Remembering Tom Petty

Today started off terrible. Woke up to news of a massive shooting in Las Vegas where, at the point that I write this, at least 58 people have died. They were doing what they loved, going to a music concert. They were innocent victims. 

Tom Petty Oct 20, 1950 – Oct 2, 2017


As if that was not bad enough, one of the few musicians that I actually idolize because of his music and the inspiration much of it has given me through my life, passed away of cardiac arrest today. Tom Petty has always been one of my all-time favorite musicians. I have used the words from his “Running Down a Dream” and “I Won’t Back Down,” among others for inspiration when I have made attempts to succeed or get over hurdles in my life.

I very rarely cry when a musician passes away. These are just people that are famous in most cases. Most of them I sing along with, but few inspire. I cried when George Harrison died and I’m crying today.

Tom Petty


Tom Petty lived his dream. From the time he was a teenager he sought to become a musician. By age 17 he had traveled across the country to run down his dream. But more than that, he is been an avid supporter of musician’s rights throughout the decades.

Was he perfect? Was he a good example in the morès of life? Probably not totally so. Yes, he has done drugs and advocated it in some of his songs. He struggled, like many musicians, with many of those kinds of issues.l as a result of fame and fortune. 

But, he is one of the few musicians that I’ve taken time to learn about in detail. And I have always been impressed with his care and concern for others.

Traveling Wilburys


When he worked with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison to form the Traveling Wilburys, I was one of the first to pick up that album. I wore it out! I still listen to the traveling Wilburys, especially when I’m driving on the road alone. Now only two remain. 

Running Down a Dream


Though Tom Petty has passed, his music will still be there.

Tom…thanks for the music. Thanks for the inspiration. You will be missed.

2015 In Review: People, Friends, Family and More

Singing with Antsy McClain at Woodflock 2015The world is filled with people. And people enrich our lives. I have never written a post in the past just focused on the people in influences that they’ve had in my life. Any of my post to be included comments about people and it includes my life, but over the year 2015 I found it I had many people that had a profound and positive impact on my life and I wanted to make note of that in this post.

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

I was blessed to spend time with all of my children and grandchildren
at one time or another this year. That is probably the best and most
blessed of all of my people experiences. But there were many others, both old and newly made friends, and other people who I met along the road of life during the year.

All of these people added to the great year I experienced in 2015.

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Smile Man in Seattle

Smile Man in Seattle

I think of the stranger that I met on the streets of Seattle who stood on the corner holding a sign that you said smile be happy. He was not seeking donations. He was not seeking welfare. He was wanting people to smile. He kind of became a symbol for my year.

I made some new friends and acquaintances over the year. Some of these are artists or authors and I was able to enjoy and appreciate them.

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

One of these was former Navy seal and Author Rob Roy. I noted on more than one occasion how his book the Navy seal art of war inspired me and help me on my path to a more healthful life.

Then there is my friend the musician Pete Huttlinger. He too inspired me with his current. A great guitarist and musician who has performed over the years with John Denver and many others, Pete has suffered from a heart defect that almost caused him to lose his life. With his
wife Erin, they have struggled and he is come back. This year he to wrote a book with his wife, it is inspiring and I can’t wait to dig into it. And, as I do I will listen to his inspiring music as well.

Pete Huttlinger

Pete Huttlinger

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

During the summer, beginning in May, I had wonderful opportunities to travel to San Francisco and up to Red Bluff, CA and visit with many old friends that are associated with my very close friend Antsy McClain. This was my first venture to Woodflock and many of the people that were in attendance were people whom I had met in the past or who I became very good friends with over Facebook as a result of my association with the band.

Along with too many friends there, I got to get back together with Antsy’s saxophone and slide guitar player Bruce Wandmayer. Bruce is
himself, a wonderful person and a fabulous musician. On this occasion I also got to meet with his wife who, during the event, did morning
meditation. And really took me to another level as I listen to her. She is one of those people that brings peace to you just speaking and mingling with her.

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

And this trip also introduced me to a wonderful host and sweet person
in Carla Lockwood. Known as Christmas Carla because she was born on Christmas Day, she picked me up and took me for three days to stay at her place and then took me up to Red Bluff. We traveled parts of San Francisco and then parts of north-central California on our way and enjoyed sightseeing and mixing and mingling with each other along the way. She and her good friend Ione Snyder, whom I have known for a number of years, were great hosts and so kind to me. I won’t soon forget the happiness and the good times we spent together during my time in California in May.

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

At that time I also got to spend time and meet with a number of other people. The Flamingoheads, as they are known, are a great group of people. I am thankful to be associated with them. Here are just a few pictures of me with some of my Flamingohead family.

With Jacque and James Ferreira

With Jacque and James Ferreira

Good friend and official "teaser of Sumoflam" Kathy Aspinwall

Good friend and official “teaser of Sumoflam” Kathy Aspinwall

Men with Hats...my pal from Cal...Ed Townsend

Men with Hats…my pal from Cal…Ed Townsend

And we did dance because we wanted to...with MATCHING HATS!

And we did dance because we wanted to…with MATCHING HATS!

