Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I saw Elvis Presley yesterday. At the Coco Palms Hotel on the Island of Kauai. That’s where the wedding scene at the conclusion of the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii was filmed.

My wife and I stayed at the Coco Palms for three days once upon a time. We weren’t there on a romantic sojourn. I happened to have a business conference in the Coco Palms and we decided that we’d spend some time looking around the island when no conference sessions were scheduled.

At check in, we were given a room on the second floor overlooking a moat and a grove of coconut palms. At first, I didn’t make a connection between the moat and the movie. I did mention to my wife that the place seemed oddly familiar, although I couldn’t imagine how I might have thought so. This was our first visit to Kauai and it was more than thirty-years after the movie was filmed.

I continued to worry about the moat’s familiarity until just by chance I opened a desk drawer beside the bed and saw a postcard with a picture of Elvis and his bride on a (for lack of a better description) moat boat surrounded by the wedding party, all dressed in the baroque wedding splendor of the times.

Fast forward to yesterday when the air and radio waves saturated us with stories about Elvis’s 75th birthday accompanied by many of his greatest musical hits. I had an immediate flashback to Elvis standing regally next to his soon-to-be-bride with his rendition of the Hawaiian Wedding Song playing as the moat boat glided softly to the end of the moat where the two embraced.

This may well have been one of the more romantic moments in film history. Certainly, it made the Hawaiian Wedding Song one of the more popular songs at weddings in Hawaii and beyond. And in my mind, it reinforced my perception of Elvis as one of the best singers of romantic ballads in American popular music. He may have been the King of Rock and Roll but the versatility of his voice was something to marvel at, and in no song was that versatility illustrated more prominently than in the Hawaiian Wedding Song.

I like Can’t Help Falling in Love (With You), too, which I used to sing in my raspy, atonal, tuneless voice to my wife.


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If Gavin Newsom isn’t careful, he’s going to be branded the Sarah Palin of the Democratic Party. If you recall, Sarah was selected by John McCain as his running mate in the last presidential election. The Republican Party immediately embarked on an odd odyssey, pumping up Sarah’s “foreign policy” experience. The most ludicrous of the claims emanating from the usually disciplined Republican machine was that Alaska was just across the Bering Straits from Russia and Sarah could see Russia. Hence, she qualified as Commander in chief.

Now we have no less a Democratic leader than Bill Clinton recently calling Newsom “a national leader in green technology.” Considering that Newsom is relatively unknown even in his home state of California, not to mention the rest of the United States of America, that statement seems a stretch. Of course, politicians are always saying things like this. It’s a part of the game of politics, and sometimes it actually works. People begin to believe outrageous statements.

But will it work in the case of Newsom? Who knows? But maybe a little context will help us understand. Newsom isn’t running for national office. He wants to be the Governor of California. A citizen of Arkansas couldn’t vote for him even if he were a nationally recognized fan of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Therefore, why mention things that are irrelevant to his campaign for Governor of California?  Why not say something like, “Look at what Gavin Newsom did to San Francisco. He can do the same for the State of California.”

All of this may become idle chit chat before the campaign starts in earnest. Newsom is so far behind undeclared candidate Jerry Brown in money and popularity that he’s in danger of being lapped even before Jerry gets out of the starting gate. Isn’t that pretty much what happened to Sarah?

The Stars have Dimmed

Former super power broker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom Delay, has withdrawn from Dancing with the Stars. That’s sad. As much as I disagree with Tom’s politics, I admire his courage in exposing his ineptness in a very delicate and public way. Besides, his dancing wasn’t really that bad compared to the happy feet of a few other contestants.

If nothing else, Tom deserves our credit for working at close quarters with some really attractive females. I mean, those girls are, in street level vernacular, “bilt.” What real man could retain his composure with one of them in his arms?  Even a man with the power to shape the laws of the United Stares would melt under t?he charms of those beauties.

Tom said he didn’t have time to practice. That’s why he withdrew. Yeah, right, Tom. We believe you, pal. But in politics, the publicly stated motive is never the real motive. My take is simplicity itself. Today’s modern television technology is pretty quick to pick up those underarm sweat stains that seem to appear magically the moment we stand near a gorgeous girl. It’s kind of embarrassing, isn’t it Tom?

