Thursday, June 30, 2016

Don't Get Around Much

Rock'n'roll was young and we were innocent. Time changes everything. These days I pay for broken glass and my innocence is back. Those old records open like some mysterious geode and show me all the beautiful memories wrestling for precious space in the temporal lobe.

Never one to dread growing old, I can't say that I ever looked forward to it, either. Really, I just never saw it coming. I never learned much but I remember plenty. I have few regrets and I have a full heart.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Dogs All Dance

Sometimes it's really hard for me to talk to people that I don't know well. Maybe that's why I love to carry on here, blab on the radio, show off onstage. If you find yourself seated next to me at a fancy dinner party, I hope there's a charming gadfly on your other side. Oh, don't worry. I'm not likely to be invited to any fancy dinner party. 

Socially awkward? Sticks and stones, girls, sticks and stones.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Soul Songs

The mechanics of daily life don't interfere much with my life. I've started another jungle so there's no grass to cut and I surely don't have any dry cleaning to pick up. Around here Jamaica and the Angel and I sit around and ponder the universe. We nap some, too. There's a bit of overlap.

A hard working friend called the other day with what was to him a technical question. He's finishing up a major book on soul music and the chitlin' circuit. He wanted to know, specifically, what constitutes soul music.

Well, sir, to my thinking there is no measure, no qualifier for soul music. It is or it isn't. That doesn't mean that there are no characteristics usually associated with soul music. Louis Armstrong once famously quipped, "All music is folk music. I ain't never heard no horse sing a song." Seems fairly obvious to me that all music is soul music, too. 

I knew what my pal was asking, though. What separates Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson and Clyde McPhatter and Irma Thomas from the rest of us?

It seems to me that a real soul singer seems to exert no effort and delivers 100% heart. I said seems to exert no effort. Sam knew just exactly what he was doing with every I know, I know, I know...

Now the reason that nobody will ever have me write the book is that any list of soul singers that I compile will certainly include Jimmy Durante, Hank Williams, Walter Brennan. Now you know why I don't write books.


Monday, June 27, 2016

How Very Queer

The madness continues. The post World War II world unravels on the front page of the New York Times. It all began with Mad Max movies, didn't it? The fear of the unknown is overwhelming. The excitement is palpable.

You have to search for the positive. It's all cloaked in love.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Take Me Back To Birmingham

If I had it all to do over again, I'd do it all over again. As this onion unpeels and merry old goes on her own again, the show explodes on cable TV. By this time next year we will have a woman or an orange-haired clown as president. This country and this world remain chockfull of bigots. The LGBT community has had enough and we're watching walls tumble in warp time.

Animal rights won't really be here until I'm long gone but at least I know their day is coming. Without being disrespectful to either hero, I recognize that Mickey Mouse is no Dr. King. All of the truth and all of the wisdom and all of the compassion are right there in the soulful gaze of any orangutan.

The information age has changed history as surely and as profoundly as the industrial revolution. In the meantime the military industrial complex and the NRA work hard to make certain that we don't move forward spiritually. 

Maybe the animal kingdom should consider giving us the boot.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Higher Class Of Friend

Luck, as a concept, has faded. Every event that ever brought a cartoon-like thundercloud over my head was merely a lesson. Every broken heart was just a new song. Once I was mean to Ricky who had moved into an apartment with his mom behind us on San Carlos. Because he was Mexican. Just because he was Mexican.

We were both six or seven years old. I will regret it til the end. Oh, I was good to him after that one day. Maybe Ricky and I both got lessons that day. 

Everything is perfect through the right lens. 

"Which is better? Number one or number two? One? Two?"

To boast that I've had a lucky life is to understate my existence. It has been perfect. I grew up and got old with rock'n'roll. I've been surrounded with love, kissed by dogs. I shook the hand of the King of the Cowboys. I shook the hand of the King of Rock'n'Roll.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bad Weather, Good Intentions

"What do you do?"

"Well, I'm a rock'n'roll musician. I write songs."

Looks like I've joined the ranks of buggy whip salesmen, spats manufacturers, journalists.

Since late in 1956, when I was nine years old, I've worried about the demise of rock'n'roll. Everybody's got to fret about something I suppose. Well, I've written its obituary here many times before. I always come back in a better mood in a month or two and issue a retraction.

Fact is, it had quite a run. Now Jerry Lee, Fats, Chuck and Little Richard hang on. Oh, I'd love to blame Clive Davis and Rick Rubin and other blood suckers who raided the temples. Fact is, they're no worse than Syd Nathan, Morris Levy, Don Robey, Ahmet Ertegun and lots of the other pioneering executives from the early days. Those guys were my heroes.


