Saturday, August 4, 2012

Comfortable Under This Rock, Thank You



I’m sitting here, listening to Judee Sill’s The Kiss. She is definitely one of music’s great losses. I’m getting lost in the labyrinths of fate.
I had this summer all mapped out. I was gonna camp as much as possible but it’s been too damn hot. There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a tent when it’s over 90 degrees. I’ll never forget the night Dylan and I spent an entire night in my car with the AC.
I have 2 major skydiving events I’m missing. Last week a lot of my jumping buddies went down to Sullivan, MO for an annual memorial service for friends we lost in a crash. We not only lost dear friends but the operation had to close.
I haven’t been able to tear myself away from editing the final part of the band’s DVD, so I didn’t go.
This weekend is an old timer’s reunion in Taylorville, IL. My other drop zone in Vandalia has also closed. I’m still working on the film. I can’t afford it anyway. I know I’m going to regret not being there. The prospect of a bunch of non-current hot dogs trying to out crazy each other is pretty frightening anyway!
I was supposed to meet up with my friend Tom. We just got word that Tom broke his back during a bad landing in Ottawa, Il at Skydive Chicago. He was air lifted to Peoria. His wife Drea says he’s coming home soon and shouldn’t be paralyzed.
Maybe we’re getting too old.
The other thing we’re supposed to do this summer is stay with our friends Marion and Terry in Chicago. I’m going up once with Valerie and another time with my daughter Chloe. Chloe is fascinated with dinosaurs and is dying to see Sue, the world’s largest T-Rex skeleton at the Field Museum.
We should have gone by now but I have to finish this film. I’m working on the finishing touches so it shouldn’t be long. I just have to get a couple more important interviews.
Terry and Marion---- if you’re reading this, we are still coming!
They turned us on to something called the Megabus. We can get to Chicago for almost nothing. It’s a good thing (and a miracle) we didn’t go last week.
A Megabus on its way from St. Louis to Chicago had a flat, lost control, and veered into a bridge. One person died and dozens were air lifted to hospitals in St. Louis and Springfield, Il.
Sometimes inertia is its own reward.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jury Duty



When I turned 18, we had just gotten the vote. The argument was, if you’re old enough to get drafted and die for your country, you're old enough to be part of the decision making process. What a joke that turned out to be. Without corporate money you might as well hang it up.
When I was young and idealistic I really wanted to part of the process. I knew my vote threw me into the jury pool and I saw it as my civic responsibility.
My first vote was for an independent and I prided myself on never having picked a winner.
I had friends who voted for Nader. At the time I thought both parties were so bought and paid for, it didn’t matter who you voted for. People who voted for Nader were derided for giving votes to the Republicans.
I now know, if Gore had won we wouldn’t be at war or be facing our current deficit. It really does matter.
Valerie, my son and I visited our friends Uncle Bill and Martha Rose last night. They were shocked to learn how much I hated Obama.
He gave the banks Bush’s TARP with no strings. They refuse to lend so small businesses and home buyers are screwed. One third of his stimulus was in the form of tax cuts. This was to make the Republicans happy. Not only will they not acknowledge it, but it watered down the stimulus so much they can say, “See, it didn’t work!” He said, “Single payer is off the table.” So we lost the public option.
His “pragmatism” has set the Democratic party back 20 years.
The American public is convinced he’s socialist. By that logic, the right are Nazi’s and Fascists. The ignorance scares me. Big money is rewriting history. A guy I work with learned that Nazi is an acronym for National Socialist Worker’s Party. “Socialist, that proves they were lefties!”
My son has been doing research on presidential candidates and found someone in the Green party he liked. Uncle Bill and I looked at each other and said, “There’s a vote for the republicans.” In his defense, Dylan pointed out I was idealistic in my youth and never picked a winner. “It’s my turn now,” he said.
Uncle Bill said, “If you don’t vote for the lesser of 2 evils, you vote for the greater of 2 evils.”
This is all long winded back story for my real story; I had jury duty this week. Needless to say, I’m a lot more cynical now.
I get picked every cycle. I even get picked as a juror.
Last time I told them I was a self employed courier, living paycheck to paycheck. It would be a financial hardship for my kids and me. They bumped it back 6 months to Christmas and it was even worse.
A friend of mine at work said that excuse works for her every time. I guess they only believe women have to raise kids.
I been worried about covering bills for months. What if a trial drags on and on. Last time I was in one that dragged on for a week and a half before they settled out of court. That was after sitting for 3 days.
I think things have changed a little. Last Wednesday we sat until 3:00 in the afternoon before they started calling jurors. There weren’t really very many of us. They kept calling numbers and I was convinced I’d be called. They must have picked 2 thirds of the crowd. They didn’t get me. I was kinda hoping they would so we get get it over with.
One woman didn’t respond. They kept repeating her name over the intercom and she never responded. Finally they marked her absent and picked some other schmoe.
About 30 minute later she came in. She’s been on her cell phone out front. Everyone in there was on a smart phone or lap top. They scolded her, told her to sit down and unmarked her absent.
They then told us we were excused from jury duty. It was all over. We were told that in spite of the fact that we sat there all day doing nothing, we could take pride in the fact that we did our civic duty and participated in the process.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spreadin' Art







When we ride in the Banana Bike Brigade parades we usually get paid $5.00. I guess it’s for a hamburger when we get to the carnival that’s usually at the end.
I love all the small town festivals we’re in. I really think we’re the favorites of the parades. The kids line up so we can slap ‘em five as we ride by. Adults come up saying we inspired them with new ideas for their art class.
Yesterday we rode in New Athens, Illinois. It’s a perfect little town off the main road against the Kaskaskia River. You could drive right by it and not know it’s there.
I feel guilty that I get credit for the wonderful creations we get to ride.
Valerie, the kids and I became part of it when I ran into my friend Jon at a political rally downtown. He thought my kids would enjoy it. I think Valerie and I enjoy it more.
We usually grab a couple tables after the parade. We’re pretty conspicuous and folks come around to meet us. There are people with fascinating stories. The carnival owner told us his wife loved us and he had to say hello. They’re from Texas and they spend their entire life on the road.
New Athens has a historical society with a museum. I couldn’t imagine what they had so I went in. Among other things, they had ancient cheerleading outfits from the high school. It was an incredible look at America’s past.
The BBB are really about 5 or 6 people with friends coming in and out. Valerie and I joke that they only call us when it over 100 degrees and no one else will do it.
An artist named Uriel made the first bike and taught others. There’s Carolyn, Jon, Lori, and Chris who’s always working hard keeping the bikes road worthy.
It’s all about bringing art to the people and I think they really inspire everyone they come in contact with.
I told Jon there was no need to give us the 5 bucks, we just want to be part of it. He said, “Don’t let them hear you say that!”
Check out their Facebook page-----------

