Banjo legend Earl Scruggs passed away yesterday in a Nashville Hospital. He was 88.
Wiki says (and anybody who knows a little bit about American country music and bluegrass knows as well), Scruggs perfected and popularized the three finger picking style on the five string banjo. The style is now called the "Scruggs Style."
One of his most famous and influential compositions is "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which has become a standard among bluegrass musicians. Wiki says if you can deliver a convincing rendition of this tune, you are recognized as an "intermediate" level banjo player. Well, I don't know about that. I do know it's one of the most challenging pieces to be played on the instrument.
Scruggs wrote the tune back in the late '40s when he and Lester Flatt were members of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, and I first remember hearing it on the Flatt and Scruggs local TV show in the Nashville area in the '50s. It became instantly recognizable nationally after it was used frequently in the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde."
The influence he had on other musicians and their respect for him is displayed in this video of his famous tune. Yes, that's Mr. Leon Russell on the organ. I think you'll recognize quite few of the other musicians as well.
I regularly watched the Flatt and Scruggs TV show back in the '50s. The show was on right before supper time and I associate the old Flatt and Scruggs sound with images of my Mother in the kitchen frying pork chops or mashing potatoes or making some biscuits with Martha White Flour. I can almost hear that sizzle and smell the chops in the skillet now.
Flatt and Scruggs were together from the late '40s until 1969 when they decided to go their separate ways. The decision was pretty much Earl's because he wanted to play some more contemporary material and Lester wanted to stay with the traditional stuff. Lester hired most of the Foggy Mountain Boys and started a new band called Nashville Grass. After Earl left, he created the Earl Scruggs Revue with his sons. Both men enjoyed success after the split. Lester Flatt died in 1979.
Even though they split and they're both gone now, they remain forever united and alive in my memory. Here's a couple of songs from those golden days, "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," and "My Blue Ridge Cabin Home."
(Note: This is off on a tangent and I probably mentioned it before, but T. Tommy Cutrer, the emcee on the second video, was one of the candidates in the 4th District (my district) Democratic primary that 28 year old Al Gore won back in 1976. Gore won the primary election with just a little over 30 percent of the vote. Cutrer finished a close second. I've often wondered if history would have been a little different had there been one less candidate in that primary. My guess is Cutrer probably would have won, as for what Gore would have done after that, who knows.)
It looks like a plane that might have been flown by a 1930's-1950s comic book hero whose mercenary force assisted the world's free nations in their fight against the evil statists in Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union.
Air Commander Jake Savage and his squadron of Bluehawks.
Okay, so there was no such comic book character. But there was a real plane.
It's a Bugatti 100P which was designed in the late '30s and was being built to compete in the 1939 Deutsche de la Meurthe Cup Race. Wiki says that the plane was not completed by the September 1939 deadline and was put in storage "prior to the German invasion of France."
Ettore Bugatti started work in 1938 to design a racer to compete in the Deutsch de la Meurthe Cup Race, using engines sold in his automotive line for co-marketing. His chief engineer was Louis de Monge, whom Bugatti was partnered with before. Bugatti also approached by the French Government to use the technology of the racing aircraft to develop a fighter variant for mass production. The aircraft was the source of five modern patents including the inline engines, V tail mixer controls, and the automatic flap system. 
... The Model 100 had an unusual inboard mounted twin engine arrangement driving forward mounted twin counter rotating propellers through driveshafts. The aircraft also featured a 120 degree V-tail arrangement and retractable landing gear. The construction was mostly of wood, with sandwiched layers of balsa and hardwoods, including tulipwood stringers covered with doped fabric.
For an excellent overhead schematic of the Model 100's engine layout, etc. click here.
Somehow the plane survived the war and over the next several decades was sold and resold several times. During that time both original Bugatti were pulled and used in race cars. The plane (minus engines) was restored by the EAA Airventure museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where it is on static display today.
But. That's not the end of the story. There's another Bugatti 100P that's being constructed right now by Scotty Wilson and Greg Carlson of Oklahoma. There are some great photos and lots of information on this painstakingly researched and constructed airplane at these two sites.
When completed, the project plane will be correct in every detail except the engines, which will be twin Susuki Hayabusa motors modified and developed by Radical Performance Engines of England.
And guess what? The plane has also been in a comic book, Firehawks, illustrated by Herb Trimpe who worked on "The Incredible Hulk" and "The Wolverine." I haven't read the comic but the images of the plane on the cover and pages shown in the link look great--except for those red stars on the plane's wings and body. I don't know about you, but I have some bad memories associated with that red star.
Back to the airplane under discussion: the Bugatti 100P. This airplane was originally designed to reach speeds up to and slightly over 500 mph. It will be interesting to see if the modern Bugatti 100P with its twin RPE Susukis can achieve that speed.
Air Commander Savage, your plane will soon be ready.
I've been reading a lot lately about our budget crisis. The more I read, the angrier I get. My post today is kinda like rage-therapy, it's my way of letting the dogs out.
To contain and express my rage, I need to create a scene and a character. That kind of approach isn't for everybody but it's the way I roll.
Okay. Imagine with me for a moment a presidential candidate who's as tough as nails. Let's say she lacks the slickness, the cool diplomatic manner, the urbanity that's come to define allpoliticians. Let's suppose she's a small town business woman with a sailor's mouth. Suppose at convention time the Republicans get all deadlocked like in the old days. And suppose out of nowhere we get this candidate, one the whole convention is able to agree on. And finally after 15 ballots, Mrs. Lois "Shooter" Hardin emerges as the nominee.
That's right. She's a woman. A fifty-two year old, multi-millionaire business woman. She's not glamorous like Palin--she looks and sounds more like a cross between Margaret Thatcher and that butt ugly socialist Lewis Black. It's 1:00 a.m. when she steps to the dais, and most of America is up late, still watching on TVs, live internet feeds, on Iphones, or Ipads or Kindles, or listening on car radios. People are riveted by the political drama. They sense that something is happening, some significant change is coming.
