The Cumberland Post

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cookie's Funnies

A couple of years ago, I started reading a blog called The Cookshack: Gab and Grub. Cookie is a Vietnam era DAV Seabee, who also spent many years in law enforcement as a Detective Sergeant. Besides writing a cooking column for a Fish and Game magazine, he puts a lot of great stuff in his blog. When I checked in at his place a day or two ago, I found a couple of gems that made Joyce and I laugh so hard we actually cried. This first one is a video demo about some really new high tech stuff that's just come on the market.

In this one, Cookie has discovered the true origin of the famous Riverdance.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Stuff

A sunny day! At long last. Actually 2 in a row. When you get sun like this after a long spell of gray, snowy, cold days, it seems like a godsend. Everything looks better. You feel better. In a Zippety Doo Daa kind of way. Pardon that non PC allusion to the old Disney classic movie "Song of the South," based on the Uncle Remus stories. Remember those great stories. We read them to our son back in the '60s. That they're now in the PC dustbin is a literary tragedy.

Read a couple of things that kinda shocked me in this week's Entertainment  Weekly mag. These are not exactly signs of Armageddon, but they do continue the pop cultural slide into the undifferentiated mud of oblivion that we've been headed for since Timothy Leary and Che were recognized as pop culture role models and leaders.

First, there's a new book that EW reviews with the title The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore; it's narrated by a chimpanzee named Bruno. He has been taught to read and write and speak. He falls in love with one of his handlers, a girl named Lydia. Yeah, you're right. His love is apparently reciprocated (I haven't read the book), but the quotation the review supplies indicates that this couple do the nasty. I can imagine Hollywood will be on this like GM on those bailouts.  Wonder who they'll get to play the female part? Who would want this part?

Second, I read that in the Grammy's 53 year history, there have been no songs nominated with the word f--- in the title. A not unexpected fact. But guess what? This year there is a song nominated with the word f--- in the title. As a matter of fact, the title is "F--- You." It's by Cee Lo Green, a guy I've never heard of, but in the pic in the magazine he looks a little like the Goodyear blimp covered in a fashionable gold lame. (I wanted an accent on that last word "lame" but couldn't figure out how to do it.)  EW calls Green's song "irresistibly profane." They also wonder if Hollywood will be soon to follow this trend.  I can see it now. George Clooney and Michael Moore nominated for an Oscar for their performances in "The F---ed Up Assassin." One of them will be gay. Not a faggot. But gay. You can't say "faggot" in a movie or song. That's bad. (Ask Mark Knopfler.) But you can say f---. Wait a minute. Isn't that a double standard or something? A word that offends the mainstream is okay, but a word that offends a small minority is like the most horrible hate crime or something.

C'est la vie.

BTW, Bob Seger is gearing up for a tour.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion: Blood Country

Blood Country, the mystery novel I worked on through the summer and fall, will soon be available in paper, e book format, and on Kindle. There's a picture of the cover in the column to the left. You can't buy it yet, but I'll let you know when you can ($17.95 paper, $5.00 Kindle). Yeah, I know that's more of a rock guitar (a Gibson SG Classic) on the cover, but it looks pretty menacing, dontcha think?

A writer I knew, Jesse Hill Ford, once told me I should write what I enjoy reading. Since I've always enjoyed reading mysteries, including the older ones by Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, John D. Macdonald, and more contemporary ones by writers like Michael Connelly, that's what I've been writing for a pretty good while now. I finished a couple of manuscripts back in the '80s and came close to getting one published as a Zebra paperback, but they decided to change directions. Just my luck. 

I actually did a draft of Blood Country back in the mid '90s, but I was so busy at the time with work related stuff, that I saved it to disc and forgot about it until last spring. It required a major revision, and I had lots of fun reworking it and lots of help from Joyce who put on her editor hat and from friends, Ed and Rae, and Max and Jeanne, and encouragement from afar from George and Sara.

One thing I plan to do to market the book is set up a facebook page with posts that recount some of the big country music scandals and mysteries from the past.  I plan to post a few of those on the old Cumberland Post as well; they might be of interest to you whether you buy the book or not.  

Here's a brief summary of Blood Country:  

In Nashville, it’s conventional wisdom that if you’re looking for work in the music business, you’d better have a steady day job. Guitarist Joe Rose has a day job, and his business card reads: “Sideman Investigations, Put Someone on Your Side.”

Rose is hired by strung out Country Music superstar Vern Hamlin, owner of Great Axe Music and guitarist extraordinaire, to look into his father’s two decades old murder. Hamlin has received an anonymous letter suggesting that the man convicted of the crime, who was killed in an escape attempt, was not the real murderer.

