“Cleveland Rocks!”

For our anniversary, my wife and I wanted to plan a little getaway to celebrate.  Neither one of us had too much PTO in our “banks” at work, so we decided on a weekend trip.  During the planning the destinations changed frequently.  Originally, we had hoped to head back for another trip to Florida, but due to the lack of time available, we decided on something a bit closer to home.

There was talk of going to Nashville and maybe catching a show at the Grand Ole Opry.  Then there was talk of Gatlinburg, where my mom so often talked about.  I think we even chatted about Pennsylvania, too.  Eventually, we decided that Chicago was where we wanted to go, but then realized that it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and we figured it might be just a tad crazy (although seeing the river turned green would have been cool.

Cleveland??

To be honest, I am not even sure how we decided on Cleveland, Ohio.  I had mentioned that my dad had gone to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and said it was cool.  I started to look at things in Cincinnati.  There was a lot to do there, but why wasn’t the Hall of Fame coming up in any of my searches?  I knew that Cincy was close to Louisville, KY and thought that we could maybe do something there, too.  I had gone as far as to drop a radio buddy a note to say we were gonna be down there and asked for good restaurants to eat at … only to then realize the Hall of Fame was in Cleveland!

Now that we had cleared that up, we were set for Cleveland.  Now, I will be the first to admit “Cleveland,Ohio” as the answer to “Where did you and your wife spend your first wedding anniversary?” is not at all romantic.  Many people laughed when I told them.  Here is the thing about my wife and I, the destination really didn’t matter – it was simply the fact that we were going to be together.  To me, this is just one of the reasons I love her.  We can be content with just having time with each other, no matter where we are, or what we are doing.

We have made it a tradition to go to restaurants that local wherever we go.  If we can go there at home, we’ll go there at home!  By doing this, we have really been treated to some amazing food.  We always try to find a good steak house or something very unique to the city we are in and we have yet to be disappointed.

The Hall of Fame

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Personally, I think Sam loves watching me get excited about stuff like this.  We both love museums, but I must have been like a little kid on his birthday during this trip!  I had, of course, seen pictures of the Hall of Fame, but it was something else to be standing in front of it.  The big red block letters that sit upon the sidewalk read “LONG LIVE ROCK”.  As I walked up the steps, there are phoney concert speakers erected by the hand rails. The excitement builds as you walk in.

As you enter, you walk into a huge foyer/lobby.  The gift shop is to your right, to the left a cafe/coffee shop, and in front of you there is an escalator to take you down to purchase tickets.  After buying our tickets, you get ready to enter and above the doors the perfect AC/DC quote to welcome you: “For those about to rock …”

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Walking into the main exhibition hall, the first thing I noticed were pictures of John Lennon and Ray Charles on the wall.  The first thing I am drawn to is a glass case containing Bill Haley’s guitar.  Bill is often credited as being the singer of the first “rock and roll” song – Rock Around the Clock.  There is a picture of him playing it in the case as well.  I am not sure why I was so taken in by it, but I was.

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The next thing we saw was a line of bass guitars that belong to Geddy Lee of Rush.  I didn’t count , but there had to be like a dozen of them.  The information said that this was only part of his massive collection.

The Roots

One thing I was thrilled to see here was the fact that the “roots” of Rock and Roll were well represented.  Rock really evolved from a combination of Gospel, R&B, Bluegrass, Country, Folk, and Blues music. Each of those genres was represented here.  Among my favorite things I saw:  a suite belonging to Hank Williams Sr.; Louis Jordan’s music folder with his music and cue sheets; stuff from Muddy Waters, BB King, and Mahalia Jackson; Ray Charles sunglasses; Carl Perkins Guitar; salutes to Johnny Otis, Big Joe Turner, and Sam Cooke and so much more.   The roots of rock were so well represented.  Without these people and the genres of music, there would be no rock and roll.

Elvis

There is a pretty cool section devoted to Elvis, who was one of the first 10 artists inducted into the Hall of Fame.  The Hall has a standing agreement with Graceland in Memphis (which is a museum in itself) and they send memorabilia to them often, so the exhibit changes often.  There was a very cool motorcycle that was custom-built for Elvis.  His gold sequins suit is there, and a jukebox which was given to him as a gift from RCA Records – it contains only Elvis records.  Also on display was a double Gibson guitar which he played in his film Spinout.

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The Summer of Love

With the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”, there were some very cool things here.  I saw groovy outfits from the Mama’s and the Papa’s, clothing from Jimi Hendrix, and the HUGE mixing board that was used to record some of Jimi’s music.

