Sunday, June 11, 2017

That's life..........

  
I feel like I was born at a perfect time. Maybe everyone feels like that. I hope they do. I was just old enough to watch the formation of the sixties with the innocence of pre pubescent eyes. Music was everywhere. The Everly's morphed into Jan and Dean into Motown into Dylan into.......an explosion.
   I was fortunate enough to have been playing guitar for about four or five months before the Beatles turned everything upside down on that snowy February night. Now I was calling the shots. At least till everyone caught up; which they soon did. My guitar teacher was a folkie and The MTA and Walk right In and Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley had been ok but now when McCartney sang, "She was just seventeen. You know what I mean," I wanted to know what he meant!! I played at my first party when I'd just turned thirteen. We had three or four songs we could stumble through including an elongated version of Gloria. Just three chords and the truth, man. That was a big night. Playing onstage ...well...in a corner of my buddy's basement. And experiencing my first kiss. I want to shake the guy's....or girl's....hand who invented spin the bottle.  Life was becoming a lot more interesting.
   I played guitar in a number of bands through Junior HS and HS taking a sabbatical during my first year of college. I'm not sure why. When I started playing again there were a lot of really good guitar players around...and very few bass players. Hey Ma, look! I'm a bass player. I have to thanks the sales guy at Hi-Way Music in East Brunswick, NJ for staying open a little later that night and allowing Mike, Rock and me to make some noise. My first attempt at bass. It felt natural and easy. Within a week I had a Fender Music Man bass and a Fender Bassman amp. Our search for a bass player was over. Life is full of crossroads. It was end of summer and I'd been offered a job from a high school friend who was managing a company in my home town of Piscataway.  I hadn't finished signing up for school yet. And I had a fairly low draft lottery number. We were practicing a lot and we decided to go all in with the music thing. Ah....youth. A lot of unhappy parents.
   I didn't get drafted, didn't take the job and for about the next ten years played the NJ music scene. Again the timing was right . Urban Cowboy was happening and our music....country rock.... was the thing. That band  eventually wound down and I was ready to pack it in. On the night of our last gig, at The Red Fox inn in New Brunswick, NJ, I was approached by a woman who asked me if I'd like to join their band. And so it continued. Of course, bands come and go and I wound up playing everything from bluegrass to new wave to blues to wedding material and all that encompassed, with lousy bands, good band and great bands of all shapes and sizes including a few forays into musical theater. Leader Of The Pack was a hoot. I faked my way through that  one. I told the director I could read music. I couldn't. About halfway through the run he came up to me and said,  "You can't read music, can you." (um...no...I can't) "Well....just keep doing what you're doing. (ok).  Annie Golden, Ellie Greenwich and Darlene Love came to see the show on the last night.  It was so much easier being in the band in the show than being the actor in the show. I saw lots of throwing up . After our first half hearted attempt at stardom didn't pan out  I was never really interested in anything more than making a living playing music. I thank my parents for always having a room ready when called for. An early eighties two month gig in Bermuda finally led me back into the work force. But I never gave up part time music. Now I drive a limo by day, do a radio show one day a week and gig maybe two or three times a month. For the last few years as a solo player. Hello guitar. Where ya been?
   I have to tell you I wrote this entry mainly for....me.  Self serving? Yeah. I guess so. George Harrison sang, "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been."  Just a little taking stock. Roads not taken. Opportunities missed. Or not. I'm trying to keep it all straight. I have this strange feeling that I can see the end. Not in a bleak maudlin way. But in a bright celebratory way.  We all want to feel as if we've made a difference. Left a mark in some small way. I know a number of couples who've met and gotten together at one of my gigs. A few wound up married!  I've gotten many calls over the years on my radio show about how a song I played or an anecdote I told stirred a memory or made a difference.  Is it curing cancer? No. But as Robert Redford said in The Sting after they'd conned the guy who killed they're friend out of half a million dollars, "It's not enough......but it's close." Sometimes close is all we have. I was doing a solo gig at a restaurant about a year ago. A young Asian couple was there for a couple sets. As they left they handed me a napkin. On it was written, "I loved the music. Thank you for giving us good time!!" Smiley face. It's framed in my music room. Is it enough? No........but it's close.     Peace.
  

