As my 2009 touring season winds down, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you
all for this past year. I always tried to do the best for you . Although some shows have been more successful than others,
I can’t think of one that I wouldn’t want to do again.
In 2009 I got to play The Assembly Line Concert
in Detroit, a couple of sets in front of a flag that Frances Hahn rescued on his way to the helicopter that took him out
of Vietnam, had a conversation with a three-year-old and helped her put on her shoes, played a church service and had a
minister write a sermon about one of my songs, saw the devastation of Flint, MI, talked to a former Great Lakes merchant
seaman, played a presidential inaugural party and the formerly flooded downtown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Keith Miller taught
me the rudiments of musical saw. I got to play for the Veteran’s for Peace again in Sheboygan, WI too. Every show was
a special one for me.
I didn’t make it back
to New York City or Texas this year, but I made it to Nebraska and Kansas. Still trying to finish the third album.
Still editing the book. Waiting for the documentary on record stores to get done. Planning on a video shoot. Sorry if I
failed any of you in any way.
listening, much obliged, as always.
May 2009 - I was wandering through
the internet and found one of these deals that lets you jump on some musicians website and give a comment. It happened to
be on My Space and the musician was my buddy, Judge Fletcher.
We've shared stages many times and hope to share many more. Judge is an excellent songwriter and
singer. Well, the yahoo left the comment that his songs were crap and he sings worse. Of course, it was anonymous. Now Judge
is an ex-marine and I'm sure that he can handle any kind of criticism and some anonymous guy trying to cut him down a
peg from the other side of a computer screen.
It does require a leathery skin to get up and do what we do. Half your family and friends thinks you're crazy
and it seems that the other half think that 'talent' is what they hear on American Idol. Still, no matter how tough
we are, we feel the bug stinging our windshield.
Another friend, entertainment attorney Bob Lefsetz writes often about not wanting to get e-mails about "your
lousy band" and is sure that most of what we do "sucks". Then he digs up some forgotten track by a 1970's
band that thirty years of hitting a bong couldn't get me to like.
And then I'm getting ready to do a show and the opener is on stage. He was a
young guy doing mostly covers. He was nervous and tentative. An older guy was working on his lap top and drinking coffee.
I was looking at him as maybe my audience. He got up and came over to me and said, "Is it me or does this guy suck?"
Well, out of the fifty or so teenage kids in the place, one guy had the guts to put together a program, get up and do it.
Yeah, maybe he sucked, but at least he was doing it.
Walking through Greenwich Village for the first time last fall, I thought that I should have been there
thirty years ago. I would've been, but I was convinced that I sucked. I believed my naysayers. I don't have a lot
of regrets, but that's one of them. Guys like Peter LaFarge and Ramblin' Jack Elliot had the courage to stand up on
the stage then. Take a listen, they suck on American Idol terms.
I know there are people who believe that Beatles passing gas was great art, but if you listen
to the Hamburg tapes they suck. Even "'Til There Was You" on the first album sucked. The Stones first album
is kind of embarrassing and everything is a cover. Dylan had one original on his first album.
Everyone sucked, except maybe Beethoven.
So all you anonymous critics out there, why don't you try and
enjoy the night and the nervous teenager with the cheap guitar. Be grateful that we aren't watching how deftly you handle
that broom or shovel on your job. We don't heckle kids playing t-ball and most of us don't boo high school football
games. We have regressed to the point where a kid isn't supposed to miss a free throw in college.
The very least you can do is shut up for a while. I'd rather
hear a kid butcher Neil Young as part of a learning process than some hanger on rip him for trying.
I'm sure I'll be hearing from "anonymous" on
this one, just please try to use some punctuation in your pidgin texts.
Thanks for your support, much obliged, as always. -Mike
December 2008 - If you think you are having a hard time just think about my buddy Gov. Rod. I have a mortal fear
of having the FBI at my door with handcuffs at 6 am. He has kept the spirit of Paul Powell alive for us. Go on over to Weaselworld
and take a look at my bit on my neighbor. Like Randy Newman said about Lester Maddox "if you think you're better
than him you're wrong".
SUPER BOWL 43 - While my social activism this weekend will be restricted to a plate of nachos-
it will be a halftime show of
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN for BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE. Remember those tires that exploded on the road and almost killed me on I-44?
Well no wonder, take a look at how they are made http://www.stopfirestone.org. According to Dave Zirin they have "a labor policy
that would shame an Egyptian pharaoh.
Ah, but it's tough to make an honest living
Venues for up-and-coming artists are disappearing as copyright licensing fees get stiffer
By Tim Holt | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 9, 2009 edition
After a 30-year run, the owner of the Sacred Grounds Coffee
House in San Francisco has shut down the Thursday night open mics. Mamma Llama, a small coffeehouse in Weaverville, Calif.,
no longer features musicians from near and far. Open mics at the Ragged Edge Coffee House in Gettysburg, Pa., are down from
50 to 60 audience members to no more than 15 these days.
These grass-roots music events, spawning grounds for the
next generation of musical talent, have come up against the demands of US copyright law, as enforced by a handful of companies
who act as collection agents for songwriters and composers. The law states that no performer in a public venue can present
someone else's copyrighted music without their permission and, usually, without compensating them. A number of agencies,
chief among them Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), charge
music venues an annual copyright "license fee" ranging from $300 to nearly $10,000 for the privilege of presenting
someone else's music.
Much of the music at those Ragged Edge open mics was written by the performers, but there
was also cover music from the likes of Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. ASCAP wanted a license fee of $900 a year from Ragged
Edge owner Jake Schindel. He paid up and, to recoup that expense, started charging a cover fee, which caused attendance to
dwindle. He was losing money, stopped paying the fee, and has cut back his musical offerings to unadvertised – and often
poorly attended – events.
Bruce Schrader, who owns the Sacred Grounds Coffee House, tried to keep his open mics
going by having his performers sign waivers stating they were playing only their original songs. Nevertheless, he was faced
with demands for $6,000 in license fees from the agencies and had to shut down the weekly event last year.
argument," Mr. Schrader said, "was that I couldn't possibly know whether the performers were singing any of
the millions of copyrighted songs they represent, so I'd better get a license if I didn't want to get sued."
As soon as Mamma Llama owner Steve Friedman agreed to pay ASCAP an $800 annual fee, two other agencies demanded license
fees. So he just stopped offering live music. "It was impossible to have the music without getting continuous calls and
e-mails from these guys demanding payment," he recalls.
Smaller music venues around the country are struggling
to pay these licensing fees. Many simply get worn down by repeated demands from the agencies for payment and threats of costly
lawsuits and simply drop live music offerings altogether.
"It's killing the local music scene," laments
folk musician Spook Handy, who's seen performance venues in his hometown of New Brunswick, N.J., drop from around 40 in
the mid-1980s to half a dozen now. "We're not bringing up a new generation of musicians. They just don't have
places to play."
There's general agreement in the music industry that the number of small venues offering
live music is declining, although it's not clear how much of this is due to enforcement of copyright law.
Candilora, ASCAP's vice president for licensing, says the fees are set at a "very good rate," adding, "What
gives anyone the right to use someone else's property, even though they're not making money on it? I can guarantee
you the phone company's going to charge you whether you're making money or not."
Despite this tough talk,
there has been a softening in fees: ASCAP lowered its rates for the smallest venues last January, down from around $1,000
a year to $350, closely matching BMI's current rates.
And there's the possibility of more reductions: The
Memphis-based Folk Alliance, an advocate for up-and-coming artists, is negotiating with BMI to cut fees even further. BMI
is receptive to the idea, according to Alliance negotiator Renee Bodie, and she hopes new rates will be in place in the next
six months and that ASCAP will match any new BMI fees.
"We're discussing ways to give these smaller places
a break," acknowledges BMI spokesman Jerry Bailey. "We realize they're helping to support the next generation
If that's the case, BMI has some fence-mending to do. Coffeehouse owners complain of intimidation
tactics. Bailey says lawsuits are threatened, and sometimes pursued, only when BMI has proof that violations of copyright
law have occurred.
One southern California coffeehouse owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was able to get
his total annual fees down to $1,000 from three agencies by telling them he wouldn't open unless he got rock-bottom rates.
That was 10 years ago. He's still in business, but not happy about having to pay even those fees: "We're the
people who give performers their start, and we have to pay for the privilege."
As someone who professed
disappointment when perceived populist/radical artists made such deals in the past, this just elicits a yawn.
Bruce Inc. is taking the bucks, but what
is he selling or (not) selling out?
A bunch of songs that are available everywhere to anyone anyway?
Small business and/or indie record stores are going to suffer because of this? How much independent
business is left? How many independent record stores? Of those that are left, how much Springsteen do they sell? How many
give you that deprecating sniff when you ask for something as retro as Bruce?
And how many of us that nostalgically remember the kindly gent at the hardware store that
would climb the ladder to get us a 1 7/8” bolt, when we pull up to the Home Depot because it has a big parking lot and
there are six of them on the way home from work?
Springsteen’s audience is not the neo-hipster in the indie record store. They are at Wal-Mart because they
economically have to subsist on cheap goods from China. The kids and the wife don’t have the patience to spend an afternoon
perusing the bins in some musty shop that reminds us of when we had hair and our knees didn’t hurt.
The real sad part of this is that Wal-Mart
Nation isn’t scared of rock and roll (or us) anymore. Target sells those American flag shirts that incited people to
riot when Abbie Hoffman put one on. The University of Cincinnati Marching Band performs a tribute to Led Zeppelin at half
time of a bowl game. Relief pitchers walk into baseball games while the PA cranks “Welcome To The Jungle” or “Hell’s
Bells”. “Crazy Train is played before University of Oklahoma football games. All in a ‘family oriented’
venue. I’m sure you’ve caught the Docker-clad soccer mom rocking out to Guitar Hero while Junior plays the drums
in the finished basement.Of course, Bruce will be at the Super Bowl following a long line of old dogs
who have lost their teeth. Wonder if he’ll play “Born To Run”?
Collectively, we aren’t scaring anyone anymore. We are like the Godfather Marlon Brando
gumming an orange slice, chasing his grandson in the garden. We can no longer clench a fist because arthritis has set in.
And it is all a perfect business plan.
The big boys can cut a wide path and make our lives so unbearable all we can do is sing about it, buy their sweatshop clothes
and bargain goods. Whatever ‘art’ we turn to they can take from us and sell (after they screw us out of our fair
share). When we are tossed out of our homes and jobs and our big American cars are repossessed we can console ourselves with
a Springsteen song. God bless Bruce for at least getting paid. I never have been able to figure out the gravy train.
The Huffington Post that published the
Springsteen blog won’t pay you unless you are Bill Clinton. Editor Hillary Rosen in her previous incarnation at the
RIAA sued teenagers who were interested enough in music to download it. She gets paid but most of the ‘bloggers’
don’t. Somebody will make a nickel off of these paragraphs but I won’t.
I’ll probably be in line down at the Wal-Mart with a friend that has 25% of his lung
capacity left and can’t afford to buy the medications he needs to stay alive anywhere else. If they have Bruce up by
the checkout, I might say “hmmm” and remember when. It might come down to a CD or a Snickers though. I have all
this stuff on vinyl anyway and at least the Snickers is fresh.
December 2008 - Producer
Bill thinks that I lost my sense of humor. I sent him the current crop of eleven songs that I've been out doing for the
past year or so. I was afraid that some of the songs might have been too lightweight. There was a time when in the relistening
and reworking of "Tossin'" I thought that it was too depressing.
Bill says that there is more to life than depression. He cited
a bit of fist shaking in "Solidarity" and " I Ain't Goin' Away". He says that he is worried
about me. I have to confess that I didn't see this coming. Maybe he is right.
I've been approaching life as if it were
the first half of the "Deerhunter" , innocence on the precipice, like Bill Cosby used to say about Las Vegas: when
you think that things can't get any worse, here comes worse around the corner. Eight years of the "W" funk.
Thousands dead in an unnecessary war. I just heard an old gang-banger complain about the senseless violence in Mumbai. Friends
have been foreclosed upon and repossessed and living on the streets. Just about an hour ago I passed my homeless friends who
camp out under the I 90-94 viaduct and a city crew was rousting them out. Amazing that a cash strapped city can find the funds
to roust some guy sleeping on a piece of cardboard under an expressway in 16 degree temperatures. You really see the need
for them to raise our downtown parking meters to $6 an hour.
Of course, I can just let my eyes glaze over and get caught up in Obamarama.
I sure hope that all these dreams come true, but I've been around the block before. I'll believe change when I see
it. I do love the glimmer of hope, but folks can't eat this hope yet and I don't see it putting a roof over some folks
heads. Tomorrow is always a wonderful place, but it just cushions what is happening now.
So maybe, I have lost my sense of humor, but
I haven't lost my belief that you and I together can make it through.
Our mom passed away on 11/20. She died at home. Had a shot
of Bailey's the night before and went to sleep. A beautiful way to pass from this earth.
To our surprise, she had cashed in every insurance
policy. We knew that she had run through her retirement annuity. She had paid for the opening of my dad's grave and the
internment of her ashes. She paid about $600 for this, if she hadn't it would've cost us double. Naively, I thought
that the funeral home would have some sort of payment arrangement, but we were informed that they were a business and it was
strictly cash only. We could sign over an insurance policy, but that was the extent of that. We had to sit down with my two
sons and figure out how to get mom taken care of properly.
It cost us $250 for the funeral home to pick up and store the body. We had
to shop for a cheap cremation. She didn't want to be embalmed. She didn't want a visitation/showing. She wasn't
on public aid. She paid her rent with her social security. We bought her food and took care of whatever else she needed, so
we received no assistance. One guy offered to cremate her for $500 if we allowed her body to be used for medical training
for a month. Finally found a guy that would do it for $800. We sat around counting our pennies and trying to come up with
brother bailed us out with $2000. We all sat around feeling like total losers. My wife is beholden to student loans that didn't
yield the increase in income she had hoped for. Son #1 is going through a contentious divorce. Son #2 just got back to work
after a hiatus. And of course, I'm a broke down folk singer without a sense of humor that still finds rewards in playing
two hours for the proceeds of a passed hat. Who says that I don't have that hope? We paid for the transportation and the
cremation. There was another $400 for a burial urn.
And then there was mom's final wish. The funeral home offered us a memorial service for $1700.
We could sit and look at an empty rented urn for four hours. There was a need to celebrate the life and provide a place for
old friends to gather, remember and say good-bye. Mom wanted a party. A somber funeral home didn't suit her. I never felt
good about being in one and there were better things to do with $1700.
I know that some wished that it would have been more staid and respectful,
but then maybe they didn't know mom all that well. I could just hear her saying "screw these guys and their $1700".
So we talked to our friends, the Lawless family at the Irish Oak, opened the bar and played her favorite "Celebration"
on the boom box. The Sweet Adelines (her barbershop group) sang, Rev. Hamilton said a few words and I let mom sing to us through
a tape that she left us. We put a bottle on the bar and encouraged everyone to have a drink with Dolores. It was the greatest
funeral that I've ever been to. I do imagine that somewhere, someone is criticizing us, but I know mom would've been
happy and that is all that counts.
the life is getting back to normal, albeit with a hole in it. I haven't had much time for my own grief. It was everybody
else's tears that I tried to dry and everyone else to console. I am a little numb from it all. Sleeping all night without
having to get up and lead mom to the bathroom or turn her. Maybe the sense of humor will come back in time.