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tony's Project


Tony Patti and I were going through videos of Wax Theatricks rehearsals to see if there was anything I could use for the DVD. I think there will be good Youtube stuff.
He told me he hadn’t been able to finish his personal project since Danny had passed. It certainly took the wind out of my sails.
When we were in rehearsals for the Wax reunion, my son and I went down to a studio in South St. Louis. Tony asked him to bring a t shirt so he could put band art on it for the show. Dylan cherishes it.
If recordings were still on vinyl, his band had just finished side one. This was just over a year ago.
Last Fall Danny, Dominic, Dylan and I went to Tony’s house to hear his new quad release of Pete Townshend’s Quadrophenia. It was the happiest I’d seen Danny since he got sick. He said he was going to throw away his stereo copy.
After Quadrophenia, Tony played his project. It’s incredibly ambitious.
The first half is a concept album and he made the band learn and play the whole thing straight through. I suspect you won’t be able to play a single song on the Cd. You’ll have to listen to entire thing. I have to admit, I’ve wanted to control my audience’s listening experience myself on occasion.
As a record maker, the whole really is academic. It reminds me of Hitchcock’s Rope. He filmed the entire thing on a stage with a single moving camera. It was an ambitious experiment, but in the end it didn’t matter to the audience.
As we were listening to Tony’s project, I couldn’t help but thinking, “This would have been so much easier to record in pieces!”
I just got a skeleton of a musical piece from Carl Weingarten and Walt Whitney. I have to do what I’m gonna do to it and send it back. That’s how the next Delay tactics record is going to be made.
The DVD has been consuming my every waking moment and I have 3 other projects behind that. Not to mention 2 unfinished Fojammi records and 2 records worth of my own material.
Just after Danny passed, we had a huge party for him at Duff’s Restaurant. My buddy Stephen Martin pulled me aside. He said Danny had given him a message for me. “Finish your stuff!” It does seem like every time I start making headway on it, I get distracted.


Get off your butt and finish the project Tony.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Time Lost



I sat down at my computer Saturday morning around 7:00 to edit the Wax Theatricks film. When I looked up at the clock, it was 8:00 Sunday night. Needless to say, no blog.
I get emails when I’m tagged on Facebook. That’s the only time I go on. I see friends who must spend their entire lives there judging by the amount of posts, forwarded articles and thumbs up that cover my wall.
I have musician friend who tell me they won’t rehearse unless they get paid. Why not learn the material at the gig?
That’s how I feel about computers. The only time I ever felt like time wasn’t being eaten up by them is when I was paid. I could spend days trying to figure out a software glitch or assemble a pc at a workbench. Days gone with hardly anything to show for it.
I worked several years in the I.T. department at Harrah’s Casino. We used every kind of technology, network, and hardware known. Training had to be done on the fly.
A lot of time and money was wasted because they didn’t want to pay for training. That seems to be the current trend. I guess Harrah’s was ahead of its time.
I’ve built every computer I’ve owned since the mid 90s. I could never have afforded them otherwise. I’ve spent countless hours trying to install drivers for hardware that didn’t want to play with the rest of the system. Building good music machines has a learning curve.
When I kill hours on my own time, I honestly feel like I’m sacrificing my life for my art. Life’s too short!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Marion and Tracy



Last week I posted that Tracy and Marion were waiting it out at a friend’s house while Colorado burned. I’m sure everyone who reads my blog knows by now that they lost their house.
Tracy says every day he thinks about something else that’s gone forever. He lost videos of his band Go Dog Go’s first and last performances. He lost his audio studio. I’m gonna make sure his next one is even better, but I guess that won’t bring back the recordings.
They went to their property to see if anything was left. Tracy told me they looked at each other and laughed just like he and I did when we came home to our looted apartment in the West End. We were in our early 20s and I can’t tell you what losing our stereo meant to us. Sometimes you have to be able to let go and move on.
Marion is a practicing Shambhala Buddhist Christian and it seems to be helping her attitude about the whole thing.
They love their property, but they’ve decided to find a house closer to the road. Marion says she’ll have to get used to not walking around naked. I’m surprised after all they’ve been through she even cares.
We’ve all been through hell already this year but I think Buddhism agrees with Marion. I ran into her at Fojammi’s wake at Duff’s and she looked younger and happier than ever.
Apparently a lot of people want to know how they can help but right now they just want to figure out where to go from here.
We’re all behind you guys. We love you and you know it!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No Internet!



We’ve been without internet for 8 days. Wow! My blog will probably be pretty sporadic this summer anyway. I’ve been pretty obsessed with assembling the Wax Theatricks film.
A lot has happened in 8 days.
First, Tracy and Marion are in the middle of the Colorado forest fires. They’ve had to stay with friends and won’t know until Tuesday if they lost their home. They had to give their cat to the local Humane Society. We’re all thinking about them.
Our friend Jon who drafted us into the Banana Bike Brigade was hit in front of his home by the TKOs.
The Technical Knock Outs are a group of young boys whose mission is to literally knock someone out in a single blow. Jon says they know what they’re doing. They hit him in his jugular vein and he went right out. They got his wallet and 3 beers. This was 3 blocks from our apartment.
Jon has had run ins with them 4 times. One time he was riding his bike. They threw half a brick at him, but his back pack stopped it. They often use half a brick because they’re easy to throw.
Last year there was a girl who could positively identify 7 of them. She didn’t show up in court and they had to let the jerks go. She had obviously been threatened.
They killed a Vietnamese man on Grand. Francis Slay, our mayor, found a victim by our library on Grand. He was one of Joanie Thomas’ employees. He suffers permanent damage.
Needles to say, Valerie and I are very concerned. She pointed out that all the victims seemed to be men over 50.
How can anyone be so removed from empathy? We see it all around us. Our current politics are a symptom.
On a lighter note---
Valerie, Dylan and I went to McGurk’s Wednesday for a book signing by our buddy William Stage. We got our autographed copies of Not Waving Drowning. He’s funny as ever! His wife Mary is pregnant with their 9th kid. All but the first are girls. I think baby girls were the majority of the audience.
We met Bill McClelland and partied with Rommie Martinez.
Valerie, Chloe, Dylan and I were in a parade with the Banana Bike Brigade in Marissa, Illinois last Saturday. The largest float was the Marissa chapter of the Tea Party. There was also a giant blue float with a portrait of Jesus that read, “Jesus walked on water!”
I think I scared some of the other bikers when I said very loudly, “I wonder what they think of us homosexual communists!”
One of the girls asked, “Are you homosexual?” Another blurted out, “I must be communist!” She was dressed in a red tutu that matched her cardinal bike.
Dylan and I are looking forward to a parade in Red Bud, Illinois this afternoon. It will be 100 degrees.
Valerie escaped it with a family reunion and Chloe’s in Florida with a friend.
The pics are all with camera phones, so they're not very good. Jon with bikes after a Cinco de Mayo parade we were in a couple of years ago. William reading at McGurk’s. The kids and me last weekend. No one got a good pic of Valerie.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Delay Tactics




