Everybody's cash-strapped these days including myself. But lets pretend for a minute you've got a little scratch to play with. You're hankerin' for a major change in scenery since this last summer's highlight was renting a beer filled pontoon (party barge) and drifting aimlessly amid the random carp. But I hear ya, there's alot to be said for such an afternoon. But let's take it up a notch. Yeah, it'll require plane tickets, yeah and a hotel...and yeah, passports but its the closest you'll get to Paris without crossing the pond.
If you do the research, you can cover a lot of, if not most of Montreal in a fat weekend. I don't know that French is the desired language (I'm guessing yes) but it is the most prevalent. The city is no stranger to the dollar bill and these days the rate is pretty well balanced. I've been there on a few occasions for business as it is a major North American manufacturing hub for apparel and thought enough of the town to take my gal there for part our honeymoon. Walking through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, hoofing it to the top of Mount Royal for a city scape view, exploring Chinatown, venturing up and down Ste-Catharine Street-the city's main drag for shopping. Had a stupendous meal at Gibbys, a favorite Montreal steakhouse. And if we're really, really pretending, and want an even more expensive steak, head for Moishes, $75 bucks a pop, but in all fairness, that was a company dinner.
When heading for the finish line, you've got to see the Basilica Notre-Dame de Montreal. Its freakin stunning. Its Neo-Gothic architecture dates back to 1672. Throw in the Olympic Stadium and you're good to go.
Photo of Olympic Stadium from anna.aero.com Photo of Basilica Notre-Dame de Montreal from goworldtravel.com
Translator's Byrdsy mix of British Invasion with a dab of hostility are still one of my perennial favorites from San Francisco's 415 Records. What with: Everywhere That I'm Not, Unalone, LA-LA and the title track to their 2nd release, No Time Like Now. Wire Train's: Chamber of Hellos and I'll Do You, off, In A Chamber. Romeo Void's: Never Say Never and A Girl In Trouble ( Is A Temporary Thing) and finally Red Rockers' China. Named for what is now one of San Francisco's more iconic area codes in addition to being the police code for "Disturbing The Peace," 415 was founded by writer/promoter Howie Klein with supporting roles from Bill Graham Presents and in-house producer, David Kahne. Not long after its inception, Columbia Records swooped in to provide a national distribution deal. Said Klein, " Before that Columbia deal, we made records that cost $5,000 and sold 50,000 copies. After the Columbia deal, we made records that cost, $50,000 and sold 5,000 copies."
A year ago last Spring, I saw glimpses of what I'd call survival mode from my local Gap store. But before that and since then...enh, I don't know, not really. I mean I get that Gap wants to, and needs to, direct themselves away from being a go-to for every day basics, but I don't see, yet anyway, that they've moved much beyond the rank and file tee shirt. This past weekend I popped into the neighborhood (30 miles away, its a big neighborhood) Old Navy and I realize I'm not their target customer, but I was outta there quicker than it took me to scratch my bee-hind and maybe should have waited till I was out of the store to do that. Banana Republic I-do-not-get. It's like their designers said; "Lets go see what J.Crew is doing" but on their way, they tripped on something, bumped their heads and ended up at Nautica instead. I yearn for 80s era Banana Republic, when they were the unofficial, suburban travel and safari outfitters. Now they knew khaki from chino. How I long for my Gurkha pants and multi-pocket, chambray shirt. (FYI, Gurkha is a unit within the British Indian Army from the 1800s, comprised of Napalese soldiers who sported the high waisted, double buckle style). I didn't think I could rock the Gurkha short with any significant amount of justice as they really only look up to spec with their counterpart beige knee socks. I always try and make a stop into the 3 stores every couple of months in hopes of seeing that glimmer of hope...at least for the Gap, cuz I think that somewhere deep inside, they still got it in 'em... somewhere. But this sure ain't my Uncle Max's Banana Republic.