The Stars will dime without you.

But life will go on.

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She lay quietly, breathing slowly in my and her daughter’s arms, her heart beating faintly and her breath coming at longer and longer intervals.

Then, the sounds and feel of her heart and lungs began to fade slowly much the way sound diminishes when we gradually turn down the volume on a radio.

Hardly without notice, her life as we understand it ceased.

I’m ashamed of myself because I failed to understand that she was dying and I waited too long to hold her and talk to her and hum some of her favorite songs.

I’m having a hard time imagining life without her.

I hope I have the strength to write her story.

Life is too uncertain at the moment.

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I have just been informed in no uncertain terms that I’m obsolete. I’d suspected it for a long time, but it still hurts when someone just comes right out and says it.

Here’s how Wired Magazine put it:

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.

Those are strong words. But they make some sense. Blogging has been overtaken by several recent developments.

The output of Sarah Palin’s pajama-clad blogger who labors in his or her basement has been swamped by a plethora of professional sites like Politico, with its stable of paid professional newsmen and women who crank out 30 or more posts a day, continually updating news stories. The lonesome blogger is almost out of the picture compared to these sites.

Technical innovations have also dug into the blogging audience. More and more, people with a message are turning to tools like Twitter, which forces a writer to condense his or her message to 140 words or so. Bloggers seem to wander on forever, losing their audience almost with a lack of white space and a seemingly endless number of words.

Finally, social networks have made instantaneous communication possible using, for example, your Facebook Chat tool with its ability to aim specific messages at Top Friends. Why spend time writing the perfect paragraph when you can dash off a quickie message to the ones you really want to impress without the bother of the ever-present anonymous lurkers who make crappy comments and then disappear into the Etherworld?

Wired may be correct in its assessment of technological progress, but many innovations have come and gone, leaving the world to those who stick it out. I have in mind the music recording industry.

An early mechanism for recording music was little round cylinders with groves in them and a steel needle for playback. Then, someone developed a flat disc about a half an inch thick roughly the size of a small hot cake.

The fat round disc was soon replaced by the larger, 78 rpm disc, which gave way to the smaller 45 and then the 33 1/3 rpm long-play vinyl. From there, we saw tapes take over, and now we down load our music onto a plethora of magnetic recording materials.

But contrary to the naysayers, the old recording media has not totally disappear. There are still large numbers of collectors and purists who prefer their music as it used to be. I happen to be one of them, and through the years, I have kept my library of 33 1/3rd vinyls and play them on a still-serviceable turntable.

We all know that time goes by so slowly and time can mean so much. Things change, and one of the changes was bound to be an evolution in the blogosphere. Maybe the changes will eliminate the pajama-clad brigade and clear the way for those of us who like to be decently dressed as we type our glowing narratives full of fire and emotion before we click the Publish button.

The chances are good that the lonesome blogger will be around when professional sites like Politico are dead and buried. If you are a lonesome blogger, don’t be dissuaded by Wired’s prediction. Hang in and someday we’ll have a reunion on the moon.

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Since I have labored mightily for six days to create the wisdom of the ages, I have decided to rest and devote my energy to lighter matters.

I received a request yesterday for information about country music in the Bay Area, especially in and around San Pablo and Richmond. The reader expressly wanted to know if Maple Hall in San Pablo was once known as San Pablo Hall.

I had never heard of this before. It’s always been Maple Hall since I was a kid. Most of what I know about Maple Hall, I learned from my mother. But I’ve been there and hung around with hordes of other kids outside while the adults inside danced to the twangs of the country music icons of the day, got drunker than skunks, and occasionally spilled outside to continue the flailing they began inside. What’s a country music dance without a manly encounter or two over the course of a rousing evening?

As my mother related it all to me, some of the stars who appeared at Maple Hall were Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Spade Cooley the King of Western Swing, Hank Williams, and more.

