Yeah, I guess it's about the saddest song ever written and I don't even know what half of it means. The first few notes of "Auld Lang Syne" ring out and my heart breaks along every fault line. I had planned to record a version for tonight but nobody wants to watch some old white-haired guy cry his eyes out.
I come by it honestly. My mom was better at sad than anyone I've ever known. She never saw a stray kitten that she ever got over. Genetically, I suppose, I'm missing some insulation. Oh, I'm missing other parts, too, but that's not relevant to the conversation here.
Here's to the ones of you that I have loved and managed to keep quiet about.
Food. Water. Love. Seems to me there's plenty to go around for everybody. The problem seems to be distribution. There's a bottleneck in the system. Let's tax food thrown away from grocery stores and restaurants. I propose that we outlaw private ownership of water sources. Shouldn't water be treated like air?
There's already a reward for giving away love. Give some. You'll see.
Yet there are so very many lonely people who are desperate for affection, so many animals in our shelters and on the streets. If you have some love to spare, and I dare say most of us do, get out there and spread it around.
Shouldn't I be ashamed of such juvenile, simplistic claptrap? This is all I got.
Sometimes everything smells like home but, as they say, nothing good lasts. If you're lucky, there are the memories. Even those tend to fade after long enough. Maybe I'm afraid to make new ones. I'm not climbing into the back of the van.
Do I miss Scotland and Ireland? Yeah, I do. London always came as close to being "my town" as anyplace I've ever been.
Holding hands is probably what I miss more than anything. That's what I remember most.
Born in Alabama, his mother moved him to Florida while he was still a kid. He was part Creek with English, Irish/Scottish blood. Not me, even though that description fits. I'm talking about Osceola, the great Seminole chief.
Under a white flag "peace" meeting the U.S. troops kidnapped him and he died in captivity shortly afterward. They took his head and it eventually ended up a legendary tourist attraction.
Maybe they should have worried more about his heart.
As a white male I have lived under all advantages in a rigged society. I have lived to see a shift in the cultural winds. It's over for old white guys. Good riddance.
Let me be clear here:
I don't think white males are inherently bad. They had the power. They squandered it at the expense of everyone else. Oh, it's gonna take awhile. I won't live to see the turnover. I know about it in my heart, though.
Here's to the women, the native Americans, the descendants of slaves. Make a safe haven built on a foundation of love for everyone. Throw like a girl. That's a good thing.
Whatta ya know? I found myself driving by her house today. In fact I drove by the house she lived in in elementary school and the house she lived in in junior high school. It wasn't planned. The two houses are only a quarter mile or so apart. You have no idea how many times I rode my bike by those two houses.
Did she know? She must have. We never spoke of it. We've never spoken much at all over all these years.
She doesn't live around here anymore. I don't think it was me. I remember that we danced together two or three times over the years.
We talked on the phone about ten years ago. I tracked her down from a newspaper article about her. She told me that she knew about my comings and goings. She said that her mom always clipped and mailed her anything that she saw in the paper about me.
It hurts a little when you first find out that you're not like the others. Once you struggle with acceptance of the idea you have to be careful not to jump to any kind of conclusion that you're "better." I think that comes as a defense mechanism.
Maybe we all leave a trail of wreckage and destruction behind us, I don't know. It does seem that the odds of a match are extremely rare for the square pegs in a world of round holes.
Who you callin' square peg?
Who you callin' round hole?
My recent fortune cookies have read: "Stay Home." "Protect your heart." "Be still." "Be quiet. Quieter." "Love hard."
Here's to the good intentions. Here's to the mothers of the square pegs.
Jamaica and I wait for Santa and I'm well aware that I'm the luckiest guy who ever lived. Every song is sweet and the sad ones just warm you up for the ones that jump. There will be no more plans. I've wasted too much time planning as it is.
Gene Kelly didn't come in from the rain!
Maybe I can't stop war. I can certainly slow it down. Love gunks up the works. Give me a hand here, will ya?
The religions are founded by the men of peace. The wars are fought in the name of the religions.
Maybe innocence and vulnerability are the key. It occurs to me as I watch the other species around us that only man seems to lose what we refer to as innocence. I don't believe we really "lose" ours. We just mask it with something that we call sophistication.
