Friday, October 11, 2013

The Rolling Stones -- Monkey Man

This one is going way back.  I was probably 19 or 20 years old.  Back in those days the drinking age was 19 in Minnesota and 18 in Wisconsin.  

It was the summer after my freshman year at the University of Minnesota and my brother Brian and I were heading up to Northern Wisconsin for a 3rd of July celebration.  That’s right, the 3rd of July.  My brother Brian had a buddy from work who had a cabin in this town of Shell Lake, Wisconsin and for some reason Shell Lake celebrated the 3rd of July instead of the 4th.  

It was a family reunion of sorts, my three cousins, Mike, John and Bob meet us there.  All told there were eight young men ready to roll in this one lake town.  We bought a keg, tapped it and settled into the parking lot of the public park near the boat landing (I guess you could do that back then).  It was way before the actual town festivities began so we were just hanging out, drinking beer and listening to the car stereo.

There was a basketball court at the park and I wanted to play some hoops with my cousin Mike.  Mike was a great basketball player and I was no slouch myself.  I had never played with him before and was looking forward to it.  I figured Mike and I would rule the court all day.  But it didn’t happen.  Mike and I should have slaughtered our opponents but we had no Mojo.  I wasn’t hitting shots and we were not communicating.  Perhaps beer had something to do with it?

Basketball was forced to come to an end by Mother Nature.  A big ass thunderstorm was coming across the lake.  Heavy winds, lightning, thunder...the whole thing.  All of us took shelter in this big brick public bathroom.  From there we watched as the storm wreaked havoc.  When someone’s fishing boat went rolling by we boys started hootin’ and hollerin’.  When a lightning bolt practically “clapped” us, we shouted out with drunken cheers again.  This went on for twenty minutes or so when it calmed down and the clouds broke.

When the sun broke from the clouds, we had a pretty good buzz going on and we were starting to get hungry.  My brother’s friend had a buddy who lived in Shell Lake.  I don’t remember his name and never saw the guy again.  But he was a great guy and I recall that his dad played football for the Baltimore Colts in the old days.  Anyway, this guy brought us to a bar in downtown where they were having a pig roast--all you could eat.  On top of that, beers were a dollar. 

The bar owners must have jumped with glee when they saw eight big boys saunter into their little bar ready to spend money.  We chilled in the bar for a couple hours, gorging on pork, swilling dollar beers and playing pool.  Then it was time to head back to the parking lot for the start of the real party.

We were humming along pretty good by the time we got to the parking lot and re-tapped the keg.  The crowd was starting to gather for a country music show that would be playing in the park.  Until that time, however, our rowdy bunch was pretty much the soundtrack to the party.  I specifically recall the defining song of the weekend.  It was “Monkey Man” by the Rolling Stones.  My brother Brian’s buddy and I were singing “I’m a monkaaaaaaay!  I’m a monkaaaaaay, babe!” We no doubt sounded like shit, but who cares, we were having fun.

As the country music band started, we had to tone it down.  We couldn’t have conflicting music.  Our Shell Lake host knew of a party in town.  We probably shouldn’t have piled into our cars but we did and took a drive out into the Wisconsin back country.

When we walked up to the house.  The party had clearly commenced.  Loud music blared from the house, people were shouting and the door was wide open.  We waltzed in to what was the wildest game of “Indian” I had ever witnessed.

For those who don’t know, Indian is a drinking game where each player invents a hand gesture.  When a player is “it”, he has to do his hand gesture and then someone else’s.  That person has to repeat their hand gesture and then do someone else’s.  If a player messes up in the rapid hand gesture gauntlet, they have to drink.  All the time this is going on, the players who are not “it” have to pound their hands on the table.

This was a particularly hearty game of Indian.  It was like out of a Warner Brothers’ cartoon--completely zany.  The participants were pounding the table so hard, the table legs appeared to come off the floor a few times--and it was on carpet.  The beers were splashing onto the table, but miraculously they didn’t fall over.  My cousins and I were standing in awe directly across from this wild eyed bastard.  He was the sansei master of Indian.  He dominated play and was head cheerleader.

We ended up leaving the party soon after we arrived primarily because the last of the beer was bouncing around the Indian table.  Therefore, we got back in our cars and went back to the parking lot.  Things had pretty much wound down at the park.  We were basically the only people left.  We were thinking about packing it in as we sipped one last beer.  But then a pleasant surprise came upon us--two teenage girls.

The first one was kind of a Plain Jane.  The other, however, was hot.  Not only that, she was “ready for some football” if you know what I mean.  Just like that, eight wasted young men who could barely drag the last beer to their lips, suddenly brightened up.  This young hottie wasn’t trying to hide a thing.  Her goal was clear--get laid.

She had us by the palm of her hand.  She instructed us all to gather around her.  She told us all to take off our shirts, which we did.  Then she proceeded to feel all our chests.  She had no hesitation doling out criticism if a guy had man boobs or not.  As she commented on the quality of our chests, the other guys were sure to dispute the call and mock the other guy mercilessly. 

Eventually, it was time for her to make a choice.  We all stood their teetering back and forth in drunken, silent anticipation when she chose my cousin John.  That son-of-a-bitch.

John and this girl strolled off into the darkness.  The rest of us stood there like dumbfounded dingleberries until the Shell Lake guy came up with the idea to go into the woods and spy on them.  We couldn’t resist the temptation.

There we were, seven drunk young men, averaging six feet tall, tiptoeing through this dense forrest on the damp leaves trying fecklessly to not make any noise.  It was a new moon that night and we could barely see our hands in front of our eyes let alone see two kids humping in the woods.  

“Get the fuck outta here!”  My naked cousin John shouted.  We were practically standing on top of them and still couldn’t see them.  We bust up laughing and took off back to the parking lot.

Eventually my cousin John ambled out of the woods and we called it a night.  

The End.

As is the tradition, here is the song that commemorates that 3rd of July celebration in Shell Lake, Wisconsin--“Monkey Man.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Elvis Presley --Baby What Do You Want Me To Do

It was the end of the year 2009.  The economy was in the shitter.  Times were tough at the company I worked for in San Diego.  They were taking heavy cost cutting measures and several of our co-workers had lost their jobs.  The company was failing to hit its financial goals.  Don’t get me wrong, the company was still making millions of dollars in profits.  It was just that we were not meeting our financial goals.  Therefore, the company decided to shaft us on the holiday party.

That was a tough one to swallow considering how stressful the whole year had been.

I was at some dive bar in San Diego called Pal Joey’s with some co-workers bitching about this very topic when I had to go to the men’s room.  I step up to the urinal and  there with my undivided attention was a flyer advertising Wednesday night Blues jams at the bar.  A vision rushed through me.  A jam session, that could make a pretty cool idea for a holiday party.

It had been over 20 years since I played in the Monday Blues jams back in the Twin Cities.  I had a pretty good Jones going on inside me to do it again one day.  This was my chance.  My good buddy Rob so happened to be an all-around musician.  He plays piano, guitar, writes music and sings at his church.  I figured I could count on him.  Our receptionist, Mitty, had a good set of Soul-stirring pipes.  She would sometimes sing the national anthem at company events.  I figured she and perhaps, Maria (who used to be a stage performer) would be interested to.  It could be like live music Karaoke.