One of the few nice things that happened as a result of our friend Danny’s passing was getting back in touch with old friends.
I was contacted by both Walt Whitney and Carl Weingarten. After a lot of catching up and nostalgia, we decided it was time for a new Delay Tactics release.
Unlike Wax Theatricks, Delay Tactics focused on instrumentals. I was very proud of the sound of the recordings. I blame Walt for that.
He had a 4 track Scully recorder. Wax Theatricks was recording on 16 and 24 track decks and getting nowhere near the sound. I kept thinking about Sgt. Pepper being recorded on a 4 track Studer machine.
Carl is sending a 10 minute piece he and Walt have been working on. He asked what format I would like it in.
This brought up an old lament of Danny’s and mine. The current format of music favors convenience over quality. Even the best 192k MP3 is no match for a CD, although it beats the hell out of tape or even FM radio.
I told Carl to send it to me 44.1k/16 bit because that’s what CDs use. The problem with that is the Recording Industry Association of America ( RIAA) announced Cds will end next year. I think it has more to do with how easy it is to steal than obsolescence.
I guess unless it’s a band promoting itself with sales at the venue, we’ll be downloading everything.
Walt has been mixing everything at 48k/24 bit in surround sound. That’s what they use for DVDs and unfortunately, it’s complete overkill in this day and age for music.
Last Christmas I gave my son a stereo with a turntable because he’s into vinyl now. Having grown up with boom boxes and ear buds, he’s amazed by the sound. He likes to turn the bass all the way up and blast. The house shakes, the dog freaks, and my ex’s screams can’t be heard over the din. It’s great! The music sound’s terrible though.
What will be the new standard?
If you haven’t already seen it, check out this 1985 PBS show about Delay Tactics.


 pic is from a Delay Tactics show in the early 80s.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Birth to Earth, Womb to Tomb



Yesterday was one of the milestones in my life. My son graduated from high school. His class was so large, the event was held at the Family Arena in St. Charles.
He graduated Cum Laude which is a miracle considering he totally gave up on school the last semester. I guess that’s not totally true. He gave up until we started getting notices that he was failing and not even bothering to hand in assignments. The last couple weeks of school he got serious and pulled off a sleep deprivation marathon that pulled his grades back up. We were really worried he was going to lose his scholarship to Webster University.
While all this was happening, I’ve been editing the band’s reunion concert DVD. They’ve given me a deadline of June 25th which is the year anniversary of the show. My friend Tom asked what the big deal was. It made me realized how unappreciated editors are. On top of the video, I have to mix the music too.
You find yourself in a control-freak situation. Dominic would love to take on some of the workload, but I have a vision of how it should turn out.
Fojammi started the video part of all this and would only let me work on the audio part. Now I understand. Even when he was too sick to work on it, I didn’t dare take over until he was gone.
The point of all of this is the strong sense of rebirth I’m feeling from all of these endings.
When my girlfriend got pregnant there was a mad dash to get married. I met her skydiving and we had a freefall wedding. It turned out she was from a huge Catholic culture, so we had to do the church thing too.
I was also in the middle of a music project with Margaret Bianchetta and Stephen Martin. Margaret came up with the name MSD (Margaret-Steve-Dave) which I though was brilliant. One of our largest utilities in St. Louis is the Metropolitan Sewer District.
Margaret agreed to sing One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story at the ceremony. I though it was a totally original idea but I’ve since learned everyone has used it.
Margaret was in a band with Mary Dee Brown and Monica Casey called Hot Club Canary. As a wedding present, they agreed to play at the reception.
Originally we were going to have the party with a bonfire at a friend’s property on the Missouri River. Unfortunately it snowed and the party was moved into the church’s gym.
I got a great pic of the girls playing under a basketball hoop. They really made the big time. I sent them each a copy as a Christmas gift but I don’t think they thought it was as funny as I did.
This swirl of activity was all centered around Dylan, who wasn’t even born yet. It’s been insanity ever since.
My daughter Chloe has probably been even more intense.
On our way to the graduation, Dylan and I stopped at Monica’s to get the pic for my blog. It was the first time they’d actually met. Monica is leaving for Africa for a couple of years. I think she’s going to be a teacher. I can’t believe I didn’t bother to ask her.
Coincidentally Steve called me yesterday just as the ceremony was ending. He wants to sift through all the tapes from those sessions. He didn’t even know Dylan was graduating.
By the way, Steve was best man at the wedding.
Everything seems to be coming together.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tommy Bankhead



Valerie and I are going to a blues festival downtown this afternoon. We’re going to see Dave Black, Leroy Pierson and the St. Louis Social Club. They are all friends of ours, and all were part of the great Broadway Oyster Bar 80s music scene.
The place was half as big as it is now.
There was no heat in the winter. We had two fireplaces and threw sleeping bags over the doors. Stains on them gave an uncomfortable impression. If you brought a log, you got a free drink.
There was no AC in the summer. I used to set a bus pan full of ice on the bar with a fan behind it. We had to close for two weeks every year when the heat got unbearable. That’s when I went on some of the greatest travel adventures of my life.
Thursday nights was Tommy Bankhead and the Blues Eldoradoes. Tommy was a legend.
He had backed musicians such as Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James (his cousin), Joe Willie Wilkins, Robert Nighthawk, and Joe Hill Louis.
My first encounter with Tommy was when I was 17 at a small bar called Sadie’s Personality Lounge on north Union. I told the story in one of my first posts.
Sadie’s was part of the actual Chitlin’ Circuit. The place was so outside of the law, cops wouldn’t go near the place. No one even blinked at the fact that my friends and I were obviously minors.
I had to get over my uptight, repressed bullshit as soon as I walked in the door. A three hundred pound Vietnam vet, who had lost both arms, grabbed me with a claw and pulled me into the dance floor. I looked around the room and decided, “I’m gonna dance!”
My friend Freddy talked us into coming. He was jamming with the band. At one point, he handed me his guitar and said, “Play with Tommy.”
I was playing away when I looked over at Tommy. He asked, “You went to music school, didn’t you?” I was crushed. I couldn’t get off the stage fast enough.
I haven’t had the balls to jam spontaneously since. I really regret it because I was asked to sit in with Chuck Berry once at the Oyster Bar.
Years later I told Tommy the story. He didn’t remember it at all, but he thought it was funny. I used to change the name of the bands. I called them Tommy Bunk Bed and the Blue Avocados. Tommy didn’t think that was funny.
The best sax player I’ve ever seen anywhere was in Tommy’s band. “Big” Joe Enloe. There’s just no way to describe him. He just made life bearable. If you walked in while they were playing, he made laughing sounds through his horn and you just had to laugh. Out of nowhere he tongued his reed and it sounded like the Roadrunner. The man lived and breathed through his horn.
Dominic asked him for lessons. He said, “Man, you can’t teach this!”
When he died, he had one of the most incredible services I’ve ever been to in East St. Louis. I can’t begin to go through the list of Blues luminaries who arrived. Everyone was there.
Tommy’s drummer Ben Wells cried like a baby. I don’t think anyone in the band ever got over it. They were never the same after that.
Mark O'Shaughnessy (owner of BBs Blues and Soups) told me he got an 8 track recording of the band at Mississippi Nights with Joe. It’s become one of those mythical projects that have disappeared into the ether.
The Blues Eldoradoes came out with an LP about a year later, but they just didn’t capture what they were live. Joe was really missing.
Tommy was a sheriff for the City of St. Louis. He used to transport prisoners. It was strange running into him on the street. A cop’s uniform just didn’t fit his outlaw nature.
When my friend Sharon and I would count our cash register receipts at the end of the night in the back room, Tommy would show up knocking on the window while his Lincoln idled behind him. He wanted to party on the East Side. I was welcome, as long as the girls were with me.
At the end of his life, he became revered as one of the greats. BBs still has giant posters of Tommy papering the walls. Tommy would show up wheeling a canister of oxygen behind him.
He died in December 2000 from respiratory failure due to emphysema. I found out about it on NPR. He had become a national figure.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Food


