MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
THE SIXTIES (music, paranoia, & color TV)
BEAR BRYANT & ME (a true story)
MY RECORD DEAL
FOLK TREE CONCERTMAKERS
DISCOVERING TRACY CHAPMAN
GARRISON KEILLOR & A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
PRODUCING AT CARNEGIE HALL
SAVING CONGRESSMAN JOE KENNEDY’S LIFE
I was born less than three months before the end of the first half of the 20th Century, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, across the street from the famous Delta Crossroads where Highway 61 and Mississippi Highway 6 meet, at the Coahoma County Hospital, on October 10, 1949.
If you are born, as I was, in the Mississippi Delta, and you are a musician and an amateur musicologist, as I am; you, by birth, get to stake a small claim at Ground Zero – the birthplace and home of The Delta Blues.
I paraphrase Robert Frost by saying that my life would not, otherwise, be the same. Being literally born at the Crossroads, I feel that I have some Delta Blues running through my veins.
For many years I was a concert producer in my adult life. My very first live event was presenting Johnny Shines, who was a great Delta bluesman and traveled alongside Robert Johnson, in concert. In high school we used to dance (or stand around and watch) The Allman Joys, an early version of the Allman Brothers, who regularly played at The Fort Brandon Armory in Tuscaloosa. I am a child of the South, born in Mississippi and raised in Alabama. Music is a large part of my life, personally and professionally. My heart beat rises to the sound of a National steel guitar, any kind of a back beat, and the harmonies from this great Southern musical heritage from Clarksdale, to Muscle Shoals, from Macon and Jacksonville to Tuscaloosa, Tupelo, and Nashville. The songs of the South are the songs of my life.
From November, 1949 until May, 1980, I called Alabama home, spending my first twenty-five years in Tuscaloosa (my hometown) and then five more wonderful years in Birmingham.
It’s A Small World: I went to a nursery school in Tuscaloosa that was located in the middle of the University of Alabama campus, behind what is now the Tri Delt house. Later, my elementary school was across the street from the campus and Bryant-Denny Stadium where the Tide rolls on Saturdays in the Fall.
From the time I was three weeks old until I was in the fifth grade, I lived within sight of the University and the stadium. Only my Junior High was away from the campus, because my high school, Tuscaloosa High, was less than a mile down the road from the University. I would go on to graduate college at Alabama, enter law school there (I dropped out), then get a Masters Degree at Alabama, all of this over a twenty five year span, and all of this within this microscopic geographic radius of less than a mile in my home town of Tuscaloosa. From 1967 to 1975, when I moved away for good, I always lived within this one mile radius of the Alabama campus. Tuscaloosa is my home, my base, the original center of my world.
In ’75 I moved to Birmingham where I fell in love, had a boatload of friends, and started playing music and getting gigs. The five years I lived in Birmingham were the best. In 1980 I moved up to Boston it has become the other center of my life, and it has been that way for the past 32 years.
Here Is My Story
Part I – CAR KEYS
In 1964 I got my driver’s license and my Dad gave me the Pontiac Catalina every night except Sunday. I would leave right after supper and I drove all over Tuscaloosa night after night throughout high school. Cruising around. We all listened to WTBC AM. I had the windows rolled down and the radio cranked before I had backed out of the driveway. Freedom. That’s what it was and that’s what it felt like. Fresh air. No teachers, no parents, one rule. I had to be back by 11pm. Freedom has its limits.
Tuscaloosa was a cruising town. Everybody drove around looking at everybody else driving around. We all listened to Tiger Jack Garrett on WTBC. It was our town. Gas was 27 cents a gallon and it was nothing to drive fifty miles on any given night, just us cruising around Tuscaloosa in the Alabama dark.
T-Town is, and was, a real fine place to be from. Of course, since the April 27, 2011 EF4 tornado, Tuscaloosa has been on the minds of a great many, myself included, as Tuscaloosa literally picked up the pieces and began to heal and rebuild itself. What took only a handful of minutes to destroy will take years to recover from. I wrote an open letter to my high school class which I posted on our THS 67 Facebook page that read, in part:
To my classmates and old friends in T Town,
First, it is great to be able to connect again after all the years. Secondly, I know that, collectively, you have been through a lot since April 27th. My heart goes out to all Tuscaloosans. Tuscaloosa is my home, and it always will be. There has never been a day in my life that I wasn’t proud to be from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I expect that some of you lost loved ones in the tornado. I expect that some of you lost
your homes and all your worldly possessions. I know that all of you have pitched in with both hands.
I have no doubt that each and every one of you have been helping in every way you can. I have no doubt that Tuscaloosans are lending their hands where there are needs to be met, and doing everything possible to make a difference. Tuscaloosa is going to make it all of the way back. You should be proud, very proud, of yourselves. I want you to know that I am with you all in spirit.
PART II – THE SIXTIES
At the beginning of the Sixties we had crewcuts, flat-tops, conks, Butch Wax, Brylcreem (“A little dab’l do ya”), Vitalis, and bee hive hair-do’s. By the end of the Sixties you could add Afros, mop tops, the twiggy look, male pony tails, long flowing hair, beards, muttonchops, mustaches, the bandana look, and women who did not shave their legs or armpits. Men with flat-tops, by 1969, were either in the military, a cop, or your dad.
The Sixties gave us the full out assault by Madison Avenue, which figured out how to sell us what we didn’t know we needed, but had to have. Keeping up with the Joneses became how you kept score. For some inexplicable reason I repeatedly said that I wanted a gazebo. It was a running family joke.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a color television set. I didn’t know there was such a thing as color television, until I saw it. Oh my Lord! Looking back, it still remains one of the highlights of my childhood and one of those special moments. On January 1 1960 or 1961, my whole family was invited to our next door neighbor’s house to watch a New Year’s Day parade and a New Year’s Day football bowl game. Don Dixon, our neighbor, was the Chairman of the Department of Radio and Television at the University of Alabama, and he was probably one of the first, around Tuscaloosa, to own a color set. My sister and I flopped down on on a rug in front of the TV set and Don Dixon stepped between us and turned on the TV. The gazebo immediately dropped right off the wish list.
What did we watch on TV in the Sixties? Surprisingly, a lot. We watched Captain Kangaroo, Sky King, Rin Tin Tin, the Wonderful World of Disney (only on Sunday nights at 7pm), Bonanza, Riverboat, the Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, Country Boy Eddie (locally in Birmingham, which was where our three stations were located), Cousin Cliff (also local. He was sponsored exclusively by “Jack’s Hamburgers …just 15 cents and so good, good good”.), Teen Time Dance Party, Saturday morning national cartoons like Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse, the Mickey Mouse Club, the Wide World of Sports, the Friday Night Fights (boxing, brought to you by Gillette), the Saturday afternoon baseball Game of the Week, Maverick (“Cousin Brett…Cousin Bart”), Family Affair with Sebastian Cabot and Brian Keith, Have Gun Will Travel starring Richard Boone, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, I Love Lucy (I didn’t), Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, The Fugitive, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and in Tuscaloosa we watched The Benny Carl Show, and on and on.
“PRESIDENT KENNEDY HAS BEEN SHOT!”
I remember President Kennedy’s assassination very clearly. I had just turned fourteen a month earlier and I was in the 8th grade. I heard the news came over the intercom while we sat in class at Eastwood Junior High. We were told that President Kennedy had been shot. We were not told that he had died. I will never forget the eruption of cheers that rose up from some of my classmates. That stunned me then and it stuns me now. I remember staring out the window wondering. Alabama was not Kennedy country, but Jesus H.
It was a Friday afternoon. We had just returned from the lunchroom when we heard the news on the intercom that the President had been shot. Then half the class was cheering. I walked home most days and it was rare for my Mom to be there to pick me up, which she did that afternoon. My mom was crying softly and it was then that I learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
It was a somber weekend and my family and I sat by the TV for three or four days. It was very scary and unreal. I was given permission to stay home from Sunday school to watch the national broadcast, so I, along with millions of others, saw Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down live on television. That added to the disbelief and strangeness.
