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Category: Family


Kelley as Auntie Em (center)

Anyone that knows me, knows that when things get weird, I’m apt to look up and say “Auntie Em, Auntie Em.” Mainly because I would feel pretty damn stupid clicking my heels. Neither of which proves to be very effective. Things still get weird.

That said, wouldn’t you figure that my granddaughter, Kelley Strockbine, would play Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz at her school, Homestead Elementary on Saturday, May 5. Encore Kids is a company that teaches acting to elementary students in schools which lack the resources.

Kelley also played one of the Lullaby League Munchkins and part of an Ensemble. All the kids did a very good job. The sound could have been louder, but everyone got the gist of it. After all, we’ve heard the story. It was a cute interpretation.

The Lion was a substitute from another school. The girl that played the lion at Homestead woke up with appendicitis and had to be rushed to the hospital. By show time at 4:30 p.m. (I understood why it was that late on a Saturday, but still wasn’t real pleased), she no longer had her appendix and was doing well.

As I said, it was a cute interpretation of the Wizard of Oz. All the children did a very good job. And kudos to Encore Kids for helping to keep arts in the elementary schools.

Cast of Oz

Peace be with you.

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Let’s make no mistake – most Mondays suck. Since it is the first of the week for everybody, everyone wants to share their particular suckiness with the rest of the world. I’d like to say that it’s hard to blame them because it’s their job, but I can’t.

There is a guy that mows yards on our block. And other places I’m sure, but that is not of my concern. Over the years, he has changed days. First on Wednesdays, then on Tuesdays, now, as you would figure, Monday. He could have even started with Thursday, but I’ve slept way too many nights since then.

He has also varied times – from annoying to pain in the ass. Almost always before noon. I understand (a little) when it gets up into the 90s on a regular basis. But it’s still cooler now and I wish he would take that into account.

I could even live with all of that – having to do with mowing. But the leaf blowers drive me crazy. Forget that the only thing they do is blow. Forget the fact that, here in Farmers Branch anyway, it’s against city code. The grass doesn’t just magically disappear. It just goes somewhere else – including our yard.

I’ve paid attention to other instances around the neighborhood – they thankfully happen after I get up. I’ve come to the conclusion that they either have no clue how to operate a leaf blower, or they just want to make the homeowner think they’re working harder than they are. Either way, the dogs in the neighborhood – including our two – begin to loudly protest the sound of the leaf blowers.

Then when I got up, everybody and their uncle began to call, email, message, or text – preventing me from accomplishing anything else, including waking up. Like I say, some Mondays suck more than others.

Then I woke up this morning – on Tuesday – with a headache that hung around for most of the day. Do some Tuesdays suck more than others as well, or can I still blame that on Monday? I wonder.

Peace be with you.

Richie Smith and I

Richie Smith and I

Richie lost his fight with brain cancer and went to his heavenly home within the past twelve hours. Below is the post I wrote when I met Richie in 2016. He was a wonderful young man. Even at the worst, he had a smile on his face, a song in his heart, and praise for God. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends – which includes everyone he ever met. I can still hear him sing his song, For A Reason. Rest in peace, Richie.

I was hosting the Angela’s at the Crosswalk Monday night open mic on Halloween when I first met Richie Smith. He came in with his mom and dad, waving to people as they came by the tables – just saying hi. His dad, Rick, came over and told me who he was so I knew when his slot came up. I asked him what he needed, sound-wise. He said Richie just needed a mic because he was going to play the song on a small Bose iPod/iPhone player.

When his time came, Rick helped Richie up to the microphone. Richie’s left leg was in a brace and his left arm was in a sling. I got him set up with the mic and his dad helped him start the songs. I adjusted the sound and Richie introduced himself.

“I’m Richie Smith. I had surgery for brain cancer to remove a tumor and what was left was diagnosed as grade 4 brain cancer. After surgery, I came out I was like this. This isn’t part of my costume.”

The crowd erupted in laughter. That is a perfect introduction to Richie. He is a twenty-two year old young man who has always loved music. He could play piano as well as other instruments. Music came to him naturally. He performed in cafes for charity.

Then he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011. No one outside of his family knew he had brain cancer. When it worsened in 2012, he had two

Richie and his father, Rick.

