A Letter to Mom

Mother’s Day – 2019

Dear Mom,

Christopher and I met some time ago and mapped out a project to honor your memory. I have written a few things that will be included in it. Some of them have appeared here on my blog page. I’ve gone through pictures and have picked out favorites. I have other ideas as well, and eventually, we will produce and publish it.

The night Chris and I talked about this project, we exchanged ideas of what we could do. One of my favorite ideas he suggested was to write you a letter. You would think that it would be extremely easy to sit down and write to you, but this one simple idea has turned out to be the most difficult of them all! I have started letters to you more than once, but I cannot seem to be able to finish them. Today, I am going to write this! Through tears and pain, today, I will complete this letter!

Today will mark the 13th Mother’s Day that has passed since you passed away. I won’t even begin to pretend that it gets easier. It doesn’t – I wish you were here. I wish I could once again tell you in person, how grateful and how thankful I am that YOU were chosen to be my mother. I wish you knew how happy it made me growing up to know I was making you proud of me. You were my biggest cheerleader and there have been SO many times that I have needed you since you have been gone.

So many things have changed over the years. There have been countless times that I have wanted to call you. There have been so many times I needed to hear your voice. I have needed your guidance and advice more times than I can count. Before making big decisions, I have found myself asking, “What would mom say about this?” The longing to be able to share just one more conversation with you is ever present, and never seems to go away.

I have been told by so many people that you would be proud of me. I believe that. I graduated college, mom! All those times you told me to go to school and get a degree and I kept playing around on the radio … I’m sure it drove you crazy! Well, I now have that degree! I worked hard for it and earned it – knowing the whole time that it was what you and dad always wanted me to do. Even though you were not there physically, I felt you there in spirit. As I addressed the entire graduating class – I pictured you there, smiling and proud. When I mentioned you in my speech, it was the only time I thought I might break down.

You won’t believe this, but Dante’ is 17 now! He is in high school now! I don’t even know where the time went, mom! He’ll graduate next year! I remember you telling me how fast I grew up and how you couldn’t believe I was graduating…I completely know how you felt. He is quite the young man, mom. He is so friggin’ smart! He has made such an impact on his teachers and friends. They all talk of what a joy he is. He is polite and a gentleman. He is always going out of his way to help people by holding the door and things like that.

You’ll be happy to know that he wants to do something with trains when he graduates. I would venture a guess that it is probably because of that day you took him to the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine! He STILL talks about that day. It is a memory that he will never forget – and neither will I. He misses you, too. He never lets me forget your birthday, Mother’s Day, or the anniversary of your passing. We have spent many hours at your grave sharing memories, laughing and crying. He always makes sure that we stop and get flowers for you, when we visit. He will never forget the love you showed him, and you remain one of the most special people in his life – you made quite the impact on him in 4 short years. Both of us are glad that we have so many pictures of you two together!

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Remember that day we were all together at dad’s? You were trying to sleep and Dante’ was running around being loud? You laughed and I asked you what was so funny. Do you remember your response? I do. “I hope when you have your next baby that it is another boy. That way, you will know just what kind of stuff you and your brother put your dad and I through!” Well, and I have my suspicions that you played a hand in this, your wish came true. Dimitri was born shortly after you left us.

Blonde hair and blue eyes – I know you’d have spoiled him just as much as you did Dante’! Yes, they fight with each other, just like Chris and I did! There are many times I yell back to them in the car and I can hear you saying the same thing to Chris and me! It’s pretty amazing to put pictures of Chris and me next to pictures of the two of them – it’s crazy how much they look like us! Dimitri loves to sing and is in choir. He’s in middle school now and he’s quite compassionate. He is SO competitive and gives his all and hates to lose! He plays video games and gets into them much like you got into playing that pinball game at the Dugout!

He is always telling us how much he wishes he could have met you. He hears stories from Dante’ and he gets sad. He knows what an amazing grandma you were and he wishes that he could have share some memories with you, like his brother. I wish that he could have, too. I think that’s the only disconnect I have from him. Dante and I can talk about you and the times you shared together, but Dimitri gets sad, because he missed out on that, and that makes me sad, too.

I had a very difficult time after you passed away. There was quite the roller coaster of emotions I had to deal with. I was in a deep state of grief, trying to cope with your death and at the same time, there was the joy of the birth of Dimitri. Factor in the stress of the loss of another radio job, depression, and a variety of other issues and you can guess how messed up I was. I was taking all kinds of medications, altering the dosage, adding new ones and changing to different ones in hopes of finding a way to cope and to be happy. All that did was make me someone I was not. There are times I do not even remember saying or doing things. It took me many years to get through it and to address the issues I was facing. This meant doing some things that took me out of my comfort zone. This meant facing some hard truths about me and where I was in life. This meant severing ties with things and people that were holding me back and forcing me into a whirlwind of unhappiness. It was not a good place for me – or anyone else close to me.