I talked to the owner of the bar who had no problems so long as I could promise at least 20 people would show up.  He put me in touch with the host band and they were glad to do it for only a couple hundred bucks.

The show was on.

Our company had an almost maniacal aversion to potential lawsuits.  That was probably part of the reason why they canceled the holiday party.  They didn’t want any potential lawsuits over a drunk driving incident.  Therefore, when I handed out the fliers, I specifically noted “NOT A COMPANY EVENT.”

The night finally arrived.  Someone ordered a bunch of pizzas and we easily surpassed the minimum 20 people.

The band warmed things up with a tune. Then my buddy Rob and I took the stage.  I got behind the drum kit and Rob played guitar and sang.  We warmed up with simple one, “Sweet Home Chicago.”   Mitty came up and belted out an old Soul song.  Even the lovely Laora took the stage.  Now I’m sure Laora would admit that she’s not a great singer, but she wanted to sing “Sweet Home Alabama.”  The problem was she didn’t know all the lyrics.  Thinking swiftly, Laora thought to find the lyrics on her iPhone.  It was really great.

Then it was Gabe’s turn.  Now I knew that Gabe was a witty and creative guy, but I had no idea he could sing.  He took the stage, grabbed the mic off the stand, stepped out among the people and startled us all with an incredible Elvis Presley imitation singing Hound Dog or All Shook Up or some other classic Elvis number, I can’t remember.  Anyway, he blew the place away.  Even folks on the other side of the bar who were not part of our private party started hootin’ and hollerin’.

It turned out to be a great time for all.  I was revved up for the next week because of it.  We talked about it for weeks afterward.  We talked about how a jam session is something we should do every year.  Well, we never had the chance because a year later, the rest of us were out of a job too.

Instead of posting an Elvis song that we’ve all heard a zillion times to commemorate that night, I offer this post by Elvis from his 1968 comeback special.  His awesome version of “Baby What Do You Want Me To Do?”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Los Lobos -- Shakin' and Shakin' and Shakes

It was around 1990 or 1991,  I was working at my first real job after college.  This job was with a TV news gathering service up in St. Paul, MN.  Most of the people working there were young fresh faced college grads just like me.  Now there’s something you need to know about us media people.  Whether it is TV, Radio or advertising, we all like to think of ourselves as culturally superior to the general population.  I was no different.  In fact, I might go so far as to say that I was worse than most.  I always tried to project the persona of the guy who was on the cutting edge of culture.  I was the guy who listened to all this obscure music (well, at least that part’s true) and that is what made me cooler than other people.

Anyway, one day it was slow at the news gathering control room.  This guy Pete and I were chatting when one of our pretty co-workers walked up.  

“Hey, did you guys know that Cities ’97 was having a private Los Lobos concert?”   People could call in to win tickets apparently.  Historically, I myself have never won anything like that.  Besides, I certainly wouldn’t have debased myself by calling into Cities ’97 to even try.  I didn’t visualize that station as part of my persona even if it was giving away tickets to a band I loved.  But then abruptly it occurred to me.  My buddy Rich had a brother who worked at Cities ’97.  Now this was my opportunity.  This was my chance to prove my coolness, especially to the pretty girl.

I picked up the phone and called Cities '97 and asked for Rich’s brother Paul.  The receptionist transferred me and to my surprise, he answered right away.
“Hey Paul, it’s Veggie Boy.”
“What’s up, brother!  How ya doin’?”
“I’m doing great.  Hey listen.  I heard you guys were putting on a private Los Lobos concert.”
“Yeah.  For sure.  You need a couple tickets?”

Woah, that happened really fast.  I quite honestly wasn’t expecting anything.  I was thinking that Paul wouldn’t even answer the phone let alone remember me and offer me a pair of free tickets.  I was a bit stunned, but I had to keep my cool in front of the pretty girl and this guy Pete.  I said, “Hey man!  Thanks!  See ya at the show.”  I hung up the phone and said to Pete and the pretty girl, “Well, I got my tickets.”  Then I confidently walked away.

Yeah, I thought I was pretty cool.   In all my coolness, it didn’t even occur to me to ask for two more tickets for this girl and Pete.  After all these years, I still feel kind of bad about that.

The first person to pop into my head to see this show was my good buddy Jerry.  I have to say, we saw a pretty damn good show.  Los Lobos opened it up.  They didn’t just play their latest album, they cut loose.  They even did what I thought was a pretty impressive and ambitious cover of “Politician” by Cream.

So there ya have it.  I succeeded in being cool at least once in my life.  Here’s Los Lobos playing something else since I can’t find them playing “Politician” anywhere.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

You Don't Care -- The Minnesota Barking Ducks

It was sometime a long time ago while I was in college at the University of Minnesota (don’t all these stories take place back then?).  I was hanging out with my buddy and new Blues convert Wad. (See Albert Collins post from May 1, 2012.  Wad was the skeptic in that post).  Wad was the only self nicknamed guy I knew.  His real name was Johnny.  When my other college buddies and I met Johnny for the first time, we all jokingly referred to him as Johnny “The Wad” Holmes.  He thought that was funny and made sure the moniker stuck.

Anyway, Wad and I had just closed the bar someplace on the West Bank and, as always, we went to the one place in all of the Twin Cities where one could count on get something to eat 24-hours a day--White Dog.  Otherwise known as White Castle.

Those who have been to a White Castle need no description.  For those who are not familiar with White Castle, then you must continue reading.

White Castle is a fast-food burger joint and was one of the few places one could find food after Last Call.  Because of this, there was typically a huge “after party” at White Castle.  The place would be packed with some of the strangest characters this side of a Charles Bukowski novel.  We would wait in line for what seemed like hours just to order “sliders with vinyl, death chips and a large battery acid.”

On this particular night when Wad and I showed up at White Dog, it was strangely quiet and empty.  It was just Wad and me, a couple other people, some big galoot sitting by himself and this rolly polly security guard who I’m pretty sure was slightly retarded. 

Suddenly these two clowns enter the place loudly and obnoxiously.  They were clearly beyond wasted.  There was one guy in particular who just wouldn’t shut up and was very irritating.  He was hassling the folks behind the counter and generally making an ass out of himself.  It was uncomfortable for everyone.

Oddly enough, the security guard didn’t do anything.  He was useless.  This loud obnoxious guy caught onto the fact that the security guard wasn’t doing anything so he started to intentionally provoke the guard from across the room.  He called him “fat” and “a retard” and a handful of other insults.  Still the security guard did nothing.  He didn’t get on the phone and call the cops to report this guy or anything.  Wad and I just watched as he begrudgingly took the abuse.  Honestly, he wasn't up to the job of night time security guard.

The drunk asshole got up and started looking for something in his pockets.  Just then I noticed the big galoot, who had been sitting quietly by himself, get up.  He walked up to the counter and asked for a large cup of water.  He took the cup of water, walked towards the drunk asshole and tossed the whole cup in the asshole’s face.  