Can't forget Uncle Fred...one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Can’t forget Uncle Fred…one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Woodflock

Woodflock 2015

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

Through my association with Rob Roy, as I noted above, I was able to go to Utah and participate in one of his training sessions as a photographer. That program was interesting in and of itself, but along the way I got to spend some time both in Lexington and in Utah with John MacLaren, another former Navy Seal. Johnny Mac, as he is known to many of his close friends, has been a trainer to the stars and to many others. My first meeting with him was in Lexington as I picked him up at the airport when he arrived in June for the Great
American Fitness Challenge. His first words to me were “are you from Utah or Idaho?” That was a shocker, but he was able to pick up on the slight accent that I had from Utah, as he too, was a graduate of high school in Utah. He has an intensity about him, but also a very peaceful and pleasant demeanor. It was good to meet an individual like him. Not all military or former military people are hard-nosed.

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

During my trip to Utah, I was honored and excited to spend a littlebit of time with my very close high school friends Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves. I wrote a blog post in detail about that visit, but just want to show them again here. Both of them had a profound impact on my life in the direction my life took after high school.I owe them a great deal in terms of setting my life in the right direction. I will eternally be indebted to these two great men, both of them strong members of the LDS Church and great leaders. Yet, also very good friends.

Then there are the people that you meet in every day life. A couple of these people have become good acquaintances. And I want to point them out in this post because in their own ways they too have had an impact on my life just as the examples they set.

schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

Schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

 

One of these is Joe Seebold. Joe,is a good-natured car repairman. The manager of an oil change place, I have been associated with him for a few years. But it’s always great to speak to him about things other than car repair. And, over the last couple of years Joe and I have become good friends. Not through religion, not through common beliefs. But because we’re people and we enjoy each others company and that’s what is important.

 

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro's JJ Chen

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro’s JJ Chen

 

This past year, Julianne and I begin frequenting a restaurant near our house. The Asian Bistro Express is a great little Chinese place. The gal that runs the place with her husband is JJ Chen and as we have frequented the eatery, we have become friends with her as well. It’s nice to speak with them about things other than their food or their restaurant. Nice to learn about where they’re from, and what they do, what their goals are, about their children, etc. (They have a cute little girl in 4th or 5th grade). We all share a common trait in this world and that is we live life.

 

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Over the last couple of years I have become Facebook friends with folks near and far, many whom I have not met in person.  But, occasionally there is the unique opportunity to meet some of them.  One of these goes by the name Al Luminum (not his real name).  Al is an Airstream Gypsy with his family.  They travel the country in their Airstream and live off of a rental property income and who knows what else.  In the winter you can find him and his family staying in the quiet of the desert and in the summers they may be up north in any of dozens of locales.  On one occasion they pulled into Lexington, where they stayed in a church parking lot. He gave me a ping in Facebook and I went over and finally met them all in person.  What a delightful family!

I left the visit with envy as they travel freely in this beautiful country…something that I wish I could do full time!

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty's

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty’s

On another occasion I was with the family in Washington and we ventured into a unique eatery called Fat Smitty’s (see my blog post about this quirky place), near Port Townsend.  I was in there taking photos and there were three Russians (Ukranians actually) enjoying a wonderful Fat Smitty burger. One of them, named Alex, noted, “You must be famous,” to which I replied, “In my own mind!”  I sat down with them and asked if I could do a selfie with them.  Turns out these guys were from Ukraine and were in the area working.  Alex and his friends were great!  You never know who you can meet in this wide world.

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Then, as many of you may know, Julianne and I have strived to change to a healthier eating lifestyle.  We have moved predominantly to a Whole Food Plant-Based regimen.  She has been more perfect at it than I, but I too am trying!  As a result of this effort we had a unique opportunity to go to an advance screening of the Documentary Movie called “Plant Pure Nation” back in April (see my review of the movie) Nelson Campbell, son of the acclaimed T. Colin Campbell (author of “The China Study“) was there. We met Dr. T. Colin Campbell as well, along with the Producer John Corry, who also happened to produce another famed documentary called “Forks Over Knives.”

Meeting joe Cross, of 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" fame in Louisville

Meeting Joe Cross, of  “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” fame in Louisville

Along the same lines, a few weeks later, we met another famed Whole Foods Plant Based proponent in Joe Cross, who produced the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and has also authored a number of books on whole fruit/veggie juicing. (See my post about this)  We picked up his new book, which has some great inspirational stories that helped me out.  His talk was great and he was very understanding of the plight of big people.

I consider myself blessed to meet people like Nelson Campbell and Joe Cross, both of whom are on a mission to get people to eat healthier and live better, happier and healthful lives.  Yes, they may be famous in their realms, but it is not the fame that they desire as much as the ability to help others.

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Speaking of famous folks, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with one Jolly old elf in the small town of Santa Claus, IN just a week before Christmas.  The town was named after this guy and he looked like the REAL one….hmmm… I wonder.  He did know some stuff about me and about my grandkids….

Yes, he did tell me I was nice (and NOT naughty like some in my family may have tried to lead others to believe!)

