught a few. I can't say that nothing good ever came from it but, then again, here I sit, wringing my hands.
Cursed with good memory, I've never fallen out of love. I miss my mom, my grandmother. Every aunt and uncle, every cousin. As the list grows shorter I miss every musician who ever crossed my path. The sweet dogs and cats, the pretty little parakeets and the odd rodents run through my mind often, if irregularly.
Ricky, the little boy in my second grade class who wouldn't cry if I could go home with him after school- yeah, I tell that story all the time. I wonder what ever happened to Ricky.
As usual, you can't believe a word I say. I wouldn't trade these memories for anything. I guess the best deal would be to make it into someone else's dreams and memories. The sweet ones.
Restauranteurs don't usually charge celebrities. Shouldn't the rich ones be paying their own bills and leaving something behind to help cover the cost of some hungry diner's check in the future. Can you explain to me why we tend to avoid the gaze of the destitute while scrambling to touch the hem of the garment of the pop star, the surly athlete, the rich and famous?
Doesn't the new testament claim that Jesus hung out with fishermen, kids and whores? Seat me at that table. Pass the bread, please.
If only we could all start over. Is it any wonder that so many cultures revolve around the concept of reincarnation? When you look at the innocence of an infant, the joy of a puppy, the sheer exuberance of a baby goat- everything seems fresh, tinged with promise.
Over time I seem to have developed a real appreciation for rust. Marble seems more interesting and beautiful with chips and a running crack. We've all learned from flipping past Antiques Roadshow that you don't destroy the patina on the Tiffany lamp shade by polishing the bronze! Young lawyers will pay big money to have the custom shop at Fender beat the hell out of the new Stratocaster so that they won't have to do it themselves.
My role models will forever be the children. Any regrets that I drag through life revolve around fear and hurt. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've had more love and kindness in my life than seems possible. Stuff? Well, I've always had more than I need even if it hasn't always felt like it at the time. There have been periods where I've had to beat up my own guitars.
Like you, I'm here for love. Most of us admit that up through the first or second week of kindergarten. I didn't go to kindergarten.
Tough guys get hearts tattooed on their biceps and love hard.
Is all the joy in the memories? Have we really been "going to hell in a hand basket" all this time? Somehow the real world seems to have been appropriated by some diabolical cosmic cartoonist.
Personally, I thought that the Occupy Movement brought a fresh breeze down Main Street. It just didn't last.
Now we have perpetual war, failing health care, a crumbling infrastructure, politics of hate and division and a warming planet. That's not the bad news. They have managed to divide us into two basic camps so that only half of us believe all that. To make matters worse, we're the optimists.
Culture seems to move in fits and starts. Me? I'm having a fit here, waiting for a start.
My favorite artists are always inconsistent. Maybe it just makes me feel better. Rock'n'roll wasn't designed to be played with a net. I've got hundreds of new songs started. I hope one or two of them are worth a hoot. I'm finally dying to get into the studio.
When the voices in my head whisper, "Yeah, right- just what the world needs: another Ronny Elliott record!," I clear my throat and respond haughtily, " Well, they didn't need those others, either!"
I remember a joke from Dig Magazine:
Little Julie came home from school beaming and rushed to show her mother the shiny dime. When her mother asked where she had gotten it, Julie explained that the boys on the playground had given it to her so that she would hang by her knees from the monkey bars.
"Honey, they just want to see your panties," her mother explained.
"I know! I tricked 'em. I didn't wear any."
I've based what might be loosely called a career on little Julie's philosophy.
Earl Palmer was a tap dancer as a kid. So was Hal Blaine. In case you were born in a barn or maybe you're a bit younger than I am, let me tell you about these two. From the beginning of rock'n'roll up through the '60's, one or the other of these two gents played drums on pretty much every record that matters. Little Richard, Shirley and Lee, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Clarence "Frogman" Henry records? That's all Earl.
The Ronettes, the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers, Curtis Lee? That would be Mr. Blaine. Yeah, of course it would.
Me? Yeah, I took tap dancing, too. I'm a dancing fool. In my head I could have worked with Bill Robinson or the Nicholas Brothers. I know how to tap. Of course I'm a fine pianist and guitar player, too. In my head.