It's so late the children have all gone to bed. Which is a good thing. Because like I said, Mrs. Hardin cusses. A lot. (A warning: she says f**k or some derivative 34 times in a fairly short speech.) Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Republican nominee and the next President of the United States, Lois "Shooter" Hardin.
Mr. Speaker, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen, and all Americans still watching and listening; I apologize to you for what must seem like a f**king drunken assed bar brawl and for keeping you up on a work night.
But all of this carrying on is not really a brawl, it just looks like it. We Republicans have been hard at work picking a presidential candidate for the damned most important election in our lifetimes.
And guess what. I'm that f**king candidate! Me!
I don't have a clue in Hell as to why I got picked. But I've got my suspicions. First, I don't think the bastards have much confidence in me as a candidate. They figure everybody's been so busy tearing each other a new asshole that it's hurt the party and we can't win in November. They think we can't win and so they're planning on sacrificing my ass.
Let me tell you something. I don't plan to be a sacrifice for anybody. And as to that "we can't win" malarkey, that's a crock of bullshit as big as the humongous assed gap between what President Obama says in his speeches and what that slippery SOB actually does.
We CAN win. And we WILL win.
The second reason I suspect they picked me to run this year is because they think if we're gonna lose (which I already said, we ain't), they know I'll speak my mind and won't hold back and just might do those politically correct pantywaists in the opposition party some serious long term f**king damage.
And let me tell you something else. The bastards who run our party are shitsmileyfaced right about that. I will tell the truth as I see it, no matter the cost to the parties or to any individual. And I will not sugar coat it one f**king bit.
Now I got no notes and no teleprompter. And I wouldn't use 'em if I had 'em. Don't like long speeches at all.
So I'm gonna make this speech and every other one I make during the campaign short. Everybody's tired and unless you live in DC or are here at this f**king convention, you gotta get up and go to work tomorrow.
So here's my short spiel.
I believe I know how to fix our country, how to bring her back to the glory she once had. But to do that, we got to know what's wrong in America today. And I know what's wrong. You heard me right. I said, I know what's f**king wrong.
But, hey, there ain't nothin' so damned special about that. It don't take a Mack trucking genius to figure out what's wrong, now does it?
Every Tom, Dick, and Jane in America knows what the HELL is wrong. EVERY-f**king-body knows.
The f**king Federal Government is too damned big and it's spending too much.
Let me make sure you didn't miss that.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS TOO DAMNED BIG AND IT'S SPENDING TOO MUCH!
We got programs and departments and initiatives and bureaucrats out the ass.
To pay for all this totally unnecessary shit, we're borrowing money from China. We're so far over budget that...
Oh wait just a f**king minute. We don't even have a budget.
Our government doesn't even have a f**king budget! WTF is going on? What school did this bunch of certified assholes get their degrees from?
Harvard? Harvard is f**ked then. Stanford? They're f**ked too. You can't run a country, you can't run a state, you can't run a business, hell, you can't even run a f**king family WITHOUT A BUDGET!
That's the first damned thing that's wrong. I mean if congress actually had a f**king budget, maybe some of the blind sons of bitches could see what the problem is.
This ain't f**king brain surgery here.
We got a helluva lot more going out than we got coming in.
I'm talking to you now, Mr. Obama. I'm talking to you, Mr. Reid. I'm talking to you, Mr. Boehner. The buck, or in this case, the spending of bucks you don't have, stops with you.
And I'm also talking to the f**king Piss-Ant Media. You all are a big f**king part of the problem too since you wouldn't know a financial fact from a five dollar cappuccino. You guys are either whistling past the graveyard, or you're too f**king ignorant to be in the positions you're in.
Let me ask all of you "inside the Beltway" assholes a question. What the hell happens when a business has more going out than it's got coming in and can't pay its bills?
What's that you say? Borrow some money? Okay, I give you that. Businesses sometimes hit a rough patch and have to borrow a little. But we're not talking about a "rough patch" here; this is a f**king BLACK HOLE of debt. So, back to my original question. What happens after you already borrowed up to and about a thousand times beyond your f**king limit at the bank?
In 2011, the government got $2,303 billion in revenue from us citizens. It spent $3,598 billion. We paid $227 billion interest on our $15.574 trillion debt. Can't anybody see the f**king problem here?
I know what most of you liberal asshats in congress are thinking and the answer is, no. We don't raise f**king taxes. Taxes are already too damn high on everybody.
You've heard about Congressman Paul Ryan's plan to balance the budget, I'm sure. The liberals think he's a heartless bastard because he wants to balance the budget by 2040. But that's almost thirty f**king years from now. Are these people f**king insane?
At least Ryan has the guts to put up a plan, but ask anybody who knows anything about finance and they'll tell you that we don't have that kind of time left.
One more time. What do we do if our business is in this horrific situation? We either go bankrupt OR we start cutting. And this ain't no false dilemma friends. It's real. And, since no American citizen wants the country to go bankrupt, we cut. But, because we owe so f**king much, to bring that outgo way down below what we got coming in, we gotta make MAJOR cuts.
We reduce the federal government staff. I realize it's symbolic and won't do a whole lot, but it's a f**king start. Next, we eliminate whole f**king departments. Commerce, Education, EPA, HUD, etc., clean out your desks. State, we must stop giving away money we borrow as foreign f**king aid to other countries. That shit is going to stop.
Next, I know it ain't gonna be popular, and you can call me a heartless bitch, but we cut down medicare and social security. We don't eliminate them, we reduce them considerably, say from 43% of our expenditures all the way down to 30%. And we try to do it in as fair a way as possible. Seniors, it's either suffer some now or get nothing at all in a few years.