Before the asshole knew what hit him, the galoot started pushing him around the restaurant.  “I’m sick of you giving that guy shit!” He shouted.  The rolly polly security guard turned his back and walked out into the parking lot.

The big galoot shoved this guy over tables and then onto the floor.  He never punched him, but as the drunk asshole attempted to get back to his feet, the galoot kicked him in the ass and the force of it sent the jerk head first into one of the doors exiting the White Castle.  The clanking of that idiot’s head against the door rattled the whole building.

The big galoot then picked the guy up and tossed him out the door.  Wad and I quickly dumped our trays in the garbage can, got up and went outside to see the rest of the ass whooping.  When we got there, the big galoot had pretty much made his point and was getting ready to bolt before the cops showed up.  Wad and I yelled out to him, “Way to go man!”  He graciously said “thanks” as he ran off into the night.

So even though there was almost no one there, I could still count on White Dog to deliver another interesting evening.

If I recall correctly, I had dragged Wad over to the West Bank to see the fantastic Minnesota Barking Ducks play some Blues.  So, in commemoration of the White Dog beat down, here are the Minnesota Barking Ducks.

Well, for some fucking reason, my uploaded Barking Ducks songs won't show up in Blogger.  Therefore you have to click on the link below.  Thanks.

Friday, August 16, 2013

France -- Frank Zappa

It was the summer of 1987.  My frat brother and Blues brother Kent came up with a great idea.  Let’s get some guys together and road trip to Milwaukee.  Two significant things were going on in Milwaukee that beautiful summer weekend.  Milwaukee’s infamous Summerfest and the Minnesota Twins were in town to play the  Brewers.  This was significant because the Twins were good that year and eventually went on to win the World Series.

A half-dozen of us packed a backpack and we hit the road across the beautiful Wisconsin countryside.  Once in Milwaukee, we all crammed into Kent’s 1972 Buick Skylark and headed for the festival down by Lake Michigan.  As we entered, there was this huge wooden map of the festival grounds.  I couldn’t help but notice all these big red dots all over the map.  Are those all the bathroom locations? I thought to myself.  I checked out the map legend and all those red dots indicated beer tent locations.  I guess we didn’t have to concern ourselves with access to beer.

Anyway, we roamed around the grounds and ended up and far southern end.  In this empty swath of asphalt was a makeshift stage.  It was just a simple platform no more than a foot off the ground.  It was covered with a tent so the band wouldn’t get scorched by the summer sun.  Duck taped to one of the tent poles was a rectangular end of a cardboard box.  Someone had scribbled on the cardboard box with black marker the words, “Blues Stage.”

By now you should know that this was right up my alley.  I knew I could count on Kent so we persuaded the rest of the guys to stay and listen.  We just stood there soaking in the warm sun and sipping beer.  We had a good buzz going and these dudes play some mean Blues.  I don’t in anyway recollect who they were, but they were pretty good.  They had a good harmonica player and the guitar player had some good leads.  Not only that, they had a very light hearted nature about them and it was really relaxing and fun.

Eventually their set ended and the gang moved on and continued to tear up Summerfest.  However, the day was not over.  We had a baseball game to go to.

We squished back into Kent’s Skylark and headed for Milwaukee County Stadium.  We took our seats.  Kent, being the only one of us from Wisconsin, was planning on rooting for the Brewers.  Shortly after we took our seats along the third base line, this fellow walks up the steps wearing a T-shirt that said, “Fuck Minnesota.” A fairly classless act by anyone’s standards I would venture to say.  Even our frat brother Kent was put off by it.  So much so that he did an about-face and started rooting for the Twins.  

Unfortunately for this schmuck, his seats were a couple rows ahead of ours.  As the Twins proceeded to trounce the Brewers, we made sure the “Fuck Minnesota” guy knew about it.

As we sauntered back to Kent’s car after a convincing Twins victory, our fellow frat brother Pete declared that we had to come up with some kind legend behind our conquest of Milwaukee.  “We need to come up with a name or something,” he said.  We all started bouncing around ideas.  Pete then declared that we were the “Drunk Minnesota Muthas.”  

OK.  You probably had to be there to truly enjoy it, but my good buddy Jerry and I thought it was one of the funniest things ever.  We giggled like teenage girls for the rest of the night.  We proudly embraced the moniker of Drunk Minnesota Muthas.

Now the song below has almost nothing to do with the story, but my good buddy Jerry requested this story.  Therefore, I thought I would honor him by playing one of his personal favorite Bluesy tunes, “In France” by Frank Zappa.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Jazz Flute -- Ron Burgundy

It was around November of 1992 that I made my first move away from my hometown of Minneapolis to San Diego, California.  I had secured a job at a local independently owned TV station called KTTY.  KTTY was the one of the last of a dying breed--the locally owned independent station.  I didn’t make squat working at KTTY but it was so laid back that it is still one of my favorite jobs.  There was no HR department, the stress level was really low and no one was overworked.  Things were so laid back that the owner and general manager of the station didn’t say a word even if the company lost money in a particular month.  He would just sit in his office smoking a couple packs a day, eating El Pollo Loco chicken and watching his other investments which actually paid dividends.  KTTY was easily the lowest rated TV station in San Diego, but no other station had more fun that we did.

We even had a silly locally produced Friday morning community events program called “What’s up San Diego?”  Even though I was working as the assistant program manager, I was one of the only people in the building who actually knew how to operate a TV camera.  Therefore, I was assigned the position of lead cameraman.  It was there that I met one of the hostesses of the show.  Her name was Lisa.  She was a sort of “roving reporter” for “What’s Up San Diego?”  And not only that, she ended up being the woman who would eventually become my wife.

Lisa and I ended up getting “involved” when we made plans for her to set me up with one of her friends.  Her friend was delinquent that night and as our son would say, “Well, you know.”

On one of our first dates, Lisa and I went down to the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego.  I had been spending a lot of time in the Gaslamp back in those days because of place down there called “Patrick’s II” which is one of best Blues Music venues in Southern California.  However, on this night, Lisa and I would be going to a place around the corner called “Croce’s” owned by the family of the late Jim Croce.  Croce’s was a pretty nice place with a fine dining restaurant on one side and a bar on the other.  Croce’s specialized in a genre of music I knew little about at the time but soon come to appreciate--Latin Jazz.

So anyway, Lisa and I wormed our way to the back of the bar and found a couple seats at this nice big table in the back.  We listened to some awesome jazz, made some jokes and generally enjoyed our private little romantic spot in the back of the bar.  No sooner than we had become secure in our private spot when this trio of older adults came into the bar, walked toward the back and sat right down at the table with Lisa and I.

“What the fuck?” was our mutual reaction.  There were several other places in the bar for these people to sit (or stand for that matter).  What possessed them to intentionally invade the space of what was obviously a romantic rendezvous.  We bitched and moaned for a little bit until Lisa came up with an idea.  She slid her chair closer to mine and then initiated a colossal make-out session.  We had tongues flapping in each other’s mouths.  It should have been enough to make anyone feel compelled to leave the table.  These people were completely unfazed.  It was as if they didn’t see it at all.  They just continued chatting loudly drowning out the music that I was personally enjoying. 