The writers who created the character of Gomer Pyle knew it. Oh, that character could annoy you. Heck, he annoyed Andy and Barney from time to time. Nobody disliked him, though.
With that kind of innocence comes a high level of vulnerability.
Who was ever stronger than a scrawny little nun pushing her way through the teeming streets and alleys of Calcutta. Her total vulnerability was the source of her power, her majesty. Nobody was about to rob Mother Teresa.
Hey, it's me. I babble about Prince LaLa and romance gone wrong; hot rods and broken hearts. I don't have time for Mayberry characters and saints.
You know what? Time is all I've got. I'll hold her close. Xo, indeed.
Maybe luck is just a matter of attitude. Same with wealth. I have little regard for "money." Why on earth would I allow those pirates in government to establish my worth and determine my lifestyle based on green paper that they print? You don't see any poor people in government, do you?
Rock'n'roll saved me from any such foolishness.
I'm a beatnik, a hippie. I'm one of those folks that they don't want you fraternizing with. I don't know much but I'll tell you the truth. If I were famous they'd kill me. Nothing to worry about there!
Now the only real currency is love. Try to buy it with their green paper. Seems silly to think that the Beatles said so very much with All You Need Is Love and Can't Buy Me Love.
Come on, rock'n'roll, save us again.
Yes, I know I ended another sentence with a preposition. See how reckless I am!
Dreams wind down. Maybe it was always more simple than I had in mind. Oh, I've had the blues. It's best to learn to live with them and keep your mouth shut. Sadness makes a bad houseguest and it seems really inconsiderate to come during the holidays.
My heart is full but it's broken. Sometimes I write to keep from crying.
Nobody wants to fail. I'm nobody. Success seems like a heavy burden. If you work for money, how do you make artistic decisions. Of course if you don't, who buys the groceries? Life has just always washed over me and I've never wanted for anything. Not for long.
Somehow I've managed to make every mistake at my disposal and I'm still standing. Almost every mistake. Almost standing.
Oh how I miss them. Every now and then I'm given an excuse to poke through old family photographs. Finally I begin to realize that my only job here is to make memories. Memories for the ones I'll leave behind some day.
Blessed with few real tools, all I really have to work with is love. Can't say that I've used it very wisely up to now but, on the other hand, there's no such thing as wasting it. Everybody I run into needs it. Some more than others.
Friends remind me to make a will. In the meantime, you're welcome to my love.
Communism didn't fail when the Soviet Union collapsed. A kleptocracy which had rotted from the inside fell apart when their war machine ran dry.
Does anybody out there think that Donald Jr. works too hard? How about Steve Mnuchin?
Listen, good friend- I don't write about politics and I certainly don't have any interest in economics. Nevertheless, the emperor doesn't have any clothes on. I see his little bitty talleywhacker. This is not the failure of capitalism. It is the exposure of a kleptocracy.
Those earnest young Republicans who thought they were interested in fiscal issues and government fear that the money train may be pulling out of the station without them. What if Trump gets away with this caper? They bet against him before and now he's the president!
The whores in D.C. don't wear tight dresses. They turn out in pinstripe suits and they reek of ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs.
Grandma always said, "If a bullfrog had wings he wouldn't bump his butt so much."
Pretty much everything I know I learned from her. Everything that matters. Most of the rest came from the dogs and cats that have passed through my life. Oh, I don't mean to disparage all the teachers that I have frustrated and exasperated.
We get our history from the victors. I've always pulled for the underdog, myself. I've always been suspicious of "God is on our side." No god in my imagination takes bets on war.
Maybe nature is perfect by definition, I don't know. I've always struggled with the idea of suffering. Not my suffering. What little misfortune I've known has been brief and shallow. My heart breaks in little pieces every waking moment over thoughts of orphanages, animal shelters, battlefields, forests ablaze and slaughterhouses.
The perfection in a Little Richard record, now, that's different. If there's not one playing in my head at the moment, there's one coming up right after this Bo Diddley tune finishes. Most of them are under three minutes and maybe that explains my attention span or lack of.
Yeah, ADD, bipolar disorder- I coulda' been some kind of crazy with a name. I guess my mom thought George Ronald Elliott would do.