Dominic just posted a clip on Facebook about a trip he and I took in a VW Minivan to the east coast when we were kids. Coincidentally, I was going to post a story about that trip last week but our internet went down.
Today I want to talk about food.
Being a child of the 60s, my mom had a 50s food aesthetic. Vegetables came out of a can. Remember canned asparagus? I have to admit that, while I don’t indulge today, I do love canned peas. I used to melt Colby cheese in them. That still sounds good to me.
If you want a good laugh, find an early edition of The Joy of Cooking.
With absolutely no guidance, I experimented.
I remember when there was nothing else in the fridge; I would make Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip, and pickle sandwiches. I can’t even think about Miracle Whip or white bread now without gagging.
The last time I intentionally ate meat was in 1979. The only things I miss to this day are fried bologna sandwiches. I used to take 2 slices and put Colby and cream cheese between them. You had to keep flipping it, because the bologna wanted to curl as it cooked.
I used to break my mother’s heart by disappearing for weeks at a time in the county without calling. I had to scrounge for food. I remember eating Cheerios in chocolate milk with scoops of peanut butter and cream cheese.
I think I had a thing for Colby and cream cheese. I used to melt them on pot pies and frozen fish sticks.
A real delicacy for me was baking French fries with hamburger, Colby, cream cheese and catsup. Sometimes I’d throw pork and beans on it. I loved cooking catsup into everything. I wonder when I started eating vegetables.
When I worked at Duff’s Restaurant as a kid, I put catsup on quiche. They say real men don’t eat quiche. They do when you put catsup on it.
Years later my wife took me to Duff’s for my birthday. Chef James Voss placed a huge industrial sized can of Heinz on our table. By the way, they wouldn’t let us pay for the meal.
We all had strange ideas about food when we were kids. I think I was hitch hiking in the middle of the country somewhere when Dominic convinced me that peanut butter and sunflower seeds had all the essential nutritional components.
As recently as the early 80s, when Fojammi and I shared a studio, I’d show up at his apartment at the crack of dawn and start the day with some kind of cereal with a scoop of peanut butter and a glass of orange juice.
My friend Ali taught me frozen concentrate OJ could be eaten like popsicles.
On that east coast trip with Dominic, we were in Maine and hadn’t eaten in 3 or 4 days. We found apples floating in the melted ice of our cooler. I hate fruit, but I still remember it as my favorite eating experience. It’s amazing how much starvation can enhance a dining experience!
I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post what a mistake it is to eat raw vegetables after 2 weeks of fasting. Damn Dick Gregory!
Somewhere around that time period I lived on coffee milk shakes.
It’s amazing that, at this point in my life, I know you need a combination of fresh vegetables, a complicate carb, and a protein with all the essential amino acids including B-12. I think you have to learn those things when you go veg.
I cook every meal for Valerie, my kids and me with those rules and I never cook the same thing. Every meal is an experiment.
For some reason every one of them ends up tasting the same.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Synth Gods


Valerie checks out books she thinks I might like at the library. The last one she brought home was called Synth Gods. It’s a collection of old Keyboard Magazine interviews.
Bob Moog, Eno, Jan Hammer, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Rick Wakeman, Bernie Worrell, Joe Zawinul, Tomita, Stevie Wonder’s programmer and even Prince were represented.
There seemed to be no limit to the sounds you could create in the 70s and 80s. The old analog synths used filters, wave generators, and noise generators.
At first, they were all in separate modules, and you had to patch each one in separately with wires. They looked like some kind of science fiction super computer. You had to go through a painstaking process to generate each sound, and you could only play one note at a time.
That’s pretty amazing if you’ve ever heard Walter Carlos’ Switched on Bach. All of those sounds and chords were recorded one note at a time! If you’re not familiar with the name, he did the synth music for Clockwork Orange.
There was a golden age of new music and experimentation. The newer digital synths have presets and musicians rarely create new sounds these days.
I consider our keyboard player Fojammi a synth pioneer. He was living in the Central West End in the 70s when he brought home an ARP Odyssey.
We plugged my guitar and his synth into his stereo and jammed all night. When we listened back to the recording, I felt like my range of sounds was limited, in spite of the fact that I ran my guitar through all kinds of stomp boxes.
There was something missing though. Danny and I felt the sounds weren’t organic enough. They had kind of a plastic sound that was too novel.
Danny learned, and taught me, how complex natural sounds were. Simple sine, triangle and square waves would never be satisfying.
Danny began to collect guitar stomp boxes and delays. His sounds got really interesting. It was also a golden age of analog stomp boxes.
Right around this time, Danny got an Apple 2. It was a 48k computer that stored information on huge floppy disks. It’s still turned on in his studio, even though he’s gone.
He eventually upgraded it to a 2+ which made it 64k. This was when the famous Commodore 64 came out.
We began to learn early computer recording. It was strictly midi, which means it was like a player piano. You plugged the keyboard into the computer, played your part, and the computer played it back. If you wanted to add tracks, you had to add more keyboards. You couldn’t add multiple parts onto it like tape.
The great thing was we were able to record great sounding music in our home. We were in on the whole thing from the beginning, and the software companies actually used some of our suggestions.
Keyboards became polyphonic, so you could play chords. To me, the great moment was when they became multi-timbral, which means you could play different sounds at the same time. It was like having several keyboards. They even began to sell the synths as modules without the keyboards, so you could control them all from a single source. It made it a lot cheaper.
I’ll never forget showing the whole process to my buddy Dominic. I created a simple drum machine pattern, and quickly added several keyboards parts. I was just trying to show him the potential and didn’t care about bad notes. When I played it back, it sounded like a sick, warped record. The computer seemed to be looking at us in contempt. Dominic said, “So this is the future of music!”
Danny’s creativity was boundless. He wrote a program that generated poetry and stories. He created an algorithm that used pools of words that were grouped into the rules of syntax. The randomly generated poems seemed deep and even a little frightening. Two years later, someone else actually published a book based of this idea. I remember the story airing on NPR.
I almost forgot, speaking of Keyboard Magazine-------
In 1984, Keyboard gave my band, Delay Tactics, a rave review for the album Any Questions?. In particular, they loved my synth work on Hands On Fire. Keyboard is so prestigious that I was really flattered.
The problem was, Walt Whitney did the great syth work. I played the small hook melody. When they asked how I wanted to be credited, I said, "Just say synthesizer." I didn't want to build up my contribution because it seemed so small. Keyboard assumed I did it all. I guess it proves what Mies Van Der Rohe said----- Less is more!
I intended to write a lot more about this period in our lives, but I’ll have to break it up. The more I remember, the more my mind wanders down different paths.
Here’s a piece of Danny’s computer art from 1986 called Skinwire. Below is his description.
Skin Stretched Taut as a Wire Between Moons
Based on a painting done on an Atari 1040 ST back in 1986, using the program NEO. Back in the day, Macs were great for making b&w ellipses, and my mind reeled at having 256 colors to play with. Everything has changed completely five or six times since then, but the core image behind this picture reincarnates ruthlessly. Or it's just a stick of Wrigley's walking a tightrope on psilocybin.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Local Radio





