Tune Tuesday – Muppet Music

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40 years ago this week, The Muppet Movie hit theaters.  My brother and I always made it a point to watch the Muppet Show on TV.  It was always fun to see the famous guest stars interact with Kermit and the gang.  If I am being honest, I am still upset that the final 2 seasons of The Muppet Show has yet to come out on DVD!

The movie itself was the 10th highest grossing film of 1979 and was loaded with cameos from celebrities like Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Milton Berle, Dom Deluise, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks, Telly Savalas, and so many more.  The cameo by Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy is especially special, because Bergen passed away shortly after he shot his scene in 1978.  Bergen was a hero of Muppet creator Jim Henson, and the movie is dedicated to his memory.

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The movie itself is a masterpiece.  It remains, in my opinion, the best of all the Muppet films.  Jim Henson did things in this movie that had never been done before – we saw Muppets walking, and Kermit riding a bike!!!!

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The movie had a great story and thanks to the writing of Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, some really amazing music!  The soundtrack includes “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” (which would be performed at Jim Henson’s funeral), “Never Before, Never Again”, and the bluesy, “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along”.  All of these are great songs in their own right, but for Tune Tuesday, and in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of The Muppet Movie, here are MY favorite songs from the film.

Can You Picture That?

I have always loved Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!  First of all, what a great name for a band!  Second, Dr. Teeth was always so “hip.”  Floyd and Janice were “like totally far out!”  Animal was one hell of a drummer and I Zoot could really nail a sax solo! I always loved how they could take a standard song like “Tenderly” and rock it out!  Check out this groovy track!

Oh yeah, whoo
Everybody’s lover, everybody’s brother, I wanna be your lifetime friend
Crazy as a rocket, nothin’ in my pocket, I keep it at the rainbow’s end
I never think of money, I think of milk ‘n honey, grinnin’ like a Cheshire cat
I focus on the pleasure, somethin’ I can treasure, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Hey Floyd, take a verse

Let me take your picture, add it to the mixture, there it is I got you now
Really nothin’ to it, anyone can do it, it’s easy and we all know how
Now begins the changin’, mental rearrangin’, nothing’s really where it’s at

Now the Eiffel Tower’s holdin up a flower
I gave it to a Texas cat
Fact is there’s nothin’ out there you can’t do
Yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you

Beat down the walls, begin, believe, behold, begat
Be a better drummer, be an up and comer Can you picture that?
Can you picture that
All of us are winnin, pickin and a-grinnin, Lordy but I love to jam

Jelly-belly gigglin’, dancin’ and a-wigglin’, honey that’s the way I am

Lost my heart in Texas, Northern lights affect us
I keep it underneath my hat
Aurora Borealis, shining down on Dallas, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Can you picture? You gotta see it in your mind
Can you picture? You know it’s quick and easy to find
Can you picture? You don’t have to buy a frame
Can you picture? Can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Use it if you need it
Don’t forget to feed it
Can you picture that?

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Movie Fact:  The Studebaker in the movie is currently housed at The Studebaker Museum in Indiana.

Movin’ Right Along

There is just so much to love about this song!  Kermit and Fozzie are traveling the open road in the Studebaker mentioned above.  It’s really the perfect song to kick off any road trip.  It’s just a fun song.  As I watch this scene now, I think about how many times my buddies and I would hop in my Caprice Classic in high school, pop in a “driving mix” tape and sing along to songs as we drove around wasting gas.  We were so much like Kermit and Fozzie!

Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends you can’t lose,
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it (yeah!),
Together we’ll nab it,
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
(Cab it?)

Movin’ right along.
Footloose and fancy-free.
Getting there is half the fun; come share it with me.
Moving right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
We’ll learn to share the load.
We don’t need a map to keep this show on the road.

(Hey, that song is sounding better Fozzie.)

Movin’ right along,
We’ve found a life on the highway.
And your way is my way,
So trust my navigation.

California here we come, the pie-in-the-sky-land.
Palm trees, and warm sand.
Though sadly we just left Rhode Island.
(We did what?!)
(Just forget it.)

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
Hey LA, where’ve you gone?
Send someone to fetch us, were in Saskatchewan!

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
You take it, you know best.
Hey, I’ve never seen the sun come up in the West?

Movin’ right along.
We’re truly birds of a feather,
We’re in this together and we know where we’re going.
Movie stars with flashy cars and life with the top down.
We’re storming the big town,
(Yeah, Storm is right should it be snowing?)
(Uh, no I don’t think so…)

Movin’ right along,
Do I see signs of men?
Yeah, “welcome” on the same post that says “come back again.”
Moving right along, nice town!
Footloose and fancy-free,
You’re ready for the big time…
Is it ready for me?

Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along

The Rainbow Connection

What an amazing song this is!  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (it lost to a song no one remembers), it was a Top 40 hit (reaching #25 on the charts), and has been covered by artists like The Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Kenny Loggins, Jason Mraz, Gwen Stefani, and The Carpenters (just to name a few!).  The American Film Institute named the song one of the top 100 songs in their AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Songs list (it came in at #74).

Jim Henson told the song writers that the opening song would be Kermit in a swamp singing with a banjo.  According to Paul Williams, he and Kenny Ascher wrote most of the song fairly quickly at Williams’ house, but got stuck trying to think of appropriate words for the part in the chorus that eventually became the phrase “the rainbow connection”; they were looking for a way to tie in the chorus to the song’s theme of rainbows. As they sat down for dinner with Williams’ then-wife, Kate Clinton, they explained to her their predicament of looking for a phrase that would provide “a rainbow connection”, then realized, in the course of explaining the problem to her, that the phrase “the rainbow connection” would itself be a good fit.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Paul Williams explained how the song was recorded.  He said that when the song was being recorded in the studio, Jim Henson started by simply performing the song himself in Kermit’s voice. However, there was a feeling that something was missing. Williams said that somebody, he doesn’t recall who, suggested that Kermit should give the song a try. Henson then took the Kermit the Frog puppet into the recording booth with him and performed the song with the world’s most famous piece of green felt. He says that “Kermit sang it brilliantly! One can only imagine what this looked like to the people working on recording the song. Kermit the Frog himself, with Jim Henson standing behind him, really did sing “Rainbow Connection.” Clearly, this was the thing that was missing. The recording would then be perfect, and would go on to inspire millions in The Muppet Movie.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic

Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

La da da di da da dum da duh da da dum di da ohhh

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Happy Anniversary!

40 years later, and this movie still amazes me.  It never gets old.  I still enjoy watching it and I still tear up during the finale.  40 years later and I agree with the Swedish Chef – “Der Flim is Okie Dokie”!

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Reflections on “Blog Year One”

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One of my Facebook friends noted on his page that this weeks marks the 100th birthday of comedian Red Buttons.  Red was known for his “never got a dinner” and “I was there” bits which he did frequently at celebrity roasts.  I remembered that last year, on his birthday, I blogged about Red and included many of my favorite “never got a dinner” lines.  It was one of the first blogs I wrote when I started this Word Press Blog.  It’s hard to believe that this blog is over a year old!

The beginnings

When I began this blog, I really didn’t have any idea of what it would be.  In my head, I thought that I might blog about some things I liked.  I also knew I would probably write about some favorite memories.  I might also write tributes to important people in my life or just random thoughts to help me deal with emotions or life situations.

This blog was meant for me.  It was to be a “sort of” therapy for me.  I envisioned it as a way to keep track of thoughts, write down stories I didn’t want to forget, and occasionally just vent. I had often joked about writing an autobiography, and in a way, this blog has become “chapters”.

