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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hi! I'm Still Dead!

Sometimes I go on these massively long absences, I just get writers block or i just don't feel like screwing around with the blog. I guess it is high time I came back and laid a big turd on these pages.

I have a ton of catching up to do...first off, I never finished my top 100 albums, just left it hanging so I will get back on that post haste. Secondly, yet another base ball season is winding away and I have not made the least bit of effort to attend a game...of any sort. I seriously doubt I'll go to Citi this year, unless it's to catch Matt Harvey pitch.

The above is all frivolous chatter, feeling better on better days. Right now I am so completely immersed in depression I feel like my hand is grasping a sand rope. Numbness, no feeling at all except a giant pit in my stomach. The cause of all this cannot be revealed just yet, it's too personal and just too early to really get into it, if you want to know the truth.

What really kills me is that I spent years upon years on the road and was never above, selling my stuff, packing up and just hitting the highway. It all seems like a foggy memory it was so long ago and yet clear enough to still cling to the freedom and memory so that I can remind myself that I was, indeed, King of the World at one point in my life.

Now, because of my age and not so fantastic health I am stuck, my life savings depleted and very little energy to go even though I want to. I do not think I would survive very long out there at this point. But then again, that might be a good thing too. Just find a quiet place under a tree and let the world pass by. I would muster what strength I have left and face the world as a man with no regrets, no personal history and nothing to do but to travel the world with my eyes wide open and looking at the wonder.

Maybe I might even finally get myself totally familiar with my guitar, at long last and find my wind once again to toot my harmonica, maybe.  Crossroads, anyone?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Hero ~ Art Stone

Heroes can come in many guises to many people. Oft times they are a sports figure, war hero, or a father or uncle. I would like to talk briefly about one of my heroes, Art Stone.

Art left us on December 9 of last year, much too early for me as I had only had a chance to sample the greatness of the man. A true renaissance man, Art could draw, create amazing tattoos, expertly tailor clothing, equipment and flags and play the guitar....he did all of these things not just competently, but extremely well. For this alone he was admirable, but there was so much more.

I met Art just as I was on my way out of the hobby, so I did not get much of chance to reenact with the man, but on the occasions when we did hook up it was like hanging out with my oldest and dearest friend whom I had known a lifetime. I was in awe of how humble the man was, how he would not hesitate to do what he could to make you smile or to share his knowledge. Like a fool, I felt that there was plenty of time to do the things I wanted to with him....get my 2nd tattoo, buy some clothing he made, play music with him. I thought we both had all the time in the world. Can you imagine? Me? Who danced with death not so very long ago?

Art was devoted husband, a hardworking man, a veteran and my hero. I shall never forget you Art...the only sense I can make of this emptiness is that the good Lord heard about the tattoo we were discussing and decided to pull rank and get the tat himself....for that reason, if for no other, my right shoulder shall always remain blank.

If you are in the area in early June be sure to check out the "School of the Soldier" at Allaire State Park. Dedicated to the memory of Art, it is a great 2 days of living history by the best historians the state has to offer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Alvin Lee ~ Goin' Home

...and still they pass into oblivion. Alvin Lee passed away last week, guitarist and vocalist for "Ten Years After" and bona fide Woodstock hero. Very few in my age group will ever forget his performance in the movie "Woodstock" of their song "I'm Going Home"

They started out primarily as a Jazz outfit playing small clubs in the Nottingham, England area and did one tour of America before being catapulted to Super Stardom in the "Woodstock" movie and soundtrack. The name "Ten Years After" was supposedly inspired by Elvis Presley, the fact that Elvis's biggest success was 1956 and the band being formed in 1966...Ten Years After.

They did not remain a Jazz outfit for long and soon became a blues/rock band. I saw them twice. Once at the South Mountain Arena in South Orange, NJ and once at the The Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. They left a life long impression on me and I will always love the band that was fronted by Alvin "fast fingers" Lee. Rest in Peace, Alvin, you're going home.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chapter I ~ Downpayment Blues

" I've got holes in my shoes, and I'm way overdue....Down Payment Blues" ~ AC/DC

Yet another night, wide awake at 3:30 AM. It's money, naturally, it's always about the fucking money. I wake up, have to take a leak, and then I stand in the darkened hallway in my underwear at the top of the stairs. Should I go back to bed and lie there and have this same shit flow through my mind uncontrollably? Or should I go downstairs to the PC, read my mail, check Face Book and Twitter, pray I don't get lost in a sea of porn and write.