I still remember bristling when I read an interview in '57 with Alan Freed. He had just published his Top Ten Rock'n'Rollers list for 1956. Elvis was conspicuously absent. Mr. Freed explained that the art form was really about black music. 

Fuck Alan Freed.

Col. Parker was just a better, smarter crook than he was. The name, Alan Freed, was not gonna show up in writer credits on any Elvis record. You were lucky if your name showed up next to Elvis' if you did write the song.

Well, well- I've gotten off on a tangent about crooks and thieves and I haven't even mentioned Dick Clark. Now I have.

You can hear something that they call swing when public television needs money. There are plenty of passionate, talented musicians who mine the ether for what was once jazz. The new suits in Nashville  would have us believe that country music is alive and well and that we should refer to it as americana. Right.

Things come, things go.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Moon Discs and Strawberry Moons

It's hard to disagree with Gurf. If it's not about the blues it doesn't really matter. Oh, it doesn't have to be some dead black man from the delta and it probably doesn't have anything to do with some young white guy with a stratocaster making those faces. You know- those faces. 

If you're ever going to really get to them, you're gonna have to go through the heart.

Honestly, I don't want anything to do with a broken heart. I've broken an arm and a foot. Broke my nose, too. None of it's good but it all heals. Rebekah says that once a heart is broken, there's always a piece missing. They don't ever grow back right.

I'm through with sad. Maybe I had my chance to matter. This is better. Way better.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mystics Day

My family reunion is coming up this weekend so I'll be away from you for a few days. If a comic book bulb lights up over my head I'll be trying to post via phone. I haven't had an original thought since early in ' 67 but I've had plenty close calls and near-misses.

We will be warming up for Aunt Jo's one hundredth birthday celebration. She's the holdout for the generation ahead of me. I can't wait to see her.

This is one rich family. Not in money. Oh, some have done well. Nobody's gonna starve. When it comes to real measures, though, this bunch is loaded.

We're all over the board in our beliefs, religious and political. We don't care. I've always been the black sheep. Now I'm just the eccentric. They have always given me an extra helping of love. That's how they operate.

It's all about Grandma. Lottie Adams, the matriarch, has been gone for years. She'll be right there in Birmingham with us for a few days, though. Every tall tale and shaky memory will lead right back to her.

These days don't always end with a prayer like she taught me. When I do "lay me down to sleep," though, my last thought is usually some variation of "give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war." That's what she taught me. That's what she taught all of us.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Blood Is Still Too Red

Mortality. If it ain't one thing it's another.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cards That Were Good, Never Good Enough

The term, anarchist, always scared me to death. In junior high school history classes and in Three Stooges shorts anarchists were always white guys with long beards who spent all their time blowin' up things with bombs that they carried in their hands. When they weren't out assassinating world leaders to begin world wars, that is.

Now I was raised to do right. I haven't always done right but that's another story, another day's blog. I know right from wrong.

From this day forward you tell them that old George Ronald Elliott is an anarchist. I will no longer pay any attention to self-important, bought-off criminaloids in Washington, D.C. or mean-spirited, ignorant, conceited hillbillies in Tallahassee. Nobody is going to twist the beautiful words of good guys like Jesus and Buddha to convince me that some living creatures are more worthy than others.

Oh, you don't have to worry. I'm not gonna drink and drive. I'll drive on the right side of the road and I'll pay what little taxes that I owe. I'm not planning to be a bad citizen. I'm planning to be a better person. The concept of heaven is to keep me and you in line. So is the idea of money. Patriotism.

Love. Compassion. Empathy. Now, those are real ideas. I would tear up my voter's registration card and apply for a new one but I'm pretty sure that we don't register.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hillbilly Chemicals

Maybe I have a chemical imbalance. I seem to have too much joy cursing through my veins. Colors seem far too vivid and every single one, every hue, every tone is my favorite. I don't listen to much music but every song draws me in. Beautiful melodies float through my brain and I get some idea of how the mockingbird does it.

Oh, I'm not oblivious to the hate, the tragedy. The news on television has been particularly sad for the last few days and it's hard to ignore the ignoble tone of political rhetoric from narcissistic blowhards who seek power from our votes.

If my head was buried in the sand, though, I would miss the glorious bounty that seems to wash right up to my feet regularly. I know that I'm using up more than my share of good luck and love. Keep an eye on the puppies, the babies. Your innocence is intact. Open it with love.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Living In Rhyme

Here we go again. I wrestle with the idea that every breath that I take changes the universe. On the other hand, as Rick Blaine said, "I'm no good at being noble but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

He was, of course, referring to me and Humphrey and Ingrid.

Col. Parker paid girls to scream when Elvis wiggled but he didn't have to pay them for long. Brian Epstein paid for the same services for the Beatles. Donald Trump paid actors to be his "followers" until his clever remarks about race, religion and culture brought out the true believers.