We eliminate almost all "discretionary" and "other mandatory" spending which is currently about 30% of our expenditures. We f**king downsize most everything and get back to only basic federal government services--which is primarily the f**king defense of the nation. Everything else is pretty much on the chopping block. And we got to do our chopping pretty damn quick.
The federal government now is like a big assed f**king Rolls Royce limo. We don't need and can't pay for that kind of statist luxury. So, we're selling that big f**ker and getting us a damn Ford Fiesta in the base trim.
And once our income is WAY DOWN below our outgo, we use the massive excess income to pay off the damn loans and that frees up the billions we're paying every f**king year in interest. We pay that debt down over the next five years or until we're on the straight and narrow and then we can reduce taxes.
This is basically second grade math we're talking about. The numbers are f**king humongous, but it's just basic subtraction. Is that too hard for our president and f**king congress to understand?
Okay, I'm about through here.
But before I stop, let me tell you why they call me "Shooter." You morally superior numbnuts in the Media will probably dig this up anyway. Back in the day, before I got my own business and met my husband, I worked at a shirt factory as a shift worker. I worked as hard as anybody but I liked to play too. On Friday nights after work, me and the other gals on the shift would all go down to Nort's Tavern there in Centerville and have us a few shots of Tequila. I did like that stuff.
One night I did ten shooters and then got up on the table for a little dance. Some asswipe made an inappropriate comment and I jumped down off the table and decked him. Then three of his buddies kicked the living hell outta me. The bouncer threw me out and I don't remember much after that. I woke up early next morning in a ditch. I had a bloody nose, a broken tooth and a bruise on my butt that looked like Australia. Somebody had emptied my purse and I had nothing left but a f**king headache and an empty shot glass.
After that EVERYBODY started calling me "Shooter." I never lived the name down.
Truth is, I made a fool outta myself that night. But I learned from my mistake. I still like a shooter or two of Jose Cuervo, but now I know when to stop.
It's the same with this federal spending binge. We got the President and all the liberals in congress up on that table. And they've dragged all us citizens up there too, even those of us who don't wanta dance. If we object they call us racists or say we want to push seniors in wheelchairs off a cliff.
So there we are. On the table. Everybody in this f**king administration and the f**king congressional liberals are all drunk outta their minds and dancing and spending like there's no tomorrow. And while the f**king Piss-Ant Media cheers on the revelers, the clock is ticking.
We're just five or ten minutes away from some gang of bastards taking advantage of our drunken, weakened state. They're gonna yank us off the damn table, kick the crap out of us, and take what little we got left.
We have to change and we have to change right now. And I'm talking complete, total change. I'm talking massive cuts, eliminating whole departments, entire bureaus. Cutting down to the bone. I'm talking about reducing the federal government back to the size it was in f**king 1930.
We were great once and we'll be great again. But we've got to do this and do it now. We can't pass this shit load of trouble on to our children.
Join my campaign and help me get elected and together we'll stop the madness and restore America to what she once was.
That's it. That's all I got. So, thank you, my friends, and good night.
The Nashville high school I attended from 1954-1958, Isaac Litton, was a special place. It's gone now, at least the main buildings are, but it's memory lingers in the hearts of its graduates, and its influence in the community and the world is still being felt.
I can still remember those brisk cold Friday nights in the Fall when some friends and I from the neighborhood would hike up Riverwood towards Gallatin Pike, cut across the practice fields at Eastdale, and head to the football field where we'd find a place in the stands to watch the Lions. I can smell the hot dogs and the coffee even now. In my mind's eye I can still see Hawkins and Wallace as one of them received the kickoff and started that wild reverse return. And I can still hear the fiery fight song the band, the Marching 100, played that made you think you could conquer the world.
(Note: Coach Webb who's referred to in the video at the end, is an honorary member of our class.)
Our school was definitely "old school." And we were damn proud of it. Still are.
A week ago Joyce and I met as usual on the second Tuesday of the month with my friends from the 1958 graduating class of the old school.
The monthly class dinner is always lots of fun and last night was no exception. People seemed happy and full of energy. There were smiles aplenty, laughter, glasses tinkling, and lots of backslapping camaraderie.
Maybe it was the warm sunny day we had that Tuesday in Middle Tennessee. Could be we were a little more energetic because we knew spring itself was only a few days away on the calendar. Or, maybe it was the fact that Peyton Manning could possibly be coming to the Titans. (Well the Manning dream died, but that's okay.)
I'm sure all that stuff helped intensify things a little, but this group is kinda special, so it wouldn't have mattered if it was 20 degrees outside with snow on the ground. If we were there the joint would have been jumping anyway.
In the language of country rock musicians, athletes, and the milkman, we bring it, man.
It's been fifty-four years now this May since we got our diplomas from Mr. Foster and walked away from the old school for the last time. That's a long time. It's a cliche I know, but it seems just like yesterday.
As I sat there and looked around at the crowd, I remembered, as I'm sure all my classmates do, the teen angst and uncertainty that we all experienced in those years, the doubts, the fears all mixed up with youthful hubris. And I also thought of how generous and confident we seem now that all those youthful wars and the other ones we fought through the years are behind us now.
Sure we had our struggles.
But we survived back then.
And, even though most of us are retired, we still survive now. Make that thrive now. We're not just "busy." We're living to the limit.
Back then, and now too, you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to get ahead of us.
Have you ever missed out on something really good?
I have. Plenty of times. But this is clearly, one very special case.
How could it have happened? What else was so danged important in 1993? Where was I? What was I doing?What other mistakes was I mistaking at the time?
Almost two decades have passed. Why didn't I hear it somewhere, at a friend's house, on the radio, somewhere?
It's only a song.
Only a song, you say.
No. It's more than that. It's my song.
No, I didn't write it.
Iris DeMent did.