I've been doodling around
some songs like "Bill Says I Don't Have A Sense of Humor". Thinking about the hospice nurse telling me about
terminal patients disengaging from life and looking at old pictures of my parents. The corner where they lived is supporting
the third structure that I remember in my lifetime. Maybe sometimes life disengages from you as well. People living there
now will remember the luxury condo while I remember Sonny with his clubfoot fixing tires at the old Standard Oil station with
two pumps and the lighted crowns on top of them.
Life goes on. Apologize if I depress you, didn't mean for that to happen. God's stars are still
shining tonight. That's a constant - so far.
August 20th,2008 - Well so much for the daily aspect....From
looking at my traffic, it doesn't seem like anyone was more interested than normal anyway. My wife doesn't listen
to me either.
Getting ready to go
to Iowa for the Big Lemars fest. Looking forward to it. From non-stop Olympics I'll be missing the Democratic convention.
I think that I'll be able to get the idea when I get back. I'll miss a few tears when people remind us of what we
can be and think about how far away we are.
One of the sportswriters - Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune, I thing - took a look at the Olympic's opening
ceremony and declared that it doesn't look like this is going to be America's century. Damn, I can get depressed at
a track meet. If Chicago gets the Olympics in 2016 we won't be able to stifle dissent. We won't be able to substitute
a prettier little girl to lip sync for a not so perfect one. (I wondered if I ever saw a seven year old child who wasn't
beautiful?). None of us will be wearing adult diapers so we can crouch in a little box for six hours without a bathroom break.
It does seem that our major would like to make us do that, but I don't think he can pull it off. I'm sure that we
can impress our slack jawed rubes with a fireworks exhibition though. I know we will all be paying for it too. Cameras and
tickets and higher sales and property taxes. We all pay dearly to live in a city that directs all the tourist dollars downtown.
Have a beer at Navy Pier but nowhere else. Make it real tough on any off-Loop entertainment and gear all our transportation
dollars to out-of-towners trying to get to Wicked than to some poor guy trying to get to work. Our murder rate is exploding.
I think that is due to economic times here being so tough. The working man never expected the country to give him a break
or to look out for him - maybe it is time we start. Maybe the century will be ours when we look to solve Darfur and the Congo
and Tibet and Englewood. We need a change of direction and I can't see us being given a chance to elect one.
Christmas Day 2008
"I love my country as it dies_ In war
and pain before my eyes I walk the streets where disrespect has been The sins of politics, the politics of sin The heartlessness that darkens my soul On Christmas" - Laura Nyro
CLOUT CITY CHRISTMAS FANTASY 2008
December 2008 - Been
working on some holiday songs. Managed to update my favorite. I'm going to try and perform it over the weekend. Thought
you all might like the lyrics as a cheap Christmas card.
CLOUT CITY CHRISTMAS
(Win Stracke amended
by Mike Felten)
Jesus went riding with old Santa
And he went to the city
where Daley was boss
On a cold and blustery
Jesus found some things
that were hard to believe
First we’ll circle the city old Saint Nick did say
We’ll see who’s been rehabbed and who’s moved
And then when my sleigh
isn’t so loaded down
We’ll go find the poor folks on the edges of town
If I were you that’s where the presents I’d give
Where folks are out there struggling to
My folks had hardly
a pot they could stir
Until some wise men
gave us gold, frankincense and myrrh
That stuff wouldn’t cut it today said St. Nick
The gifts today are all shiny and slick
And he ho, ho, hoed while cracking his whip
And off they did go on their gift-giving trip
Besides Santa said as they skimmed the rooftops
This stuff’s really paid for by the
moms and the pops
What’s more it’s
important to the economy
I’m just the symbol of giving said he
And they rode high above State Street’s mercury lights
And the Magnificent Mile all glittering
And to think that they
do this in remembrance of me
Santa said, some on credit and some C.O.D.
They stopped for a moment at old city hall
Where the ward healers celebrated it all
They even hung a sign up there that read
“Give us this day our Daley bread”
And now Jesus said Let’s visit the
And so they took off
on a desolate tour
The factories were shuttered,
the houses foreclosed
Cook County Jail was
booming cells rows after rows
At a small storefront church they heard people pray
And away in the manger, Jesus did say
Some oxen and donkeys my vigil did keep
But some of these infants have rats where they sleep
And Jesus heard gunfire ring out in the
And Santa wondered how
many would die in the night
The gang bangers and dopers and kids in between
And if there was Christmas it was meager
That’s enough said Jesus I don’t
like what I see
And to think this holiday
is named after me
Thanks for the ride
much obliged for the talk
But from here on out, I’d just rather walk
He saw all that was corrupt and all that was wrong
Then he saw those giving without expected reward
A group of young lawyers ignoring fat fees
Committed to fighting class inequity
He saw doctors more concerned with good
Than insurance companies
preoccupation with wealth
And hard, grizzled bikers batting out their brains
So ADC kids could have dolls and toy trains
So it’s good-bye Clout City it seems I must go
It wasn’t all bad let’s just
say it’s so so
But Blago and Daley
and even Barack
If it ain’t better next year, I’m going to tell pop
July 14, 2008. Guilty! I sat and vegetated yesterday. Kind of dabbled in some lyrics
but mostly watched the tube and got depressed. It started out when I watched an American Experience on John Adams. Thomas
Jefferson was 'swiftboating' Adams' presidency by paying a guy named Callendar to spread malicious lies about
the president. Adams responded with the Sedition Act - a low point for him. Damn were any of these guys the noble beings we
thought they were?
I know it was supposed to be
a 'romance' between Jefferson and his servant but I can't just buy the love story when one person thinks that
he had 'ownership' of the other. It is dysfunctional and sick and closer to rape than love. I know everyone is slinging
mud at Obama and McCain, but here I am brooding about Adams and Jefferson. When was politics a noble enterprise?
Later I watched 60 Minutes.
In this land of plenty working folks can't afford health care even with insurance. Last time that I went to the
doctor I went for a blood workup and got billed $600 - after insurance and having my wife work as a nurse at the hospital
where it was done. We haven't been able to afford any of the follow up tests that both of us need to have done.
Remote Area Medical was founded to bring medical care to folks in Third World
nations, but now it does most of it's work in the United States. I had tears in my eyes watching this, but then Phil Gramm
says we are just a nation of whiners anyway. Take a look.
November 2008 - Thanks to NYC for showing up.
Maybe it is the law of averages or just the vast amount of people looking for somewhere to sit down and have drink, maybe
it helped to have Peter Himmelman playing at the Living Room downstairs too, but we
had full houses for our shows. Nobody was shy and we had good repartee with the audience. thanks for making me feel at home
in the big city. Hope to come back real soon.
on 11th Street and stumbled across the fact that another midwestern boy finished up his life in the neighborhood. Mark Twain had his funeral services at the brick Presbyterian church on the corner and a house he had lived in
is still standing on 10th Street. I was going to go down and busk on Washington Square on Saturday, but it is under reconstruction
and it rained all day. Hope we have other days. I should've been here forty years ago...
Due to my mom's
continued failing health, I had to cancel my recording dates with Lou Whitney and Bill Glahn down in Missouri. I'm going to have to keep it close to home for a while.
Life sometimes intrudes on our parade. As tough as it is, it is a joy knowing that caring for her in this time is truly the
right thing to do. Not many things that I have done has been as free of doubt as this.
My next shows aren't until December, so I'm going
to take the time to work up my fractured Christmas set . Hope you can come out and catch one of them. Maybe I'll
wear a festive sweater...
A chill is in the air and I'm getting ready to go to New York. I hope all my east coast friends can come out to a show.
I must know ten or fifteen people out there.
I am hoping to rent a U-Haul truck and help the Bush family move out of the
White House. Hit the road, George and don't you come back no more no more no more. The old man was bad enough and the
kid was worse. I just hope we have seen the last of these losers. Sometimes I long for a good tarring and feathering. If we
could have sent 41 off that way, maybe his moron kid wouldn't have thought it was such a neat job to have. Sorry, that
I have departed from my message of faith, hope and charity but I can't think of any group that has had a more detrimental
impact on the things that I hold dear.
Mom has moved in with us and we are all still getting used to the day to day routine of caring
for her (and she is getting used to being cared for). This is a life passage. Hope to incorporate this into my music. I hope
that you care about it. It is sometimes lonely doing this and most of your friends think that you are a lunatic who would
be better served putting on that Home Depot apron and giving up any chance that your life might actually amount to something.
reminding myself that Van Gogh only sold one painting in his life. One foot after another, one coffee shop, another bar. A
renewing nap in a rest area and some truck stop coffee. Keep going on. Like my friend, Otis Gibbs, says, "Thanks for
giving a damn."
"I come to you in troubled times." Utah Phillips used to say that. It seems like
the times were always troubled, but now they seem especially hard. Traveling around it isn't hard to spot the foreclosure
signs, the empty storefronts and the folks all hanging around looking for a break to come rolling down the street.
There is no place for me in
this world except with a guitar in my hand -it is my shovel and my plow- singing my songs for you. We aren't alone
in this. I can see by your eyes you think you're beaten and you might see a little quit in my eyes too, but we can pool
our strengths and beat this. Give me an hour or two of your time to replenish each other's faith. I'll hustle the
gas money to get there. Hope you can buy a CD or a t-shirt to help me down the road.
As always, thanks.
After Lemars, my mom got sick.
A blocked bile duct and a mass inside that they don't know quite what it is. It's been a month in the hospital and
she is getting her strength back again. She's yodeling a bit, but not back to singing yet. It is her lifeblood as it is
mine. In the darkest hours when her life was in the balance, I told her to try and breath in rhythm and she did. The prognosis
is never good when you are 85. Again, we'll make it through. Life just took a left turn on us.
August 2008 - After five months we are
closing down our Tuesday night series at the Horseshoe in Chicago. 8/19 is our last night with Kelly Steward and Judge Fletcher.
Looking forward to our week in Lemars, Iowa at the National
Old Time Country and Bluegrass Festival. Trying to work out a trip to New York City in November. If any of you think that
you may come out and see me let me know. I have no idea what my draw would be in New York. I just have to rely on what you
tell me. If there is no interest, I'll try and book Christmas,Michigan again. Let me know.
I watched the premiere episode of "Generation Kill".
The hype was that it was a vision of the Iraq war through the 'new face' of the American soldier. It was sad. If this
is the way it is - our troops come across like unsympathethetic morons. It doesn't seem like we have moved too far from
the World War II realism. Racist, arrogant jerks who would indeed be misfits in any civilized society. Not one woman either.
I'm not looking for a PC version of what is going on, but I do read the names of the casualties and it is not a boys club.
I expected to see old comic book hero Sgt. Rock chewing a cigar and chewing out some Jewish coward from New York City.
This is a band of brothers that I would be ashamed to be a part of.
July 10th, 2008 - OK, I'll calm down.
I know that you are not going to like some of the things that I say and I know that I'm not going to agree
with a lot of things you say. We have to remember that when the water recedes and the wind stops blowing we still
are all Americans. We can't let Fox or MSNBC define us. They are selling us entertainment, we are all out here trying
Spent the 4th up in Wisconsin
and there is good news to report. After the recent floods FEMA was up there knocking on doors looking for damage to make right.
Dan and Deb got a check deposited to their account three days after making a claim. Something got fixed somewhere.
We got our residency at the Horseshoe extended. Come out some Tuesday.
Played a good Christian community coffee house in Hudsonville,Michigan -Mocha 'N'
Music. Went pretty well. You book a coffee house you never know what you are getting into. The only thing that you are sure
of is the beans. My Music stays the same, but my repartee changes. "Gospel for the unredeemed". I don't think
that there is gospel for seekers that haven't had the lightning bolt 'saved' experience. Tossin' is all about
that. I could've gone heavier on the explanation. I hoped that they got it. All very pleasant folks. It does no good to
only challenge those who are in lock step with you. I'm embarking on my 'fifty state' strategy. I love this place.
I love the honesty of the people who will take the time to listen and talk to me. I'm out here to learn as well as entertain.
July 3,2008 Dennis Kucinich gives
a Fourth of July message!
July 2, 2008 - So we are getting ready to celebrate
the 4th again. Gas just went up about .20 since last weekend. The US oil companies just signed a pact to harvest the oil out
of Iraq. The infrastructure is still in place and in fairly good repair. Iraq can produce more oil than Saudi Arabia. Good
news? Every time some guy would call in sick at the refinery the guys at the service stations would note a decrease in production
and would be climbing up their ladders to raise the price. You'd think that this increase in production would be the cause
for plummeting prices and we would be dancing in the streets.
What happened to GM? Growing up we'd look to that as the leading American business. As GM went, so went the nation.
Where is their lobby in Washington? They can't sell Escalades with $4+ gas. You would think that the free market economy
would check itself and spread the profit around. The oil companies seem to be holding all of us hostage even the big businesses.
his credit, Mr. Obama attempted to explain his support of the telecommunications immunity act to me. He responded to an e-mail
with his stump explanations. We can give him a point for that. My other senator, Durbin doesn't bother to respond, but
he isn't running for anything at the moment. It does make me feel better that the bill as it sits has no immunity for
criminal prosecution. To quote Mr. Obama, "no one is above the law". The immunity is for civil action only.
June27th, 2008. So Exxon waits out paying their
Valdez judgment and gets it cut to a fraction. So who cares about the environment? Don't sell us on drilling on the wilderness
with your fake concerns.
and Obama ought to have their debates in the Waffle House. I respected both as men of principle, but they are shunting all
of that aside in an attempt to pander to the electorate. McCain used to believe in closing the Enron loophole, now it's
is the old saw about increasing domestic production. The news today implied that rising food and fuel prices were due
to a softening of the poverty in China and India. Let's blame these people for eating too much.
Obama shrugged off the Supreme Court's misinterpretation
of the Second Amendment and tried to say it was a good thing. He is looking for votes from gun owners. Never mind that kids
are getting shot on a daily basis in Chicago AND the Chicago outfit that put him where he is has a vested interest in a handgun
You all know that I love to
drive and want my gas, but let's get it out of Iraq. Let's eliminate the future traders that are setting the prices
for the rest of by creating false shortages. You know that I think that everyone should have a gun if they want one. We need
to be able to defend ourselves when the junta knocks on our door, but a gun on the streets of Chicago is a different animal
than one in the woods of Michigan. The Supreme Court can't recognize the importance of different areas of the country
to set their own regulations based on need. And no one can describe to me the need for an automatic weapon unless you are
outfitting a militia (the same militia that is mentioned in the second amendment).
And Obama can't look at the neighborhood where he worked as an organizer
and support a handgun ban? Not if he wants a vote in Wyoming.
What do these guys stand for except getting themselves elected?
June 26, 2008 Ms. Gail and
myself celebrated our 33rd anniversary by watching the Cubs get waxed by the Baltimore Orioles. They were phoning their effort
June 25.2008 Went to my
first Cubs/Sox game in a couple of years. I quit going because it is basically yahoo fest. It helps when your team wins, but
for all the hype it is an experience to be avoided. Sports in general is becoming some battlezone, much like our political
arena, where your allegiance or the color of your shirt puts your being in danger. A sporting event is no place to bring a
kid anymore. unless you want to explain what the f-word means or what a c-sucker is. I'm not a prude and I use all
the words. The late George Carlin told Bill O'Reilly that he used them not for shock but for flavor. The flavoring is
overcoming the banquet though.
a baseball team loses a game to a rival they do not 'suck'. The White Sox look like a decent enough team. They could
sweep the Cubs over the weekend and the 'suck' label will fall on the other jersey. I don't think a White Sox
fan 'sucks' because his team loses and I wouldn't feel that my life was over if the Cubs get swept. Can't
we just play the game and shake hands afterward? Isn't that sportsmanship? Why does it have to be a personal statement?