It's been the same way constantly since 2005, since I came so close to shaking off this mortal coil that I could smell the rotted breath of the grim reaper. Truth be told, I didn't feel a thing, I came in and out of consciousness over the span of 24 hours as the "system" carted my carcass from one hospital to another trying to fend off my doom. Those people who say they saw "the light" and heard a gentle voice calling them home? True for them perhaps, but to me it's strictly baloney. The only thing I felt were the beginning twinges of my body starting to rot to be later turned into fertilizer to be spread on some rich assholes lawn. Some heaven.

3:56 AM and I have gotten an epic two paragraphs squeezed out. I gotta take another leak.....

Everyone tells me it's a miracle I'm alive, I have heard it so long that I actually begin to believe it, sort of. If you want to know the truth sometimes I feel like I am being kept around so that I can fill the coffers of the corporate jackasses who didn't swindle enough from me during the first 50 years of my life. The sons of bitches are squeezing now, though, and it's puckering the holy be-Jesus out of my sphincter.

Back when I got sick and my business went down the tubes I had no choice but to take cash advances from my credit cards and rolled up and incredible $40,000 in debt. I've knocked it down by more than half, paid off one card and am trying to make deals with the remaining two. It's like dealing with Beelzebub himself. I mean with late payments and interest and all I have more than paid off the original loan, paid it all and then some. Brother, when they got you by the short hairs they just won't let go, it's a damn fact!

Painting by L.A. artist Alex Schaefer

The phone calls are another lovely part of this sordid tale. The bastards try and trick you by using all sorts of different phone numbers in hopes that they will get you to unwittingly pick up, sorry but I only talk to someone who might actually want to discuss the reality of the situation, not some God damned Indian straight out of "Slum Dog Millionaire". I know it's their job and all, but that doesn't make it any more desirable to pick up the phone.

4:23 AM~ two cups of coffee down and now I'm starting to yawn like a bastard. It worked, I've sat here and typed long enough that I'm sure I can go and pass out for a couple of hours and awake to a new day. The first day of the rest of my "glass 1/2 empty" life. Step in a pile of dog shit while I'm looking for some flowers to know the drill.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eatin' Good in Jersey

One thing you find when you travel the country is that after a very short time passes you begin to crave the tastes and smells of Jersey cuisine. You just can't get this taste anywhere else and though many places try (pizza, bagels etc) they come up miserably short.

Here is a short primer of some of my favorites, places that I have to hit when my "end of days" approaches.

Taylor ham and egg on a roll. Fugetaboutit, there ain't no other place that has Taylor Ham, much less that has heard about it. A wonderful roll made fresh in the bakeries of Paterson with the "iron cross" sizzling Taylor Ham , eggs sunny side up with salt, pepper and ketchup.

The Italian Hot Dog! A Pita like pocket made of Italian pizza crust stuffed with 2 deep fried hot dogs, fried potatoes, fried onions and peppers along with ketchup (naturally). Very few places have it and the ones that do are old world Italian and only in Jersey!

White Manna Hamburgers, Hackensack, NJ! A tiny greasy spoon serving the worlds only real, dyed in the wool, slider! Balls of fresh beef, squashed on the griddle and fried with heaps of onion (don't forget the slice of cheese!) Order some perfectly done krinkle cut fries and four "all the way" with cheese and prepared to be content for the rest of the day! Nirvana! Don't mind the line, it's worth waiting for.

What more can I say about Star Tavern in Orange, NJ? That it has the best thin crust pie anywhere? Is that really enough? Yes it is. Just look at the picture dammit! Look at that charring! Look at the artistic blend of tangy sauce and cheese. Better yet, just try it once, just once and you will know why I have been going there for 40 years!

R.I.P Zuchette's

At the corner of Walnut and Grove Street in Montclair stood Zuchette's. A neighborhood Italian parlor like one would find in many towns in Essex County. After a tough day of school, or a Saturday afternoon one could get a slice or a Italian Dog or any one of a number of "subs" the way only an Italian eatery can make them. Gone but not forgotten, I will always love you Zuchette's!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I met Joe Lemire, producer and co-host of Uncle Floyd Radio dot com, at Jimmy Buff's in Kenilworth. Excellent sandwich! Pizza dough pocket stuffed with deep fried hot dogs, fried potatoes. and fried onions (peppers optional) ketchup and mustard. Highly satisfying and well worth the trip!