I am ashamed to admit that I thought of ending my life. The unhappiness and depression were very bad. With help from therapy, I was able to look at some things in my life and make a very difficult decision. Divorce was not easy. Coming out on the other side, the true colors of those who I thought cared about me began to show. Rumors and untruths continue to be spread in an attempt to discredit me and make me look bad. You, of all people, know that I am far from perfect. However, it hurt to see how quickly people took sides and believed so many lies. It is hard to not let that bother me, but I have gained some powerful tools through therapy and true friends that have helped. I have been able to move forward.

Mom, all you ever wanted for me was to be happy. I am SO happy today. What I wouldn’t give for you to meet my wife, Sam. She is amazing. She is beautiful. She doesn’t take any crap from anyone! She does what needs to be done and doesn’t make rash decisions. You would like her a lot. She is supportive, honest, responsible, and loves me. I love her more that I could ever explain to you. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. She is a true blessing to me. She loves Dad, Rose, and the boys, too. It is because of her, that I am where I am today. She was a lifesaver, mom. She asks about you often and loves to hear me tell stories about you. I want you to know that she is taking good care of your boy, and she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Because of all that has transpired, and where I am now, my relationship with Dad and Chris are stronger than they’ve ever been. We speak often on the phone and I have seen them more over the past two years than I probably did through that first marriage. Sam will often ask, “Have you talked to your dad? Did you call your brother?” It’s pretty amazing. She knows how things were in the past, and refuses to let that continue. While I am glad to have those relationships thrive, it makes me sad that I missed SO many things with you during that time. I should have stood up more and made sure we spent more time with you – I regret that so very much. For that, I am sorry.

It hurts to look back and know what I could have and should have changed. Hindsight is 20/20. Oh, the things I would have done different! I would have called more, mom. I would have made more time to come visit. I would have told you I love you, every chance I got. The list of “should haves” “could haves” and “would haves” is SO long!!! There are things that I wish I would have wrote down or asked you. So many things that left with you that I can only wish that I had asked about.

Oh, and before I forget to mention it – thanks for your letter. We found them almost a year after you left us. It was probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. Here was a letter to me that you had written years before Dante’ was born. “Know that I love you” was the first thing you told me. I think it probably took me 20 minutes to compose myself after reading that line. My eyes are welling up with tears right now as I remember it. Thank you for that. I have it, along with the tissue I wiped your tears away with on your last night here and other things that remind me of you. I only wish that you had been able to write something to Dante’ – I know he would treasure that as much as he treasures the photo book you made him with those pictures from Thomas the Train.

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13 years gone and yet it still seems like yesterday. So many holidays without you. So many birthdays. 13 Mother’s Days. I hope that you always knew how much I loved you and still love you. I hope you know how much I miss you. I hope you know that even though there were things we didn’t see eye to eye on everything, I was glad that God chose to make you my mom.

Thank you, mom, for all you gave me. Thank you for the many days you stayed home with me when I was sick. Thank you for the hours of phone calls containing laughter and tears. Thanks for the memories that will live on in my heart and soul. Thank you for putting band aids on cuts and scrapes. Thank you for singing off key in the car. Thank you for being such a wonderful grandma. Thanks you for your wisdom. Thank you for understanding hugs. Thank you for telling dad things I told you not to tell him. Thanks for every single thing you did for me – there is probably not enough room on the internet to list them all. Most of all, thank you for being my mom. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you and will forever love you.

“See you later”

Love always, your son,

Keith

7 mos with Mom

“My mind knows you are gone, but my heart will never be able to accept it.”

I Miss Record Stores!

My first job was a paper route.  I delivered for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I guess I was probably about 10 or 11.  Some of your customers paid the paper directly, but most of the time, you had to go door to door to “collect” for the week’s deliveries.

My dad decided since I was making money, I’d need to have a bank account to put the money in.  He went with me and I opened an account at Michigan National Bank.  I think he had hoped that I would put money in there and save it for when I needed a car or something.  The fact that the bank was basically in the parking lot of the Hoover Eleven shopping center, which was almost directly across from my paper route, was probably a bad idea!

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There were two stores in the shopping center that ended up with most of my money.  The first was Circus World, a long gone toy store where we bought the latest Star Wars toys, Matchbox cars, and toy guns.  The second store, and the one that got most of my money, was a record store called Harmony House.  Oh, Harmony House, how I miss you!!!

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When I had my paper route, Harmony House was located in the original wing of the shopping center.  I had a turntable in my bedroom and I would go and buy 12 inch LP’s, 45 singles, cassettes, and eventually CD’s.  Some of the music blogs I follow have often said, “You never forget the first album you bought with your own money.”  I can say that isn’t true.  I don’t remember mine.  I can tell you the ones I bought, but don’t remember my first.  This is probably because many of the albums my dad had ended up in my collection.