I am really sick of paying over $50 for a ticket and have
some moron mindlessly chant 'f" this or that for three or four hours. Where are the ushers? Stadium security? We
have all the furry mascots and 'family' this or that, but they stand silent in the face of a continual invective.
You can't smoke a cigarette in the stadium but your toddler can't help but become victim to a constant barrage of
obscenity. It is ceasing to be a pleasurable experience for me.
I am a fan of college football and I attributed a lot of moronic behavior to youth. I was letting
everybody off the hook. The assholes at Wrigley Field (this week) and U.S. Cellular next week are old enough to know better.
The teams and facilities that look the other way are equally to blame. There is coming soon a time when it will be preferable
to sit home in front of your big screen and not put yourself on the firing line. Until the hooligans start breaking the TV
And all this comes after
my team won three in a row.
season tickets to the Chicago Rush Arena League Football team. Admittedly, the rivalries are not there, but neither are the
boors. It is a pleasurable experience. In every program (that they pass out free by the way) is a "Fan's Bill of
Rights". One of the 'rights' is "that every fan is entitled to a wholesome environment...free of violence,
profane gestures and language or rude or invasive behavior." That should be a given. Unfortunately, it is an exception.
June 24,2008-If any of you
were afraid that Obama was a Muslim - let me illustrate that he practices the Christian value of forgiveness. He and the Democratic
party have decided to compromise when it comes to American rights and liberties. The telecommunications act will forgive any
past illegal acts by the telecommunications giants . (If your computer shuts off while you are reading this, you will
know that we've just been annexed to China.)
basic American tenet in the world we envision while watching the flag unfurled is that we all should try to do the best that
we can do. We have kids in the military dying because they believe in the virtue of United States. Honesty, fair play, good
neighbors and law abiding. Farmers get up at the crack of dawn and go to work because they believe in what they are doing.
People put on business clothes and ride trains and work overtime because they believe they are helping to build the whole.
Our institutions of worship reinforce these values. If we run afoul of the law, we hope justice will prevail and will judge
our intent equally as well as our crime.
then should a telecommunication company be granted immunity for past transgressions?
From Mr. Obama:
"Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability
to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and
civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major
telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications
of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of
the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans.
I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in
After months of negotiation, the
House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America
Under this compromise legislation, an
important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance
will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making
it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly
re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive
immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses.
But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine
what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability,
a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats
we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support
the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by
the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and
the liberty - of the American people."
me,but this is not an issue we can compromise on. We can't let the monied interests skate while the rest of us are held
to the law. If there is one American, not a red one or blue one or a black one or a white one, why do we have a double standard
when it comes to our laws?
Change? Not when the
man at the cotton gin still gets the scales tipped in his favor.
June 18,2008 - It's hard times in America. Gomer told me
so. You know he works down at Wally's filling station and there is a little hitch in his step. Back in his USMC days he
took a little hit and the VA screwed him up, but that's OK. He bends back the bill on his Chinese baseball cap and fills
the cupcake rack. He doesn't do fill ups or oil changes anymore since the chain bought Wally out. Even though there are
record oil company profits they claim they don't make it on gas, they have to sell those shriveled hot dogs and buckets
of soda to make it. Wally is an independent contractor these days which mean the only benefit he gets is a job. Gomer is an
associate. Wally's kid runs the register and treats Gomer like crap. Gomer has trouble working the computer and has never
been to Bonnaroo.
get a discount on gas. He uses plenty of it too. He bought that big old pick-up on time and it eats up the fuel. He lives
outside of town now. When they tore the boarding house down he couldn't afford to buy into the new development, so he
got himself a condo out the burbs. He got an adjustable rate mortgage with a balloon payment. Old man Weaver down at
the bank was a fair man, but the bank has been sold four or five times since and some guy in Rangoon doesn't care about
tough times in Mayberry. They foreclosed on Floyd the barber and put a Subway and a Quick Clips in his old location. Gomer
doesn't have long. Nobody is going to wait for his economy to turn around.
Shazam, how did things get so screwed?
So Gomer bought a jug of hootch from Otis and went home to brood. He couldn't see the sunshine
anymore and the more he drank, he just got mean. Mean,mean,mean!
So he got on the internet and ordered a CD from Amazon. Eric Clapton "From the Cradle".
That had been one of Sgt. Carter's favorites until the diabetes killed him while he awaiting treatment at Walter Reed.
$3.25. The post office took another $2.98. He pushed the order button it was nine o'clock on a Tuesday night.
Damn, that was easy, but why should it be? He'd have to
fill a whole cupcake rack for what he'd just spent. This Mike guy on Amazon was sitting in a cushy office just watching
the dough roll in $3.25 at a time. If no one else would listen to his gripes, this guy would have to. He'd make him earn
that $3.25. He got back on-line.
Look Mr. Mike, if you can't get off your butt tomorrow and ship my order then I WILL CANCEL IT AND HAVE MY BANK WITHDRAWL
THE REQUEST FOR PAYMENT FROM MY CREDIT CARD!
It would behove you to ship it tomorrow if you want a sell."
It was 9:20. He guessed that he
showed him. When Mr. Mike cancelled the order, Gomer hit the moonshine hard. Time to get in the truck and go down to the Dairy
Queen and make fifteen year old Peggy cry.
sure Gomer down in Bowling Green,Kentucky got a DUI for his troubles.
And that's how I spent my evening after getting home from the Horseshoe at
1:30 in the morning, trying to make that and everything else in my life work. Fishing with Opie down at the duckpond just
turned the corner into "Deliverance".
6/17/2008 A word from Larry Penn on Utah Phillips:
Glad to have been a part of the
doins! Thanks for the "Off Promo" Utah comments ... Please ad mine to the pile.
U. UTAH PHILLIPS 1935 - 2008
I could take the easy way out and describe
Utah with any one of the various bios circulating the folk music scene these days, but that would just parrot most of what
you already know.
While Utah was all those things you read about in his press clippings and
then some, I would rather remember him as a friend - A drinking buddy and a brother on the road. There are insights to the
man you don't often read about, like his great "sense of theater".
this annual Poetry Slam in New York City. A few years ago; when Utah heard they were going to feature Cowboy Poetry he said,
"Wait a minute! There is Hobo Poetry too." So, the Rose Tattoo went to New York to sing and do some hobo poetry,
and Utah made that happen. He also made a side arrangement with the theater security guards to jump onto the stage when our
set was over, and roust us off with police whistles blaring, and billy clubs drawn.
watched Utah empty his pocket change into the hands of the homeless guys on the streets in San Francisco.
My favorite Utah story took place right in his own kitchen. Every songwriter worth his salt has a drawer full
of unfinished songs in a filing cabinet. - You know, one verse of this, two snippets of that, stuff that wasn't honest.
Stuff that never sees daylight. I took the advise of Pete Seeger, who told me that Woody Guthrie always made poetry books
out of his junk. How could I do less? The title of mine was, "Gone To The Doggerel - Songs That Didn't Work"
When I was Utah's house guest, I presented him with a copy. He took one look and said,
"Larry, if they don't work as songs, what in the hell makes you think they'll work as poems? "
He was an Actor - an Artist - an Activist - a Poet - a Song writer - a Story teller, and a Humorist.
He was a friend of mine.
6/16/08 One thing that stuck
with me in all the tributes to Tim Russert - when Tim, from working class south Buffalo joined the Moynihan staff it was loaded
with Harvard and Yale grads. Moynihan told him that he could learn what they had gathered at those institutions, but they
could never learn what he knew from growing up in south Buffalo.
Reminded me of getting off that bus all those years ago when my old buddy Mick teased me about
being a "college boy'. Yeah, I learned a lot of things but I never could or would be a machinist like Mick. I like
to think that I never lost the old neighborhood either. Every time I pass the old tailor shop, I can see us sitting on the
stoop or pitching pennies. It's all condo now and everyone s in their climate controlled bubbles.
Want to thank you all again for coming to pay tribute to Utah Phillips on Saturday. I appreciate
the considerable investment in time and funds. Gail, my
wife, is used to watching me coming home battered after going up against some windmill with only empty pockets to show for
it. I was hoping to do better. What Utah provided a lot of us was immeasurable and I don't know where I would've been
satisfied. I am confident that I did the best that I could
do. All of the performances were heartfelt and wonderful.
I do take a great deal of pride that I could assemble these folks. Corky Siegel, Larry Penn, Otis Gibbs, Kathy Greenholdt,
Paul Caporino, Larry O. Dean, Joe Bella, Jim Tullio and Scott DeKatch. Also all the donated items from John Prine, Wilco
& Myke Adams. Thanks to Michael James and Brettly from the Heartland for opening their doors. When I am in need, I always
look up and see who is there. I count my friends that way.
I'm sure that most of you noticed the guy that wandered in who on occasion banged the table and let out a whoop
now and then. He was concealing a pint and taking a tug from it . I said a few words to him but he was pretty catatonic. I
think Utah would've been glad that he was there. I thought it was pretty appropriate.
I spent yesterday relaxing from this whole enterprise and I found myself thinking
of Eddie Balchowsky. Eddie was a swamper at the old Quiet Knight. He had lost an arm in the Spanish Civil War while fighting
fascists in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Eddie still played the piano and Utah had befriended him. In 1989 when Eddie was
killed by a subway train at North Avenue, Utah did a benefit concert to buy a gravestone.
We are all part of a circle. You, me, Utah, the guy with a pint and a one
armed piano player with a mop. So, I'm going back to my lifelong tour of convenience stores and flat bed trucks. Hope
you all carry a little bit of this with you. Thanks again,
6/13/08 Cubs win another at home. It was 1948 day celebrating the sixty year association between
WGN and the Cubs. There were a couple of guys in fedoras and they called Atlanta the Boston Braves. They put Atlanta up on
the scoreboard though. Both teams wore replica uniforms but they weren't flannel. Prices for everything was 2008. I guess
that it was supposed to be charming to fork over $5 for a warm Pepsi to a guy with a white shirt, bow tie and a paper hat,
The guys on the TV had said that they were going to serve smokie
links. That used to be the best part about going to the ball park. A guy would push a little grill through the stands and
cook them for you. That would've been great. That would've brought back a lot of memories of my dad. I've never
been able to get anything hot at any Chicago ballyard since they eliminated the grills. I've been lucky to have anything
cooked at all. That's why in 2008 we eat before we go in. A little disappointed at the whole promotion. They could've
played Pat Pieper saying "get your pencils and scorecards ready". I know they have a tape. Mike Murphy plays it
and they did play it all the ball park a couple of times.
the game, the Oak had a guy singing. Covers are fine, but there wasn't anything from the last twenty years. Depressing
Got some nice reviews from
Tradition Magazine, I'll have to get them up for you.
Congratulations to Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Robert Wexler for insisting that articles of impeachment should be read in the
House and sent to a panel. It is not going to happen, but the Democrats use of the Eichmann defense while our country is looted
and destroyed of it's core in unforgiveable. We elect these people to stand up for us, not to take us to cleaners and
shrug their shoulders.
the floods and tornado ravaged midwest and was wondering what would be left by the time I got to LeMars for the Tradition
Festival at the end of August. After the winds die down and the water recedes what we'll have is the United States. We'll
come through the storm in Iowa and in Washington.
like the election campaign is starting. I'm hearing all those buzz words like "tax and spend" "big government"
and about how we want government to let us fend for ourselves when our health fails or we can't work anymore. Everyday
I pass a couple of guys who live under a bridge below 90/94. I think that they might want big government to see that they
have a roof and enough to eat. Yeah, I know they are just probably schizophrenic alcoholics or dope addicts and I shouldn't
feel responsible, but I look at them and see the fear that the politicians sell. 6% of all mortgages are in foreclosure,
gas is over $4, food is following close behind. I'm more afraid of what is going to become of us.
If we continue on this downward spiral, we'll be buying
tickets to climb into some tower in hopes that some terrorist will put us out of our misery.We aren't the victims of "tax
and spend" we're the victims of "pillage and loot". When we can't afford the electricity or the new
game it is going to be Grand Theft Auto for real. It is not just 'change' we need, it is a 'new deal'.
Apologies to my friends in Osseo, Wisconsin. I won't be playing the grand festival up there this year.
It doesn't look like I'll be playing the Newport Folk
Festival either. Like any kid that ever picked up a guitar and strummed "Lemon Tree" you had the dream of playing
Newport. The legends of Baez and Dylan, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul & Mary, Guy Carawan, Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters
played that stage. It was always looked to as the pantheon of folk. To be asked to play would be like being elevated to the
gods. Just checked who was playing this year. Jimmy Buffett and Cat Power. I like those guys, but...I guess that everyone
needs to make a buck. I've been chastised before for my preference of art over commerce. I won't criticize. I guess
no one wants to show up to hear folk music. Fred Holstein had to tend bar to make a buck. There is no more Earl of Old Town.
There is no "Folk Music Hero" video game. I'm beating a dead horse here. Utah talked about making a living without
making a killing. That was/is kind of what I'm shooting for.
What is worse is what the scam artists in Osseo are up to and hey, I've been selected! From
"Thanks for your
interest in playing in the Tavern at Effit Fest 2008. We've reviewed your music and decided we can offer you a set in
the Tavern during this year's festival. The Tavern capacity is about 150 people and a PA will be provided. You will,
however, need to operate the PA system yourself.
To ensure all Tavern performers do their own promoting, and
as a way for you to get paid for the gig, you must purchase 10 Effit Fest tickets at half-price ($250 total). These can be
sold or given away as you please, but CANNOT be distributed at the festival gates. Additionally, all band members will get
free admission to the festival.
Sets in the Tavern will range from 30-120 minutes in length. I'll work
with you to schedule an open time slot once we receive payment for your tickets. To schedule your band and work out payment
details (online or money order), call me immediately." So basically, I can pay $250 to play a half an hour in Osseo,
Wisconsin. I'll be on my way to stardom then, maybe I can open for Catpower at Newport.
Thanks, to Michael James for having me on LIVE FROM THE HEARTLAND Saturday
morning. I had a great breakfast too. The UTAH PHILLIPS MEMORIAL CONCERT is pretty well set. Come out and pay tribute this
Saturday night at the Heartland. Tuesday I'm at the Horseshoe again with Mike Flores and Dean Windemuller You can't
beat $2 PBRs.
6/5/08 Congrats to
one of my favorite pubs THE IRISH OAK over on Clark St down the road from Wrigley Field. The Lawless family is celebrating
their tenth anniversary. After last night I am sure that there is a Guinness shortage in Chicago. I always appreciated the
pint that I had down at the Green Door that was presented with a signature 'G' on the head. Sarah poured my first
last night with a shamrock on the crown. Beautiful. The folks up at the Paradigm in Sheboygan are equally creative with their
coffee drinks. I had to sit back and admire it for a moment before I set about enjoying it.
A wonderful evening. The day has been a little
Derogatis, music critic for the Sun-Times and long time friend is standing up for journalistic integrity at the R.Kelly trial.
It is not an enviable position to be in during these dark days for Constitutional law. Invoking our rights is a dangerous
business in George Bush's America. Hope that the justice system can get at the truth without compromising the Fifth Amendment.
6/4/08 Great having DOLPH CHANEY up from Homewood at the Horseshoe last night. My Tuesday night residency will continue
through July. Lots of great folks coming in -check the schedule and come in for some $2 PBR's. I'll also be doing
a prime time Saturday night with Tom Pace on June 21st (I'm described as TBA at the moment).
