Saturday, June 28, 2008


My sister has taken to posting poetry on her blog, which is a wonderful thing. She marries them up to a beautiful picture (often one she or Steve has taken) or an interesting thought.

I don't know much about poetry, so let me try some Pooh-etry:

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.

Hey, baby....

How does one measure a life? How much money did you make? How many things did you accumulate? What did you accomplish at work?

Of course not. We all have and know our own measures which are of a much more personal nature, that carry far more value for each of us. But let me submit one variant for your consideration and amusement: How many times, and by how many people, and in what contexts, were you called "baby"? This seems as good as any to me. And the more the better, from my perspective.

This is a wonderful word, so versatile. Of course it can be innocent, or sweet, or sexy, or loving in the most innocent way (as between and a parent and a child), and everything up to and including much more sultry, adult versions. I love them all.

I've been thinking about this concept a lot lately, and I'll share with you why. The ending line is going to be my new mantra in life.

The Voodoo Blues Band sessions on Sundays at Hammerstone's are, among other things, great jam sessions, when some of the top St. Louis blues performers come by to say hello, share a drink, share a story, have a laugh, and, of course, lay down the blues. Our sit-ins are much more than people who just show up; they become and remain our dear friends.

One such friend who comes by often is both a wonderful drummer and a singer. An older gent who has been on the blues scene for years and years. Played with everybody. He doesn't just play the blues, he lives it, breathes it, drinks it in--it simply oozes out of the pores of his skin. A few weeks ago, he showed up after what for him had been a relatively extended absence. We were all so so glad to see him again, play with him again, just hear him again. As he was leaving the stage from sitting in, I gave a him a big pat on the back, smiled and beamed, "Morris, you sounded great!!"

He stared back at me with an expression I don't quite know how to describe in words (sort of like "huh?") and after a small beat, gave me a response I don't think I'll ever forget as long as I live:

"Baby, I always sound great."

And without more he moved on to his cheeseburger and listened to the rest of the set.

Morris, yes you do. My new mantra. Feel free to share your baby stories with us.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I love to make predictions. Sometimes they are wildly right (I correctly foresaw the Cardinals taking the 2006 World Series even though they stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way in to post-season that year (remember the Astros closing in fast while the Cardinals reeled?)). But just as often (if not more often), they are stupefyingly wrong: I confidently asserted Marvelous Marvin Hagler would knock out Sugar Ray Leonard in the late '80s. Woops. The worst of all might have been after seeing "Ghost" in a sneak preview (on a double-bill with Days of Thunder, no less). It was a very rare instance of seeing a main Hollywood feature without knowing a gosh-darn thing about it in advance (think about how much you typically know about a movie before plunking down your hard-earned cash at the box office). After seeing that towering pile of junk, I prognosticated (with my usual air of arrogance) to Sharon that it would last all of one weekend (maybe not even a full weekend), then (definitely) straight-to-video and (to a moral certainty) never heard from again. (I still think that's the fate it deserved.) Double woops and a half.

But to get proper credit, I have learned the hard way one must make a prediction in advance--it does not help to say after the fact that you were secretly harboring a premonition of events to come all along (a trick I've tried to no avail).

So, while we learned this weekend from Brian Williams that Tom Brokaw will be helming Meet the Press through the November elections (which has to be a temporary fix), I will make my prediction on the permanent successor to Russert: David Gregory. I think they are grooming him for that spot. I'm not saying I think he's the best or my top choice, necessarily. But I predict he is going to get it. You heard it here, if not first, at least before it was announced.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Were There

For those who have never made it in to Hammerstone's, I thought I would share this with you. Apparently, one of our many legion of fans came in and took the attached video of us on a typical Sunday and posted it on YouTube. They really did a nice job, and captured pretty much what it's like to be in the club when we play...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some Good Advice

Blind Willie forwarded me the following clip from a 1958 appearance on the "Art Ford Jazz Party" television show with Buck Clayton and Charlie Shavers in a classic "cutting contest" (Charlie is the one in the cap). Willie sent it together with the original message from his friend, which included the following jazz urban legend. I love it:

A lady walks into a music store to get a bottle of valve oil for her young son, who has just started playing trumpet. A kind older gentleman offers to help her, showing her bottles of Al Cass, Bach, etc. The lady asks the gentleman if he plays the trumpet. "Oh yes," he replies, "I've played professionally all my life. I worked with Artie Shaw, Bob Crosby, and had my own band." The lady asks, "What's your name?" "Billy Butterfield," he replies. "Well, Mr. Butterfield, since my son is just starting to play, do you have any advice for him, based on your years of experience?" Butterfield thinks a moment, then emphatically states "Yes. Don't trade fours with Charlie Shavers!"