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

While in California on the road with Carla (mentioned above), we stopped at Real Goods Solar in Hopland, CA. Quite the quirky place (see my post about it), it was perfect for the travel writer in me.  While there I had the chance meeting of the founder and proprietor John Schaeffer. He was also the author of the Solar Living Sourcebook, a book I had procured back in1990 while working with Asahi Solar in Japan. It was a great opportunity to meet one of the founders of solar energy in the US.  I left with a smile, a great photo and a new, signed copy, of his book.

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

 

In November we had the great chance to go to Louisville and attend the Broadway traveling musical “Wicked” (see my post and review).  It was especially meaningful since Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd was a performer in this musical.  As a result, we were also afforded the opportunity to go backstage and see the props and learn more about the entire production.  Tregoney also came over to our house on Thanksgiving and the three of us went out to a wonderful catered dinner.

 

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati in April 2015

Of course, I have to note my good friend Antsy McClain.  A week doesn’t go by when we are not talking.  He is like a brother to me in so many ways.  It is wonderful to have a close friend who is also a musician, story teller, amazing artist.  We have been friends since our first meeting in 1992 at an auto plant in Kentucky. Much has happened to both of us since that time.  I am grateful for friends like Antsy McClain!

I have seen him go from a newbie in the business into a world traveling musician.  I have met many wonderful musicians who have since become friends, as a result of my friendship with Antsy.  I have seen his family grow as well.  Accomplished musicians and artists in their own right.

IN MEMORIUM 2015

MemoriumAs I get older there are those that pass on before me. Seems like the older I get the more I am seeing of my friends and acquaintances making the journey home. The year 2015 was no different as I lost a dear brother in law, a couple of friends and a couple of Facebook friends who I had become well-acquainted with but never got to meet in person.  I want to remember these folks as well.  They too had an influence in my life, if even minimal.

Ultimately, our lives are canvasses and every individual we meet adds their little piece of color to our complex life portrait.  I am grateful for the relationships as they all enrich my life.

Jamie Showkeir - August 16, 1952 - August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir – August 16, 1952 – August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir was my brother-in-law and mentor and was a down to earth solidly wonderful individual.  I wrote about him on his passing (see my post). He passed away after a year long struggle with the devastating disease known as ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  He knew from the outset that his days were numbered.  But he chose to deal with it rather than to let it deal with him. Jamie left a positive impact on 100s of people, including me.  He was a mentor to me (and he didn’t even know it!) Three or four times I called him for advice due to his wisdom of the business world. (He and his wife Maren, my wife’s sister, had authored two books).  I miss Jamie.

Dan "Photoman" Smith - Aug. 5, 1959 - June 16, 2015

Dan “Photoman” Smith – Aug. 5, 1959 – June 16, 2015

I first met Dan online through Facebook around 2010.  We shared many common interests, especially our love of photography in the Lexington area.  I had a couple of opportunities to finally meet him.  The first time we met was at Jacobson Lake, a favorite photographic stomping grounds for both of us.  He was out shooting a sunrise and I walked up and said “Hey Photoman!” and surprised him.  He knew me because of my Facebook photos. From then we met for breakfast a couple of times.   Dan was one of those who ended up losing a job and worked at a call center.  Photography and writing were his passions. He was a libertarian at heart. I am glad to have had the pleasure of his association over the years.  Dan collapsed into a coma in mid 2015 and never fully recovered. I am sure he is enjoying the heavenly sunrises.

Phil J. Norris - Dec. 3, 1962 - Dec. 29, 2015

Phil J. Norris – Dec. 3, 1962 – Dec. 29, 2015

I never got to meet Phil in person, but we had become Facebook friends back in 2013.  He was an avid Antsy McClain fan and friended me through the Flamingohead Family group. Our last communication was on my birthday, Oct. 4, in 2015.  We both lamented that we had not yet had the opportunity to get together.  He was in Idaho and I was in Kentucky.  We had chatted via Facebook Messenger weekly with our many common interests of family, LDS Church (he had served an LDS mission but later went inactive), Antsy McClain, Aussie musician Pauly Zarb (another good friend of mine) and grandkidz. Like my friend Dan, Phil went into a sudden coma in December, slipped out of it for a day or two and then back into it  He succumbed on Dec. 29 to the dismay of many of his family, Facebook friends and Flamingohead cousins.  I will miss our nice chats.

 

 

Countdown 365: #343 – Guitar Heroes 1 – Pete Huttlinger

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

Pete1Over the past twenty years I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing musicians due to my long friendship with musician Antsy McClain. Through him I also met the amazing producer and music aficionado Eddie Mattiningly, who introduced me to some of these amazing musicians and people. These are phenomenal guitarists yet are not “all about themselves” as they are friendly, giving and caring.  Among these, there are a group I call my “guitar heroes.” Some of them I have not met, but most I have and with some of them I have been blessed to develop a friendly relationship.

Pete Huttlinger

Pete Huttlinger

The first of these I want to mention is Pete Huttlinger. I have had the amazing blessing of getting to know Pete and his wife Erin over the years. I first met them at a show in Elizabethtown, KY and actually did some videos of Pete, which I have on my YouTube site (one of which I have shared below).  Pete is one of those fine musicians who made others even better.  He toured the world with John Denver over the last four years of Denver’s life.  He has performed with LeAnn Rimes in many places around the world and on television.  Currently he also does some performances with John Oates of Hall and Oates.