I wish I had written it. It speaks to me, for me. It speaks my mind. It's my song.
It's a song that reflects part of my (work in progress) soul.
A song that simply, eloquently nails the point -- the one I've been trying to make or discover for nearly 50 years.
A song that now I've heard, tonight, for the first time, I won't ever forget.
Don't say, "better late than never."
I really don't want to hear that.
Not right now.
I'd much rather hear the song again. It's "Let the Mystery Be" by Iris DeMent.
And then I may dance. Because the meaning makes me happy.
And there's that sawing fiddle, that slapping bass, that galloping guitar, and Iris' lilting voice.
Let the Mystery Be by Iris DeMent (Lyrics copied from Cowboy Lyrics site)
Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from. Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done. But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me. I think I'll just let the mystery be.
Some say once you're gone you're gone forever, and some say you're gonna come back. Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour if in sinful ways you lack. Some say that they're comin' back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas. I think I'll just let the mystery be.
Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from. Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done. But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me. I think I'll just let the mystery be.
Some say they're goin' to a place called Glory and I ain't saying it ain't a fact. But I've heard that I'm on the road to purgatory and I don't like the sound of that. Well, I believe in love and I live my life accordingly. But I choose to let the mystery be.
Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from. Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done. But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me. I think I'll just let the mystery be. I think I'll just let the mystery be.
There are many old country folk songs that concern a murder, so many in fact, that it's now a tradition, a sub-genre all to itself.
A....murder ballad typically recounts the details of a mythic or true crime — who the victim is, why the murderer decides to kill him or her, how the victim is lured to the murder site and the act itself — followed by the escape and/or capture of the murderer. Often the ballad ends with the murderer in jail or on their way to the gallows, occasionally with a plea for the listener not to copy the evils committed by him as recounted by the singer. .... Often the details and locales for a particular murder ballad change as it is sung over time, reflecting the audience and the performer. For example, "Knoxville Girl" is essentially the same ballad as "The Wexford Girl" with the setting transposed from Ireland to Tennessee - the two of them are based on "The Oxford Girl," the original murder ballad set in England.
I first heard "Knoxville Girl" from the singing of the Wilburn Brothers. Other examples of murder ballads I'm familiar with include "Lord Randall" (Josh White), "Down in the Willow Garden" (Charlie Monroe), "Frankie and Johnnie" (Mississippi John Hurt), "Omie Wise," (Doc Watson), "Pretty Polly" (Ralph Stanley), "Stagger Lee" (Lloyd Price), and "Tom Dooley" (The Kingston Trio).
"The Banks of the Ohio" (Joan Baez, Doc Watson, etc.) is one of my favorites. I've known the chords for many years and back in the day, Joyce used to sing it. This is a really good version featuring Doc Watson in his prime and a few other folks you might recognize.
I remember the Kingston Trio's "Tom Dooley" because when I was a Sophomore at Martin Junior College back in 1959-60, some friends and I sang it in a talent show. There were five of us involved (believe me, the other four guys had ALL the talent), and so it was logical that we call ourselves The Martin Five. That's better I suppose than the Martin Funf. (A couple of us were taking German). We didn't win, and I wouldn't say we killed 'em, but we had fun.
(Joyce and I will be in Georgia today visiting with our three older grandsons, Jason, Jonathan, and Erich who's in the Navy and just back home on leave from a Mediterranean tour. I'll talk to you all tomorrow. Later in the week I hope to be discussing the Titans' acquisition of QB Peyton Manning and the Vandy Commodores defeat of Harvard - ! - in the first round of the NCAA tournament. )
Have you ever been back to the town where you were born and lived for awhile as a child, say from birth to your 7th or 8th year? Back to the place where you were in the early dawn of your youth?
What a strange feeling it is.
Because you've grown up and your perspective has changed, everything that once looked so big, is now much smaller. And, since fifty or sixty years have passed, everything is different.
You remember the funniest things.
There's the little frame house on Richland you lived in back in the '40s. It was raining and you sat on the porch swing playing a cardboard horse race game where you spun a little needle around and you moved each horse piece accordingly. Citation always seemed to win. You can still smell the clean rain and hear the soft rumble of summer thunder.
Out on Main, there's another old house you remember. You were sitting astride your bike back in 1945 when Jerry's Mom came out of the house crying and said the war was over. You'd never seen anyone cry because they were happy before. The old house still stands, but its paint is peeling and the porch sags.
The highway bridge on Main, right by the shirt factory hasn't changed. The thick concrete top rail is still rough to your hand, but you have to bend down now to see between the short concrete cylinders supporting it. The creek looks smaller than it did in the '40s. You remember that you and Kenneth sometimes slipped under the metal rail at the edge of the bridge, climbed down the rocks, and walked on the smooth brown stones to a spot under the bridge where you could see the crawdads and minnows swimming in the shallow water.
Uptown now, on the square, there's the old insurance office where your Aunt Lellye used to work. You spent a few afternoons in there spinning around on her wooden lean back desk chair, watching the ceiling fans, or watching Mr. Smith play with his straw boater hat. He was a skinny guy who wore seersucker suits and bow ties and made you laugh.
The little wooden bandstand in the center of the square is gone now and probably forgotten. That was where they had a radio set up back in 1948 and you and your grandma were in the crowd listening as the presidential election returns came in. You remember the smell of cigars and cigarettes. The crowd seemed happy, yet quiet, listening carefully to the words on the radio. Occasionally, when the radio announcer said something, a few people would clap or cheer or sometimes laugh.
Scott's drugstore where you drank your first milkshake stands empty now, its brick facade faded and worn. Blind Mr. Adams' little market where you sometimes bought Double Bubble or Super Bubble gum was torn down long ago.
All of the older people have passed away, and the young ones you knew moved on long ago. If you see someone on the street or perhaps you stop in a store for a coke, the people look strange, you don't recognize anyone. And they look at you the same way, like you're a complete and utter outsider, a stranger, a rank stranger.