In a state that is known for awesome diners, one of the best is Mastoris in Bordentown, NJ. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the portions are enormous and there is not one dud on the menu. 

Breakfast, however, is a particular favorite of mine and this place leaves all others far behind. The eggs and Taylor Ham on a roll is outrageous, huge and delicious. All baking is done on premises. But their claim to fame, with me at least is their cheese bread. A delicate pastry roll stuffed with creamy, sweet cheese. You are served a plate of the bread before your main course and I always buy a loaf or two to take home with me. All Hail Mastoris!

BBQ in Jersey is a term rarely used. Most amateurs who do their own smoke stuff to death and it turns out dry and flavorless. I'm a man who digs his pork and beef slathered with sauce while it's cooking. Places like that usually only exist in North Carolina, Memphis and Kansas City. Enter Bourbon BBQ in Midland Park. They have a tasters plate that will have you clutching your heart thinking that the big one is coming!

Yup, they do it right with a bunch of different sauces as well as deep fried pickle slices, butcher paper, soft white bread, great corn on the cob, monstrous portions. Head to Goffle Road and check these good 'ol boys out!

R.I.P Morris "Magic Slim" Holt

One of the giants of the Blues world and certainly my favorite, Morris "Magic Slim" Holt passed away last Thursday after he was hospitalized complaining of difficulty in breathing. He was 75 years old.

Slim, who lived in Lincoln, Nebraska by way of Chicago and originally Mississippi was perhaps the most powerful guitar player I ever heard and his style of rockin' blues made any venue, large or small, a hot spot of satisfying rock n' roll and blues boogie.

I saw Slim perform perhaps more than anyone and I had recently seen him last fall in the village of NYC at a tiny club called Terra Blues. No matter that the place barely could hold 100 people, Slim and his band, The Teardrops" put on an inspired performance.

It was just like Slim, touring til the very end. God Bless you, Slim, I'm gonna miss the hell out of you!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where did the Blues come from?

...and then Rock n' Roll? You tell me!
"Let the Light from the Lighthouse Shine on Me"

Monday, January 28, 2013

100 Most Influential Albums, An Ongoing Project

This is an ongoing list of the 100 most influential albums, from where I sit least ways. Rolling Stone is always putting out these lists and suddenly they have begun to appear on "Face Book" as well. Who compiles these lists? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that rarely do I have more than 10 to 15 of these knuckleheads picks. Usually they are loaded with "Look how cool am I" obscure bullshit that I doubt they have ever listened to.
So, in no particular order, here is my "100 most influential"...influential in what, you might ask? Influential in enjoyment. Agree/Disagree, make suggestions, argue selections, or make your own god damned list.

1) Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. Where any self respecting rock and roller needs to start. Without him, there ain't shit.

2) Buddy Guy - Stone Crazy. Buddy sounds more like Jimi Hendrix than Jimi. A modern day virtuoso

3) Albert King - Live Wire/Blues Power. Live at the Fillmore West. If you dig Stevie Ray then you HAVE to listen to Albert to figure out where Stevie got his chops!

4) Muddy Waters - Fathers and Sons. Double Album. One album studio, one album live. Backed with mostly white boys, it is nonetheless a stellar cast. Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper,  Paul Butterfield, Sam Lay, Otis Spann. Amazing!

5) Muddy Waters -  Live. My personal favorite Muddy album.

6) Wes Montgomery - A Day in the Life. One of those quintessential albums for a rainy Sunday morning. Wes, his guitar and some really sweet renditions of Beatles songs.

6) Rory Gallagher - Irish Tour 1974. Double album, bought it in college used record store in Lawrence, Kansas. "As the Crow Flies" is worth the price of admission~Rory playing slide on his national steel. When asked how it feels to be the greatest guitar player in the world, Jimi Hendrix replied "I don't know, ask Rory Gallagher".

7) Hank Williams - 14 of  Hank's All-Time Best. Along with Robert Johnson above, you must own this album if you, indeed, are into rock n' roll.

8) Frank Zappa - Hot Rats. One of, I am sure, many Zappa albums which will appear. This one is so very special. Frank's foray into the Jazz/Fusion world with every cut a tasty treat and Captain Beefheart on vocals on the "Hot Rats" cut. "Floozies in the lobby love the way I smell....Hot Rats, Hot Catz, Hot Zitz" etc, etc.....awesomeness!

9) Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead. A true awakening for this boy. Jerry's pedal steel guitar is a thing of beauty. The album that ushered in the era of California cowboy country, for me anyway. Without this and others like it, forget about at least 1/2 of the acts who hit the stage in fabled Austin, TX.

10) Quicksilver Messenger Service - Happy Trails.  Side One contains "Who Do You Love" suite, a classic live performance if ever there was one. Has to be heard to be believed. Side Two starts with Mona ( a Bo Diddly tune) and flows effortlessly through the entire side ending up with "Happy Trails". Classic early San Francisco rock.

11) The Doors - The Doors. The 1st and in my opinion, still the best of their recordings. A sore hole, indeed, in your collection if this is missing. The full "Light My Fire", the classic "The End" not to mention a great rendition of Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man".

12) Firesign Theatre - How Can You Be in Two Places at Once when you're Not Anywhere at all. No law saying all the albums have to be music. This comedy troupe came before Monty Python and took you on a psychedelic ride through Side 1 and Side 2 (or in the case of one album "This Side" and "The Other Side"). Should only be listened to after ingesting psycho-tropic drugs and putting on those giant studio grade headphones. "We're all Bozo's on this bus". yup.

13) Johnny Winter - Johnny Winter. Johnny's 1st major label album (Columbia). He starts off with "Leland, Mississippi" continuing on with "Be Careful with a Fool". His blistering, crisp guitar leads burning a whole in the vinyl. His backing band had Tommy Shannon on bass (later bassist for Stevie Ray) with sit in performers Willie Dixon and Walter Shakey Horton.

14) Johnny Winter - The Progressive Blues Experiment. An independent label release, earlier than the above "The Progressive Blues Experiment" went where few white boys dared to tread. Give a listen:

15) ZZ Top - Rio Grande Mud. The only ZZ Top album I ever owned. This is the one before "La Grange". After listening to this all the way through time and again I figured it was about all I needed. "Francine just turned 13, she's my angelic teenage queen".....whoa shit.

16) Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two. Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a long haired red headed dude who played Spooky Tooth "Spooky Two" nearly everyday. When he wasn't playing it, he was thinking about it. "Waiting for the wind" is all you need.

17) Blind Willie Johnson  - Sweeter as the Years go by. Just about every guitar player who has picked up a bottle neck or an old soup bone slide owes a tip of the hat to this giant of the gospel blues. His heart belonged to Jesus, but his ass was mired deep into the blues.

19) Gram Parsons - GP. Beautiful duets with Emmylou Harris, this album delivers all that California Country had to offer. An epiphany for me. You can see why Keith Richards loved to hang out with him, Gram was sweet righteousness.

20) BR5-49 - Live From Robert's. The bands name alone makes them worthy of recognition, but the way these guys play "Hillbilly Country" is simply criminal. There was a time in the early 90's when they regularly hit the dance halls in NYC and I was there every time...and lovin' it! 

21) Mott the Hoople - Mott the Hoople. Covering songs from The Kinks to Doug Sahm to Sonny & Cher and finishing with originals from Mick Ralphs and Ian Hunter, Mott's debut album is, in my opinion, hard to beat and a "desert island disc" if ever there was one. M.C. Escher's drawing of "Reptiles" on the cover is totally engrossing when stoned~beware!

22) Alice Cooper - Love it to Death. The album (their 3rd) which brought them into mainstream rock making their songs perfect for free form FM radio. From first to last this album is a triumph and another "desert islander". "I'm Eighteen" is the big hit off this collection, but may be the weakest tune therein. The songs flow seamlessly and the final cut I always used as my sign off when I hosted a show in high school.

23) Humble Pie - Rock On. Their last album with young Peter Frampton. When I think of the word "classic album", I think of this one. Absolutely every song is a big winner! English blues rock at its finest.

24) Deep Purple - Fireball. They've put out a boatload of albums but this one is the only I have ever owned. The Godfathers of speed metal!

25) Climax Blues Band - FM Live. Recorded live at the Academy of Music in NYC and simulcast on then free form rock giant WNEW FM, this 2 record set from The Climax Blues Band is a great live album and a soaring tribute to this little known band. They brought the house down that night!

That's the top 25 thus far.....more to come on it's own page!