On thing I really liked to see was the various things that song lyrics were written on.  There were quite a few original pieces of paper where the beginnings of songs were scribbled.  There were also plenty of hotel pads of paper with lyrics on them.  Loved seeing where changes were made to lyrics.

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Cities and Sounds

I loved that there was a section of the hall that saluted cities and sounds.  There was a section devoted to Memphis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and Liverpool, Seattle, and of course, Detroit.

In the Memphis section, there were plenty of neat things from Sun Records.  Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison all recorded there.  To stand in front of Roy Orbison’s glasses and guitar was pretty awesome.  My earliest musical memories are of my dad playing Roy’s music for me.

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A nice tribute to Motown is here with stuff from Barry Gordy, The Supremes (you can see some of their dresses), Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations are all here.  They were playing the episode of To Tell The Truth with Barry Gordy as we walked through this section.

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones each have a nice section at the Hall.  I thought Mick Jagger of the Stones was taller, but standing by some of his outfits, he’s shorter than I thought.  There is the Asher family piano that Paul McCartney donated, some of John Lennon’s outfits, and the handwritten lyrics to “In My Life”.  A very cool documentary was playing in their section as well.

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I jumped ahead a bit because the next section was London and Liverpool.  There were some very neat things from the Yardbirds, Peter and Gordon, Herman’s Hermits and the Zombies too.  All in all a nice salute to the British Invasion.

San Fran featured stuff from The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, while LA featured stuff from The Eagles, Jackson Brown, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.  One cool thing here was a duffle bag full of hotel keys.  I don’t recall, but I think it said it belonged to one of the Eagles.  They basically kept the hotel key (and keychain) from every place they stayed while on tour.  The bag was stuffed full of some very cool looking keychains!

This section also had tributes to grunge music, punk music and a section called “Rave On” which focused on the “pioneers” of rock.  Those pioneers included Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.  Soul Music was also spotlighted here with some awesome suits from James Brown, stuff from Aretha Franklin, pieces of the wreckage from Otis Redding’s plane crash, and Sam and Dave.  Featured in the soul section were two amazing things – guitars from Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve “The Colonel” Cropper.  They played on almost every Atlantic and Stax record.  They were members of Booker T and the MG’s, and also played with the Blues Brothers.  Very cool to see!!!

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Don’t worry metal heads, there was a section for Heavy Metal too. Oh, and a section for Rap, as well.

Protests

When Rock and Roll started to make waves, it wasn’t too popular with folks.  We tend to forget the hatred toward the genre, but they had plenty of newscasts about burning records, and protests that happened.  It was weird to watch the hatred toward the Beatles and read hate mail to the Rolling Stones.  Other artists that were discussed in this section were Frank Zappa and ELO.

On the Radio

As a radio guy, it was cool to be able to walk up to an interactive touch screen and select a region of the US and then listen to old airchecks of DJ’s from different eras.  Naturally, I had to listen to some of the Detroit personalities:  Dick Purtain, Robin Seymour, and The Electrifying Mojo!  There were plenty of familiar names from all over the states and it was nice to get to listen to their stuff too.

The Power of Rock

On the third level, there was a wall with each “class” inducted into the Hall of Fame by year.  You could also go to a touch screen and search by class, by year, or by artist, and listen to their music.  SO many great songs!!!

The Power of Rock is a short film by Jonathan Demme which features many performances from past Hall of Fame inductions.  So many stars and so many great songs were in this film.  The theater had a light show and great sound for the film and it was almost like you were watching a concert live.  The film ends with Prince’s guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps – WOW!  Forgot how amazing that was!  They also had some of the great quotes on the walls of the hallway that you left the theater by.  Prince’s outfit from that show and other outfits were there as well.

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Rock on TV

It was also very cool to see some of the TV show memorabilia on this level.  You could go and record something about your favorite singer or album in special booths.  It was pretty cool to stand in front of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand podium!  His microphone was in a glass case with other things like the set design for the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan.  They had TV cameras there, Don Cornelius’ suit from Soul Train, outfits from the Jackson Five and Sonny & Cher and the coat worn by Davy Jones of the Monkees that he wore on The Brady Bunch.  There was also some cool musically related stuff from Saturday Night Live, and from various music videos we all watched on MTV.  It was neat to see Paul Shaffer’s keyboard that he played for so many years on the Late Show with David Letterman.