I’ve never really been happy listening to music on the radio. It seems every genre has its schlock and that’s what they’ll play.
Occasionally our local access station KDHX plays interesting World, Old Blues or Pop music. I think my problem is that I listen while driving and it’s too distracting for me, so I listen to talk radio.
Larry King was great in the 80s. He was on the Mutual Radio Network and his show was in the middle of the night. Once they put him on TV I totally lost interest. That was right about when NPR started airing their news shows. They are still great. They do seem to pander to the right for fear of losing funding.
For instance, I’ve heard them called human based climate change controversial. 98% of climatologists say it’s a fact, but big money has put doubt in the American public’s little minds, so it’s controversial.
There are politicians who believe anything good will survive free market capitalism. People will support it with their money.
I think there are a lot of things we need exposure to that don’t create that happy feeling you want to pay for. You certainly can’t get in depth coverage of anything that strives to reach the biggest audience.
In my opinion Free Market media has been so dumbed down, it’s dangerous. We’re becoming a society of idiots. Look at our representatives. I don’t even think they’re evil, opportunistic charlatans anymore. I think they really are that ignorant.
Every time KTRS’s Frank O. Pinion makes a snarky remark about the fabricated Global Warming issue, I wonder why people refuse to take responsibility for their actions. If you shit in your living room, it’s gonna stink!
I know this post should be in my political blog, but believe it or not, I’m too frustrated to even think about politics anymore.
Local TV newsperson Charles Jaco was my favorite radio personality. I couldn’t believe he was as openly Lefty as he was. KTRS didn’t have the balls to support him, so it didn’t last long. Man he was funny!
It should give us pause that vulgar, hate pushers like Rush will never have to fear cancellation.
I used to enjoy Rush. He was so over the top, I thought his show was satire. When I listened to his Ditto Heads calling in, I realized these poor fools were for real.
In the late 90s, John Carney had a morning show on KTRS. I though he was great. He was so funny; I knew his show couldn’t last. When they fired him, I was one of the people who petitioned KMOX to get him. He finally got on, but his hours were never convenient for me.
I heard he was recently canned from a music format show on KEZK. What a mismatch. That could never have lasted. He’s way too much of a personality.
I ran into John at a benefit for The Heaters bassist, Rich Amsinger. I love those guys and have played several shows with them. Rich is battling cancer. Front man and drummer Mark Rogers is going through the same thing we just went through with Danny. I will do a real post about Mark and The Heaters soon.
Valerie called me yesterday to tell me JC Corcoran was fired at KTRS for being too controversial. I’m not really a big fan, but I do remember him making fun of religion and Climate change deniers.
KTRS has never had the courage to stand behind their talent.
Maybe this will leave an opening for Carney, but I doubt it.
John Carney, Charles Jaco and JC Corcoran.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Finish Line


Time really does seem to speed up as you get older. For me, it’s a mad dash to the finish line to finish all my projects. Danny didn’t quite make it, so his material gets added to mine.

To really hammer in the point, my little boy just turned 18. He’s a full grown man now.

It seems like last year I bent over his little red, newborn body and rubbed his wet head. My whole world had just changed.

When I think about how much my friends and I had been through by 18, I’m astounded. We had long since left our families behind, well on the way to making our mark on the world.

Two weeks ago Dylan, his mom and I went to Webster University for his orientation. I feel like I grew up on this campus. I didn’t recognize anything. The old buildings are just a fa├žade, hiding a huge complex.

The recording studio looks amazing. It has “state of the art” everything. I’m trying to convince Dylan that’s it’s just a glorified version of my studio. Everything is computer based now. When I was there, we were deep into multi-track analog recording. For all the technology of the day, the sound was terrible. The kids kept tweaking parameters they had no business playing with.

Dominic told me Go Dog Go recorded their CD in the new studio and it was hell getting a decent sound out of it. I guess some things will never change.

After our visit at Webster, Dylan and I drove to Chicago. Our birthday present to him was a day at the Chicago Art Institute. He’s wanted to go for years after listening to my stories. There are so many iconic pieces there, you really feel like you’re surrounded by history’s great moments.

Danny and I have always had a love hate relationship with Facebook. Some of our closest friends seem to live there, forsaking actual human contact.

In his last days, Danny’s wife Laura was trying to explain his disdain for it to a friend. “I’m sure Danny would have loved it, if he weren’t too sick to use it,” she said. “No, no, he hated Facebook before that,” Laura insisted.

The great thing about FB is the good friends I’ve found that had been lost over the years. Not to mention, I can spread announcements.

When I got the idea to take Dylan to Chicago, I knew I could only do it on the cheap. I’ve been there many times, but most of my friends have moved away. I posted, “Does anyone still live in Chicago?” on FB, not thinking I’d get a response. I ended up getting a few responses. My friend Susie Nicholson posted, “What about Terry?”

Marion and Terry Boyd were a couple that used to be regulars of mine when I tended bar at the Broadway Oyster Bar. We discovered we were kindred spirits sharing our love of the same bands. The Oyster Bar was an incredible place for music in the 80s.

With Facebook, I learned Terry was an old Laclede Townie too.

I hadn’t seen them since the 80s, but I wrote Terry asking if we could stay with them for a weekend.

“Absolutely!” he said.

It turns out Marion and Terry are members of The Art Institute and The Field Museum. We didn’t have to pay to get into either place.

The four of us ran through the museums like kids in a candy store. It was so fun to be with people who share my love of art and science. Dylan loved every minute of it too.

It turns out Terry taught an art class at Webster. Reality seemed to crystallize into the inevitable.