It was a big night for
electoral politics last night. I do have the hope, but I am wary. Reading about Harry Truman trying to get a universal health
care plan passed in the late 1940's. If no one has been able to do it for sixty years, I am wary of the grand plans and
wonderful speeches. We do have a single payer plan in place, all we have to do is change the age requirements of Medicare
and we are set. I guess that is too radical for politicians and the health care industry. I'd just like to be assured
that if we were out waving the flag and it fell on us the health care we received would be as good as Ted Kennedy's.
reading about Hillary Clinton young Republican days - I recalled going down to a Young Republican party at the Sherman House.
I went with Curt Bohlman and the Rev.Hamilton. I just wondered if one of the squeaky clean suburban girls we were hitting
on was the young Hillary.I wondered....and you can find anything on the internet.
I stumbled across excerpts
from Hillary's diary that detailed her drug usage. If she takes it to "Denver" this would put her over the top
6/3/08 Did what may be the final First Monday Singer/Songwriter Night at the Montrose. I guess that it is the prevailing
philosophy that folks would rather stare silently into their drinks than have the likes of us trying to "entertain"
them. I drank a couple beers with old compatriot, George Hansen. Nice to go out into the beer garden and be able to smoke.
Since tobacco has been exiled you see little mobs of people huddling in front of every beer joint. It is only a matter of
time before they roll their Luckies up in their shirtsleeves and start rumbling with the guys from the "other" saloon.
I miss the blue hazy clouds
that always muted the smell of the urine cakes and sweaty dancers on steamy hot nights.
Dolph Chaney is going to be with us tonight at the
Horseshoe. The last Democratic primaries are today. The red light and the Barry White in the fish tank has done it's trick,
we found two new ones this morning. If the other fish don't eat them before we can catch and separate them, we'll
have three in the nursery.
Got my new CD's.Only managed to listen to the McMurtry so far. Pretty good. Helping me forget Duffy.
6/2/2008 OK. We knew this was going to happen. I was absent for a few days. Working through my depression at the loss of Utah. Not a very good excuse. If there was something that I learned from the
man it was to articulate. But....in a rebellion of the machines, my laptop ceased to function. Nothing is a maddening
as a blue screen telling you something is screwed up and not allowing you to fix it. I searched in vain for my boot disc
and I'll have to take it to a professional and hope for the best. This is planned obsolescence. My 2005 Quicken
program bought and installed when my last lap top went south, decided that I needed to buy a new program and cut off communication
with my bank. I didn't know that the software had an expiration date. It was working quite fine when Quicked decided they
need another $90. Luckily I didn't buy the download. Dell, I guess decided that laptops are only supposed to last three
years too. Since Quicken only allows you to install your purchased program on one computer, I would've lost that too. Nothing is a maddening as a computer problem. I have about 10 days of music stored on my I-tunes. All of it was lifted
from my CD's but do you know how long it took me to load all that? There is an I-pod extractor that I'm trying to
get to work. Basically this takes the music from your I-pod and puts it on any machine for $20. We will see. Friday I
went to the Cub game. The game where they were down 8-0. I drank beer. The Cubs came back to win. I had a few Jameson's
at the Irish Oak and a Guinness or two at the Horseshoe. Before I knew it, it was Saturday. We went to the Chicago Rush
Arena League football game. They were losing. I had a few beers, they came back and you know the drill... Sunday I went
back to the Pick A Cup and played a matinee. It was nice to drink coffee for a change. That brings me here. Of course
we had to watch every moment of the Democratic National Committee meeting deciding the fate of Florida and Michigan delegates.
We watch these elections closer than we watched the Sopranos. Monday at the Montrose, Tuesday at the Horseshoe. I'll
5/26/08 – It has been a rough Memorial Day weekend.
It started off well enough, going to see Paul and M.O.T.O.
play. I still intend to write about that. The passing of Utah has put those thoughts on hold.
It is on top of things, a day for memorial
and not just mattress sales. I spent a primarily sleepless night ruminating. It was the first truly hot night. The temperature
is going to dip again, it is too soon for air conditioning and with another great depression barking at our door we are trying
couple of months ago I was in the area where the family cemetery is located. It was late in a gloomy day but I decided to
pull in and take a quick visit to my father’s grave.
Try as I would, I could not find it. I guessed that you are truly dead when your
kid can’t find your grave anymore. I was disconsolate. My wife said that it had been dark and it had been a couple of
years and I had just probably got myself turned around in the maze of ‘Eventides’ and ‘Pines’. That
didn’t help much.
So today I put the top down on the Mustang and took a little ride.
I stopped at the cemetery office and asked directions. They pulled a little index
card for the plot. Everything was listed under my grandfather Frank. My grandmother was there, my great grandmother and my
mute great aunt. The lady at the office drew a map and went over my account. My mom is all set to be cremated and added to
my dad’s grave. They have a new plastic ‘membership’ I.D. card, so they printed one up for her. Did I know
that she hadn’t purchased an urn yet? It’s about $300.
I told them that I would consider it.
I asked about the availability of adjoining plots and it
seems that they are all taken. I could be one or two rows up. If a tree had been removed I could be closer.
I’ve been coming to this place since
1954 when my grandfather died. There is a windmill that my cousin and I used to climb on. There is a pond that always has
geese. It is pleasant enough I suppose.
It looked like the cemetery had sold off a parcel to a warehousing company. Just across the fence I could see loading
docks. They were empty today. Next to that was the tollway and on the other side of that was a fenced yard full of trucks.
There was a ‘gentleman’s club’. It looked a little bit like the Bada Bing from the Sopranos. I know the
private St. Joseph’s club was down the street too. None of this is too far away from where Sam Giancana cooked his final
the map and still didn’t find the grave. There had been a big pine tree there. I always picked a pinecone off my dad’s
grave and carried it home with me. I wandered around a bit. There were two infant graves. Baby Girl Horn in 1965 and then
a Baby Boy Horn in 1972. They were wedged in between two graves that could’ve been relatives, but they weren’t
named Horn. That is always sad.
I made my way back to the car and I stumbled across it. There was a stump from a removed pine tree and my dad’s
grave. The family had outlasted the tree. Frank and Anna and Judith and Carrie and Grandma Anna and Earl. They didn’t
have any shade anymore.
No one was buried next to them. I guessed that the graves had been bought by speculators. Some year I’d see
fresh earth and a new name.
I drove past the windmill. They were playing some recorded patriotic music. It lapsed into a recitation about the
flag being shot at Shiloh and torn at Iwo Jima.I don’t think that I’d want to be trapped listening
to the old German cemetery where my maternal grandparents were buried. Found them all right. They were still under the tree.
My great grandparents were buried together and my grandmother and grandfather were on opposite sides. I always imagined them
reaching towards one another. It always made me sadder.
The cemetery had been in disrepair last time that I was there. Now they have a new section where they are burying
pets. It seems a lot neater now. There is a water slide just outside the fence.
Just down the road was the place where my old friend Mick is buried.
I stopped and asked for a map.
No one tried to sell me anything. The lady disappeared into her file cabinets for a moment and left me staring at a poster
of all the faces of the policemen and firemen that died in the World Trade Center. Damn, it didn’t seem like there had
been that many of them. Numbers were one thing but faces were something else. The woman had to say ‘pardon me’
to get my attention.
drove to the back where Mick was.
He was the guy that always held our little group of friends together. Gave us reality when we were being stupid and
encouragement when reality was overwhelming us. We are all a little scattered now. We are busy with our own lives and basically
unsympathetic to each other. I guess that was the cruelest reality that we never had to face as long as Mick was around.
There is a bad movie that I
used to watch called ‘Windy City’ that reminded me of Mick. One guy was dying and all his friends dropped their
lives, took him out on a boat and tried to live a childhood fantasy of being pirates before he died. When the friend is dying
he says that he’ll still be around. “How will I know?” the protagonist asks. “One day when it is really
calm, a gust of wind will come up and blow you’re hat off.”
When I was getting back in the car, my hat blew off my head. Son-of-a-bitch
5/25/08 Damn. Just opened my e-mails and learned
from David Rovics that Utah Phillips passed. He died in his sleep. His heart just stopped. I'm having problems catching
my breath. Lost a great treasure All we can do is mourn our loss and pay tribute to his memory. Damn. damn. damn. 5/24/2008 ATTENTION SHOPPERS! Just found out I was for sale on-line at Target. http://www.target.com/Tossin-Away-Mike-Felten/dp/B000P16ZJY As Mary Olson would say "Holy wha!" The day is young
but this is already the second revolting development. Hilary Rosen, the former head of the Recording Industry Association
of America and famous for suing twelve year old girls for downloading was named editor of the Huffington Post. Since Hilary
who when confronted with the future of the music business decided her best course of action was to sue it, has landed on her
feet; we can only congratulate her for bluffing her way into another lucrative position. Another incompetent rewarded. Wish
I could find my way on some gravy train. The Huffington Post immediately takes a tumble in credibility. Another Bill
Ayers type lateral movement amongst the privileged elite. It is not about ideas or politics. It is the one kind of war
between the rich and the poor that Utah Phillips sings about. There is no right or left in these little Skull and Bones cloisters
who protect and nurture their own like a mama wolverine. Memorial Day mattress sales. Have to go honor the dead, plant
a flag in tribute to those who helped to build the pile of wealth that they never were allowed to share in. Hilary should
be grateful that she doesn't have that problem. 5/23/08 It is the end of the week and I'm feeling
good. Broke down and ordered some new music on Amazon. After Duffy, I'm still ready to get back on the horse. Finally
played the new Mark Knopfler and he didn't disappoint. So I got the credit card out. I ordered the new McMurtry and T-Bone
Burnett. I took a flyer on the Death Cab for Cutie. I don't know if it will wear well with me but I'll try. As I was
shopping I put on an old copy of Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Night Music Club that fell off the shelf. I was thinking that it
was a classic, pretty damn good until the Na-Na song came on. How can you argue with someone who has Aldous Huxley in the
first line of their CD?It has been fifteen years since Tuesday came out. I saw her with Tim Finn when it was breaking. Loved
Vegas as much as I loved Duffy's Mercy. Maybe I'll give it another chance. I clicked and ordered Sheryl's new
one too. This is like the Home Shopping Network. Amazon says that they aren't going to ship (for free) until 5/28. I'd
get some nasty feedback if I waited that long. I'd still be thinking about going to find a store by the time it gets here
though. Until then I'm enjoying the Herbie Hancock. It would've been better if he used some real jazz singers
instead of pop stars, but they don't do bad I still am thinking about getting Mudcrutch. I haven't pulled the
plug on Mary Weiss yet and I haven't replaced the Blonde on Blonde that I can't find. Listening to some
of the folks who want to come and play the Horseshoe. I'm impressed. How come we are listening to Carrie Underwood with
layered pro tool vocals when there are great performers looking for a Tuesday night gig out there? Better yet, why are they
screwing up Carrie's voice? The kid can sing. You would think that she couldn't carry a tune in the bucket the way
they tweak her. A welcome break from the presidential campaign and trying to decide whether I'm going to be a misogynist,
racist or a traitor and wondering who's moron for Christ is the worst. Memorial Day weekend. Crank it up. 5/22/08
- Wonder what happened to the people that ran the record industry into the ground? They took over the airlines. $15 to check
a bag? $10 for the second one? Instead of trying to chisel us out of a bag of peanuts in order to break even, here is a novel
concept...how about you try to get us where we are going on time and with our luggage? Everyone is going to jam stuff into
their free carry-ons (the baggage that they should charge you for (according to my wife). I could live without being whacked
with another back pack full of rocks.
Maybe UPS or Fed Ex will
pick up the slack. You can ship your baggage and pick it up at the Fed Ex store. It probably will get there even if you don't.
I want to be at the baggage claim when the first $15 bag doesn't make it .
How about some better efficient service rather than dishing out more crap and wondering where all the customers have
Just (kind of ) talked to a record label today. I want
to take there entire catalog, work it on my various websites and sell it. I don't want to buy and warehouse their catalog
and let them sit on the money. I want it lean, pay as you go, I sell a copy, I buy it and ship it. Get it? No, that isn't
the way it is done. They make the records and I take the risk. Well, not anymore. This is a new day my friends. You better
be happy that anyone is going to even attempt to sell CD's. All I want from a label is an updated catalog and prompt delivery
of my orders so I can ship them out in a timely fashion. It is surprising how hard that is to grasp. I either get a wonderful
catalog and 50% fill rate or I get what I get today.
on a lot of web sites." OK, well you are doing so well, you don't need to fool with me. Just sit there and look at
those stacks of brown boxes and blame downloading.
I want everyone
to sell my records. I'll get you one copy if you need it. Maybe it is because I haven't achieved the arrogance of
affluence. Or maybe the old dinosaurs are sinking into the tar pits and those of us on the other side of the curve are trying
to find new and exciting ways to get new music to you. No doubt that I'm still trying to figure it out, but the key words
are 'still trying'.
- Good Tuesday at the Shoe. Robert Levy and Los Pueritas or Los Pollitos (pardon my Spanish). The Ed Sullivan rundown - we
had Paul M.O.T.O. there. Drummer extraordinare Barrett Harvey showed up in between tours and Ray Quinn of Martyrs. Aaron popped
in after his gig and the Jameson was flowing. Robert's lovely wife Pat took some photos, hope we get them up on the web
site for you soon. A full bar for a while. It sure is easier to play for people than tables and chairs. Great we're getting
For the second week, I think I cut it out too early.
Last week I thought all we had left was Tim Larson's folks but they stayed. This week was the same deal. I promise that
I'm going to go back up and do another set at the end of the night if folks are there. I promise to try and leave the
whiskey alone (or bother it only moderately).
off until next Tuesday, going to try and finish some these half done songs that have been malingering around the edge of my
imagination. Working on a song about a place that I used to work called Bob & Mary's. Lots of stuff.
5/20.08 Another Tuesday night at the Horseshoe
with old buddy Robert 'Lobotomy Bob' Levy and Los Pietas. Bob doesn't want the hard rock 'Lobotomy' tag
anymore, but he'll always be Lobotomy Bob to me.
be my debut doing sound too. Another step on my "if this moron can do it, I can too" tour.
We'll be deep in the ward of music hating alderman Eugene Schulter. He won the P.O.Y. award from my Weaselworld
column a couple of years back for his used CD ordinance. Now he has resurfaced with a promoters law that would require anyone
who put on a show to ante up $2000 for a license and purchase $300,000 in extra liability insurance for every event (on top
of what any club or facility has to purchase anyway). Last week he took the bill off the table to fine tune it and since our
aldermen and women only meet once a month, we're safe for that long
Booked into the Jackson Coffee Co. in Jackson,MI July 4th and will be on the Bert Hawley TV show on June 27th. After
months of begging and pleading, I won't be playing the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah. They booked Judy Collins instead.
My 2009 assault will begin on the promoters in January.
is pretty open for booking. Call me
5/19/08 - I waited
for a couple of months for the Duffy disc to come out. It's been a long time since I didn't get the promos in the
mail. Universal doesn't care about me anymore, but I don't care about them either.
The anticipation was great. Bob Lefsetz turned me on to it and I checked out a couple of tracks on line. I loved
"Have Mercy". How could they screw up an act that could do that? A couple of friends saw them at SXSW and were unimpressed,
but I was undeterred. I was waiting like a kid again. That new Beatle single was going to be played for the first time at
one in the morning on the am. I was saving up for those new singles that would be there at the Blue Note record shop when
I went down there on Saturday morning. It was great.
ordered from Amazon., but it was only $7.99 at Best Buy and Target. Cheaper at Circuit City $6.99. I should support the indie
folks, but who could match the prices? Who would have it for sure?
I went to the box and bought it, put it in the changer of the Mustang. Mercy was buried as cut seven, I played that first.