I may have written a post about my guitar before. But I'm too lazy to check this, and I have CRS anyway, so it's possible that this first part of the post is redundant. If I've told you this before, bear with me. I own a Silvertone 1220 jumbo flat top guitar, manufactured for Sears by the Harmony corporation. My wife Joyce gave it to me as a birthday gift back in 1968 when I was 28 years old.
I think my old Silvertone cost about $69 or $70 when new. It's in pretty good shape for its age and for all the rough treatment it has received over the years from grandkids, cast party participants, etc. I don't have a good picture of it, but here's one that looks just like it, color, pickguard, bridge, nut, tuning pegs, and everything else as well.
I'm absolutely not an accomplished guitarist. I just make the basic 5 or 6 chords and can pick out a few (very few) melodies. But I've really enjoyed this old acoustic AXE over the years. It increased my love of music and in particular helped grow my love of (and lust for) all guitars. My old Silvertone led me to appreciate the fine quality and workmanship of factory made instruments like Martin and Gibson, and those smaller independent operations like Forbus Hand Made Guitars for example, whose shop is in Belfast, Tennessee, about 70 miles from Nashville. And Kent Everett's custom acoustic guitar shop down in Atlanta. Follow the links and take a look at some of these guys' fantastic creations.
(Side note: My good buddy Ed's son is a luthier and besides doing repair work on fine guitars has crafted some excellent dulcimers which I've examined, and some guitars which I haven't yet seen. I was amazed at the precision and craftsmanship of the dulcimers; I can't imagine where someone develops the patience and skill to do that kind of close and delicate work? It's certainly beyond me.)
One of my other passions is reading fiction.
Since I was about ten years old, I've loved to read, especially fiction. That year my uncle Sid gave me a copy of the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I was hooked. I began to read other stories about baseball players and cowboys and soldiers. By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I was totally immersed in Science Fiction, particularly the juvenile stories of Robert Heinlein, such as Space Cadet and Red Planet. I liked Asimov too, and Clarke, and anyone else who could spin a good yarn.
I began trying to write fiction myself in the '80s and finished a couple of manuscripts, one spy thriller and a mystery. The spy novel was at first conditionally accepted by Zebra but then three months later, the imprint was taken over by another publisher and my manuscript was returned. Que sera.
I finished some other mystery manuscripts in the '90s and when I retired, began and finished a couple of political satires (one of those was Liberalstein). After that I spent several months revising the manuscript that became Blood Country.
When I put together Blood Country, I made use of my love for guitars. I gave my musician characters guitars that I couldn't afford but had heard or read about. Fiction works that way for the reader and the writer. A writer imagines something and it becomes semi real for him and for the reader. In a story you can go anywhere and do anything--even own and play some very expensive guitars. And in fiction, you can finger pick like a maestro, which I ain't!
To start with, the cover of Blood Country features a classic Gibson SG solid body electric guitar. (That's a picture of a Gibson SG below and just below that on the right is a picture of the SG on my book cover.) Even though the novel is set in Nashville and its country music industry, the SG is usually associated with rock musicians.
But I loved the shape of the guitar and I found an image that I felt meshed really well with my cover color scheme. As you can see, my cover SG is a black one with special gold humbucker pickups, gold knobs, and gold fret inlays up the neck. The background color of the cover is red and the main title letters are gold outlined in black. The subtitle, A Nashville Sideman Mystery, is in black. I believe a cover image and title should tell the reader at a glance what the book is about. What do you think, does the Blood Country cover work in that way?
There are some other guitars in the book as well. My private eye, Joe Rose, is also a guitar sideman. He owns several guitars but the one he uses in several scenes is an old 1940 Martin D-18. Why a '40 model? It's kinda silly but 1940 was the year I was born. Maybe my hidden motive was to suggest that something made in 1940 could still make good music, or in my case, a good mystery novel.
An old Martin like this is also probably way too expensive for me, but it's not too much of an investment for a pro sideman. By having Rose own and use it, I get to vicariously enjoy it myself.
Here's a You Tube video of a guy playing a 1940 Martin D-18, like the one I imagined Joe Rose would play in my novel. Notice that though the color is different, the shape and pick guard look a lot like my old Silvertone. The video guy is a pretty danged good picker too.
One of the main characters in the book is Vern Hamlin, a super star country guitarist, songwriter, and publisher. At one point he's playing on a Gibson Dove flattop. He tells Rose that it's one of many guitars that he owns but this one is extra special in that it was once owned and played by Elvis. Never in my wildest dreams could I own a guitar Elvis owned. But in the novel I get to do that vicariously again through Hamlin. It's pretty easy to imagine a character like Hamlin, whose superstar status has made him very rich, not only owning the Elvis Dove, but playing the hell out of it.
There are some nice pictures of the Elvis Gibson Dove guitar here but image downloading at the site was blocked which prevented me from putting in a picture of the guitar I had in mind for Vern. So, I found this You Tube video of a guy playing Japanese manufacturer Aspen's copy of the Gibson Dove. This one is the Aspen Dove DH32. It looks almost exactly like Elvis' Gibson and the guy playing it makes it ring like a bell. Listen closely and you'll hear a little "House of the Rising Sun" creep in there.
I have lust in my heart for these fine guitars (even the Aspen copy). But this stuff is kinda like a marriage to me. And I'm still happily bound and committed to my old Silvertone 1220.
P. S. I'm still selling the Kindle edition of Blood Country for $.99. You can also buy a paperback copy for $17.95.
Click on the copy of the book near the top of the left column and you'll be linked to my amazon page where you can choose either the Kindle or the paper copy of Blood Country.