What I remember is walking in and there was a wall which had a pegboard on it.  On the pegboard, there were pockets which had the new 45 singles on it.  Each pocket contained about 20-30 45 records in it.  On the front of the pocket was the title of the song and the artist.  If you were to compare that wall to the Billboard chart, it was basically the Top 30 or 40 songs that were being played on the radio.  I remember buying “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen on 45.

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The above pic is not really what the wall in Harmony House looked like, but it gives you an idea.  Looking at the picture, it reminded me that I lost the adapter that you put on the turntable to be able to play 45’s.  With an LP album, there was a small hole in the middle of it that the spindle went through. In the above picture you can see that hole on the “Creepers” record.  The hole on a 45 was much bigger, as you can see in the majority of the 45’s shown in the picture.  It seems to me that I had about 50 of those yellow 45 adapters at home for my collection!  It snapped in the record so you could play it.

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The singles were often released in hopes that you’d buy the album when it came out.  I was buying albums from artists that my dad introduced to me like Roy Orbison, Elvis, and others.  If I had to take a good guess, I would imagine one of the first albums I ever bought was from the Beatles.  Probably Beatles 65 or Beatles VI – both of which I loved!  In elementary school we had a “Record of the Week” which each class voted on and we could all bring songs in for the class to vote on.  I remember bringing in a Beatles Album.

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I used to spend hours in Harmony House!  I remember that occasionally there would be a huge cardboard cut out of a local DJ (like Arthur P from WRIF) with a spot for 45’s.  It would be their “Pick of the Week”.   They had a listening station where you could put headphones on and listen to the 45’s and you could probably find me there 50% of my visit!  I used to love talking about music with the people who worked there and became good friends with them in doing so.  It was always cool to have one of them say, “If you like that … you will really like _____!”

Vinyl sales started to decline with the rise of cassette tapes and cassingles (a single song on a cassette).  I used to take a vinyl album and record it to cassette so I could play it on my Walkman.  Then, I just started buying albums on cassette.  I DO remember the first album I bought on cassette –

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Eventually, CDs became the way to get your music.  I remember when they first came out, they came in a HUGE box!  The CD would sit at the bottom of the packaging, and the top half of it was pretty much nothing.  Now, when you buy a CD, all you have to do is remove the cellophane around it – back then you had to crack open that huge box!

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Let me preface this by saying I realize that I am probably gonna sound like an old man here, but I hate the fact that more and more music is being delivered digitally.  That being said, I will say that in some cases it is great – like for DJing.  All my new music is downloadable and clean edits.  It does make that very easy.  However, I miss the days of listening to an entire album from start to finish.  I miss picking out the songs I hoped I would hear on the radio.  I miss comparing “notes” with other friends who bought the album to hear what songs were their favorites and why.

It seems that there is little interest in albums anymore.  Hell, back in the day, there was a radio format called “AOR” which stood for “album oriented rock” and you got to hear those cuts that weren’t being played anywhere else!  My Tune Tuesday blog this week about Dwight Yoakam was about a song that never played on the radio, but it is still a great song and one of my favorites!  Think about growing up – no doubt you have an album that you could put on and play it from start to finish and you loved every song!!  Right??

I guess one of the things I miss most about record stores, aside of the music that I bought, is talking with people about music.  I loved being able to talk to staff members about music that had just come out.  I remember talking to a guy at Harmony House all the time about the “Future Releases” that were coming out.  We’d look at the list each week and talk about it.  It was always a great conversation when an artist would do something “different” from what they normally did (Pat Benatar’s True Love album comes to mind).

I had the same experience later on with a place in Roseville called Record Time.  My buddy Ken was the manager of the Oldies Department there and would steer me toward great imports and hard to find songs.  I had so many rare and hard to find CDs in my collection because of him.  Even though our music preferences weren’t always the same – it was always great to share thoughts with him.

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The other great thing about a record store is bumping into other music lovers.  So many times I’d be looking at the back of an album and another customer would walk up and say, “That’s a great LP!”  Those random conversations could also lead to discovering new music too.

It is nice to see that vinyl records are making a comeback.  I think it’s crazy that they are trying to sell them for $30 an album, especially when you can get the CD for $15-$20!  There is something to be said about hearing a song on vinyl, though.  I don’t really even know how to describe it, maybe you can help me do that, but the best I can do is – it sounds “fuller” and more “real”.  I don’t know, maybe that’s just the old man in me….

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Today, I am forced to look for CDs (if I am buying any) at Walmart, FYE (which is slowly becoming non-existent), Barnes & Noble (which is usually WAY overpriced), or online.  It’s not the same.  If I am at Walmart, the guy next to me looking at CDs is really there to buy toilet paper, not there solely to buy music.  With the internet, we have instant access to album reviews, which can be useful if you know what you are looking for.  I miss hearing about something that I didn’t know about from a fellow music lover.  I miss walking into the record store and hearing something playing in the store and wondering “Wow!  I like that!  Who is this and how can I get it?!”