Because of Hamlin’s drug and alcohol problems, his uncle Claude, CEO of Hamlin Enterprises, doesn’t approve of his nephew’s plan to reopen the old murder case; he thinks it will jeopardize Hamlin’s present sobriety and interfere with his work at Great Axe. But Hamlin’s personal assistant, Jessica Apple, thinks his father’s death is actually the cause of his substance abuse and that pursuing the investigation will help him get closure.

After Rose interviews a Desert Storm Vet with PTSD, the man is found dead. Is it suicide or murder? Along the way, Rose encounters a rogue P. I., Hamlin's sexy ex-wife (country music's answer to Lady Gaga), a Professor who writes mystery novels, Hamlin's promiscuous stepmother--now married to the pastor of a Nashville megachurch, and a pissed off songwriter with a big gun. This investigation takes Rose deep into a family's secret past and the dark, sequined heart of the Nashville music scene.

Coming soon to and to Kindle

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Johnny Darrell's "Why You Been Gone So Long"

In March of 2005, Joyce and I took a motor trip out west; our destination was the Valley of the Sun, or, to be specific, Mesa, Arizona, the spring training site for the Chicago Cubs. I had purchased a ticket to a game online and after the game we planned to stop for a couple of nights in Sedona, to see the Grand Canyon, etc.

I'll post a couple of pics from that trip later, but that's not the focus of this post. On a good portion of our journey, especially through New Mexico and Arizona, we started listening and singing along with this one song, over and over. By continuous repetition, we mastered that sucker and thought we sounded pretty good.

Actually, Joyce, who had classical voice training during her teens, sounded good. I'm not sure what I sounded like. But we let 'er rip and it made the long stretches much more fun and enjoyable. The song was "Why You Been Gone So Long" by Johnny Darrell and was the first song on the Oxford American 2003 Southern Music CD #6. Darrell is in full rockabilly mode here and we loved (still do) the twangy guitar breaks. I haven't been able to find out who played guitar on the session, but it is great.

Darrell was born in 1940, a very good year in my book, and died from diabetes at the relatively young age of 57 in 1997.

Johnny Darrell had what could be considered hard luck in the music business. He frequently was the first artist to record a song that was later covered by other artists who had a major hit with it. Some example of this are: "Green, Green Grass of Home," "As Long as the Wind Blows," "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," "Son of Hickory Hollow's Tramp," and "With Pen in Hand."

Wikipedia puts it this way: "Darrell established a trend of introducing "lyrically adventurous songs" that would later become major hits for other artists."

This song did not (at least as far as I know) become a smash for anyone else. Tell me what you think about Johnny Darrell's "Why You Been Gone So Long."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fallout New Vegas: The Good Stuff Is Coming Back

In response to commenters on my last post which featured an old Inkspots tune, I wrote:

Glad you liked this little song by the Inkspots. It would seem that this kind of music is gone forever, lost. That once our generation is gone, this kind of music will be gone too. 

But it's not. It's coming back, it and lots of other earlier styles as well. How's that possible you say? Through what channel is this music that would be lost being delivered to today's youth?

My next post will address that and offer some more examples of "lost" music that's being resurrected.

(With Apologies to the Snapple Ads "Great Stuff")

Since my grandson Brent (he's now 15) started playing the viola 4 years ago, he's been very interested in music, mostly classical and the hard edged stuff young people listen to today. I've had several discussions with him in which I would play an old song from the fifties, or an old classic rock 'n roll song, or maybe a country song, and he would listen politely and then tell me he didn't like it. (Actually, he would grin, and say "it sucks, Da.")

But, over the holidays, he got a new X Box 360 video game called Fallout New Vegas. This game depicts a post apocalyptic world with a devastated landscape and the usual kinds of violent missions.

According to, "the game is set in a post-apocalyptic retro-futuristic Las Vegas, following the Great War between the U.S.China and other countries, a conventional and nuclear war that occurred on October 22 - October 23, 2077, and lasted less than two hours, despite causing immense damage and destruction."

Brent connected his X Box to the small TV in my study upstairs and played the game for a couple of days; sometime during the second afternoon he called me to come up there. He had something to ask me.

He played a few songs that were featured as background music on the game. He said, "This is good stuff, Da. It's old, but I like it. Do you?"

"Are you kidding," I said. "This is GREAT STUFF." The music he played from Fallout New Vegas was from the '30s, '40s, '50s. The Inkspots, Sinatra, Kay Kyser, Nat King Cole, Marty Robbins, Johnny Bond, Hank Thompson, Peggy Lee, etc.

We looked on Youtube and found that young people who like this game had uploaded lots of these great songs. In many cases they were also crashing long running threads by older people who had in the past posted video clips, etc. of this stuff being performed in old movies, TV shows, etc.