Five years later I got to shake the hand of Senator Robert Kennedy, who was running for President, just four or five months before he was assassinated. We had already lost Dr. King and Viola Liuzzo and many more. Those things stay with you, and they damn well should.
In all the years that I was in Alabama I don’t believe that a single candidate that I supported actually got elected. I have always been political in the sense that I followed state and national elections closely. My state of Alabama was not blessed with the finest of leadership in the governor’s mansion down in Montgomery. Among the winners that I did not support were “Big Jim” Folsum, John Patterson, George Wallace, and Lurleen Wallace, George’s wife, who ran and won after George got stopped by term limits. Lurleen got the title and George kept on governing. These were not my people. George Wallace was a bigot, and as the face of Alabama politics, was an embarrassment who gave our state a black eye. It always worked out that my candidates never won. They were too liberal, or not right wing enough. When I lived in Alabama, it was a running joke that I never got to vote for anyone who had actually got himself elected.
When I moved to Boston and the trend turned decidedly in my favor. Ted Kennedy was my Senator for thirty years. I cast votes for Paul Tsongas, Ed Markey, Tip O’Neil, Barney Frank, Joe Moakley, Joe Kennedy, Jr., and John Kerry to name some on that list of extraordinary American public servants. They all won. I did vote for Bill Weld when he was a democrat. He later changed party affiliations and moved to New York state. Massachusetts politics was not without its dark side. The state senate was run for many years by the brilliant egomaniac, William Bulger, a Shakespeare quoting, self promoting, conniving son of a bitch, who’s brother was, and is, the infamous gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger. Between Alabama and Massachusetts, I saw the good, bad, and ugly that both states had to offer.
PART III – DRUGS, MUSIC, & METAMORPHIS
I have always agreed that “clothes make the man” and I am ready to debate anyone thinking otherwise. In 1969, practically overnight a brand new style appeared that was in direct competition with our buttoned-down Ivy League wardrobes hanging in our preppie closets. Suddenly there were suede fringed jackets, turquoise jewelry, and faded bell bottom jeans with button fly zippers. The Counterculture began to arrive.
You could set yourself free and buy a stonewashed, hand embroidered denim work shirt that made you look like you had casually rolled in from Montana. My personal favorite was paisley. I had several paisley shirts that were favorites. Check out the headbands and the tooled leather belts and polished peace sign necklaces. Why not pick up a hash pipe, a lava lamp, and some rolling papers while you are morphing practically overnight from your father into your favorite lead electric guitarist. Somebody marketed his way to hundreds of millions of dollars and the influence is still present in America’s psychological sense of laid back fashion.
A generation as self absorbed as we were, found its voice essentially through music. And you needed to look the part. And yes, there were drugs.
There was a smorgasbord of available ways to get high when I was a student at the University of Alabama. I chose to sidestep most of it, except for the occasional amphetamine (pulling college all nighters cramming and writing) and the occasional toke as weed passed by. I was cautious and careful, primarily because in Alabama, back then, you could go straight to prison and do hard time at Kilby for a single joint.
There was justifiable paranoia. OK, maybe there was some unjustified paranoia as well, but that goes to the heart of what paranoia is all about. It will make you jumpy. You would be lying if you lived through these times and never saw dope being flushed down the toilet. It was toker beware. You couldn’t afford to be careless. Somebody actually would get busted, somebody else might be a narc. In a brave young generation that didn’t trust anyone over the age of 50, paranoia was the ghost watching you from the four door grey Ford parked right outside your place, man. That is the simple reason why I went very light on the drugs, although I certainly looked the part. Instead, I drank socially, but I did not participate in the “head shop atmosphere” and as such, I can remember the Sixties perfectly well.
HERE IS A LITTLE SECRET ABOUT THE SIXTIES
It wasn’t just the Sixties that were cool. So were the first half of the Seventies. I consider that the “peak” of the “Sixties” was a seven year stretch from 1968 to 1975. You could say that the Sixties were fifteen years long and you would be absolutely right, from my point of view. Those years were crazy and sometimes catastrophic, encompassing the Vietnam escalation and national pushback from a generation (us) who were called upon (drafted) to do the fighting. We questioned our political leadership, with good reason, as it turned out. Those seven years cover Woodstock, Nixon and Watergate, Bernstein and Woodward, Dan Rather and the Enemies List, terrible ghetto riots in many major American cities. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy dying violently, the amazing ground swell of support for Senator Eugene McCarthy, Fire Sign Theatre, underground FM radio (thank you Courtney Haden), which was hugely important to me (Geronimo’s Cadillac by Michael Martin Murphy and The Legend of the USS Titanic by Jaime Brockett, are but two examples), the second massacre at Wounded Knee, and the advent of Southern Rock. Definitely the advent of Southern Rock.
Of course it was all of that, and much, much more. But those were some of the high and low points in those unique, troubling, and dazzling years. I practically memorized the complete works of Kurt Vonnegut as each new book was published. I listened to Eat A Peach, Viva Terlingua, and Workingman’s Dead. I watched the Dick Cavett Show and a great deal of television. I saw a lot of great music being made, even writing a bunch of my own songs. Then the Vietnam War ended, they stopped drafting us, and Nixon flew off into the sunset. We thought we had won. FYI, I was called up for military service and was sent down to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery by military bus, around 1968, for an Air Force physical prior to my immediate induction. Knee surgery, eight years earlier, and two flat feet I never knew I had, got me back on the bus heading home, as 4F, rather than on a plane to the jungles of Southeast Asia.
PART IV. FRAT HOUSE DAYS, DILL’S MOTOR COURT, AND A ’68 OLDS CUTLASS SUPREME
For lack of anything else to do, I got a Masters Degree in Higher Education. This was during the Kent State / “Four Dead in Ohio” era, and my life, which had previously been part frat house, began to evolve. I pretty much lived a similar version of Animal House during my freshman and sophomore years, including at least one spaghetti slinging, freaking hilarious food fight toward the end of a suppertime at the fraternity. If you saw the movie, you saw my life. Except I think we had better characters and more live soul bands at weekend frat parties. I changed into a semi-long haired liberal, trading my chinos & madras Gant shirt, as well as my ROTC uniform for fringed bell bottoms. In conservative Alabama it was an interesting time to be walking around. Which I wasn’t.
In the summer before my sophomore year (freshmen were not allowed to have cars on campus) I special ordered a brand new 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Midnight blue with a black vinyl top and the latest Audio Research eight-track tape player. Six weeks later it arrived on the lot at Lancaster Motors on 10th Avenue. I had my own cool-as-grits two door coupe with bucket seats and a console shifter. Chrome in all the right places. A fabulous grille and roof swoop to complete one beautiful American automobile.
I once had her out on the I-59 at a hair over 125mph, just to scare myself. Windows down, music all the way up. I remember the V8 power and Steppenwolf screaming “Magic Carpet Ride.” I was happily singing along at the top of my lungs. Fast forward to 2012 and now I drive a midnight blue Prius with satellite radio and an iPod connection. Sadly, no chrome. But I do love the great mileage. I feel I am doing something for the environment, making a political statement of sorts, and in a small way, helping us off Middle East oil. The Cutlass Supreme and the Prius are pretty much tied for first place among all the cars I have owned.
THE HEAT. I MEAN THE REAL “HEAT,’ AS IN ALABAMA STATE TROOPER HEAT.
While at the University, I worked, for a while, pulling the all night shift at Dills Motor Court just off campus. Two Alabama State Troopers lived there three nights a week. They would park their two cruisers and simultaneously walk, more or less, through the glass door in a show of force. And there they found ME, sitting at the front desk weeknights. I gave them their respective room keys and they would unwind a bit in the small lobby before going to their rooms. These were men who could send me to prison for a lot less than a good reason. I had the telltale semi-long hair. I wore denim. I had a ring that was turquoise and silver; a sure sign of the drug use. LOL. I knew that they knew that a lot of people about my age, that looked more or less like me, were out there smoking pot and getting high. I was a ready made target should they have chosen. They even talked to me about drug conspiracies on one occasion. It seemed like they were giving me advice. They thought that drugs were a Northern conspiracy to destroy the South. I did not argue with them under the circumstances.