Thank goodness there are still a few stores around that sell used CD’s, records, and even movies.  Sadly, they are as close as we’ll come to Harmony House or Record Time.

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Tune Tuesday – The Distance Between You and Me

I follow quite a few blogs that focus on classic movies, classic TV, and great music.  One of the bloggers I follow posted a bit about Dwight Yoakam and his great song “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.”  You can see that blog at the following link:

Dwight Yoakam – Ain’t That Lonely Yet

When I am driving in to work, or at work listening to my iPod or Pandora, I will jot down songs that I think I might want to post for Tune Tuesday.  The day he posted his Dwight song, I had been listening to my iPod and heard one of my favorites, which is today’s tune.

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In 1990, Dwight Yoakam released his fourth album “If There Was a Way”.  It produced 5 top 40 singles – “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose” (#11), “You’re the One” (#5), “Nothing’s Changed Here” (#15), “It Only Hurts When I Cry” (#7), and “The Heart That You Own” (#18).  He also released a duet with Patty Loveless called “Send a Message to My Heart” which reached #47.  The album also includes some great cuts that never played on the radio:  The uptempo “Since I Started Drinking Again”, the bluesy title track, a cover of Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” and the opening song – “The Distance Between You and Me”

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The song opens with a lone guitar lick, and then goes into a classic country riff.  A teacher I had in high school used to say country songs always had an “un-chicka un-chicka un-chicka” beat to them….LOL.  When you listen to it, you will know what I mean.

Dwight wrote this song.  I’m not sure what his inspiration was, but I LOVE the illustrations he paints for us with the lyrics.  He is in a dead relationship.  They two are co-existing.  They are two people who could not be farther apart.  How far?  The lyrics explain.

The Distance Between You and Me

Take a rock tie a rope
Throw it down in the sea
Let it fall to the bottom
Nobody knows how deep
Stare real hard through the water
And you might just perceive
The distance between you and me
The distance between you and me

Take a map of the world
And measure with your hand
All of the miles
Across all of the land
Write it down add it up
And you might understand
About the distance between you and me
The distance between you and me

I lie awake and hear you breathing
Only inches from me in this bed
Not much space but it’s all that we needed
To live alone now that our love is dead

I lie awake and hear you breathing
Only inches from me in this bed
Not much space but it’s all that we needed
To live alone now that our love is dead

Climb the Earth’s tallest mountain
To where it reaches the sky
Take a gun fire a bullet
Straight up out of sight
Where it stops in the heaven
Well that ain’t half as high
As the distance between you and me
The distance between you and me

I love the haunting final chord at the end of this song!  I saw Dwight in concert a few times and he really is great on stage.  I actually had the chance to meet him once and it was … weird. Everyone with Meet and Greet passes all went into his tour bus.  We all sat down and he exited what must have been his bedroom on there.  He walked around to each of us. Shook our hand. Looked directly into our eyes and asked our name. He then repeated our name and said, “Hi,(your name). I’m Dwight.” The whole time I was thinking, “Dude! You have been making records for years…..you have a ton of hits…..we all have tickets to your show….we know who YOU are!!” He was very gracious and signed autographs and took pictures, but it was one of the most awkward meet and greets I have ever been though.

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Thinking about “creativity”

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Today’s blog comes from a daily writing prompt asking “What does a typical brainstorming session for you entail? How do you get creative?” As I thought about this, it is a bit disappointing. I feel as though my creativity is lacking more than I care to admit.

When I was doing radio full time, I prepped a show every day. I was always on top of the news, I watched (or at least read about) the “hot” TV shows that people were talking about, I was tuned into local happenings, and was always writing. I carried a notebook with me to jot down observations, and things to talk about on the air. I also wrote down ideas for future shows, jokes, or bits. Today, my life basically consists of waking up, driving to work, working, driving home, sleeping – then repeat. When you don’t observe or create on a daily basis…it becomes difficult to do.

As I prepared to write this, I found some great quotes on creativity….

Creativity Quotes:

Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Earl Nightingale says, “Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm.”

Edward de Bono says, “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

Ken Robinson says, “Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the most extraordinary results in human culture.”

And, Julia Cameron says, “Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage.”

CREATIVE LADY

Why is being creative and creativity important?

On the website for the Topeka, Kansas public library, Betsy Roe says, “It is because it makes life infinitely interesting and fulfilling. Creativity is a way of living life that embraces originality and makes unique connections between seemingly disparate ideas. Creativity is about living life as a journey into seeing and communicating the extra-ordinariness of the simplest, most every day acts.”