Just like that our romantic night at Croce’s was abruptly cancelled.  Well, not really.  We left and our night continued to be very fun.  

In commemoration of that night at Croce’s, I present the Jazz flute scene from “Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wild Side of Life -- Hank Williams

Since, I've been having trouble drumming up tales about Blues music, my good buddy Rob stepped up in relief.  Here is a music-loving tale from him.

It was a little while ago when I had my 20-year high school reunion back in God’s country, Norman, Oklahoma.  It had been 10 years since our 10-year reunion, the last time I had seen all my old friends.  We all had a blast  ten years before, but this time we were destined to rip the paint from the walls.  Afterall, ten years earlier, half of us were still single or newlyweds.  Everyone was on their way to striking it rich.  Not only that, we were young and partying all the time.

This time was a different deal.  A lot had changed in ten years.  We all had some life experience now.  We had traveled, we had seen, we had won some and we had lost some.  There were a few divorces and a lot of kids.  There were several gray hairs and a lot of expanding waistlines.  A lot of us needed this party so there was no way I could have fun at this shindig with my lovely bride within ear shot.

The whole slew of 37 and 38-year-olds met up at this big, shit-kicker bar.  There was this Country-Rock cover band set to play that night.  Since I was in the radio biz (and a hopeless ham who loves attention), it was determined that I would be the M.C. (or was it that I just hijacked the stage and started making fun of my old classmates).

The house band was great. They weren’t trying to be the focus. They knew lives were being re-lived and didn’t want to take away from that. As me and a few of the old gang were watching the band, and the girls who were now well-coifed and fit middle-aged women, someone mentioned that we should get up and play a song.

What?.. Me, who loves attention?  Was raised on a lot of the songs the band was already playing?  Me who was just chompin at the bit to show off my guitar licks for the former high school cheerleaders?  

“Get up and play a song?” Shit.. what took you so long to ask?  

Word got out that we might sing a song and there was a buzz starting to fill the room.  Me and my two best buddies in the world, Curt and Cotton, started up the steps to the stage and the applause started.  The band leader figured we were coming on stage to sing a number so he asked “Whaddaya know?”   

Now my buddies and I had always sang a simple 3 chord country tune from the great Hank Williams called “Wild Side of Life.”  Little did our fellow graduates know that we had sang this song no less than 500 times in our lives.  Curt would sing the lead vocal and I would play rhythm guitar and harmonize with him. There were times when we could make this song sound like a world class recording. There were other times, after some “medication,” that we made the song sound like we were raping a duck.

Anyway, I suggested this song to the band leader and he and his boys new exactly where we were coming from.  What he wasn’t expecting, however, was for me to reach for the spare accoustic guitar he had sitting on a stand.  Since it was our party, the poor guy felt reluctant to interfere.  He felt he had to let us do whatever we wanted, but when it comes to a man’s ax? You better have your shit together son, or don’t touch it!

I slung the guitar over my shoulder, grabbed a pick off the drummers kit and jumped right in and started strumming the opening. The rest of the band looked at each other with a sense of relief that we at least knew how to put the guitar strap around our neck.   We were off and running and the crowd loved it from the first chord.

My other best friend, Cotton was a guy that couldn’t sing worth a shit. What he “could” do was make you bust a gut laughing at how he danced with himself. He had just enough rhythm to be dangerous.  He did a dance that was half two step, half twist... absolutely side splitting.

Curt was getting ready to start the vocals like he always did but this time he seemed a little nervous.  Thank goodness Mr. Jim Beam was in attendance, because he might not have been able to kick it off without a little help.   We went through the intro a couple extra times to give him a chance to “find” his note and to get his knees to settle down.  By now the band was full behind me and it was time for Curt to get the party started. Curt stepped up to the mic, in front of at least 150 of our soulmates and let ‘er rip.. “You wouldn’t read my letter if I wrote you.” The crowd went bananas. “You asked me not to call you on the phone.” The floors started shaking. “But there’s something I wanted to tell you.” The cheers were huge. “So I wrote it in the words of this song.” 

It couldn’t have been any cooler.

It was now my time to harmonize with him.  I stepped up to the mic and joined in.  The whistles and cheers escalated even further.  Did Elvis walk in?  I looked over and Cotton was almost levitating off the stage. He was dancing like someone was putting money in his shorts.  Those old girlfriends from high school that didn’t want to have anything to do with us 20 years earlier were pulling their hair out. 

“You gave up the only one that ever loved you.”  
“And went back to the Wild Side of Life.”

As we wrapped up the song, the applause was deafening. The whistles were confusing dogs, 5 miles away. As we made our way down the stairs off the stage, all we could see were guys holding beers to give us and girls with monster smiles on their faces and lust in their eyes. We loved it and still talk about it to this day.

Don’t much remember the rest of the evening.   Anyway, here is the Hank Williams song we sung that night.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rockin' At Midnight -- The Honeydrippers

I know I’m stretching it to call this a Blues related blog post.  The thing is, I’m running out of stories to tell.  So, help me out.  Give me some suggestions for stories.  Any old memories out there that you can share?  Just give me a reminder and I will craft up a story around it.

Now that the truth is out there, here’s today’s blog post.

When I was a young man, I was a pretty darn good basketball player.  I didn’t win any state championships, but I could score 10+ points a game with regularity.  

Anyway, when I moved on to college at the University of Minnesota, I continued playing basketball in the intramural league.  I also frequently played pick up games at Cooke Hall on the campus.  Back then, in the early 80’s, Cooke Hall was open to the public.  Therefore, all the street ballers from the local area would show up.  You might even say that it was frequently hijacked by the street ballers. Eventually, the University closed off the public access and only college students could get in.

There were three courts in the upper level of Cooke Hall.  It didn’t matter to me what court I played on or who I played with.  I just wanted to play.  One day I sidled up next this fellow watching the game on the middle court.  I asked, “Who has the next game?”  This dude, just looked at me and smugly said, “This court is reserved for the NBA.”

What the hell was the “NBA?”  Apparently, you had to prove yourself in order to get any playing time on the middle court where the NBA played.   What a bunch of bullshit.  I just walked away and played on one of the other courts.

Then, one day, I had my chance to put things right.  I showed up at Cooke Hall and there was barely anyone there.  There were exactly ten of us and we “failures at life” finally got our chance to play on the NBA court.  It so happened that of the ten players there, five were from the NBA.  I can’t remember exactly how it turned out this way, but, the five NBA guys ended up on the same team.  I ended up with a bunch of dorky white guys.  One of them had Pepsi Cola bottles for eye-glasses.  Another was so skinny and that a good gust of wind could have knocked him over.  I don’t remember the attributes of the other two white guys.

So the game got started.  Since I was the only experienced basketball player on the team, I took on the leadership role.  Let me tell ya people, something came over me that day.  It was probably the feeling of disrespect I felt being denied access to the NBA court or something like that, but I was like Bernard King.  I schooled those shitheads.  We played up to 15 by ones.  I easily had ten of the points.  I was shooting the lights out.  If I wasn’t nailing jumpers, I blew past ‘em the took it to the hole.  If I didn’t score, someone else did because I made the assist.  I controlled the boards and if some dipshit came in the lane, I sent their shot flying over to the peon courts.