I never thought that anyone would actually want to read these blogs (unless, of course, the blog mentioned them)!  Yet, here I am over a year later and I have “followers” – people who actually make it a point to read this no matter what the topic.  It humbles me.

Looking Back

The last few years of my life have been full of many changes:  job changes, deaths, divorce, depression, stress, remarriage, happiness, bliss, and the rekindling of old friendships.  It is interesting to go back and see the variety of topics this blog has covered through it all.  It really is a hodge-podge of randomness.

There is no shortage of posts about music here!  My iPod selections and the various connections that I make with songs, events, and people in my life are well documented.  There are so many great songs!  Musical blogs are among my favorite to write.  I recently started following another blog (PowerPop) which shares many of my musical tastes and I have enjoyed some great conversations with the owner of that blog.

My love for movies is also represented by blogs I wrote about movies I watched for the first time and movies I have watched over and over.  Television is also represented by a salute to the Dukes, childhood memories of School House Rock, TV Catchphrases, and my favorite cartoons. My hatred of movie and TV remakes was one of my very first blogs.

My radio career is also reflected in this blog.  You’ll find blogs that include some of my favorite radio stories, about listeners who became friends, my first morning show partner, radio mentors, radio bosses and co-workers, and encounters with famous people I met during my career all make up a good chunk of this blog.  One of my favorite blogs about radio is the World Radio Day blog, which thanks many of those people.

My family and friends, who are very special to me, are also well represented in this blog.  Tributes to my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my children, and my uncle/Godfather often were very emotional to write.  A blog about those teachers who were so influential and helpful to me was one of the easiest to write.  As my first wedding anniversary approaches, a long overdue blog about my wonderful wife will appear here.  One of my favorite blogs was about the trip to Florida that my wife and I took, which also doubled as our honeymoon.  Re-reading that one brings back many happy memories!  It still amazes me how we were able to keep it a secret.

The Christmas holiday spawned many blogs.  Blogs about Christmas memories, Christmas specials, Christmas characters, Christmas songs that drove me nuts, Christmas coffee, and yes – even a letter to Santa!  Christmas remains one of my favorite times of the year.  One thing I was unable to really blog about was the Christmas songs I love.  My friend, Chris, asked me to do that and I started it … just never finished it.  Consider it a head start for next year!

It was always fun for me to write about famous people.  As you look over the list of those who I wrote about, it is easy to learn a lot about me and what I like.  Comedians Red Buttons, Jackie Gleason, Shemp Howard, Curly Howard, Soupy Sales, and Rich Little give you a glimpse and who and what I find funny.  Musicians Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Weird Al Yankovic, Frank Sinatra, and, of course, Dean Martin give you a picture of my musical tastes. Other blogs about Mr. Rogers, Jack Webb, Christopher Lloyd, and Wolfman Jack expose you to other aspects of who I am.

At times, my blog can tackle serious topics, too.  Breast cancer is a big one.  Cancer, in general, is a big topic. It took many people from me.   I foresee a blog about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the future. I’ve been there and they do amazing work.  The importance of Music Education in schools is another great cause I will always fight for!  I have yet to write about Autism, but that is definitely on my list of future topics.

One of my favorite blogs summed up a lot about the past and the changes that occurred in me and my life over the past two years.  The subject was “Negativity, Judgement, and Happiness”.  Moving from sadness to happiness and moving from away from negativity and finding positives made a lot of difference!  Living with a positive attitude was such a game changer – and life is good.

The Future

Not so long ago, I was told my someone once close to me to stop writing.  “Nobody wants to read about that crap!  It is a waste of time.  Stop trying to be creative. Nobody cares about what you like and don’t like!”  If I have learned anything from Facebook and this blog, it is that people do care!  People do like to read what I write!  In the end, I don’t really write for others, I write for myself.  The fact that other people read this blog and get some enjoyment out if it is a little bonus.

In future blogs, I will continue to write about things I love.  I will write about things that people want to know about.  I will continue to participate in Blogathons (I have a few coming up that I am excited to write for) on various topics like movies and music. I will continue to write about things in my personal life.  I will continue to write – because I enjoy it.  The minute this is no longer satisfying and I feel that I have written all I can write … I will stop.  Until then, thank YOU for reading my “various ramblings”.  I appreciate you!

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Birthday Tribute to “Fred”

If you have read my blogs in the past, you know that it consists of a mixture of pop culture things (like movie, TV and music thoughts) and personal things (radio stories, school memories, and things from my childhood).  As I thought about today’s blog topic, I realized that without this man in my life – this blog would probably not exist!  I guess I didn’t really realize it until now. As I scrolled back over the blogs of the past, I see just how much influence he has had in almost ALL of them!  I am talking, of course, about my dad.  Today – is his 72nd birthday.  So here are some birthday thoughts for dad.

In March I wrote a blog about his musical influence.  My musical taste is very broad, because I was introduced to so many different genres by him.  He introduced me to rock and roll with the music of Little Richard, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Elvis.  He introduced me to the “Great American Songbook” with music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby.  He introduced me to Jazz with Louis Prima, and Ella Fitzgerald.  He played me music from Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to introduce me to country music.  The list goes on and on … but what about other influences?

Movies

I could spend an entire week writing about the various movies he introduced to me!  As far as the classic films, most of those were introduced to me because he saw that they were playing on the Monday Night Movie on regular TV or something.  You have to remember VCR’s and DVD players were not a staple in the home yet.  You also have to remember that I grew up at the time where “pay TV” was just being incarnated.  One of the first pay services was “ON TV”.  It came on channel 20 at like 8 or 9 at night.  They put an antenna on your roof and it unscrambled the signal so you could watch movies.  I remember one time I wanted to record Smokey & the Bandit – but as I said, VCR’s were not for home use yet.  The last showing of it on ON TV was at 1am one Friday night.  My dad actually stayed up with a cassette recorder in front of the TV and recorded the audio for me.  What makes this even better is there were scenes that were so funny to him, you could hear him laughing in the background as the movie played.

With Cable TV came The Movie Channel and HBO.  As more and more channels became available, American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, and others were the way to watch them. So he’d tell me “You gotta watch AMC at 3 today – they’re playing ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’!”  Growing up, I remember hearing my dad talking with my grandparents, my Uncle Tom, or his friends about actors and actresses and the movies they were in.  “Great Movie!” or “What a great flick!” I’d hear him say.  Well, if he thought it was great – I wanted to see it!  Movies I remember watching – only because I had heard him talk about them included The Godfather, White Heat,  Little Caesar, Key Largo, Patton, Midway, The Maltese Falcon, and Night of the Hunter.  Many of these were films that I’d walk in to the living room and dad would be watching and he’d tell me about them and catch me up so I could watch it with him. I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Mitchum, Burt Reynolds, and SO many actors just be casually walking into a room where he was watching TV!

The Godfather Part 1 & 2 and Patton are probably some of my favorite films.  I remember watching Godfather the first time trying to keep all the names straight.  Don Barzinni, Don Stracci, Luca Brazi, Sonny, Fredo, and Tom Hagen were all characters that I had to remember (amongst many more).  Dad was there to explain so many things to me as I watched this film the first few times through.  I have found myself doing the same thing when I sit and watch it with someone who has never seen it.  (On a side note, for one class I had to read books and write book reports for it.  I remember dad wrote a book report for me on The Godfather! He got an A!)