She continues, “We often think about creativity as making something, but in fact the root meaning of the word means ‘to grow’. When we are creative we feel as if the world and all that is in it is vibrantly alive. Creativity’s by-products are some of the major achievements of civilization–from the invention of the wheel to Mozart’s sonatas. Human beings are essentially born creative–from infancy on we find innovative ways to negotiate life. The most creative people find ways around obstacles because they see them not just as roadblocks but also as opportunities. Creativity expands our perceptions and along with expanded perceptions come new ways of problem solving.”

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? The quotes and paragraphs above have prompted and encouraged me to once again be creative! They also have caused me to look back at a time when I was a bit more creative, and to people who I admire for their creativity.

Creative influences

With 30+ years in radio, I have worked with some very creative people. Each was creative in their own way. Many of them were morning show personalities and had quick wit. Two morning guys come to mind immediately…

Two Jims – Bosh and Biggins.

I worked with Bosh in Detroit and in Saginaw. I would compare him to Robin Williams. He was always “on”. Give him a random topic and he could do a 10 minute bit on it and be hilarious. He is also a voice actor and can do many voices, bouncing from voice to voice, which he would obviously incorporate into his show. When given free reign to ad-lib, he always made me laugh and left me wondering “how the hell does he do that?!”

I worked with Biggins in Flint and Saginaw. He is one of the fastest wits, I have ever met. There is never a shortage of punch lines, some of which you could never tell on the air! The way he can come up with a pun or an association to create a punch line with little or no prep just amazes me. Sometimes I can read a story and try to come up with a punch line and just struggle, not Jim. He’s often got two or three. I’ve always wished I could be as quick witted as he is.

Mr. Molson

I have mentioned Johnny Molson in past blogs, and he certainly needs a spot here in a blog about creativity. When we worked together at WKSG, Kiss-FM in Detroit, he did the evening show. He also wrote and produced copy for our voice guy (the great Stu Bowers). We really had a lot of fun on that station, and that fun was also conveyed in the sweepers that played between records.

I always looked forward to when new pieces of imaging showed up in the studio. Stu had a wonderful delivery to the lines that Johnny wrote. He could be very serious or very playful. Two pieces of imaging that I remember are examples of both.

His serious delivery was perfect for a sweeper that talked about how every station in Detroit, except ours, emitted harmful waves that were dangerous to wild life. It talked about how important it was to listen to us and not those other stations. In that serious voice, he says, “The choice is yours. You can listen to WKSG Kiss-FM and know you are doing your part for the environment or you can listen to those other stations and watch innocent penguins in the Antarctic barbecue!”

His playful read was perfect for another sweeper I remember. His read was perfect. It started serious – “WKSG, Kiss-FM. Listening to us is better than sex!” Then, he loosens up and says, “Well, maybe not … but it did give me a chance to say ‘sex’ on the radio. Whoops I said it again! I’ll say it again, sex, sex, sex….” he giggles and laughs as the thing faded out. It was funny and probably a bit controversial for 1989, but it got people talking and listening – and that is what you wanted.

Those things that Johnny created were just brilliant. His evening show was like a morning show – it had bits, sound effects, regulars, and a lot of laughter. LONG before Whose Line Is It Anyway came to TV, Johnny and some other guys used to perform at coffee shops and on stage doing improve comedy. I had the pleasure of watching this group many times and it was hilarious! No matter what suggestion was made by the audience, he and the group were able to ad-lib and create the scenes. I still think back to those shows and remember realizing just how talented he was – and still is. He still occasionally gets together with the group and performs. No surprise that he is the creative services guy at his current station. He is consistently writing and producing award winning commercials for clients. He has also written a book and speaks about advertising.

They say the right side of the brain is what controls the creative and artistic aspects of a person. I always loved that he named his business Right Brain Visions.

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Jeff “from Burton”

Jeff Michaels isn’t in radio anymore, and that’s a shame. He’s a very funny guy. He and his buddy Tim (who I will talk about more in a minute) both started in radio at about the same time. He was just an intern when I met him. He started working at a small AM station and eventually teamed up with Tim to have the top rated shows in markets in Arkansas and Ohio.

I remember he would occasionally call my show as some character and ad-lib some ridiculous story or joke. Eventually, that character became “Jeff from Burton.” I asked him to cut a bunch of lines for me that I could play over song intros. I think I wrote some, but many of them he ad-libbed. One I remember went something like “Hi, I’m Jeff in Burton. You’re listening to Keith Allen on B-95. He eats crayons (breaks into huge laughter and abruptly stops) … wait, that’s me.”

His warped sense of humor stemmed from some great creativity!

Tim Timmerman

While all of the people I have mentioned are all very creative, this guy is one of the most creative – Tim Timmerman. As I stated, he worked with Jeff Michaels and they dominated the markets they were in when they were doing their morning show. They understood how to drive listeners to their website with video content, and how to connect with their audience. Separately, they are both very talented. Together, they were dynamite!

