The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good News

As I reported in the previous post, Joyce went in the hospital last Friday morning with double pneumonia. We learned later (today) that she was also in a state of "septic shock" at the time, a state which, as this wiki article explains, is not a very good condition to be in. 

Septic shock is a medical emergency caused by decreased tissue perfusion and oxygen delivery as a result of severe infection and sepsis.... It can cause multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (formerly known as multiple organ failure) and death.[1] Its most common victims are children, immunocompromised individuals, and the elderly, as their immune systems cannot deal with the infection as effectively as those of healthy adults. Frequently, patients suffering from septic shock are cared for in intensive care units. The mortality rate from septic shock is approximately 25%-50%.[1]

After a day in intensive care, she was, or so we thought, out of danger, and they moved her to a regular hospital ward. She spent Sunday and Monday there and seemed to be improving enough that the doctor told us she would probably go home Tuesday morning. But Tuesday morning after a short walk, she had difficulty getting her breath. The doctor decided to do another x ray which showed a fluid build up in the lungs and around the heart. Joyce's oncologist called in a pulmonary specialist who removed the lung fluid. 

She immediately began to feel much better, but both doctors told us that the treatment for septic shock (antibiotics, dopamine, lots of IV fluids) can sometimes lead to congestive heart failure. There was also apparently a possibility that there was more cancer they hadn't known about. We worried about both of these frightening possibilities Tuesday afternoon and night, but on Wednesday morning finally got good news. The fluid build up around the heart was "residue" (my word, not the doctors') from all the IV injections she received in the ER and the CC unit. It had not resulted from congestive heart failure or some unknown cancer. 

Her lungs are already clear and the fluid build up is gradually being eliminated by means of lasix pills. She said she felt better this afternoon than she had since she started chemotherapy back in February. The doctor told us today that she'd be coming home in the morning (Thursday, March 31).  

Her oncologist will meet with us on her next scheduled chemotherapy day (Tuesday, April 5) and after an examination, determine how to proceed with the chemotherapy. 

I told her that I had put up a post about her ordeal and that several had commented and offered their support and prayers. She was amazed and touched that people she'd never met from as far away as Canada, Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and New York were pulling for her. Deb, Paul, Buck, Andy, and Cookie--thanks for thinking about us! (Thanks also to Scooney and George who have sent her similar good wishes via email and/or phone from the Ridge and Montana.)  

Joyce is more determined than ever now to beat this disease and asked me to convey our heartfelt thanks to all of you for your thoughts and prayers during this setback. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Joyce and I have both been feeling run down for the past couple of weeks, her much more than I. 

But on Tuesday of this week she went in for her 4th round of chemotherapy. We had thought it would the 4th and final I-V drip of what the patients call Big Red, but her doctor said he frequently gives only 3 doses of BR and that in Joyce's case, because she was anemic (the reason she's felt so weak), he thought it best to move on to the next phase of the chemotherapy involving the drug Paclitaxol (commonly referred to as Taxol). It is thought by many to be "easier" to deal with than the BR but others have had difficulties with it. Side effects include reducing the immune system's abilities to fight off infection and joint and bone pain.

Joyce felt pretty bad Wednesday after the treatment with aches and pains most of the day. We were monitoring her temp all along, and on Friday she woke to a temp of 103.7. We double checked it and then  immediately called in. The doctor's nurse said to get her to the ER, which we did very quickly.

After a couple of hours in ER they determined that besides the high temp, she was anemic, had a very low Blood Pressure reading of 77 over 43, and had pneumonia. They gave her something for the fever, put her on 2 antibiotics immediately, and a Dopamine drip for the low BP. Wikipedia says, 

Dopamine is available as an intravenous medication acting on the sympathetic nervous system, producing effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.

The drug worked effectively (Joyce said she her heart sped up so fast that she felt like she was having a heart attack), but because she needed to stay on the dopamine for awhile, they put her in the critical care area of the hospital (apparently it's the only area besides the ER where they can administer dopamine). The nurses and others responsible for her care there were very, very good. Her BP stabilized, her pneumonia improved and  so yesterday evening (Saturday) around supper time they moved her out of critical care and up to another area of the hospital She ate a good supper and was doing much, much better when I left last night. She's continuing to receive an antibiotic IV and her other regular meds.

The nurses think she'll be in the hospital until Monday at least, possibly Tuesday, which is her next scheduled chemotherapy day. We're not sure about exactly what will happen with that or for how much longer she'll remain in the hospital, but she is doing much, much better. 