Now I don't want to sound racist, but unless your name is Donald O'Connor or Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, I really don't think you should be dancing in public if you're white. It's never pretty.
Here's my class. See the kid on the left? Yeah, the big one. The kid who's really a little too old to be taking tap lessons. He kicked in the toe of one of my patent leather shoes while we were practicing "slap, toe, step." It wouldn't pop back out and I quit.
We can only guess where I might be today. You know the story.
Funny, isn't it, when folks share their drama with you, your perspective on drama changes. Life doesn't go according to plan. Any plan. Plans never include illness, floods, heartbreak or the big one: death.
You've fretted and wrung your hands over the cards that fate has dealt you. Then when you listen to someone else describe events of life going wrong, it seems clear that there is no wrong.
Life goes like it's gonna go. There's a beginning and there's an end. Oh, you might as well buckle your seatbelt and take your vitamins, but don't be expecting to live forever and don't plan on love lasting.
Teslas will rust and shores will erode.
Give in to it all and notice the beauty. Don't ever take any love for granted. Don't hurry past jasmine. Scrub your memory of the sad parts of any romantic affairs and cling to the love.
Now I don't know that I would take advice on such manners from a man like me. I don't know that it's a good idea to listen to anybody on such things. I will offer this anyway, for what it's worth. Love without expecting anything in return. Love hard and love unconditionally.
Inevitably you will screw up every now and then. When you do, love better and love harder. Keeping score is what ruins it.
Maybe I've spent too much time trying to keep butterflies out of the rain. Notice I didn't say "wasted." If I haven't changed the world it's not been from a lack of trying. My gifts are meager and my attention span is limited. I've got good intentions, though. Well, let's be honest, I've got bad ones, too. That's another day's story.
On some days I am overwhelmed by the love that I've known. I suppose this is one of those days. If you're gonna ride with the top down, you're gonna mess up your hair.
Sometimes you'll find yourself at a slight disadvantage because love doesn't have the sharpest blade. That's alright. Keep swingin'.
Someone remind me why war is still legal. What if someone came along and told the truth, promised you nothing and asked for your vote? Isn't there a real-life Chauncey Gardner out there with a normal IQ who needs a job and a nice place to live for awhile?
Those two groups that we insist on calling "parties" do a really bad job. They waste a whole lot of money doing it, too.
Feed the hungry, teach the kids, get everyone medical attention. Love and comfort everyone and do it with volunteers. That way, everyone wins.
While we're changing things, let's quit singing about any rocket's red glare. We've got plenty of fine tunes that would make better national anthems. Let me suggest something by Chuck Berry or maybe Hank Williams.
There's most of my platform. Don't ask questions. I don't know much.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war. I love you.
Folks will let you down. Not all folks, of course. As I ponder the difference between the rich, the really rich, and the rest of us, it seems that I have been taken advantage of by wealthy folks disproportionately.
Do you suppose that I should consider that the affluent have lower morals than the rest of us. I have to admit that the idea crosses my mind.
In some cases, of course, it is true. Follow the money, right?
For the most part, however, the truly rich just have more tools at their disposal to cheat. Who makes the rules? Who owns the governments?
Well, here I was, back where I started. Literally. New Year's eve and my Aunt Jo had driven me to the emergency room at Jefferson Hospital in Birmingham. I was born here. April 21, 1947. We told her that I had run into a door. She knew otherwise, of course.
Fact is, Hardy had sucker-punched me and broken my nose. Hardy Dial, the singer in the Outsiders, had taken the opportunity to shut me up. We had driven six hundred miles and had an hour to unload the van for our show. Of course, being the singer, Hardy propped himself against the side of the Econoline to watch us struggle. As I watched Buddy Richardson, our five-five guitarist, struggle to drag a Showman cabinet into the venue, I turned to Hardy and barked, " Carry something."
Okay, maybe I took that "band leader" role as seriously as Hardy took the "vocalist" thing.
When he picked up a small amp head and began strolling towards the door, I stepped in front of him and demanded, "Something heavy!"