Before they worked together, Tim had a show in Port Huron. Once a month, he’d drive over to Flint and after my show, we’d go into the production room and brainstorm. If I had to pick a time when I was most creative – this would be it. We’d look ahead at what was going on and jot down possible ideas. Some ideas came from bouncing thoughts about topics off each other. Some ideas took longer to emerge than others.

I think that first get together, we wanted to create some phoney commercials for each other. I voiced his stuff and he voiced mine. One of the first ideas was a fan club. What if we both had fan club? We wrote and created a very convincing spot inviting people to become a member of the Keith or Tim Fan Club. “You’ll get a membership card made out of high quality construction paper that gets you free water at area restaurants and an autographed Post-It note.” I used to play it once a show. I remember a gal came up and wanted her membership card! So I went out and made one for her!

Before Christmas, we were talking about whatever the “hot” toy was that year (probably a Playstation or something like that). We made a fake commercial for “Keith Allen” and “Tim Timmerman” Action Figures! “Get your kids what they REALLY want this Christmas! Collect all 42!” Shameless self promotion and funny stuff.

Also before Christmas, I thought it would be funny to say I shopped at a non-existent store every year. I said that our engineer ran a patch into their PA system for me, so I could listen any time I wanted – so I wouldn’t “miss any deals”. I found this extremely cheesy version of Jingle Bell Rock (played on strings – you know, your typical bad music that plays in department stores), and used that as the background music. I put on a voice that made me sound drunk and I would talk about what was going on in various departments of the store. I had a punch line for each bit and as the PA announcer, I was about as incompetent as I could make him. Every time I “checked in” after every punch line, I would usually say something like “Thousands of people are out of work – and this guy still has a gig!” or something like that. That bit stemmed from a creative brainstorm session with Tim.

At election time, as you know, there are countless ads for politicians. So Tim and I created spots promoting us. “Keith Allen for DJ”. You know how at the end of the ads it will say something about being “paid for by Joe Crawley for Congress” or “paid for by Democrats who want your vote committee”? I wish I still had a copy of my phoney ad – I actually called my mom and had her say, “Paid for by Keith Allen’s mother.”

One of the things Tim and I would look at when we brainstormed was what month it was. There is no shortage of “May is ____________ month” months. Some of the months that we found were just crazy. One of my all time favorite bits was one we did for June. June, in case you didn’t know, is National Accordion Awareness Month! I would think you’d be aware of an accordion if it was nearby! Tim and I produced a simple sweeper that would play between songs. It stood out like a sore thumb, because it was so ridiculous. Here is that sweeper in a nutshell:

“B-95’s Keith Allen reminds you that June is National Accordion Awareness Month. Here’s an Accordion Awareness Month update: (Insert some silly 10 second clip of accordion music). Listen all month long for more Accordion Awareness Month Updates!”

The idea was to make the listener wonder “What the hell was that?” Mission accomplished!

Time to get back in the creative saddle

Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu says, “The creative process is mysterious; a conversation, a ride in the car, or a melody can trigger something.”

The great Miles Davis says, “I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”

With all of the positive changes that have happened in my life over the past couple years, it is time for me to be more creative. I used to write songs. I used to write jokes. I used to write stories. I used to create. I have decided to once again grab my little notepad and begin observing. Once again, I will look for things that might otherwise go unnoticed. I will take note of things that can spawn an idea for a bit or joke. I will be inspired by those who have had some creative influence on me and use my “right brain”.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun!” – Albert Einstein.

CREATIVE

Go! Be Creative!

It’s a “Guy Thing” …

I can’t wait for this weekend!  I have my tickets.  I am anxiously awaiting 2 hours of laughing.  I will exit the Redford Theater on Friday night with my sides aching from laughter!

My dad, as I have mentioned in many blogs, introduced me to many things – music, movies, old radio and more.  One of the things that I am forever grateful for, is his introducing me to three of the funniest men who ever lived – The Three Stooges.  Now there are many folks who say that they are “a guy thing” and this is just not true!  I know many females who love the Stooges.  My friend Roxanne and I are forever referencing the Stooges in phone calls and social media posts!  There are plenty of Stooge fans, both male and female, and many of them will be in the audience with me watching and laughing.

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There is something to be said about watching them on TV or at home on video or DVD.  Yes, they are funny. There is, however, nothing like watching them on the big screen with an audience laughing with you!  That’s exactly how audiences saw them in the first place – in the theater!

I bought my tickets this past week and am looking forward to going to see “the boys” with my sons, my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law.  I was finally able to see the shorts that will be showing this weekend, and it only adds to the excitement!  There are some classics playing!!!