But, he is also an amazing musician on his own.  He has released a number of albums including my favorite, McGuire’s Landing.  He has done an entire CD of Stevie Wonder tunes (including Superstition as can be seen in the video below – filmed and edited by Sumoflam Productions).

But, there is another less known side of Pete.  He is a survivor. About five years ago he had a major stroke that caused him to be paralyzed on his right side and rendered him speechless. He went through a scary surgery only to find that he had a defective heart.  His wife and many of his friends and fans prayed often for him and Erin stuck with him through thick and thin.  He is now back on the road performing and doing what he loves best…playing fantastic guitar licks to satisfy the musical hankerings of many like myself and entertaining those who attend his shows. His playing style is heart-warming.  His person is even more so.

JoinedAtThe HeartHe and Erin have recently published a book called “Joined at the Heart.” I have recently obtained a copy and can’t wait to read it.  The book is all about his struggle and the struggle of his dear wife Erin.  And, moreover, it is a love story — it is all about their joint effort in love and humor to overcome the dire adversity that they faced.  I know it will be inspirational and uplifting.

Pete is a survivor.  Erin is a survivor.  And I am grateful for their acquaintance and the inspiration they provide — even more than the heart-soothing sounds of Pete’s amazing musical talents.

Knowing them is a true blessing in my life.

Synchronicity on a Saturday Night: Take 2 – UK Basketball & Antsy McClain

DSC_1371

Antsy McClain

Artwork by Antsy McClain (with some revision by Meadowlark Creative and Sumoflam added the colors and UK logo)

Artwork by Antsy McClain (with some revision by Meadowlark Creative and Sumoflam added the colors and UK logo) This is the “Go UK!” Sumoflam logo

Back in early April 2014 I wrote a post entitled “Synchronicity on a Saturday Night: UK Basketball & Antsy McClain“.  It was all about a Saturday night (April 4, 2014) when I attended an Antsy McClain concert in Harrison, OH and, on the same night, the Kentucky Wildcats were playing in the opening game of the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament against the University of Wisconsin.  I noted the synchronicity and a number of unique coincidences revolving around the whole evening of events. (And UK won on a last second three pointer by Aaron Harrison to advance to the finals – they lost to Wisconsin this year)

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Almost one year later I was again in Cincinnati to see Antsy McClain (March 28, 2015) and, again, the UK Wildcats were battling it out against Notre Dame in the Elite 8.  And here I was, in my UK hat cheering on Antsy McClain at the intimate, yet wonderful DownTowne Listening Room in Downtown Cincinnati while the UK Wildcats were in yet again a barnstorming back and forth battle.

DownTowne Listening Room Cincinnati

DownTowne Listening Room Cincinnati

Antsy McClain SOLD OUT

Antsy McClain SOLD OUT

Antsy McClain at DownTowne Listening Room

Antsy McClain at DownTowne Listening Room

The DownTowne Listening Room is located on the second floor of the Art Deco Shillito Place Building in downtown Cincinnati.  With food (included with tickets) and couches and close seating, is a perfect place for a performer like Antsy McClain and other singer songwriters.

Shilito Building in downtown Cincinnati.  Home of the DownTowne Listening Room

Shilito Place Building in downtown Cincinnati. Home of the DownTowne Listening Room

Panorama shot of the DownTowne Listening Room

Panorama shot of the DownTowne Listening Room

Founder Scott Skeabeck is an avid music lover who moved to Cincinnati from Philadelphia about five years ago. As a frequent concert-goer and listening room patron on the East Coast, he was determined to bring the experience to Cincinnati.

DownTowne Listening Room founder Scott Skeabeck

DownTowne Listening Room founder Scott Skeabeck

View from the singer's mouth

View from the singer’s mouth

Scott Skeabeck knows how to book a good show and provide a great entertainment venue

Scott Skeabeck knows how to book a good show and provide a great entertainment venue

The show was opened by singer/songwriter Steve Saunders, who is from Cincinnati but originally from Paintsville, KY.  Much like Antsy, Steve is a storyteller with his music. He has been around for a while.  One of his close friends, Tommy Bolin, was with the James Gang in the 1970s and Steve was able to get to know one of my favorite musicians, Joe Walsh, as a result.  Steve’s rootsy music was good.  You should give him a listen on his ReverbNation site.

Opening for Antsy McClain was singer/songwriter Steve Saunders

Opening for Antsy McClain was singer/songwriter Steve Saunders

Cincinnati artist Steve Saunders at the DownTowne Listening Room

Cincinnati artist Steve Saunders at the DownTowne Listening Room

After Steve’s great performance of six or seven songs, it was Antsy McClain’s turn to give the crowd some unequivocal fun.  I have known and worked with Antsy for well over 20 years and it is rare to see him doing a solo show in such an intimate setting. He did a good number of his hits as well as some new things from his upcoming album “Somewhere Past These Gravel Roads,” which is scheduled to be out in June 2015.