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

1954 Dodge Royal, Part I

I turned 14 in April of 1954 when I was in the 8th grade at Dan Mills Elementary School in Nashville. A lot happened that year. Here's an abbreviated list:

The U.S. tests a hydrogen bomb...
Supreme Court declares segregation in public schools unconstitutional...
Operation Wetback sends almost 4 million back to Mexico...
U. S. outlaws Communist party...
France throws in towel in Vietnam...
Words "under God" added to pledge of allegiance...
Rationing finally ends in England...
Three hurricanes hit U. S. in one year (Hazel one of worst of 20th century)...
First nuclear sub commissioned: USS Nautilus...
Boeing 707 takes maiden flight...
Tolkien publishes "Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship" and "the Two Towers"...
RCA all electronic color TV goes on sale ($1000)...
Swanson introduces TV dinners...
"White Christmas" premieres...
Joe Dimaggio marries Marilyn Monroe...
Elvis Presley releases his first record...

Listen to that first Elvis release, a rockin' "That's All Right Mama"

I read the Nashville Banner most everyday (and the Sunday Tennessean) and probably was aware of some of those events above. But, like most people, especially 14 year old boys, my mind was mostly on other things. I was definitely noticing girls and cars and I was thinking about what High School at Litton would be like. I definitely heard Elvis sing "That's All Right Mama" several times that year, probably played by Wayne the Brain on WMAK (or was it WKDA?)

At the time our family car was a 47 Plymouth Deluxe 4 door sedan (it was gray, not blue like the one in the pic). I liked the looks of it, lots of chrome on the dash and a nice center tail light on the trunk lid, even though I noticed it didn't stack up against the neighbors' big '53 Olds 88, the massive twin scoop grille of which I saw every morning when I looked out my window. Our aging Deluxe at 7 years old had lost most of its "luxe," and it was beginning to smoke.

One day Dad came in from a run (he was an independent truck driver--cabover White, 40' single axle trailer) and announced that after he got his sleep in, we were going out to get a new car. A Dodge. He didn't need to look at anything else.

This was news to all of us. Mother went into a panic about the cost of a new car and he spent some time easing her mind. She knew the old Plymouth was on its last legs. My brother David and I went running outside to find the neighborhood kids to brag to them about our good news. I don't know what went into Dad's decision making process; he always played any decision close to his vest, but it's very possible that he saw an ad one weekend on our 17" black and white Motorola TV. An ad like this

Or, maybe a magazine he was reading caught his eye.

Whatever convinced him, I'll never know. But I think he made a really nice choice. The one we got was not green, like in the ad above, but it was a top of the line Royal. It was wine red with a cream colored top. A real beauty. Clean, tight lines, properly proportioned, esthetically balanced, right out of the Virgil Exner design studios at Chrysler Corporation. Unfortunately it had no radio. Quite roomy inside but surprisingly small outside, if you look at one today. And one other thing, it had a 150hp Red Ram V8 with Powerflyte. It was a Hemi.

Chrysler had introduced the Hemi called a Firepower V8 on its top of the line cars in 1951. They used the knowledge they picked up when they built engines for the P47 Thunderbolt and the Patton tank during WWII.

This Royal was the car I solidified my driving skill in, had my first dates in, and filled up with .27 cent gas. I'll be telling more about this car in Part II, how our family took it to NY to visit my Aunt and Uncle that summer in 1954, how I raced it under an assumed name at Union Hill in 1958 (actually it wasn't much of a race), and got it up to 95 once on a TX highway in the moonlight that same summer. I'll tell about those stories and about how the car came to be mine at the end of my senior year of college.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Whiskey in the Jar

I'm a day late (and a dollar short), but here's one a' me favorite Irish songs ta celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It's by the Dubliners.