Today I get to play records on the radio and what a thrill it is. I've always dragged friends in to listen to the music I love. I can't be bothered by somebody's idea of genre. It's good or it's not. We're gonna play Carla Thomas. Rose Maddox. Reparata & The Delrons. Prince La La.
If you know me and you suspect that I'm playing a song for you, well, I probably am, in fact, playing a song for you. I'm Cyrano on the radio, running my love life through the ether.
What kind of lunatics allow somebody like me to play music on the radio? I know, right? Who cares?
I'll tell you this- I do it with all the love I've got. Today I'll be doing it with my wonderful friends, Marcie and Patty. Only difference is they know what they're doing.
This has been one of those grand days where my life has changed dramatically in tiny increments since I woke up this morning. At this late stage of life I haven't lost much hair or many teeth. I never had big muscles so that's no worry. Worries and anxieties and guilt are dropping like flies, though.
Slowly it dawns on me that love is the ultimate form of communication. I've written, sung, preached, ranted and raved for most of my life. I'm shy. Sometimes I need a running start. It hit me like a ton of bricks while Jamaica and I walked in the park early today- love is the only surefire means of expressing anything at all.
Keep an eye on me, will ya? If I veer off on the negative path, remind me of this promise. I deal in love. That's what I do.
All my life I've traded rubies for roosters. Why on earth would I quit now. I'm with the ones who swapped Manhattan for some glass beads. I love glass beads. I'm not like the others. Sometimes it hurts.
One time, a long time ago, a girl was in love with me. I'm pretty sure.
You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad. It won't change a thing, though. Not a thing. The good songs are the sad ones. I like the fast ones.
Win, lose or draw- no wonder I never much cared. I don't even like to play. Good stuff happens and sometimes it's hard to stay out of the way. Man is not fit to be the steward of this planet and nobody appointed him to any such role.
The time has come for me to hunker down and count memories.
If it weren't for a sliver of some vestigial Christian work ethic I might just sit here and starve. On the other hand, without some fear of the shame of sloth I might overdose on egg nog or key lime pie and die. Maybe it's the equilibrium of stumbling down that path between the two that keeps me a barely productive member of society.
I can read your future but not until tomorrow.
I'm taking bets on final gasps. U.S.A. or rock'n'roll?
You're a work in progress. 'Till you're not. Dying, I suppose, is easy if you're not in love. I have been relying on the stars to show me the way and I don't really know when I started. I do know this- nobody has power over you that you don't give them.
New medicines make new chances and new poisons smash them like 7 Up bottles on rocks. On a good day it's two steps forward and two steps sideways. I stagger, drunk on moon juice, down a crooked path.
If I could afford it I would pay a therapist to listen to me for a couple of hours a day and pretend she was my best friend. I can't. I'll have to keep pasting my head on travel posters and hiding behind the door while you read my confessions. If I carried a notebook I would scrawl her initials in a heart and flash it so that she might see it.
The story goes that when asked about the best lyric that he ever wrote, John Lennon volunteered without hesitation, "All you need is love." Once you've painted the chapel ceiling, there's no need to push it.
Some days I'm not sure if I need a guru or a hairdresser. There's no such thing as the "wrong" person. Sometimes it's just not the lesson you had in mind. I may be slow and goodness knows I'm stubborn but I can be made to drink. Try and stop me.
To quote the hillbillies, "Don't let the stars get in your eyes, don't let the moon break your heart."
It's all about the peace when you get right down to it. It's hard to fight the good fight without weapons but remember- don't take a knife to a gunfight. Don't take a gun, either. Just don't go to any damned gunfight.
Most all of the battles are fought in the heart and in the head.
Believe me, I know very well just how hokey all of my love babble is. I also know that I've got it right. If, indeed, you got here with a purpose it most surely wasn't law school. Not journalism or politics.
I'm just guessing that Nabokov is out of favor in college literature classes right now. Maybe not in Alabama, I don't know. Who are today's tastemakers? Who cares?
You can put your money on the Killer or the Georgia Peach, one or the other. We're down to two. Funny, we're left with the two piano players who tried to serve Jesus but couldn't resist the rock'n'roll.