The knowledge we shared about artists and movements went on and on, but the Field Museum was the real surprise. The first thing you see when you walk in is the skeleton of Sue, the world’s largest T Rex. I had read 2 books about her and felt I was in the presence of a movie star. The museum also had the hundred year old, taxidermied remains of two lions that terrified South Africa. They found a cave with their collection of human remains. A whole train was filled with Great White hunters. When they were killed, rugs were made on their skins. By the time they put them back together for display, they were much smaller. I had read all about them with fascination.

We spent one evening watching home movies on YouTube with Marion’s sister and the inevitable Chicago pizza.

We also visited my dad’s old buddy Bob Koester. He’s a Chicago music luminary. Dylan wants to learn everything he can about my dad. He wasn’t disappointed with Bob’s stories. Dylan was also impressed by the fact that Iggy Pop had once lived in Bob’s basement. There was a T-Shirt in Bob’s record store signed by Iggy that said, “The most generous guy I know!” Iggy said Koester was always attacking him in his autobiography I Need More.

We left Marion and Terry from The Field Museum on Sunday afternoon. Marion actually cried.

I’m going back with Valerie. I’m also going back with my daughter Chloe. She loves dinosaurs.

Marion’s sister wrote about Dylan and me in her blog. She changed our names. Check it out-----------

http://www.ohithinkso.blogspot.com/2012/04/but-you-dont-know-me.html

I took the pic of Marion, Terry and Dylan with my phone at The Field Museum.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fojammi






Sunday before last, after posting my blog, I went to my studio at Fojammi’s house. His home is a large, converted convent and my studio is in the chapel.

I knew something was up when I saw several people hanging around the front door. I asked why they were out there, but I knew the answer. There was no reason to be inside now. My brother, Danny Stefacek, had finally died in the middle of the night.

I walked in and found his wife Laura. She took me upstairs to see Danny who was in her bed. He had been in his own room through most of the ordeal. He had gotten so small, even his smallest daughter could have carried him there.

Danny’s eyes were open. I kissed his cold forehead and told Laura, “neither one of us was very emotional.” We both almost cried.

I had been planning what I was going to post for the last year and a half, but when it finally happened the wind was totally out of my sails. I’m having trouble talking about it now.

There were many Facebook entries about it and for some reason it made me a little angry. I felt like FB should have shut down in his memory. I know everyone loved him and felt compelled to share it. Maybe I just didn’t want to see his death confirmed.

About a month ago Danny had finally gotten fed up with the needles in his arm and pulled them out. It was a turning point. The hospice nurse said his body was already in the process of shutting down and he could only last a few days. Laura came the closest I’ve seen to crying.

Danny’s sister took me up to his room to see him. His face was barely exposed under the blankets. He said something I didn’t understand. I asked, “What?” His sister said, “He said he loved you.” I knew he did, but my mind wouldn’t let me process it.

I wanted to talk about the adventures and trouble we’d gotten into over the years, but I can’t. Every morning I start the day thinking, “Danny isn’t seeing this.”

Danny was incredibly lucky to have found Laura. I can’t begin to describe her sacrifice and devotion. It’s truly humbling.

Our last adventure was the Wax Theatricks Reunion. Tony Patti video taped it, and I’m assembling it right now. Danny had already produced about four songs and I’m picking up the project from there. It’s going well and I hope we have a party for its release.

Our original intention was to use it to promote a prog rock tour in Germany. There seems to be a market for it right now.

I was getting excited about being in a band again. So was Danny. I can’t believe we let all those years slip away.

Danny was the best song writer I’ve ever known. My son has been discovering his lyrics on the Name Magic LP. It was really a Wax Theatricks record, but we were breaking up at the time. Danny even described it as the sister record of the last Wax LP.

Danny left behind a huge body of work including graphics, literature and music.

I was able to get him to lay down piano tracks for unfinished Wax Theatricks songs. I hope we can finish them.

He was in the middle of 2 CDs. Tony got him to lay out the order of the songs and even found the lyrics on Danny’s laptop. I couldn’t believe the luck. Danny had already recorded the music tracks and he had a habit of incorporating the melodies in his piano parts. I thought this would be a cinch!

Danny’s studio is still up and it feels like his specter is in the room. His laptop was on and in the middle of the room.

Someone has stolen his laptop. I can’t tell you what a personal tragedy this is. He labored over his lyrics more than anything else. I found 2 songs printed out and he’d finished his voice work on one of the songs. I’m going to search his other computers, but Laura assures me they were all on the laptop.

I’m going to do my best to finish the recordings and start web sites for his art and prose. He was incredibly gifted and his work should be out there!

When he pulled the needle from his arm he was supposed to only last a couple of days. He lasted two weeks. His blood pressure was 120 over 60. He had the heart of a teenager. He had the heart of a lion!

He donated his body to St. Louis University Hospital. He insisted there be no funeral. Unfortunately the chemotherapy rendered all but his retinas useless for transplant.

Our friend Dan Holt posted his film Doctor Ignarantia on YouTube. It was made in 1982. Danny and I play Ignatz’s friends who freeload and steal his beer and food. We’re also in the dream sequence. My friend Sharon pointed out how great it was to hear Danny laugh. We were 23 or 24. We’re about 8 minutes into the film.

Check it out-------

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2TEsALEsXU

Everyone’s been thinking about what would be a fitting tribute. I intend to get his work out there which should speak for itself.

I would like to propose “Perform a random act of kindness for Fojammi” in whatever way works for you. Danny would not have approved of anything that caused stress.

Something small and beautiful------ like Danny.

Pics are----Danny's original referee profile pic for the St. Louis Arch Rivals---- Wax Theatricks plays Webster College Halloween '81 or '82---- the back cover of our last LP---- Danny's groomsmen at Graham Chapel-Wasington University. I think this was late '80s. Check out the flare bottom tuxes. Left to right---- Tracy Wynkoop, Dominic Schaeffer, Jimmy Voss, Fojammi, 2 guys I don't know (one of which is Laura's brother), and me---- Fojammi, Joanie Thomas, Stephen Martin and me circa 1985.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chicago



Eighteen years ago this past Friday, I hunched over a small table in a dark room, rubbing the head of a small, wet, bloody creature that changed my whole world. It seems like last month.

Dylan and I are going to Chicago next Friday. He’s always wanted to visit the Art Institute.

Most of my friends who lived there moved away years ago. I’m not really a big fan of Facebook, but there’s no arguing its good points. I’ve found friends I haven’t communicated with in years.

I simply posted, “who still lives in Chicago?” on the wall and got a lot of responses.

Dylan and I will be staying with my old buddies, Terry and Marion Boyd. (Thanks Suzy!)

The first time I went to Chicago was for my 8th grade graduation. I sat on the bus with my friend Ronald. At about 3:00 in the morning he pulled out a shaving kit (like he shaved!). He produced a can of warm beer which exploded upon opening. I thought we were going to be busted for sure.

My old girlfriend Pam used to argue this point with me, but Lake Michigan was my first experience of the ocean. The water’s horizon stretched across the whole skyline and was over my head. I fell backwards on the beach thinking the water would come crashing over my head.