Whiskey in the Jar

As I was a goin' over the far famed Kerry mountains
I met with captain Farrell and his money he was counting
I first produced my pistol and I then produced my rapier
Saying "Stand and deliver" for he were a bold deceiver

Mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a da
Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o
There's whiskey in the jar

I counted out his money and it made a pretty penny
I put it in me pocket and I took it home to Jenny
She sighed and she swore that she never would deceive me
But the devil take the women for they never can be easy


I went up to my chamber, all for to take a slumber
I dreamt of gold and jewels and for sure 't was no wonder
But Jenny blew me charges and she filled them up with water
Then sent for captain Farrell to be ready for the slaughter


't was early in the morning, just before I rose to travel
Up comes a band of footmen and likewise captain Farrell
I first produced me pistol for she stole away me rapier
I couldn't shoot the water, so a prisoner I was taken


Now there's some take delight in the carriages a rolling
and others take delight in the hurling and the bowling
but I take delight in the juice of the barley
and courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early


If anyone can aid me 't is my brother in the army
If I can find his station in Cork or in Killarney
And if he'll go with me, we'll go rovin' through Killkenny
And I'm sure he'll treat me better than my own a-sporting Jenny


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scooney and Dapper Dan's Big Adventure: Nashville Custom Auto Show, Part I

Last Saturday, ridge runner Scooney and yours truly took a little ride down to the Nashville Fairgrounds to take in the Hunters Custom Auto Show. I enjoy viewing custom cars, but when all is said and done, I prefer classics, especially from the '50s, either original or restored.

We paid our $10 at the door, turned right and walked past a garish orange custom Willys (the color was garish, but the car was a dreamsicle), turned left and saw what was IMHO the star of the show, a wine red (probably not the GM official name of the color) 1955 Buick Century convertible. Not a custom, but a true classic beauty. It even had those classy and sexy Kelsey Hayes wire wheels.

Scooney and I drooled over the car as I took a couple of pics and then we noticed the info card that identified the owner: Bob Bell. I knew two Bob Bells, one was a sportscaster on Nashville TV in the '80s that I didn't really know and the other one was a guy I went to high school with. We walked around back of the car and I recognized him immediately: Bob Bell, who graduated from Isaac Litton High School the same year I did, 1958. He was with his wife Ellen. 

Bob told us that he'd just bought the car a couple of weeks earlier and planned to drive the car but that he suspected it had been trailered and pampered and not driven much. I understand why some people who've worked very hard on restoring a car want to pamper it and not drive it, but I personally like the idea of driving it. That's what they were made for  in the first place. And a gorgeous car like this Century needs to be driven around to remind people today what "real" automobile design was all about. Take a look at that sweepspear of chrome and then look above it, at the subtle little sculpted matching curve right where the beltline dips. That is sweet.  

There's a lot of chrome (it is the '50s remember), but in '55, the Buick stylists were not excessive with the chrome, and they used it very tastefully. 

Here's a rear view of Bob's Buick. You've heard the expression, "baby's got back," right? Well, this baby has back and then some.

We had a long talk with Bob, who's reconnected me to my old high school classmates via the Litton website and the Class of '58 Newsletter. It was great to see him and his wife and to hear about this beautiful Buick. I think I remember Bob saying he has some more classic cars and if I can arrange it, maybe I can get some pics of those to post here at a later time. 

Scooney and I enjoyed our big adventure and I have a lot more pics of the show to post later, including one where Scooney is actually drooling over a red C 2 Corvette. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Keep on Cookin' -- Carolyn Martin

Carolyn Martin, previously a vocalist with the legendary western swing group, the Time Jumpers, has a new solo album out, "Cooking with Carolyn." It's got some great western swing tracks. The sidemen on this one just knock my socks off. Let's melt some butter in a pan...

Don't you want another piece of hot buttered cornbread? Here's Carolyn with the Time Jumpers back in 2007 at the Station Inn in Nashville, a great place to go for good live music in the Music City. That "Pizza 'N Bud" sign in the background sounds pretty good, too.

Finally, for dessert, this is an impromptu performance by Carolyn at the 2009 WMA. Yeah, I know. There's some distracting low level background noise, and it's a little rough around the edges. But just listen to these three ladies sing. Sometimes the unplanned, the spontaneous is better than the rehearsed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Things

1. Joyce had a follow up visit with her surgeon yesterday and she got a good report too. Because her oncologist extended her interval between chemo treatments from 2 to 3 weeks, she says she's enjoying the extra week of feeling at least half way like a human being. She goes in for her 4th and final dose of "Big Red" next Tuesday and after a couple of weeks will move into the second phase of treatment which involves a different drug, taxil.

2. When we were coming home from her third treatment two weeks ago, we stopped for a sandwich at a drive in. The Avalon failed again. The car was running fine. I turn it off for a minute and then it won't even turn over--dead as the proverbial doornail. That makes the second time in two months. The dealer can't find the problem. Guess if Joyce feels okay Thursday, we might look around for a new car. How does an Infiniti G37 coupe sound to you? Or maybe one of those Hyundai Genesis coupes? I'll keep you posted.