Today the Cumberland Post initiates a brand new service for readers: Sludge garbled news posts. The main stream media outlets are all so good at spinning, twisting, quoting out of context, garbling, and using unvetted and unchecked source material that I know I'll never live up to their high standards. But I can try can't I?
We don't rake the muck, we make it!
1. OBAMA APOLOGIZES TO PUTIN. President Obama today apologized to President elect Vladimir Putin for US actions in the Reagan years which led to the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union. He also said that he supported Putin's decision to detain the female punk rock band, Pussy Riot. "Although they look pretty hot, these types of political women can cause all sorts of problems in governing a nation," said Obama. "My own administration, for example, is working through cable television powerhouse HBO to do a lot more than detain Sarah Palin. This gal's much worse than Putin's girls. With HBO's creative help, we're going to change Palin's game. We might even get that smart Bill Maher to help out since he's really good at using language. We are going to destroy that beyotch. A woman who takes an active conservative political role will not be tolerated in the US."
2. PAT ROBERTSON IS ILLEGAL ALIEN. The Reverend PatRobertson today asked that all illegal aliens be given amnesty. Simultaneously the well known religious broadcaster announced that he himself is an illegal alien and that he supports legalization of everything, including marijuana. Robertson said that his illegal status has bothered him ever since he entered the country illegally sixty years ago from the state of California, which is not really part of the 48 contiguous United States (unless you use the controversial Obama Heinz 57 Count, in which case California, Puerto Rico, Baja, Vancouver, Saltillo, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. Louis are all included ).
3. CHU BUYS ANN ROMNEY'S CADILLAC. Obama Energy Secretary Stephen Chu announced today that he has purchased one of Ann Romney's Cadillacs. Under fire for not even owning a vehicle, Chu made the purchase last night. Chu admitted that he knew nothing about cars and/or the purchasing process but said he felt this would be a win-win situation for both sides. He paid $1.6 million for the used 2009 Cadillac STS sedan. The transaction was handled by Mrs. Romney's husband Mitt, who was reportedly quite pleased with the deal.
Well, it seems we're on a kind of binge here at the old Post. All those drinking songs yesterday. And today it's moonshine. But we are sober today. Definitely sober.
White lightning, mountain dew, hooch, Tennessee white whiskey.
Whatever it's called, I've never actually tasted the stuff myself. It's a good guess that the "moonshine" moniker came from the fact that makers of illegal whiskey frequently brewed their liquor at night, by the light of the moon. Wiki has lots of info, including this: Moonshine is any distilled spirit made in an unlicensedstill. As with alldistilled spirits,yeastfermentsa sugar source to producealcohol; the alcohol is then extracted through the process of distillation....Because of its illegal nature, moonshine is rarely aged in barrels like properwhiskey, and it sometimes contains impurities and off flavors....Thepot stillis made of copper or stainless steel, and a water filled barrel with a copper tubing coil for a condenser, is the traditional type of still, being popular with early moonshine producers due to its simplicity and ease of construction.
There are many songs in country music that speak of moonshine, stills, etc. One I enjoy a lot is Flatt and Scruggs' "Drinkin' That Mash and Talkin' That Trash." The copper tubing coil mentioned above by Wiki is what's referred to as the "worm" near the end of this old talking blues tune. Note: the phrase that's kinda hard to hear is that the shotgun made "kraut out of Pa."
I've heard the following song several times on my car's Sirius Bluegrass station, although not by this artist. Stonewall Jackson recorded "Bluefield" back in the '60s I believe. It's a story song that's interesting because (a) there's a twist near the end when the owner of the still is revealed, (b) it doesn't have a chorus, and (c) the name of the town "Bluefield" is repeated nine times in the song.
The video of the song is interesting too because it begins with a shot of a confederate flag which might seem inappropriate historically since West Virginia was created by the union out of confederate Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War. But the eastern Appalachian region of West Virginia was much more sympathetic to the confederate cause than the strongly unionist northwestern part of the state. What's that got to do with the price of eggs? Those mountains were where moonshine would be made later in the state's history.
Stonewall Jackson: "Bluefield"
Two more moonshine songs follow. The first one is the Stanley Brothers with the famous "Mountain Dew" tune. Tie yourself down because there's some super fast flat pickin' in this one. When you brew your next batch of hooch, just remember, "if your liquor's too red it'll swell up your head."
And, since I'm writing this in Tennessee, I'd be breakin' a state law if I didn't include this famous song, "Rocky Top," which is one of Tennessee's seven state songs. Don't ask me what the others are. I only know one of them. If you really want to know look rightchere.
Why do I see orange every time I hear this.
The Osborne Brothers: "Rocky Top" with some super high mountain tenor
Romney didn't carry Tennessee but he carried six other states. Here's some figures from Tim Ross at Hollywood Republican:
As of tonight, Romney has 417 delegates. The other 3 candidates have 328 delegates… COMBINED. Romney has more than double the amount of delegates as Santorum, 4 times the number of delegates as Gingrich, and 10 times more delegates than Ron Paul. Romney is winning 57 percent of the delegates. Romney has won 64 percent of the primaries. Romney has 1,231,646 more total votes than the next closest candidate. There is no spin here, these are the real numbers.
Come on Rick.
How about it Newt?
Whatta ya say Ron?
Isn't it about time you threw in that sweaty towel and get behind the guy who can beat Obama in November?
The BSM (Big Spin Media) is running stories all over the place about the fracture in the Republican ranks, the vast number of conservatives who want somebody other than Romney, etc. CNN even gave Sarah Palin some time (gasp!) and a leading question so they could imply that she might become the nominee if the contest goes to a brokered convention. My local paper, the Tennessean, features a headline announcing "Santorum's Strong Showing Likely to Prolong GOP Contest," while columnist Gail Kerr says "TN Results Underscore GOP Divide."