But what I really find most amazing in this whole thing is that there was ever a t.v. show called the "Art Ford Jazz Party"!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

"I saw it on Russert"

That's the way I referred to Meet the Press--it wasn't "Meet the Press" to me, it was "Russert". I have missed very few episodes of Meet the Press in the last many, many years. He was rigidly dogmatic, to the left and right and center(who else was fair to Pat Buchanan?), in getting to the real nub of the matter.

He more than "covered" the news; he helped shape what it was, but not in an obtrusive or manipulative or unfair way. What are the defining statements for Cheney, if not (to Russert on MTP): "We'll be greeted as liberators" - "Saddam has reconstituted his nuclear program"? My personal belief is that he played a central role in taking down the candidacy of Mitt Romney in December 2007, not because he vindictively went after him in a partisan way (Bill O'Reilly anyone?), but because, through his sheer journalism skills and enormous preparation simply exposed the guy as a "phony" (that was the worst word that his dad, Big Russ, could say about anyone). That's what he did--he would expose you. If what he exposed about you was great, then your stock went up. If not--well, you better hope the video goes in the same warehouse as at the end of Indiana Jones.

Beyond feeling enormously saddened that a vital man would die so young in the midst of doing what he truly loved, I feel frankly worried about the hole his passing is going to create in discourse about the election (not sure Stephanopolous is up to it, Matthews a bit too wild-eyed, David Gregory is a tad too smug for my personal taste). How am I going to get the raw information to inform my thinking on civic matters without having Mr. Russert spend hours doing the homework for me and presenting it in an immediately grasp-able way? Many of my political posts were done after watching "Russert" on Sunday morning, and being so juiced there was some point I just needed to make. (See "Dead Man Talking" about Russert's devastation of Romney discussed above.)

Russert was like a great portrait photographer. At his best, through his skills, he could show you what someone really looked like. Not his view of who you are, but who you really are. If you are a beautiful person, that will show. If you are ugly, that ugliness will show. It's not like other journalists (Sean Hannity, anyone?) who can't help putting their own spin on what you look like, don't prepare and overlay their own views--like taking a Polaroid, drawing a mustasche on the print and showing the picture to you and saying: "Here, here's what this person looks like." No, just take a picture that really shows the person. Sounds simple, but getting to a point where you can really do that, reveal the subject but not reveal yourself, I can imagine is one of the hardest things to do in portrait photography. That's what Russert did journalistically.

I'm going to miss him. Enjoy this more recent sample of his work:

The best part of this is that Russert was going to actually let him off the hook (relatively speaking), but McCain cuts him off and "answers" the quote, shooting himself in the left foot after having put his right foot in the bear trap. It's like Russert dug the grave, then led McCain in the general direction of the hole to see if he'd fall in. He does, and when Russert peers over the edge and starts to ask McCain if he'd like a ladder to get out, McCain interrupts him and says, "Hand me that shovel, this hole isn't deep enough!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

This one's for Steve

Here is the Dave Brubeck group playing "Take Five". I know this is one of Steve's favorites. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Taylorville BBQ, Blues and Cruise Fest

Thanks to the great folks at Taylorville, Illinois for having the Voodoo Blues Band open their first ever BBQ, Blues and Cruise festival. We played the early afternoon, and the festival went on despite severe weather the night before which almost trashed the county fairgrounds where the event was held. They had an amazing turnout, and everyone seemed genuinely glad we were there. Also thanks to for booking us on the gig. Maybe this will be an annual event for us.

Here are a couple of web pieces on the event, for those who just can't get enough. Nice words about the band (albeit before anyone up there ever heard us):