Has anybody else ever thought that, if you had the chance to meet and s-t-s with Willie Nelson, as remote as that is, but that it's plausible, you could end up being pretty good friends? I mean, he just reeks of guy's guy, mischief and herb. And the stories he could tell. That would curtail any friendship right there because I would just be awestruck, I mean Johnny, Waylon, Kris or Merle. Where would he start and when would it end? As an artist though, Willie took years and years for me to warm up to. In the late 70s, If I paid attention to anything at all "Southern," it was more along the lines of the Atlanta Rhythm Section or Allmans. I was too sensitive and bummed over the Eagles errant crappyness or if Fleetwood Mac's inter-band shagging would not do them in. I had lumped Willie Nelson in with that whole Jimmy Buffet like-party as art-don't give a rats fanny bout nuthin but margheritta's and weed-type of harmonica laced pirate/outlaw buffoonery. I had no time for that barefoot feelgood crap. But during the 80s and 90s, Willie was still playing those quirkey little scattershot leads on nylon strings that still sound a little dusty, a little lonely and with a hint of Tex-Mex. At some point I finally latched on and I couldn't be happier he never left those sensibilities behind.
I know some folks could give a rip less. But I also know I might raise a few eyebrows. But I'm a totally geeked J.Crew devotee, or maybe just a total geek. They've clearly made classic their mission statement and by God, they're nailin it. Jenna's put preppy back on the map with a healthy dose of sexy on top. Incredibly unsuspecting color and fabric combinations of wool, silk, cashmere and denim. Flannel shirts with bow ties, mohair and chambray from some of the finest British and Italian mills. With RedWing, Timex, Barbour, Belstaff and Sperry collaborations, you'd think the design staff were made up of ex Ralph Lauren alumni with a few random heritage hipsters thrown in for taste. BUT... I do have one problem. It's the ongoing display of malnourished women models. My God, someone hand these gals an Angus burger or two...DAILY. I just don't see a jutting pelvis bone or an angular clavicle as chic. Or the appeal of a kneecap so devoid of flesh, it could slice its way through a pair of jeans. Stop focusing solely on sizes 2, 4 and 6 and start struttin some 8s, 10s and 12s. Some of us, my spouse maybe, equate healthy as BIG GIRL, whatta load a crap. Healthy is someone who doesn't starve themselves. Healthy is what it sounds like...H-E-A-L-T-H-Y.
I love that bottom end rumble, that shakin the rafters kinda thingl. I wish I was doin it for a living or maybe its just as well for I'd probably only be putting rice and beans on the table. I call it hunt-n-peck. That's my style if you call it a style. I figure as long as I land on the root when I'm supposed to, I'm half way there. Everything else is superfluous. (I'm trying to sell myself here a little bit so bare with me). Being a drummer, I can indeed shake it a little on stage. So there's that. It may not always be pretty, but everybody needs someone to point at. Plus I play with my fingers, not a pick, so you get a warm, soft throttle. Not that folks who play with a plectrum are any less valid, its just differnt. Touche to the doghouse slappers.
After being greeted with "Hey ya little cretin", there was again a warm delight within the status quo. A quick 15 minutes of yadda-yadda-yadda with my brothers and I was off. Held prisoner in the car with the folks for 4 hours was more than enough time served with good behavior. After all, I hadn't soiled my shorts or thrown up. Not that that should be cause for solitary confinement. But I remember a time somewhere in Ontario I think when the folks and I were trapped in gridlock midway across a bridge during 5 o'clock rush hour with of course absolutely no where to go and I was in pain and could not hold it any longer and crapped my pants. There we were, stranded mid-bridge, creeping forward inch by inch on a hot, sunny afternoon with a sweet, pungent oder wafting throughout. So if there was ever a time my Dad didn't have much use for me, that would've been it.
My island get-away car was a Schwinn Typhoon exactly like the one I had back home so I was pretty well versed in how she'd handle. Headed Northeast around the island for the 7 mile trek always started out strong but I would always come across something new or old to marvel at. More importantly, I always took any opportunity to retain the swagger of someone who looked non-plussed by a gargantuan rock formation by the side of the road just begging to be climbed. Yeah, I've seen it before cuz, you know, my brothers work here!