So, there they were, two Alabama State Troopers. Month after month, in the wee hours of the morning, they rolled in, flat-topped and sidearmed. I was always trying to act nonchalant, but they were dangerous, and believe me, we sure as hell did not look like each other. I didn’t think we were on the same side of the argument.
As I have mentioned, during my transition to the counterculture, I migrated from Gentleman’s Quarterly to letting my freak flag fly which is how I probably looked sitting behind the counter, at the nearly always empty, Dill’s Motor Court. Most nights it was three or four guests tops, half of them Alabama State Troopers.
PART V. MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WITH THE BIRMINGHAM A’S
In 1972, I went to work as the Assistant to the General Manager for the Birmingham A’s. Birmingham belonged to the Southern League and AA baseball had been a fixture in Birmingham for so long, that Rickwood Field is actually America’s oldest baseball park. I came on board with the A’s in January of 1972. Then in the middle of the 1972 season, Detroit’s one time thirty game winner, Denny McLain, who by now was an Oakland A got shipped to us in Birmingham, which was an impossible setback for this once great ballplayer. McLain’s life and baseball career had been literally coming apart at the seams for some years. His baseball skills were badly eroded and his attitude was L’ infante terrible.
The day-to-day operations in the front office of a AA minor league baseball team was about to change. McLain arrived at Rickwood Field, for the first time, and quite a few of America’s national sportswriters and reporters were there to meet him. Among them was Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times. Jim was one of the great baseball writers and he would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and is now enshrined in the Writers Wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Denny McLain was not amused.
Actually McLain was a total asshole to the writers, the front office (me included), his teammates who were hardly his team “mates”, and apparently everyone else he ever met. As the Director of Publicity and Promotion, this was an unprecedented opportunity. McLain wasn’t having any of it, which while understandable, just made my job tougher.
Naturally, Denny McLain wasn’t happy with the demotion from the Bigs, to AA minor league baseball. Rather than accepting things and showing some class, Denny McLain was angry and difficult to deal with. Phil Caveretta, our manager, who was a gentleman, and a baseball lifer had his hands full. Years later, 60 Minutes did a piece on McLain, who had served time in jail for racketeering and drug smuggling. That says it in a nutshell. So long Denny McLain.
I used to love going to games in Birmingham. We lived about an hour away from the ballpark but as a kid, my Dad usually took me to Rickwood Field several times every season. I have a powerful memory of a large woman in a black fitted dress, who was sitting in the row below us, get hit by a screaming foul ball. It hit her in the left side about waist high and she never tried to get out of the way. She sat there almost motionless and I cannot remember her crying out when it struck her. We were sitting in the right field bleachers about 15 rows up and beyond the first base. I brought that ball home and I think I may still have it somewhere.
In those days my favorite player on the Birmingham Barons was a hotshot little infielder named Bob Micelotta. Bob was our shortstop and he was all hustle. I always have had a warm spot in my heart for Rickwood. Years later, when I was first hired, our General Manager, Glenn West, took me around the ballpark and showed me row after row of vintage lower box seats that had originally been part of the Polo Grounds in New York City. Here we were in this tiny bandbox of a baseball stadium in Birmingham, Alabama and our best seats had the old New York Giants (now the logo of the New York Mets) “NY“ in wrought iron at the end of every row.
ME & THE BLUES
I started listening to music on AM radio in the 50s. I watched Teen-Time Dance Party, American Bandstand, and Hootenanny on a black and white television every week like clockwork in the early 60s. I remember my first 45rpm record purchase. It was Jimmy Carroll singing”Big Green Car on the Hi-hi-way.” I convinced my parents to let my younger sister and me fly in a DC3 prop to see Peter, Paul, & Mary in a rare Southern concert in Huntsville, Alabama around 1964. Music, both popular and off the beaten path, has been a cornerstone and a touchstone of my entire life.
In college I saw the legendary, first generation Delta bluesman, Mississippi Fred McDowell perform not long before he died. Fred was way up in years, but he could still play some. It was an honor to see him at all. There were maybe two or three dozen people in the place. Fred was a little wiry fellow sitting alone on the makeshift stage.
I wished I could have seen him in his prime, but I count myself as lucky having seen him at all. Good Mornin’ Little School Girl, Red Cross, Fred played them all. He died in 1972, so the best I can figure is that I must have seen him around 1970. It was summertime or maybe in the spring, and the show was in a very small place behind the Corner Drugstore that didn’t stay in business long. “Kokomo” me, Fred.
Speaking of the Delta blues, I became acquainted along the way with Johnny Shines. Johnny had traveled with, and was a protege of, the legendary and seminal bluesman, Robert Johnson. He is the one that “sold his soul to the Devil” at the Crossroads.
Coincidentally, I was born in a hospital right beside that crossroads in Clarksdale. By my count, that ain’t exactly six degrees of separation; so if you don’t mind, I will claim my Delta birthright and my lifelong love of the art form. Bellhouse (barrelhouse, ie, dance) all night long.”
I like to say that I was “acquainted” with Johnny Shines. He lived in my hometown, actually he and his wife lived in Holt, Alabama which was across the street from the Tuscaloosa city line. Johnny was a cautious man for good reason, and his screen door, while usually open, was there to reluctantly welcome those of us who worshiped at his feet, as acquaintances not quite as friends.
The first concert I ever produced was Johnny Shines, in Birmingham, for a benefit at UAB’s Cogswell Auditorium, for the alternative school I was teaching at. The date was March 25, 1979. The black and yellow poster has been on the wall of my office since 1984. Tickets were all of $2 as I recall.
PART VI. SAILING TO EUROPE PLUS EUBIE BLAKE and ME
Subsequently I traveled four months in Europe, living much of that time in London and Hertfordshire but making my way to Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Monaco, and down to Genoa, Italy. From there I caught the Italian Line ship, Michelangelo. This was the final Atlantic crossing of the season. The North Atlantic weather was considered so harsh that the traveling public stayed put and waited for the realities of winter on the high seas to improve. All of the major cruise lines anchored on one of the two continents and just closed down for the season.
It was mid November and The Michelangelo was almost empty as it returned to New York for the winter. A voyage that was scheduled to last less than five days ended up taking us nine as we traversed between Genoa, our the port of NYC. I found Eubie Blake and his wife were in the next door cabin. I doubt anybody else on board even knew who he was. Even though he was way up in years, probably at that time around 85, he found a piano in one of the many bars, on our deck level, and he played for himself, his wife, and me every afternoon before dinner. For several days, weather interrupted our little get together, but what a treat. Eubie just played the piano.
Eubie Blake was one of the early Ragtime Jazz players. He partnered with a man named Noble Sissel for most of his life. If you get past Scott Joplin and Maple Leaf Rag, past John Philip Sousa, you get to Eubie pretty quick. Here is what I remember most: Eubie Blake’s fingers were twice as long as yours or mine. Only once did I see hands that rivaled his and that was when I once played in a golf foursome in the group behind Julius “Dr. J” Erving and his fingers were almost as long as my friend, Mr. Blake’s were. Eubie lived to a ripe old age. In the years between our time at sea and his death, I saw him on The Dick Cavett show. Eubie looked good, sounded the same to me, and he had his same soft spoken way about him. That was the last time, the only time, I ever saw Eubie once we said goodbye in the Big Apple.
BIRMINGHAM: 1975-1979 CORDELL HANCOCK THE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL BURLY EARL’S BOULDER, COLORADO
When I came back to Tuscaloosa after my time in Europe, I went to work on a masters degree at Alabama. I received my degree in 1974. During this period, I worked as a volunteer at the Crisis Center for about a year, handling emergency calls from suicidal and despondent individuals. It was an eye opening experience.