The fidelity was almost as bad as the analog recording that I made from a myspace video. Still the song rocked. Flipped it
back to the beginning and...
Damn, did it suck. I wouldn't
have played the whole thing, but I paid my $6.99, maybe there was something else there. Sorry. My wife said that I should
take it back and try and get something else I liked. Naw, I won't do that, beside what else would I like? They wouldn't
have James McMurtry or T-Bone Burnett at the box and if they did it would be $16.
What's wrong with the record industry? My innocence (wash and wear) has been compromised and what genius would
bury the best cut in the middle of disc? I'll burn it to my I-pod and sell it to some true believer. I'm still disappointed
Caught part of the CMA awards. Carrie Underwood is singing
about going to bed with a guy without knowing his name. I couldn't understand half of what Lee Ann Rimes was singing about.
Somewhere in all the down home melisma and vocal overdubs she was doing something with a guy three times her age. Family values
No Jones or Haggard? This is country? George Strait is still
getting nominated at least.
Maxwell Street Blues from Blues Access Magazine Winter
Goin' Down Slow
by Michael Felten
There are no more blues on
It is a sunny Sunday morning market day and the street is nearly empty. A fellow named Lockhart
who has sold tube socks on the street for the last fifteen years is still hawking his wares to anybody that stops for a Polish
at Jimmy's on Halsted and Maxwell.
Business is not good. He looks down the deserted street and sees only ankle
deep garbage piled in the gutter. If the city of Chicago ever provided services to this area of town, they have long since
stopped. The buildings are abandoned and boarded up. They wait for the wrecking ball that the folks down at city hall have
been trying to wield for over a hundred years.
Despite the efforts of a couple of grass roots "Save Maxwell
Street" organizations, it looks like the rehabbers who have swarmed across the city like locusts turning the gritty "city
of the big shoulders" into the city of the cell phone, valet parking and quarter-million-dollar-and-up-condominiums,
have won the day.
The block where Bernie Abrams' Maxwell Street Radio & Record Shop used to stand is already
a parking lot for the University of Illinois Circle Campus. The place where you used to be able to hear Little Walter, Muddy,
Floyd Jones, Daddy Stovepipe or Big Walter Horton play for free is now UIC Parking Lot 16, protected from the remaining neighborhood
riff-raff by a stern wrought-iron fence.
A prostitute seeking to supplement her Saturday night earnings leans
on the wall next to Jimmy's and chain smokes. There are no takers, and she is finding it hard to smile. It's all just
a boring waste of time. An old piano sits abandoned on the street. Its keys are frozen and locked in a twisted jungle of wire.
The days of singing sweet songs at the hands of a master are over.
An old station wagon sits at the end of the
near-deserted street. The suspension has given way under a load of metal auto parts. The car's overweight owner sits on
a lawn chair next to a blanket on the ground that's covered with rusty gears and pipes. His white T-shirt is smeared with
grease, and he's wearing a dirty baseball hat. Two Hispanic guys in their mid-'20s are examining a living sculpture
of metal. They are conversing in Spanish and trying to guess its original purpose.
Across the street, an old Black
man with no teeth sits in front of the one inhabited junk store. He is asked if there are any old records in the maze behind
him. "Yeah, but I need those," he says.
It is hard to believe that 70,000 people used to crowd Maxwell
Street on a Sunday market day. Sure, that was before the Irish political bloc dropped the University of Illinois in the middle
of a politically-threatening Italian community to the immediate north and sliced the eastern edge off of the street with the
Dan Ryan expressway - but today, there isn't even a radio playing.
The "new" Maxwell Street is a
couple blocks to the east. There are city workers directing you into city parking lots, portable potties are lined up, and
it seems that every other person on the street is a plainclothes cop. It is a generic, well-mannered flea market. You could
be in Tulsa, Oklahoma or Columbus, Ohio. Salsa is the music in the air, and instead of Jimmy's grilled onion smell, you
are hit with the odor of frying taco beef. No one grabs an elbow and discreetly offers a forearm covered with watches or a
hand full of jewelry. If your hubcaps were stolen on Saturday night, you used to be able to go down to Maxwell and buy them
back on Sunday morning. Where do they go now?
Piano C. Red and Jimmie Lee Robinson still play the new market on
occasion, but not on this bright, sunny day. A $7 imported Howlin' Wolf budget CD that sits, fading in the sun next to
a bunch of Commodores and Janet Jackson discs, is the only reminder of what was.
On a Friday night I order a cappuccino
and sit down at a table in a Borders bookstore. Jimmie Lee Robinson, a Maxwell Street native and a frequent street performer,
is due to play an in-store set. The young lady behind the hissing coffeemaker tells us that Jimmy "Walker" will
be performing in the café shortly.
This Borders space used to house an Ace Hardware back before the gentrification
came in. Young attorneys and real estate developers didn't want to look out the windows of their condos and see a hammer
and nail joint. The Ace moved west to a strip mall where you could pull your Lexus or Land Rover into an ample parking lot
and run in quickly for a couple of those halogen bulbs for your track lighting.
The Borders café is like
a library with concessions. The tables are solid oak. The chairs are firm and steady. No one has carved his initials into
the furniture with a switchblade. There are no numbers to call for a good time. A fellow in an expensive suit and tie is reading
a book on probability. He looks up and makes eye contact with me and quickly looks away. He has about ten books and magazines
stacked up next to his briefcase. He has been there a long time. A young woman nervously sips her coffee and makes notes on
two yellow legal pads. She has two cumbersome books open on her table. A young man with thick glasses hunches over a paperback.
He is wearing headphones.
Jimmie Lee Robinson walks in, dressed in black from the cowboy hat on his head to the
tips of his boots. His spurs jingle. The eyes of the readers flick over the top of their books to see what's going on.
A Borders employee turns on the PA and it squeals. Jimmie smiles and sits down with his guitar. The fellow sitting immediately
in front of Jimmie has his back to him; he doesn't turn when Jimmie begins to play. The audience is facing every way imaginable
as Jimmie whistles his way through the first three songs. He is met with polite, conditioned applause. He seems to be searching
his memory banks for a blues for tax accountants. He sings "C.C. Rider" and it seems to strike a responsive chord.
A homeless guy stands leaning on his shopping cart outside the window, watching Jimmie Lee play. A couple of cops
tell him to move along, and he slowly rolls away. It is a long way from Maxwell Street.
There are warm fuzzy memories
of standing in a chilly crowded street and listening to some great blues - and, to be fair, some not so great. Who was that
guy playing down on Maxwell? Finding out later that it was Robert Nighthawk or Blind Jim Brewer or Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis.
There are also some not-so-warm memories of buying a pair of pants that had one leg shorter than the other, or a couple pair
of socks that were open at the toes. It was ambrosia on one end and a scam on the other. Richard M. Daley, the current
mayor of Chicago, has proposed a compromise to quell the Maxwell Street preservationists. He wants to preserve the facades
of some of these dilapidated buildings and allow the University of Illinois to put their parking lots behind the false fronts.
It's kind of a Maxwell Street Disneyland idea that neither side is happy with, but what the mayor wants, he gets.
Michael Hearn, writing in the University of Illinois Circle Campus Flame, contends that Maxwell Street is "a
smelly, rickety eyesore of a shit-house," the moral being that "crap is crap" and that Maxwell Street preservation
is holding up real progress. He wants us to "cut the crap and bring on the Gap."
that everybody wants to move out of the way of shiny new progress is usually the poor guy who is scrambling to make a living.
The "crap" is the tube socks peddler. The "crap" is the young blues musician trying to learn his trade.
The "crap" is the con artist or street hustler trying to score.
This same "crap" was packed
up in a satchel, folded neatly next to some hope, rode up on that Illinois Central train headed north and wound up being sold
on a blanket Sunday mornings on Maxwell Street. Now it has been torn down, jammed into a shopping cart and told to move on
because it was spoiling the rich peoples' view.
If you listen to the lyrics between the guitar breaks, you
know that the story of Maxwell Street is nothing new. It's just another verse, just another song, just another blues,
just some more "crap" moving on through the night.
Live! Music Review, published by Bill Glahn, was THE monthly on rarities collector's CDs when it was around. BigO Books will
be publishing Piss On It: The Best Of Live! Music Review, a collection of articles from the magazine. Here is the book's "forward,"
by MIKE FELTEN.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the governm
That is the first amendment, folks. I just thought that I'd take a look at it again. Am I reading into this when I think
that my rights are abridged when I am not able to view or own a piece of music or a film? I'm not even talking about "free"
exchange. I'm willing to pay. There are folks that have no objection to plopping down US$25-$50 for an hour or two of unreleased
archival music. The established record and movie industry tells us that this "bootlegging" is big business. If it
were, we would have more things available to us and from them.
I was reading Waylon Jennings' autobiography and there was a discography in back. One of my customers asked me for the
Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line compilation on RCA. It is out of print. It did have the Nashville Bum song that I was looking
I started thinking about Jessi Colter. She had one of the great "woman" songs on one of her albums. It was called
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. It was a country equivalent of Marianne Faithfull's Why'd You Do It, Jessi only had about
five albums and a couple hits. It shouldn't be that hard to find. I have the vinyl buried in my stacks. Since I am about ease
and comfort, I tried to order the song on disc. It is, you guessed it, unavailable. On the Waylon site, she has a collection
for sale, but it doesn't have the song on it.
So I guess I'll watch some movies. There is some sense of permanence about DVD, so I'm trying to replace some of my VHS
tapes. A customer brought in a box of books for me. One of them was a pictorial record of all of Humphrey Bogart's films.
I guess that I spent a lot of time at Bogie revivals in the '60s. Twenty-five of his 75 films are available for purchase in
any format. Fifty Bogart movies are not for your eyes, a full two-thirds of his career. I hazard to guess, that there are
more Kevin Bacon films available to you. A lot of my favorite movies are unavailable. I guess that I have to wait for a revival
to see or own the rest.
I suppose that I am being a whiny American. I want it. I want it now. I want to order off the menu and I want it fast.
But, why can't I make up my own menu? I just never expected that when I walked out of the old Clark Theater one night in the
'60s, that I'd never see They Drive By Night again. I never thought that when I packed up my Jessi Colter album that I'd never
hear those songs again. Maybe I should go into the vinyl room and raise my prices.
Maybe it is because I am an American that I object to this stranglehold on our culture. I guess the only question that
I am asking is if the first amendment is for sale? Can we call it the 3-Com First Amendment at Bank One Park and only allow
the privileged few in? I can't hear what an actor or musician has to say because somebody owns it and won't let me listen.
Isn't it ironic that those who devote their lives to sharing their thoughts and feelings with us are the ones who have their
work taken from the course of our daily lives and secreted away from us? We have the fine fabric that has enriched our lives
unraveled and imprisoned inside of the world's biggest ball of twine.
I was on a radio show last year and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune asked the question, "what about bootlegs?"
Well, what about them? He wanted to know why he could find such great stuff in New York and not in Chicago. Are there more
criminals in New York? Is it because bootlegs got their start in New York, when people wanted albums of the Metropolitan Opera
performances that labels were unwilling to record and put out? Or are there just more sellers of recorded music in New York?
I don't know. I have heard the stories of great bootlegs of old R&B stuff and Doo-wop in New York. "Bootlegs"
that are sometimes mined for cuts that wind up on "legitimate" label compilations. A lot of this stuff, on its own,
won't sell a thousand copies nationwide. It isn't viable for a big company to put it out and small companies are trying to
be "legitimate." The small companies have to be careful about who holds the rights to vintage recordings. It is
cost prohibitive for them to research the "ownership" of vintage works. It is easier to get the band playing the
bar on the corner to go into the studio and record their new stuff.
But, damnit, why can't Greg and I hear this stuff without going to New York?
We don't have this problem with printed material. Back in the '30s we weren't supposed to be able to handle James Joyce's
Ulysses, but Random House went to court and our society didn't crumble.
I can't think of anything that we can't read in America. The occasional zealot will get a Judy Blume or a JD Salinger
removed from the shelves of some school or public library, but the titles are always available through another easily accessible
source. I had heard rumors about In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen being silently removed from the shelves,
but Amazon is selling it. I don't know of anything that is so obscure that you can't read it. When I wanted to find out about
the 1913 massacre in Calumet, Michigan that Woody Guthrie wrote about, I could read somebody's master thesis from the University
of Michigan or I could pull up old newspaper accounts on microfilm. I had a harder time when it came to finding a copy of
Woody Guthrie actually singing the song. I had to settle for Ramblin' Jack Elliot for the longest time.
It is fairly easy to look into how the creative process works with a writer. Universities house manuscripts and sometimes
even publish a record of the embryonic journey to final, printed work. You can read Hemingway's letters and his rough drafts.
You can immerse yourself in his time and see the creative process taking hold.
Why is it so difficult to view the same creative process when it concerns either sound or film?
It is impossible for me to get a copy of the John Ford/Will Rogers film Steamboat Round The Bend. It is owned by 20th
Century Fox and they aren't letting anyone see it. The Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma doesn't have a copy. I can't
even go there and watch it. I can't imagine that there ever will be a reason for Fox to relinquish control of this film and
allow it to be shown.
Why can't we, legally, listen to the Get Back sessions? Why can't we hear the creative process of the Beatles at work?
When George Harrison died, we saw snippets of studio conversations during the making of the White Album. Why is the album
with the 20-odd takes of Strawberry Fields available as only a sinful bootleg? Do they think that people aren't going to buy
Rubber Soul, so they can put this on at parties?
The legend of the Rolling Stones' Cocksucker Blues movie is a lot worse than the actual thing. Why can't we see this for
ourselves? Maybe what's left of Decca is still embarrassed. Why can't we watch the Let It Be movie?
Copyright law wasn't designed to deprive us from viewing and hearing anything. The law was put in place to assure that
artists and copyright holders were fairly compensated for their work. No one has to seek permission to put a song on a jukebox,
you just have to pay a share of mechanical royalties. I don't have to ask the copyright holders if it is OK for me to get
up in a bar, strap on a guitar and butcher their creation. The bar just has to pay Ascap or BMI or Seasac a license fee.
We shouldn't have to be concerned about "illegal" recordings. We should spend our energies finding a way to
compensate the artists for these gray area releases instead. Prohibition hasn't ever worked and never will.
The argument can be made that some of these unfinished and unformed recordings or films are embarrassing to the artist.
A case in point would probably be the Early Recordings disc of Springsteen recordings that came out "legitimately"
a few years back. The Boss eventually sued and it was removed from the circulation. Was it about embarrassment or Bruce getting
compensation? Let's assume that it was about embarrassment. Aside from the fact that all this stuff had been bootlegged for
years, only the real fan would be interested in such esoteric fare. I might have sold five copies of the "legitimate"
release in my store. The box set outsold it by at least 20-1. I took a copy home and never unwrapped it. I knew what it was.
I'm not going to turn in my copy of Born To Run because this stuff is so much better. A couple of years ago, I paid US$20
for copy of the MTV Unplugged album that was only available as an import because Sony wouldn't let us have it in the United
States. Nobody refunded my money when it was finally issued here as a midline. I'm not complaining. I enjoyed the album for
almost two years before Sony said it was OK for me to hear it.
The copyright holder shouldn't be able to prevent the distribution of their material, only require just compensation.
If we were worried about embarrassing artists, we wouldn't be able to read Nelson Algren's love letters or stories about
Hemingway's almost fatal episode of diarrhea in the snows of Kilimanjaro. We wouldn't be using T-Rex to sell cars either.
Hey, it is a free country though. At least that what Paul McCartney is telling us.
I am so grateful in this post-911 world, that McCartney is talking about freedom. Let me tell you about freedom. Freedom.