Antsy's hand-written set list

Antsy’s hand-written set list

Antsy McClain singing one of his songs at DownTowne Listening room

Antsy McClain singing one of his songs at DownTowne Listening room

Here are a couple more shots of my friend Antsy McClain…all shot by me

Smiling Antsy McClain

Smiling Antsy McClain

Antsy sings a mean tune

Antsy sings a mean tune

Antsy McClain in B/W

Antsy McClain in B/W

The DownTowne Listening Room audience enjoying Antsy McClain

The DownTowne Listening Room audience enjoying Antsy McClain

As Antsy’s show finished just before the basketball game, I had the final couple of minutes on a screen in hand (thank you iPhone and NCAA-TV!!) Steve Saunders, also an avid Wildcat’s fan, joined me. Once again, with only a minute or so in the game, Aaron Harrison drops another 3 pointer and the Cats take the lead.  But, alas, Notre Dame comes back with their own.  UK then ties it and Notre Dame attempts to come back.

UK Basketball player, Sophomore Andrew Harrison

UK Basketball player, Sophomore Andrew Harrison

After what seemed like an eternity, UK stopped them and got the ball back.  Andrew Harrison, Aaron’s twin brother, drives the full court for a layup and gets fouled.  With just seconds he left he drops them both for a 2 point UK lead.  Notre Dame has a few seconds and one last chance and is again stopped, as UK gets their record-tieing 38th win of the season and was only two games away from an undefeated 40-0 season.  Unfortunately, on April 4 the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to Wisconsin.

Antsy's Flamingo Capo

Antsy’s Flamingo Capo

As for me…on that Saturday night I was a double winner as Antsy’s show as awesome and I got to hang with one of my best friends, and the night was finished off with a UK Win.  Synchronicity rules.

After the show with Antsy McClain

After the show with Antsy McClain

Joshua Bell: A Classical Rock Star

joshuabell-1000x330What more can I say? After enjoying a wonderful concert with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, with accompanying guest classical superstar violinist Joshua Bell, I left inspired and starstruck!

Getting Pumped for the Concert

Getting Pumped for the Concert

I am not a music critic, but I am an avid music fan. Those that know me are aware that I am a 70s rock ‘n roller and an collector of cover songs. But, I grew up listening to classical music, I’ve married a classical violinist and I have classical music in my life and I enjoy it as well, and do include it in my collections.

Pre-concert photo with my sweetheart as we waited to be let in to the auditorium

Pre-concert photo with my sweetheart as we waited to be let in to the auditorium

Though not a critic, this is my review of the concert from April 3 based upon my experience with music.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

The UKSO opened with two luscious pieces. The first piece was a very delightful, indeed festive offering by Dmitri Shostakovich. Entitled “Festive Overture“, it is filled with catchy melodies and straightforward harmonies, perhaps a reflection of the Socialist regime’s push for simplicity in the 1950s. The piece started with with a grand brass fanfare, a perfect opening for a concert. Soon the tempo abruptly changed into high gear for the main theme, which included a bubbly clarinet tune. From there the pace of the music was breakneck and whimsical. I loved this opening piece and was only disappointed in its brevity.

Igor Stravinsky (1881-1972)

Igor Stravinsky (1881-1972)

I had not heard Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite in many years. I recall an old album my Dad had in the 1960s, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. I was not too endeared to it back in the 1960s.  In terms of classical I was more prone to listen to my Dad’s Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms albums. As I grew older and listened to it again in the 1970s, I enjoyed it more as I was able to understand the story that the music elicited about an evil king, a prince and a Firebird that saved the day. The UKSO performance, conducted by John Nardolillo, was moving.

UKSO Conductor John Nardilillo (photo from Lexington Herald Leader)

UKSO Conductor John Nardilillo (photo from Lexington Herald Leader)

Outside the rain was pouring buckets and, from my third row seat in the Singletary Center, I could hear it flowing down the side of the building.  This background “music” of the flowing water added to the mysteriously flowing stanzas of the seven movements.  After so many years of not listening to it, I was enthralled by all of the musical movement coming from the various sections.  But, I also had a great angle to catch a profile of Dr. Nardolillo and could see his amazing expressiveness. It was almost as if he were yelling out to the orchestra. It was obvious that he put his entire self into the music and not just his arms. Throughout the entire performance my eyes were glued on him as the music filled my ears. Indeed, it was an enjoyable piece and it was actually the first time I ever heard it performed live and I was grateful I had the opportunity.

Sitting in Row B at the Singletary Center...3rd Row and awesome place to sit

Sitting in Row B at the Singletary Center…3rd Row and awesome place to sit

After intermission, the highlight of the night was having the rare opportunity to see a world-class violinist perform. What made it even more fascinating and rare was knowing that Joshua Bell was performing with his 300 year old Gibson Stradivarius violin (named after one of its early owners, the English violinist George Alfred Gibson), which is valued at over $4 million. This antique violin was fabricated by Antonio Stradivari of Cremona in 1713.. The Gibson, while owned by Bronisław Huberman, was stolen twice. Read the complete story here.

