One Day Away

Music is something I love.  Just like Books.  Dogs.  Bourbon.  My Family…in no particular order.

Not sure why, but music often just seems to resonate with me.  Strike a cord.  Leave me thinking or feeling a little different…often better.

One of my favorite types, or genres, is the blues.  I get that from Al, my pops.  He was a “blues man”.   And I suppose I followed in his footsteps.  If I am honest, and I try to be, perhaps I like the blues because my dad did.  I wanted to like the blues…just like him.

But for whatever the reason, I like them too.

Last summer, legendary blues player Buddy Guy release a new CD…I almost said album.   Good stuff.  One of the cuts features one of the “new gun slingers” in the guitar world, Keith Urban…another favorite of mine.  The song they did together, “One Day Away” hit me the first time I heard it.

Every moment has a meaning, and time is a precious thing.
When we wake up in the morning, who knows what it’s gonna bring?

It addresses our mortality…kind of.

Life rearranges, all of our best laid plans.
Better say what’s in your heart, you might not get another chance.

And the mortality of those around us.  Those we love and know.  We share a lot of experiences, joys, life, loves with each other.  But how often do we tell those around us about what it means to us?  What they mean to us?  Answer: Not often enough…perhaps never.

Okay, raise your hand if you have had a friend suddenly die, and you said, wow, I wish I had told them “…….”

Or how about a relative? Someone important in your life?  Someone you loved?

Of all the things we left undone, of the words we’re meant to say.
What if we could all have just one more day?

We take things for granted…I am guilty as charged.  We take each other for granted…again, as much as it hurts, guilty your honor.

So take a step.  A stand today.  Do it differently.

So tell them you love them, and do it today.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wish one day away.

If there is something to say.  Say it.  Don’t wait…don’t procrastinate.  Tomorrow may be too late.  Tomorrow may not come.

I was lucky…kind of.  I had the time to tell my dad things I needed to tell him.  We knew what was ahead and I didn’t like it, but I used it.  Not everyone is that lucky, or blessed in a twisted way.  But we don’t need to wait. We can do it today.

Tell someone how much you appreciated their friendship.  Something they did…said.  Let  them know how you enjoyed their friendship.  Their advice.  Their care or just them.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  As the once coach of the Washington Redskins, George Allen, said, “The future is now!!!!!”  So go ahead.

So, while I do not know all of you whom may read this, I want to thank you.  It is humbling to have so many of you take the time to read my ramblings that would not have earned much more than C- from my high school English teacher.

I hope you will excuse me for a minute, I have a few people I need to contact.

I think you may also…

So tell them you love them, and do it today.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wish one day away.

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Published in: on May 17, 2014 at 9:12 pm  Comments (4)  
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Tune In, Turn On and Crank It Up…

In the immortal words of “The Doobie Brothers”, Listen to the Music.  (Yes, for the younger readers, this was/is an actual band…quite good in the late 70’s-early 80’s).

Every year about this time I put out a list of my favorite songs from the previous year.  Unlike most other “lists”, this list is comprised on “my favorites”…not necessarily the best.  Just the ones that I favored the most.  Maybe it was the artist…perhaps the type of music…if I found that my feet were moving unexpectedly while listening to a song, that is also a good enough reason to make the list.

While I enjoy a wide variety of music, you will see I tend to lean in a couple of directions more frequently.  However, if you find yourself asking,”where the hell did he find that one?”, then I encourage you to give it an ear.  You might be surprised.  That is the beauty of music…it is surprising and can bring all sorts of people together.

Smiling.  Dancing.  Movin’ and Groovin’.  Happy.

If it can do all of those things…what is not to like about music?!?!?!  So let’s get to some music that made me smile and dance (when no one was looking) in 2012.

Weather in my Head, Donald Fagen  This ancient mariner from Steely Dan fame has probably had more fall out of his head than most…and he still has threatening weather conditions in his noggin.  In typical R&B smooth flowing sound and lyrics, Fagen asks “But tell me what’s to be done  Lord – ’bout the weather in my head” when talking about love, pain and Mr Gore.  I got a feeling that the weather in his head is better off staying there…we do not need another Sandy or Katrina out here.

I’m Shaking, Jack White   A lesser known “B” side single from this years release, “Blunderbuss” (which is filled with great tunes) this is “the” tune that gets my feet moving in all directions.  It is an vintage blues-rocking little jam that can change the mood of everyone in the room.  Referencing Bo Diddley, Elvis, Samson and Delilah and St. Vitus this jam will find you “shaking” for more.

Payphone, Maroon 5 (with Wiz Khalifa)  Okay, this is “Guilty Pleasure #1”.  No, this is not a bro-mance, but Adam Levine has recently put out some songs I enjoy…even if they are coated in a little sugar.  Listen to some of the lyrics and you can sense a little bit of sarcasm and irony in this saccharin sweet “love song”.  But I must admit, in a few years people will ask,”what is a payphone?”

Keep Your Eyes Open, NEEDTOBREATHE  “If you never leave home, never let go, you will never make it.”  Those words may sting a little for me personally, but they are very true and are very strong lyrics in this amazing song.  If this is one of the songs you are not familiar with, get with it!  It reminds us there are better things ahead for us…but we need to stay focused and keep our eyes open…eyes on the prize!

The Baddest Man Alive, Black Keys and RZA  What do you get when you cross a blues-rock duo from Akron, Ohio with the main man from The Wu-Tang Clan?  Yeah, that is bad.  These three come together and the result is gritty, bold and full of themselves…with lyrics like, “I could take the pitchfork from the devil, Keep a super suit like I’m incredible…I’d grab a crocodile by his tail”…wanna argue with them?  Nah, just listen and walk tall with confidence.

Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men  If you get a chance to see this group, don’t hesitate, do it.  They are riding the folksy indie music wave with a sound that actually sets them apart.  The group from Iceland has taken a tragic romance tale and added an upbeat folk rhythm that can reflect hope and love and leave a catchy tune running around in yur head all day.  Great song.  Even better group.  If you are not sure, check out the whole CD…they will become a favorite.

Somebody That I Used to Know, Gotye (feat Kimbra) Here is the song you hate to love…Guilty Pleasure #2.  As quickly as you fell in love with this “poppy” song that channeled Sting and Peter Gabriel, you got tired of it.  Go on, admit that when you were driving in your car and it was played, you belted out the refrain,”Somebody that I use to knooooow,” in your best/worse falsetto voice…until you came to a light and another car pulled along side you.  Then you stopped.  Don’t worry, that driver was doing the same thing…

This Head I Hold, Electric Guest  This young duo really knock it out with their first released single.  It is a catchy, happy go lucky, I don’t give a damn melody that will catch you moving your shoulders, feet and anything else that moves.  The funky sound with a retro vibe sets you free with lyrics like…”Sit back, don’t think”…so take their advice…Sit back…

Dixie Highway, Alan Jackson (feat Zac Brown)  A CW legend and a fellow Georgian, Zac Brown, take a nostalgic drive  down the Dixie Highway.  And if you are up to a fun rollicking trip, get on board.  I can’t remember such a fun trip since Willie took us on his bus with “on the road again”.    Dixie Highway…a sweeter place you’ll never find.