A year later, in 1975, I moved to Birmingham and went to work for the State of Alabama. It was during this time that I began performing in clubs and bars, doing my singer-songwriter thing. In a moment of serendipity that changed my life, one night, I was singing in a club called San Francisco and a man came in and settled into a chair at a little table right in front of the stage. He ordered a beer, lit up a cigarette, looked up at me, and nodded. You may have heard the expression, “I wouldn’t know him if I fell on him” as a way of describing a total stranger. About half an hour later, I took a break, stepped off the stage and immediately tripped over his crutches. His name was Cordell Hancock and he had contracted polio as a child, before there was a vaccine found. He had these short, heavy metal crutches that enabled him to get around and stand, but not without considerable effort.
I was stunned to find myself down on the floor, but I made it to my feet and apologized, feeling both sorry for him, and embarrassed for myself. I returned from the bar with a beer in each hand, sat down, and introduced myself to him. That is how we met. You would never know it to look at him, dressed as he typically was, looking like he pumped gas for a living, or had just come off his farm tractor looking for a drink.
As it turned out, he was a high school principal and the founder of the Alternative Schools, which were, back in 1976, a groundbreaking educational concept in Alabama. Cordell Hancock, as he sat there that night, was going to change my life and become one of my heroes.
I did the rest of my gig, but not before we had swapped phone numbers, after he found out that I had a teaching certificate and a masters degree in Education. When school opened the next September, I was on the faculty, facing students who had been sent to our program by other principals because they had issues with authority, or perhaps they had been caught with drugs, or maybe their home life was a total mess, a few living on the street or with former classmates, after their parents had kicked them out of the house. Some of our kids had parents who left home for days without so much as a word to their son or daughter. These kids often fended for themselves. All of these high school aged students were used to either hard-assed principals, truant officers, or parents telling them what they were going to do. Naturally, most had low self esteem and issues with authority. So what’s new with teenagers?
The State of Alabama law mandated that all school age youngsters had to stay in school until they were eighteen, so The Alternative School was a way to cover the State’s ass by taking these supposedly “difficult” students off of everyone else’s hands and simultaneously meeting the mandate of the law. The kids, in general, did not come to us with anything resembling a positive attitude toward education. School was a social event and they were rule breakers and misfits.
And it is true that some of those kids weren’t cut out for school, even one as relaxed and laid back as ours. As their teachers, we acted, for better or worse as role models, parental figures in some cases. We encouraged them, rather than judged them. They got a fresh start with us and I took a fresh approach to teaching, and it wasn’t long before learning was happening all over the place. I taught the History of Rock and Roll, Geography, and Writing/Grammar. We covered a lot of ground in class.
I realized that music was the perfect subject for almost everything. If a kid had a favorite group from England, that led me, perhaps, to the American Revolution, The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and that kind of thing. Led Zeppelin was a great band, very popular then, but who influenced Jimmy Page and Robert Plant? Ever heard of Robert Johnson and Elmore James? That is how I taught. The subject matter “mattered” to them. They could relate, and off we went. Led Zeppelin was from England. We all know that. Who can point to England on this map? And off we went into a geography lesson. I had no lesson plan. But I did have a lot of great music, on eight track tapes, which I could play for the kids, letting them hear Blind Willie McTell and then the Allman Brothers song “Statesboro Blues” written by McTell. At the beginning of the year, many of my students could not have found Canada on a map, much less England or the British Isles. By the end of the year, they knew where they were in relation to the greater world at large. And the kids knew where Alabama was in relation to the geographic map. As such, the kids knew where they were in the world at large. They began to realize that learning and education were important, and I believe they saw the relevance of it all.
I taught geography, the history of rock music, and creative writing for three years, subsidizing my salary nights and weekends as a songwriter and performer. I brought John Hammond, Jr. and Johnny Shines to our little school, and my fellow teacher, Steve Vause, brought in the The Red Clay Ramblers. The Alternative School was my home. The staff was gifted, and included friends that I remember fondly, among them Robin McInturff with her red convertible VW beetle; Max Baer who was a father figure, friend, and mentor to me; Mary Margaret Fife, Ouida Zeanah, the aforementioned Mr. Vause, who had a Ph.D. or a Masters from UNC, but was originally from Sequim, Washington. Don Ellis, and John Rabon taught with me the first year, 1978, in Hueytown. I will always remember quite a few of our students, many who showed a lot of promise. Their senses of humor are what I remember most. It was a truly remarkable group of educators, inspiring people who wanted to make a difference, and did. These were the folks that Cordell Hancock had gathered around him, and we influenced the lives of those students, just as we influenced each others lives, however trite that may sound. Goodness happened there amid continual difficulties. I believe we mattered by imparting a sense of the world, and how the kids could fit in, and find something to latch on to.
Our faculty meetings were usually fun but we all had our problem kids, and sometimes inter personally with one another. Ruth and I could never get along, and I’m sure my being headstrong didn’t make her life any easier. Lord knows, she frustrated me and I think the program suffered because of her.
On a happier note, I remember Cordell, looking over at me on one occasion, and saying, “You know Harry, you are a comfort freak” He was absolutely right. I was always looking for a particular chair to flop down in, with my back to the window, away from the glare of the late afternoon Alabama sun. I remain a comfort freak, eschewing camping and things like long distance running, primarily because I have pretty serious issues with arthritis now, and comfort is way up there on my list of things I want and frequently have a hard time finding for more than an hour at a time.
Sadly, as I went searching for Cordell as I began to write this part of my story, hoping to reconnect with him, I found something online that said he died, at the age of 81, in 2006. So farewell my friend, and thank you. If there is a heaven, I hope you run marathons just for kicks all day and dance the nights away where the beer is always free and plentiful.
Birmingham, back in the late seventies, was a great place to be a singer-songwriter performing. My first gig was a Monday through Friday job at Guido’s in South Side. It was small, friendly place featuring beer, pizza, and the first Pong machine in town. I competed nightly with that machine with its digital ponk ponk ponks for months. My pay was $5 hour and the gig was from 8pm to 11pm weeknights. After the Pong machine won out, I settled in at San Francisco. Then I found a real home at Burly Earl’s a raucous and hopping establishment that sold beer by the pitcher. I played there about once a week, sometimes more often. They had a real sound system and the band drank for free. That was where I first found out about groupies. Thank you, Lord. It was my hang out. A like minded group came there for the beer, the atmosphere, and to hang out with friends. But some girls left with singer. Have guitar will travel.
At Burly’s I was influenced by another Birmingham musician, the late, but great, Tommie Joe White not to be confused with “Poke Salad Annie’s” Tony Joe White. Tommy Joe was absolutely ready for a shot at the big time. He played with his band, he did gigs solo, depending on whether it was the weekend. He did the best version of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” which was kind of an anthem. Burly Earl’s is probably long gone, but Jerry Garcia would have felt at home there. I sure did.
I don’t know when the first Earth Day was. But I played at Birmingham’s first Earth Day back in 1976. It was an indoor outdoor event. The first half of the weekend day was in a downtown park and I was one of half a dozen performers to play to a small but enthusiastic crowd. When the sun went down the organizers had Boutwell Auditorium waiting for us. The stage was way the hell up a scaffold, maybe eighteen or twenty feet in the air. I don’t know how I got up there with my guitars and all, but I probably would not do that these days. In fact, these days I don’t play guitar. The aforementioned arthritis got to the point where I had both wrists partially fused to relieve pain, back in 1995. It was around that time that I sold my two guitars, one was a bright 12 string Taylor, and the other was a dark sunburst Martin D-28 that I had bought new at Matty Umanov’s in New York City back in the eighties.
In Birmingham I was a medium sized fish in a small pond. I was occasionally tapped as the opening act when singer-songwriters had concerts in Birmingham. I opened for John Prine, who was, and is, a musical hero of mine. Ten years later, in Boston I would produce a few John Prine concerts. What a cool guy. Just a normal, considerate, “I’m OK, you’re OK” kind of guy. I recall being the opening act for Don McLean, who I also produced in a Boston area festival. It was Don McLean who encouraged me, backstage after the show, to go to Nashville or New York, if I wanted to make it in the music industry.