As he shoved the amp into my chest, I stretched my arms out reflexively. Now the amp was in my hands. Taking my cue from him I pushed the thing back at Hardy. Let's agree that he was the smarter one here.
While I stood with outstretched arms and an amplifier in my hands, he hit me in the face. While I struggled to hand the amp off to anyone who would take it, we tussled and swung wildly. A few seconds later as we were pulled apart, it was really obvious that there was a winner and a loser here. There was blood everywhere.
They took me into a small basement room and I lay on my back for the hour, waiting for the flow to subside.
By the end of our fourth set, both my eyes were black and I couldn't see much but nose.
Now, if you're waiting for advice from me, here it is:
1. If you break your nose, leave it alone. It will just give you character later.
2. Don't go to the emergency room on New Year's eve.
3. Especially in Birmingham.
Once it was determined that I had no insurance and the lady had taken my money I was positioned along the wall of the facility. Almost immediately, right out of central casting from a Dodge commercial, a burly cop accompanied a large African American man strapped to a stretcher. I heard them tell the lady who takes all your money that he had been shot and stabbed.
"Go ahead- get up and run, Nigger. I'd love an excuse to shoot you again."
No wonder I don't like New Year's.
After an hour or two a young intern came out to see me.
"What's the problem?" he asked.
I told him that my nose was broken. He grabbed it and wiggled it around a bit.
"No, it's not broken," he assured me.
"Well, it used to point this way," I motioned.
"Well, we'll have to get x rays."
The sun came up and I was getting hungry for breakfast before they came to get me for x rays. A new shift was working the room and the cop show had moved on. We waited another hour for results. Another young intern came out and told me that my nose was broken.
No reason to yell at the new guy. I explained that I had told the folks that my nose was broken when I arrived. He shrugged and advised me to see my family doctor tomorrow.
"It is tomorrow. My family doctor is six hundred miles from here and I have to play in Perry, Florida tonight."
"That's okay. See him when you get home."
Well, this story goes on and on and the exciting parts are behind us.
Here's today's point in even telling you this tale. Miles Hardy Dial brought me flowers and candy when we got home. No man ever brought me flowers and candy. Nobody ever brought me flowers and candy.
Hardy was born in that same hospital, sixteen days before I was. His birthday was two weeks ago. He was a great guy, a wonderful friend. Rest in peace, pal.
I'm going to Birmingham in June for a family reunion. Aunt Jo turns 100 in July.
Watching from the sidelines all quarrels seem pointless. Principal continues to motivate me but conflict settles little. It's all one team when you get right down to it. When I find myself judging others I often wonder what Mozart or Einstein would have thought of me.
Pretty much everything I do is stream of consciousness. It's all I can do. My attention span matches a Little Richard 45, somewhere around two minutes and ten seconds. Coincidence? I'll leave that to you.
While this is on my mind I need to share it with you: This is the happiest I've ever been.You optimists out there should remember that we're all incurable. We're all dying. This is the party, Bozo. Don't be caught waiting for happiness, fulfillment, enlightenment.
I'm packing up to go play rock'n'roll for people I love. With people I love. Downside? I'll have to be away from Jamaica and the Angel for several hours.
You hear that? Smell that? Feel that? That's love! Great googly moogly!
Torn between obsessing over my insignificance and the wild impact of my every breath on all of the cosmos I find myself struggling to justify my existence, if I have an existence. How can I be sure that I'm not just a figment of someone else's imagination.
My hours and days are spent photoshopping my head into the past and into the future. Time travel on a budget. I meditate with love.
Honestly, I can only find one small element of growing old to grumble about. I'm not going to tell you what that is because it seems to make folks mad. I think I'm gonna be a pretty good old man. I bungled all the other stages rather badly. I got this.
My Popeye thing has kicked in after all these years. Finally I am what I am. It took long enough. By junior high school I was ready to re-invent myself. Elvis and Parnell Jones and Eddie Graham were all in the running as a role model.
There's no need boring you with every zig and zag. Heroes have come and gone. I have failed spectacularly at a long list of endeavors and I won't try your patience with that one, either.