TV

Look through my DVD collection and amongst the movies are entire series of classic TV shows.  This, again, is a direct result from my dad’s influence.  I remember watching re-runs of The Honeymooners on channel 50.  I remember when dad told me that Ralph Kramden and Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit were the same person!  I don’t know if I would have known that as a 7 year old!  I remember staying home sick and watching re-runs of the Dick Van Dyke Show on channel 9 out of Canada.  I knew about Carl Reiner because he was one of many cameos in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which should have been mentioned in the movie section of this blog).  The other stars of “Mad World” were also known to me because of my dad:  I knew Mickey Rooney from a flick called Quicksand he rented.  I knew Milton Berle from The Dean Martin Roasts and other TV appearances. I knew Jonathan Winters from a classic Twilight Zone episode (Loved watching TZ with him).  Among the other “classic” TV shows he introduced me to:  The Untouchables, F-Troop, The Munsters, Car 54, Where Are You?, McHale’s Navy, Perry Mason, Combat, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, and Get Smart.

With the availability of video rentals, I remember dad bringing home TV shows that were not shown on TV anymore or shown late at night.  You couldn’t really watch The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, or The Three Stooges on TV unless you stayed up late for comedy classics – which usually was on at 11pm or midnight.  With the VCR, though, we could go to the store and rent them!  I had listened to Jack Benny and Amos and Andy on cassette tapes of old radio shows (again, thanks to dad), but now I was able to see these TV shows – and they were amazing! I used to love watching these shows with him.  One thing I always love seeing is my dad laughing and these shows (and a couple I will mention in a minute) always made him laugh – I mean big belly laughs!

I guess you could say that I grew up at a time where some of  the “current” shows are now considered classics.  Those shows, my brother and I watched on a weekly basis and watched in re-runs.  These shows included The Love Boat, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, The Dukes of Hazzard, Emergency!, Welcome Back, Kotter, All In the Family, The Jeffersons, The Carol Burnett Show, Barney Miller, Fantasy Island, and Charlie’s Angels.  Some of those dad introduced me to, while others he really couldn’t stand.

Sanford and Soupy

The one show that I will forever associate with my dad is Sanford and Son.  These shows, no matter how many times we see them remain funny.  I can be on the phone with my dad and say, “So last night I watched “the piano movers” and we will both start laughing!  Years later, we can quote this show to each other and still crack each other up.  Why do we and can we bond over this show? Perhaps it’s the fact that the show is about a father and son and their relationship.  I remember how I thought it was odd that Lamont always called Fred, “Pop”.  I never used to call my dad that, although somewhere over the years, dad has become “Pop” to me.  I call him that all the time now.  As a matter of fact, he still often calls me “Lamont”!  It is not used flippantly, I use it as a genuine term of endearment!  He’s my Pop – and I use it with much love and affection!

Another show that dad introduced me to was The New Soupy Sales Show.  He grew up watching Soupy at lunch time.  My grandmother often told stories of how Soupy would say “Tomorrow, we’re having bologna sandwiches for lunch” and if dad didn’t have them, he was pissed!  Soupy’s new show on channel 20 was pretty much just like the old show.  It was full of puns, bad jokes, clips of old movies, funny horoscopes on the radio, the Words of Wisdom, and his friends White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie and Hippy.  It may have been on right after school and before dad came home from work, because I don’t recall him watching it too much with me, however, when it became available on video – we talked about it just like we talk about Sanford and Son.

Traits of a Good Dad

When I became a father, I remember reading something about what makes a good dad.  Let me say here that none of us is perfect.  My dad was not perfect and neither am I.  My point is that when you look at these things, we can assess things we are doing well, things we can improve, and things that we will start doing.  As I think back on those things – I can see where I strive to achieve those things and, at the same time, can see a lot of those things in my own father.

For example, a father must be a good disciplinarian.  All dad’s love their children, but you know and I know that you can’t let them get away with everything.  Dad was this way.  The old story about mom saying “Wait till your father get’s home” and the child being scared to death?  Yep!  That was me!  You didn’t want to make dad mad!  I would say I made him mad more than a few times.

One time in particular I remember telling him I was spending the night at a friends house.  I was out with my girlfriend at the time.  We were still in high school, and it was a weekend.  We had no money, so we weren’t going to a hotel or anything like that.  We just planned on staying out all night.  I don’t remember how he found out, but  I remember getting a page from the friend who I said I was staying with and he asked why my dad thought I was there!  I think my girlfriend’s mom had called my house or something.  At any rate – I was in BIG trouble! Dad’s punishment was a fair one (even though I didn’t think so at the time).  He proved a point and I NEVER did that again.  He let me know that he was in charge.  Another time, I got in trouble at school for something.  We had a meeting with the teacher and he said what he would go on to tell every teacher afterward in parent teacher conferences, “If he gets out of line again, you have my permission to smack his ass!” (Yes, this was back before a teacher giving the kid a paddle was considered wrong).

A good dad allows his kids to make mistakes. Dad watched me make a TON of them, but he knew that if I was going to learn, I needed to make those mistakes.  He’d never let me make a mistake that was life threatening or would put me in danger, but he’d let me make mistakes that he knew, when all was said and done – I’d mature and learn from it.  While there were things he questioned, he never really interfered.  I learned a lot from that – even though there were times I wish he HAD said something!

A good dad has an open mind.  Times change.  The way that things were done when he was growing up, well, they may be handled differently now (the paddling in school is a good example).  He respected that and embraces it to a degree.  As someone who loved all kinds of music, I will never forget the time he called me into the living room to play me this “cool song” he heard and liked.  It was “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite.  The song was not like anything he’s ever played for me, but he liked it and played it at DJ jobs!  He embraces change!

A good dad teaches his kids to appreciate things.  Those things can be anything.  My dad certainly taught me how to appreciate family and friends.  He taught me how to appreciate good music, movies and TV.  He taught me how to appreciate what you have and the importance of living within your means.

A good dad accepts that his kids aren’t exactly like him. This may or may not have been a lesson he learned from my grandpa.  My dad had always been very accepting of my brother and I.  While we all have a lot of similarities, we are all SO very different.  He respects that our religious and political views may not be the same as his.

A good dad spends quality time with his children. This is one of those things that is difficult to do in today’s society.  We spend so much time working and trying to get things done, that we often spend the hours we are not at work doing these things.  As a divorced father with limited time with my boys, I really try hard to make the time we spend quality time, even if it is just a car ride.  Some of my favorite memories with my dad are just him and I throwing the ball around in the front yard.  That meant more to me than he will ever know!

A good dad leads by example.  Dad was never really the “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy.  He was a hard worker and knew the importance of providing for our family.  I never once thought of growing up and not having a job.  Dad wasn’t always perfect in this area, but because of that, I was also able to take some of the things that I didn’t like him doing (like smoking) and not doing them.

A good dad is supportive and loyal.  I am sure that in my 30 year radio career, my dad probably thought “he needs to get out of that career and find something more stable”.  If he thought it – he never once told me that!  He was nothing but supportive!  If I ever came to him with something that he questioned, he might ask a question or two regarding the opposite viewpoint, but that was it.  He might ask “are you sure you want to do this” or “have you thought about what might happen if…”, and then he let me decide.  Whatever the decision, he supported it.  I have a great respect for that.

A good dad is someone who challenges his kids. I’m sure that there were many ways that dad challenged me.  I know there were times I wanted to quit something and he gave me the pep talk to keep going.  I cannot recall specific incidents, but I know they were there.