3. Just returned from a Dr. visit myself for a coumadin level check up. Remember my clot, back in August? Try as I may, I haven't been able to forget it. It's been 6 months now and the doc said I should go 2 more weeks on 1/2 a coumadin pill then stop. That's good news. I should then double my baby asprin dose. I go back in 2 months to make sure my blood isn't as thick as Mrs. Butterworth's syrup because of all those cheeseburgers and the slabs of cheesy pizza I eat on a daily basis. :-)

4. I changed my header pic today. I know, I'm probably rushing things. This is from last spring, but I'm using it. It's a chilly 48 and the sky is that Nashville gray, but everything looks good for Thursday, 70 and sunshine, so I felt like going for it. Brightens things up a bit at the old Post.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cox Family Sunday

The Cox Family. From Wiki: The singing group comprises father Willard, son Sidney, and daughters Evelyn and Suzanne. Their distinctive sound derives from a combination of Country,bluegrass, and gospel styles....The Cox Family first began performing regularly together at fairs and festivals in 1976[1], though an earlier performance can be heard in the 1974 version of Broken Engagement which appears on Beyond the City (1995). Their career was given a big boost when in the early '90s they met Alison Krauss, who brought them to the attention of Rounder Records
Beautiful Boquet
Standing by the Bedside of a Stranger

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2 Young'uns: Aldean and Corbin

Jason Aldean is 34 years old, which makes him a young'un to me. He's got some of that rock vibe but his soul is country. Wiki says
Since 2005, Aldean has recorded for Broken Bow Records, an independent record label for which he has released four albums and twelve singles. His 2005 self-titled debut and 2009 album Wide Open are both certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), while 2007's Relentless is certified gold. Of his singles, five have reached the number one position on the Hot Country Songs charts: "Why", "She's Country", "Big Green Tractor", "The Truth", and "Don't You Wanna Stay" (a duet with Kelly Clarkson), and six more have reached top ten on the same chart.
His video of "Hicktown" has had almost 5 million views on YouTube, which puts him almost in the same ballpark as the traffic here at the Cumberland Post. Almost, but not quite. Well, he's young, and he'll eventually get there.

Easton Corbin. Country Weekly says his name sounds like a corporation. And it does, maybe a giant agribusiness group of some kind. Truth is, Corbin, 27, really does have a degree in agribusiness from the University of Florida. But he's not using that degree too much these days. He struck paydirt with his first single, "A Little More Country Than That." The debut song went to #1 in April of lat year, the first time a male country singer's debut single has done that since Dierks Bentley's "What Was I Thinkin'" back in 2003.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fabulous Friday Features

I got around to my regular blog reads yesterday but didn't have time to comment. So I've got some catching up today and I'll do it first here as a post.

Scooney the Switch Man. My buddy Scooney's still drifting along up on the ridge, waiting for sun to get warmer, and waiting for brown grassy stuff in his yard to turn green so he can straddle a new John Deere and make everything better. In the meantime, he's got a great post up about his days as a switch man on the IC RR. He explains why he left that job pretty damn fast, and I definitely think he made the right choice.

Buck Still Standing. Buck is still exiled in Portales, NM. I think exile means that there's some place you can't go back to, but I'm not sure where that is in Buck's case. He probably explained it all in a post that he put up before I started reading his blog. Anyway, Buck is living large in his Manor di Movil. (BTW, Buck, I just remembered, my next door neighbors as I grew up in the Inglewood section of Nashville were named Pennington; they were good people.) Before the tragic Japanese Tsunami story broke, Buck had a great music post yesterday following a "stand" thread. All three selections work for me, even though he wanted Lyle Lovett's version of "Stand by Your Man" instead of Tammy's, but the embedding was blocked. I haven't heard Lyle's version, but I'll look for it later.

Deb and Atar. Deb at Murphy and Other Stories has a great post about a wonderful dog named Atar. This dog not only sniffed out narcotics (and thus the bad guys dealing them), he worked as a search and rescue dog as well. Because of a number of injuries and many long years of service, Atar will soon be retiring to Waterton Lakes National Park. Note to Deb; the handler should've worn a Predators' jersey during those quarry training sessions. Nothing like a good pseudo hockey town's jersey to get a good Canadian dog ticked off.