Richie and his father, Rick.

days to live without immediate brain surgery. After the surgery on November 24, 2012, what could not be removed was diagnosed as grade 4 brain cancer, and he was given two years to live. “The fight raged on, and in 2013 there were two brain tumors growing in size, leading Richie to lose most mobility on the left side of his body, but he never gave up.”1

Richie thanks God for his music even after all that has happened. His positive attitude and faith in God is infectious. There were a number of his close friends there, but, as far as Richie is concerned, everyone there was his friend. He had everyone laughing and dancing along to one of his songs. Even me – and I don’t dance – used to long ago,  but not anymore. Except for Halloween night.

Two weeks later, when I once again hosted the open mic, Richie was on the list. His left arm hung by his side rather than held up in a sling. He played piano with his right hand while he sat behind it and sang. His father, Rick, played the cajon. Once again, his laughter and infectious spirit filled the room. He played a hilarious cover of Skinny Girl Jeans with some additions of his own. Richie had the crowd singing along on Lean on Me by Bill Withers.

Veronica, Richie, and Rick Smith

Veronica, Richie, and Rick Smith

And, naturally, he played his song, For A Reason. Not only is it the name of his song, but it is also the name of his For A Reason Foundation. For A Reason is also Richie first official song release, produced by multi-platinum producer, John Kurzweg. The song was released this past Thursday, the fourth anniversary of his first brain surgery. It was also – as Richie pointed out at Angela’s – Thanksgiving, his mother, Veronica’s, birthday, and his re-birth. His re-birth is how he refers to the immediate emergency surgery.

For A Reason is available on iTunes, Amazon, and the usual online music distribution sites. You can also check out Richie’s Facebook page and his YouTube channel. You can see Richie on Mondays at Angela’s or  at the fourth Saturday Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA) showcase on December 17.

Peace be with you.

                                                                                        1  Quoted from ournewmonarch.com

Not that I have heretofore done a lot of thinking about the growth curve. Which is precisely my point. Have any other parents actually worried about a growth curve? I was watching the Pediasure commercial where the little boy says his shirt is too big and the mother worries about his being off the growth curve. Then, after a couple of days or so with two bottles of Pediasure a day – wouldn’t you know it – he’s right back on that sucker.

Each of my four children grew differently. As did their friends at church and school. Not once did I hear, or worry about, a growth curve. I’m sure at some point we may have bought them Pediasure, but not because we thought it would right any perceived wrong. All four turned out just fine. Even J.D., who wasn’t sure for a while if he was going to get taller at all – he did.

Not that there is not a growth curve. I have seen and heard of children that grew abnormally. However, I don’t know whether their situation was caused by something specific or attributed to the growth curve.

Just saying…..

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

 

This is the video I took of Jimena’s solo. I had my hands stretched above my head and the people in front of me. The blood began to run out of my arms and I almost got a crick in my neck watching the viewer, but I got the solo. The sound could be a little better, but I had as much control over the sound as I did the people screaming around me. When she started her solo, it was like the crowd came alive. See for yourself.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Corey Feldman and the Angels

Cyndy and I drove to Houston last Saturday, the 29th, to see Corey Feldman and the Angels at White Oak Music Hall. We had seen them in San Antonio at the first of the summer tour. Granted Feldman’s music is not what we usually listen to. With the exception of cover songs like Rock On. Then again, we weren’t there because we thought Corey Feldman had a lot of talent.

We were there to see the band – in particular, the 21 year old guitarist, Jimena Fosado. The other

The Angels

members are Margot Lane (keyboard, acoustic guitar, and violin), Jackie Von Rueden (bass), and Marisa Testa on drums. Courtney Feldman is DJ and vocalist – I use both terms very loosely. The girls are trying to prove wrong the perception that they are just pretty, sexy women dancing around behind Corey.

Jimena Fosado in her happy place

Marisa and Jackie provide a steady rhythm section. They both have decent voices for their solo songs, but it’s hard to distinguish when Courtney sings with them. Jackie played bass when Corey played drums. Which is a good thing because someone had to keep the beat. Margot played acoustic guitar on her solo song. She also played violin when not playing keyboard. She plays all three well.