Having a few neighborhood families transplanted onto Mackinac Island for the weekend of my brother's wedding was pretty cool...and pretty surreal. I was king of the world, or at the very least, an unpaid, destination savy tour guide. Sam, the father of my brother's bride to be, worked some sort of security detail at one time for G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams, our state's 41st governor. So he was able to cop a spot at Soapy's Mackinac Island summer home for the rehearseal dinner. Quite a coup I think, especially for my brother AND pretty swanky, a little too swanky maybe. Whats the point of a beautiful, grand home if you can't dink around in it a little. Probably sharp-shooters up in the hills. Aside from that stiff collared affair and possibly the wedding itself, good times were had. Sneakin puffs off Salems and Viceroys and the neighborhood kid's group ride around the island initiating me to the finer points of Boone's Farm.
My mom used to make 2 types of ground ham salad sandwich; one with pickle relish and one without. The one without was especially for me. I had this thing about foreign matter in my sandwiches, mostly having to do with green things and crunchiness. The only time she ever made these were when we went on trips. Those long, long trips up North. We'd stop at some rest area by Grayling or Gaylord or someplace beginning with a G and have a picnic. And that was kinda fun but I was 12 years old or so, so it wasn't like 7 or 8 year old kinda fun. I was more concerned about looking uncool, being seen with my parents in front of...you know... perfect strangers. What I was excited about was seeing my brothers who were 10 and 12 years older than me. After they left for college and I was no longer their punching bag, I actually worked up a little loneliness for em. I'm only now able to recognize their holding me down and cuffing me repeatedly across the face as endearing and will forever cherish those moments. We finished the picnic and made for Mackinaw City and then onto Mackinac Island where my brothers were employed as carriage tour drivers over summer break. When on the Island, I always thought of myself as a more seasoned traveler that had a step up on your average, every day brand of Island tourist. Justified by the fact that my brothers actually WORKED there and KNEW OTHER PEOPLE that actually WORKED there. To further this feeling of self-imposed entitlement, my older brother Tim, who just entered med school, hooked up with a girl who's family owned the Iroquois Hotel. Now whether my dad was practicing solidarity or my brother happened to get him a nice discount, The Iroquois soon became my folks Inn of choice. During the Summer breaks ahead - carriage tours turned into odd jobs - odd jobs turned into a bartending gig at the hotel for my brother and before anybody knew it, there was a wedding on the horizon.
Carl, Donny Black and I were at the opposite end of Rollin-In-IT. But we managed to bs our way into a small, ranch style rental in Plantation with an above ground pool filled with green sludge thick as pea soup. This was 2-3 years after high school, so we're a prime target as base camp for "friends" coming down for Spring Break wanting to hang at The Button or Art Stock's PlayPen off A1A. Our landlords/caretakers who lived right next door, Duane and What's-Her-Name were from the South. You could just tell What's-Her-Name was more than a little wary of 3 young, shaggy haired, Yankee roughians. She would come by once a week for a random walk thru disguised as checking for Palmetto bugs er something equally banal, but we always seemed to hide any signs of deviant behavior just in time. Duane, the husband, on the other hand, was the definitive Georgia Peach. Nice as could be. About a month or so in and a collective volunteer effort on renewing the above ground pool, Duane realized us guys were pretty straight-up small town boys, a little carny like maybe but small town boys non the less. Carl and I were the only ones home on a Saturday morning when Duane knocked on the door and asked us what we were doin. He said;"I'm takin the boat out today, wanna go along?" The boat was an airboat, to we which we replied; "shitchyah!" We ambled thru Alligator Alley with a cooler full of Blatz and airboat in tow till we arrived at Duane's favored launch. The Everglades...Up Close and Personal! On average, these boats pack about 400 horsepower from either an aircraft or big block car engine. The big block is preferred since its cheaper to operate than aviation fuel. We head out for clear water...what clear water, there is only high grass or a little lower than high grass but Duane lets er rip anyways. Strap Yourself In Son, We Got Ourselves A Race Cah. It's so loud you might as well be duct taped to the outside of a bi-plane in a dogfight and you can't see anything but the sawgrass you're mowin down in front of you doin maybe 40-50 mph. Duane taps me on the shoulder and gives me the international sign for hoisting a cool one. I grab one for myself, AAAAHHHH Nector 'O' the Gods I always say and nary a gator in site 'cept for the ones we tonked on the head whilst we scream thru the Glades.