George and the Gil Hodges Baseball Card. My buddy George up in Montana doesn't post too often, but when he does, it's a winner. This one from late February is entitled "I Remember, Do You?" and is a nostalgic slide show with a "Lost in the '50s Tonight" soundtrack. Good stuff.

What's on the Cook Shack Menu?  I stopped by the Cook Shack yesterday for a snack and a laugh or two and discovered that Cookie had given yours truly a link and a great promo on my book, and had honored me by posting me in the company of his two old friends, the Chief (a retired Marine) and Subvet (a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer). Thanks Cookie. I'm inviting all my blog buds to stop by the Cook Shack for a full meal. Like Cookie says in the sidebar, "Ya'll better eat at the Cook Shack...or I'll pump your sorry ass's fulla lead." Cookie was a sub-sailor so I'm posting this poster I stole off his blog. That's him in his younger days with that beautiful young thang in the picture to the left; if you want to see what Cookie looks like today, visit his site. He's got whiskers and wears a great cowboy hat!

Andy's Name That Film Gets Red Herring Award. Yesterday, Thursday I might add, Andy had a post up in which he wanted you to guess a movie title by means of a few clues that he sprinkled around. Well those clues were not really clues at all; they were Red Herrings. You coulda spent hours tracking down trails that led you nowhere slowly. Not that I did that or anything. Turns out the movie was Big Wednesday (see, I tole ya, right from the start he's posting about a movie called Big Wednesday ona Thursday), starring those magnificent thespians Jan Michael Vincent, Gary Busey, and William Katt. Ironically, in today's post Andy says he's giving up meat for Lent. Well Andy, I've got just the fish for you. Here's your Super Blogger Red Herring Award. Enjoy it Dude.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Murder on Music Row

Most country music fans are familiar with the famous George Strait and Alan Jackson duet "Murder on Music Row," written by Larry Shell and Larry Cordle. The "murder" in the song was the symbolic killing of traditional country music by modern producers and artists who have murdered the genre by turning it into a pop medium.

In 1989, however, there was a real murder on Music Row. John Clore, music industry worker in the areas of marketing and publicity, at Clore Chronicles provides some information on this event as does Fox News Cold Case Files.

In March, twenty two years ago, Cashbox magazine researcher Kevin Hughes was killed outside a recording studio on Music Row in what some have called an execution style murder. His friend, aspiring country singer Sammy Sadler was also severely wounded in the same attack. Detectives slowly built a case against Richard D'Antonio, who also worked for Cashbox at the time, as the trigger man. The police suspected Tony D, as he was called, and Chuck Dixon, another Cashbox employee, of running a scam operation in which star struck wannabe singers paid them money for pushing their song up the Cashbox rankings. Hughes, who wanted to take a more scientific approach to the Cashbox rankings, either threatened to expose D'Antonio or at the very least resisted their attempts to involve him in the scheme.

The case was stalled for several years but eventually police were able to pressure a known associate of D'Antonio into giving them information about the gun and ammunition used in the attack. Finally, in 2003, Richard D’Antonio, living in Las Vegas at the time, was caught, tried, and convicted of first degree murder (for killing Hughes) and intent to commit second degree murder (the wounding of Sadler). Hughes had apparently refused to take bribes related to the ranking of country songs on his magazine's charts. 

And what happened to Sammy Sadler? An article by Mario Tarradell in the Dallas Morning News, November 14, 2009, provides the rest of the story. The article appears on Sammy's blog:
Mr. Sadler, meanwhile, struggled to regain footing. He was the guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. He toured for years after recovering from the shooting, which remained unsolved for more than a decade. When the strain affected him most, he worked with his father in a drywall construction business they still co-own.
Now single, he has no children and lives with his parents on a 58-acre farm in Bonham. He also released Heart Shaped Like Texas, on E1 Music, formerly Koch Entertainment.
Here's a great song from the Heart Shaped Like Texas album--"In America." It definitely sounds like a hit song to me, and in my opinion Sammy Sadler has paid more than enough dues to earn one. I wish him tremendous success with the song and the album, and continued success as he pursues his dream.

I posted this same post yesterday on Country Dirt; if you have a comment about this story, I would greatly appreciate your leaving it over there. I'm gradually building a little traffic at the Dirt site and a comment or two over there would make things look a little more active should anyone new want to leave a comment too. I guess this is the blog version of priming the pump. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Something Happened When We Weren't Looking

It rained over the weekend, but before that we had 2 or 3 days of sunshine. At this time of year, these things can happen without your knowing about it. Almost overnight. I saw them first on Friday.