Our class spent most of the day at the Museum of Science and Industry. It had taken on mythical proportions in my mind because I remembered stories my dad told me about the captured German U- Boat.

The submarine lived up to my wildest expectations!

My son has those same expectations of the Art Institute from my stories.

I’m pretty sure Terry worked at the local store in Laclede Town where I spent 8th grade, though I didn’t know it at the time. I got to know Terry years later when I tended bar at the Broadway Oyster Bar. His wife Marion invited my girlfriend Joanie and me for dinner because she wanted to test her cooking prowess on a couple of vegetarians. I remember we had black bean chili.

It seems like every time I’ve been to Chicago as an adult I looked up my dad’s old buddy Bob Koester. He a big deal record producer up there and he’s always been good for a great time. I’m sure I’ve posted about him earlier. He started in St. Louis with Delmar Records.

By the time I was 18, I’d already gotten into most of my trouble. Maybe Dylan skated past all that.

I can only hope!

Pics are my 8th grade graduation class and the card Valerie made for Dylan this year.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Conversations


I finally got an acoustic guitar I’d been waiting for this week. It took 2 months of shopping to settle on it. It ain’t easy finding a $500.00 guitar that’s worth recording.

There are a lot of cheap guitars that play well. Seagull, Simon & Patrick and Alvarez really stood out, but they all used composite woods that just didn’t really have the tone. For that matter, even Martin makes a cheap composite.

Epiphone makes a dreadnaught with a solid mahogany body, spruce top, and rosewood fret board for $500.00. I did something I swore I’d never do; I ordered one from Guitar Center. These supermarkets cater to parents who want t o spend a fortune on their kids, but have no idea how to do the necessary research.

I didn’t want to buy one on EBay because I wanted to play it first. Sure enough the strings buzzed when I ran through a few scales. I had their tech adjust the neck and all is well. The D string is a hair flat at the 12th fret, if anyone knows how I can adjust this, please comment! I think it’s only noticeable with a strobe tuner though.

My search began when I transferred my old 8mm films to digital. I found footage I took of my girlfriend Lora in the 70s.

Last year when we did the Wax Theatricks reunion, I dedicated the song Conversations to her. After the show Dominic told me he didn’t know I’d written it for her. Fojammi jumped in, “He sure did!” Danny was there during that whole period.

At that time, Danny, Dom and I were taking trips out to Sullivan to visit. She was dying.

The great thing was, we all had a chance to tell her how much we loved her. I just went through that experience with Danny, but Danny said it first.

Last fall we had a service for Lora in Forest Park. My friend Kay gave me 2 books I’d made for Lora as birthday presents. I posted The Oddity earlier and uploaded a flip book that ran through it on YouTube.

In the back of the book were the lyrics to Conversations. There are a few differences from the version the band did that were interesting. We recorded it for our last LP, but it was too fast. The band had a very excitable chemistry. Sometimes we wouldn’t even notice how fast we were playing. The performance was great though.

We’re thinking about rerecording it, if we do a studio CD. I’m in the process of recording a personal version for the film. That’s where the guitar comes in. I wasn’t happy with my guitar, I borrowed Danny’s daughter’s guitar, and I even borrowed my son’s Alvarez. Nothing worked!

My plan today is to finish the song. Tony Patti has agreed to help me finish the video. Danny was going to, but he’s dealing with other things at the moment.

Pic of Lora by Matt O'Shea

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Time


Last night Valerie and I drove out to Old Town St. Charles to go to a surprise party for my old boss at Quantum Leap Skydiving. I was swept back into a family I had almost forgotten about.

There’s a Quantum Leap FaceBook group. The pictures everyone posts are from back in the day. In my mind, everyone still looks that young. In person, I almost didn’t recognize a few dear friends.

I’m constantly amazed by how much can change in a few short years. From 1990 to 1993 my life was a total adventure. There was never time to look back. In 1993 I got married and my whole skydiving world changed.

I remember being invited to a hot tub party by a couple I was jumping with. It didn’t occur to me I couldn’t bring my infant son. Looking back, I’m embarrassed by how incensed I was.

I think the best way to illustrate the effect is to look at how much the Beatles changed from 1965 to 1967.

Right now my friends and I are facing a lot of looking back. We’re asking ourselves if our lives meant anything really. Some of us are gone and some of us are going. The important thing is we’re still there for each other. Maybe this will pass and we’ll start looking ahead again, the next round.

Something in me feels guilty for living on. I almost want the rest of my life to fizzle into emptiness so I can say my friends didn’t really miss anything.

The big question everyone was asking last night was, “when’s the last time you jumped?”

Archway Skydive Centre is closing because of legal problems. I started with them in Sparta, Illinois. I worked there for years. My skydiving wedding was there when they moved to Vandalia.

We’re having an Archway reunion in Taylorville, Illinois in August. My buddy Dan Cunningham is organizing it. He’s had to warn everyone there that will be a bunch of old timers who aren’t current. There are going to be some crazy large formations!

I earned my Jump Master rating up there. I’ll never forget the wild dancing around a bonfire as a pretty girl poured schnapps down my throat. The following night, I partied with her at the local bar and found out she was 17.

Everyone I knew in Taylorville is dead now.

The surprise party was for Jim Cowan. He and I got our J ratings together in Taylorville. He and his brother Scott were in the world champion CRW team Quantum Leap. They were world champs for years. From that, they were able to get the first SBA loan for a skydiving operation. They made skydiving legit.

Their dad Curly was also an old friend of mine. He was a regular when I tended bar at the Broadway Oyster Bar in the 80s. He used to run a drop zone in Washington Mo called Ripcords West. I know quite a few world champs and they all grew up on DZs.

I’m 54 and feel like I’m just now middle aged. I’m looking ahead as much as I’m looking back.

Pic is Quantum Leap over Busch Stadium back in the day.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Parker


Last summer I was at a birthday party in the Central West End. The conversation turned to “where are they now?” and the subject of David Parker came up.

David was one of the Laclede Town kids I grew up with. His stepfather Jack Parker ran O’Connell’s Pub in Gaslight Square. Now it’s at Shaw and Kingshighway.

The Parkers lived in the first circle on Lawton in Laclede Town. My family did, too.

David’s older brother Tommy was my age and I ran with him. David was my brother’s age and they ran around together. It seemed like most of the Laclede Town kids came in pairs like that. Dominic and Benet were part of that.

The Parkers left town once, and my brother and a bunch of his friends got into their house. They somehow caught a rug on fire. He must have been 5 or 6. Geo Ramsey was part of that group. David’s mom Pat decided my brother Patrick was the ringleader and banished him from their home. I’m not sure why she thought Patrick was their leader, but several years later when the Parkers moved to the Central West End, he still wasn’t allowed in the house.

She would always refer to him as “that troubled child of yours” to my mother.

Tommy is a vet now. Years ago, he put down my brother’s dog Saloon who had a severe case of heartworm. My brother ended up with the dog when my dad died.