The life you live is the only justification for your existence. I'm going back to bed.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Older Than That Now

Looking back, I was a middle aged man. In my prime if, in fact, I ever had a prime. She was six weeks old, ready to go home. I thought I was a young man. She knew she was the boss. Every single stranger stopped us as we navigated the long hallway of the Humane Society to the parking lot.

"What's her name?"

"Jamaica," I proudly told them all.

I thought I was a young man. I planned to live forever. Pretty sure she would, too. I hadn't wanted another dog. I was still grieving the loss of three four legged friends in a row. Luckily the woman who was running my life disregarded my wishes. Thanks. Really. Thanks a lot.

The little queen moved in with three cats and a forties-style cartoon began a long run.

The woman's long gone. Two of the cats have been gone for some time now, too. Angel just turned eighteen and went blind suddenly. The cartoon's slower paced now and a little sad, somehow.

Jamaica and I got old. Neither one of us ever saw it coming.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Reality Radio

Seems a shame that love is embarrassing, doesn't it? Need to torment a third grade boy? Nothing works better than, "Johnny's got a girlfriend! Johnny's got a girlfriend!"

Public displays of affection are common when romance is fresh and lust runs rampant. When things cool, as they will, couples behave in an appropriate fashion.

Running for office? Talk tough! Oh, love's okay. Love for flag. Love for country. Don't look weak, though.

Fashion comes, fashion goes. Sometimes fashion returns. My mom was obsessed with love. She was complicated and she was sensitive. Frequently too sensitive. Nobody left her side, though, without being told that she loved them. It was never some act that she had constructed. She loved.

She got it, of course, from my grandmother, Lottie. Except for the devil, himself, and the Von Brauners and their manager, "Gentleman" Saul Weingroff, Grandma loved everybody, too. She was good at it. Perfect in my eyes.

Now I see on cable news and in the New York Times that Christianity is under attack. Or Islam. Homosexuals, Mexicans.

It's love, pal. 

If I embarrass you by telling you that I love you, I'm sorry. If I make you uncomfortable with my babble, I apologize. I'm already unfashionable. Always have been.

Presidential politics is not as important as love. Neither is the stock market, the FBI, reality TV. When I'm gone I'm afraid that I'll be remembered as failing at romance. That's okay. You don't have to tell 'em that I was good at love but I would appreciate it if you would say that I worked hard at it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

It's All About You

Maybe we all spend too much time fretting that we're looking at issues from our own selfish perspective. Of course we do. It's the only one we've got. The reality is that we're all one. We share a singular consciousness. If you can be still enough for long enough, truth will tap you on the shoulder, whisper in your ear.

Unfortunately there have always been folks around who are willing, no- anxious, to "interpret" truth for you. Sometimes it's for the good. Jesus wasn't trying to convert you to Christianity. He was a Jew. Buddha had most of the same ideas in mind. Six centuries earlier, I should mention. Can you imagine how those guys might have caught on if Col. Parker or Brian Epstein had been there to help!

More often, unfortunately, it's folks up to no good who feel called to explain "truth" to us. They're likely to go into politics. Or religion.

You don't have to fiddle with the dial to tune in truth. Hit the scan button and be still. It sounds like love. It tastes like banana pudding.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hearts Beat, Hearts Hurt

My heart is too heavy for levity right now. Love will always win but we lose so very much to hate in the process.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Transistor Sister

Maybe all the high times and all the love and all the luck gush from the same well. Once you've ever answered the question, "What do you do?," you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Not that genie. Not that bottle.

I don't do anything. I mean I do stuff but the answer that you're after is that I am Ronny Elliott. I'm not all that good at it but I'm the best there is. There won't be any new, improved model. I'm the end of the line.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Forever Yours

War is outdated. Has been for generations. So is the internal combustion engine. Mix gasoline and air, provide a spark that makes a tiny explosion which turns a flywheel, blah, blah, blah. Rube Goldberg was better tested by the thermos.

Now the elite may have slipped up here. They finally began to demand the crumbs. 

The revolution's on. Let's see if Elon Musk, Elizabeth Warren and all those kids in middle school have enough time to save the planet. The music and the art included.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Only Ones Left

Yeah, I buy green bananas. Mind your own business. I'm listening to my heart and it don't say nothing. On a good day I wake up with hope. Those other days bring the songs. I'm not like the others. Never have been. I'm almost used to it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What's That Smells Like Love?

Blam! I've worried about the rumble and bumble in my head since I was a toddler. These days I'm mostly anxious about anxiety. Thanks, Julie, Hallie, Maria. Muchas gracias, Alison. As long as my leading lady remains oblivious to my antics I'm good at this stuff. Once again, it's like my piano skills. In my head I'm good at it. 

