Still Calling

music

Remembering Chuck Berry

As most of y’all know I publish my Raw Story videos here at Still Calling when I get the chance. We recently switched platforms, and now I’m using Powtoons. I’ll immediately concede I’m not the best animator out there (thank god I don’t have to draw my own characters, or I would be well and…

Johnson’s Old Grey Mule

It’s been a rough few weeks. Trump. More Trump. Everything going to shit.

So here’s me, making animal noises and playing bluegrass

Bushel and a Peck

For those of you that haven’t already seen this on Facebook today, where I’ve posted this at least twice in the past couple of months. It’s just such a fun song, and it reminds me of my grandma who used to sing snippets of this at me when I was really little. AND on top of that, the banter between Betty and Perry is just adorable.

Back From Tour

I’m back from tour: nearly 31 days on the road. As usual, the adjustment is a little weird. I have no idea why I’m awake right now, but no rest for the wicked I suppose.

On the agenda today: stash the rest of my stuff (I’m living with my dad while the house goes on the market); LAUNDRY; deal with some bills so the phone doesn’t get shut off; find some temporary work to tide me over; and get caught up (at least for the time being) with life in Philadelphia.

In the meantime, as I drink my first cup of coffee in a semi-permanent location, some reflections from the past month. If you finmd yourself in Winchester Virginia, do pay a visit to Sweet NOLA’s. The food is excellent and the music is great. We can’t wait to go back (sometime in May, I believe).

I hadn’t been back to New Orleans since 2003, quite a few years before the city was left to drown by the president known as C+ Augustus. It’s changed a lot, but it’s still wonderful. Highlights: going to the David Bowie second line funeral, which was utter chaos. Visiting old friends, especially Izzy Zaidman and the Catastrophics (who are somewhere on tour right now I expect). Go see ’em, you’ll be glad you did.

It was the beginning of crawdad season while I was there, and my dear friend Michele -way back from when I moved to Philly- took me to a boil. Yum. I love mudbugs, and this boil was hotter than fire. Besides the bugs, the pot was filled with potatoes, corn, entire heads of garlic, and pineapple, the latter of which was like a sweet atomic bomb in your mouth.

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Also, it was the run-up top Mardi Gras, and Michele’s relatives are part of the Three Muses Crewe. So we got to preview some of the floats. This one was, naturally, my favorite. Can you guess why?

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Clarksdale Mississippi: you can tell why it’s the birthplace of the blues. Stark. Big sky. Colder than expected. I went for a run, and it was BRUTAL.
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What you see behind me is a tiny example of the endless flat expanse that is Clarksdale. The wind was like razor blade slashing across the fields. I can only imagine what it was like for slaves (and later, sharecroppers) in the heat of the summer, with nothing to shelter you from the sun, bent over picking cotton. You can understand why people like B.B. King, Son House, and Muddy Waters got the blues and then got the Hell out of town.

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Memphis: I can’t say enough about this city. We recorded at Sun Studio, finishing an album that’s been a couple years in the making.

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It’s an amazing, magical place. You can feel the history.

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The image above doesn’t look like much, but X marks the spot where Elvis stood while recording vocals. That X isn’t just for history’s sake either: Sun still does a lot of its recording the old-fashioned way, without a lot of overdubs or isolation. Back when Elvis (and Jerry Lee, and Howling Wolf, and Johnny Cash, and countless others) were making their first records, you basically got one microphone. In order to balance the sound -so no one instrument was dominating the mix- Sam Phillips marked the floor so musicians would know where to stand to get the proper sound. The shoes you see belong to Dave and me, as we cut backing vocals.

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I managed to get a run in as well, a solid 7.5 miles from the Heartbreak Hotel (and yes, it’s located on the end of Lonely Street)…

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…to Beale Street…

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I hate to be critical of another city -a big no-no for me on tour- but one area where Memphis could REALLY improve is pedestrian access from the south side of the city (where we were staying) to midtown (where the action is). There was a general lack of sidewalks until I crossed the Nonconnah Creek via S. 3rd Street/Highway 41. To say it was a tough run would be an understatement. But hey, nothing’s perfect and we all have room for improvement. In any event, I was generally charmed by Memphis, which seems unique among the various southern cities I’ve played and visited. I’m definitely excited to get back there, not the least because of Gus’s Fried Chicken: delicious, huge portions, and best of all, CHEAP (and, apparently coming to Philly, although I can’t imagine it will be anywhere near as good or as affordable for impoverished musicians).

I’m afraid this tour diary ends with more of a whimper than a bang. I’ll probably have more updates as I gather more pictures: I haven’t even touched on the gigs, from Sweet Nolas to the New Orleans Cigarbox Guitar Festival to the International Blues Challenge, but as more becomes available, I’ll either update or add some supplementary posts. I’m home for the next month, with gigs coming up at the VFW in Glenside PA and Roxy and Dukes among other fine establishments. Then we hit the road again, for the second leg of our southern adventures including Alabama, Tennessee, and sunny Florida.

See y’all on the road!

Deep Thoughts, Tourlife Edition

It’s a rainy night in New Orleans, where I’ve been for the past three days. There’s a flood warning through January 25. We played a good gig last night, and I have an extra $75.00 in my pocket. I’m staying with a fellow musician at his apartment on Decatur Street, a few blocks from Frenchmen.

Back in reality my bank account is overdrawn and about to be more so. I have debt collectors calling me every day, all of who will be paid when the house is sold. I have nothing but the clothes in my suitcase, my toiletries, and the modest sum of money that the band is paying me for this trip. Augmented with food stamps and eating/drinking frugally, is enough to get by. I’m poor as a churchmouse. I don’t even have space on my credit card.

And yet I’m in New Orleans. Staying in the French Quarter, drinking cheap beer from the 24 hour bar around the corner, playing live music with one band, and chasing down fill-ins with anyone that will have me for the rest next week. I got no reason to complain.

Phoning It In

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En route to New Orleans, currently somewhere in Mississippi. Great shows in Delaware, Winchester VA, and at Elvisfest in Chapel Hill NC. Excited to see old friends and to make new friends. Blogging via smartphone. Listening to ths new Bowie on Spotify. 21st century digital life…

I spent ten years off the road, defering and denying my dreams, my calling. Folks, don’t postpone joy. Life is too short to be miserable. Live life like you’re gonna die… because you’re gonna.

Vintage 1945 Kay C-1 Upright Bass for Sale

Hey kids,

As y’all know I’m moving. As a result I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff, including my extra upright bass, a vintage 1945 Kay C-1.

1946 Kay

(For whatever reason, the photo loaded upside down. Click to view right-side up)
Normally a bass like this goes from anywhere from $2000-$2500, but it needs two small repairs, so I’m knocking off a few hundred bucks. To be specific, it needs to be re-glued along the lower bout and top, on the bass side of the instrument. Also, the headstock had a collision with a door frame and the E tuning key needs to be replaced. It still winds, but you need a vice grip. I priced out the cost of both repairs and settled on $1800.

You can get a decent idea of the sound here:

Hit me up in comments if you’re interested. I’m looking to sell in the Philadelphia/NJ/NY/DE/DC area, and can’t ship.