The guitarist, however, simply kicks ass. Jimena Fosado is one of the best young guitarists I have

Jimena Fosado

heard in a while. I’m a little biased because her boyfriend is our oldest son, Conner. Fortunately, you don’t have to take my word for it, although you should. She has played with Steve Vai and if he says she’s good, you can take it to the bank, as it were. Check out her YouTube channel. I’ll be posting a video of her solo from Saturday soon on my YouTube channel after this post is published. If Jimena is still with the band when they play in Dallas in October, you should go see them just to see and hear her play.

The perception of the women would be better if the costumes weren’t so god awful. Corey goes through costume changes more than Stevie Nicks at the old Fleetwood Mac shows. Mostly just jackets and hoods, all of them ugly. The hoods didn’t make sense when he would just throw them off after a verse and chorus.

The sound man mercifully had Corey’s mic turned down – although he could probably hear his voice louder in the monitors.  And the bass was up, so you could hear the words some of the time, but you couldn’t hear the missed notes as well. Not hearing the words had nothing to do with the sound being adjusted. They just all ran together.

Myself, Jimena, and Cyndy

By the time the show ended a little after midnight, the crowd had dwindled down to a smattering of groups spaced around the room among the garbage on the floor. There had been about 200 when they started playing. Some of them were there for the opening acts and stayed for a while. We waited while Jimena changed clothes and came out to visit with us. The cloudiness of the picture of the three of us is due to the humidity, not the camera.

It was good to see Jimena again. We introduced her to Schlotzskys between the sound check and the show. Hopefully, we’ll see her in October.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

My last posts were about seeing my old friends and hearing my friend, Tim Duggins, had died. I also mentioned Joel Nichols, my musical partner for twenty-five years who died in 1999. While writing the last post, I learned from Bruce Eugene Gibson that his mother, Charlotte Gibson, was in the hospital and not doing well.

Cyndy and I met in high school and dated after graduating. It would have been a blind date, but I knew here. It was a strange evening. The other couple was more interested in fooling around than we were. That Sunday, Cyndy called and invited me to a Super Bowl party. At the party I met Bruce and Charlotte Gibson, and Joel Nichols. Bruce Eugene was asleep in the bedroom, being a newborn.

After that party, Bruce, Joel, and I got together to play music. That was the beginning of Southern Plains. We would practice at Bruce and Charlotte’s apartment. I wrote a song for Bruce Eugene called Today A Child. It’s on my Chasing After Wind cd.

Joel and I moved to Nashville a year later. After Nashville, I moved back to Dallas and went back to school. I kept playing solo. Off and on I would play with Joel, after he moved back to Dallas. I also played with Tim occasionally. Although Bruce played with Joel and I at times, it was hard for him to deviate from his schedule. I lost touch with Bruce and Charlotte.

During the R. L. Turner High School’s 100th anniversary celebration a few years ago, alumni from all years were invited to the homecoming game. Each class with members present would be called out onto the field for celebration. Bruce E. had graduated from Turner so we talked after the game and he met our boys who attended Turner at the time.  He also works for Metrocrest Services and I volunteer for their Sack Summer Hunger program.

Charlotte has had health problems for a while, but she was a fighter. This time she just didn’t have enough fight left in her. And another door closes on a part of the past.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Vinnie Smith and I

After our tour of my old digs in Nashville on Friday, the 14th, Cameron and I had lunch at The Row and then headed out to the V-Picks shop. It’s actually a building outside of Vinnie Smith’s house on his property. We talked about picks, guitars, music, and this, that, and the other thing. He gave me a good deal on picks so I could stock up.

Vinnie also said he would send me the V-Picks logo so I could put it on the banner for my merchandise table.

The table I use for my drink, capos, harmonicas, etc.

Which, incidentally, Cameron is making for me. Naturally, it will be guitar-shaped. You can see other examples of Cameron’s work in the store at DanRoark.com.

After we visited for a while, Vinni had to go check on some people doing repair work at the house. We said our good-byes, then Cameron and I headed for Memphis.