I was elated. By the music and by Brent's reaction to it. Movies, usually romantic comedies, have sometimes provided a link like this for contemporary audiences to older music. Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, etc. come to mind. But video games? Violent video games?

The answer is a definite "yes." This game and others like it apparently validate the music to younger audiences. Make it "cool," not square.

Here are a few examples of songs from Fallout New Vegas. There are lots of others. You can easily spend an evening listening to this good old stuff. Just type in the name of the game and the word "music" in the Youtube search box and see what turns up.

Peggy Lee: Johnny Guitar

A great old Western singer, Johnny Bond, sings Stars of the Midnight Range

Pure Country: Hank Thompson: Hangover Heart

Inkspots: It's a Sin To Tell a Lie

Nat King Cole: Love As Though There were No Tomorrow

Kay Kyser: Jingle Jangle

Harry James: I've Heard That Song Before

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Prayer

There once was music like this. I remember hearing it on the radio in the late forties and sometimes in the fifties. I liked it a lot then, I like it even more now. Those voices and lyrics today almost seem to be from some distant, alien culture. From another time, The Inkspots, singing what still is "My Prayer."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cancer Season

It's snowing heavily as I type, the third snowstorm (unless I've lost count) of the season. This has already been one of the coldest and snowiest winters we've ever had in this part of the US.  It's also a winter we'll never forget for another reason too.

Joyce had her annual mammogram right after Thanksgiving. She was called back for an ultrasound which confirmed that there were 2 tumors in the left breast. It was, as you can expect, a total shock. 

We were in full Christmas season mode--putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, planning the big meal, and buying presents for the grandkids. That continued, but our perspective changed and our approach to the holiday was scaled back in many ways.

About two and a half weeks before Christmas, Joyce had a biopsy, which showed that the tumors (one was about 1/2 inch and the other 1/4 inch) were malignant (grade 3, aggressive, fast growing) and that a mastectomy was necessary. 

Before choosing a surgeon, Joyce had the presence of mind to bring her rheumatologist (she's had RA since the early 90s) into the situation and asked him for a referral. Turns out his wife had undergone the same surgery a few years before and he recommended the surgeon his wife used, who happened to be a Harvard trained physician who specializes in breast cancer. 

Joyce wanted to move as quickly as she could to get the invader out of her body. She had the surgery on the 28th of December, spent that day and night in St. Thomas Hospital, and has recuperated pretty well since then. The size of her tumors and the fact that her lymph nodes were found to be clear during the surgery placed her cancer in Stage 1, the lowest level.

The surgeon (a woman in her early fifties, and a most excellent physician in terms of experience, knowledge, skill, and empathy) explained that the "stage of cancers" system was fairly old and did not take into account the newer knowledge about kinds (grades) of cancers, etc. Remember, Joyce's tumor was grade 3, which is not good. The surgeon also said Joyce is triple negative--referring to her hormone receptors--which isn't good either (fairly rare, apparently only 20% of women with cancer fall into this category).

This past Tuesday we met with Joyce's St. Thomas Hospital oncologist (to whom Joyce was referred by her surgeon), and discussed her situation. At present, after the removal of the cancer, the oncologist said there was a 50/50 chance her grade 3 cancer would not show up again somewhere else in her body; he recommended chemotherapy to improve her chances to the point that the odds would be more like 80/20 in her favor. 

Today, her birthday by the way, Joyce had a series of preliminary tests designed to establish a baseline against which to measure her physical condition during the upcoming chemotherapy, which will be debilitating. The tests included a bone scan, liver scan, chest x-ray, and an echo cardiogram. On Monday, she'll have an IV port installed in her chest (where they administer the chemo), and on Tuesday she begins a chemotherapy regimen which will last 4 months.

We learned a lot during the past 6 or 7 weeks about cancer, stuff we earlier didn't really 
want to know. We also had confirmed something we already knew: our friends and family are the greatest. They have been right there for her from the initial diagnosis. Providing encouragement, love, and support were: our son Barry, and daughter in law Teresa, our grandkids, my brother Dave, Joyce's sisters Helen and Barbara, and her brother Larry, our neighbors Judy and Ronnie, our great friends Ed, Rae, Max, Jeanne, George, Sara, Cheryl, Charlie, Kay, and Judy H. 

As you might expect, our Christmas holiday celebration was somewhat muted this year, even though Barry and his family came down to be with us. The kids kept us all smiling and laughing which helped. And now Joyce is in pretty good spirits, considering. She's optimistic and positive about her chances and so am I. Her training in psychology has been a big help during this crisis. She's always been a fighter and is gearing up for the biggest fight of her life. Keep her in your thoughts and prayers.