Going Home, Leonard Cohen  This septagenarian doesn’t so much as sing this song, but whispers it breathlessly into the air.  You might expect to see him in a cathedral or a poetry recital.  But with this song, our sage Leonard tells us of God calling him home…”a home without sorrow…without burden…without the costume that I wore”.  I find the irony in “God calling him home” becuase I have thought that if God’s voice did not sound like Johnny Cash…it must sound like Leonard Cohen. Going Home is a heartfelt song that takes you to “where it is better than before”.

93 Million Miles, Jason Mraz  One of the great things about music, is it can bring us together.  My family enjoys music.  We each have our preferences and we know the other’s preferences.  We also share new music with each other.  This is a song that Tyler and Jen shared with me, for a possible inclusion into the family video.  And I am glad they did.  Enjoyable and endearing, this gentle song reminds all of us that no matter where you are on this earth, you can always come home…Are you listening boys?

Drunk On You, Luke Bryan  One of Country Music’s young gunslingers and fastest rising stars, “pours a little Crown in a Dixie cup “ and suddenly you have one of summers biggest hits.   You have to admit, when you hear him sing “Girl you make my speakers go boom boom / Dancin’ on the tailgate in the full moon / That kinda thing makes a man go mmm hmmm / You’re lookin’ so good in what’s left of those blue jeans”, images flash in your head from a time a short while ago…and suddenly you are there again…boom boom.

Mercy, Dave Mathews Band  This song will remind you why you fell in love with the music of DMB in the first place.  Acoustic guitar, infectious melody, and a rhythm that is smooth and as familiar as the voice.  The voice actually seems a little harsh and breathy at times, but I think it is intentional as the song finishes strong and is voice is clear.  Well played Dave, and as you say in the song…”Mercy will we overcome this, Oh we come too far to turn it around”…so have you Dave, so have you.

Hit Me Like A Bomb, Third Day  I have liked this group of Christians playing Christian music as if they were a rock band, for several years.  But now they have partnered with a producer who has worked with Pearl Jam and Bruce Sprinsteen, and they have re-imaged their sound without sacrificing their music or their message.  Relevant topics on change in difficult times, this song hit me “like a bomb”, and I hope has the same effect on you.

Sweet Nothing, Calvin Harris (feat Florence Welch)  Harris has made quite the name for himself collaborating with some of todays hit makers and putting out electro sounds of familiar songs.  This time it is the fiery red head who fronts “The Machine”, Florence Welch.  Take her flare and lyrics, combined with Harris’ hypnotizing beats and you get a real crowd pleaser that helps you dance the night away.

A Heart Like Mine, Dwight Yoakam  A few years have passed since his last hit, but channelling the Bakersfield sound on this cut makes the wait worth it.  Yoakam enlists Beck to help polish the guitar twang and rockabilly sound…and he hits the mark.  Yoakam might be wearing a cowboy hat, but you won’t find a “red solo cup” here…look for rock and roll and attitude.

It was a good year for music and those of us who enjoy it.  A few more songs for your consideration:

Madness, Muse;  Ain’t Messin’ Around, Gary Clark Jr.;  You Can’t Fail Me Now, Bonnie Raitt;  Live and Die, Avett Brothers;  Hold On, Alabama Shakes

Good songs…all of them.  At least I think so.

My blog page is entitled, “Pull Up a Chair”.  Well forget about that now.

Get up offa that thing”, as James Brown used to say, and enjoy some music.

Enjoy life.  Enjoy each other. Enjoy these gifts we are given!  I am!!!

And Now, Batting Fourth and Playing Left Field…

 for the St Louis Cardinals…Matt Holliday…

And you know I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right, and the radio on…

Walk up music.  Anyone who has been to a baseball game in recent years knows what it is.  It is the music that is played over the PA system at a baseball game while the next batter heads to the plate.  It is kind of another “announcement”.

At Busch Stadium the sounds of hometown Grammy winner Nelly fill the park when another home-grown winner comes to the plate…David Freese walks up to “Click Clat“…

Ain’t no time for stopping, see that green light, let’s go

The walk up music has become quite popular in recent years.  It is just about 20 – 30 seconds worth of the song, enough to let the fans recognize the music, maybe pump them up, maybe pump up the player.  Sometimes it can be a statement about the player, such as Lance Berkman using Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down“.  (Lance Berkman is a Christian).  Or Adam Wainwrights song by Alabama, “Song of the South”.  (Adam hails from Georgia…the south…get it?).

Many players use “Welcome to the Jungle”, such as Carlos Beltran,  perhaps as a way to get them “pumped” and get the fans into it.  Or maybe just because it is fun.  Superstitions have always played a role in sports, so there might be some songs used for those reasons.  And there are closers throughout the league using songs such as “Lights Out”, “Enter Sandman”, “Game Over” and Europa’s big hit (only hit?) “The Final Countdown“.

I have often asked others, usually there has been alcohol involved, what they would use as their “walk up song”.  This usually gets some kind of excited reaction…and some perplexed faces.  You start giving it some thought.  “Beautiful Day” by U2?  “Born to Run” by Springsteen?  Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” as used in the infamous ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning” scene in Apocalypse Now?  Or how about Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer”?  Or if you prefer “more cowbell” with your music you could use the Blue Oyster Cult’s cult favorite, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”.

The possibilities are endless.  And so is the thought and effort that goes into some of the choices.

So, it got me to thinkin’…what about mine?

Yesterday I got my haircut with my favorite stylist…Drew…my son for those ill-informed.  He mentioned the music he would recently listen to in order to get him ready for the day.  Not to go out at night.  Nothing about what to listen to while he is working out, or running.  Just getting ready for the day.  To get excited about what lies ahead.  Prepare him for the next challenge…what lies ahead.

What a great approach to the day!  Have your “walk up” music for the day!

So, if that would work for the day, how about walk up music for your life?!?!?  How great would that be?  Make a statement about you and your approach to life.  And it could change according to your “needs” or your approach, not to home plate, but to your challenges…your family…your faith…your attitude…your convictions.

Maybe not just one song.  Perhaps it becomes a soundtrack of walk up music…a playlist.  Each cut representing a different aspect of you…who you are…what you do…your love…your stance…your values and belief system.

Would Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” make the cut?  How about the theme from Rocky, “Gonna Fly Now”?  “Good Vibrations” could be on someone’s list.  “In My Life” by the Beatles is a beautiful song as is Keith Urban’s “Song for Dad“.  I love the Dave Matthews tune “You and Me”.  That song and the Pearl Jam ballad “Just Breathe” reminds me of Diana and the boys, and I would have to consider that one for my walk up playlist.