Thanks go out to Carl for clearing the cobwebs Photo from iforgottolook.com
Carl got me a gig spot on that very night doin dishes while he was on prep at Chuck's Steakhouse, 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale. I literally just stepped off a skank ridden Grey Hound after a 2 day haul down from Grand Rapids, then hopped a cab to Chuck's. Somebody let me poke my head in the kitchen to let Carl know I was here and his immediate words were "Wanna job?" That was fun for like a minute. Then along came a slew of some really sweet gigs: more dishes and table clearing in some Lithoanian place, a stagehand for the Kenny Martel Concept at Beethoven's Dinner Theatre then scraping barnacles off boat hulls in preparation for sanding and painting. That's some high turn-over at that place. But what was cool was what was dry-docked and being worked on on the other side of the marina. Local lore had it that it was a vessel being built for Neil Young, who was dating Robin at the time, the evening hostess at Chuck's.
This ship, I swear, looked like freakin Noah's Ark...but smaller, a lot smaller. It was all hull, deep deep hull with a little cabin up top. I wonder what kinda goins-on were goin on below decks. It had this beautiful, raw natural woodwork on the outside, but really, looked like it would drop like a rock.
Fast forward and I'm just North of downtown Chicago headin up 94 and I'm lookin in my rearview and I can see this bus a ways behind me ski-daddlin up the passing lane and I'm thinkin, thats kinda funny lookin. What with one eye on the road and tuther on the side rearview she starts to sidle up agin me and I can see what looks like the top half of a car from below the windows up, welded on to the top of the bus as skylights. Turns out they're a pair of 1950 Hudson Hornets. As it passes by me, I can see it has this Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues kinda thing goin on and ZUMA stamped into the Florida plate.
Top Photo from greenwithglamour.com Bottom Photo from community.klipsch.com
Elvis played a Hagstrom Viking II (sometimes). "Hey Arn, wher dya find that Hagstrom Swede"
That emasculating term is bar-band parlance for allowing diners to digest their Nachos Grande in peace. I'm pretty sure Clem Burke never had to put up with this. It was a rare booking coup that I wrangled us a back to back 6 nighter on Rikers...er Mackinac Island with Sunday off. This, during the Fall off-season when folks were still coming across for bicycle rides and carriage tours around the island to take in the color change. I recall rainy mornings sitting at the cafe window watching a town bustle in yellow rain slickers and Top Siders, while we consumed the first lattes brought stateside. I stubbornly still refer them as just coffee and Baileys. That Sunday, Don had to run back downstate for something. Jack and I went too just to kiss the earth and get the hell off for 48 hours. We got back to the Shepler's dock just in time to see the ass-end of the last ferry headin' north just beyond the breakwater. Half laughing half skeert we weren't gonna make it back by 9 (I live for these adrenilin filled moments). We exhausted all the other ferry docks untill someone suggested the airport in St. Ignace. We haul booty across the bridge. Finding the airport was one thing, finding a pilot that hadn't already clocked out for the day was another. Someone was looking down on us cuz we found both. Now the only remaining dilema was if we could cough up enough jack. We were pretty well schooled in whine and dance as the bush pilot took pity on us and we were off. A little sphinctor puckering went on in this tiny little Cessna as we flew out over the Straits close to sunset. The Island looks pretty cool from 4,000 feet. We land, unload and hoof it the mile or so back into town. Just in time for the Dinner Set.