We smoked those mofos.  It was a blowout.  

I just strolled off the court thinking to myself, “NBA.  Right.”  The sad part of the whole thing was even though I had just schooled the NBA single-handedly, these dudes still didn’t see me as worthy to join their ranks.

So what does any of this have to do with the Blues?  This story just happened to remind me that when I was in the intramural leagues at the U, my roommate and friend for life, Brent, would get ourselves revved up and play this old rocker, “Rockin’ at Midnight” by Robert Plant and the Honeydrippers.

So here it is.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Musical Manifesto

Today’s music sucks.  I know I’m not the first guy to say this and I’m sure many of you disagree with me.  I also understand that there are generational differences and differences in taste.  You younger people are probably sick of us old farts spewing our admiration for Clapton, Hendrix, U2, The Specials and so on,  But I have to say to you young people today, you deserve better than what you’re getting.

Let’s contrast the differences.

I think it is pretty safe to say that lip syncing in concerts today is pretty widespread.  But these “artists” manage to maintain their celebrity.  If this had happened in my day, the marketplace would have shunned these charlatans with extreme prejudice.  If they appeared on a stage again, broken bottles would have been thrown at them.  Nowadays, the lip syncers get their faces on the cover of Rolling Stone.

What about the concert itself?  Almost every band from the mid 60’s to the early 80’s put out a live album.  The concert meant something because the live performance was not an exact duplicate of the studio songs.  It often had more energy and there was improvisation.  Today’s artists seem to lip sync each two and a half minute song from their latest boring CD, collect the gate receipts and head off to party with their posse.  

Another difference between today’s rock concerts and yesterday’s rock concerts is the attitude of the performers.  In the past, the artists were like the hosts of the party.  We all somehow felt we were part of the show.  Today’s artists act like royalty.  The rest of us are just the serfs who should be enthralled with the good fortune to be able to pay $100+ for a ticket to their show.

I would encourage anyone to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “Live at the Sands” or Bobby Darin “Live at the Copa” or The Doors “Absolutely Live.”  Listen to some concert recordings from Frank Zappa.  These artists engage with the audience.  They make jokes about people they see in the audience.  They have banter back and forth with the audience.

What ever happened to the lead guitar?  Musicians of the past were virtuoso’s at their instruments.  Everyone would talk about who their favorite guitar player was.  Was it Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix or a more obscure guitarist like Tom Verlane of Television?  It was the same with drummers.  Who was better, Keith Moon of The Who or Ian Paice of Deep Purple?  Who was the better bass guitarist, Jack Bruce of Cream or Jack Cassidy of The Jefferson Airplane?  Today’s bands seem devoid soul.  Their idea of a guitar solo is to strum wildly and jump up and down.

Today’s bands are not very dynamic.  For virtually every band out there, each song sounds exactly the same—only the lyrics are different.  They have the same tempo, same volume, same timbre, same rhythm and the same bushy bearded dingleberry strumming an acoustic guitar.  It’s boring and monotonous.  In the past a band could show several sides.  Sometimes they were loud and fast, other times they were soft and slow.  Other times they were low down and funky.

Today’s artists seem far more focused on what Frank Zappa called, “going for the blow job.”  Basically what he meant was that today’s artists are focused more on their celebrity than they are on their art.  They want to be in People magazine, get invited to all the big Hollywood parties, date the Playboy playmates, blah, blah, blah, etc.  Now sure, that’s stuff’s great for them, but what’s the byproduct for you and me?  Pop pablum.  

Neil Young’s mid-80’s MTV hit, “This Notes For You” put the whole attitude of the time in perfect perspective.  Today’s artists are all too willing to go for the blow job, sell out and play for politicians.

You younger people are probably thinking that I am full of shit by now.  However,  I think you feel exactly the same way but you just won’t admit it.   And I think I have the proof.

Less than a week ago, I saw a TV news story about a survey that said most people who pay hundreds of dollars to attend huge music festivals don’t go for the music.  They go for the drugs, the booze and scamming for sex.  Clearly every time I ever went to a rock concert, the concept of getting loaded and getting laid was a big part of it.  However, the music was one of the top two reasons to go.

As an example of the way things used to be, I want to share this live recording of a Tubes medley recorded in Buffalo, NY.  They play their original, "Proud To Be An American" from their 2nd album.  That is followed by a fantastic Fee Waybill imitation of Tom Jones and then they rally with a roaring rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Blue Rondo a la Turk -- Dave Brubeck

Once in a while someone will ask, “what was the best concert you ever went to?’  Mine would have to be Dave Brubeck at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul, MN.  I know Brubeck is Jazz and not Blues, but the two are pretty close relatives, wouldn’t you say?

It was sometime back on a nice cool Fall day back around 1985.  My buddy Jerry and I were roommates at the time.  He came home from work one night and said that he heard on the radio that Dave Brubeck was coming to the newly constructed Ordway Theater in downtown St. Paul and that the tickets had just gone on sale that day.  We looked it up in the local entertainment rag and confirmed he was coming.  However, I paused for a moment when I read in the ad that The Brubeck Quartet was performing with the Murray Lewis Dance Studio.  Suddenly a vision burst into my head.  I suddenly dreaded that the show might end up being some art noise accompanied by crazy modern dance nonsense.  I feared it was not going to be the swinging Brubeck I wanted to see play “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”

Jerry persuaded me to quit being a pain in the ass and just get the damn tickets.  Jerry had another great idea.  He suggested we round up a bunch of others to join us.  So we did.  I called the Ordway and ordered 6 tickets--3rd row right in the center!

The night arrived.  It ended up being, myself, Jerry, his girlfriend Jill, our mortuary science friend Craig, my brother Brian and his buddy Chuck.  This was a much more formal affair than I was used to.   At Wilebski’s or Whiskey Junction, it was t-shirt and jeans all the time.  The Dave Brubeck show at the Ordway, on the other hand, was a much finer affair.  For the first time since my confirmation in the Catholic Church, I put on some nice pants, a nice shirt and a sweater.  I looked pretty good if I do say so myself.

We arrived casually early.  I remember strolling the wide concourse of the Ordway with all the other well dressed people.  It was very mellow and comfortable.  There was no bad vibe, there were no big lines at the wine bar and there was plenty of elbow room to amble about.   I bought a wine and just roamed the concourse soaking in every minute of the night before we had to go into the auditorium.  When the time came, we took our seats front and center.  

The lights went low and a slow mellow piano opened from the darkness.  Then spotlights came on and the dancers from the Murray Lewis studio paraded across the stage twirling slowly and meticulously.  My worst fears crept slightly into my consciousness.  Was this going to be some boring dance shit?

My fears were quickly allayed because suddenly the stage lights came on and lit up the Dave Brubeck Quartet as they burst into some swinging Jazz.  The dancers pranced about back and forth across the stage.  And let me tell you something--it was great!  Not only was it Brubeck swinging, but the dancing actually enhanced the whole show.