Sunday, June 04, 2017

A sailor's life for me!

  

  I've always believed that in life, we need something to look forward to. A vacation.... day off......concert....gig. Something. An adventure. As you get older adventures become progressively less...... adventurous. Last summer I took a solo kayak/camping trip to Round Valley Reservoir in NJ. One night. Danger level. Slight. The communing with nature/introspection/ fun level. High. Although I have a nice scar on my hand from falling into the fire ring in the middle of the night....it's a small price to pay.
   I've had my share of cool adventures. One of the cooler  was a sail from Cape Cod, Mass to New York Harbor. Circa late 70's, summer, around July 4th. Remember the "tall ship" thing? This adventure was with a former girlfriend, her two bosses and their two boys. We'd rented the sailboat (with motor) and a captain and his wife. The boat was a good size wooden rig from the 40's named "The Flying Fish." The story goes it'd been featured in a Hollywood movie and was a favorite of some old Hollywood celebs. I can't verify that. The deal was a sail to Lady Liberty and we could be as involved as we wanted in all aspects of the sailing process.
   The first night on board was uneventful. Good food, drink and camaraderie. I was feeling like an old salt. Where the HELL is my parrot.  Took off the next morning and the trip across Cape Cod Bay was rough. Really rough. If you tried to get up you almost immediately crashed into something. I was having a ball. The other passengers....not so much. At one point I could wait no longer. The head (bathroom) beckoned. I made it down the stairs, got flung onto a bed and thought I could just about rebound to the bathroom door. As I reached for the door it crashed open discharging its occupant into the opposing wall with his pants still around his knees. That's probably graphic enough. I guess I've laughed harder but I can't remember when. We were rockin n' rollin'. Our hosts weren't too concerned. It was rough but they'd seen rougher. We pitched in toting barges and lifting bales almost getting tossed overboard in the process. Everyone hung in. Made the best of it. Lotsa hootin' and hollerin.' And no one chummed!
   Things calmed down and by evening we made it across the bay. It took a little longer 'cause as it turned out a lobster trap had hooked onto us for the ride. With lobsters. My friend decided she'd had enough. Being the chivalrous dude I am I accompanied her to a little vacation spot her sister had rented on the Cape. The next day I hopped a bus to Newport and planned to hook up with the Flying Fish to continue the adventure. The harbor in Newport was crammed! You could almost walk across the decks out to the ocean. There was a small motorboat ferrying people from the dock out to their respective boats. I told them to keep an eye out for the "Fish" and indeed they eventually spotted her. Boats are female....right? They gave me a lift out and the back slapping and beer cracking commenced. One of the tall ships was anchored not too far from us. A replica of either the Nina or the Pinta. Don't remember which but it was pretty cool. And small. It gave me a new respect for Columbus and his gang. Talk about an adventure.
    The next day we were cruisin'. Shanties were being sung, knots were being tied,  pirate language abounded until......the engine took a crap. We spent about eight hours in dry dock as the Captain and his mechanic buddy, who fortunately was fairly close by, worked their magic. At this point one of the guys and his son jumped ship They said it'd been  fun but they'd just had their fill. And then there were six. The mechanic came along for the rest of the trip. He was a real sea dog. We took showers via these solar warmed water bags. Then a plunge and an attempt to grab the boat's rope as it came by. Got it on the first shot. Almost everyone did. (we went back for him)  It was a beautiful evening as we started down the Long Island Sound.
   And then it happened. The adventure. Everyone checked out for the night and it was just Ahab and me. He was pretty well wiped out and asked me if I'd like to take the wheel. I did. A quick lesson on how to stay on course...landmarks, stars etc and I was on my own. As a Pisces could I have been any more at home surrounded by all this water?  Peaceful doesn't quite say it. The moon, the stars....the steady hum of the engine.... the rhythm of The Flying Fish gently slicing through the waters of the Long Island Sound..... and time to reflect on and enjoy..... everything. Every now and then Ahab or the Captain would stick his head up to make sure we were still afloat. Other than that it was me and the Flying Fish working our way toward NY Harbor. Past Huntington Beach at the tip of Long Island and past towns I recognized from the morning rush hour traffic reports. The night just went too fast.
   By late afternoon the State of Liberty came into sight along with Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria and about a thousand other crafts of all shapes and sizes. Quite a dinner party. Lots of new friends and one of the coolest fireworks display I've ever experienced complete with tugboats 'a sprayin'. I wish I could tell you how I got home. Not because of any substance abuse.....I just don't remember.
   Adventures. They get smaller as we get older. You just have to pick 'em and choose 'em. A trip to the batting cage/driving range becomes an adventure. An evening stroll to the local baseball field to watch six innings of walks and errors becomes an adventure. A  day of body surfing or a ride on a  roller coaster becomes an adventure. A walk around the neighborhood with someone you love....becomes an adventure. It starts up here. (I'm pointing to my head.) And in here. (I'm pointing to my heart.) Search it out. And please....don't ever stop!    Peace.
  