Joshua Bell performs with UKSO (Photo by Andrew Brinkerhorst, UK Singletary Center)

Joshua Bell performs with UKSO (Photo by Andrew Brinkerhorst, UK Singletary Center)

Joshua Bell opened with Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, which was written in 1866. This concerto, according to some, is one of the finest concertos in the violin repertoire. It is also considered to be the German composer’s finest score. Ironically, this was the same piece that Joshua Bell performed in his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, when he was only 17. The flowing water coupled with the rumbling timpani and the smooth sounds of the woodwinds backing the soloist was an absolute delight.

Max Bruch (1838-1920)

Max Bruch (1838-1920)

And of course, Bell did not fail to impress.  He had passion written all over him in the amazing Bruch concerto. Once again, from my angle and close proximity I could see every facial crease, every smile of joy in his face and the look of contentment with this youthful college orchestra, which stepped up their game to match the intensity of the word renowned Joshua Bell. He was both colorful and provided all with a chance to hear the tones of his 300 year old violin.

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

The performance closed with a fantastic rendering of Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, which he wrote in 1863. This performance mixed excitement with the exotic.  The tune was colorful and lyrical and made me want to get up and dance gleefully (which I can’t imagine trying to do!!).  Bell’s fingers just rolled down the strings.

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Overall it was an amazing evening of music, despite the torrential weather outside.  Ny the time the concert had ended, so had the rains.  It was a cool and refreshing walk back to the parking lot as my wife’s dreams were fulfilled in seeing Joshua Bell and my soul was filled with delight from the whimsical and mysterious music that filled the Singletary Center for the Arts.

 

The Impact of Earworms: The iPod in My Head

ipod head

iPod Stuck in my head

Lately it seems that my nights (and sometimes afternoons) are being interrupted by earworms….

Earworm1An earworm, a term derived from the German “ohrwurm,” is defined as  “the inability to dislodge a song and prevent it from repeating itself in one’s head.” Apparently this phenomenon has recently become a burgeoning area of neurological study.  These earworms are like parasites – – they get lodged in your head and cause a sort of “cognitive itch” or “brain itch” — a need for the brain to fill in the gaps in a song’s rhythm.

EarwormThese are not an uncommon phenomena….indeed, some have even made a business out of them. See THIS Cafe Press Store.

earworm-1According to some research at Dartmouth University (yes indeed, there is a research arm on this subject at BOTH Dartmouth and at the University of Cincinnati) When we listen to a song, it triggers a part of the brain called the auditory cortex. “The researchers at Dartmouth University found that when they played part of a familiar song to research subjects, the participants’ auditory cortex automatically filled in the rest — in other words, their brains kept “singing” long after the song had ended. The only way to “scratch” brain itch is to repeat the song over and over in your mind. Unfortunately, like with mosquito bites, the more you scratch the more you itch, and so on until you’re stuck in an unending song cycle.” (If you really are into SCIENTIFIC STUDIES, check this out. They even a website called earwormery.com)

The Earwormery at earwormery.com

The Earwormery at earwormery.com

Dr. James Kellaris -- aka Dr. Earworm

Dr. James Kellaris — aka Dr. Earworm

A professor at the University of Cincinnati named James Kellaris has been dubbed Dr. Earworm due to his studies on the subject. His research indicates that 98% of us are affected by earworms, and while men and women are affected equally, they tend to last longer for women. The average length is between 15 and 30 seconds.

In a 2009 study by the British Psychological Society (BPS), it was found that people who judge music to be important are more likely to get a song stuck in their head–but having musical expertise does not make getting an earworm more likely. They also found that, contrary to popular belief, earworms aren’t always unwanted; only about a third of the earworms were described by study participants as unpleasant or undesired.

Hmmm…funny. According to a survey conducted by Dr. Earworm a few years ago, the following are apparently the “Top 10 most common earworm songs.”  Mine are definitely in the “Other” category.

Other (meaning, everyone has a particular song that they can’t get out of their head)
Chili’s (Baby Back Ribs)
Who Let the Dogs Out?
We Will Rock You
Kit-Kat bar jingle
Mission Impossible Theme
YMCA
Whoomp, There It Is!
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
It’s a Small World After All

MusicFor me, these earworms are like an iPod on shuffle in my head.  Songs just pop in at random at all times of the day, but more at night when I am asleep and my mind is on idle. I will wake up at odd hours and these random songs are already playing.  They don’t go away until I wake up the next time with an entirely different song in my head…..perhaps I am just a living iPod….

#TBT Special – 2001: A Space Odyssey with Live Orchestra & Chorus

imageLast weekend I had the unique opportunity to attend a historic event at the Singletary  Center at the University of Kentucky. The 1970s movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” was shown on a big screen. Along with that was a live orchestra and a live chorus that performed all of the music in the movie and they only played the vocal tracks of the movie to the sound system.  For me, this was a real “Throwback” to days gone by.

UK Orchestra and 2001

The UK Orchestra prepares for the live performance of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The huge movie screen sits above them.