Roll over, Liberace, tell Van Cliburn the news. Watch your back, Romeo, Ronny's here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Who's Your Daddy?

Sad as it is, there's a lot to be learned from watching American politics. Everybody likes to have somebody to look down on. Nobody likes to be looked down on.

If you don't take part wars will be waged in your name, at your expense to enrich a class of cheaters. If you do take part your side will lose. Unless your side cheats. Voila, civics!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Running Out Of Dreams

Sometimes you run outta' stuff. Doesn't matter. You'll always have pretty much what you need. The universe takes care of that. Run outta' dreams, though, and you're done.

It's all about the love when you get down to the only layers that matter.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

What About Rain?

How do you know when you're lying? To yourself, I mean. My list of excuses for not working, not writing and recording, is getting unwieldy. Most of them have some validity, it's true. Maybe it doesn't really matter if it's mostly about laziness.

Most folks who do what I do have more to work with. Writer's block. That's a good one, there. A writer can merely express the disappearance of a muse and be let off the hook. 

Me? Every woman's my muse. Writing takes nothing out of me. I could sit here and pour out twenty new songs before the sun goes down. I'm not bragging. I never claimed to have written a good one. Any of the twenty would probably be as good as any of the other ones that I've written.

Here are a few examples of what I tell myself daily to keep from writing.

Nobody buys cd's.
I never sold any, to speak of, when they did.
Those gutters should be cleaned before the rains start tonight.
I've written and re-written the same two or three songs for years. Decades. Centuries!
The world has no use, literally, for another Ronny Elliott record.

Oh, I could go on for pages but that gives you the idea. If it sounds like I'm whining, like I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'm not. I'm lucky to have sold any records at all. Grateful, too. I will find a different excuse not to clean the gutters. There's nothing sad about my insignificance as a songwriter. I honestly believe that we're all a part of the grand exhibit and I feel like I've had the best seat at the show. 

Love? It's like playing piano. In my head I'm really good at it. There's nothing else to write about.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Louisville Son

We've lost one of the real heroes of my lifetime. Of anybody's lifetime. Muhammad Ali has died at seventy four years of age after a thirty two year bout with Parkinson's disease. He was a shy, skinny kid from Louisville who won a gold medal at the Olympics in Rome when we first met him. Cassius Clay. Taking a page from Gorgeous George, he learned to shoot from the lip and to back it up. Great goodness, could he back it up!

We may all argue forever over whether or not he was the greatest fighter ever. He was certainly the most entertaining. What we won't quibble over will be his place in history as a man of peace. He refused to step forward as his name was called for the draft during the Viet Nam war.

Stripped of his heavyweight title and sentenced to five years in prison for draft evasion, Ali spent four years free on appeal, not allowed to fight. He toured college campuses lecturing on racism and war. His allegiance to Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam made him all the more controversial during what should have been the peak of his career.

In 1971 the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and Ali returned to the ring beating Jerry Quarry. Six months later at Madison Square Garden he lost the first bout of his professional career in "The Fight Of The Century" against Joe Frazier.

He went on to win his title back two times. His boxing career was the source of his spotlight. His moral convictions made him an American hero. Everybody wants to be remembered. Here's Muhammad Ali's idea of how we should remember him.

I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times.

Who was humorous and who treated everyone right.

As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him.

And who helped as many people as he could.

As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what.

As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.

And if all that's too much then I guess I'd settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people.

And I wouldn't even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Firecrackers In The Soup

Somehow I managed to convince myself that the death of rock'n'roll was sad, like losing a beloved aunt or the loss of a pet. Of course I am a worrier and I'll find a reason to fret. When the headlines on the teen magazines warned us that calypso was destined to end the social phenomena, I turned on Harry Belafonte. I despised him for years. 

Now as my old friend is being kept up on a steady 4/4 on life support it seems only natural to pull the plug. Let 'er go, boys.

Turns out it's not the end of the world. I've got the music and the souvenirs. I've got my memories. Hail, hail rock'n'roll.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Knee Deep

If I don't get hit by a bus I'll live to see the last mountain gorilla, the final Sumatran elephant. When the snow leopard breathes his last and the only giant panda outside a zoo croaks, I'll still be fretting about war. 

Real poets are threatened with extinction. Soldiers are not.

I'm putting it all on fuchsia and I'm letting it ride. If love loses, I'm going down with it, boys.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Me? I Blame Nervous Norvus

Remember when the music mattered? Maybe it never did. I've become really suspicious of nostalgia. I'm not waiting for Halley's comet. Heck, I'm not even waiting for a full moon. I'm trying to catch every raindrop and I'm listening to every mockingbird's song.

Take these songs. I've got love for you, too.