  

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Do the right thing? I can barely tie my shoes!


Have you noticed that people are now starting their sentences with the word "So"....followed by a thoughtful pause? "Dr. Jones, what's big pharma's response to the latest criticism regarding the increase in the cost of prescriptions to senior citizens?" (Dr. Jones) "So,...we feel... yadda yadda....."  Or "Senator, How will the new tax plan affect the constituency in your home state of Minnesota?"  (Senator) So.....given the current state of the national tax rate vs yadda...and.....yadda." At first it sounded kinda cool. Now....not so much. There's a little bit of a cringe factor every time I hear it. It comes across as a stall tactic. Like "That's a great question, Bob." Does he/she really think Bob just came up with a great question?
    I remember when I came home from college for Christmas break circa 1970. I was talking music with one of my best pals. He said, "Yeah...I just can't get into Crosby, Stills and Nash." It sounded foreign and a little pretentious. But soon I was referring to the things I couldn't "get into." And then it's in the lexicon and one day you overhear your parents saying it. I can "get into" hip phrases, like the above, "now, not so much"..... but the stalling "so"....not....so much?
   So.....I've been doing a radio show every Thursday morning for the last twenty four years. Post current election I've had a few interesting experiences. A gentleman called me about two weeks after Donald Trump ascended the presidency. He said he'd been a fan of the show but could no longer listen as I was obviously a Trump supporter. Now...I play music, relate some goofy tales and might make a political comment once every.....well....I don't remember, and then, usually just as a chuckle. As a reference, my voting record has been Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, McCain...and...I'll leave it there. I ain't that political! At first I laughed till I realized he was serious. I told him I appreciated his listenership and support and directed him up the dial to another show he may enjoy. A week later. A WEEK! I got a call from a woman who informed me she could no longer listen to my show as I was obviously a Hilary supporter. I thanked her for her listenership and support and directed her to a station up the dial that she may enjoy. I just don't have the energy to argue about this stuff. No one's gonna change any one's mind! People now immediately believe any sound byte that supports their side. And there's enough information out there to support any argument from any angle on any given day. I tell my friends on the left the same thing I told my friends on the right eight years ago. Relax. It'll be fine. Live your life. You'll get another chance.
    I never did get this "wanting the president to fail" thing. With Obama or Trump. That just gave/gives me a creepy feeling. Maybe this'll turn out ok. Maybe it won't. That's why we have elections. Hey man, I'm just plodding through life trying to pay my bills every month. If I get to play some music every now and then, sit out back in the sunshine with my dog or just hang out with Linda and enjoy laughing at this nutty world while binge watching Netflix........ well....that's good enough.  And who the hell has time to go to  protests, marches, etc. Again, that paying the rent thing. If you feel you must...I applaud you. I went to a couple Vietnam war protests back in the day but if I'm gonna be honest....it was to meet girls. Also, I had a low lottery number and thought there was a good chance Uncle Sam would be sending me on an all expense paid trip to Southeast Asia sometime that year. It never happened. I've always regretted that. Not at the time ...... but more recently. I have this feeling I let somebody down. This country's been pretty good to me. And I've been lax in the effort department. How 'bout a do over?  Now that I know how it works, I'm ready.
    Remember the movie, "Do the right thing?" I never saw it. But I've become a proponent of the concept. A drummer friend of mine bought some maracas which turned out to be crap and broke fairly quickly. He brought them back to the store. The sales guy said, "Waddaya want me to do?" My disgruntled pal said, "I just want you to do the right thing." The sales guy swapped them out for a better pair at no extra charge. Do the right thing. That stuck with me. I've since made a better effort to do the right thing. To TRY to do the right thing. I fail...often. But less and less. And the more conscious you are of doing the right thing the more that feeling in your belly will remind you when you're not. I was about to list a bunch of what might be the right things you can do but you already know them. And it's mainly little things. As you're throwing something in the trash and you notice more trash a few feet away chuck that in, too. As Ed Norton said, "The small details, Ralph." (I'm RICH! Nawtin, get the bag!) No one under fifty will get that.
     On the aforementioned radio station I've had the opportunity to train a number of people. It's diversified programming and the question always comes up, What should I play? What's a popular format?" The answer's always the same. It has to be. Play what you like....what you know.... and let your audience find you. 'Cause whatever you play someone's gonna think you're a Hilary supporter and that other guy's gonna think you're a Trump supporter. Someone's gonna hate the Stones and someone's gonna love the Stones. I'd get a call every once in a while from a guy who'd open with, "Turn that crap off!" Well, I'd tell him how much I missed him and, of course, would proceed to turn that crap up! I do miss that guy. He was so.....disgruntled. Gotta respect that.
And there you have it. Some Brain (K)nots for a Sunday afternoon. Agree....disagree. Doesn't matter. Cuz...my water bill's due. AGAIN!
Good luck.        Peace.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A "Rock" Of Ages