The possibilities are endless…or only limited to any recorded music, which is fairly limitless when you consider everything out there…electronic…classic rock…urban…country…gospel…heavy metal…

So, how about it?  Your walk up music?  What’s it gonna be?

Paganini Rocks?  Or Fraggle Rock?

Go on…have some fun…we all deserve our own walk up music.  Not just baseball players!

“And tonight, entering the game as a pinch hitter, John Schaefering…”

(cue the music…”Rumble-69″ by Link Wray)

 

Every Day I’m Shufflin’…2011 Playlist

One of the earliest memories I have is siting on the floor of my bedroom listening to 45’s on my little record player. Not sure what songs, but I do remember it like it was yesterday…

I recall my first LP’s. (Okay for the younger crowd, these are both vinyl discs. The 45 refers to the RPMs and usually had one song per side. The LP was an “album”. Not photo album, but you probably don’t know what that is either. Anyway it usually had about 10-12 songs, 5-6 per side.) Elvis, Beatles, Beach Boys and Manfred Mann were among the earliest ones I had.

I also have fond memories of Dad putting on music while we were getting ready for church on Sunday morning, and then having music play once we got home and were fixing breakfast. Everything from Herb Alpert to George Shearring and Peggy Lee to Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach, Al Hirt and John Coltrane or Miles Davis.

Good memories.

Fever…Do You Know the Way to San Jose?…Whipped Cream (and that famous album cover that any young boy would love!) Good stuff.

So music is in my DNA…Diana’s…and my sons’. We all love music and I benifit from our three sons enjoying it. We are always being exposed to new and different sounds.

The Academy Award Nominations just came out. Grammys out. MTV. Everyone has their “Best of 2011” lists out. So I thought I would throw my 2 cents worth in the fray. But I do not proclaim these to be the best. Just my favs. My “2011 Playlist”…in no particular order…and a bit eclectic…

2011 Playlist

  • “Heartache” by, Jamey Johnson. Heartache is to Johnson what “Sympathy for the Devil” was to the Stones. (Stones=the devil; Johnson=heartache) Born in a cave during the dinosaur age, you never see him coming (the heartache, that is). With a haunting voice and the crackle of drums, Johnson tells you “By the time you know I’m on you / Buddy it’s too late / I’m a heartache.”
  • Blessed” by, Lucinda Williams. This hits you between the eyes. It feels like there has been a revelation in the wake of a loss…and Williams reminds us why we should not focus on the loss. Lyrics are incredible…”We were blessed by the neglected child who knew how to forgive.” This bluesy-rock rendition of redemption opens your eyes and ears…maybe even your heart.
  • “Otis”, Jay-Z and Kanye West. In my day…when you were getting ready to head out for a night of fun, you might have put on “No Way Out” by the Allman Brothers Band. As Tyler told me, this is the perfect song to “get ready” to…They use a few seconds of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” to create a stepping stone for style and wit…and a really good song.
  • “Knockin'”, Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Luminescent Orchestrii. What happens when you take a NY punk band and combine it with a Southern Negro jig band? Knockin’. A song that captures American roots with attitude and flair. “If you come a knockin, honey I don”t mind, but if you’re not here for loving, well baby don’t waste my time. There’s chicken in the fridge, half a bottle of wine, sit and eat your fill and give me what is mine.” Listen to this and I dare you not to move your shoulders or hips…it is that infectious.
  • “Can You Give Me a Drink?”, Blind Boys of Alabama and Vince Gill. On an album that features the Blind Boys and several of Country music’s heavy hitters (twangers) I really enjoy this song. Southern gospel, fire and brimstone, hand clapping, foot stomping… Hallelujah! Amen! And pass the plate, brother!
  • “Longing to Belong”, Eddie Vedder. Not since Arthur Godfrey or Tiny Tim has a musician made so much from a ukelele. Vedder trades in his rough powerful voice as lead singer for Pearl Jam for the tender strings of this seldom used instrument…and it works. While he has out together an entire album filled with this soft sound, and a whole album of the ukelele i a bit muc, there are 3-4 songs worthwhile on this outing. Also check out “Without You” and Tonight You Belong to Me”. You can thank me later.
  • “Little by Little”, Gregg Allman. This year Allman took his Southern Rock style of music he made famous with the Allman Bros Band, and added a blues edge…and what an edgeit proved to be! Another cut to try is “Floating Bridge” off of the Low Country Blues album.
  • “Somebody That I Used to Know”, Gotye (featuring Kimbra). I know, many of you are saying “What?” This is one of the perks of having sons who share music with you. (Thanks T) Not new in 2011, but new to me, and on my playlist. The male voice sounds like a young Sting in early Police days. Haunting…
  • “Back Down South”, Kings of Leon. Seasoned with fiddles, this song takes you down south, backwoods, for a bonfire, a handy 24-pack and laid-back fun on a Friday night. The song is not a kick-ass rowdy song, but a rollicking anthem to a late night party.
  • “Hold On Hope”, Glen Campbell. No this is not a sentimental choice for the Rhinestone Cowboy. This is just a nice good song by a very talented man. Dramatic. Introspective. And yes, also Haunting for a song from someone who was recently diagnosed with Alzhiemers. Don’t let his past recordings prevent you from listening…listen to it…it will be “gentle on your mind”.
  • “Whole Love”, Wilco. This is from their first album on their own label, and they seem energized with artistic expressions and different sounds. It reminds me of a “bouncy” song the Beatles may have put out. This song can lift your spirits without any effort at all…try it.
  • “The Way it Goes”, Gillian Welch. A rather bleak, folksy, country tune that can’t help but make you grin with lyrics like,”She was broke and busted flat; Had to sell her pussycat”. With a banjo, a song about hard times is not always depressing. Bitterness…yep. Pretty…nope. But you feel like you are on the back porch with her just relaxing and listening. Good…I think so.
  • “You and Tequila”, Kenny Chesney (featuring Grace Potter) Ya gotta like a good tequila song. Especially one that says ” ‘ Cause you and Tequila make me crazy; Run like poison in my blood;
    One more night could kill me baby”. It ain’t Margaritaville, but keep the blender handy and the tunes coming. Especially when they are good like this one.
  • “Rolling in the Deep”, Adele. I don’t think this song really needs for me to say much about it…just listen and you know why. If you don’t like this song, replace it with one of the other top songs from her album, “21”.(Someone Like You, Rumor Has It, or Set Fire to the Rain)
  • “Rome”, Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi. Okay this is not a song, but an album. It is Danger Mouse’s tribute to the spaghetti western movies of the ’70s. Jack White and Norah Jones co-star, having 3 songs each. White’s voice sounds like a harmonic “High Plains Drifter” and Jones has never exhibited a more sultry side of herself. Turn this on, instrumentals and vocals, and let your imagination watch the movie unfold.
  • “Moves Like Jagger”, Maroon 5. I know I could/will take some heat for this selection, but…”Kiss me ’till your drunk and I’ll show you”. It is fun. No excuses.
  • “Party Rock Anthem”, LMFAO. Okay, if the previous song is not my “guilty musical pleasure”, than this is it. Cheesyey? Novelty? Low brow? Guilty as charged. Who cares? Not I, LMAO! Now get up and SHUFFLE…
  • “Paradise”, Coldplay. This is one of many good songs from Mylo Xyloto, their latest disc. Orchestral sounds run through it so well, so softly, you might not notice at first. Those orchestral strings, soild beats, and the falsetto voice of Chris Martin could make this song one of Coldplay’s iconic tunes. There is a liquid flow to this song that makes it easy to forget your worries and just drift away…
  • “Shake It Out”, Florence and the Machine. On the lates disc, Ceremonials, Florence becomes the machine. Her vocals and theatrics soar to a new level and carry the Machine as Bono’s voice carries U2. This is just one of many songs on my list from this release. Bells… Whistles… Harps…Drums and adrenaline all carry this stadium deserving anthem about heartbreak and rebirth. And it sets the tone for other songs…Heartlines…What the Water Gave Me…No Love, No Love…Lover to Lover…Only For a Night…all full of personal debts and doubts that can lift your spirit…the way Big Red’s voice lifts the machine.
  • “Little Black Submarines”, The Black Keys. Their latest album has taken these reluctant saviors of the bluesy-rock sound out of their basement in Ohio and vaulted them to the proper rock eschelon status…with the help of Danger Mouse. This track, one of several noteworthy ones, starts off like an acoustic gentle autumn breeze and ends like a tornado via the White Stripes. Not too different than “Stairway to Heaven”. Raw. Energized. Powerful. That’s what these boys are all about. A sound powerful, simple and yet very different than what others are trying to invent. While this is a fantastic song, some may argue it is not the best off of thier latest release…Lonely Boy…Gold On the Ceiling…Sister…Dead and Gone are all “keepers”. As are the Black Keys. Keep listening and I am sure you will be glad you did.