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On the Radio – LIVE

One thing I didn’t realize was that Sirius XM broadcasts their “Classic Vinyl” station out of the Hall of Fame.  Rachel Steele was on air when we went through.  There is a glass window that allows you to look into the studio and watch them broadcast.  I actually felt bad for her.  One thing radio people like is the fact that they can go in to work without really worrying about what to wear, because….who is going to see you!?  Whoever is on the air here, really has to “doll up” every day.

Over all, I loved every second of my visit here!  Any music lover would enjoy themselves!!  If you have never been …. you have to!

Christmas in March

The final stop on the trip was The Christmas Story House.  It is the house featured in the holiday classic.  They renamed the street “Cleveland Street” in honor of the movie.  The Leg Lamp proudly sits in the front window and the Bumpass House is next door.

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This is such an inexpensive treat!  The house looks a little different on the inside, but they have restored much of it to be exactly like it looks in the film, which took a bit because there were a few owners since the movie.

We were allowed to take as many pictures as we liked.  There was a guide who took us through the house and told some stories.  You can see the bathroom where Ralphie solves Little Orphan Annie’s secret message, you can see the many plugs the tree was plugged into, pick up the phone that Mrs. Parker calls Flick’s mom on, see the boy’s room, and see the damper in the kitchen that billows black smoke because of the “clinker” furnace.

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From the backyard you can see the steel mill (still in operation), which helped Jean Sheppard (the author) pick that particular house for the film.  Across the street is a museum with the actual Red Rider BB gun used in the film, outfits from the cast, Darren McGavin’s plaster life mask (used for make up and such), plenty of behind the scenes pictures, and the Old Man’s car.  The gift shop is full of great items and yes, you can purchase a pink bunny suit or a leg lamp (in various sizes).

Sam told me she’d buy me a bunny suit, but only if I wore it every Christmas!  Incidentally, if you have the $$, you can spend the night in the house or next door at the Bumpass house.

The trip was short, but full of good memories.  I love that we were able to do it and I love that we got to spend time with each other. It was the perfect anniversary trip.

Cleveland, does indeed, ROCK!

 

 

 

Four Songs – Four Friends

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Last night at work I was listening to my iPod on shuffle. I have 4800+ songs on it and would have more if the hard drive that I stashed all the tunes hadn’t crashed. Last night a string of 4 songs in a row played and each of those songs brought me back to a specific memory regarding 4 of my best friends.

Song 1 – Green Onions – Booker T & The MG’s

When I hear this song, I immediately think of my best friend since elementary school. Jeff and I met in 2nd grade. He used to come up and hang out with me when I worked at my first radio station. He’s always ask me to play Green Onions. “Why the hell is it called Green Onions?” we often asked. Who knows, but it’s one of those great instrumentals!

Jeff and I listened to some crazy and silly songs growing up. Some of the ones that come to mind are Gimme Dat Ding by the Pipkins, Bread and Butter by the Newbeats, Beans and Cornbread by Louis Jordan, Ain’t Got No Home by Clarence “Frogman” Henry, I’m a Nut by Leroy Pullins, Show Me How To Dance by the Bingo Boys, and Ponderous by 2NU. Just looking at the list of those songs makes me laugh out loud! There are stories for each of them!

I can’t hear Sweet Emotion or Same Old Song and Dance by Aerosmith without thinking of Jeff. He always went over to the jukebox at the place we shot pool and played those songs. Another one that always makes me think of him is the Sanford and Son Theme by Quincy Jones. I think we’ve both used that as a ring tone for each other on our phones.

More recently, he played some crazy song I had never heard before – Saved By the Bell by Roy C. Tell you what – I’ll let you find it and listen to it….if you can describe it….please do in the comments!

Song 2 – Softly As I Leave You – Frank Sinatra.

This song is one that sits me at a kitchen table playing Pinochle with Joe. We’d be listening to 580 CKWW and the big band songs on there. The DJ was Don Alcorn and we listened to him a lot. He would often close his show with this song. Pinochle would usually go one for hours after Don went off the air.

Another song that makes me think of Joe is GI Jive by the Spitfire Band. It was another song we’d hear on 580, but we switched around a bit too. Sometimes we’d be listening to classic country on WCXI.

While in high school, we discovered that each of us appreciated Weird Al Yankovic’s music. Yes, both of us believe him to be a musical genius. Sure, anyone can write a parody song, but Al also wrote some pretty awesome originals, too! Al’s album, Even Worse, was released in April of 1988. We were in our final months of high school. “Fat” was probably the biggest hit on the album, but at my graduation party Joe, Steve and I all got up and sang Al’s parody of La Bamba – Lasagna. My dad had a few of his old wedding band players (and some cousins) bring their instruments and they played music at the party. Dad knew he was gonna have us do this and he had the lyrics ready for us to sing from (not that we really needed them). I will always remember us singing that.