It has been nearly 30 years since I last saw this movie and I had only seen it one time before that when it first came out in the 1970s. I have always been a Stanley Kubrick fan (my faves are 2001, The Shining and A Clockwork OrangeI actually wrote a final exam analysis in a class in college on Clockwork in 1982 and got an A+). I could give a review of the 2001, but it is had thousands of reviews that are mush better than I could do. (see some HERE)

With Julianne to see 2001

With Julianne to see 2001: A Space Odyssey with LIVE Orchestra

Many call this movie one of the greatest movies of all time (#22 on IMDB, #26 on Filmsite.org, #22 on AMC#22 on American Film Institute, #43 on France’s Cahiers du Cinema, #10 by famed film critic Roger Ebert). And in terms of its artistic fashion, the unique and sometimes complexly strange subject matter, and the way that cupric filmed the movie was indeed amazing.

Sumoflam at 2001

Sumoflam with the program for the production

But, never before have I seen a movie with LIVE music (other than an old silent Charlie Chaplin film with a Wurlitzer), especially a full orchestra and a chorus. Indeed, the chorus alone was amazing because of the type of singing that they were required to do. Each individual had unique tones and there were many dissonant chords. They were singing the parts for the sound of the monolith, the big black rectangular monolith of the movie.

2001space043The University of Kentucky had a detailed article about the movie and its setup HERE. This program has been presented by an exclusive selection of the world’s greatest orchestras including the London Philharmonia Symphony, The New York Philharmonic, The Brussels Symphony, and the National Symphony. (See a review of the performance by the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln Center in 2013). The UK Symphony Orchestra and UK Chorale received the prestigious honor of being the first university ensembles to perform this concert.

According to the article:

To be prepared for such a different concert, UK Chorale had to develop its own rehearsal methods beyond just screening the film. “2001” calls for approximately 20 individual sounds from the vocalists performed in a group. In order to be ready to sing the notes given to them, members of UK Chorale practiced not only as a group but often individually with their smart phones and metronome apps that helped them properly time their individual parts.”

Then there was the complexity of the orchestra and chorus matching the movie in proper synchronization.

2001 Equipment

Big projection system and massive sound system were brought in for this special presentation

I also understand that the school had to bring in lots of equipment for the unique and amazing sound system that reverberated through the hall. In fact, one of the staff members noted that it required “special projectors and sound systems that [they] had to scour the United States to find, and did find them.”

György Ligeti (1923-2006)

György Ligeti (1923-2006)

The music, which included the spooky and eerily dissonant chords of Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s “Atmospheres played live to the film and the haunting “Jupiter and Beyond: Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs” also by Ligeti (see more about him HERE) were absolutely stunning.

2001-a-space-odyssey-originalUltimately this was a maximum sensory experience in all ways. There is nothing better than a live orchestra with a movie. It was absolutely an amazing experience. Totally phenomenal.  Kudos to the UK Orchestra and conductor John Nardolillo as well as the UK Chorale and conductor Jefferson Johnson for a spectacular performance!!

Christmas Music – Some of My Favorites

Antsy McClain Christmas

Antsy McClain Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year.  We think of others and give gifts.  The colors of Christmas are everywhere.  And then there is all that Christmas music playing everywhere…from the bouncy notes of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” to the heavenly sounds of Handel’s “Messiah,” there is the old. Turn on the radio and some stations are playing Christmas music 24/7.   Such is the case in Lexington, with TWO stations dedicated to all Christmas all the time in December. WGKS (KISS FM 96.9) and their 12 Days of KISSMas along with WMXL (Mix 94.5) and their MixMas both play the classics and a few more recent tunes.

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

MixMas

Mix 94.5 Mix-Mas

Though I love the classic Christmas songs I grew up with, such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Johnny Mathis’s rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” and a couple dozen others, I get tired of hearing the same versions on BOTH stations, with little variety between the two. I am refreshed by listening to our Public Station WUKY-FM, which is an Americana format when NPR is not on the air. During the Christmas season they mingle in many fun renditions of Christmas tunes not typically heard on the pop stations such as a recent version of “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” by Aimee Mann.

But, I have my own “eclectic” mix of Christmas favorites (mingled with some of the classics I hear on the 24/7 stations). I have a 1 TB Hard Drive dedicated to my MP3 collection (nearly 100,000 mp3s) and, within that is my collection of over 4000 Christmas songs ranging from the 1940s to the 2010s. Following are some of my favorite albums and tunes from over the years….

SOME OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS ALBUMS (in no particular order)

AntsyMcClainAntsy McClain – Merry Christmas from the Trailer Park

Antsy’s Christmas album has a refreshing twist of redneck humor mingled with some sentimental tunes and Christmas favorites.

 

HoeyGary Hoey – Ho Ho Hoey Christmas (4 different CDs)

Gary Hoey is a fine rock guitarist. His remakes of some classic rock songs are fabulous, but his rocking versions of Christmas classics became so popular that he now has four albums. Definitely worth a long listen on a snowy winter night!

TSOCoverTrans-Siberian Orchestra

Founded by rock producer, composer and lyricist Paul O’Neill (who has managed and produced bands such as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Joan Jett and the Scorpions) in 1996, he, along with members of the rock band Savatage created a music spectacle of classical music melded with rock music and then a stage show that beats ALL stage shows (and I have seen them perform). The band has a Christmas trilogy and all three of their Christmas albums are classics!