There are a lot of others I could include…”These Days”, Foo Fighters; “Don’t Carry it All”, The Decemberists; “Holocene” Bon Iver; several from the Tedeschi Truck band; “Bright Lights”, Gary Clark; “Just Fishin'”, Trace Adkins; “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” Thompson Square; “You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”, Seasick Steve; “God Gave Me You”, Blake Shelton; “Pumped Up Kicks”, Foster the People; “Barton Hollow”, the Civil Wars;…but…

As I said earlier, I have been able to expand my music selections becuase of my sons, we share music all the time. Example:

  • Blake introduced me to The Black Keys about 4-5 years ago because he knew I would like their blues infected rock.
  • Drew and Rachel opened to door for Florence and the Machine to be added to my playlist this summer when they had her song, “Cosmic Love” as their wedding song.
  • While Tyler was in Australia last year, he would always be sending me music to check out, which is how I became familiar with “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye.

Just one more example of how lucky I am to have such a great family.

So, what about 2012? Already looks rather promising.

In that case I think I will just…

…”Keep On Shufflin’, Shufflin’…”

In Search Of The Perfect Summer Cocktail with Kid Rock and Mungo Jerry

Summertime. 

Warm winds.  Suntan oil.  Cool tunes.  Cold drinks.  Hot times.

I think Mungo Jerry said it best with their hit song “In The Summertime”.  (Yes, I said “their” hot song.  Mungo Jerry was not a Jerry…it was an English rock band.  I think I missed “Mungo-mania”)

In the summertime when the weather’s high,
you can stretch right up and touch the sky,
when the weather’s fine,
you got women, you got women on your mind.
Have a drink, have a drive,
go out and see what you can find

Every summer, there are tunes that hit the “airwaves” (is there such a thing anymore?) or iTunes or your iPod.  Summer songs.  And if you are like me, you are also reminded of summer songs from the past.  Now some of us can take our past back a long way…Jan and Dean “Surf City…Lovin’ Spoonful “Summer in the City”…and some of us do not have to travel quite as far…DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince “Summertime”.  No matter how far you go back (see: Frank Sinatra “Summer Winds and Nat “King” Cole “Lazy, Hazy Crazy Days of Summer ) once you hit that first day of summer, or last day of school (“Schools Out”, Alice Cooper) your mind heads in a different direction.

Artists all vie for a big summertime hit.  Hell, The Beach Boys made an entire career (actually maybe two careers) out of summertime hits…almost every song they put out was a reference to summer, cruisin’, surfin’, and girls.

Barbara Ann, California Girls (Sorry Katy), 409, Surfin’ USA, and Fun, Fun, Fun…

And she’ll have fun fun fun
‘Til her daddy takes the T-Bird away
(Fun fun fun ’til her daddy takes the T-Bird away)

In search of fun…

And in search of the perfect tune…

Every summer.  It doesn’t end.  I hope it doesn’t because I enjoy it.  The music.  The fun.  And the drinks!

Summer fun is defined in a number of ways by all of us.  Each one may be unique, but I bet we could find a common denominator…

Olivia Newton-John and John “Vinnie Barbarino” Travolta did in their “summer” song…Summer Nights, from Grease.

She swam by me, she got a cramp
He ran by me, got my suit damp
I saved her life, she nearly drowned
He showed off, splashing around
Summer sun, something’s begun, but uh-oh those summer nights
Uh well-a well-a well-a huh

(Got my suit damp?  How did I miss that 32 years ago?)

Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” is one of the great songs, period.  Not just a summer song.  It touches all of our lives if we let it.  Feelings…Thoughts…Love gained and lost…

I can see you
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got that hair slicked back and those
wayfarers on, baby

And while you are listening to your summer tunes, next to your summer love, I hope you have a cool drink in your hand.  This too is a variable.  At one time it may have been a cold beer can…and may still be.  For me, however, it is more often a cocktail.  And while music artists search each summer for the “perfect summer tune”, my search is for the “cocktail of the summer”.

Margarita?  Mojito?  Paloma? Dark and Stormy?

They have all had their place in time and in a summer…and not a damn thing wrong with any of them…

This year is no different.  While there are a number of new summer songs out there to tune into, I find myself gravitating back towards the summer cocktail that includes Aperol.  I wrote about Aperol a month back, after we returned from Italy and Drew and Rachel’s wedding.  We had several Aperol spritz cocktails, and I posted the recipe.  We keep going back to that cocktail all summer long. (One of my favorite “summer songs” by the kid, Kid Rock, All Summer Long

See, in the summer, you are looking to quench your thirst…whether you actually know it, doesn’t matter…becuase you are trying to quench it.   You are hot.  You are thirsty.