While I was at the same club where I fell over Cordell’s crutches, I met a different fellow, maybe ten or fifteen years older than me, who decided to be my manager, and lead me (us) to fame and fortune. Actually, he had serious money and also a serious problem with alcohol.
One of the significant things he did was contact an old friend that he had, out in Colorado, who had an interest or connection with a recording studio. So in at the start of the summer of 1977 (after school got out) he and I flew to Denver where I spent time that summer recording in a Boulder, Colorado studio while staying with Kelly McNish, one of the founders of OME Banjo, and his lovely wife who had her own shop inside the Boulderado Hotel. The M in OME Banjo is for McNish.
I loved the Boulderado, which John Prine had already immortalized in song. I even lived there part of the time. One morning, Kelly took me to a cowboy breakfast that I’ll never forgot. I recall it as the best breakfast I ever had. For the first time I had red eye gravy. There was grits, eggs, ham, it was a working man’s feast Western style. Mighty fine eatin’ as John Goodman’s character said in “Oh Brother Where Art Thou.”
I recorded demo tracks through the summer and had studio backing on many tracks from the great Tim O’Brien, a multi-instrumentalist and the equally talented Ray Bonneville on the harmonica. I never knew that Ray could sing so I was shocked when I heard a song on the radio about two years ago that I liked, and the announcer said it was Ray Bonneville. My Colorado demo tapes were shopped around in Nashville which got me meeting with Cowboy Jack Clements, a mover and shaker, but no record offer was forthcoming.
Following Don McLean’s advice, I spent the following two summers as a striving musician in New York City. I once opened for the Dixie Dregs at the Lone Star Cafe. In fact, I had three gigs at the Lone Star over the course of the two consecutive summers I spent in New York City, all as the opening act. I met two amazing local musicians, David Kleiman and Caitlin O’Sullivan, who were, at that time, a couple. I stayed on their couch the second summer I was there. While I was there, I made the rounds of all the record labels. I almost connected with Tomato Records and to a lesser extent with Bearsville. So I returned to Alabama for what was my third and last year at The Alternative School. Around Christmastime I was offered a recording contract. The company was Biograph Records and the owner, Arnold Kaplan, explained to me that while Biograph had previously been known for re-issues of Delta blues music featuring artists who were no longer living; they now wanted to ride the wave of acoustic music, working with current artists. Arnie said he was going to sign four acts for starters, Livingston Taylor, Rory Block, me and either Artie Traum or Jonathan Edwards. Arnie said that there was a catch: I had to leave Alabama and move to New York.
( Let me be the first to apologize here for the extended length of this profile. I started writing and lost track. When I finally noticed that this was becoming somewhat longer than I had originally envisioned, it got me thinking about wrapping things up. Then I had a second thought, a sort of epiphany, which was that if I continued writing, I might inadvertently back myself into a shortish book, which, when filled with numerous photos and a larger typeface so Baby Boomers like me can read it more easily, would add an untold numbers of pages, and voila, before you know it you’re an author.)
PART VII – BOSTON
I arrived in Boston in May of 1980 with a recording contract from Biograph Records. I was driving a black Chevy Citation loaded down with three guitars, a banjo, most of the clothes I owned, and a big old friendly dog, named “Happy” who I had found about six years before. Happy had been abused and mistreated by some total asshole; she had several cigarette burns on her body, was skinny as any dog could be, even though she was part lab and part Shepard. That she was starving was not something that I noticed right away. She had a kind face and was scared to death. As hungry and sick as she was, Happy would not let me approach her. It took me ten minutes before she would let me close enough to pet her and rub her ears, which would become her all-time favorite thing in the world. Boy did we bond. Happy would stay by my side through the remainder of her life. She was gentle with children, did not bark unless absolutely necessary, and was scared to death of firecrackers and extremely loud noises. July 4th wasn’t her favorite holiday. She famously followed me wherever I went. It was funny to watch. If I got up to walk to another room, Happy would pick herself up and be right behind me. She was a great companion. She lived to a ripe old age considering her past. Happy died around 1987 at about 14 or 15 which is just an educated veterinarians guess who thought she was about a year and half old when I found her. Happy had a rough start but a nice life. My daughter, Sarah’s first word was “Happy.”
I moved to Boston, primarily, to be nearer the music scene and the clubs, colleges, and coffeehouses of the Northeast at the request of Arnie Kaplan, of Biograph. He originally wanted me to move to NYC, but I had Happy and a car, and neither worked in New York City. So, I suggested Boston and Arnie agreed saying Boston was closer than Birmingham. I had gone to BU for summer school in 1969, just after my sophomore year at Alabama, so I was familiar with Boston and loved the town. And that was why and how I ended up here. The recording deal didn’t quite pan out. Scouts honor, Arnie called me about a week after Ronald Reagan was elected President and Arnie decided the world was coming to an end and cancelled our deal right then and there. Instead of working with living artists, Kaplan decided to continue re-issuing old blues recordings, which was their niche. Of course, I wound up staying in Boston and it all worked out. I met my wife of 30 years at my first cousin’s wedding about three weeks after I arrived in Boston.
Later, I found what I thought was my life’s calling when I founded FolkTree ConcertMakers, thus becoming a concert promoter and festival producer. There was actually a three year period between my arrival in Boston to the founding of FolkTree. The highlights were my marriage, my first child, and the recording of my one and only album. I also performed extensively as a singer/songwriter in those years. I had over 175 gigs one year. Probably my favorite gig was a two month long artist/performer in residence at the Jared Coffin House’s bar on the Island of Nantucket in the winter of 1983. Nantucket was emptied of tourists. I remember the wind, the fishermen and carpenters, who were there in fairly large numbers, and the thousands of rabbits all over the island. Downtown Nantucket, with its brick streets and quaint storefronts was a page out of America’s past. In 1982, I was just beginning to jog for exercise. I’d run about five miles a day and I loved running all over Nantucket Island, which has a more moderate winter (I was their version of winter back in January and February, 1983).
PART VIII. BEAR BRYANT AND ME
While I was working for two months straight as the entertainment (singer/songwriter stuff, guitar) at the Jared Coffin House pub on Nantucket, my hero, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant died very unexpectedly, back in Tuscaloosa, just weeks after he retired as the winningest coach in college football history. The Bear was such a larger than life figure in Tuscaloosa, as he was all over Alabama, and with football fans everywhere. It is hard to equate his persona with anyone these days. He was mythical, legendary, and he was occasionally visible around the University and Tuscaloosa if you knew his daily routine. You could say good morning if you were up at the crack of dawn when he ate breakfast every morning at Druid Drug Store, just a block off campus. The Bear was there rain or shine. Nobody bothered him. He was protected by the waitresses. No autographs or interruptions, nothing but the occasional “mornin’ Coach” as he sat there having breakfast. You could also see the Coach Bryant up in his tower during football season, every Monday through Thursday, looming above over the Crimson Tide practice field on Hackberry Lane. They had green tarps surrounding the Alabama football practice field, so no one could “spy” on what plays the team was practicing, but you could look up and see the Bear high up in his tower above the top of the dark green tarp. I lived in a second floor apartment right across the street, on Hackberry, for a year and while I couldn’t peer down at the field, I could watch Coach Bryant up in his tower during practices every afternoon during football season. I suppose that I said hello to Bear Bryant no more than three or four times, always in passing, each lasting a second or two. FYI, probably only a handful of his friends ever called him Bear to his face. Maybe his wife, Mary Harmon, did, but I wouldn’t bet my life on that either. It was always “Coach” or “Coach Bryant.”
Alabama was all about football and I was as loyal as they come. I still am. Anyway, I traveled to Orange Bowls, Sugar Bowls, Bluebonnet Bowls, and Cotton Bowls. I sat in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. I made every game at Legion Field in Birmingham, and every game in Tuscaloosa. Bear Bryant was walking the sidelines and we all believed. So, Roll Tide. Screw the System. Freedom for All in our Time. Did I say Roll Tide.