A good dad is a teacher.  While dad taught me how to throw a “submarine” ball and how to swing a golf club, he also taught me some valuable lessons.  One of the things I have hoped to do is to write down some of those lessons and pass them down to my own children.  To illustrate my point: there is a cartoon I saw once of two guys standing in front of three piles of stuff.  The one guy asked what they were.  The second guy points to the first pile and says, “this stuff is the stuff my dad gave me that I want to pass on to my kids.”  He points to the second pile and says, “this is the stuff my dad gave me that I don’t really need.” He points to the third pile and says, “this is my stuff that I want to pass on to my kids.”  That’s the way it is – as a father, you take things that you learned from your dad and keep the stuff you want to share, throw out what you don’t, and then add stuff of your own.

A good dad protects and provides for his family.  When times were tough and money was tight, my dad would DJ or play in the wedding band to bring in extra money.  I remember as a young boy my dad going back to college to get a degree so he could move up in his place of employment.  It took me over 20 years, but I also decided to go back to school to better provide for my family.  I know that my dad would do anything for us, and I would do the same for my family.

Finally, a good dad shows unconditional love.  I read where this is the greatest quality of a good father.  Even though his child may let him down, upset him, make him mad, disrespect him, and disappoint him … the love remains constant.  Not to get theological, but it is one of the great principles spoken of about God in the Bible.  It says that no matter how much a child of God angers Him, ignores Him, or disappoints Him – His love is never ending and ever present.  THAT is the kind of love a father has for his children.

I am lucky that I have never had to question whether or not my dad loves me.  He has done so much for me during my lifetime and continues to do so.  I can only hope that he knows how much he is appreciated.  I can only hope he knows how thankful I am that he was chosen to be my father.  I can only hope that he knows of the impact that he has made on me.  I hope that he will never have to question how much I love him.

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Thanks, Pop, for being such an amazing man!  Thanks for being a wonderful example to me.  Thanks for everything you have done to support, encourage, accept, and love my family.  Today, I wish you a very happy birthday and wish you many more in the future!  I love you, Pop.

“Lamont”

 

 

 

 

Questions and Answers #2

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In my current full-time job, sometimes you get called off because patients cancel their appointments.  This can really suck, especially when you’ve slept all day in preparation to work all night long.  At any rate, on nights off, I usually read or write.  I had a bout of writer’s block and so I went to my Facebook friends and asked for questions they’d like answered.  They never fail to ask questions that force me to think, dig deep in my memory, or get creative.

Question #1 – Denise

Denise’s question is radio related.  “On average, how many of the songs you spin (love that she is speaking DJ here!) take you back to an exact moment in your memories and is there one particular song you avoid playing for that exact reason?”

ANSWER:  One of the things I love about music is that there are many songs that so exactly what you state in your question – “take you back to an exact moment”.  With the station I work on today, I would guess that 2-4 songs a show can do that.  If I were at a different format (like classic rock, country, or oldies) it would be more.  We play a lot of current songs where I am now, with a sprinkling of 80’s and 90’s.  The older songs can certainly do that, for example, a song from 1999 or Little Red Corvette by Prince can take me back to a high school dance.

I did country radio for almost half of my radio career, so there are plenty of songs that I can remember hearing for the first time.  I was the music director and had a hand in helping the program director pick the songs to play on the air.  My job was to listen to every new song that an artist put out.  It was exciting to hear a song and get a gut feeling about whether it would be a hit or not.  Sometimes I was right, sometimes I was wrong.  I would think many of those songs I can remember hearing them for the first time while sitting in my office.

Now regarding the second half of your question, all stations have a play list.  Sometimes, you have the freedom to play requests, but usually, you are playing from the list of songs that was scheduled for you on your shift.  That being said, there is one song that I have to turn down the volume when it plays – Daniel Powter’s Bad Day.

That was the song that was the ring tone on my mom’s cell phone in the last few month’s of her life.  I guess she used it as an anthem.  She battled breast cancer for 10 years.  She’d been through it all – chemotherapy, radiation, and countless painful procedures and tests.  She had good days and bad days – more bad than good.  She would still keep that positive attitude and often say “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, but cancer isn’t small stuff.  She related to that song.  “You had a bad day”… but she kept fighting.  She was one of the bravest and strongest women I have ever known.  I have to turn down the speakers, because when I hear it – I hear mom’s phone…

Question #2 – Marcia

Marcia and I have known each other since elementary school.  Our mom’s knew each other and it is no surprise that her question is about my mom.  “What’s your favorite memory of your mom?”

This is really a difficult question.  Maybe for some people they could pick just one, but for me, there are so many special moments.  I could mention the many nights that she stayed up with what my dad called “The Warren Boys Club” and played pinochle until all hours of the night or how she used to stay up late on Saturday nights watching terrible Kung Fu movies on Channel 20.  I could also mention her falling asleep in the waiting room at the hospital as she waited for Dante’ to be born, a moment that is caught forever on film.  Instead, I have narrowed it down to three.

These three memories, in no particular order, are definitely in the top ten memories of mom.  To answer your question, I allowed myself to jot down three memories and stopped there.  Perhaps there are others that just weren’t lucky enough to pop into my head on command, but these three did immediately, so they appear as the answer to your question.

Mom memory #1 – I was 20, soon to be 21, when I moved to Ludington for a radio job.  I had ever been away from home before.  It was scary and yet my folks were supportive of the move.  Mom was pretty strong, even though I think it bugged her more than she let on.  After the first week, I think she missed me more than she wanted to tell me.  She used to send me a letter or a card a week.  It was usually something silly just to say she was thinking about me and that she loved me.

I remember the first night I was there.  I had a small apartment and every single noise kept me awake.  I remember the second day I was there, she called to ask how I was.  As much as I tried to keep it together, I couldn’t.  She listened to my cry and told me she was proud of me and that everything was going to be ok.  I remember coming home from the radio station at night and having messages on the answering machine from her.  What I wouldn’t give to have those letters and cards (ruined in a flooded basement) or the answering machine tape!

Mom memory #2 – Dante’ was 4 and loved trains.  He watched Thomas the Train all the time.  When mom found out that Thomas was coming near my house, she bought tickets for all of us.  This was probably in August, so it was two months before she passed away.  She was sometimes using a walker or a wheel chair to get around, but she was not going to let anything stop her from going for a ride with Thomas and Dante’!  As tired as she was, she sat next to him and sang the Thomas theme with him.  The day was captured in some of my favorite pictures, and even though the day is foggy for Dante’ today, he still looks at those pictures and remembers grandma.

Mom memory #3 – One year after mom passed away, my brother came home.  We were all going to go to the cemetery on the anniversary.  While at my dad’s house, I believe it was Chris who found a stack of envelopes.  Each envelope was addressed to members of the family.  They were letters that mom had wrote to each of us.  The letter to written long before Dante’ was born, so he wasn’t mentioned in it.  There was, however, a wonderful message from mom to me.  “Know that I love you” was the first line written to me.  It was a wonderful message from beyond the grave, that I still have locked away, so that I can read it whenever I need to.

Question #3 (in two parts) – Stephanie

Leave it to my friend Stephanie to give me a serious and silly question.  (1) “What comedy or drama movie would you make into a musical and what would be the name?” and (2) “What is something you recently realized that you can’t believe you didn’t realize earlier?”

Part 1 – As I thought about some of my favorite movies, I laughed at the possibility of them being made into a musical.  As you know Young Frankenstein was made into a musical, and so was Monty Python and the Holy Grail.    The Blues Brothers already is considered a musical, so I started to look at a few others.

Smokey and the Bandit would be hard to make into a musical. However, I think it would be fun to have Buford T Justice sing “Sum Bitch” in a song!  Airplane! is a comedy classic, but how do you make this into a musical.  Animal House might be one you could do as a musical – I could see Flounder singing about Bluto giving him that name or Dean Wormer singing a rant about Double Secret Probation.  I guess if I had to pick one, it would be Johnny Dangerously…because the name of the show would be easy:  Johnny Dangerously: The Fargin’ Musical!