Most cocktails leave you thirsty, still.  Except maybe the Aperol Spritz.  Or maybe, the ol’ standard G & T…gin and tonic.  Slightly bitter, because of the “Quinine”, but garnished with a lime, it can become quite refreshing.  And that is where the Aperol Spritz helps…

Aperol is an Italian liquor, similar to Campari…slighlty bitter, but a little sweeter than Campari.  For the Aperol Spritz, you add Prosecco and seltzer…2 oz Aperol…3 oz Prosecco..top with seltzer and add an orange slice.

But to combine the classic quenching of the Gin and Tonic, with the contemporary twist of Aperol…you come up with…

Cucumber Cooler

  • 1.5 oz Gin (Hendricks works great with this)
  • .5 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 4-5 slices of cucumber
  • splash of tonic and ice
  • Put the cucumber in the bottom of a shaker and muddle.  Add all ingredients except the tonic and shake well.  Pour into a tall glass filled with ice and top off with tonic.
  • Drink, enjoy, repeat

Okay, I am not saying it is the perfect summer drink.  But it is really great and I think you would agree.  

But then again, the perfect summer drink for me is the one in my hand…or the one I just finished.

As far as the perfect summer song…???

That is a tough call.  But, who can argue with Kid Rock?

Splashing through the sand bar
Talking by the campfire
It’s the simple things in life, like when and where
We didn’t have no internet
But man I never will forget
The way the moonlight shined upon her hair

And we were trying different things
We were smoking funny things
Making love out by the lake to our favorite song
Sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking ’bout tomorrow
Singing Sweet home Alabama all summer long

Well, whatever your perfect song or cocktail may be, enjoy it.  And be thankful it is in your ears and in your hand…and

…smile, that is also important in the Summer…and Fall…and Winter…and Spring…and Life.

If Heaven Were Closer…

I make no apologies.  I like Country Western music.  Sure, my iPod has many different types of music on it (U2, Springsteen, Black Keys, Kings of Leon, John Legend, Miles Davis, Andrea Bocelli, Chris Botti, and blah, blah, blah).  But if I turn on the radio, for music, chances are it is to listen to Country Western music.

I am not sure where it all began.  Whom to blame?  Perhaps it was the Allman Brothers that got it started?  Marshall Tucker was definitely an influence, as was Lynyrd SkynyrdOutlaws, Pure Prairie League, Molly Hatchet all seemed to morph into Willie and Waylon and the boys.  Next thing you knew I was singing Folsom Prison Blues, by Johnny Cash,  humming along with Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee and listening to The Notorious Cherry Bomb’s hit song, It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long” (Oh yes, it is a real song!).  And today it is Tim, Keith, Trace, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown, etc…

People sometimes ask, why do you like country music?

I am not sure why.  I guess it is like getting a tattoo.  Or enjoying a cigar.  If you have to ask why I like it, well then I don’t think I can explain it to you.

I heard a CW song the other day on the radio.  I didn’t recognize it, it is by one of Music Row’s young guns.  Justin Moore.  Not really familiar with much of his stuff, but this song caught my attention…and made me think.  The song, If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away, speaks to memories being triggered by everyday occurrences.  Memories of those we love and have passed.  And it speaks to what he would do, and with whom, if he could visit Heaven.  Just visit.  For a day, and hour, a moment.

So I got to thinkin’, what would I do if Heaven were closer and I could stop by for a brief visit…

If Heaven Were Closer, I would…

  • Tell MLK and Abe Lincoln, “Thank you”.
  • Play catch with my Dad.

  • Go fishing with Diana’s Dad.

  • Just sit and listen to my Grandfather, PaPa, tell stories about how it used to be and the way he did things.  I would also ask him for the recipe to the famous bar-b-cue sauce he use to make that no one in the family can find anymore.

  • Go on a horseback ride with John Wayne.
  •  Tell Elvis and Marilyn to get real help from a real doctor.
  • Introduce myself to my Dad’s father, Arthur, because I never met him, then thank both he and my Grandma Schaefering for raising such a fine man, my Dad.

  • Ask Johnny Cash to read me one of my favorite Bible passages, because I imagine his voice to sound the most like the “voice of God”.
  • Tell every United States serviceman and woman, “thank you for serving and for your sacrifice”.

  • Tell my Grandma, NaNa, I was hungry…because I know should would make me a “dollar” sandwich.

  • Ask Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby…”Why?”
  • Ask Irma (Diana’s Grandma) “How am I doing?”
  • Ride a motorcycle with Steve McQueen.
  • Sing “Me and Bobby McGee” with Janis Joplin and ask Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On?”
  • Ask Diana’s Mom to bake me a pie…then compliment her, again.

  • Pet and play awhile with all of my dogs…Greta, Misty, Chelsea, Butkus and Beau.

  • Tell Diana’s parents how much I love the beautiful strong woman they raised as their daughter and thank them for doing so.

  • Have a drink with Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
  • Invite Ulysses S Grant and Robert E Lee to sit down to a meal.
  • Smoke a cigar with my Dad, Winston Churchill, JFK, Mark Twain, George Burns, Babe Ruth and Al Capone…and just talk about whatever comes to mind.

Okay, I know this is a bit of a frivolous list…at least on some levels.  But they are all simple things…eating, sharing, living, enjoying life…things that are sometimes taken for granted.

I hope we all take advantage of the simple things today…eating, sharing, living, enjoying life.

I recently read that “it is impossible to love your parents as much as you love your own children.”

I do not remember where I read it or who said it.  I am not even sure I agree with it…but I understand it.  And I imagine that most of you who have children understand what the “author” of that statement is trying to say.

If that statement is extrapolated, it would include Grandparents and Grandchildren also.

Let’s spend time with our loved ones, do the things we would like to do.  Live the life we are meant to live.  Find time for others.

You don’t want to finish the sentence above but adding…until it is too late to show them.

So for everyone, if there is something you want to say to someone or ask them,  follow Nike’s advice and Just Do It (now).

Don’t wait for Heaven to get a little closer.

I think that may be why I like CW music.

Published in: on May 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm  Comments (2)  

An International Easter Celebration…and No Mint or Passport Required!

No chocolate eggs here.  Not even an Easter Egg Hunt or marshmallow chicks this year.  But it sure was a busy Easter  visiting all of the countries we had to visit…with much happiness and love.

 This Easter took us (figuratively) around the world…and back.  Back to where it all began.  The journey Diana and set out upon…being together.

It started in Cuba, kind of.  Actually Saturday we went to Craig and Misty’s for the beginning of our Easter celebration.  The “Cuba” part is a reference to the drinks I made for everyone to enjoy.  I put a spin on the Springtime favorite, Mojito, and turned it into an “El Cubano”.  This sounds a little deeper, richer than a Mojito, and it is…more refined, aged, just a touch more sophistication or élan.