"There is a path, no simple highway
 Between the dawn and the dark of night
 And if you go, no one may follow
 That path is for your steps alone."
Freewheelin 1975


   This is a verse from the Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia tune "Ripple." I've heard this song broken out at different poignant life moments. Funerals, weddings, graduations, openings, closings etc. My best buddy, band mate, road co pilot...Rock.....passed away in a Connecticut hospice yesterday. Liver complications and post cancer problems were the main culprits. From all accounts he faded away peacefully in his sleep. It's been a tough road. As his friend/brother I can say he brought it on himself. He seemed like he was working towards this end. If his liver was a cartoon it'd have a big wide mouth on it screaming STOP!!! And so it goes......
  I met Rock when I moved from Plainfield, NJ to Piscataway, NJ. in 1966. Age thirteen. I was already in a Plainfield band but distance dictated a new road. My neighbor, Ronnie, got a set of drums and put me on to a guitar player who lived down the road. Rock. I remember sitting in Rock's bedroom watching him play some surf instrumentals. This was a far cry from the British Invasion stuff I'd been playing. He had a Stratocaster copy and didn't miss a note. I was impressed. We grabbed Mike to play bass and George, a local lady killer to sing and front and The Plague was born. We settled into a cross between The Beach Boys and The Yardbirds winning an audition for our first gig at mine and Ron's junior HS, Conackamack, conveniently located around the corner from our houses. Ronnie and I were standing outside the school that Friday afternoon when Rock finally appeared over the hill frantically pushing a wheelbarrow containing our PA/guitar system, a Univox amp Rock's mother bought that supported two guitars and two mics. Decked out in high roll and Beatle boots, as we were, he was a sight to behold.
  Band battles, local parties and dances followed but the plague came to a close as high school began. Rock disappeared into a girlfriend and only made sporadic appearances. Once he appeared at my house on a Saturday afternoon to borrow my English Leather Lime. Remember that stuff?  I told him he could have some but the bottle had to stay as I needed it also. He wasn't happy with that. After a visit to the bathroom he left in kind of a huff. I had a brief suspicion and went up to check my English Leather and there was the box right where it should be. That night I was heading out and went for the lime. The box was weirdly light because the BOTTLE WAS GONE!!!!! In that moment I may have been capable of murder. But by the time I saw Rock again I was calmed down and had come to appreciate the slick move. Bravo. Rock was an only child and  we'd run into him at the weirdest times; movies, baseball games, and he'd usually be alone. I didn't really get that till later on when he mentioned how he envied us all having siblings and got used to doing things alone. He was always a popular guy but was just as comfortable alone as he was in a crowd. I guess.
  He was always surprising me. Like when he played Romeo in a High School production, English accent and all. In later years he could always bring the house down with the "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks" monologue. He also became a defensive end for the Immaculata HS football team. He wasn't big but he was quick. One of my proudest moments was during a neighborhood football game when I outran Rock for a touchdown. I guess I was really on and he was a little off. He said, "Ya got me on that one." First and last time. But I remember it like it was yesterday.  