The day it happened, Patrick bought Saloon a steak and played with him all day before he took him to Tommy. It was heart breaking.

Anyway, when we were talking about David at the party, it came out that he was in prison in Nicaragua. It had something to do with psychological abuse involving his wife. Knowing David, it didn’t seem that hard to believe his behavior might have been taken that way by someone who didn’t really know him, but his wife?

There has always been a bit of arrogance on David’s part. First of all, what’s he doing in Nicaragua? I guess it might be a natural place for an old lefty like him, but you take your chances in a foreign culture.

Before I moved away from home, he was visiting my apartment in Soulard. To show me how meaningless money was to him, he tore up a twenty dollar bill. I could only think about the rent we were having trouble paying.

Local televangelist Larry Rice was preaching late one night on TV to the homeless people at his New Life Evangelistic Center. I saw David in the audience. I’m pretty sure David’s a trust fund kid, at least he’s not hurting financially. He was there to be part of the cause. I myself have sent Larry money for attorney’s fees for certain causes.

I left a phone in my name when I moved out of an apartment in the 70s. Dominic and David moved in. David ran up a bill calling his biological dad in Europe. It was hundreds of dollars and I had to pay it off. Right about that same time, he fronted us money to complete our first LP!

He used to wear half a mustache, completed by half a beard on the opposite side of his face.

He became a jazz pianist and I ran sound for his group once at St. Louis’ City Hall. It was on a landing of a huge cascading set of stairs. It sounded like they were in a cave. It seems like every sound gig I’ve ever had was like that. I had to run sound for Patty Thomas’ benefit at the Casa Loma ballroom. The place was not meant for electricity!

So here’s why I’m recalling all of this; I got a call from a prison in Nicaragua two days ago.

David told me he wanted to find my brother. He had heard he wasn’t doing well. He didn’t have time to go into the details of his incarceration because his phone card was going to run out at any minute. We had quite a lengthy conversation anyway.

He wants everyone to know he’s innocent of the charges and that he loves and thinks about everyone in St. Louis.

I asked him how long he’s going to be there. He said they won’t tell him anything until he goes in front of the judge. He can’t see the judge until he gets an attorney. He says Nicaragua is so riddled with corruption, he can’t afford an attorney. The U.S. Consulate is corrupt, too.

When he gets out, he intends to expose everyone. I hope he’s being quiet about all of this right now or he’s never getting out. I can’t imagine he is though.

A couple of weeks ago, when Fojammi was still capable of talking about anything, I told him about Pat Parker still holding a grudge against my brother. He told me Pat had died, but she had married a second time. He was some kind of Celt and an unapologetic folkie. I love that description. Apparently he’s dead too but Danny really loved him.

Anyway, this is the public announcement I promised David.

I couldn’t find any pictures of David. This pic is from Parade Magazine circa 1966. It’s the first circle in Laclede Town. My house was the first, just off picture to the right. The 2 story behind the VW was my friend Raymond’s place. The 3 story next to it on the left was where the Martinez’ lived. When my friend Rommy was being bathed as a baby, I learned the difference between boys and girls. To the left is where Geo Ramsey lived. The 3 story to the left of that is where the Parkers lived. This is the place my brother and his pals set on fire.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hell on Wheels


Anyone with a teenage child will recognize the horror in this photo.

My daughter Chloe turned sixteen on Valentine’s Day. Two days later, she called to tell me she got her driver’s license on her first try. Two days after that, she called to brag about her new car.

My son Dylan and I both failed on our first attempts.

It didn’t really sink in until Dylan called to tell me he and his sister were going to the grocery store. I said, “Remind Chloe, her soda contains a flame retardant and try to find some healthy vegetables.” “No, you don’t understand,” he said, “just Chloe and I are going!”

A sense of dread almost left me breathless. Chloe was driving. I imagined her texting while driving through a red light into a group of pre-school pedestrians.

The time span of her first driving experience is pretty similar to what mine had been. The difference is, I had already been working for two years and had to buy my own car.

“Wild Life” was a black Pontiac station wagon with a red interior.

On one of my hitch hiking journeys to the east, I left her with my brother. “Don’t forget to top off the oil every couple of days,” I instructed. When I got back to town, Wild Life had thrown a rod. ------- I still grieve.

The big difference these days is the mandatory liability insurance. I could never have come up with that when I was a teenager. Even with a job.

My ex and I were supposed to have a deal with our kids that they’d be working to pay their own insurance. I couldn’t afford it anyway.

Chloe somehow convinced her mom that she would have a job in a few days if her mother could just front a couple of the payments.

My son is so opposed to getting a job; he’s resolved not to drive at all. After all, a lot of my friends don’t drive. My friend Fojammi has successfully made it through his entire life without a license. My son likes to think of himself as a tough urban kid and urban kids take the subway, don’t they? They don’t run very often around here though!

A lot of my friends didn’t drive for years, but it’s impossible to live in the Midwest without a car.

Dylan’s about to turn eighteen, and I think that might put him in a cheaper insurance demographic. He does have his permit, and let me tell you, it’s been a life saver when we come home from one of our Soulard parties, probably literally.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cover Music


I have one last Jon Cotton post.

We didn’t start out as song writers. In fact, what we played depended more on our abilities than our taste.

We were playing Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Allman Brothers, Canned Heat, Jethro Tull, Spirit, Cream, and more. If we were capable of playing it, we considered it fantastic music.

I was very lucky that, Dominic could pick out just about anything on the guitar and show it to me. I’m still amazed at how quickly he picked up the flute. His sister had one, he decided we needed a flute player, and there you have it.

Somewhere along the line we found a couple of clarinets. I used to step outside Dom and Benet’s Laclede Town townhouse and use the pay phone on the corner to call my mom or girlfriend.

I was out there one night improvising strange scales on one of them when there was an answer in the distance from the other. We concocted a really interesting piece as Dom marched over to join me.

Across the street, a hippie couple sat in the grass marveling at our music. Ron and Lisa became good friends and when I was 17, Dom and I hitchhiked to New York to stay with them for a while. I think we left with two bucks.

Just after we write Webster Hangover, John Steffen left the band. He was in the process of becoming a priest.

The Schaeffer’s long time friend, Jimmy Hill joined the band as bassist.

My friend Gary Peek has always been sensitive about music without bass and he was quick to point out its absence in Webster Hangover. That’s probably because he plays one.

Jimmy was into Jazz and had us playing Killer Joe almost immediately. He was also funny as Hell.

I not sure how long he was in the band or why he left, but he was replaced by Tracy Wynkoop and the rest is Earwacks history.

Jimmy has been working for the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s Barney Frank. Frank just retired, so maybe I should find out if he wants to get back in a band.

This recording is the band paying Jethro Tull’s Driving Song. I found it on the back of the same cassette Webster Hangover is on. It’s pretty accurate if I do say so myself, right down to Ian Anderson’s flute vamps at the end.

I don’t really have enough old pics to choose from and I used footage from some of my old films.

Check it out---------

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrd743wpgQo