El Cubano

  • 2 ounces aged rum (I used Pyratt’s XO, which is a wonderful rum worth trying…even on the rocks by itself)
  • Juice of one lime
  • Mint
  • Brown sugar (white may also be used)
  • 1 ounce Prosecco (again, most any sparkling wine will do well)
  •  Place .5 tsp of brown sugar in a shaker.
  • Add the juice of one lime
  • Add 5-6 Mint leaves
  • Muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice.
  • Add a little cracked ice.
  • Add the rum and shake well.
  • Pour into a glass filled with cracked ice, and top off with about 1 ounce of Prosecco

As with most cocktail recipes, the recipe is up for interpretation…you like it sweeter, add more sugar.  Too “limey”?  Use less.  You get the picture.                 

And while we were in Cuba, (yes for those of you interested I had a cigar…as if you needed to ask), we had a brief encounter with Australia, mate.

Huh? 

Tyler gave us a call from “Down Under” inMelbourne.  Many of you know he is there playing soccer for the Sunshine Georgies FC.  There are no games Easter week-end, so he was doing a little venturing out of Melbourne with a couple o’ mates. It is always great to hear from Tyler.  The updates on the soccer team seem to be the focus of many of our discussions, but those are really just secondary…to hearing from him.

Then Easter morning, instead of being awaken by Leon Russel’s “Roll Away the Stone”  or “Prince of Peace”[both which should automatically be added to your playlist…they are really good…trust me ] the morning greeted us with a call from Oslo, Norway!  Yep, Yvonne and Blake called to see if the Easter Egg Hunt was on, and also to make sure we were not caught up in the wake of the tornado damage from Friday evening.  They just bought an apartment in Oslo, and through the magic of Skype video, Blake showed us the hole in the wall that was created from removing the wall paper…I guess Blake got his handy man skills from his father (guilty as charged).

Poland was our next stop…or I should clarify and say St Charles,MO. (which happens to be much closer than Poland)  But true to tradition, Dan and Nancy served Polish Sausage for Easter.  This tradition goes back a long way, and is as good today as it was when I was growing up.  It was grilled on the ‘barbie and tasted better than ever…

We weren’t able to stay in Poland very long before the train left for Italy. (what the /&%$@#!? is he talking about?)

Rachel and Drew were meeting us at our place to have an Easter dinner right out of Tuscany.  We had leg of lamb (recipe below) that was perhaps the best we ever fixed.  But to open up the festivities, we had a “Caprese”, cocktail, not salad.  This is a recipe I found in The Food Network magazine, and “edited” it a bit. I used Purus Vodka in making it, and I think the crispness of this organic vodka made a difference…plus, it too is fromItaly…so it’s got that going for it.  And so we started the Italian venture with a “Caprese” cocktail.

 Caprese Cocktail

  •  1.5 – 2 pounds of tomatoes
  • PurusVodka
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 12 or more small grape tomatoes (cherry tomatoes will work well also)
  • Small fresh mozzarella balls
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Cut up the tomatoes and place them in a large non-reactive pot, or jar.  Pour in a bottle of Purus Vodka.  Muddle the tomatoes, mixing well with the vodka.  Cover and let this infused for 6-12 hours, or more
  • Pierce each cherry tomato with a toothpick and place them in a small container and cover with about 1.5 cups of balsamic vinegar.  Let these marinate for 4-8 hours.
  • After they have marinated, store the cherry tomatoes in a container and refrigerate until ready to use.  Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pan and turn heat to medium-high.  Boil the vinegar down until it takes on a syrup consistency. (about 20 minutes or so) Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Pour the vodka and tomato mixture through a sieve and strain well, being sure to get much of the juice from the tomatoes, but not the pulp.  Chill the tomato-vodka until ready to enjoy.
  • Take .5 ounce of the vodka and about 5 basil leaves, then muddle together in a shaker.  Add another 1.5 ounces of vodka and some ice, then shake well.
  • In a well chilled martini glass, place a marinated cherry tomato and then drizzle some of the balsamic syrup in the bottom. (I have also made this using balsamic glaze you can get at the store…works fine)  Pour the vodka into the chilled glass and garnish with a mozzarella ball, another cherry tomato and a basil leaf on a toothpick. 

Nice start for a Tuscany-styled Easter meal. Agree?

In Tuscany, a whole roast leg of lamb is the traditional Easter feast. So we paired it with other regional flavor combinations: a dried-cherry crust, and a side of prosciutto-studded sauté of artichokes and peas, and the warm asparagus salad.  In the interest of time and space, here is the leg of lamb recipe.  I anyone would like the other recipes…no problem, just let me know.

 Tuscan Roasted Leg of Lamb

  •  7-lb. bone-in leg of lamb
  • 4 cloves garlic,
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (10 to 11 oz.) dried sweet cherries, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes or so
  •  1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2-3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2-3 ribs celery, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1-1/2 cups sweet red vermouth,
  • 1-1/2 cups low-salt beef or chicken broth

 Position a rack in the lower middle of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. With the point of a knife, make 16 slits all over the lamb and insert a sliver of garlic into each slit. Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt over the meat. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large, heavy roasting pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, sear the roast until browned lightly on at least the two widest sides. Transfer the meat to a platter and then carefully pour the hot fat out of the pan.

Put the dried cherries with their soaking liquid, the breadcrumbs, mustard, rosemary, sage, 1 tsp. salt, the pepper, and the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a food processor and pulse to make a coarse, wet paste. Arrange the carrots, celery, and onion in the roasting pan to set the lamb. Put about a third of the cherry paste onto the bottom of the roast (the wide side closest to the bone). Set the roast bottom side down on the vegetables. Pat the remaining paste evenly on the rest of the lamb. Put the pan in the oven and set a timer for 25 min.

After 25 min., lower the heat to 375°F and roast until the temperature at the thickest part of the meat is 125° to 130°F for medium rare, another 35 to 45 min. (or longer if you prefer medium  or well-done lamb). Check the roast periodically to be sure the cherry crust isn’t getting too dark; if it is, drape a piece of foil loosely over the lamb. Transfer the meat to a carving board or serving platter. Loosely cover the lamb with a sheet of aluminum foil and let rest for 10-15 min.

Meanwhile, set the roasting pan over two burners on medium high, leaving the carrots, celery, onion and any fallen-off crust in the pan. Add the sweet vermouth and broth. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and let the liquid simmer until it reduces to about 1 cup of slightly thickened sauce, 8 to 10 min. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce through a fine sieve into a serving bowl. Discard the solids.

To serve the lamb, carve 1/2-inch slices. Some of the flavorful crust will fall off while you carve–just spoon it up and serve it along with the meat. Arrange the sliced lamb on a large serving platter or individual plates and drizzle with the sauce 

Bon Appetito!

 Wheew!

I know this is a long-winded recipe…but it is one that is worth trying.  If you do, you will want it again…guar-an-teed.  (The left-over lamb is ridiculously good, if there is much left) And the best of all…no mint jelly!