  Fast forward to our early 20s. Rock reappeared as a single man as guitars were broken out and the Plague was reborn. His mom, Fran, again sprung for a PA system and practice space in their basement.  Lots of beer, homemade wine via Rock's dad, Harry, different aromatic substances and music, music, music. The Plague was now The Wichita Straw Band and eventually Freewheelin'. Rock and I survived a road trip to Denver in his MG Midget and a VW trip to Tucson with two other pals. He got a VW Camper and gigs were on. Some personnel changes as guys took different paths and Freewheelin' had a pretty good run on the 70's NJ club scene. We opened up for Blackfoot, a raucous Native American band at The Final Exam, where we were warned to not be too good and don't play over our time. These guys were scary. But at the end of the night they invited us onto their bus for a helluva party into the wee hours.  We opened up for Sauce at the Strand Theater in Plainfield; the same theater where Rock and I had double dated when we were fourteen. Full circle.  Lots of miles, gigs, Grateful Dead concerts, recording, chasing women.....sometimes catching them.....sometimes running from them..... and eventually sharing a band house in the hills of Hunterdon County.
  I was proud  to be asked to be Rock's best man but he soon felt the call to leave music and join the real world. He was a born salesman and eventually owned his own company. Just as we all figured he would. My father used to say, "That guy could sell ice to an Eskimo." He was Eddie Haskell....but likeable......without the nasty Haskelly stuff. A sincerity shone through. He had a beautiful daughter Christine, from his first marriage and two boys, Tim and Adam, from his second. He'd also been doing some gigs with Adam who sounds just like him. I visited him in a Hartford hospital on Thanksgiving Day and  got to see him enjoying his new granddaughter. I had a little alone time with him and got to tell him I loved him. He responded in kind, I gave him a kiss on the cheek and left. I think those long business lunches and road time contributed to the problems I mentioned earlier....and yesterday he said good bye. His wife Donna has been through it. A real trouper and a wonderful partner.
  So many stories left out. The sit down lawn mower. Playing and joining in bar brawls. Being invited to practice on his first wife's family's property and how that turned out. Not good. Bad dates. Good dates. Hitch hiking adventures. Chases in the snow from irate drivers who's just been pelted with snowballs. Cuttin' out on the check. (not proud of that) Cuttin' out on each other. An infamous Piscataway tradition. Break downs at 3 o' clock in the morning on a winter highway.
  Rock had a good heart. He was always cool. Even after I dropped his Gibson SG and the neck snapped he wouldn't let me pay to have it fixed. As he'd always say, "Hey...shit happens."  We didn't talk as much as his career rolled but I still would get that occasional message or text that would start with, "Remember that time".....Remember that guy"....."Who was the guitar player that night"....."Who did that song".... and on and on. And when he was in the neighborhood on a sales visit there was always time for a long lunch at a favorite haunt. Man, did we laugh! I asked him to be an usher at my wedding during one of those lunches. (my  brother got the best man spot) In his Rock way he said, "Yeah, I guess I can suit up one more time."
  He was a pretty good rhythm guitar player, a good singer, a very good banjo player and an excellent front man. "Don't forget folks, the more you drink, the better we sound." "This is an old Chinese song we'd like to do called tun ing." Just a couple classics. But most importantly, he was my brother....my friend.  There's a hole in my life, my....our.... hearts, that will eventually be filled by lots of good memories. But for now....just a hole. In the words of the late great Jimi Hendrix, a quote that Rock, and I, liked to summon up every now and then, "If I don't see you in this life, I'll see you in the next. And don't be late."         Peace..........
 