My dreams are my dreams but you're welcome anytime.
My, my- what passes for progress in this world. Democracy, we'll miss you. Capitalism, maybe not so much. Federal and state parks? Adios. Higher education in the United States? Goodbye for the most part.
If it makes anybody feel better, war is more fashionable than ever. I can't bring myself to describe it as alive and kicking.
Here I've moaned and groaned about rock'n'roll expiring. I was too close to notice that it has been merely a symptom of the art business kidnapping art. Oh, there's fine art out there, great rock'n'roll. It's just that you'll have to find it on your own.
Old white guys are going down gripping green paper and any butt in the elevator with visions of petroleum and armaments in their cataract- clouded eyes. Good riddance, boys!
The ghosts of ten million African slaves and fifty million native Americans haunt the landscape.
What's next? Plastics had its day. I'm betting on love. Really.
If dreams mattered, really mattered, my simple life would be thriller. Einstein said that an unfettered life lived without excessive ambition and expectations was the key to happiness. Put me at the happy table. Whatever ambition and expectations I ever possessed were heaped on me through projection by some woman who thought she was doing me a favor at the time.
Heck, I'll write 'em all in C, the people's key, and in 3/4 for sadness. The only heart I ever broke was through the radio waves.
Getting ready to go out of town for a few days and Jamaica was feeling puny. Her doctor, my pal, Hansel, was just back from vacation. I have to tell you, I was worried sick that this was gonna be that last ride. It was hard to see through the tears to get across town.
She got some new medicine and by the time that I got home from Kentucky she was borderline frisky. Talk about thanks giving. I had explained that Jamaica insisted on going for rides in the car. I had begun preparing broth to pour on her food every night.
"She's twelve. Spoil her!" had been Hansel's response.
Now I just saw a post from my friend Windy extolling the virtues of living the life in front of you. Eat desert every day. I didn't pay much attention after that.
There's broth boiling away in the crock pot and egg nog in the refrigerator.
My friend, Jimmy LaFave, enjoyed tormenting me in any way that he could. Geography was his favorite.
"Why do you stay here?" he would always ask when he was in Tampa.
He used the term geographically challenged more than once introducing me on stage.
Sometimes I wonder. Of course it's too late now and it probably never mattered. There was a time, though, when I was encouraged from all sides to move to a location that would put me in a better situation to advance my music career. Nashville. L.A. New York. Austin. Atlanta.
Now, I have always boasted that Tampa has the finest audience in the world and I'll stick to that. The music business, however, has barely existed. Venue owners have struggled since I was a kid. No record label or recording studio has ever made the history books.
Oh, you have the occasional "hit record" that was actually cut in the area. Considering that this region has been rich with the most amazing musicians and writers that I have ever seen explains that. We can boast of a scrawny list of one hit wonders.
My dear friend, Benny Joy, is considered royalty in the world of rockabilly. He was certainly one of the best. His world in the '50's was the same. He spent time in Nashville, Atlanta and L.A. He was the first rockabilly singer to tour Europe. Some of his records sell for a small fortune today. Based on scarcity. He never had a hit. Elvis loved them, though, and told Benny more than once that he was planning to cut one.
Tampa was home, though. His mother was here. I don't know that he had any regrets. Not about geography.
The local radio station, the public radio station, my radio station plays some music from artists who hail from the area. When they do they're always referred to as "local artists." Everybody is a local artist fercrissakes! Somewhere.
By the time that Sir Doug moved to Austin and Jerry Jeff did a Playboy interview from a local bar and Willie made his home there, Austin began to take real pride in their heritage. Bumper stickers and t shirts began to announce the growing city as the "Live Music Capital Of The World." The local public television station began to produce Austin City Limits and soon the world of rock'n'roll musicians was beating a path to their door.
A couple of hippie entrepreneurs organized a little event that they called SouthBySouthwest and musicians, businessmen and fans flocked.
Meanwhile the public radio station in Tampa hosted a Lone Star Music Festival. I have tried hard ever since to imagine a station in Texas putting on a Sunshine State Music Festival.
Don't let this lead you to believe that I blame the station or anyone who works at the station for the inferiority complex. They inherited it. For all I know Kentucky is crawling with great music. Oh, wait- it is.