The show continued like that until intermission.  After grabbing another wine, everyone returned to their seats.  The stage was dimly lit as Brubeck and his band retook the stage.  Nothing had prepared us for the notion that Dave Brubeck and his Quartet were going to have their own segment.  For the next 20-30 minutes it was just Brubeck and his crew jamming.  It was remarkable.

The whole time my buddy Jerry and I were busting inside.  We just wanted to yell, “Yeah, baby!” as loud as we could.  We bottled it up because we weren’t sure those kinds of goings on were allowed at such a formal show.  Then something wonderful happened.  In the middle of one of his jams, Brubeck himself went, “Wooo!”

That was it, the light just turned green.  Jerry and I burst out with our own hoots and hollars.  It wasn’t long before others in the back joined along.

The jam segment of the show segued perfectly as the dancers returned to the stage seamlessly in the middle of an upbeat swinging number.  The crowd just burst into applause.  Eventually, and unfortunately, the show had to end.  There wasn’t a hesitation among anyone in the audience to immediately get to their feet for a standing ovation.

It was a special night that night.  That show at the Ordway was shortly after Brubeck had quadruple bypass surgery.  He must have been fully recovered and happy to be alive, because for a Jazz show, it rocked!  Best concert ever!

In commemoration of that show, here is a great live version of “Blue Rondo a la Turk” which was totally indicative of what we saw that night.  My best case scenario thinking about the concert as it approached was just like this.  Enjoy.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Kick Me In The Pants -- Lurrie and Carey Bell

Throughout the history of my life, New Year’s Eve has not been a holiday with many fond memories.  In fact, I would say that virtually every New Year’s Eve celebration in my life has been a big fat failure.  The only time it was not, was when I was sitting at home watching TV (Nothing could go wrong in that situation, right?).  Such was the case way back in the late 1980’s at that world famous Blues Bar (thanks to me) Wilebski’s Blues Saloon in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I was well aware of my New Year’s Eve jinx by the time I reached my mid-20’s.  But this one year, I was sure that everything was going to be great.     Lurrie and Carey Bell were playing the New Year’s Eve gig at Wilebski’s.  I was going to be there for sure.  The previous time I saw them at The Cabooze on the West Bank of Minneapolis, they blew my friends and I away.  On this premise, I successfully talked my roommate Bob into going with me.  

It seems like every memory I have of Wilebski’s takes place on a North Pole like night.  Temperatures were way below freezing.  This night was no different.  However, back in those days I drove a Plymouth Horizon.  The Horizon was not a sexy car like my big black Buick.  It was much more utilitarian.  It had front wheel drive so it plowed through the snow.  Not only that, no matter how cold it got, that bastard started up.  When the temperatures fell below zero, I would get inundated by phone calls from people with brand new cars that needed a jump.

So, therefore, I had no fears this New Year’s Eve.

We get into the bar and grab a drink.  The vibe was kind of mellow, not the energized festivities I was anticipating.  Lurrie and Carey must have been bummed about playing in the frozen hell up in Minnesota on New Year’s Eve.  They started off the whole gig with this dreary slow blues.  Then the next one was some weary slow blues.  Then the next and the next... (now you get the idea of why I call this blog “No Old Fart Blues”).  I couldn’t stand it.  I was on the verge of shouting out something, but I would have made a spectacle of myself in the quiet, empty feeling of the room.

Bob and I finally decided that enough was enough.  It was time to go.  We put on our snowmobile suits (not really but it was that cold) and trudged out to my car.  I turned the key in the ignition and sure enough, like I had come to expect, the car started.  The only thing was, the fuel line stuck or the gas pedal stuck or some other weird thing fuckin’ happened because the engine revved up to it’s maximum capacity like I had floored the gas pedal.  It didn’t rev down at all.  It freaked me out.  I didn’t know what to do.  In retrospect, I’m guessing I could have probably drove it and the engine would have eventually slowed down.  But as a young ignoramus, I visualized Bob and I flying down frozen streets at full throttle on New Year’s Eve--the one night the cops are out in force looking for drunk idiots like myself.

Therefore, Bob and I went back into the bar.  On that night, Wilebski’s offered a free shuttle ride home so we saw that as our way out.  The thing was, there was only one shuttle servicing the entire Twin Cities Metro area.  The van could have been in Coon Rapids forty-five minutes away for all we knew.   Bob and I sat waiting and waiting.  Eventually, we went back outside and tried it again.  It was the same thing--maximum RPMs.

It finally got to be around 1AM when the bar stopped serving liquor.  Bob and I had to wait and wait and wait and couldn’t get a drink.  That, friends, is my personal definition of Hell.

We ventured back out into the frozen abyss around 3 A.M.  It was even colder now.  But this time, the Horizon started and then throttled down to a normal speed.  Finally we could go home.

I love Lurrie and Carey Bell.  Their album “Son of a Gun” is one of the best Blues albums of all time (in my humble opinion).  But that New Year’s Eve night, they cut me.  They hurt me with their incessant slow Blues music.

To commemorate that night, I offer up a tune that has a little more pepper in it.    Click here to link to it

Friday, April 12, 2013

La Ronde -- The Modern Jazz Quartet

In my last post I told you all about the big black Buick Electra convertible I used to drive around San Diego in.  Sometime after that day in Tijuana, my buddy John came over from Phoenix with a couple friends of his and we all enjoyed a boy’s “lost weekend.”  By Sunday morning, we probably didn’t enjoy it so much.  Regardless, the Buick was the perfect party-mobile for the occasion.

The four of us tooled around San Diego, bar-hopping and checking out the beach scene.  Then on Saturday night, we went downtown San Diego to attend “Street Scene.”  During Street Scene, the whole Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego is basically shut down for this huge party.  It has music stages set up all over the place and artists of all genres come and play.

Our fearsome foursome hit the Street Scene.  After scoping out the babes and checking out some music, we roamed over to the St. John’s Hotel where some friends of mine had rented a room.  This was a time prior to the St. John’s remodel and my friends room had access to the ledge right outside the window.  Now this ledge was not meant to be a party balcony, but it became one.  

The St. John’s is perhaps 12 to 15 stories and is shaped like a giant “E.”  The back side of the Hotel made up the horizontal lines of the “E.” My friend’s room was on the top floor and their window overlooked the back side of the Hotel.  All they had to do was pop open the window and we were outside walking on the “E” shaped roof.   Like I said, this was not meant to be a party balcony.  There were no guardrails, no parapet, no anything.  You could walk right up to the edge of the ledge and look down upon Street Scene.  You could sit down on the ledge of one arm of the “E” and chat with someone else sitting across from you on the adjacent  ledge.  

It was extremely fun hanging around up there.  I ran into my ex-girlfriend.  Seeing her there was probably a factor in us getting back together and eventually getting married.  So in retrospect it was a romantic evening as well as a fun one.  One of my guests, who had never met my girlfriend commented, "You guys have a history don't you?"

Anyway, I digress.

Eventually, my bros and I partied enough and we decided to call it a night.  I took the city side streets back home as a way of giving my guests a tour of the town.  We were strolling along nice and easy.  