Men in Black

This was the third short the Stooges ever released.  For those who say that the Stooges never did anything worth watching – this short was nominated for an Academy Award!  This is such a wonderful short full of quotable lines and running gags (“Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Doctor Howard”, “For Duty and Humanity”).  The Stooges are new doctors who reek havoc on the hospital. Larry has two very memorable moments – when he sings into the stethoscope and when he is in the operating room, both which crack me up every time!  Comedian Billy Gilbert’s cameo is funny, too!

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Hoi Polloi

One of the great Stooge stories – and an idea that came from Moe’s wife, Helen.  The boys are garbage men, who are the subjects of a bet.  A professor and a colleague are debating whether environment or heredity make a man.  The professor bets that he can take the lowly Stooges and make gentlemen out of them.

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The Stooges often went head to head with the folks of “high society” and this was one of the great examples.

Ants in the Pantry

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Here is another short where the Stooges go up against the upper class.  They are exterminators who are looking for business.  In an effort to drum up some, they actually plant mice, ants, and other pests in homes!  Of course, they are then hired to remove the pests that they planted.  A highlight is the destruction of a piano due to mice and cats!

The boys are then invited on a fox hunt and end up with a much different, and smelly animal.

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Violent is the Word for Curly

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This one is a classic that will forever be remembered for the song “Swingin’ the Alphabet.”  The Stooges are working at a gas station giving “super service” to customers.  They come across three professors who are off to speak at a college.  They toss their luggage into a truck so they can “do their job.”  The Stooges end up blowing up their car and jump in the truck to get away.  They dress in the professor’s clothes and are mistaken for them by a college staff member.  Their speech is the song mentioned above.

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I don’t care how many times I watch the scene where they cut to Larry – I laugh because of him staring off into space!

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Priceless!

Dutiful But Dumb

The Stooges are photographers who fail to get a photo of a starlet.  They are fired by their boss, then rehired and sent to a country where taking pictures is punishable by death (LOL).  Of course, they are asked to take pictures!

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This short has two of my favorite Curly moments.  The boys are hiding from officers of the law.  Curly is hiding inside a huge radio and when one of them goes to turn the radio on.  Curly has pulled almost all the wires out of it.  When they wonder what is wrong with the radio, Curly pulls out a harmonica puts a cymbal on his head and begins to play music.

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The other Curly moment is his wonderfully orchestrated fight with an oyster.  Curly orders some oyster stew.  Each time he puts a cracker in it, the oyster eats it.  It is such a masterpiece and a great example of just how he can make you laugh without saying anything!

Dutiful But Dumb - Curly and the oyster 6

Out West

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There is a great debate over who was funnier – Curly or Shemp.  I avoid this debate at all costs, because in my opinion, they were both very funny men.  They each had their own style.  I love that the Redford plays one Shemp short at their Stooges festivals.  While this one is not one of my favorites, it still is worth watching.

I always love when the Stooges do a period piece, and this one is obviously set in the Old West.  Anytime the amazing Christine McIntyre plays alongside the Stooges, it’s fun.  Jock Mahoney, who is probably best known for playing Tarzan in a few feature films, also stars in this one.

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It’s going to be a blast, for sure!  The Redford Theater is a beautiful theater and has a Barton organ that has been in the theater since 1928!  It really is a wonderful place and they often show classic movies for a very reasonable price.  If you are a fan of the Stooges and live in Michigan, you need to make it out to their annual Three Stooges festival!  Check out their website for upcoming events –

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If you already have your tickets …. I will be laughing with you!

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Tune Tuesday – All I Want

I spent the majority of my radio career playing country music.  I started with oldies, dabbled in classic rock, played adult contemporary songs, and even had a stint at an urban station.  If I add up the years by genre, I have played more country music than anything.

Today’s country music, in my honest opinion, is more like a southern rock.  Some of it even borders on rap.  My current PD (and many others) call it “bro country,” whatever that means.  Recently, on my weekend show, I actually played a George Strait song – a new one at that!  It actually sounded country!

While some laughed at Darius Rucker for cutting a country album, he actually fit right in.  Darius, of course, was/is the lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish who burst on the scene with their album Cracked Rear View in 1994.  They had some huge hits and great success.  Darius did some solo stuff in 2001, and in 2008 signed with Capital Records to release a country album.  That album was called “Learn to Live”.

The album had some great songs on it.  The first three singles (Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It, It Won’t Be Like This For Long, and Alright) all reached #1!  While I Still Got The Time, Drinkin’ and Dialin’ and Learn to Live are also great songs lyrically and musically.  The song that just stands out the most for me on the album is “All I Want”.

Darius co-wrote the song with songwriter Frank Rogers, who wrote Brad Paisley’s “I’m Gonna Miss Her.”  (Brad Paisley, coincidentally, plays lead guitar on the song. )  Darius says that the song sounds like it was written by two guys who hate their wives, and thought when he played it for his wife, she’d think he wanted a divorce.  He says that wasn’t the case at all.  Darius stated that when they wrote the song, there were a lot of people around him getting a divorce, and that’s where the idea came from.