I may need to change the pic at the top of my blog soon. This kinda sorta might possibly could mean spring (I had to qualify the hell out of that prediction since TN in March is extremely unpredictable). The strong weekend rain beat the buttercups down, but they were back up yesterday. And they are beautiful, if I do say so myself.

In the last stanza of Wordsworth's "Daffodils" he speaks of the value of such scenes to the "inward eye." Before film cameras and digital pixelated images, one could, by using his powers of memory and imagination, conjure up the beauty again. We gained something from those devices, but we may have lost something, too.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading Is Food

Reading Food. Reading is like food to me. I have to do it to survive. And I love consuming the nourishing matter that it's comprised of, whether it be digital or ink on the printed page. Here's a couple of things that sated my appetite this morning.

1. We Need You Gabe Kotter. Professors/administrators involved in Tennessee teacher training programs are in a tizzy--make that Tizzy, with a capital "T." An article by Jennifer Brooks in this morning's Tennessean, "Teachers College Oppose Rankings," describes the uproar in TN that US News & World Report has created by deciding to begin ranking Teachers Colleges around the country. It's an excellent article and maintains a neutral POV. Here's where the TN Teachers Colleges stand:
In a letter to U.S. News and World Report, signed by the deans of almost every teacher training school in the state, the Tennessee Association of Colleges for Teacher Education wrote that the planned report card "is not likely to produce meaningful results and possibly could do great harm as it is conceived."
And here's a response by the group working with USN&WR on the ranking:
"Tennessee just boycotted us entirely," said Kate Walsh, president of the council, which is planning to evaluate 1,000 schools across the country. "Our intention is to identify the schools that offer the best preparation at the best price. … The good schools will have customers driven toward them."
Teachers are at least partly in the business of evaluation. After you cut through all the BS about the "criteria of the evaluation," etc., then you have to see that their refusing to be evaluated is not a good sign.

The inescapable inference to draw from this story is best summed up by this quotation, the last paragraph:
 While some schools performed well, in general, the report found that Teach for America, a program that takes non-education majors and places them in the classroom after a few months of training, was achieving better results than the graduates of most Tennessee education colleges.  
I followed the link provided in the story to the bi partisan Education Consumers Foundation info about Teach for America. Read it, and if you're a Tennessean, make that an American, concerned about the deterioration of public education in the U.S. today, you'll be very upset with these programs that turn out teachers for our public schools. Real reform has to start with Teacher Education programs, with the training of the people who end up teaching our kids.

2. Targeting Muslims? I'm also following the run up to the hearings being held this week by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., on Islamic radicalization.  A Fox News story explains that CAIR is pretty hot about this and is leading the effort to stop the hearings, accusing King of unfairly targeting muslims. Here's a quotation from the story that got my attention:
There has been a string of terror cases involving U. S. citizens in recent years. Justice Department data obtained by Fox News shows there has been a "class one" terrorism case--the highest designation for a terrorism case--involving a U. S. citizen every two weeks, on average, since January 2009.
It's pretty clear to me King should go forward with his hearings. I'd say the same if the religion involved were Christian Catholics or Baptists for that matter. If you are suspected of encouraging or subsidizing or assisting in any way, deliberate attempts by individuals or a group to harm the U. S. or its citizens, whether successful or not, then, at the very least, be prepared to defend yourself and your beliefs in a public hearing.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ernest Tubb: The Nashville Shooting Incident

Judging him by today's country music stars, you might think Ernest Tubb was square and old fashioned. But, truth be told, Tubb (1914-1984) had a wild side and was one of the biggest stars of his time. Born in Crisp, TX, ET was inspired to be a singer by the great Jimmy Rodgers. (BTW, Crisp, which is a ghost town now, is a great name for a town to be from, dontcha think?)

Background. In 1941 (the year of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), his 6th Decca release "Walking the Floor Over You" made him a country music star of the first magnitude. It put him in the same league as Roy Acuff. By today's standards he would have been keeping company with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw.

Musta been a good singer, right? Nope. Not really. ET even dissed his own voice. According to Wiki, Tubb "actually mocked his own singing. He told an interviewer that 95 percent of the men in bars would hear his music on the juke box and say to their girlfriends, 'I can sing better than him,' and Tubb added they would be right." Maybe with average looks and a below average voice, he was one of those stars the average Joe can be comfortable with, like contemporary film star Kevin Costner (at least in the beginning of his career). 