Now the Buick only had an old-fashioned AM/FM radio.  The station I usually had it tuned to was Jazz 88.  On this particular night, with everybody half passed out, the slow Jazz tune playing on the station seemed totally fitting.  It so happens that Long Beach also has a Jazz station.  Jazz 88 in San Diego is 88.3 FM.  The Long Beach station is 88.5.  Regardless of which station I tuned the radio to, it would often switch back and forth between the two depending on what street I happened to drive down.

On this night it switched back and forth about every 10 seconds or so.  The song on 88.3 was this slow, mellow tune.  The song on 88.5 was this swinging, upbeat Jazz number.  It kept switching back and forth for the whole drive home and made its own sort of trippy Jazz instrumental.  I was probably the only one of us who noticed, but just as I pulled into my driveway, the final switch-over fell onto the mellow tune just as it was coming to an end.  A perfect ending to a perfect day.

I hope you don’t expect to hear this amazing switcheroo Jazz tune.  It would be impossible for me to re-create it.  However, in commemoration of that night, I offer this upbeat Jazz number called “La Ronde” by the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Strange Days -- Humble Pie

It was sometime back in the Spring of 1993.  I had just recently moved to San Diego.  I had moved in with a couple of guys from a business fraternity at San Diego State.  Shortly after moving in with these guys, my great aunt, who lived in Fresno, passed away.  She left all five of her nephews a little cash--about $5,000 in cash.  

This was the first time I ever had that amount of loose cash.  I had always been just living paycheck to paycheck.  I would blow most of my money on partying and the rest on necessities .  This time I decided that I would put some away into a savings account and the rest was for something nice.  That something nice turned out to be a rebuilt 1970 black Buick Electra convertible.  It ran nice and it looked structurally sound.  I thought it was a good value, so I bought it for $2,000.

Let me tell ya, that was one cool vehicle to go tooling around Southern California in.  My friend Jeff and I picked up a couple hitchhikers one time.  I drove through the desert mountains over to Palm Springs to see my Buddy Pete.  I tooled around downtown San Diego acting like some goomba from the mafia.  Whatever...

The car was in good shape, but the front bench seat needed reupholstering in a bad way.  One of my new roommates was into remodeling cars and he suggested I go to Tijuana to get the job done.  He had done it to his original, rebuilt 280Z and it looked like they did a good job.  It was inexpensive too.  I agreed but asked him to come along to show me the way.  

It was a beautiful sunny spring day as we cruised down Interstate 5 to the Mexican border.  It didn’t take us long to get through the border check point.  The highway continued for a mile or so when my roommate made me exit abruptly.  I swerved to the right down the exit ramp that swooped back to the left and turned right onto a city street--no traffic lights or anything.  

I was going a good 40 mph when I had to slam on the breaks because a half dozen Mexicans had run right into the middle of street.  They were waving their arms and yelling.  It turned out that they were all “salesmen” for their respective upholstery shops.  They probably saw my big black Buick rolling down the freeway ramp and freaked out.  I ended up pulling into a shop randomly.  Primarily because I was trying not to kill anyone.

I had always heard that one could bargain for good deals down in Tijuana, but I didn’t think it would be this easy.  This fellow told me it would be $700 or something like that.  I got a look on my face for about one second and before I could make a comment, he was down to $500.  I think I ended up getting the job done for like $300 in the end.

Now while those fellows worked on the car, my roommate and I had no option except to hang out on Revolucion Boulevard.  Revolucion was the main party drag of Tijuana--for the tourists anyway.

My roommate and I got some food and some beers.  While I was sipping on a beer and looking down onto the street from the balcony of this restaurant, I heard some music on the juke box that caught my attention.  It was Humble Pie.  

I paused for a moment in amazement.  I had been in bars all across America and I could have only wished that some old Humble Pie song would be playing from the juke box, but it never happened.  Suddenly I come down to Tijuana and what do I hear?  Humble Pie’s “Strange Days.”  I made a comment to my roommate but he didn’t know who they were.  

Anyway, the Mexican’s told us it would take about 5 hours to do the job.  It ended taking 10.   We eventually ran out of cash and ended up just standing around and waiting out in the dirt alley watching the guy do his work.  While we stood there, we noticed another American standing out back of the shop next door.  He did not have a happy look on his face.  We started chatting and commented on how long it was taking.  Turns out that fate worked in my favor that day.   I could have pulled into any shop on that road including the shop next door.  It turned out that this other American had not only been waiting all day like us, but his guys had actually fucked up the job.  They had actually done damage to his car.  My guy, on the other hand, did a great job.  I was very pleased.

In fact, I was pleased with whole experience.  And in commemoration of that experience, here is one of my favorite Humble Pie songs, “Strange Days.”

OK.  It seems that YouTube in the past 24-hours removed this song.  So you're going to have to make a bit of an effort to hear the song.  Click on the link below.  See the song list (someone has posted the whole album) and go to the 28:50 mark.  There is where you can hear the song.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 15, 2013

There StandsThe Glass -- Artist Unknown

It was sometime back in the mid-90’s and I was in the middle of a three-year stint living in L.A.  I lived in the fashionable Los Feliz area just east of Hollywood.  The movie “Swingers” was filmed there right about the time I was living there.  The Derby, where the hot jazz and swing dancing scenes were shot, was two blocks from my apartment.  

Anyway, one day I decided that I had obsessed on my trivial problems and had been self-centered long enough.  It was time for me to volunteer to help somebody else for a change.  I hooked up with this organization that helped repair the homes of less fortunate people that were in terrible disrepair.  The volunteers gathered at a church and then we took a bus down to the home that was going to be fixed.  This home happened to be in the middle of the notorious South Central L.A. 

As we drove through the neighborhoods on this overcast Sunday morning, the bus driver was playing the local PBS radio station.  I don’t know what it is about Sunday’s mornings on PBS affiliates, but they all seem to play bluegrass music in this time period.   I specifically recall this slow, maudlin bluegrass tune that came on.  Even though bluegrass music and black people aren’t usually affiliated in any way, there was something fitting about this sad bluegrass song playing as we passed by drug dealing gang members (as evidenced by their red bandanas) and drug addicted prostitutes.

We finally arrived at the home of this poor black woman and her son both of whom were suffering from some weird skin disease.  The symptoms were these little lumps all over their face.  I wondered to myself whether they had small pox or something.  I never found out for sure.

The yard was filled with trash and an old shed in the back yard was about to fall over.  Some people went to work tearing down shed and hauling away trash.  I spent a couple hours scraping paint.  It was pretty brutal.  I was scraping the underside of the roof to their front stoop.  I had to wear goggles because the damn paint chips kept falling in my eyes.  Then when I put the friggin goggles on, the lenses would fog up and I couldn’t see a damn thing.  It was like this off and on for two hours.  

Regardless of what a pain in the ass that was, it was a pretty trivial little problem to have compared to the people who lived in this neighborhood.

I'm going to digress a bit from my Blues theme and play some somber country music.  This is an old standard country song called “The Glass” or “There Stands The Glass.”  I believe it was Webb Pierce who was the original artist.  I recorded this version, by an artist whose name I did not catch, off of Memphis radio and it really reminds me of that day in South Central L.A.