Bam! First thing you know seventy years have slipped by. I thought I was paying attention. Oh, the memories! That's the only proof I have that any of it ever happened. Of course that won't stand up in court. Not that I plan on going to court.
All the angels live in your heart. All of the demons live there, too.
Write all of your sad songs in 3/4 time. If they rhyme, fine. If they don't, better. There are children in the states dying for the truth.
If I overthink everything, as I've been accused, maybe it's because I was hit by a car as a kid. I'll just bet that I can find an excuse for every shortcoming. Wait- is that overthinking?
My joy level is running high. Maybe it's the time of year. Why hasn't there been a coffee table book with photographs of rock'n'roll stars opening Christmas presents? Wouldn't you love to see Little Richard in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers opening a jar of Royal Crown Hair Dressing in front of the tree and a roaring fire? In realistic Kodachrome splendor?
Maybe if you're lucky you'll have a chance to make someone happy. Don't ever pass up an opportunity.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Maybe I've told you everything I know. Most of it twice. For the first time I sit here with nothing to tell you. Is this what they call writer's block or have I just told you every story I have?
I've revealed every childhood dream and I've described in detail every broken heart I've ever suffered. I mean it's the same heart but every time it's been broken.
You've had to sit through tales of all of the heroes who have passed through my life and all of the pets who have made my life worthwhile. My grandmother, Lottie's, quotes about love and peace and my rantings about war and religion and politics.
You can dig back through this crap and come up with the most intimate details of a hillbilly's life who will clearly tell anybody anything.
I should be ashamed. I am. A little bit.
By tomorrow I should have new dreams. The problem is that I've given up on so much. Peace. Kindness. Romance. Oh, I'm closer to peace myself and I'm hoping that I'm kind. I try. On the other hand, my friends are getting married today. I believe in romance, just not for me. I tried that, too.
Every tree, every rock, every weed- they all fascinate her. Jamaica's old now. I am, too. Finally I have the patience to allow her to sniff everything that she comes upon. There's no place that I have to be, no schedule to keep.
Of course, mortality is on my mind. I don't know what she thinks about.
As much as I love her, she's never learned much from me. I've learned everything from her.
Hank Williams broke hillbillys' hearts all over the world when he sang, "I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost." Muddy Waters wailed, " Sure 'nough he's a rollin' stone," and put Chess Records on the map and on the charts. Bob Dylan roared, "How does it feel to be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone?"
Me? I wake up from confusing dreams about Nervous Norvus. I ache for the last woman that I ever fell in love with and long for romance that was never meant to be.
I've never been in step, even with the ones out of step. My naiveté is pure and that's nothing to brag about. I've been some places and I've seen some things. Nothing changes much. I'm going easy on myself here. I'm sensitive, too.
My dreams have always been about living with all of the folks that I love around me. My utopia, my commune, is in my head. It always has been. It has taken a long time for me to realize. We all carry a universe folded up in our head. Funny thing is, it's the same universe.
Wake up. Pay attention.
The songs that I bring you are the soundtrack to the "movie" that is my universe.
I know about heartache and sorrow. I see blowhards and charlatans on TV pushing their politics and their religion for money. I wring my hands over war orphans and stray dogs and cats. My "movie," though, focuses on the tap dancing. Romance.
The Jesus that I read about as a kid hung out with prostitutes and kids and thieves. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the ones who sold doves in the temple. Did I mention that I was in Alabama?
So as I continue to sit and mourn the fading of rock'n'roll it's hard to ignore the benefits of the fading of the culture that I was born into.
Let me just put on my warpaint, heat up my tofurkey and give thanks to Donald Trump, Hugh Hefner and Roy Moore for ending the rule of old white guys. I can't say it's been good to know you.
I still wring my hands and cry over the demise of polar bears, tigers, elephants, desert tortoises and bonobos. I have mixed feelings when it comes to human beings, the only species with the potential to save the joint. If you've ever doubted the power of greed, take another look.
Before the midway closes down let's have a good time. After all, this could take a while and there are a lot more good folks out there than bad ones. Always have been.
Oh, my soul- there's still a whole lotta' shakin' goin' on!