Part 2 – I have an answer to this question that is kind of obvious, but because I am a bigger person, I will not use that answer.  What I will answer is this:  I realize now, just how fake some people can be.  It is sad to see how people are quick to judge you on the thoughts or stories of others.  They make their judgments based on those things without ever coming to you to see if they are true or hear your side of the story.  It is sad that so many people will pretend to be your friend and then as soon as you leave the room, begin to talk about you, label you and judge you.

I realize now that there are some people who are not happy unless they are making others unhappy.  I realize now that there are people who feel the need to be in control of every situation, no matter what, and have to get their way.  They will say things to make you believe things that will work in their favor, even if it means alienating you from friends and family.

The biggest realization I have had recently is that before you can make others happy – YOU have to be happy.  It is not worth living a life to make others happy while you, yourself, continue a downward spiral into sadness, unhappiness, and depression.  You must weed out negative people in your life and live happily and positively!  You should be happy in your job, happy in your relationships, and happy with yourself.  The hardest, and best, decision I ever made was to find happiness and surround myself with it.

Question #4 – Connie

Connie asks another question that is difficult to answer.  Connie and I often spoke of Stanley nickels and Schrute Bucks in the office, and now she asks “What is your favorite episode of The Office?”

While there are MANY episodes that continue to make me laugh out loud, it is hard to pick just one.  At the same time, some episodes consist of brief moments that make me laugh like hell, but the rest of the episode isn’t as strong.

If I had to name a few episodes off the top of my head, I would start with Diversity Day.  We truly get a sense of Michael Scott and just how awkward he is in this episode.  The uncomfortable situations that he often creates really start to show with this episode.  Next I would say The Deposition.  Classic Michael/Jan tension.  The Dinner Party is also a great episode – the awkward relationship that Michael and Jan have is showcased here (snip snap snip snap!).

The Dundies is just a great episode!  The thought of an office party – well, an awards show – and Chili’s while real customers are trying to eat is hilarious.  So many great things about this episode.  Threat Level Midnight is another one I liked because it showcased some cast members who hadn’t been on the show for a while, and it shows you the incredibly bad movie Michael wrote.

Scenes I could watch over and over and over:

  • Michael screaming “No” over and over when Toby returns
  • Jim’s spot on impression of Dwight – Bears, Beats, Battlestar Galactica
  • Kevin’s famous chili
  • The Fire Drill scene (“save Bandit!”)

Question #5 – Hope

Hope and I talk music a lot.  She’s a Beatle fan and played trumpet in band.  It is no surprise that her question is musical. “Are there specific songs that remind you of your childhood?  If so, which ones and why?”

Absolutely!  Growing up, my dad played in a wedding band, so I heard him play a lot of songs and was exposed to a lot of genres of music.  One of the first songs I remember was “Dream Baby” by Roy Orbison.  My dad had it on a vinyl LP and I asked him to play it all the time.

My friend, Jeff, had this album of novelty songs called “Dumb Ditties”.  Every one of those songs cracks makes me think of when we were kids listening to it.  Dumb songs like “I’m a Nut”, “Gimme Dat Ding”, “Ahab The Arab”, “Purple People Eater” and “Charlie Brown” were on it as I remember.

Anything of Willie Nelson’s Stardust album and  Johnny Paycheck’s Greatest Hits (Volume 2) makes me think of summers at my grandparent’s trailer up in Caseville.  There is a blog I wrote about an old 8 track that is full of songs that remind me of road trips to Caseville, too.

I remember many songs from 1988 and my senior year of high school – Wild Wild West by Escape Club, Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin, and Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi Come to mind.  I remember buying Huey Lewis and the News Sports album for I Wanna New Drug.  Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, Need You Tonight by INXS, Rock Steady by the Whispers, and The Final Countdown by Europe were all songs I remember from high school dances.

I remember the first slow dance I ever danced to was Crazy for You by Madonna.  I remember wondering if I was doing it right.  I mean, I was literally swaying back and forth.  “Is this right?!”  We used to go to dances and just stand around and BS.  When I was asked to dance, I really had NO idea what I was doing!

Question #6 – Joe

Joe and I have been friends since Jr. High.  We met in first hour band class.  His question is “How well do you remember that day we all met in junior high in the band room?”

I don’t recall much.  It was the first day of junior high and I remember being scared to death.  I remember Steve, Kevin, John, and Joe.  Yes, there were others, but those are the ones I remember from the beginning.  As far as the first day, I don’t recall much.  I remember getting chair assignments and lockers, but that’s about it.  The first day wasn’t the “…wanna be friends?” day, was it?  Your memory may be better than mine, so please feel free to fill in the gaps.

Conclusion

This is the second blog that I have written based on the questions that friends have asked me.  It’s actually something I really enjoy.  Thanks to those friends who served as the “thought starters” for this blog.  I hope I answered your questions and you enjoyed reading this as much as I did thinking about the answers and writing them.

 

 

The Red-Headed Stranger

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Willie Nelson is a country music legend.  Whether you love or hate his music, there is no denying his legendary status.  Willie celebrated his 85th birthday yesterday (4/29).  Willie is one of the most prolific songwriters and is responsible for many classic country hits.  He wrote many songs that became hits for other singers including, Funny How Time Slips Away (Billy Walker), Crazy (Patsy Cline), Pretty Paper (Roy Orbison), and Hello Walls (Faron Young).

In 1962, he recorded his first album, “… And Then I Wrote”.  The success of that album led to him signing with RCA Victor in 1964 and joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1965.  He had some minor hits in the 60’s and early 70’s, but because of his mediocre success, he retired and moved to Austin, Texas in 1972.  He didn’t stay retired long, as he signed a new deal with Atlantic Records in 1973 and began singing “outlaw country”.  in 1975, he signed with Columbia Records and released The Red Headed Stranger album.  Thanks to that album, his 1973 album Shotgun Willie, and the classic 1978 album Stardust, Willie became one of the most recognized names in country music.

Willie’s music has been a part of my life since I was little.  As I have said in previous writings, I can go to any Willie album and there is a song on it that will remind me of something I was dealing with or going through at that time.  I was 8 when Stardust came out.  We had it on Vinyl and on cassette.  I am sure we probably had it on 8 Track, too.

Stardust was Willie’s 22nd studio album.  For the album, he picked 10 classics from the Great American Songbook.  His neighbor at the time was Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. and the MG’s fame).  He asked him to help arrange the song “Moonlight in Vermont” for the album.  Willie liked what he did with the song so much, that he asked him to produce the whole album.   The record company was not entirely on board with the idea for the album, after all, Willie was associated with the “outlaw” country and this was quite a big change.

The record company didn’t have to worry at all.  Stardust was a HUGE success. After its release in 1978, it reached number one on the Billboard Country Albums Chart,  it reached number 30 on the Billboard 200, Blue Skies and Georgia On My Mind were number one hits,  Willie won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for Georgia On My Mind, and the album remained on Billboard’s Country Albums Chart for 10 straight years (from 1978-1988).

For the remainder of this blog, I want to share some of my favorite Willie Nelson songs from albums over the years.

Stardust (1978)

This album was one that we were all too familiar with, and the one that introduced me to Willie.  My dad and grandpa had it on cassette and we listened to it up north all the time.

September Song – The opening piano on this is haunting.  This was my grandpa’s favorite song on the album. The arrangement is perfect.  Willie’s vocal is simple and convincing.  The subtle drum work in this is also perfect.  I always think of my grandpa when I hear this.