National Hotel 2004
 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Still here....somehow.......

II
  I just turned 64. I swear I never thought I'd make it this far. When I think back to some of my "antics"....well.......I'm thankful I'm here. I'm a slow learner. I'm just starting to get it. Well, maybe around 50 I started to get it. I'm a Pisces. I'm a dreamer. If I could get paid for dreaming I'd have a mansion on the hill. The thing is.....I never wanted a mansion on a hill.
   We've all seen the posts regarding the "dangers" we survived as kids. Some real. Some....not so dangerous. Kids rolling around in the back of a station wagon with no seat belts is ,,,,fun?.....dangerous? Walking to school by yourself? No bike helmets? Etc and so on. You decide. There was a big drainpipe we used to walk through in Greenbrook Park in Plainfield, NJ. Went on for hundreds of yards. I later found out that gas was released through that pipe in regular intervals. Cheated death again. Falls through the ice, exploring new and old deserted buildings, cutting through cemeteries, flying down hills across roads on bikes with no brakes, On and on.
   In my job I meet lots of parents. The job seems to be....keep the kids occupied at all time! Early school starts, sports, sports, sports and hours of homework seem to be the norm. College tours are starting in sophomore year. I decided I wanted to go to The University of Texas at El Paso in my senior year. I applied, got accepted, secured a $1,000.00 loan (this covered tuition, books and dorm...with a meal plan), my mom co signed and I was off. Never went to see the school. Mom bought me a suitcase for HS graduation and gave me a ride to Newark Airport in September. See ya at Christmas!
   I was....am.... lucky. As a kid I feel like I had it all. Good home life. Family dinners every day around 5:30. Friends. Baseball. Lots of freedom. Adventures. Plenty of alone time. (That Pisces/dreamer thing), TV, choir, altar boy, and later...uh oh.....musician.  My popularity increased. Maybe the intense competition was there, but if it was....it went right over my head. I know this is sacrilege but I never minded coming in second. And it made coming in first that much sweeter. Competition, from what I observe, has reached an intensity that I, and my pals never experienced. Again. Better? Worse? I guess it depends on the singular experience. But the world has become more intense, more competitive.
   Stupidity also entered the picture later on. Driving to the gig with four guys in a VW camper with no seat belts, loaded with equipment, beer and bags of weed.....probably not a good idea. Ditto for the ride home. The danger factor just never crossed our mind. Really. Or hitch hiking from El Paso to Hollywood. Hitch hiking  was the mode of travel in the 60's and 70's.  But again....survived. Most of us. Some dangers we bring on. Others are just out there. And that's life on planet earth. As long as lessons are learned along the way...and there's still room for Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges........I'm cool with it.
  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Eve......AGAIN!?!?