I do have one Bear Bryant story to tell even though it is somewhat personally embarrassing. I tell this story with a some reluctance, and I wouldn’t tell it at all if it didn’t involve Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Here goes. I was friends with several of the Alabama varsity basketball players and they would have informal summer pick up half court basketball games on the Coliseum floor, surrounded by 16,000 empty red chairs and a dark five ton scoreboard overhead. The pick up games usually involved some Bama players, a few athletic managers, maybe an assistant trainer and a few students like me who hung around some of the guys. One day, I wandered back in the Alabama Locker Room just to see it for the first time. Anyway I wandered back to explore the place. The gate to the football locker room was open. I walked inside to simply look around. The place was empty. Nobody was around. Football season was some months away, no practices, it was the offseason. God or fate surely must have tempted me because two Crimson Tide actual, authentic, game day football jerseys were just lying there on a training table. One was number #76 and the other was #91. Nobody was in there. Everyone seemed to have gone home.
The football locker room beneath Coleman Coliseum was spartan in those days (concrete floors, metal lockers.) There were training tables and long benches and the showers and the bathroom and the door to the office of the Head Athletic Trainer, Jim Goosetree, who had been there about as long as the Bear. The place was stark and not too friendly. Utilitarian. There were, however, those two Alabama Crimson Tide authentic, game day brand new football jerseys just lying there on a training table. So I picked one up and tried it on. It was way oversized and went down below my knees. I don’t know remember what else I was thinking about exactly. The next thing I knew I was walking out of the locker room carrying #76 and #91 bundled under my arm. I casually strolled out of Coleman, got in my car, and drove back to my apartment. I told my friend Norman R. what I had done and gave him jersey #76. He was sworn to secrecy.
I was careful about not wearing #91 in public. But carelessly, three or four months later I was wearing it while playing in one of our pickup games at Coleman Coliseum, the very place that I had taken the jerseys from. Suddenly, In the middle of the half court game, I looked around and saw that I was being surrounded by University policemen and one agitated and pissed off Jim Goosetree, the head trainer who apparently had the responsibility (as I soon found out) to keep track of and carefully guard the team’s game day gear. I was wearing #91 which I had taken to a seamstress to shorten (she took it up and hemmed it about a foot since the thing originally went down below my knees). Well, they took me by the arm and ushered me over to the side and Goosetree got in my face and screamed “where is #76 ?” As I was later to learn, no Alabama football game day jersey had ever gone missing. They apparently guarded them like the crown jewels and counted them regularly to make sure they had them all. They had never lost one and they were now catching the master jewel thief who had escaped their grasp. I am sure that Goose got an earful from somebody higher up when they first found out that two of their game jerseys were gone. I would have thought that Alabama would have had an equipment manager, and I presume they did, but it was Jim Goosetree, Alabama athletic trainer that he was, in my grill, bigtime. He was cussin’ and threatening me with expulsion, among other things, and I stood there trying to assess the situation and my alternatives, with that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you have done something and been caught.
Goose was all over the place like a quacking duck, screaming at me. He wanted the jersey off my back, but somehow in a moment of calmness, with my promising on my life that I would get the other jersey and return both in a few hours, I was released on personal recognizance. I noticed that the basketball players had moved way across to the other side of the floor and were all pretending they didn’t know me. I explained to Goosetree and the cops that I had given the other jersey to a friend and I would have to find him first. This was before the days of cellphones and I actually had to drive all over Tuscaloosa to track him down.
Driving around I sort of had an epiphany. I came up with a gameplan to return the two jerseys. It was a hell of a gamble but it seemed like the way to go. So I drove back to my apartment and I called up Coach Bryant’s office at the Athletic Department in Coleman Coliseum. I almost hung up the phone, but instead I went ahead and asked for an appointment to see Coach Bryant. When Becky Morton Guy, who happened to be a high school classmate of mine (she was Coach’s secretary), asked me what the nature of my wanting to Coach Bryant was, I indicated that it was something of a private matter.
I was given an appointment. 2pm the next day. Can’t back out now. I had to go through with my plan, which I was in the process of figuring out.
Right after hanging up the phone, I went into action and drove over to The Locker Room (The Locker Room was a preppy, conservative, higher-end men’s clothing store that I had occasionally shopped at. It is still in business there today) and asked them for a large shirt box. The irony of the name Locker Room escaped me (until now), under the circumstances. I drove back to my apartment and carefully folded both #76 and #91 in the box, tissue paper and all.
The next day at 1:45pm, I walked into Coleman Coliseum and took the elevator up to Coach Bryant’s office. My gameplan was to admit my mistake and confess the errors of my way, face to face. And to act remorseful, but with self pride. I was confident that Bryant knew the difference between what I had done and robbing the First National Bank.
I was ushered in and there he was, sitting like Paul “Bear” Bryant himself (which he sure as hell was) behind his big desk. There were trophies and footballs, and memorabilia everywhere. The place was solid Oak, or Cherry, or Mahogany. The walls, the desk. He sat looking at me from his leather chair and he said, “Nice to see you. How can I help you?” or something along those lines.
His voice was familiar to every Alabamian. As he watched me, I introduced myself, and began to confess the details of my “crime” trying not to speak too fast, trying to remember the outline of a little “speech” that I had written the night before. I was actually pretty damn eloquent, if I do say so myself, in telling Coach that I probably did not “deserve “to wear the Crimson Tide jersey since I had not “earned that right” on the football field. I handed him both crimson jerseys wrapped in the Locker Room box.
For the life of me, I don’t know what he said next. I do remember leaving and thinking to myself, “well fool, that went pretty damn well.” My adrenaline was screaming by the time I unlocked my car and drove away. Coach Bryant and I settled the matter and it was over and done.
Now and again, I saw Coach Bryant around town, here and there, and we would nod to each other, but we never spoke. Just for the record, I never went back again to the half court, pick up basketball game at Coleman Coliseum.
This whole rigamarole was out of character for me. I knew right from wrong. I was an Eagle Scout and very proud of that fact. I suppose the lure of those authentic new Crimson Tide game jerseys was simply too resistible. Temptation. But the story isn’t over quite yet.
Fast forward several years. Coach Bryant wrote a book with John Underwood, a senior writer from Sports Illustrated, about his life. When the book came out, Coach had a book signing in Tuscaloosa, at Gayfers in the McFarland Mall. Unbeknownst to me, my Dad stood in a long, long line waiting to have Coach Bryant sign a few books. The Bear knew my Dad slightly since my father was a longtime professor at the University, and lettered in basketball at Alabama back in the late 1930s. So Dad buys several books to give as presents and he asks Coach to sign a few for him and then he asked Coach to sign one for his son, Harry Lipson.
I was given the book as a Christmas or birthday present and immediately my Dad instructed me to open the book and look inside the front cover where Coach had written something that my father didn’t understand. Dad said that when he had asked Coach Bryant what it meant, The Bear just smiled and moved on to the next in line.
Inside the book’s front cover it read: ” To Harry 76/ 91. Very Best Wishes, - Coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.”
I told my Dad that I had no idea what it meant. But, thanks, Coach.
PART IX – GARRISON KEILLOR & PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
I first started as a concert producer and festival promoter in 1983 if you don’t count the Johnny Shines concert in Birmingham back in 1979. I started out small and eventually progressed to major artists and big time events. Of all the artists I worked with, the most amazing person was Garrison Keillor.
My admiration for the radio show led me to connect with GK and I produced him in a one man show at The Wang Center in Boston. We sold out all 3500 seats easily, and it was a memorable night. GK was in top form and he was both accessible to me and delightful on stage.
All in all, I would produce about twelve Garrison Keillor concerts, plus one very memorable A Prairie Home Companion, which was broadcast live to the world and all ships at sea, as APHC Returned to the Radio Airwaves, after Garrison surprisingly came out of his Danish retirement to revive the show. A year or two before, Garrison had ended the radio show and retired to surprised sadness for fans of the show.