Somebody should tell Paul that a verse might be nice with that chorus. But let's be nice. Linda is gone and Lennon and Harrison
are too. The guy has been through a lot and I still love him, but once we let him off the hook with that nananananana stuff
at the end of Hey Jude, it was OK for him to give us that "someone's knockin' on the door" nonsense and the genie
got out of the bottle.
I am so glad that Bono has chosen to salute our country by using our flag as a lining for his jacket too. Can I buy one
of those at Target?
I am beginning to fear that our president is using the flag trick like an old vaudevillian. Every question that needs
to be answered or any right that needs to be "temporarily" abated is met with an unfurled flag and a sneering, "Let's
roll." I guess that I hadn't been paying close enough attention because I didn't associate the phrase with the plane
that was crashed in Pennsylvania. The phrase at the end of his 2002 State of the Union was just naked and threatening.
Our Attorney General insists he needs a carte blanche suspension of our rights and freedoms. My old buddy Neil Young agrees
with him. (No offense, but why are so many Canadians and British subjects justifying our relinquishing our civil liberties?
Are they still upset about losing that tea tax?) The degree to which you resist losing your freedom is directly commensurate
with the degree that you are free.
I grew up believing in that all-seeing eye on our dollar bills. The G-men would keep us right. We saw all sorts of technology
during Desert Storm. We watched our missiles from spy satellites. The smart bombs went in the front door, through the bedroom
where junior was innocently sleeping, out the back door and into the munitions factory. Wasn't all this wonderful? Wasn't
all this true? Now it seems that these G-men can't even find an Arab millionaire that used to live under a rock in a desolate
country. It kind of shatters my faith. Maybe these G-men are out looking for unauthorized Kid Rock outtakes. If Osama would
just show up at the flea market selling knock-off Rolexes we'd have him in no time.
Just how much of our freedom should we relinquish to encourage these people to do the job that they were employed for?
Get your hand off that flag, now and give me answer and I don't want to hear that "Let's roll," stuff either.
And you thought this book was just going to be about bootlegs.
Note 1: Mike Felten is a record shop owner, musician, writer, and was a frequent contributor to Live! Music Review.
Note 2: Waylon's "Nashville Bum" and Will Rogers "Steamboat Round the Bend" have since been made available
to the general public. I have been told that there are no longer any snows on Kilamanjaro.
Been writing some new songs
and previewing them to audiences along the way. I think the new album is about halfway tried and true. I rehearse like a maniac
to get it sounding as well as I possibly can. Figuring our studio time and trying to book some more shows. I'll start
up again in Wisconsin at the end of March and I'll be in Tulsa on April 11th. Shot me an e-mail and I'd be happy to come and
stand in your flat bed truck, barn or living room. Don't be shy
WOJB has added Cold Hard
Morning, Liars & Thieves and Ghost in the House. Thanks!
Been fortunate to play some really fine places. It hasn't
been the most financially lucrative, but it really has been very personally rewarding. Love playing these small mom and pop,
indie outfits that are trying to keep the flame alive.
It is always tough times up in the UP and the 8th Street Coffeehouse
folks are tough and hanging in. The city fathers are trying to entice a corporate chain to compete and help transform a pleasant
downtown into a strip mall. It's about time that we realize that we should embrace our local businesses who have a stake in
our communities, Had a beer over at Baron's bar where I had to engage in conversation with the locals. There was no way that
they were going to let a stranger have a pint alone. "Just Ask Gust Asp" is still going strong too. Everything that you need
is at Gust Asp.
Dismayed to find that old buddy and former bandmate Jim "JD" "Smiley" Lewis had passed. I had hoped
that he'd come strolling into the gig. I guess life doesn't wait for me to get around to it. All the bad days that I've had
these past years, well, J had one that was worse. Our time is finite here. I have to sing my song while I can.
a day with my granddaughter making a tent out of my shirt and watching TV through my sleeve.
The Bremen in Milwaukee
is a great place. It has been a long time since I've been in a real bar. A lot of folks drinking normal drinks and trying
to squeeze the most out of a Saturday night in Milwaukee. No chocolate martinis and little pretense. I'll be back there in
August 11,2007. Had a really enjoyable time
up at the Zuzu Cafe in Madison, Wisconsin. Did two hours without amplification of any sort. A little hoarse today, but it
was great. The way it should be done. Thanks to all.
Johanna Bodde -RADIOGIRL on Radio Winschoten, The Netherlands
(www.radiowinschoten.nl)is playing "Ghost In The House". It is almost at the end of the show. You can listen (on demand)
to this show and a couple more by other DJ friends at: www.altcountrycooking.nl Podcast: copy and paste www.altcountrycooking.nl/index.xml
Reviews and playlist archive at: www.insurgentcountry.net Thanks, Johanna
August 8th,2007 - Just received word that my good
friends up at WOJB - the Ojibway public radio station up in Reserve, Wisconsin are playing 'Tossin' It Away'. Listen for it
on Jeffrey Jones' On The Porch show
August 3rd, 2007 The Academy Awards are
next.... The Myke Adams video for Hotel Lights has been selected to premier at the Chicago Underground Film Festival.
No doubt this is due to the other Mike's (Felten,in case you forgot) bravura acting performance.
July 29th,2007 Paul got us some airplay on WLUW. He did 'Ghost In The House" and 'Paul Powell'
PEELGRASS RADIO in the Netherlands has added GHOST IN THE HOUSE and COLD HARD MORNING to their playlists.
RED SHIRT is #195 with a bullet(the name is spelled 'Felton' though if you're searching) this week out of about three
thousand on Neil Young's Living With the War website.
Tossin It Away official release date is Tuesday July 17,2007. It is being distributed through Carrot Top Distributing
in Chicago. So far retail is available through the Record Emporium,Amazon and fine independent record stores everywhere.
HILLBILLY ROCKHOUSE has picked up "Cold Wind On The Mountain" and is playing it in Germany.
GOLDEN FLASH internet radio from Belgium is playing "Ghost In The House"
July 11th, 2007. It sure was great to get back on stage for the last five shows. Made new friends at the Hideout,Heartland
Cafe & Kraftbrau Brewery. Playing for the MoveOn.org Party for the Planet before Al Gore was really a great, rewarding
experience. Playing unamplified to a small room of politically motivated folks made me feel like Woody Guthrie standing on
a flat bed in an orchard. It was what music should be. Since people have been getting off on my slide playing, I've been
putting together a slide show. I can sit down with Marushka and pound it out. I've been playing her for forty two years. We're
both a little battered, but we really weren't out together from 1971 to 2003 when I played the Martin and Fender exclusively.
She came out of retirement with me and I guess it is only right to feature her. Madison,Escanaba and Milwaukee are
next. Always looking for more.
The Blog archive is now on the writing page.
JUNE 28TH 2007 -
CITY AWASH IN POLICE TICKETS
MIKE FELTEN,OTIS GIBBS,TOM HOUSE TICKETS HARD TO FIND!
Although the Sting and Police reunion was supposed to be the hottest ticket in town, a quick check of ticket brokers revealed
a glut resulting in a lot of seats being sold at below face value.
A quick check of the same ticket brokers revealed that tickets for the weekend shows featuring Mike Felten, Otis Gibbs
and Tom House (Independence Remembrance @ Hideout 7/6 and the Heartland Café 7/7) were tough to find! Mike and Otis at the
Kraftbrau in Kalamazoo 7/3 is also a premium event!
June 19,2007 -The discs are now in hand.
Review copies are going out as we speak. Probably have to set the official release date in August or September though.
May 30th,2007 - Finally eliminated all the snags in the booklet - the worst part of making these albums. We should be
all good to go now. Preorder now - or buy it at our shows.
The end of a long, long journey.
May 21st 2007
Sorry, if you missed Mike on Friday, but mark your calendars for July.
Mike performed John Prine's Blue Umbrella along with Paul Powell on Friday. The Blue Umbrella version was not the Mike
version that has evolved over the years, but he just wanted to stick to the chart so everyone could play along. Paul Powell
was a confidence builder. Good to see Mike performing on his feet again after the knee surgery had kept him chair bound the
last couple of performances.
Found a copy of Mike's Maxwell Street article that appeared in Blues Access several years ago. Check it out while it is
MIKE RIDES AGAIN!
THIS FRIDAY AT THE OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC CONCERT HALL 6:30
As part of the Steve Goodman weekend -Six String Social - Mike will be playing Steve's Paul Powell.
(Please note this is the Concert Hall at 909 W. Armitage not the Lincoln Avenue location where the big boys play. The
building at 909 is the place where Steve attended and played numerous times. This will be the third time Mike has taken the
stage here, but the first time out since he played for coffee at a Starbucks with Paul "M.O.T.O." )
and it's FREE!
April 30th, 2007
***'Red Shirt' was just added to Neil Young's "Living With The War Site"
-he has the name as "Felton" instead of 'Felten" but that's all cool.****
Tossin ' It away is set for release on July 2nd, four years after Landfill hit.
Mike will be performing 'Paul Powell' on May 18th at the Old Town School of Folk Music's Steve Goodman weekend.
Scheduled record release shows right now are:
July 3rd at the Kraftbrau Brewery in Kalamazoo,MI
July 5th - Record Emporium Independence Remembrance at the Hideout in Chicago with Tom House and Otis Gibbs.
July 6th @ Heartland Cafe.
Still booking, still looking. Show up and lend your support. It may be another four years...
April 10, 2007
As Phil Georgeff used to say at Arlington Park Race Track "They're all in". Everything is done and we are off
to the pressing plant.
Looks like July 5th at the Hideout - Chicago.
From Fred Wilhelms..
SAVE INTERNET RADIO!
We are recording artists.
Among us, we have quite a number of gold and platinum records and almost too many awards to count. Some of us have been
recording for nearly 50 years. Many of us are recording today, but you wouldn't know it from AM or FM radio. At best, you
might hear one or two of our old songs every once in a while on some Oldies station. You never hear our new stuff.
So we LOVE Internet radio. There are Internet stations that play our older stuff, which is great. Even better, there are
Internet stations that play our new songs, and people who have heard them tell us we sound better than ever. Those stations
are often run by fans who love the music as much as we do. They aren't in it to make money; they want to share what they love,
and they are even willing to pay royalties out of their own pocket to webcast our music.
Now, many of those Internet stations that we love are in danger of being turned off forever.
In March, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) of the Library of Congress announced a set of new royalty rates for Internet
radio stations. Instead of giving these stations an option to pay a percentage of what they made from advertising, or setting
up a single amount for non-commercial and hobbyist stations to pay, the CRB established high rates that will drive all but
the biggest stations off the 'Net.
We think that what's going to be left will sound like regular AM and FM radio. That means you won't be hearing us much
on the Internet (which means, anywhere at all) unless these rates are changed.
SoundExchange, the organization that collects those royalties and pays them out to us, is saying it thinks there are too
many Internet stations, and that maybe the ones that can't make money should be "weeded out" for the good of the
artists. We don't understand how having fewer stations playing music can be good for artists. The more stations there are,
the more music, and more artists, will be heard. That's just logical. It's also what really is good for the artists.
The idea of "weeding out" stations that don't make enough money to pay the royalties is just ridiculous. A station
that has to sell advertising to make enough to pay the royalties is going to have to increase its audience so that it can
charge more for commercials. That means it's going to have play music thousands of people will tune into more of the time.
That means it will sound like regular radio. Another regular radio channel not only won't do us any good, it will do us harm.
Don't get us wrong. We like to be paid for our music. Internet stations should pay a reasonable fee for playing our music.
Big commercial stations should pay what a big commercial station can afford, small commercial stations should pay what they
can afford, and college, non-commercial, and hobbyist stations should pay a reasonable fee, too. That's a fair solution: They
get to play our music. We get heard, and we get paid. Those stations keep broadcasting, which means they keep paying the fees,
and we keep getting paid. That sounds like everyone wins.
These fees should all go through SoundExchange, too, because if they do, we get our share. That's the law. Under the new
system, the label can take the Internet license fees directly, and they don't have to pay the artists anything. Our experience
is that if they don't have to pay us, they won't.
We already have heard about some radio services negotiating directly with the labels, and that isn't good news for artists.
SoundExchange has quoted some artists who are defending the high royalty rates, but we suspect those artists don't know the
In 2002, the Library of Congress announced royalty rates that threatened to kill Internet radio before it began. It literally
took an act of Congress to replace those rates with something more reasonable and logical. The result was a structure that
allowed Internet radio to grow and prosper, and that got many of us paid the first royalty checks we'd seen in a long, long
So it is time you let your voice be heard. Call, write, and email your Senators and Congressperson. Links to find their
addresses can be found below. Let them know you think the new CRB royalty rates will be a disaster for Internet radio, for
its audiences and for the artists.
Join us. Together we can save Internet radio now for all of us, now and for future generations of webcasters, audiences,
CALL, WRITE AND EMAIL YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVE:
The end of a long journey is almost at hand. Waiting for the bar code and the disc will be off to the pressing plant.
Starting work on the next batch of songs. In progress are "Statue of Liberty", "100 Years of Solitude"
and "Selling Hammers in the Dark". As always, it is an evolutionary process and that which we are enamoured with
in May doesn't always survive to December.
Did a little bit of acting in a video for the band "Hotel Lights" (that includes members of Ben Folds and Archers
of Loaf) produced by Myke Adams. In a stretch of my talents, I sold a couple of records to a fella who had a girlfriend that
couldn't understand his fascination with vinyl.
Agonizing over the sound of a new record in the studio, it seems we hear shades and tones and imperfections that will
probably be glossed over by the majority of listeners. You do hope the agony results in at least a little subconscious appeal
to the audience.
At the end of the agony with the studio time paid for by maxing the credit cards and the when the musicians are paid for
with checks that you pray don't bounce and the life savings are ready to be forked over to the pressing plant and you're left
with a mountain of debt to climb, you take a breath and realize that all this work is never going to make it to Triple A radio
(hell, it might not make it to any radio) and you wonder if anyone anywhere is ever going to hear it (or buy it) and if it
is going to have any worth to at all.
You are left with the question of why.
I know that I've been over this before, but there is a huge difference between making music to entertain people - to give
them what they expect and making music because you have to. It is a basic philosophical difference that the record industry
doesn't get anymore. I am thinking that this difference is the reason why the record industry is in trouble.
Everything that I've recorded could have been polished and processed. Instead, I sought to put forth the reality of what
I am. There was no disguising the Carter Family or Robert Johnson or Woody Guthrie. It was raw and powerful. They put out
who they were. Their audiences, of course, weren't I-pod sophisticates. They hadn't seen giant pigs burst over stadiums. They
weren't used to modeling amplifiers and tape loops and synthesized sound. Hank Williams could stumble out of the back of his
Cadillac and wander into a bar with his guitar and sound like Hank Williams.
I guess that there is nothing wrong with pursuing a major label contract and crafting music that you hope is geared to
the soundtrack of some television show or the bed of some advertising campaign. I guess that there is nothing wrong with relying
on 21st century technology to pulsate on a dance floor or blister an eardrum. And there is nothing wrong with a comfort level
in the parameters of what you are used to. When we moved away from the basic sound of Hank Williams doing Cold Cold Heart
to Tony Bennett we changed our parameters. When we went from Pat Boone doing Tutti-Frutti back to Little Richard we changed
I'm sure that Hank wondered why he couldn't crossover to the mainstream. Richard probably wondered why he couldn't sing
his song on Your Hit Parade. Richard probably knew the answer and Hank probably had a good idea. Too raw? Too dangerous? I'm
sure that some of the critics of the day suggested that they just weren't as good or as polished as the chart toppers.