But Tubb's voice was very distinctive, and that was one key to his success. Another key was his penchant for surrounding himself with some of Nashville's best sidemen. The first sideman of note in his band was guitarist Jimmy Short; others were steel guitar masters Jerry Byrd and Tommy "Butterball" Paige.

Jazz musician Billy Byrd (no relation to Jerry) joined Tubbs' Troudadors in 1949. Here's a YouTube video of his most famous tune, "Walking the Floor over You." It was recorded sometime after Byrd joined Tubb's band. Listen as Ernest introduces Billy at the break with his famous "Awwwwww Billy Byrd now." And if you listen closely at the end of the break, you'll hear Billy's famous four note jazzy riff that became, as wiki says, "synonymous with Tubb's songs."

(Parenthetical side-man notes, from Wiki: "Billy Byrd... actually a jazz [and classically trained musician]--no relation to Jerry--remained with Tubb until 1959.")

One of ET's most famous post WWII songs was "A Rainbow at Midnight." Recorded in 1946, you can see why this song has been a favorite of military veterans since its release; it reached number 5 on the Juke Box Folk chart that year. (This one goes out to my brother Dave, a Vietnam vet, and any other blogger vets who might be tuned in here at the Post.)

Probably about now, you're asking what's the story on this shooting incident. Okay, hold your britches. I'm coming to it.

Ernest Tubb's Nashville Shooting Incident. In his book Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubador, Ronnie Pugh says that the great country singer had serious difficulties with alcohol. When Tubb got drunk, he acted like a rock star. He wanted to smash something. He would get so drunk and rowdy that he'd kick the windows out of his limo. This was such a problem, that they hired a big husky country boy named Don Davis to wrestle Tubb down to the floorboard when he got drunk enough to start kicking at the glass. Davis, about 18 at the time, also played steel guitar.

Alcohol was also said to be a contributing factor to his divorce in the early '40s.

And it played a significant role in one of Tubb's most famous dustups, the heretofore mentioned Nashville Shootout.

In 1957 Tubb had some kind of feud with producer Jim Denny. The singer, drunk at the time of the incident, walked into the National Life building's corridor in downtown Nashville and fired a .357 magnum. It must have sounded like a bazooka in that corridor. He apparently went to the building with the intent to shoot Denny. Denny, a big time Nashville producer and the gatekeeper at the Grand Ole Opry, was NOT in the corridor at the time. Tubb, however, thought he saw Denny and took the shot.

Luckily, Tubb's aim wasn't too good, or maybe he was just too drunk to aim the gun properly. Here's Wiki's note on this: "Tubb shot at the wrong man but did not hit anyone. He was arrested and charged with public drunkeness." Drunk and firing a gun in a public place? Whoa. And what about this: you can find very little mention of it in newspapers and magazines of the time. Today, if we were talking about Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney taking a drunken potshot at somebody, the paparzzi and other bottom feeders would suck on this story for months.

I haven't been able to nail down the nature of Tubb's beef with Denny (if you know what they were feuding about, put your info in the comments, and I'll credit you and add it to the post). But several statements others made over the years about the producer suggest that Denny, a hall of fame member himself and as noted, a powerful record producer at the time, was the kind of guy who had made a few enemies in Nashville as well.

According to one source, "Denny was a hard-nosed businessman whose charismatic personality and devotion to his acts and songs earned him respect and devotion— sometimes tinged with fear— from artists, writers, and others with whom he did business ."

Here's a little background on Denny himself. He was the one who called Hank Williams, Sr. at home in 1952 to tell he was fired from the Opry.

Denny also booked Elvis Presley on the Opry in '54, and after his performance told the young man he wasn't going anywhere and he ought to "go back to truck driving."

To cite another example, Johnny Cash biographer Michael Streissguth reports that Cash had a very humiliating experience with Denny. It occurred soon after Cash's 1956 hit "I Walk the Line" reached #1 on Billboard; "I Walk the Line" stayed on the charts for 47 weeks. This song was on Cash's first album (and Sun's first LP too), "Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar."

Like all country music singers at the time, Cash wanted to get on the Opry. He was riding high on the success of "I Walk the Line," and so he set up a meeting with Denny, hoping to get a booking on the biggest country music radio show in the country to cement his country music superstar credentials. He said he'd dreamed about being on the Opry since he was a kid.