We emptied the van and trudged the equipment to the dock to await the next ferry. Parents quietly cautioning their children to take a step back...away...away from these...these people. Our ship finally arrives amid a flurry of seagulls and diesel fumes. Guitars, amps, drums, keyboards, sound and lighting now gets tossed onto the ferry. Then once we dock at the island, loaded off then loaded back on to a horse powered drey to be paraded thru town to the French Outpost where we unload and heft into the bar, banging equipment against the heads of golfers not willing to move aside. "Ahoy there mates, make way, for its a new set of carnys comin' thru." We reveled in it. Not the easiest gig in the world, but we are a creative people, we've done this a gazillion times, we have ways to adapt. After we set up we have our own baggage to take care of (absolutely no pun intended). Huffing up the rickety one story, outside set of stairs, above the bike shop to the Band's Quarters. Sounds official don't it? It ain't. Whoops - I guess housekeeping hasn't quite made their way here yet. I try to locate an unspoiled square of real estate to set my bags down on. We make do cuz it's free More later...
Photo from lavernestravel.com (I don't know the folks pictured, I've got a hunch one of them is Laverne, but the guy in the blue plaid shirt looks like he may have sauntered up and just wanted to be a part of it all.
The late Tommy Thompson of Betty and Tommy Thompson fame didn't waste any time correcting me in my description of my own "suede" cowboy boots. "Those Todd, are what are called Rough-Outs", Tommy said (think James Dean in Giant). Betty Thompson, Scotti Merril and Mary Evelyn Truman played bit parts in the infamous Pickle Packin' Mamas gang along with sometime members Kay White and Phyllis Yeakey. Fitzgerald's on the other hand, is out in Berwyn between Harlem and somethin, is where I saw the infant-North Carolina sextet- Faithless Street-era-Whiskeytown. Infant not only in timeline, but they were so young lookin they looked like a pack a 5th graders doin a boozey, sloppy, twangy Replacements kinda shoe gazer take on honky tonk. Good place that Fitzgeralds, I seen the Derailers and Alejandro there too.
Whiskeytown photo from sonamedia.us Giant stills from document.no and filmreference.com
The standard from which all else is taken. Timeless, Rugged, Lumberjacky I'm likin the boots too.
Another image 'nicked'. This time of a Red Wing boot from detourdesign.blogspot.com (I apologize to the author, its just a great shot, I couldn't help myself. I know thats no excuse but...) P-Bass photo from trevordunn.net
I woke up to Uncle Tupelo sometime after Anodyne and by that time, the band was splitsville. I was pretty well still mired in Dwight, Steve Earle and Lucinda at the time. Then Wilco's AM busted out of the chute. I Must Be High opens with a Beach Boys 'Hey Marcella' style walkin' bass run. Passenger Side, Boxfull of Letters, Should'nt Be Ashamed and the rollicking Casino Queen. Boy that Ken Coomer packs a whallop don't he? Reminds me of El Rayo-X era Ian Wallace. Ian Wallace, the name alone conjures up pub brawler. Listen to Lindley's version of Mercury Blues, that'll shed a little light on it. I've read Wallace pegged the meters from start to finish on that song. He must have guns the size of Everest. ANYHOO I don't believe I've ever seen Ken Coomer play although I think I saw Wilco at that one bar on Lincoln in Chicago. You know the one. Tweedy married an owner then later the city shut it down. Never saw Uncle Tupelo. Saw Golden Smog...enh. BUT I did see Son Volt with the Boquist bros touring behind Trace at the Blind Pig in A Sqweert. Great great show, they just rocked it and so did Sparkle Horse...kind of like Winchester Cathedral meets ACDC on Dilaudid. Keepin' it rural my neanderthal bruthas!