To be returning to the air even for just one night, coming out of retirement was national news. I produced the show at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. Garrison, tongue in cheek, called it the “The 2nd Annual A Prairie Home Companion Farewell Show.” Garrison invited the old gang from the radio show, and when the clock struck the top of the hour, we went live on the air to homes, cars, and front porches all over the world. Garrison casually stepped onto the stage, walking back into show business, wearing his customary red socks and black tuxedo.
It was, of course, a terrific show. I knew what Garrison expected, having done the Wang Theatre show, and Mechanics Hall and Garrison Keillor were made for each other. He had a lot to say about the much larger than life gold framed oil paintings of the two dozen Union Generals from the Civil War which ring the walls on three sides of Mechanics Hall, whose name implies blue collar, no frills, but this Mechanics Hall is elegant, historic, and dressed for the governor’s ball.
The next day, we had coffee before his flight and we discussed doing other events together. At that point he was officially out of retirement, I suppose, but the radio show and Minnesota Public Radio had not gone back on the air.
I began to plan for a Garrison Keillor show at Carnegie Hall. I booked several dates that worked for me and brought the idea to GK. Up to that time he had never headlined Carnegie. We agreed to a date and I began to think about the logistics. Maybe a month went by and I got a phone call from Garrison and he asked me what I thought about taking the Carnegie show “on the road” so that by the time we hit New York, the show would be fine tuned.
Well, for sure GK. That was a no brainer but the logistics were pretty staggering. I plotted out a tour of five cities, Garrison put them in his calendar and off we went. Pretty soon, Garrison called to ask if it was OK if he brought Chet Atkins along for the ride. I was on the phone all day long for a few weeks orchestrating sound, lights, and staging, airplanes, buses, hotels and catering. In each city, guest lists were prepared, special invites went out, publicity and promotion plans kicked in, and tickets went on sale all over the Northeast.
Naturally, Garrison invited all of the Prairie Home regulars and off we all went on a six show in five city whirlwind tour that had shows in Burlington, VT, New Haven, CT, Pittsburgh, PA, Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA again, and then to the extraordinary Academy of Music in Philadelphia, where on the Sunday before Carnegie Hall, Garrison stepped up to the mike for a matinee performance followed by an evening show. Six thousand Philly fans were in the palm of his hand. The venerable Academy of Music, a theatre the equal of any, probably never shook with laughter like it did that day. We were fined tuned to a fair-the-well and ready to hit the Big Apple. It was time to take the show to Broadway, or in this case, to 57th Street.
Side Note: About two weeks before the Carnegie date, I got a call from the Disney Channel and they, in a somewhat heavy handed manner, swooped in, and taped the concert for a Disney Channel TV Special. Our stage plans changed overnight, the lighting and sound obviously had to change dramatically, some seating, already sold, was disrupted for stationary camera positions and quite a few not so little things like that. But even if they acted less than professionally, the show itself was great. There is a VCR tape, maybe even a DVD available for sale somewhere in the Disney catalog. It is called “A Pretty Good Night At Carnegie Hall with Garrison Keillor.”
In case you are interested, Garrison is the real deal. If you want to call him brilliant, I would say absolutely. Humorous? Not any more than anyone else, offstage, maybe even less so. He is a writer first. Writers are happily married to theirs laptops. So he required significant solitude and space to write.
I liked Garrison before I actually got to know him, just when I was listening to his show on the radio; and I liked him after I got to know him. He also made quick, on-the-spot production decisions, which I never failed to appreciate.
fyi- A little free advice on how you should handle yourself around famous people if you want them to connect with you:
One of the first things you learn working with great talent is that there are certain things that always need to be done if you want a happy camper. Good food, real not fancy, privacy, space, organization, stage management, timing cues, etc. Once they understand that you have things managed in a smooth way, they know that they are going to be comfortable out on stage, that they will have great sound and quality lighting, no hassles, and they can see first hand that things are organized, running efficiently, and their expectations are being met (and then some), they generally relax and begin to trust you. The second thing you learn is to not treat them as if they are made of 6th Century china. It doesn’t work, it’s awkward if you allow yourself to become awed by the talent or star shine. They want normal. That is the secret. You give them space, don’t fawn over them, and they’ll probably relax around you. Treat people like people, and when they realize that your team knows what it is doing, chances are you connect with them, more or less as equals, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Being starstruck is a buzzkill. They know who they are. You know who they are. So, treat them well but don’t fall all over yourself. They have their job and you have your job, so keep working until the curtain rises. You’re going to remember them a long time afterwards. They probably won’t think of you nearly as often as you think of them. They may never think of you again, but roll with it, and don’t take yourself too seriously. I always made it a point to be just offstage when the artist was about to go on. They are about to walk into the spotlight, wish them luck, let them focus and get fired up, and then they go onstage. It was a natural high to be there then. That old adrenaline rush almost every single time.
PART X- GEORGE BUSH’S SISTER, NANCY. AND TALES OF CHAPPAQUIDICK
FolkTree had a great 13 year run as one of the players on the Boston and New England music scene. Ultimately FolkTree produced concerts and festivals from Burlington, VT to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and Carnegie Hall. But our home base was Boston, Cambridge and also Worcester.
As time went on, FolkTree naturally diversified into country music, jazz, bluegrass music, the blues, and some pop-rock shows. Along the way, I founded the BeanTown Jazz Fest and Bluegrass Heaven, which became an annual tradition for a number of years, alfresco, at the DeCordova Museum amphitheater in Lincoln, MA (that ended when Nancy Ellis Bush, George H.W. Bush c E As sister, complained about the cars and all the noise. She lived down the road at the time). The Chief of Police in Lincoln, home of the DeCordova, was Big Jim Arena, who interestingly, had been the Chief of Police on Martha’s Vinyard when Ted Kennedy lost control of his car on Chappaquiddick Bridge. I had to coordinate our summer outdoor festivals with him. Traffic, security, town permits, etc. and we became friendly. Chief Arena loved to talk, he was a garrulous, fun loving guy, and I liked his jokes. The Chief was a permanent fixture at every show we did out there, and he used to tell me stories about what happened that night on Chappaquiddick , but, as interested as I was, I was always so busy at my concerts that I could never recall what he had said when I woke up the following day. He may have told me all the secrets and the whole cover-up. Working, as I was, with a thousand things on my mind, none of it registered. Easy come, easy go.
PART XI. SAVING THE LIFE OF JOE KENNEDY, MY CONGRESSMAN, AND A KENNEDY
Joe Kennedy is very well known around Boston, obviously, as a prominent member of the Kennedy Family. At the time I “saved his life” he was my Congressman, as well. Highly visible now, as the founder of Citizens Energy, Joe, no longer a Congressman, delivers home heating oil from Venezeula to those who cannot afford it, in the winter months of Boston. He is a good man and I saved his life, so to speak. Had I not been paying attention or had my reflexes been off just a tad, my life would have been ruined, his life would have ended, and a lot of poor folks who have had warmer winters, would have suffered in the cold.
Here is what happened. I was in my car one Sunday, driving alone, going toward the DeCordova on Sandy Pond Road in Lincoln, which is a rural, picturesque, quiet tree shaded road that winds past fancy houses set back from the road, through the woods and around Sandy Pond, which is I think of as large enough, everywhere else, to be called a lake.
As I reached the blind turn driving West (from Concord) around the curve at the DeCordova museum’s entrance, a certain Congressman, on his ten speed, ZOOMS DOWN, CAREENS, HURTLES himself down the sloping front entrance road right in the middle of Sandy Pond Road. I don’t believe for a second that he looked left or right, before barreling out just as I was rounding the blind curve. Being the superhero that I am trained to be, I recognized that he was in imminent danger and took evasive superhero type action.
I braked extremely violently, slamming them, emergency style, except harder than that. I stopped abruptly screeching to a sudden stop, on a smokey dime, less than a yard in front of an idiot daredevil on his bike. In the middle of the road. Wouldn’t you know it, it was my Congressman. I recognized him instantly even with a look of fright on his face. He was not wearing a bike helmet and had on a yellow biking jersey. There he was sitting frozen on his ten speed.