My wallet is pink and made of paper. I look like I shave without benefit of a mirror. I do! One of my ex-wives makes fun of me in public because it appears that I cut my own hair. I do! I'm not good at it but I'm really fast.
It's not really all that hard to find folks who don't like me. It still hurts my feelings from time to time but I don't waste time trying to figure it out. I try to be nice, I try to be kind. Sometimes I fail. I regret every slight, every unkind word.
I'm rock'n'roll. That's who I am. That's what I do. I do it with love and I do it for love. Send it to my attorney.
It's all fascinating enough, I suppose, if you give it enough attention. Then again, I'm pretty sure that all the great mysteries are solved right on the surface. Einstein and Beethoven seemed to have seen it all right there on that top level.
Some folks are born into money. Loving parents, good schools, great beauty. If everything goes well, really well, and they find love and enlightenment, is it "bad luck" when they die?
Kids are born in the occupied West Bank every day. They know hunger and fear from the start. With no opportunities available for education or employment anything that we might describe as a good life is unavailable. Is it "good luck" when he dies?
Great men and women struggle with the plight of the poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised every day. Most of those brave souls never become media stars. There are no reality TV shows about suffering. Oh, we might take some pretty couple's Abercrombie & Fitch shorts away so that they're naked on the island but we're not about to focus on the shameful facts of the world's population.
Every ten seconds a child dies from hunger-related disease. Lucky?
I'm not sure what mystifies me more: biology, sociology or religion.
Looks like I'm going back to Oklahoma. It's a place that I love. When I first started going they had a lock on dumb politicians. I told an audience once that when God made their elected officials that he had forgotten to put in brains. When he realized his mistake he gave all the leftovers to the musicians. Those "geniuses" became some of my closest and dearest friends over the years.
As is my wont I fell in love with a woman there. She did, too. With someone else.
Somewhere near Okemah signs say "Sacred Creek Land." I don't know much about my genealogy but I do know that I'm about 1/16 Creek.
The numbers are in. Last year the world spent 1.7 trillion dollars on arms. Right. That's trillion with a "t" as they like to say on network news. Of course the U.S. is number one with a bullet, pun intended. The rest of the bunch don't touch us when you combine their totals. When you add in what we sell and give away off the books and you consider the trade in second hand weaponry, it's a fair sized little business.
When it comes to infant mortality we don't fare so well. According to the latest statistics from the CIA we're settling in at number fifty seven, running well behind all of Scandinavia, Japan, the European Union and Canada. Oh, did I mention that we also trail Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cuba? Yeah, we do.
Whatever god you worship, you might wanna have a little chat with him. Whichever party you support, you might want to share some of this with them.
If we're going to change anything for the better we had best do it with love. Clearly more weapons won't help.
Pretty sure that I'm the only one crying when the young man proposes to the young woman on the live baseball game camera. Well, other than the young woman, of course. Yeah, I know all about the statistics. I am the statistics.
It's not the concept of marriage that moves me so much as the ideal of love, the spark of hope.
Babies smiling at their moms? Yeah, I'm reduced to a mess. Don't get me started on all the "best friend, cross species" YouTube fare.
I am absolutely convinced that there is enough love on the planet to feed the hungry, light the cities, end war, blah, blah, blah. You may say that I don't do my part. I've got good intentions.
Oh, I've got bad intentions, too, and they're all about love, too.
Maybe I'm thumbing through the index in my temporal lobe for objects of despair. Eventually, of course, something will go wrong, That's not bad luck. That's just atoms spinning and colliding. Meanwhile, I seem to have it all. Maybe it's a good thing I'm not a blues singer. You tell me.
As I watched the activists lay their plans last night, I felt love. I saw compassion. I wish I could say that I felt hope. Maybe I've come to believe that we will always live with "haves" and "have nots." Oh, it's not that I have any delusions that today's money class works harder, prays better or is, in any way, superior to our poor. We're mostly talking about the Lucky Sperm Club here. Mr. Buffett would agree. Mr. Trump would not.
High school science reminds me that we're wired for self preservation. Love's in the mix for biology. Evolution creeps along, slow but forward.