I remember playing my copy of Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and having an uncle say to me that he was sure glad that
he wasn't young so he would have to listen to this shit. It wasn't Eddie Fisher.
Eddie and Tony and Pat were slick and professional. They were selling the records. I remember buying my first Dylan record
because he was the guy that wrote all those Peter, Paul & Mary songs. Peter, Paul & Mary even sang "Blowin In
The Wind'" at the 1963 civil rights march in front of the Washington monument while Bob Dylan had the unenviable task
of following the "I Have A Dream" speech.
I don't mean to pretend that I am Dylan or Hank or Woody. I'm just trying to be Mike. I'm trying to negotiate my way towards
that essence. It may be different. It may not be good. It may not be what you want to listen to. Everybody wanted to listen
to Hootie and the Blowfish for a couple months. Christopher Cross was good for a grammy year.
I just have to do this. It is debilitating to think that all of your efforts and pain is not even a break-even proposition.
Worse than that is that there is not even a little cadre of support that will pat you on the back and encourage you to go
on. Still, I find myself singing to the tape machine in the back bedroom like Emily Dickinson writing poetry or John Kennedy
O'Toole writing prose. I'm not dreaming of the limo and the house in the Hollywood Hills, just the basic comfort of knowing
that a roof will be over my head and the electric will be paid, I won't be carried off to debtors prison (and stop being made
to feel like a scumbag by some Bangalore bill collector) and I can just continue creating stuff that no one except myself
is vaguely interested in.
I guess that is my "goal" in all of this. It is what I care about.
The record industry is failing because wants to sell you the same thing over and over. They are unable to comprehend that
you already have what they are selling and are afraid to change. They have no passion in their product and they are afraid
of their own feelings. If you are wrong you get fired.
I'm already a month or so away from living in a cardboard box under the expressway. I don't have much to lose to by pursuing
it the way that I hear it.
Everything seems to dovetail back to that day at the Art Institute when I watched the guy with the monogrammed shirt enjoying
art produced out of poverty. I thought that if the group he was leading just stripped naked and traded their clothes for something
a little more proletarian, then an artist could live a few years on the difference. That was thirty years ago?
But there is something worse than the poverty. It is the silence and the not knowing if all this has any value or it is
just a good piss in a windstorm.
The agony never changes.
DECEMBER 7, 2006.
The final list:
Cold Wind On The Mountain (Unanswered Prayers)
Ghost in the House
Tossin' It Away
Road & Rye
We Ain't Goin' Away
Cold Hard Morning
Trail of Tears
Liars and Thieves
Hockey Games in French
Take A Walk With Jesus
We have Randy Kling mastering down in Nashville. He's done Britney and Carrie Underwood, so I'll be just another pretty
face to him. We won't turn his head. Seriously, he was responsible for most of the RCA artists through the years from Chet
to Elvis to Porter & Dolly to Waylon to Alice Cooper.
Just add him to the growing list of great people that I've been fortunate to work with on this project.
We finished mixing and we are readying for mastering. We have to get the song sequence down and the artwork. Take a look
at the pix page.
Dug out what I think is the saddest picture that I ever saw. My wife is sitting at the graveside of her sister. The cross
looks like it is neon. I never noticed this before, but the little girl has a cast on her leg. My wife said that she had been
hit by a car. It is all as mysterious as a Hockey Game In French.
Liars and Thieves got a reprise and may make the final cut on the album. Tugboat Farwell added bass to Liars, Paul Powell
and I Ain't Goin' Away. Thanks to Lou and the use of his Fender Precision.
It is getting close again. Go over to www.recordemporium.com and buy some stuff to keep us close to the black.
September 28, 2006; We got nine songs done at Third Ear and now we are going to take it back to Springfield for mixing.
Hoping that we'll have some up here for you to listen to soon. We recorded a new live track with John Eller and Dave Boquist.
It is a gospel flavored tune called Unanswered Prayers (Cold Wind on the Mountain).
We are going to keep some of the tunes for the next one. Take A Walk with Jesus didn't make Landfill, but we got it on
Fort Worth had a little phrasing problem that we seem to have been working out. Sheffield Doorway and Salesman of Paradise
have been around forever. Mother Trucker, Talking W.A.S.P., Purple Panty Hose and Pee In The Cup are scheduled to be on the
It seems like a good record. Hope you'll like it.
We are off to Minneapolis/St.Paul and Third Ear Recording Studios to finish the recording process for what we are currently
calling "Tossing It Away". We still will have mixing and mastering to go, but the long tunnel is about to be traversed.
We are working on editing a live recording tentatively called "Bootleg Hot Dog". Planning on getting out and doing
some of those rare gigs. If anybody is interested, give us an e-mail.
Well. as usual it has been a long hard road, but we are back.
After our last entry, I got laid low with the pnuemonia. I spent a lot of time hacking and feeling like Jimmie Rodgers,
but I managed to survive. For someone who has a clean bill of health, I sure have been sick a lot. I quit smoking, as I always
do before I record. Quit drinking and quit the caffeine.
Went down to Springfield, Missouri and recorded at The Studio with the illustrious Lou Whitney who you know from the Skeletons
and the Morells.
Editor Bill Glahn changed his hats and produced for me. It really was great having a couple of people who have opinions
that I respect in the studio with me. We didn't butt heads too much at all.
We put down fourteen tracks. Let's see if I remember them all:
Ghost in the House
Hockey Games in French
Tossin It Away
Salesman of Paradise
I Ain't Goin' Away
Liars and Thieves
Road and Rye
Trail of Tears
Cold Hard Morning
Take A Walk With Jesus
and Steve Goodman's Paul Powell
The Paul Powell song is an unreleased Steve Goodman track that I had heard him play around Chicago. Producer Bill had
to secure first time recording rights for me and it is one of my new favorites.
Solidarity is the 1918 song by Ralph Chaplin that was set to the tune of the abolitionist hymn, John Brown's Body. It
was corrupted by civil war jingoists into The Battle Hymn of the Republic. I rearranged it into a prayer version.
Producer Bill got John Eller from Minneapolis and Dave Boquist from Son Volt to agree to add their embellishments and
cover up my caterwauling as much as possible. We are working on setting up some recording dates with them.
After that we have to figure out the final mixdown and mastering. Hoping that soon we'll have something for you.
If any of you DJ's, especially my European friends who were so kind to Landfill want to get a pre-release taste of some
of the rough mixes, let me know.
Hope I can stay healthy and we finally get it done. If things go right, we will probably have almost enough for a follow
February 3rd 2006
We are going to by working on the lyrics page and getting back in shape to go into the recording studio. After a couple
of hospital visits, health scares and some surgery, Mike is approaching whatever normal is for him. He is threatening a double
disc or maybe just a couple of sides of further genius.
2005 found Mike selling his soul for a pound of coffee and playing a Starbucks on a Tuesday night. An audience was actually
there, even though some of them were knitting. Mike persevered...
May 5th 2005 - Finally - the 25th Anniversary Record Emporium disc has been released. It is free for the asking with any
on-line order -OR- if you walk into the Record Emporium and ask. Bios of the performers are listed on our catalog page.
February 3rd, 2005 - Well, partners it has been a long time. Let's catch up.
It seems that every song off of Landfill has received air play in Europe. Three songs were listed on the 2005 Top 1000
list of the European Country Music Association. Save Her Old Man, Life Goes to Hell and Margie Got a Boyfriend seem to be
the favorites. The highest chart position was right around 800 behind Guy Mitchell's Singing the Blues. Some pretty fair company.
A bootleg copy of 'Solidarity Forever' recorded by Editor Bill at the 2003 Fourth of July Independence Rememberance seems
to have found it's way to the ears of some striking Opel workers in Germany. At least, that is how it seems to translate to
The Devinator has recorded his own album and it is available through the Record Emporium site. It is DEVIN DAVIS - LONELY
PEOPLE OF THE WORLD UNITE. If you don't own it, you should.
We have been working our butts off trying to keep "The Last Of The Old Time Record Stores" viable. I'm sure
that you all have seen favorite record stores close or downsize. We've lost a lot of friends. We need you all to go out and
patronize the indies and keep us alive.
We've added a new song to the list for our next recording, "Tossing It Away" and we're trying to find the time
to get the voice in shape and all of the songs formed enough to take it in.
In the meantime we are still writing. If you like our prose, get over to the Writing Page and read a bit.
We'll listen diligently if you care to explain how we are mangling the English language. I don't know if I'll do it any
different, it is kind of like playing the A chord with my middle finger raised or the open C with two fingers. It may not
be right, but it's Mike.
I'll try not to be away so long
August 4, 2004 - Finalizing our plans for recording #2. Looks like the Devinator - Devin Davis- will be engineering again.
Election night - Tuesday, November 2nd, We will be playing the Record Emporium again. Tentatively scheduled to
appear are Larry O. Dean, M.O.T.O. (their first gig after returning from Europe), the Screaming Blue Dogs with France Jean
Baptiste and maybe Otis Gibbs. Even if terrorism or political shenanigans delay the election, this show will go on.
We will be appearing on the Record Emporium 25th Anniversary Compilation disc with the above cast of characters and
Jana Peri, NYC Smoke, Nellie Bly, Richard Gilpin, Gidgets Ga-ga and Tristen so far.
Old Man Candles is thinking about doing an album of recitations for Landfill.
And we welcome legendary A&R man Tugboat Farwell to Landfill ("If you need a push call Tugboat!") Work
July 9th 2004 - Played our second annual hot dog celebration at the Record Emporium (partial review below). The new songs
for the second album are just about ready to go. We don't have a new title yet, but we are waiting for the vision.
Songs that have a possible chance for inclusion are:
Pa Kettle's Bastard Son
I Ain't Going Away
Liars & Thieves
Brand New Song
US Steel (They Don't Need Our Iron No More)
How'd I Get Here
I Voted For Frank
Shut Out The Light
Mean Mother Trucker
Hockey Games In French
God Bless America You're Under Arrest
Trail of Tears
Take A Walk With Jesus
Salesmen of Paradise
They Came Through On A Train
Something I Can Catch
and a couple of covers...
Three Legged Man
Since we plugged into the Roland VG-8 we have discovered endless possibilities to make things sound even more disorganized
than usual. Our rock opera remains in conceptual stage...
From Editor Bill's "Show Me Culture" column in the CFP weekly...
For Independence Day weekend I headed up to Chicago to help
out Mike Felten, a friend and owner of the Record Emporium, a fiercely
independent record store on Chitown’s north side. In addition to running the
store, Mike also writes excellent protest songs. Each year Mike holds a cookout at his record shop for the neighborhood
on July 4th. Besides the hot dogs
served up by Chef Bill, there are also blood pressure checks and live
entertainment. It’s Mike’s way of saying thank you to all the folks that allow him to remain an independent
Mike Felten’s little holiday celebration was more of a success than any event that lacks major media exposure
can expect to be. A steady stream of folks came by for some eats and to rock with M.O.T.O. (Masters of the Obvious), a Ramones-type
punk band who’ve been around for almost two decades and claim an intensely loyal following. M.O.T.O. didn’t
fail to capture the spirit of the event or the irony that modern media has become. “Who cares about the starving
people, That you see in the street today? I wanna dance, dance, dance to the radio,” spewed out Paul Caporino on
the band’s best song from their latest release, Kill M.O.T.O.
But it was Felten that made the most lasting impression on me as he closed the show with the title track from
his Landfill album. In the song he
talksabout his father’s “used car life” and how the only real estate that
hisfather owned at the time of his death was “the six feet he’s buried
Felten’s world (and ours) is one in which the powers view us as
landfill. But in the song’s refrain we become much more than that. “Landfill,
landfill. Bustin’ tail. Payin’ bills. Landfill, landfill. On this earth by force of will.”
So for this weeks column, I decided to forgo the usual piece evaluating some aspect of the arts and entertainment.
I decided to find my will and write a protest song instead...
Check out editor Bill at http://www.cfpmidweek.com/
2003-- In the beginning....
What in the hell are you doing this for?
There is an old joke about the parade of virgins. It was cancelled because one was sick and Sister Mary Margaret refused
to march alone.
It seems that there are only two or three people in the world that don't have a compact disc out. Now there is going
to be one less. Unless you count my uncredited contribution to the Flying Fish release "To Fan the Flames" , I am
one of the last virgins.
Why am I doing this? There isn't a whole lot of up side. I'm not looking for the record deal. I'm not going to stand
at the gates with my piece of aluminum in hand seeking validation. Every musician that I ever criticized in print can get
a free shot. I don't want to take a dollar away from any kid that just has to be a rock star. I'm not going to play for exposure,
I really don't know if I want to go out anymore and play at all.
What I'm doing does not have mass market appeal. If anyone likes it, it will be a small niche at best. If no one likes
it, I'll have the satisfaction of having done it. I am putting myself through the creative process, but I don't envision great
reward and I'm pretty insulated against crushing failure.
I have been playing music since 1965. One of the songs on Landfill has been around since 1966. We've been companions,
fellow travelers and I owe it to them to set them free from the bottom of the trunk. Maybe they will be thought of as found
gems or unshackled gimps running up the basement steps. All of this is going to wind up as landfill sooner or later, maybe
we just have to soak up a little sunshine before we pass.
I don't know if any of this is going to matter, but music as a whole has to find a better way. We can't just let five
companies tell us what music to listen to. We can't let one or two corporations control the radio waves. You don't have to
have the right 'look' to make music. You don't have to be a good looking young woman with a belly button or a depressed boy
with the right haircut or an old guy reciting the same old hits for the umpteenth time because that is what becomes a 'legend'.
We don't have to follow the pattern that the accountants have plotted for our music. Network, get the gig, get the
bucks and milk it for all that it is worth. That is the path you take to be the president of the firm, but it damn sure isn't
the way good music gets made. I don't know if I have the talent to generate any interest in the music that I've created. I
do know that if there is any interest, I'm going to market it in contradiction to the established way of doing things.
I don't want the mass marketeers to sell my stuff. I guess that I can't prevent them, but I did have a nice dream
about raiding a Wal-Mart and emptying the shelves of 'product' that is there without permission of the copyright holder. I
want to get my stuff sold in independent record stores. I want the mom and pop stores to be able to sell it cheaper, to get
the jump on street dates and get the value added stuff that the big boys can't get. Why aren't independent labels working
independent stores this way? It may be because independent labels and artists are just looking for the big score. The independent
stores have been burned time and time again. Champion U2 and when they make it they belong to Target. There is no trust anymore.
If we can start producing music and start record labels because we are committed to the music and not the bottom line, if
everybody remembers who helped them succeed and act accordingly, we will be a force to be reckoned with.
If you want to copy my stuff, download it, burn it and share it with your friends, do it. If you are that interested
to devote your time and effort, I'm flattered. Yes, I'd like to recapture my investment. If you'd like to send me a couple
of bucks, I'll take it. If you want to walk into your local independent record store and spend the bucks there do it. Tell
the person at the counter that Mike sent you. I'm trying to give you a gift here. Pass it along. It will get back to me.
You can buy LANDFILL online from Record Emporium just by clicking on the picture above. By design, we aren't available
at any of the retail giants online or brick and mortar. We encourage you to patronize your local indie record store. These
stores are the backbone of the industry and need your support. We know that Music Millennium and RecordBreakers have it .Craig
Rich and the people at Underground Sounds in Louisville have been giving us a nice push as well. (Indie store owners - let
us know if you have LANDFILL and we'll list you here. If you don't have it in stock you can buy it from independent distributors
O.K. HERE IT BEGINS...