All of Me – This is a song that has been recorded by almost everybody.  Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the list goes on and on.  As someone who listened to a lot of big band and classic music, I was very familiar with the song.  I was also familiar with it because Redd Foxx and Scatman Crothers sang it together on Sanford and Son and Paul Williams sang it on the Muppet Show!  Willie’s version is fun and simple.  His stripped down instrumentation and voice just make this album so easy to enjoy.

On The Sunny Side of the Street – If I had to pick the best version of this song, it would be Willie’s version (with Keely Smith’s a close second).  The cold open of “Grab your coat and get your hat” is so effortless by Willie.  The rhythm beat under the vocal just gives you the feeling that you and Willie are strolling down the sidewalk.  LOVE this song.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow (1981)

This is another album of classics for Willie.  While it is no Stardust, it does have some memorable songs, but the one that stands out the most to me is Mona Lisa.  Don’t get me wrong, Nat King Cole’s version remains the best, but Willie’s take on it is damn good.  While lacking the lush arrangement that Nat had, Willie is able to take this song and make it his own.  His vocal is powerful on this track.

Always on My Mind (1982)

Always on My Mind – The title track for this album was a big hit for Willie.  The song had been recorded by Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley as early as 1972.  While in the studio with Merle Haggard recording Pancho and Lefty, the producers asked them both to record it.  Merle had no interest in recording it, but Willie did.  In his autobiography, he says, “We’ll never know what would have happened if Merle had really heard the song right.  ‘Always on My Mind’ bowled me over the first time I heard it, which is one way I pick songs to record.”

I can recall the first time we heard it on the radio. We were driving in the car, the entire family, and it played. My mom started crying immediately. “Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could have. Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have. But you were always on my mind.” I remember mom saying that it was like grandpa sending a little message to us. I’ll always remember that.

The Party’s Over – For those who remember when songs were released on 45, this was the B-side of Always on My Mind.  This is a song that was re-recorded by Willie for this album.  He wrote it in the late 1950’s and used to sing it at live performances to close the show.  He recorded it first back in 1966 and re-recorded it for this album. It was a top 30 hit.

City of New Orleans (1984)

City of New Orleans – This is a Willie song that I think outdoes the original.  The feel of the song is not so “folksy’ as the original.  The instrumentation is just right and there is just enough reverb on Willie’s voice that make it a wonderful listen.  It’s the longest song on the album (almost 5 minutes), but I am always left wanting more.

Why Are You Pickin’ On Me – Here’s a guy who has a gal hounding him.  He wants nothing to do with her basically.  The guy knows all about who the gal is and wants no part of her game. It’s just a fun and peppy song, that blows off this gal.  Always liked it.

Cry – This song is another one that has been done by many artists.  The biggest hit versions of the song were done by Johnnie Ray in 1951, Lynn Anderson (top 5 in 1972) and Crystal Gayle in 1986, which when to number 1. Willie’s version is smooth.  Again, his vocal and the light piano lick mixed in with the rest of the instrumentation is simply amazing.

What a Wonderful World (1988)

What a Wonderful World – The Louis Armstrong version of this song was being reintroduced to audiences thanks to the movie Good Morning, Vietnam.  Willie’s version is simple and nothing spectacular, but using the song for the title track and cashing in on the success and familiarity of the song because of the movie makes sense.

Spanish Eyes – This song has always been one of my favorite songs.  The Al Martino version of this song still packs the floor at weddings.  Willie and Julio Iglesias had already had duet success with their 1984 hit “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before”, and once again they get together for this one.  Julio singing in Spanish makes this extra special.

A Horse Called Music (1989)

If I had to pick my favorite Willie album that wasn’t Stardust, it would be either this one or Born For Trouble.  There really is not a bad song on this album.

I Never Cared For You – this song is one that Willie has recorded a few times.  When he was on Monument records, they released it as a single and it was his only hit while he was there.  I think of all the recordings of this song, this is his strongest version.  “The sun is filled with ice and gives no warmth at all.  The sky was never blue.  The stars are raindrops searching for a place to fall.  And I never cared for you”.  Great songwriting here!

Nothing I Can Do About It Now – I was at a point in my life where I was looking back at mistakes I had made.  I had many regrets for the way I handled things.  This song reminded me that what is past, is past.  There’s nothing you can do about it.  “I could cry for the time I’ve wasted.  But that’s a waste of time and tears. And I know just what I’d change if I went back in time somehow, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

There You Are – First time I heard this one I was speechless.  I had broke up with a gal I had been dating for some time.  I found that she often crossed my mind at times when I least expected it.  This song really hit home during that time. Anyone who has ever thought of a lost love can relate to this song.

Is The Better Part Over – Everyone has been in a relationship that starts off like a raging river, but as time goes on turns into a calm stream.  You reach a point in the relationship where you say, “Are the good times done?  Is the better part over?”  Again, a song that is lyrically amazing and heartfelt.

If My World Didn’t Have You – There are heartache songs on this album, and then there is this masterpiece.  If you are in love or in a relationship with your soul mate, listen to this song.  It is about as true a love song as I have every heard.  Instrumentation is beautiful on this song and his vocal is convincing.  I absolutely love it and feel its true right now.

Born For Trouble (1990)

Ain’t Necessarily So – This uptempo song has a deep message.  Willie is a thinker.  This shows in a lot of his lyrics.  In his autobiography, he often talks about his gut feelings.  You can see where some of his thinking comes across in the lyrics of this song:

“Every time I follow what I’m feeling, I end up in the same place my heart would have me go.  If there’s one rule of life I trust, it’s everything outside your gut, ain’t necessarily so”.

You Decide – This is a powerful song.  “You decide what you need and I’ll be waiting here”.  Ever been in a relationship where the other person just isn’t sure they want to be with you? In this song, the singer steps back and basically says, “Look, think it over.  Decide what you want.  I’ll be here, just let me know what you decide.”  Not an easy thing to do.  I think this is one of Willie’s most convincing vocals.  You can hear the hurt in his voice as he sings.

This is How Without You Goes – Another tremendous heartache song.  The singer all of a sudden has time to notice all the little things that he missed while with his gal.  What makes it so powerful is that he says he’s often wondered how he would take it if she went away.  Again, some great songwriting and a great vocal.

Moonlight Becomes You (1994)

While this album has many standards like the title track, Sentimental Journey, You’ll Never Know, and I’ll Keep On Loving You, It’s the two Willie compositions that really stand out for me.

In Gods Eyes – “Never think evil thoughts of anyone” and “Lend a hand if you can to a stranger” are two suggestions from the lyrics of this one.  Words to live by and a great song.

Afraid – I think everyone in some way, shape or form is afraid of rejection.  The singer is afraid to tell someone how much he cares for them.  He’s afraid that if he says something, it may lead to a relationship, but may lead to that relationship not lasting.  Melodically, this is a very pretty and simple song.  Lyrically, we can all relate.

Just One Love (1995)

Again, there are many songs worth the price of admission on this album.  Smoke!  Smoke!  Smoke! (That Cigarette), Four Walls, It’s a Sin, and Cold, Cold Heart are all very well done.  I enjoyed two other cuts from the album.

Just One Love – We all want the ONE LOVE.  “Just one love that shines for me, shines a light that I can see.  Just one love shines for me tonight”.  When you find it – it shines!  Love this one.

Each Night At Nine – Long distance love can be hard.  This song is sung by a soldier who is away from home.  The premise of this song is that the two lovers – no matter where they are – will think of each other every night at nine.    While sad, it is also very heart warming. “I hold your picture close to my heart.  It takes your place dear, while we’re apart.  Helps remind me, that you’re still mine, to feel your nearness each night at nine”. Wow.