Thus our international Easter celebration came to an end…through Cuba (by way of Collinsville), on to Melbourne (to check on the soccer team and hear from Tyler) then up through Norway where we got a “This Old House” episode (with the help of Skype) before heading out to Poland and St Charles…and then arriving in Italy, with the help of our kitchen in Wildwood, where we celebrated life and our love for one another with Drew and Rachel.

So, I hope your Easter was as wonderful as ours, even without the chocolate eggs, marshmallow chicks and Easter egg hunt.  (actually the Easter egg hunt was the only thing I really missed)

Mangiare bene  (Eat well)

Bere bene (Drink well)

L’amore ben bene (Love well)

…and my friends, I leave you with the lyrics in Leon Russell’s song Prince of Peace

Oh, never be impatient with the ones who love you

It might be yourself that you’re burning

Sing a song of love and open up your heart

For you might be the prince of peace returning

 

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Blues in the Night, in Your Drink, But Not on the Ice!

Don’t it always seem to go 
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone 
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot 

These are lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s song, Big Yellow Taxi.  But they could also be lyrics to “Ode to a St Louis Blues Fan”.

Many cities boast of the enthusiasm their fans have for their sports teams.  St Louis is no different.  Baseball speaks for itself, as do the players who play here.  Our NHL team, the Blues, have very rabid fans as well.  But…

The Blues hit St Louis, no, they took it by storm in 1967, at the time the baseball Cardinals (El Birdos) were cleaning up the National league and on their way to a World Series victory.  It was the “thing” to do…attending a Blues game at the Arena.  And from that year on, they mixed it up with the best.  As a matter of fact, they rank #2 in all of hockey in the  top ten active NHL franchises that have qualified for the playoffs the most often as a percentage of the years they have been in the NHL.  #2!!  With an impressive streak of 25 years in a row!

Yeah, we’re #2! WooHoo!

Problem is, most of that is based on history.  Fans wanna know, just like Miss Janet Jackson, “what have you done for me lately?”

And again this year, we missed.  It is funny, just like the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song, you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone...we sometimes fail to appreciate the present.  We used to “joke” about making the playoffs each year because a large percentage of the NHL teams make them based on the format…no one thought much of it.  We took it for granted…we expected it to happen.

I know that  Blues fans aren’t joking about that now.

When the autumn falls and there’s a chill in the air, it is great to watch your baseball team play…because it means they made the playoffs.

For hockey fans, if the birds are chirping, sun is shining and flowers are blooming and you are watching your hockey team play…Game -On, it’s playoff time.  Best time of the year.

For Blues fans we will have to wait another year to see if “the Note” makes it a little further or not.

So while we wait, I thought about some of my “blues music”…(see what I did?)  And thought I would share a few songs.  Now, these are not your traditional blues songs…iTunes may not classify them as blues…but iTunes isn’t writing this.  I am.  And I am not traditional.  I classify them along the blues line of music because they make you feel a lil’ different.  Not happy, nor sad.  But when I listen to them, something inside starts to move. (not the burrito) Makes my eyes squint, feet begin to move, shoulders roll and all of a sudden I have a bit of an attitude.  Swagger. Head bob. Grin.  (author’s note here: this usually happens when no one is around…or it takes place in my mind.  No one has actually witnessed this.  So please, just take may word that it happens)  Anyway, here are a couple of Bluesy songs, you may have heard or may have missed.  Only a half dozen, so if you like music, and are not familiar with these, give them a listen…they don’t suck.

  • Stevie Ray VaughnMary Had a Little Lamb (slightly different take on the Nursery Rhyme)
  • Marc BroussardHome (I dare you to listen to this and sit still, if you say you can, I don’t believe you)
  • The Black KeysKeep Me (one of their early songs that helped them establish themselves)
  • Link WrayRumble-69 (Blake said this song plays in his head whenever he walks into a bar…listen and you will understand)
  • Bob DylanBeyond Here Lies Nothin’ (He has re-mastered his music lately, you either love it or not…I think it is classic)
  • Allman Brothers BandTrouble No More (again, like the Black Keys, I could have closed my eyes, pointed and picked a great song…who says I didn’t?  Just listen…)

And to go along with good tunes, you need a good cocktail. (Nice segue’, uh?)  So my cocktail of the week is a real original…as far as I know.  Nothing exotic.  Nor detailed.  Doesn’t have a lot of different layers of flavors.  Just something that you can enjoy while you are relaxing with good company, winding down the long day that is behind you.  This cocktail features one of the most popular, and best Vodkas on the market today, and is named after one of the companies who provide us with a “social necessity of our current way of life”…the Blackberry.

RIM (Research in Motion)

  • 4-5 fresh blackberries
  • 2 ounces of Purus Vodka
  • .5 ounces simple syrup
  • .5 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • Muddle together in a shaker the blackberries, simple syrup and lemon juice.  Add the Purus Vodka and ice, then shake well.
  • Strain into a chilled martini glass, or as I prefer, into a glass filled with crushed ice.
  • (Note: this can also be served with a splash of lemon-lime soda or seltzer)

So while the birds are singing along to the blues music you are playing, even though the St Louis Blues are not on the ice, you will have a good drink to enjoy.

And every once in a while, it is a good thing to remember Joni Mitchell’s lyrics in Big Yellow Taxi.

That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

But don’t wait ’till it’s gone.  Enjoy this moment.  Appreciate those around you.  Tell them.  Tell them often.  Don’t wait.  Tell them now!


Published in: on April 17, 2011 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Mr Magic…Smooth Jazz…Smooth Cocktail

Diana and I love concerts.  We really do love going to concerts.  And we have become very spoiled because in recent years, we have splurged a bit in order to get the best seats we can…or that we can afford.  Sometimes sitting on row CC is okay, especially if we have seen the artist before.  But most of the time, if it is one of our favorites, even if we have seen them before, we will spend the coin to sit in row C instead of CC.

This year promises to be a busy concert year.  And many of the concerts are ones we have already seen…such as:

U2

Keith Urban

Chuck Berry

Kenny Chesney

and Bon Jovi…

…and I hope that list is not complete yet.  There are a lot more concerts I would like to see, but not sure if they will be touring, or near St louis.

We have always enjoyed all (okay most) kinds of music and going to concerts.  When we first started dating, in 1975, we would venture to a lot of different concerts.  Most of them at the time were R&B, soul, jazz, etc.  We were at more than one concert in which we definately stood out.  I remember feeling out of place… if it wasn’t for the music that served as the common denominator.  The music was the common bond…true then, true today…regardless of the genre of music.

It was about this time that we “discovered” smooth jazz…which of course is different than the jazz I had already experienced through my father…jazz such as Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, etc.  “Smooth jazz” was not quite as “jazzy or eclectic”.  Less, much less improvision than the jazz of John Coltrane or Miles Davis.  (Drew has heard me listening to some of this and he liked to call it…porno music.  I started to ask him how he knew what porno music sounded like…but I thought the better of it) In a word, it is much smoother.  (duh?)  It is generally described as a sub-genre of jazz music that uses instruments traditionally associated with jazz but is  influenced by R&B, funk, rock, blues and pop music styles.