SetzerBrian Setzer

Brian Setzer was the brains behind the new wave rockabilly group The Stray Cats. He broke out on his own with the swing band Brian Setzer Orchestra and has three rockin’ Christmas CDs that’ll surely get you up and dancing!

 

ChicagoChicago

Chicago has been one of my favorite groups since its beginnings in the early 1970s. In 2005 they released their first Christmas CD and a second one was released In 2011. These CDs offer the fresh sounds of Christmas with the bands famed horns and alluring vocal arrangements. Great music for a hot chocolate and nice fire in a snowy December evening.

PTXPentatonix

The A Capella group Pentatonix took the Pop world by storm after winning the TV show “The Sing Off.” This group of five has made A Capella an “in” thing with unique videos of renditions of favorites from three decades. Their Christmas CD is amazing and their videos are too.

MannheimMannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller was the creation of composer/record producer Chip Davis (who was also the creator of the famous 70’s era song “Convoy” by a made up artist named C.W. McCall. After a few albums albums that contained a blend of baroque classical music, light jazz, and rock, he forged ahead in 1984 with his first Christmas album called a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. The band has since produced a number of Christmas albums and, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, they tour the country during the holiday season with live shows.

HerbAlpertHerb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Christmas

Herb Alpert was an iconic name in the 1960s with his Latin-flared mariachi-style music.  He had a string of hits and later made it possible for him to create the record label A & M (the A was for Alpert and M for partner Jerry Moss).  A & M signed groups such as the Carpenters.  His Christmas album from 1968 remains a classic in my books!

dr dimento christmas vol vi335Dr. Demento’s “The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time” Christmas

I have always loved Dr. Demento (and I even have an autographed photo and a personalized iPod greeting from Dr. Demento!!) Having grown up a big fan of Dr. Demento in the 1970s, I have grown to love these “classics,” which I am noting below

SOME OF MY FAVORITE NOVELTY CHRISTMAS SONGS (in no particular order)

I am such a big fan of novelty Christmas songs that I am including some below.  Yes, I still love many of the classic songs, but these Christmas Novelty classics are always fun!!

Single_Elmo_&_Patsy-Grandma_Got_Run_Over_by_a_Reindeer_coverGrandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsie

Written by Randy Brooks, the song was originally performed by the husband-and-wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979. In the lyrics, a family matriarch gets drunk from drinking too much eggnog and, having forgotten to take her medicine and despite warnings from her family, staggers outside into a snowstorm. On her walk, she is trampled and killed by Santa Claus and his reindeer.  Always a fun laugh.

GaylaPeevey_HippopotamusI Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is a Christmas novelty song written by John Rox (1902–1957) and performed by Gayla Peevey (10 years old at the time) in 1953. Peevey was a child star from Ponca City, Oklahoma (and yes, I have been there!!). When released nationally by Columbia Records, the song shot to the top of the charts and the city zoo acquired a baby hippo named Matilda. It is a Dr. Demento Christmas staple, and is currently available on Dr. Demento’s The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time Vol. 6: Christmas.

spike-jones-all-i-want-for-christmas-is-my-two-front-teeth-rca-victor-78

All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones & His City Slickers Band

This song was written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner (1913-2004) while teaching music at public schools in Smithtown, New York. He asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed that almost all of the students had at least one front tooth missing as they answered in a lisp. Gardner wrote the song in 30 minutes. The song was originally recorded by Spike Jones & His City Slickers on December 6, 1947, with lead vocal by George Rock and was released on a 78 RPM recording. 

12-DAYS-FEATUREThe Twelve Gifts of Christmas by Allan Sherman

Allan Sherman was an American comedy writer and television producer who became famous as a song parodist in the early 1960s. His first album, My Son, the Folk Singer (1962), became the fastest-selling record album up to that time. His biggest hit single was “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh“, a comic novelty in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences to the tune of Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.  His Twelve Gifts of Christmas was released in 1964 and skyrocketed up the charts. Sherman, who was Jewish, made it really fun!

WhirlingDervishesYou’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch by the Whirling Dervishes

I started off with a cover of the Grinch and am gonna finish with the same.  I love the song and the Whirling Dervishes do it great! They were an alt-rock band from Westfield, NJ, that was big locally through the late 80s-early 90s.

I am closing with their song….

A Christmas Message for 2014

As a current awesome father (according to my kids) and now a helluva grandfather, there is nothing better than Christmas with children. I am so blessed to be a grandfather to nine lovely children.

Christmas 2012 with my nine grandchildren

Christmas 2012 with my nine grandchildren

My daughter Marissa recently put together a wonderful video with my grandchildren.  It is a beautiful Christmasy video and expresses the joy better than I can in words.  Please watch it and share it and use #sharethegift

Julianne and David celebrate 35 years together

My daughter Marissa compiled this look back at our 35 years of “merried” life.

This video includes music by my good friends Antsy McClain and Anthony Snape and also a touching song by Joe Walsh.