But his encounter with Denny wasn't the culmination of a dream; it was more like a nightmare. First, Denny kept Cash waiting for two hours. Can you imagine that?  Ten years later, Cash would have probably gone in and turned over Denny's desk and broke a lamp or two, and maybe Denny's nose. But those were different times and Cash was a newcomer and didn't want to do anything to jeopardize his career at that point. And Denny was recognized as a very powerful man in the industry.

Finally, Denny let the young Cash come into the sacred chamber of his office. Cash, when talking about this later, said that Denny didn't even tell him to sit down. But Cash eventually took the initiative and sat down, although not invited to do so. Denny was busy with his papers for a few minutes more, ignoring Cash, not even acknowledging his presence. Then he looked up and asked Cash why he thought he deserved to be on the Opry. Cash reminded him of the success of "I Walk the Line," and Denny said, "Be here Saturday night." He didn't ask Cash to come on the Opry, he told him.

That's the way it was. And that's the kind of man Denny was.

Exactly why Tubb tried to shoot him, I'm still not sure. But these other incidents just might hold a clue.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ahnuld's Hamlet

I was thinking some about Hamlet today. Yeah. Hamlet. I'm a retired English teacher, so what didja expect, that I'd be sitting around pondering the Libyan crisis?

I started surfing on Lake YouTube to see if I could find anything regarding what some call Shakespeare's greatest play. (Some would say Lear is the greatest. Others would say Romeo and Juliet. Still others would say, WGAS?)

Anyway. Guess what I found.

Remember Ahnuld's movie, The Last Action Hero?

This movie is one of his action flicks that didn't do super great at the box office (wiki says it officially lost $25 million), but it's since become something of a cult hit--at least partially because it parodies various action films.

There's this scene in it where the kid is watching the famous Lawrence Olivier version of Hamlet and suddenly on screen, Olivier morphs into Jack Slater (the Ahnuld character in the movie). So it's Ahnuld playing Hamlet.

Here's the clip...

I don't know about you, but that is some great stuff right there. Hamlet with a seegar! And that line... "To be or not to be. [Ahnuld lights cigar] Not to be [bomb goes off]."

Shakespeare, who knew how to work the audiences of his time, would love it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Brother, Dave

My younger brother Dave volunteered for military service in the mid '60s, not exactly a popular action among people his age at that time. He did a year in Vietnam and then re-upped for another year. He was in the U. S. Army corps of engineers, and spent most of his time operating a big Caterpillar D9 clearing jungle. It was very dangerous duty.

Like many vets, he doesn't talk about that time very much at all. And, like a lot of the returning vets from that war, he had some trouble adjusting to life back home and to some people who did not value his service. He straightened out after a year, but still has dreams and calls out in his sleep. I've heard him call out like that. The desperate urgency in his voice sends chills down your spine.

He's "retired" now from the USPS--I put that in quotation marks because he went right back to work and developed a successful landscape business. He's the hardest working person I know. He will give you the shirt off his back. If you're his friend (or his brother) and you need help, you can count on him.

When Katrina hit the Gulf coast, lots of people sent money and others did a lot of talking about what needed to be done. Dave took off work, loaded his tractor, chain saw, and other tools in his trailer and went right down there. He spent a over week in a little town in Southern Mississippi, sawing trees, moving brush, etc., doing what had to be done.

Dave's the only person I know who's come close to living up to all the tenets of the Cowboy Ethic. (That could be because I spent my career in academics, a profession not known for its high moral values, but the truth is, Dave's value system is pretty rare in any kind of work environment.) If you're not familiar with what the Cowboy Ethic entails, here's Jim Owen's "distillation of the timeless, universal cowboy values that are still relevant to our lives today." They're taken from his book Cowboy Ethics, What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.
1. Live each day with courage.
2. Take pride in your work.
3. Always finish what you start.
4. Do what has to be done.
5. Be tough but fair.
6. When you make a promise, keep it.
7. Ride for the brand.
8. Talk less and say more.
9. Remember that some things aren't for sale.
10.Know where to draw the line.
I love my brother. I'm proud of his military service and all his other accomplishments. And I'm glad he made it back from the war. I'm glad his name isn't on that famous Wall. It's a beautiful wall, and a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in that conflict. But I'd rather have Dave's name etched right where it is--in the hearts of his family and friends.