(I'm going to reserve the right to edit as we go, just like the rest of my life)
We're going to post for a limited time and then remove parts. If you
are diligent enough to keep checking here,you can read the whole thing for free (you, cheap bastards). If you want to
be a patron of the arts, visit Fast Earl over on the MikeMart page for details.
There’s a place where the highway ends. The concrete gives way
to the gravel path at an uneven edge. The dust kicks up on your city shoes and the trappings of the slick and modern are mocked
by the utilitarian. Pretty soon even the gravel gives way. There is a dirt path where the high grass is pressed to the earth.
It has surrendered, temporarily, to the repeated foot passage. It waits, in the ready though, to be forgotten and abandoned.
Then it will slowly, gradually rise back up to the full height and reach toward the sun and forget that it was ever the slave
to the boot heel.
The winter, of course, levels everything. Concrete,
gravel and earth are rendered the same. You can only find your way by following the tree break and an innate sense of direction.
If you have passed this way before you know.
At the end of the
trail is Bob. She stands sturdy, forgiving, welcoming and tough. Always true to the natural and faithful to the truth. There
is no room for the excuse. You put one foot in front of the last and walk through this life come what may and dealing with
what comes. No apologies are accepted or necessary.
Doyle had been coming this way for many years. There was
a lot of concrete and a lot of city shoes, but the road always looped back here. He could not escape if he had wanted to.
He stepped out of the car where the gravel ended and grabbed
his bag out of the back seat. He winced in pain. His side was still sore where the bullet had passed through. His t-shirt
was still sticking to him where the blood had oozed through the gauze. It was the way he always came back, slightly wounded
and mentally shot. He would breathe the air and touch the stone. Bob would watch him heal. He would rise up like the bent
grass until he convinced himself that he would never feel the boot heel again. He would go back down the path and drive until
the concrete sucked all the life from those that lived upon it. He would go to where people lived with a morality learned
from television and lost the accents of their ancestors by repeating rock and roll lyrics over and over. “Pour me another
cup of coffee baybee!”
It was alien for a while, but
like a shot of smooth whiskey, he warmed to the taste. He would play with the best of them until that unseen boot came crunching
though the woods and stepped down on him.
It hadn’t been
much of a winter. The snow was hanging on, but the life below seemed to waking just below the frost line. The day sun melting
and the night freezing formed a crunchy layer. Bob would hear him coming long before he ever came close.
When he came into the clearing, Bob’s house was to the left. The cabin lifted
three stairs up to give room for a root cellar. Wood was stacked and cut around the base and a couple of old handmade kitchen
chairs sat next to the bench. It was too cold for city folk to be sitting out, but when the sun made an appearance and the
wind stopped the howl, it was a perfect patio for Bob. Smoke curled out of the stone chimney. He could smell coffee over the
pine. Past the house was the lake. The lake was too mean to freeze. It gave up a little at the edges but he could see that
further out it was still churning, steamy, slowly and manically. It was as tough as Bob and they respected one another.
The old faded yellow trailer was to the right. That’s were he would bunk.
Jive and he had shared it since they were little kids and Dorothy had first brought them out here. Jive was somewhere in Southeast
Asia now and Dorothy was dead. It was just Bob that was left.
kept the trailer up. She smoked the hornets out of the eaves in the summer and shoveled the roof in the winter. It looked
like she had re-tarred the roof since the last time. How long ago had that been? Five years? More?
Doyle opened the trailer door. It was cold inside, but a fire had been started in the old barrel stove. A pot of
coffee was sitting on the grate on top and it was just starting to boil. Bob had heard him coming. She had to be getting up
there in years. How long could she go on? She wasn’t like the stone and the lake although she’d give you an argument
over that one.
He put his bag up on the kitchen table and found
a cup in the cupboard. Everything was still in place. It was as though; he had left only moments ago. The beds were covered
in the same blue and green quilts. If Jive’s Most Valuable Player trophy wasn’t sitting at the foot of one of
the bed’s with his old flannel shirt tossed over it, the trailer would’ve looked exactly as it had been when they
had played night dice baseball games under the blankets with a flashlight and a cigar box full of bubblegum cards.
The fake wood paneling looked a little darker. Plastic wood didn’t hold up
too well in a forest. It soaked up the grease from the cooking smoke and it had stained further when they started on cigarettes.
When Jive discovered the properties of some of the local weed and they began to smoke that, it took a further toll.
He didn’t remember if they had ever brought the Big Bear sisters up in here.
That was all more blanket by the lake stuff. He couldn’t imagine the sisters ever being confined by an indoor space.
They had a bed of pines and a lake full of room service. All they needed was a light and a spear and they’d have a fish.
Even Jive with his athletic quickness and his hand eye co-ordination, couldn’t come close to these girls. Doyle never
tried. He just watched and appreciated the naked or half naked girls fetching the breakfast.
The only thing in this room that had changed was him. His hair was turning gray and he was loosing it. Each trip
back after a big city battering was a little tougher on the knees. This time he had the bullet hole to deal with too. It wasn’t
just hurt feelings or twenty extra pounds.
He poured a cup of
the coffee and took a sip. It burned the chap off of his lips and scorched his tongue and throat. It was bitter and black,
but he was back home and it was a new morning.
Bob was cutting fresh baked bread when he walked in. The kitchen was lined with
shelves and the shelves were always full in glorious disarray. The stove was half wood and half propane, but the propane half
was seldom used. The trucks couldn’t get up the path in the winter to deliver and Bob rarely went to town. It was easier
to strike a match, but you had to conserve your resources for when you needed them.
“Hey,” Doyle said.
It was as though they had seen each other the day before rather than a couple of
“I’m fixin’ some toast. The apple
butter lady came by a few days ago and I wanted to give her a taste.”
“Sounds good. Got anything around here for a gunshot?”
Bob looked up with an arched eye.
“You know I
do. Where you get hit?”
Doyle sheepishly raised his shirt.
“I think the bullet went through, but I don’t know if I got it clean
Bob rummaged around one of the shelves and found
a bottle of whiskey. The paper label was yellow and peeling. “For medicinal purposes only”, Doyle thought, “Like
to take the chill out of a cold morning or to lull yourself into a warm sleep”. She poured the whiskey onto her hands.
It was the closest thing to sterility in the woods. She touched the edge of the wound and whiskey stung.
“Don’t be a baby,” she said when she saw him wince, “I
remember when Buddy Cootware got shot in the ass with buckshot. I had to pick them all out and he drank a whole bottle of
whiskey. Of course, Buddy probably would’ve drank all the whiskey anyway..”
She touched the wound lightly and then with one quick jab stuck her index finger through the opening.
“Jesus holy fucking christ mother of god,” Doyle screamed raising up
off of his chair.
“It’s clean,” Bob said.
She took the whiskey bottle and poured a liberal portion on the wound.
“God damn son of a bitch”
disinfected now too. You want some toast?” She put a slice of bread in a metal holder and held it at the top of the
wood stoves open flame.
Doyle caught his breath, trying not
to pass out. He wiped the whiskey and blood from his skin with a towel Bob tossed him.
“Woman usually makes some pretty good apple butter. You might like her too. She’s one of those free spirits
that moved up here from the city. I hear she likes taking naked pictures of gals and sells them as art”
Doyle was still recovering.
“Oh cut it out. You used
to be a tougher bird than that. Does that snow on your crown mean your getting feeble as well as old?”
“You poured whiskey in an open wound!”
“Well, if you’re stupid enough to get yourself shot, you oughtta be able to take the consequences. Were
you sniffing round the wrong hole again?’
Bob. I’m an old man. My hormones don’t even get up most days. I’m lucky if I can get a spark when I need
“They got those drugs for those things now.
I know about you and Richard and drugs”.
you know about drugs?”
“The world gets up here too.
I get the newspapers and the magazines. I even got a computer.”
“Yeah, I sold some
pelts and bought me one. I wanted to surf the net and go to the Louvre and look around. Nobody told me that I needed to have
a phone first.”
“Everything changes, but it pretty much stays the same too. The Louvre will
be there. If you want to charge the batteries up, I can fire up the generator. I figure you can write on it. I put the Underwood
“Well, you never wrote shit on it and you know, if you ask me Ernie never
did either. He was such a whimpering little pussy. I always could smack his ass. I don’t think he could write dialogue
worth a lick either. Here’s your toast. Try some of that apple butter. Don’t think I’m going to serve it
to you because you got shot.”
Doyle slathered the apple
butter on the thick piece of bread. He poured himself a cup of coffee.
“I’m not going to nag you, but it is about time. If you’re going to write anything, you better
get it done. You are already dragging your old butt up here with bullet holes in it. If you’re going to ever show anybody
your stuff, you better do it now.”
“I recorded an
“Yeah, the apple butter lady burned me a
copy of it off the internet.”
“Great, did anybody
‘buy’ a copy?”
“You got a good voice
and the songs ain’t bad, but you know what you’re supposed to be doing. You are just more afraid of doing it than
of having unprotected butt sex with a Haitian hooker.”
an old lady, you sure talk nasty.”
saying anymore. This may be the end of the world, your safe harbor, but it still part of the whole. You know what you need
to do and you know how to do it. You can’t leave the field to pretenders like old Ernie and if you can’t cock
your pistol anymore, don’t think about blowing out your brains.”
“So, Bob,” Doyle sat back in his chair with the coffee in his hands, “What’s new in the big
In the dark of the morning he sat in front of the keyboard. It was time to put it down. No more pissing around. He
already had one bullet hole in him. He didn’t know how many more lives he had left. No more looking at life as something
to be lived rather than written about. He had always grabbed that bottle of vodka and walked naked on the ledge. The story
would keep until later and it wasn’t going to get much later than this. The clickety-clack of an old Underwood or even
a Selectric wasn’t there anymore. There was just the soft tapping in the pre-dawn. Begin.
I am sitting in a trailer at the
end of the world. I don’t think that I’m near the end of my life, but old friends have already fallen. I scan
the obits looking for familiar names. Young girls in prom dresses have become old women with shopping bags. A pretty girl
that used to fire the blood sets me to wondering if I ever knew her mom. Damn, it gets depressing, unless the mom shows up
a little better preserved than my dark imaginings. On my good days, it seems simply wonderful that I can find a place for
women of all ages in my fantasy. Of course, I am smart enough to look beyond the lust and hear the why don’t you do
this or that and the complaints about my poor providing or the extra cocktail or four. In a matter of seconds, I can go from
imagined lust to how-do-I- get-rid of this. I can end a relationship in a deep breath and I don’t even have to take
a shower afterward.
A paragraph into this and I want to get
in the car and go down to the diner. I want to sit and drink bitter coffee and wait for a look at the apple butter lady. Pretty
soon it will be the afternoon and I’ll be closer to an old guy with a bullet hole, than the prince of letters that folks
around me always were convinced I’d be.
Let me tell you
about Jive. That should burn some pages for you.
My first job
was delivering fliers for the Certified Grocery store. A bullet headed bastard in a butcher apron wiped his blood covered
hands and handed me a stack of sale papers.
on every front door from Addison to Belmont, Damen to Western and I’ll give you ten bucks.”
Ten bucks was a lot of money, but that was a lot of front doors too. I walked all
afternoon. My feet hurt, but I covered the territory.
back at closing time and I’ll give you your ten bucks,” bullet head said.
I thought that was bullshit. Why couldn’t he just give me the money now? I thought I was getting stiffed.
I went home and told my mom. She went and got my money. I never delivered fliers
for bullet head again.
A couple of months later, the creep was
caught molesting a little boy. The grocery store changed hands and bullet head passed into pervert hell. I learned to trust
my instincts. They weren’t always right, but they served me well enough.
My second job was pushing up seats and stepping on cups at Wrigley Field. This allowed guys with brooms to sweep
up without beer cups rolling all over the place. We got paid with a free pass for the next game. This was in the days when
women weren’t bearing their breasts in the bleachers and buses weren’t rolling in from Iowa and rising young professionals
weren’t trying to rekindle memories of drunken fraternity days. The Wrigley Gum Company encouraged folks to pack a picnic
lunch and enjoy some fun in the sun. Ladies were free on Tuesdays of Thursdays and our men and women in uniform were given
passes. Sometimes a thousand people would show up, It was good place for a kid with working parents to hang out.
Pete Marcantonio was the beloved groundskeeper. Beloved to who, I don’t know.
He was big, gruff Italian guy who seemed ready to smack you if you didn’t step on your cups just right. Of course, he
was dealing with a bunch of wild kids who were always fighting about who got what row or wanted to get a free pass the game
after the next one.
He never did smack anyone. Maybe that’s
why he was beloved.
The Cubs brought up a young right fielder
and stuck him out in the late afternoon sun. The shadows were always a killer for a guy that wasn’t used to it. A fly
ball would rise and go from light to shadow to light as it rose over the grandstand. The setting sun could blind as it burst
from the openings in the structure. You had to watch and guess and watch and hope.
The rookie had dropped two fly balls. It is a fair bet that the Cubs lost. The faithful filed out and all that was
left was a couple of ushers and cops. Pete was arranging us into our rows. The rookie remerged with a coach. The coach had
a bag of balls and a bat. He was making the kid stay after school and get it right. He hit fly ball after fly ball.
On most, the rookies knees buckled and the ball bounced to the ground somewhere
within six feet of him. He caught a few, but even the cup steppers guessed that the kid was closer to joining them than playing
right field on a regular basis.
The coach was a wiry, little
guy with a heavy beard. He looked like and, in fact was, a guy that you’d see in the local saloon grabbing a quick one
on the way home. He could work that fungo bat though. He’d toss the ball up, coil his body and smack the ball a mile
straight up in the air.
When the rookie threw the ball in he
threw it to a kid. The kid was wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt. He didn’t look much older than me. I thought that he
was the luckiest guy on the planet.
I just wanted to touch
the grass at Wrigley. I thought about catching Pete when he wasn’t looking and just opening the little door next to
the dugout and step on the green major league field. I could feel the magic running up my legs.
This kid was taking throws from a right fielder that couldn’t catch. He was on the field with a glove, close
to actually playing ball. Life wasn’t fair. The inequities of my social station would, of course, be revealed to run
a whole lot deeper than that.
I watched the kid. He just went
about it all like it was the most natural thing in his life. For a moment, I became him. I caught the bouncing throw and flipped
to the scruffy man with the bat.
“Get movin’ kid,”
Pete barked and jolted me back to reality.
The sounds of baseball
were mixed with the banging of seats and popping cups.
we finished our row we were supposed to go downstairs and collect our passes. The coach had just called the rookie in and
he jogged slowly in. His head was down and you could see that he was having a lot of doubts about his own future on the big
The coach went in the dugout and the kid was
following him. He looked at me.
“Hi,” he said.
and waited for the rookie to catch up.
said, “Can I get your autograph?”
I offered the
rookie my folded scorecard and a stubby pencil. His face brightened a little and he signed his name.
The kid stayed as the rookie went into the clubhouse.
was a nice thing to do,” he said.
He’s going to be a player too.” The
kid said, “He just has some things to work through.”
didn’t believe him.
“My name’s Richie,”
the kid said and offered me a handshake.
I took it.
“Doyle,” I said.
Pete was yelling over my shoulder and a cop was coming down to the boxes.
“Get that kid out of there.”
get my pass for the next game and I wondered if Pete would ever let me step on cups again after this transgression. He did
On the bus home I looked at the scorecard where the
rookie had signed. The signature was small and tight, like the writer wasn’t too sure of himself.
“Lou Brock,” it said. I kept the scorecard anyway.
I heard Hemingway’s typewriter. I had done a thousand words or so, not bad for a guy with a short attention
span and a bullet hole. It was time for coffee and to see what Bob was doing. The sun was up and I was ready to drop a fly
ball or two.