I play drums myself, quite literally, so I naturally align with the supporting cast. I think it must have been when the self titled Crosby Stills & Nash came out, an album with names attached to faces, that touched off my interest in their individual histories: Crosby with the Byrds, Stills with Buffalo Springfield and Nash with the Hollies. Then when Crosby Stills Nash Young Taylor and Reeves surfaced, it was like WHOA, who ARE these other cats? Well...Greg Reeves was a Motown Records session bass player. When Rick James passed on the CSN&Y gig, he turned Neil onto Greg, who's credentials revealed his age as 19, when in fact he was actually only 15 when he played on Deja Vu. FIFTEEN when he created that cool little walk-up on Carry On...sssheesh! From what I gather there was kind of a push/pull between Neil's choice of Greg Reeves and Stills wanting Calvin Samuels in the band. In the end, when the recording of Deja Vu was finished, so was Greg Reeves. In addition, Dallas Taylor, the drummer on CS&N and Deja Vu was also cut loose. But before they were officially a band, Nash Crosby and Stills were called in to sing back up harmonies at the rehearsals for John Sebastions upcoming album as were Dallas Taylor's kit skills. And it was through those rehearsals that Taylor soon found his next home on the CS&N team.
Heading out on the road in support of their two records, the boys brought in an entirely new rhythym section. Enter Calvin"Fuzzy"Samuels and John Barbata who'd both be featured in the upcoming live-4 Way Street. Calvin Samuels, born in Antigua, grew up in London, met Stephen Stills by way of Eddie Grant of future Electric Avenue fame while Stills was there rehearsing for the CS&N debut. After 4Way Street and one dust-up too many, the lads called 'er quits. Upon encountering a rigid "Y" in the road, both Fuzzy Samuels and Dallas Taylor re-emerged as Stills' semi-in-house rydum section for his ensuing solo outings: Stephen Stills, Stills 2, Manassas and Manassas' Down The Road. Johny Barbata was playing with the Turtles when the Buffalo Springfield opened for them. You can also hear Barbata on the Turtle's hit, Happy Together. During the turbulance of post 4Way Street shananigans, Barbata took Neil's street on to record Ohio and on the subsequent Live Young; Time Fades Away.
Top Photo from Rhino.com/HenryDiltz Bottom Photo from 4waysite.com Most Info from 4waysite.com and a little Wikipeepee
Man-a-sis, Man-asses, Man-a-sass, Man-ass-ass. There are few things more embarrassing as a teenager than mispronouncing the title of your new favorite band's debut album. Continuing this travesty for days, weeks, months even until one of my buddies, turned music snob, and Fremont to Lancaster Ohio transplant, Rob Van Evra, corrected me...in front of his band mates - Ohio bastards. Robbie taught me many things that week. One of them being how to move my limbs independently behind a drum kit. I owe him a crapload. This was during my one time stint as a 9th grader mind you and there was nothing, NOTHING cooler than Rob and I boarding a plane in Muskegon headed for Columbus,Ohio, guitar cases in hand, sitting at our assigned seats, lighting up a smoke and sippin' ginger ales. How cosmopolitan is that? Stephen Stills' third solo outing, Muh-nah-sis, was my favorite album from anybody during that time in '72 and I would have worn the grooves to nothing had my dad been more liberal with his prized Harmon-Kardon stereo. Way cooler yet, Stills was bringing Manassas to Michigan, frikkin' Grand Rapids, freakin Grand Valley's Dome Fieldhouse. My God, the guy sitting in the middle of the couch on the porch along with the guy peering through the window of the door off the porch of the same house from C,S&N, is the same guy sitting confederate style behind the mutt in the tin-type photo for the law firm Crosby,Stills,Nash,Young,Taylor and Reeves' Deja Vu. Giddy? Crap, I was ecststic. To see AND hear: Song of Love, Cuban Bluegrass, So Begins the Task, Bound to Fall, the Stills/Bill Wyman penned Love Gangster, Johnny's Garden and my fave, It Doesn't Matter performed by Stills, Chris Hillman, CS&N and DejaVu alum Dallas Taylor and bass player Calvin"Fuzzy"Samuels. Unfortunatly, my one defining memory, or my only memory rather, was the band finally hitting the stage and they did so without a bass player. Not only was Calvin Samuels not present and accounted for, neither were his bass guitars. Until Stills querried the student population for anybody who might have a bass. Soon a roadie appears on stage with bass guitar in hand along with many thanks going out to the student who ran the extra mile back to his dorm room. The show begins with Hillman and Stills trading bass duties until the bowler hat clad, talented Mr. Samuels, finally appears.