    What a beautiful day. Sun streaming in....surrounded by guitars and drums, Molly, with a full belly and beggin' for a walk, Linda roamin' around lookin' gorgeous gettin' ready for work....... and I'm off. Yeah....life is good. I said to myself, "Lyons...this is a good time to blog. But I'm gonna skip the blogosphere and post this right to Facebook. Read....don't read. It's only therapy, man. And it may take awhile.
 Some years back I was training at a Princeton commercial AM radio station. They said they wanted to hire me 'cause they liked my WDVR show. I thought...."Cool." But between having to play the songs with the blue dot and the songs with the red dot, traffic, weather, news, commercials for the Priceton Record Exchange (love that place) promos etc......I didn't have time to have any .....fun. So the GM came in and the conversation, to the best of my recollection, went something like this. (Him) "Lyons, How ya doin?" (Me) Well, ok but, feeling a little bit....um.... restricted. Not a lot of time to vamp. (Him) "Waddaya mean. Right here between "Horse With No Name" and "Goings on in the area" you have 45 secs to go nuts!" (Me) "C'mon man, it takes me 45 secs to clear my throat." That was my last day of training.
   I was watching the news earlier and they had a lot of year end wrap ups. One of them was women in sports. The first female pitcher to win a Little League World Series game. She had a 70 MPH fastball!! On the boardwalk, on my best day, I could hit, maybe 55? And the youngest female golfer to qualify for the professional tour. 11 yrs old. (I think).
   I've known some extraordinary women. I'm living with one. The last few years have been a challenge for Linda. Spur of the moment trips to Pittsburgh, at all hours of the day or night, to take, pick up, or just be with her daughter in the hospital. Carrie's there as we speak. Linda just got back yesterday. (Thanks for your support and inquiries. No definite news yet on organ rejection) How many nights have I held her just wishing I could make it all better. I couldn't. Or waking up in the middle of the night to hear her crying in the bathroom. She didn't want to wake me up. My hero.
   My mom went through numerous amputations before she finally died after a long battle with a rare circulatory disease. She worked, took care of a disabled husband, a mother with Alzheimers and always had the door open for a musician son for extended stays when needed. She also bought me my first acoustic guitar..... and my first electric guitar and amp. And sprung for $5/week guitar lessons. She was kind of curious when the whole women's lib thing started. She was already living it. My hero.
   My mom died on New years day and my father died on New Years Eve. About ten years apart. So this time of year is always a little "weird" for me. Most New Years Eve's I have a gig. Tonight I don't. But I'll get to spend some time with one of my heros.
   I've been listening to a lot of Joel Osteen lately. He doesn't drive religion down your throat but is more inspirational, upbeat, positive. Delusional, some may say. I dig it. His main message is .....and I quote the great Bobby McFerrin......"Don't worry, be happy." Give your problems to....dare I say it....God. Or whomever/whatever you believe in. Things will work out just the way they're supposed to work out. A good number of your worries you have no control over, anyway. Try it. Try it for an hour. DON'T WORRY! It's not easy. But man, it feels good.
  Deviating like a drunk at a New Years Eve party......... Linda and I were talking about how rough cavemen/women had it. Especially before fire. (We have some strange conversations) Can you imagine?!?! Another one of those news bits from earlier. Cold, sick, hungry....for life! Toothaches, unhealed broken bones, no iTunes! Do we have challenges? Yeah. But it ain't so bad. I watched a Neflix movie the other night about the universe....how big it is...how small we are...
   So...to all my Facebook friends, regular friends, family, co workers, WDVR listeners (I'll be on tomorrow, 6 AM) have a wonderful happy safe New Years Eve. Don't drink and drive. Pet a dog, rub a cat (as Stymie said,"There's only one way to rub a cat. I found that out."), climb a tree, roll in the grass, smell a baby, dance your ass off and.....be patient. Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff. Peace
yadda. I love those things. We're here for a blip. A blip of a blip. We go by so fast a blip says, "Whoa, what the hell was that?" So what's with all the self importance. I'm gonna look at myself in the mirror and say, "SHUT UP!" That's better. (History of the Eagles is also a pretty good watch).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wha?