Click the link below the hear the song on YouTube.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Messin With The Kid -- Mojo Buford

The first time I ever saw this group The Butanes was at The 400 Bar in Minneapolis (may it rest in peace).  My buddy Pat and I staked out a nice spot at the end of the bar.  It had prompt access to the bartender and it was close to the bathrooms.   I had never heard of The Butanes at that point but I was pretty impressed.  They were really cutting loose and the lead singer and guitar player, Curt Obeda, was really a good front man.  He kept things very lively and light-hearted.  During the show, however, Pat and I couldn’t see Curt Obeda’s face.  The bar hung too far over and it obscured our view of him.  We could see him playing guitar, but couldn’t see him sing.  I never saw his face the whole show.  

There was another memorable thing about that show.  The Butanes had this one handed piano player.  I don’t know how he did it, but he pounded out good rhythm with his left stump and improvised the rest with his right hand.  That made an impression on me and I’ve never forgot The Butanes because of that night.

Back in those days during the mid-80’s, I was a Mass Communications Major at the University of Minnesota.  As part of that major, I took several radio and television production classes.  In one radio class, we were assigned to do an interview with someone and then make at least a dozen edits in it.  Back in those days, of course, we actually had to manually cut the tape with a razor and tape it back together.  I must say I was pretty damn good at it too.  I made an edit so flawless that my teacher didn’t believe it and had to double check the tape to make sure.

Anyway, I decided to ask Curt Obeda.  He graciously accepted.

I had no idea what to expect, but I have to say, he turned out to be a great interview.  He had a lot of interesting tales to tell.  He told the familiar saga of a lot of Blues guys in the Midwest.  He basically graduated from high school in Minnesota and took off for Chicago with his guitar.  He lived down there and went to The West Side and hopped on stage with the legends during some Blue Monday jam sessions.  After learning from the masters and perfecting his craft, he moved back and started The Butanes.  

He told about how his life was pretty sweet because he did what he loved and he didn’t need to worry about money.  The money he received playing music was enough to pay for his rent and cigarettes.  He spent almost nothing on booze and food because he was usually comped at the bars he played at even when he was just there as a patron.

I wish I kept that interview.  It would be a really interesting piece of early 80's history.

As another interesting piece of early 80's history. It is a very obscure video of another Minneapolis Blues legend, Mojo Buford (sorry couldn't find any Butanes in case you were looking for that.

Friday, February 1, 2013

I Feel Alright -- The Bill Magee Blues Band

In my last post I mentioned something about not having very memorable concert going experiences during my time in San Diego.  I’m not trying to cast an aspersion upon all live music in Southern Cal.  It’s just that disappointing concert experiences have been the norm for me personally.

Case in point...

It was back in 1993.  I had just moved to San Diego.  Living in San Diego was an acquaintance of mine from Minnesota, Derek.  It was natural for me to seek out somebody that I knew who could show me around.   Derek was much more into the punk scene and not so much into the Blues.  However, I had some punk roots too so when he invited me to go see the hardcore group Bad Religion, I accepted.  Going to this show would coincidentally be my first trip down to Tijuana, Mexico.  There was a concert venue just across the border called Iguana’s.  We parked on the U.S. side of the border and walked across to the club which was no more than a quarter-mile from the border check point.

Iguana’s was a fairly decent sized venue.  It had a main floor that could hold a couple hundred people and a U-shaped upstairs balcony that ringed the main room that could hold another hundred or so.

I was not new to mosh-pits, but I was new to mosh pits of this size.  The mosh-pit basically took up the whole main floor.  I got caught up in it as I tried to wriggle my way for a better view of the band.  It was actually kind of fun being bounced around in the pit for a bit.  If someone fell down, others typically helped that person back to their feet.  However, things took a turn for the dangerous when I started seeing people jump off the balcony in some form of insane stage dive right into the middle of the mosh pit.

Bad Religion were apparently not concerned about the safety of their fans.  They just played on.  I thought to myself,  “Someone is going to break their fucking neck.”  Just at that moment, I was bashed in the back of the head.  Some idiot had stage-dived off the balcony just above me and their foot bashed me in the head.  That was it for me.  I was getting out of the mosh pit.  Besides, I had lost Derek in the crowd.  I only “jumped into this fire” because he wanted to.

I found a bit of elbow room in the back by the bar.  I ordered a beer and was basically just waiting for the show to end.  The music sucked anyway.  As I waited, this hippie looking fellow with long, dirty dreadlocks staggered up to the bar across from where I was.  He was clearly wasted and just using the bar to keep himself from falling down.  

Then, for some inexplicable reason, these two skinhead thugs, shoved their way to the bar and started harassing this wasted hippie.  I don’t recall hearing the hippie say anything that would have provoked these two, but suddenly they started beating the piss out of him.  Being Tijuana there were no bouncers around to step in.  The beating continued for thirty seconds or so until the hippie finally collapsed to the ground.  The scumbag thugs walked off.  The hippie managed to lift himself back up to a standing position.  He was bleeding pretty bad.  Some girl stepped in and helped him a little and the bartender got some staffers to assist him out of the bar.

“Wow, what fun can be had down in Tijuana.  I can’t wait to come back.”  I said to myself.

Finally the show ended.  It was like the walking wounded as scores of people limped their way out of the bar.  When we stepped outside, there was an ambulance right by the door.  I overheard someone say that somebody had broke their neck.  As Gomer Pyle used to say, “surprise, surprise, surprise.”  Who would have guess jumping 20 feet into a crowd below would potentially break someone’s neck.

I was very relieved when I was finally back on U.S. soil.  However, that was not the end of my delightful experience.  Derek and I were driving back home up Interstate 5.  Now I-5 is five lanes wide and at 2:00 in the morning there is almost no one on the road.  Despite this, a car full of punk assholes drove right up to my bumper and stayed there.   They could have passed at any time and on either side of me.  But nope, they just stayed their and rode my ass.  I slowed down to some ridiculous speed like 40 miles an hour thinking they just needed to wake up and go around me.  Nope.  They just sat there honking and flicking their brights on and off.  Regardless, I was not about to budge from my lane.  After a good 4 to 5 miles, they finally decided to pass me.  As they passed, they laughed and mocked us smugly.

I am very fortunate that I did not have gun in the car that night.  I almost certainly would have used it.

That was just one of several bad concert going experiences I sustained since moving to San Diego.  It is also a great example of why I like The Blues.  Blues music is good-time music.  It doesn’t attract assholes.  It attracts fun loving, amiable people.  No one is out to get into a fist fight or date rape some chick.  Blues concert goers just want to get a good buzz going, have some laughs and tap their feet some good-time music.  

I would be lying if I said that I had zero positive musical experiences in San Diego.  There is one great Blues regular on the San Diego scene and that is the Bill Magee Blues Band.  Bill talks my language.  He’s a good ol’ fun-loving Bluesman who knows how to get it done.  He’s not some bad Stevie Ray Vaughn cover band calling themselves Blues.  Bill is the real thing.