As someone who was recently divorced, this song was one that I played often on the iPod.  The entire first verse, I could relate to:

“Don’t act surprised, it ain’t like you didn’t know.
It’s been like a long time coming and it’s time for me to go.”

While the subject matter of the song is a bit more serious, the way it is written in a tongue and cheek sort of way, is just one of the reasons I love it.  The last lines of the chorus, is one of my favorite lines in music.  Darius said when his wife heard it, she was on the floor laughing.  I also love it because it has a great boogie-shuffle rhythm to it.

“All I Want”


Don’t act surprised, it ain’t like you didn’t know
It’s been like a long time coming and it’s time for me to go
Tryin’ to split things up could drive us crazy
So I’m gonna make this easy, baby

You can have the money, you can have the house
Take the Cadillac and that boat out back
And your mother’s pink and yellow couch
You can have every penny that I’ll make from this here song
Girl all I want you to leave me is alone

Don’t get me wrong I will always love you, girl
You were my life you were my heart, you were my world
But we both know it’s over, there’s no need to fight it
Girl I just need some peace and quiet

So you can have the money, you can have the house
Take the Cadillac and that boat out back
And ugly pink and yellow couch
You can have every penny that I will make from this here song
Girl all I want you to leave me is alone

You can have the money, you can have the house
Take the big screen and your diamond ring
And those shoes that you swore you couldn’t live without
You can have every penny that I will make from this here song
Girl all I want you to leave me is alone
Girl all I need you to leave me is alone

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Side note to trolls:  All I want you to leave me is alone!  🙂

 

 

Tassles in the Air ….

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College is hard.  I know, I’ve done it.  Going to college while working two jobs (full and part time) is unheard of.  Yet, that is exactly what my wife did.  I don’t know how she kept it all straight!  She juggled her full time job, her part time job, planning birthday parties, running family to doctor’s appointments, planned holiday get togethers, kept the budget and made sure that all of our bills were paid on time, AND the rest of the every day things that happened in her life!  She did it.  Tomorrow, she will walk the stage at graduation with her Bachelor’s degree in Medical Case Management.  To say that I am proud is an understatement!

Let me back track and say that when we first met, she was doing much of the stuff I previously mentioned.  We met after I got my Associate’s degree and she was working on hers in the same program.  During that time, she was not only doing almost all of the things I mentioned, but she was also going through some health issues of her own and working in her own doctor’s appointments.  She was traveling to do speaking engagements, running marathons, and more!  I used to ask her how in the hell she did it.  Her reply was simply, “It has to be done.”

Before we started dating, it was clear that she was a very independent woman.  She took care of what needed to be done and was one of the most organized, level-headed, rational, and smartest women I had ever met.  She wasn’t going to let the world tell her what she could and couldn’t do and constantly put it in its place.  She was a self starter who saw deadlines as a challenge and over delivered every time.  I used to call her Wonder Woman.  I still do.  The things she has accomplished and will continue to accomplish leave me standing in awe.

Throughout the schooling that led her to this degree, I only heard her “stress” over one class – Statistics.  I have never taken this particular class, but I have many friends who have.  They told me all I need to know about it – it is one of the most difficult classes a student can take.  Factor in that she was taking this class online with a teacher who was very “hands off”, and you can imagine her stress level.  This was the only class I thought might “break” her.  She plugged away, went to videos online, read more, found tutorials on the web.  Her final grade in that class was still an A!  Wonder Woman once again triumphs over evil!

Through it all, I made sure to do what I could to make it a bit easier for her.  I cooked and cleaned when I could.  I made sure the house was quiet when she was taking exams or recording videos.  I proofread her papers and offered suggestions for conclusions.  I did all I could to support her and give her the time and space she needed to focus on school.

So, tomorrow, she will walk the stage and thousands of people will watch her receive her diploma.  To them, she is a name – another name that proceeds or follows their graduate.  To me, she is a tower of strength.  She is a prime example of determination and will power. She is a woman who accomplished what she set out to do – and no one was going to stand in her way.  She is the product of many hours of anxiety, studying, sweat, frustration, tears, hard work.  She is a picture of success.

Sam, this blog is a poor attempt at me trying to come up with the words to say how proud I am of you.  You continue to leave me watching in awe of all that you do.  As I look back and wonder just how you did it all, I can hear you saying back to me, “It had to be done.”  You will continue to grow and move up into positions of importance and authority.  Your future had always been bright, and this will only add to the possibilities ahead.

I am proud of you.  I am proud to be your husband.  I love you with all that I am.  Congratulations, my love!  You deserve to stand tall and be recognized for this amazing accomplishment!

Oh, and I will probably cry tomorrow.

ADDITION TO ABOVE POST:

She did it!  I held it together and didn’t cry.  Here she is newly graduated!

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