God’s Problem Child (2017)

I realize there is a big gap between the last album I mentioned and this one and 22 years and 22 albums in between them.  Milkcow Blues, Rainbow Connection, American Classic, Heroes, To All The Girls…, and For The Good Times all are albums worth buying and listening to, but I wanted to hit his latest two before I wrapped this up.

Still Not Dead – No one can say that Willie doesn’t have a sense of humor.  Over the years, there have been many times that it has been falsely reported that Willie had died.  After yet another false claim of his death, Willie wrote this song (with very catchy lyrics), and even made a funny music video to go along with it.  “I woke up still not dead today.  The news said I was gone to my dismay.  Don’t bury me, I’ve got a show to play, and I woke up still not dead again today”.  Brilliant writing from Willie and Buddy Cannon, who also produced this album.

Last Man Standing (2018)

This is Willie’s latest album.  You can get it in stores today, and listen to most of it on the internet.  Think about the outlaws and the people that Willie used to play with – Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Ray Price, and Merle Haggard.  They’ve all passed away and it seems that Willie is the last man standing.  His humor is still evident in his writing – the first line of the title track says “I don’t want to be the last man standing, but wait a minute, maybe I do”.

Some stand outs on the album are the title track, I Ain’t Got Nothin’, and She Mad My Day (But it Ruined My Life).  But the best song on the album in my opinion is Something You Get Through.  In my opinion, this is one of the best songs I have heard in regards to dealing with the death of someone.

Something You Get Through – When I was in college I took a class on the psychology of death and dying.  In the class one thing stuck with me.  There was a quote in the book that said we never really get over the death of someone.  We still have to live our lives, but we do it without them.  We adjust to their not being her.  We get through it.  I’ve tried to convey that thought to people when I speak with them after losing someone close to them.

How did this song come about?  Buddy Cannon, the co-writer of the song, saw Willie consoling someone who had just lost someone special.  She told Willie, “I don’t think I’ll ever get over this”, and Willie looked at her and said, “It’s not something you’ll get over, but it’s something you’ll get through”.  It stuck with Cannon for almost three years.  He knew there had to be a song in there somewhere.  He called Willie and together they wrote the song, and it is a good one.

In Closing

In this blog, I focused primarily on Willie’s songwriting and singing.  Let’s not forget that he is also quite a good actor.  He’s appeared in almost 60 movies and television shows:  The Electric Horseman, Honeysuckle Rose, Barbarosa, Stagecoach, The Red Headed Stranger, The Dukes of Hazzard, Beer For My Horses, Zoolander 2, and the Muppets (just to name a few….)!

He continues to write songs, tour the country playing sold out shows, advocate for animal rights, works to help farmers (as he has done since instituting Farm Aid in 1985), and is happy to keep being busy.

Happy Birthday, Willie!  Thanks for the decades of music!

 

My Biggest Musical Influence – Dad

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Over the years I have been influenced musically by many people, but I would have to say that it is my father who has had the biggest influence. This blog is sort of a continuation of the “series” I have been doing based on “songs from my iPod”.

My dad introduced me to almost every genre of music. My love for oldies music comes from some of my earliest memories of songs he played. I was also introduced to classic country and country music in general by him. He played in a wedding band for years – the first being Now & Then, and the second was Foxfire. I recall him sitting in front of the stereo playing along with 45 records of songs that they were learning for gigs. I remember long nights when my brother and I had to go to “band practice” as well.

Rock and Roll music was a staple in our house, probably because it was the stuff he grew up listening to. The first song that comes to mind is Dream Baby by Roy Orbison. As a kid, I would ask, “Daddy please play ‘boom boom boom….bum bum boom'”. This was a reference to the bass notes that open the song. I loved that song. While so many other folks always connect Roy to Pretty Woman (a classic, no doubt), I remember Candy Man, In Dreams, and Crying. Roy was awesome – and dad introduced me to him.

He also introduced me to Elvis. Man, Elvis was cool! Sure, every one knows Hound Dog, All Shook Up, and the biggies….but dad played me songs like Steamroller Blues, Moody Blue, and Way Down! He had the Moody Blue album (which was on Blue Vinyl) and Elvis In Concert and I remember playing them on the stereo many times. I remember the look on my dad’s face when the news came on the radio that Elvis had died. We were at the drive in movie getting ready to watch Smokey and the Bandit, when Honey Radio announced it. Dad was shocked. We listened to Elvis music until dark and the movie started.

I have to include another person in this section about music – my Godfather, my Uncle Tom. He and my dad grew up together and their exploits can be an entirely separate blog. For now, let me talk about R&B and “local” music. When I first started working at WKSG (Kiss-FM) in Detroit, my dad asked if I could find him some songs. I told him I would look and if they were at the station, I’d throw them on tape for him. These were songs that he and my Uncle Tom grew up listening to.

As I looked over the list, I remember thinking, “What the hell are these songs? Were these even hits? Who are these people?’ The result was me getting a taste of some really amazing music. I cannot listen to any of these songs without thinking of them. This is music that was stripped down, funky, and amazing.

Mind Over Matter by Nolan Strong jumps out at first. This song is classic! Backing Nolan on this is the group the Diablos. Simple instrumentation and a powerful vocal makes this one of my favorites. This was not a song that would play on the radio much in the late 80’s, and I recall watching my uncle and my dad listening to the tape I made and loving every damn second of it. I watched them become transported back to when they were teens and jamming to these songs for the first time – it was magical!

Village of Love by Nathaniel Mayer is another one that is worth a listen just for the bass singer – it is R&B gold!. Two songs that were on his list (and now on my iPod) that were local hits that I absolutely love were by the band The Dynamics. I’m The Man and Misery are two very different songs, but they capture the sound of Motown prior to the Motown sound emerging.

A couple oldies that were on the list which we actually played in a regular rotation at WHND Honey Radio were Don’t Let Go by Roy Hamilton, You Can Have Her by Roy Hamiliton, So Fine by the Fiestas, Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, What In the World’s Come Over You by Jack Scott, and Agent Double O Soul by Edwin Star. I loved when these songs would come up on the play list.

Another one that would come up was the song You’re So Fine by the Falcons. Wanna talk about stripped down? This one was as simple as they come. It was recorded in a garage with probably one or two microphones. You can totally tell that they it recorded all at once on one track and it was one take. You can even hear a little guitar feedback at the end. GREAT song! I love it!

My dad was instrumental in introducing me to blues music too. One of those songs that he and my uncle asked for was Baby, What You Want Me To Do by Jimmy Reed. Wow. It is one of those songs that DEFINES the blues in my opinion. Other songs he had me listen to were Fannie Mae by Buster Brown, which we played at WHND, Baby, Scratch My Back by Slim Harpo, Shake Your Money Maker by Elmore James, and The Thrill is Gone by BB King. The blues and R&B music helped shape Rock and Roll and these songs are a must for my iPod.

I grew up in the Urban Cowboy era when country music got a lot of attention and a lot of radio airplay. I don’t know that I would say country music is my dad’s favorite genre, but he sure introduced me to some great artists and songs. He, of course was responsible for me hearing Willie Nelson & Johnny Paycheck (who are mentioned in other blogs), but he also introduced me to Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. I recall him playing the two of them singing a duet on Tear in My Beer. This was high tech at the time, they took Hank Sr’s vocal and isolated it and then Hank Jr. sang with him, It was a great song with just Hank Sr., but adding Hank Jr. was excellent.