Let me ask you a simple question. Do you think Obama will beat Romney in TN in November? Remember this is the state which McCain (arguably much more liberal than Romney) carried in 2008 by over 300,000 votes.
The contest is over. Rick, Newt, and Ron are toast.
In November Romney can put a little Obama jelly on that toast and have a nice snack. The President seems to be doing all he can to help. Cartoon by Ken Catalino.
You push through the door and head toward the bar. The light is low and warm and the bottles look like little gods of forgiveness on the glass shelf. There's a pungent smokey smell in the air and you see a guy sitting alone at the end of the bar who's bent over his drink. A half smoked cigar rests in the ashtray in front of him and smoke curls up toward the ceiling. Two men at a table behind you suck on their brown beer bottles like a baby sucks his mother's milk.
You order a shot of whiskey and a beer and sit there thinking about her. How many months have passed now, how many years? And still her face. The bitch. What'd she have to go and do that to you for? It was all her damn fault.
There's the sound of change being fed into the jukebox on the side wall. A guy makes his selections slowly, deliberately, like the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. After an eternity, the music starts.
But you ain't in a hurry, you're just gonna sit here and drink.
You tap the bar by your shot glass and the bartender pours. You remember that night. Her face pops up now into your consciousness like the triangular fortune on one of those black eight balls you had as a child. Her face, your fortune forever, says, "no, not now, not ever." That was the night she couldn't take any more.
It's as clear in your mind as yesterday or clearer since you can't remember yesterday at all. The clock on the dash of your old Ford said four a.m. The bars had all finally closed. You leaned forward and put your head on the steering wheel. The horn blew. Lights went on across the street at the Johnsons. Yeah. You were home drunk again.
You tap the bar again and the bartender gives you another. You toss it back and take another hit on the beer. A woman comes in, a redhead. Her dress is a pale green and it hangs on her skinny frame like a faded and worn out tent. She's in her late forties and her wrinkled face looks like the saddest map you've ever tried to read. She sits at a table in the corner, lights a cigarette, and orders a bottle of cheap wine.
You throw back another shot and wipe your mouth with your sleeve. Then you think about the pint you had earlier. Was that at lunch or later in the afternoon? Or was it just before you came in here? You're not sure. Hell. Maybe you've already passed the Pint of No Return.
You kill the rest of the beer. You look around. The place is empty. Bartender stops polishing a glas and points to his watch. Yeah, you think, I could be that guy, they oughtta put me in the "Alcohol of Fame."
Well, today is Super Tuesday, which means I gotta make up my mind on a candidate and cast a vote. I've kept up with the Republican campaign so far during this primary season and watched the different candidates rise up and then sink back into the political sea. Their surges and ebbs have been almost as regular and as quick as the way the tides rise and fall daily with the moon.
I watched Cain's surge and found I liked his business experience and blunt way of speaking. Plus that clip of him singing his pizza version of "Imagine" was clever. Then sexual bombs starting falling, and in an amazingly short time he was out of the picture. Politicians are human and they have their failings like the rest of us. Cain is no exception. Anyway, there were already signs that he might not be the best person for the job. And to really mix up my metaphors, I got off the Cain Train long before the sexual excrement hit the fan.
I felt a lot better about Gingrich's rise and seriously considered voting for him. He's very articulate, quick witted, and his comments usually seem grounded in history. But I've cooled down considerably regarding his chances, not because of his three marriages, but primarily because it seems clear that a lot of people in congress (Republicans) were not supportive of his candidacy and indicated that if he were the nominee he might crash and burn and bring others down with him. I liked his knowledge of history, but it seems his own political history might have contributed to his slide.
Paul, of course, has been there all along. I find him to be a decent man and some of his libertarian views appeal to me. I think his idea of basing foreign aid on support for the U.S. and its policies makes a certain amount of sense (with the caveat that other countries (i.e. China, Russia) could use their own aid to influence people in other countries against us and that might not be a good thing. But, I don't think his 19th century idea of an isolated America is possible, and his suggested military reductions are dangerous.
Santorum is the latest candidate to catch the wave. But I've never been attracted to him. He seems like a nice enough guy with a big family, but when I try to think of him as the nominee, something just doesn't click for me. There are things in his voting record that bother me, but my feeling here is much more subjective.
Romney's candidacy has not been subject to the same fluctuations. He's been the slow and steady tortoise to the others' anaerobic hares. He's experienced at organizing and running a campaign. He has executive experience as a governor. He's got successful business experience in spades. He has also has a beautiful family.
Romney is criticized for changing his mind on some issues (flip flopping), for being a Rhino, for being a Mormon, for being rich, etc. etc.
I don't know about you, but I've changed my mind on quite a few issues over my lifetime. I was a liberal Democrat and supported most of their ideas for many years. But slowly I came to the conclusion that I was looking at things the wrong way. I finally realized hat there was another perspective that made a lot more sense for the long term. I consider the fact that Romney has changed his mind on several issues a positive, not a negative. Where some people see his changes as political expediency, I see them as growth.
Romney is also called a Rhino, a Republican in name only. When someone says that she usually means (a) he's too close to the center of the political spectrum, and/or (b) he's more in tune with liberals on social issues.
Point one, most Americans are closer to the political center than to either of the extremes.
Point two, Romney's Mormonism, his personal morality and ethics, in my view, put him on an even par with Santorum on social issues. I personally don't care if he's a Mormon or a Seventh Day Agnostic. What I do care about is his personal morality and his ethical standards. The life he's lived, his family, his service, all of that, tells me he's okay. He's not perfect, I'm sure. But I don't expect that. And I may or may not agree with him on every social issue. But those issues are not top priority with me (and I believe many other Americans) right now.
Point three, I personally think Romney is as conservative as any candidate running now. If you've ever been in an administrative position, you know that in order to make the organization work, to provide the service or to make the product, compromises have to be made. Remember, Romney was governor of one of the most liberal states in the union. He not only got elected as a Republican in that state, he got some things done. And as far as the health care issue, his plan was a state plan, not a national plan. And it did not involve mandates.