When you come see me play, you’ll get a v-picks demonstration. Or you can order a few to try at v-picks.com. The cost is more than regular picks, but they heat up with your fingers helping them to stick to your skin and it takes a good while before they wear out. And they really make the instrument sound good. Each pick has their own unique sound. They also work with ukuleles and mandolins. Give them a try.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

 

916 Acklen Ave., in Nashville

When my family went to South Dakota on vacation to see where our parents met and were married, we found out that the church where the wedding had been had been torn down. It became a running joke that continues to this day. Anytime we couldn’t find the building we were looking for, I would say “they tore it down.”

Last Friday, the 14th, after visiting NAMM one last time, Cameron and I then drove to the area of Nashville where I lived in the ’70s. Going

Picture of a bad picture from the ’70s

through Hillsboro Village, we saw that the Villager was still open. Joel Nichols and I played there. Of course Belmont College and Vanderbilt College have expanded incredibly. There is a fraternity on Music Row. It’s quite a bit different than the street I walked with my songs on cassette, shopping publishers. Thankfully though, it’s still recognized as Music Row, there are still some publishers there, and most of the businesses are music or arts related. In the same buildings, with a few remodels.

916 Acklen Avenue today

A number of years back, Cyndy and I took the same basic drive, although it looked quite a bit different. I wanted to show the children the house I lived in. And – you saw it coming didn’t you – they tore it down.  In the picture above, the door on the far right was the door to our apartment upstairs.

I wanted to show Cameron where it was and I wanted to get a picture. 916 Acklen Avenue is a parking lot for the church across the street. Which is larger than it was then. There was a lot of good music made in that house. A lot of other things were done there too, but mainly a lot of good music. I wouldn’t expect a historical marker, but they could have at least put a plaque in the sidewalk. Just sayin’……..

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Crystal Gayle

Cameron and I arrived in Nashville in time to  check into the hotel and be at Music City Center to register for Summer NAMM  just before 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 13.  After a mad dash around the show floor, we headed upstairs for the American Eagle Awards of the National Music Council  (NMC).

David Sanders, director of the NMC, welcomed the audience  and talked about the awards and the past recipients. Then he introduced Richard Leigh, who introduced Crystal Gayle before presenting her with the award. During her acceptance speech, she talked about growing up in Butcher Hollow and how valuable music was to her and what a vital service the NMC and its members do to involve children in music. Gayle asked Richard to play while she sang Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. Which is only appropriate, considering he was the songwriter of the song.

Patti Smith

John Ingrassia introduced Patti Smith and presented her award. He talked about her long history of arts, music, and activism involvement. He said that she was also a very good and devoted mother. When Patti reached the microphone, she said that she hadn’t known she was going to have to say anything, so she didn’t bring any remarks. In true Patti Smith fashion, it was not long before she was off and running about activism, music, and working together – quite eloquently, in her own way. She sang a song with her bass player on acoustic guitar. There was noise and activity around me, so I didn’t get the name of the song.

Paul Shaffer introduced Harry Shearer with the worst introduction I have heard- and I’ve heard a few. He said he had his comments on his phone, but I’m not sure there was anything on it. He babbled some stupid jokes – including one that I will not repeat and that repulsed the audience. Everyone held their breath for a second, wondering if he had really said what they heard. Harry’s reaction seemed a cross between surprise, pain, and trying to act nonchalant. Then Shaffer sat down at the keyboard to play a song for Shearer. I think it was supposed to be funny, but it fell as flat as his jokes, only with music – which wasn’t all that swell either.

Harry Shearer

Harry Shearer brought it back in line by talking about the real reason he was there – as a passionate advocate for creators and artists. Among other things, he was voice-over artist on The Simpsons and writer for Fernwood 2 Night. He played bassist Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap. He has received to this day $18 for Spinal Tap. An effort has been underway for some time for those involved to recoup the money they should have made. That is a large part of what fueled his activism for creators and artists.

After Harry’s acceptance speech, the entire ensemble joined together on stage to play Patti Smith’s People Have the Power. Shearer played a ukulele bass and Shaffer actually sounded good on keyboard. Patti felt the spirit rise up in her. No doubt stirred up by the memory of co-writing and performing the song with her late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, from MC5. Many people got into the spirit of the activist song while others weren’t quite sure. As an old hippie, I thought it was great. It was a perfect end to the awards.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

 

 

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