Other songs that remind me of Joe: K-Mart Blues by Tom “T-Bone” Stankus, UHF – Weird Al, Santa Must be Polish by Bobby Vinton, Bus Stop by the Hollies and any Sousa March or random Polka!

Song 3 – Mambo #5 – Lou Bega

Steve and I spent MANY hours wasting gas and listening to music. I can’t tell you how many “driving tapes” I made. Cassette after cassette of songs we liked. The list of our favorites seemed to get bigger and bigger every time one of us heard a new song. Steve listened to songs like I did, he’d hear things in them that mostly went unnoticed. Sometimes he’d hear stuff that NO ONE ELSE heard, but then after telling you about it, that would be ALL you could hear! Mambo # 5 is a good example of that. Now, get the chorus in your head:

“A little bit of Monica in my life, a little bit of Erica by my side
A little bit of Rita is all I need, a little bit of Tina is what I see
A little bit of Sandra in the sun, a little bit of Mary all night long
A little bit of Jessica here I am, a little bit of you makes me your man”

Good. Now, when that part of the song plays – start singing the theme to I Dream of Jeannie. It totally fits! And thanks to this clown, I can never NOT sing it! LOL

Because of our many hours of driving (and wasting my dad’s gas), I could list at least 100 songs that make me think of Steve. Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin is one because he’d always sing that when we’d go sing karaoke. Viva Las Vegas (by Elvis and ZZ Top) was one of our favorite driving songs, as was Shake, Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner. He was the one who first played me Keep Your Hands To Yourself by the Georgia Satellites.

Huey Lewis and the News Sports album was one of our favorites. Songs like I Want a New Drug and Bad Is Bad were great sing a longs. We also added Hip To Be Square and Whole Lotta Lovin’ by Huey to our tapes after Fore was released. I remember Steve, Chris and I were at Cedar Point and before Karaoke was a “thing”, you could go and sing to instrumental tracks and make a tape of it. We paid big bucks and recorded Hip to Be Square with Steve on the lead vocal. Yeah, it sucked. LOL.

One last one for Steve – Rag Mop by the Ames Brothers. It’s a song that we used to hear on 580 and were familiar with because of an episode of The Honeymooners. Our school put on this Lip Synch contest and Steve and I did a “sketch” to Rag Mop involving a chalk board. At some point I was supposed to flip the chalk board over to show the other side of it and the leg of it broke. I still laugh about this. Great tunes and a good friend!

Song 4 – Tubthumping – Chumbawamba

This one hit wonder was a big one and we played it at a lot of weddings. My partner at those weddings was another Steve. We DJ’d many gigs together and those gigs remain some of my favorites. We had so much fun, and the guests could tell! We were having as much fun as they were. We choreographed some dumb dance to go along with this song and looking back at it, we must have looked pretty ridiculous! When ever I hear this one it makes me think of him.

Since we DJ’s together, you can imagine that there are plenty of songs that make me think of him. We used to open our gigs as the Blues Brothers, so the instrumental “Can’t Turn You Loose” always brings back memories of “Jake” coming out with his briefcase handcuffed to his arm, hugging “Elwood” and kicking off the gig.

We spent a lot of time hitting the Karaoke bars singing too. As a matter of fact, he is still hosting karaoke often. One of the songs that he sings is Big Ten Inch, a song originally done by Bull Moose Jackson, but better known to younger folks by Aerosmith. I didn’t even know they had that song at Karaoke, but I laughed like hell when he sang it!

I remember harmonizing with him on songs like Losing My Religion by REM and All My Loving by the Beatles. I remember dancing and jamming with fake instruments to Jump, Jive’ and Wail by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, doing the Chicken Blister to Blister in The Sun, and grabbing a microphone and making up stupid names to yell when he sang What’s Your Name by Lynryd Skynryd.

Four songs – Four Friends

Jeff and I have been friends for 40 years. I have been friends with Joe, Steve, and Steve for over 30 years each. That’s a lot of time, a lot of music, and a lot of memories. Each one of these guys stood up in my wedding and their friendship through good times and bad has been so important to me. We’ve shared many laughs, many tears, and many beers together. I am so lucky to have these guys in my entourage.

I hope you guys treasure our friendship as much as I do!