And as for the argument against Romney for being rich, I think it's nonsense. If you think about it, the argument really has it's roots in the socialistic/communistic assumption that individual wealth is itself unfair and evil. I'm on the capitalist side of that argument. I'm a proud capitalist (not necessarily a succesful one!) and I think this system best reflects human nature and simultaneously gives structure to human inclinations. All the attempts to create some kind of socialist or communist utopia have not eliminated poverty or imbalances in income. It just can't be done.
Finally, I'm glad Romney's rich. Would you rather have a guy who's already rich get elected, or someone who only has a modest income but comes out a rich man? (Both Clinton, for example, and his VP Gore come to mind.) I think Romney won't be distracted by pursuing his own agenda and cutting a lot of deals as president to pad his pockets for the post presidency. He doesn't have to.
I understand that he might use his position to protect his wealth, but I think his personal ethics would work against that. Still, should he waver, such policies that follow from "protecting his wealth" might ultimately do all of us some good.
I sincerely believe that Mitt Romney and his team can lead America out of the financial crisis that we're in and restore our faith in our country. I think he will generate jobs and growth by having a sound energy policy that involves building the Keystone pipeline and opening up exploration and drilling for oil on and off shore. I believe he will take the necessary steps to cut back the size of government, deal with the looming entitlement crisis, and put us on the road to a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility.
Under President Romney, I don't think there will be any World Apology Tours. I think he will clear up and establish consistency in our currently muddled and inconsistent foreign policy. I also believe that he will use the might of U.S. military to protect and defend American interests here and abroad.
That's my two cents worth. Now, I've gotta go down to the polling place and do my duty as an American citizen. By voting, I have some say in governmental affairs. Every American has a right to speak his/her mind about political issues. But the act of voting, I think, gives me a little more authority if I want to support or complain about what's coming out of D. C. or the TN state legislature.
Last week, after Davy Jones of the Monkees died, I was looking up a bunch of stuff about all of the different guys in the group and what happened to them. I found that Mike Nesmith has continued to work in the entertainment business and has produced some artists, including an album by award winning blues singer/guitarist Ms. Carolyn Wonderland. That's her in the pic (by Ron Baker).
Since I've been on a little Blues kick lately, I immediately checked to see what wonderful "Wonderland" stuff is available the You Tube. I picked the blues standard, "Dust My Broom." There's an ongoing debate about whether the song was written by Robert Johnson or Elmore James, but we won't go there. I am gonna play James' version later, but first I want you to hear this lady.
Before you click on the arrow below, gird yourself my friend and tighten that rubber band you use to hold up your socks, cause this lady's gonna wake you up. Notice she don't pick lightly like some girl pickers I know. And she don't play around with that slide, she's slamming that thing around like she means business. As Big Joe Johnson says, "dust my broom" means "I'm puttin' you down, leavin' for good, won't be back no more!" (There's a Wonderland "Broom" video with better sound quality available on You Tube, but I like this one since you can actually see this woman in action.)
Here's take two on the song, this older one by Mr. Elmore James has better sound quality.
UPDATE: In his comment, Buck has a link to a post he wrote about his first experience with Ms. Wonderland. Follow the link and read and enjoy. You won't be disappointed!
Lest you misconstrue the previous post's intent (Death and the Purple Robe) and infer we're in a morbid mood here at the Cumberland Post today, I searched around and found this draft in our files. Or should that be draught as in Beer?
Lubbock, TX native Delbert McClinton has enjoyed a successful career as a sideman, singer, and songwriter. McClinton, who wrote Emmylou's hit "Two More Bottles of Wine," is in the TX Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame. His voice has a rough edged bluesman's quality to it. Here's his "Lonestar Blues." It's good for what ails you.
In the sophomore literature classes I taught, we used to read a play called Everyman. This play, from the late 15th century in England, is categorized by scholars as an allegorical morality play, a play that uses personifications to teach a lesson about life. A morality play is in effect a dramatized sermon with the purpose of getting Christians to live their life in a moral manner that will ensure their salvation. Though it sounds foreboding and a bit morbid, the play actually has quite a bit of humor.
In the beginning of Everyman, the central character, Everyman (that would be all of us at some point in our lives), is confronted by a mysterious character named Death who basically says, it's time for you to come with me (die). Everyman is allowed some brief time to get anyone he can to go along with him. He asks his friends, his relatives, and his material goods to go with him. When they discover where he's going they all offer excuses, some of which are lol funny. In the end, only Everyman's Good Deeds will accompany him on his final journey.
The personification of Death is a technique that's been used in other literary and musical works. One of my favorite bluegrass songs is Ralph Stanley's "O Death," in which the singer (Stanley does it A capella) directly addresses Death, who has come for him. Like Everyman, the singer-narrator in this song tries to talk his way out of Death's invitation. The song gained a larger audience after Stanley performed it in the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?).
Gospel has been a significant part of bluegrass music from its origins. The Stanley Brothers (Ralph and his brother Carter) had many excellent ones in their repertoire, including "Rank Strangers," "In Heaven We'll Never Grow Old," and "Angel Band." This tune is by Odell McLeod and is called "Purple Robe." It describes the scene from the Bible where Jesus is falsely accused and brought to trial before Pontius Pilate.
The focus in the song is on the inhumanity of the mob and the suffering and innocence of the accused. I first heard this song on The Vanderbilt University radio station back in the early '80s (they had a bluegrass show on Sunday afternoons at the time) and spent a few of those pre-internet days trying to learn the chords on my guitar. I really like the fine, clear guitar picking on this one, as well as the great harmonies (that mix of the high tenor and the resonating bass voice is simply outstanding).