     I first saw The Doughboys in 1965. I was finishing a Friday night rehearsal with the Plainfield, NJ St. Mary’s Boys Choir and was making my way up from the basement when I heard The Yardbirds “For Your Love” coming out of the gym/assembly hall. WHAT??? I’d spent the last seven years in that school with the Sisters of (no) Mercy and that sound just didn’t jive! The five guys onstage were called the Ascots and their guitar player, my paperboy, Mike Farina…. had been downstairs singing with the choir an hour earlier. The bass player, Mike Caruso, was a neighborhood guy I was friendly with and the drummer, Richie Heyman, and I, did a couple seasons with the Braves in the Plainfield Little League. The lead singer, Myke Scavone, had been the drummer for the Apollos who I remembered from the Plainfield Fourth of July parade about a year earlier. And their other guitar player, Willy Kirchofer I’d seen playing guitar on his porch one afternoon a few months earlier. I tried to wrangle him into my band but he said he was already in a band. Yeah….sure. These guys were all about two years older than my crew and when you’re twelve and they’re fourteen that’s a serious gap. I’d been hearing music coming from Mike Farina’s house just on the other side of my back yard. That was, finally, The Ascots.
     Plainfield, NJ, like the rest of Main St. America, was in the throes of a 60’s/British Invasion/Carnaby St/folk/rock/political/pre flower power/head shop/ music revolution. In 1966 I moved from Plainfield to Piscataway but continued my weekly trips to the Queen City to play music with my pals, take a guitar lesson at Gregory’s Music and walk the streets of downtown Plainfield; usually, hopefully, ending up in the balcony of The Strand Theater with my girlfriend, not watching a James Bond flick. The band, girlfriend, Gregory’s and Plainfield in general faded out as Piscataway, new girlfriend, new band and new guitar teacher faded in. There was a whole Wonder years, coming of age thing happening. 
  The Ascots hit their stride a few years later when they donned WW One army uniforms, changed their name to The Doughboys and won Zacherley’s Disc – o -Teen battle of the bands. Zacherley was a cool Dracula type tv host who would play horror movies and occasionally interrupt the movie to deliver words of wisdom from his coffin. He’d then close the top and the movie would resume. Too hip. The prize for winning the band battle was a stint as the house band at The Café Wha? in NY’s Greenwich Village. Between St Mary’s and The Café Wha? I’d seen the Doughboys a few times at NJ Hullabaloos and scattered HS dances. Mike Farina had left and they were gigging as a four piece covering artists like Hendrix and Cream before anyone else. They also played snippets of commercials, old tv shows, cartoons etc on the wall behind them. That’s entertainment, man. They cut a record that could be found on most central NJ jukeboxes and were opening up for some name bands but soon after the run at Café Wha The Doughboys called it quits.
   Myke Scavone went on to front Ram Jam (Black Betty), Mike Caruso became a session player and spent some time playing with Jimi Hendrix. Richie Heyman, after playing, with Link Wray and Brian Wilson started a solo singer/songwriter career as Richard X. Heyman. In 2000 the Doughboy’s reformed for a “one time gig” at Richie’s birthday party. It felt, and sounded good and the Doughboys continued to roll. They kept it up covering a good chunk of the East Coast and releasing three cds along the way, in addition to a DVD documentary, “Rock n’ Raw.” After Willie Kirchofer’s sudden passing in 2005, Gar Francis, of Sticky Fingers fame, took over lead/rhythm guitar duties. Their latest cd, Shakin’ Our Souls features performances from Mark Lindsay (Paul Revere & The Raiders) and Genya Ravan (Ten Wheel Drive.) One of their earlier originals, Black Sheep, was dubbed one of the “coolest songs in the world” by Little Steven Van Zandt on his Sirius Underground Garage radio show. Little Steven nominated more Doughboy’s tunes including a very cool cover of The Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon.” The Doughboys song list is still a blend of sixties covers and originals delivered with the same high intensity enthusiasm I saw on that St. Mary’s stage almost fifty years ago. Take a look at their version of Route 66 on youtube live from The Stone Pony and you’ll get an idea. Wow! I guess Rock and Roll IS here to stay.