Another song he played for me was Okie from Muskogee. The opening line is “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”…not exactly the best song for a 10 year old to hear, but I had no idea what it meant and I liked Merle Haggard’s voice. I also recall him playing Amanda by Waylon Jennings. It is probably one of my favorite Waylon songs. Such a simple ballad, but I could listen to it over and over. I also loved when he bought the soundtrack to Smokey and the Bandit II because it was the only place you could find a great song by Don Williams called To Be Your Man. Among other acts he played were the great Ronnie Milsap, George Jones, Juice Newton, and Charlie Pride.

Two country albums I remember him calling me in to hear were from Dwight Yoakam and The Kentucky Headhunters. The Headhunters album had a great cover of Oh Lonesome Me on there, but the song he played for me was Dumas Walker. It sounded fresh and almost a little rockish. I remember immediately getting this on cassette for the car. The other album was If There Was a Way from Dwight. In my opinion, this is one of his best. My favorite cut from the album was never released as a single – The Distance Between You and Me. The instrumentation is perfect and the lyric is classic – almost Brad Paisley-ish. I crank it up ALWAYS.

On the “pop” side of things, a few songs stand out, most of which because they were songs he learned and played for his wedding band gigs. The first one I think of is the Breakup Song by Greg Kihn. I remember him putting the 45 on the stereo, and playing that intro over and over. The first time I heard him play it note for note, I was blown away! I loved watching him work out licks and chords and stuff by simply listening to it on the stereo! America by Neil Diamond was another. By the time this one came out, he was in Foxfire and playing bass guitar, not lead guitar. These guys were good. Not that the other band wasn’t, I just know that they sounded amazing. Dennis, the lead singer, (and at one time my boss at my first job) NAILED his vocals. I could swear he was Neil Diamond! Every song he sang was dead on. Man, I miss that group of guys!

Probably the craziest musical incident involving my dad was when he introduced me to the music of Red Prysock. My grandmother always wanted to go to garage sales. I think my dad hated it. There was a familiar look of disgust on his face one day when she asked to go. While at one garage sale, he was going through old 45’s. His face lit up with boyish excitement as he stopped at one 45 with a black label on it. I heard him so, “I can’t believe it…” He bought the 45 and couldn’t wait to play it for me … and to be able to hear it for the first time in years. Hand Clappin’ was the song. It was a jazzy sax number that caused to you tap your toes. It was GREAT. It was like nothing I had ever heard. My dad said that DJ’s used to use it for their “theme song” back in the day. Still remains a favorite for me. Who says garage sales are bad?!

Over the years, my dad has called me over to the turntable, the cassette deck, the CD player, the mini-disc player, and his computer with the words, “Hey son, listen to this …” Very rarely was I ever disappointed. Today, I listen to almost every type of music and have always kept an open mind to genres because of dad. I am so lucky that he was such an instrumental (pun intended) part of my musical influence. Thanks, Pop!

Negativity, Judgment, and Happiness

thoughts

When I worked on the radio full time, I kept a little notebook in my pocket.  As I went through my daily life I would jot things that I experienced or noticed in the notebook as possible things to talk about on the air.  Lately, I have been collecting quotes to reflect on since there have been many changes in my life over the past few years.  As I was scrolling through them, I realized that they could easily be things that may help others as much as they have helped me.  The title of this blog reflects three “big” things that I have gone through.  The first two things are not easy to deal with, yet if handled correctly, can lead to the last thing. 

Negativity

negativity_is_a_thief_it_steals_happiness__quote-t2

My life was full of negativity from those around me.  Nothing was ever good enough.  It was very difficult to go through life surrounded by negative thoughts.  Here are some thoughts on negativity:

“Relationships with negative people are simply tedious encounters with porcupines. You don’t have the remote knowledge how to be close to them without quills being shot in your direction.” ― Shannon L. Alder

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”  – Willie Nelson

“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind” – Joyce Meyer

7 Things Negative People Will Do To You. They will:

1. Demean your value

2. Destroy your image

3. Drive you crazily!

4. Dispose your dreams!

5. Discredit your imagination!

6. Deframe your abilities and

7. Disbelieve your opinions!

Stay away from negative people!” ― Israelmore Ayivor

 Judging

judge

Through difficult times, I found myself being judged by people who had no place to do so.  The Bible says, “Judge not, lest you be judged”.  Some of these people doing the judging forget that they are far from perfect, yet they feel it is important to label someone, diagnose someone, and yes, judge them.  Thoughts about judging:

“If you spend time judging and criticizing people, you will not have time to heal from your pain or brokenness. You cannot love yourself when you judge or criticize others who are created in God’s image and after His Likeness…in which you are also created. Love cannot operate from a space of pain. Love and hurt cannot reside in the same space.” ― Kemi Sogunle, Beyond the Pain by Kemi Sogunle

“Your judgments about another person say more about your own character than the character of the person you are pointing a finger at. This is the key and one of the most fundamental insights about the ‘red flags’ that we often dismiss regarding the people in our lives. If someone complains a lot to you about other people, guess what? That is part of their current character. And, as quickly as the tide changes, you can just as easily become the person they target and criticize, point fingers at, and negatively judge. Forever and always, until vibrations are raised, this will be the cycle of the relationship. So, it’s your choice to continue to engage in the cycle with them, or to move on. There are plenty of people who do not criticize, point fingers, or judge. THIS is the kind of character we want to foster within ourselves. THIS is the character of the kind of people we DO want to develop close relationships with.” ― Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace

“When they judge you, yawn. When they misunderstand you, smile. When they underestimate you, laugh. When they condemn you, ignore. When they envy you, rejoice. When they oppose you, prevail.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

BEWARE OF THOSE – Suzy Kassem

Beware of those who are bitter, For they will never allow you To enjoy your fruit.

Beware of those who criticize you When you deserve some praise for an achievement, For they secretly desire to be worshiped.

Beware of those who are needy or stingy, For they would rather sting you Than give you anything.

Beware of those who are always hungry. They will feed you to the wolves Just to get paid.

Beware of those who speak negatively About everything and everybody. A negative person will never say A positive thing about you.

Beware of those who are bored And not passionate about life. They will bore you with reasons for not living.

Beware of those who are too focused with Polishing and beautifying their outer shells. They lack true substance to understand That genuine beauty is in the heart that resides inside.

Beware of those who step in the path of your dreams. They only dream to have the ability To take half your steps.

Beware of those who steer you away From your heart’s true happiness. It would make them happy to see you Steer yourself next to them, Sitting with both your hearts bitter.

Those who are critical don’t like being criticized, And those who are insensitive have a deficiency in their senses.

And finally, Beware of those who tell you to BEWARE. They are too aware of everything – And live alone, scared.

 

 

Happiness

happiness

Through all of the negativity and judgment, I was finally able to find happiness.  It was not easy, and I would be stupid to think that there will never be difficult times ahead.  The difference, is that now I can look to it and know that I can make it through those times.  Happiness IS possible.  Happiness CAN be achieved.  Happiness makes life so much more special.  Now some simple thoughts on happiness:

“One of the simplest ways to stay happy is letting go of the things that makes you sad.” – Unknown

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” –  Helen Keller

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” ― Tom Bodett

“There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy.” – Unknown

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.” –  William Feather

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” –  Albert Camus

“Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.” – Unknown

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” ― Audrey Hepburn

Promise Yourself

Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but great deeds. To live in faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.” ― Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them

 The Bonus – Love

love

With happiness – comes love.  I hope you are lucky enough to find a love like the one Bob Marley speaks of.  I can tell you, it is amazing!

“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.” ― Bob Marley