Beyond Maple Hall, the length of San Pablo Avenue north from the El Cerrito city limits to the bottom of Tank Farm Hill, where civilization as we know it ended, was lined with clubs, bars, and just plain old beer joints. Almost all of them catered to country music lovers.

And in Richmond, country music clubs abounded the length of Market Avenue to Church Lane in San Pablo. An old Key System bus ran the length of this street, terminating in San Pablo, and several drivers used to announce the end of the line with the call “All out for Okie Town.”

Those were the days of thousands and thousands of “Okies” from states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and a host of others who were in Richmond and San Pablo to work in one of the five Kaiser shipyards constructed when the Second World War began. The area was covered with hastily-erected war worker’s housing, some of which still stand in Richmond and San Pablo.

I intend to provide my reader with more info later, but for now I just want to ask: Does anyone know if Maple Hall was once named San Pablo Hall?

If you do, let me know.

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I’m sitting here watching PBS and listening to some great doo wop sounds.

The audience is definitely into the music. They sort of remind me of golfing fans. They emulate the gestures of the vocalists and mouth the words, all with impeccable rhythm.

The songs are ancient, sure, but they have an enduring quality about them. Music crosses borders and spans generations. Music unites.

Sitting before the TV, I find myself keeping time and finally standing up and moving as if I have a partner.

Doo wop’s sounds and tempos speak to romanticism, and its subtle lyrics are in sharp contrast to the wall of sound and frenzied  movements of modern music.

Doo wop is for slow and easy romance, mood music for lovers. There is an anticipatory tension about doo wop that speaks to the gentleness of true love. True love rarely lasts forever, but doo wop extends that promise.

At least until tomorrow morning.

Tonight you’re mine completely
You give you love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes

But will you love me tomorrow
The Shirelles

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A Tiger by the Tail

Will Tiger Woods win his 5th Master’s today? Maybe. He’s on the leader board and when he’s that close, he has a habit of pulling miracles out of his pocket. We shall see what we shall see.

From Here to Eternity

Is it my imagination, or is this the longest election season in the history of civilization? I’m beginning to regurgitate a little in my mouth every time I turn on the television. I love soap operas, but As the Stomach Churns is grating on my nerves. Settle this thing, Kids, so we can get back to our ordinary lives, moaning and groaning about the incompetent politicians we just voted into office.

Take Me Home Country Roads

Our daughter mailed me a couple of CD’s yesterday and I’m looking forward to some classical country music (Is that country played by the Boston Pops?). She called to let me know the CD’s are in the mail, and in the course of our conversation, one of those glitches in memory popped up.

One of the songs included is Blue Yodel Number One by Jimmy Rogers. At least I thought it was Jimmy Rogers. But my daughter said the name on the CD is Jimmy Rodgers. Yes, I know there is a Jimmy Rodgers, but Jimmy Rodgers was a folk singer of a more modern era. Jimmy Rogers was an early pioneer in the country music field.

But, no, my daughter said. The old Jimmy Rogers was actually Jimmy Rodgers. The newer Jimmy Rodgers is another Jimmy Rodgers. Nuh, uh, I said. I’ll prove it. These are two separate people with differently spelled surnames.

Well, long story short. I scoured the Internet for Jimmy Rogers but only Jimmy Rodgers popped up. I’m telling you straight, there is a Jimmy Rogers, and somewhere in my collection of vinyls, I have a Jimmy Rogers album. The problem is, I’m too lazy to look for it.

So, for the moment, my daughter is correct. We’ll see. I have a good memory. In fact, I remember the first few lines of the song:

T for Texas, T for Tennessee;
T for Texas, T for Tennessee;
T for Thelma,
That gal that made a wreck out of me.

Now, if I could just remember what I had for breakfast this morning.


Jimmy Rogers was of my grandmother’s generation. Jimmy Rodgers was a 1960’s type, nearer my time, but my likings really run to neo-country, like Ray Charles and his rendition of I can’t Stop Loving You.

On the other hand, Key Largo by Bertie Higgins will suffice, and the Bee Gees are quite nice, too. But in a pinch, I can handle just about any kind of music. Music is kind of like sex. It’s all good. Some is just better.

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