Some of the early pioneers were just paving the way for this genre of music in the mid-70’s…Chuck MangioneSpyro GyraGeorge BensonBob James…and one of my favorites Grover Washington Jr. Grover was king.   A soul-funk-jazz sax player that ruled the reeds of the sax.  He was also one of those musicians that we enjoyed seeing in concert…at the Kiel Opera House in St Louis, which is currently undergoing major renovations and to be opened after 20 or more years.  It was the perfect venue for this kind of a concert, just intimate enough for an intimate style of music.  Unfortunately, Grover died much too young, like many great artists.   At the youthful age of 56 (I am 55, yikes!) he died of a massive heart attack while waiting in the green room, after just taping four songs for The Early Show at CBS Studios.

So in his honor, I have adapted another drink and named it after one of his most memorable songs, and one of my favorites…Mr Magic.

Mr Magic

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. St. Germain liqueur (Elderflower liqueur, Thatcher’s works well also)
  • .25 oz. St Elizabeths Allspice Dram
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
  • 1 egg white
  • Cracked ice
  • Put all of the above ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cinnamon stick.

This might be best served as a drink to enjoy after dinner.  Or perhaps late at night…listening to some music.  Regardless, enjoy it.  It is smooth, just like the jazz that Grover Washington Jr use to entertain us with…at his concerts and today in his music.

If you haven’t heard any of his stuff…take a listen to a couple of his tunes…Mr magic…Knucklehead…Soulful Strut…Just the Two of Us (with Bill Withers).  It might not be your first choice of music, but I doubt if you think it will be terrible either.  I like it…even if it does sound like “porno” music…Don’t ask!

Grover, left us too early.  Our lives are filled with people like this.  I hope this can be a reminder for us all to make the most out of each day…each moment…each friend, love one, and acquaintence.  He graced us with his presence and left a legacy of wonderful music.  I hope we can give grace to one another…and be proud of the legacy we leave behind.

Cheers! To Life and Each Other!

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Ding-A-Ling…#1 With a Bullet

Chuck Berry is amazing.  Really.  How many other 84-year-old rock legends can you name who still perform on a regular basis?

That’s what I thought….

I give you this…his infamous “Duck Walk” may now more resemble a wounded goose…but he can still walk the walk!   And he may forget the lyrics or repeat himself and his songs…in the same set…but this is an 84-year-old Chuck Berry!  All of his contemporaries are either gone, or no longer performing…at least on stage.  C’mon, Berry is included in several  “Greatest of All Time” lists, including being ranked fifth on the Rolling Stone 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll included three of Chuck Berry’s songs!

But, those three songs, while attaining the list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, never achieved a certain status that is reserved for “top” songs.  No, there is an elite groups of songs.  Songs that attain the highest level there is to attain.  The top.

#1.

Those are songs that reach #1.  That’s right. Numero Uno.  The top songs of the week, the month, the time in question.

#1.

Johnny B. Goode?  Not good enough.

Maybellene?  “AS I WAS MOTIVATING OVER THE HILL.  SAW MAYBELLENE IN A COUP DEVILLE”…but not at #1.

How about “No Particular Place To Go”? Well only if it is not going to #1.

No, these hits plus the likes of “Rock and Roll Music” and “Roll Over Beethoven” never made to the epitome of the charts…at number one.

But “My Ding-A-Ling” did.  Yep of all the great Rock and Roll songs that came out of this St Louis Rock n Roller, “My Ding-A-Ling ” is the only one to go all the way to the top of the Pops.  Ironic?  Yeah. That a little ditty about a little diddy out-charted his other great songs is really funny.  (I guess Johnny wasn’t so good after all)

Almost as ironic as people still standing in line and paying to see this icon repeat himself, forget lyrics and yet still have a good time entertaining folks each month at the “Duck Room” at Blueberry Hill in St Louis.  A rather intimate venue only holding about 200 or so music lovers is the stage each month for this musical treasure that St Louis offers up as one of their own.

This past summer, Diana and I went to see this icon of Rock and Roll.  (it really is amazing how many people thought we were nuts to want to go see him…I guess they have never been to the college of musical knowledge, therefore have not completed their homework assignment on personally seeing as many great R ‘n Rollers as possible).  We went with Lauren and we took my mom.  Mom may be 80 yrs old herself, but when it comes to music, she has a hard time sitting still.  (She may forget where she is, but she still knows the words to the songs…yeah, that apple doesn’t fall very far…)  As a matter of fact, if she had a little more spring in her step…I think she may have joined ole CB on stage and tried to duck walk herself…than God for small favors!

So, it is in the honor of this Rock ‘n Roll legend…the one who “Hails, Hails Rock and Roll”…the creator of the one-legged hop called the “duck walk…the one who John Lennon said,””if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”  It is this one that I give the name for my “Cocktail of the Week”…while Keith Richards called him “rhythm supreme”, I call the drink Chuck Berry, just super.

The Chuck Berry

  • 2.5 oz bourbon (as usual I prefer Buffalo Trace)
  • 2 oz Thatcher’s Apple Spice (this is an organic liqueur, Thatcher’s has several kinds and I recommend them)
  • .5 oz fresh lemon juice
  • .5 oz simple syrup (I used a simple syrup infused with lemon zest the first time I made this, but the next time I used just regular simple syrup and it was also very good)
  • 4-5 fresh red raspberries

Muddle the raspberries , simple syrup and lemon juice together in a shaker with a little cracked ice.  Add the bourbon and the Thatcher’s Apple Spiced liqueur.  Shake vigorously and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with one large ice-cube.   Garnish with a raspberry.  Drink.  Enjoy.  Make another.

Anthony Kiedis, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers said of Chuck Berry, (the rocker, not the cocktail)  “Chuck Berry is a musical scientist who discovered a cure for the blues.”

Well I am not sure this cocktail is a cure for much of anything.  But I do know that is a nice start to a wonderful evening…especially if that evening falls on a Friday…Cocktail Friday.  Balance…just like Johnny B Goode.  Smooth like you would expect Maybellene to be.  And full of a distinct rich flavor…just like rock and roll…whatever type you like.

Speaking of “likes”…I hope you like this drink, but I also hope you love your life and all of those in it…that is key to enjoying anything else…

Enjoy Chuck.  And if you get to St Louis, other than seeing the Cardinals, try to see a duck walkin’ 84 year old rock and roller who can still remind you to…

Hail, hail rock’n’roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock’n’roll
The beat of the drum is loud and bold
Rock rock rock’n’roll
The feelin’ is there body and soul


Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 1:25 am  Leave a Comment