I watched his face turn from fright to sheepishness and then to a “that was close, wasn’t it, my friend” look. We did not speak. I did not get out of my car. We sat there for five or ten seconds, then Joe nodded, looked down, and picked up his common sense, which he had briefly lost, and slowly proceeded to pedalaround the side of my car, and we continued in opposite directions just like nothing had ever happened. Like all superheroes, he, to this day, has no idea who I was. He went one way, I went the other, looking for a phone booth where I could change back into my street clothes.
PART XII. FOLKTREE CONCERT MAKERS, my concert company
Getting back to FolkTree, I produced a number of historic Festivals of Women in Music. When women-oriented groups and newspapers, in Boston and Cambridge, made a two year long fuss about having a man (me) producing women in concert, it was Holly Near and Chris Williamson, among others, who spoke out loudly and clearly and graced our stage over and over. Myrna Johnston, a world class sound engineer, with whom we often worked, added her first hand accounts of happily working with us, as did our long time lighting designer, Holly Gettings. Our wonderfully organized stage manager, Cris Newport, wrote eloquently on FolkTree’s behalf, for which I am very appreciative personally. Thanks for stepping up Cris. The great photographer Susan Wilson helped us too, and last but not least, Judy Dlugasz of Olivia Records was a rock of support for me throughout. I will forever be grateful to those pioneering women. The late Elizabeth Cotten made her final appearance on our stage at one of those shows, literally falling asleep briefly between songs. Shake Sugaree, Libba. You go Chris and Holly.
Sanders Theatre at Harvard was my all-time favorite concert hall. When Richard Thompson performed there for us, he remarked that he felt like he was inside a guitar. Brilliant. It was also at Sanders that FolkTree would produce an important one-off multi-night, anti-apartheid protest concert calling on Harvard to divest its holding in apartheid South Africa. Pete Seeger hosted both nights, and the bill was filled with great artists. FolkTree also produced Arlo Guthrie for a while, during Thanksgiving week, in his hilarious annual Alice c E As Restaurant Massacre concert. We also connected with Tom Rush for annual New Years shows at Symphony Hall for a while. Actually, for several years we rented Symphony Hall so frequently that we were just behind the Boston Symphony and The Boston Pops in dates booked there. FolkTree developed a longstanding relationship with the great Texas songwriter, Nanci Griffith. From 1985 to 1995, she was a mainstay in our lineup just about every year. In 1992 we sold out the 2,500 seat Symphony Hall for three consecutive nights for Nanci and her FolkTree fans. Nanci proved loyal to us and we were to her.
The partial, but substantial list of artists and performers that FolkTree presented, over the years, included (in no particular order) Pete Seeger, Loudon Wainright III, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Tuck and Patti, Guy Clark, Paul Winter Consort, Jesse Winchester, Taj Mahal, Odetta, Chet Atkins, Leo Kottke, Donovan, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Roches, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Don McLean, Mac MacAnally, Jonathan Edwards, Randy Brecker, Dolores Keane, David Bromberg, Pierce Pettis, Bill Staines, Cris Williamson, Garrison Keillor, Steve Earle, New Grass Revival, The Battlefield Band, The Rippingtons, Mary Black, Tish Hinojosa, Dougie MacLean, Maura OConnell, Richard Thompson, Gary P. Nunn, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, Acoustic Alchemy, Dave Grusin, Frances Black, DeDannan, Beausoleil, Iris Dement, Larry Coryell, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Christine Lavin, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pat Flynn, Jim Rooney, Tom Kimmel, Butch Hancock, Judy Small, The Chenille Sisters, John Cowan, Connie Kaldor, Spyro Gyra, The O’Kanes, Lee Ritenour, The Seldom Scene, Willis Alan Ramsey, Melanie, Inti Illimani, Linda Tillery, Turtle Island String Quartet, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Lucy Kaplansky, Jack Hardy, Patty Griffin, Pop Wagner, Peter Ostroushko, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Liv Taylor, Garnet Rogers, Bill Morrissey, Perfect Gospel Quartet, James McMurtry, Kate MacKenzie, Dianne Davidson, Kathy Mattea, Phranc, Rory Block, George Gritzbach, Artie Traum, Guy Van Duser and Billy Novick, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Rosalie Sorrels, U.Utah Phillips, Jean Redpath, John Fahey, Dwight Yoakam, Eric Schoenberg, Preston Reed, Mimi Farina, Cormac McCarthy, Linda Thompson, Bob Franke, Chris Smither, Paul Geremia, Harvey Reid, Tony Trischka, Patty Larkin, The Tannahill Weavers, Judy Small, Norman Blake, David Benoit, Holly Near, Robin and Linda Williams, Jane Sapp, Josh White, Jr., David Massengill, The Kuumba Singers, Butch Thompson, Roy Blount Jr, Liz Story, Michael Hedges, Cindy Kallet, Si Kahn, Tom Paxton, John McCutcheon, Buskin & Batteau, Kate Wolf, Ferron, Barbara Higbie, John Prine, Noel Paul Stookey, Red Clay Ramblers, Tony Rice, Claudia Schmidt, Steve Wariner, Buffy St. Marie, Ernie Watts, Leon Redbone, Gary P. Nunn, Carla Sciaky, Nanci Griffith and the Blue Moon Orchestra, Rod MacDonald, Tom Chapin, David Olney, Roy Husky Jr., Darden Smith, Larry Long, Ellen McIlwaine, Queen Ida, Casselberry-Dupree, The Persuasions, The Deighton Family, Tony Bird, Eliza Gilkyson, Heather Bishop, Tret Fure, Sally Rogers, Elijah Wald, Brooks Williams, Dave Mallett, Schooner Fare, Solomon’s Seal, Bright Morning Star, Dave Valentin, New Black Eagle Jazz Band, Priscilla Herdman, John Perreault, Betsy Rose, Gail Rundlett, Scott Alarik, The Chicken Chokers, Prudence Johnson, Jeanie Stahl, Judy Polan, k.d. lang, Townes Van Zandt, Mary McCaslin, Cathy Fink, Bill and Bonnie Hearne, Santiago Jimenez, Geoff Bartley, Lui Collins, Steven Fromholz, Rick and Lorraine Lee, Richard Meyer, Frank Christian, Cindy Mangsen, Dalgleish, Larsen, and Sutherland, Bob Gibson, John Gorka, Kim Wallach, Carrie Barton, Deb Silverstein, Suzanne Vega, Willie Nininger, Carolyn Hester, Fred Small, Cathy Winter, Eric Frandsen, Cheryl Wheeler, Tom Rush, Bobby Bridger, Arlo Guthrie, Lucie Blue Tremblay, Teresa Trull, Marti Jones, John Hartford, Greg Brown, Jack Lawrence, and Doc Watson. This list, while extensive, is not actually complete.
Another venue we often used was the Berklee Performance Center. FolkTree did dozens of shows there. It was not my favorite theatre. BPC had rigid management and staff, bordering on hostile about half the time, a sterile backstage environment. The “green room” always gave it a very un-FolkTree like feel. The management there made us feel like we were trespassing, even though we were paying top dollar for the priviledge. FolkTree was also first to bring live music to the Somerville Theatre, a now popular venue. One of the many concerts we produced at the Somerville Theatre was the 150th Sesquicentennial concert of Texas. We had two or three dozen of the finest artists Texas ever raised, including Tex-Mex pioneers.
FolkTree produced a handful of shows at The NightStage in Cambridge, including Steve Earle, James McMurtry, and Townes Van Zant at a club in Jamaica Plain. But my favorite venue was Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. Boston’s Symphony Hall, and Mechanics Hall in Worcester (which was a glory to behold) with its pipe organ and its balcony ringed by huge, larger than life portraits of many of the Union generals in the Civil War, were two wonderful, almost magical places to produce concerts. FolkTree used both extensively and almost always sold out those show.
I will tell you a couple of stories. I once played nine holes of golf with Stephen Stills (superb guitarist, perturbed golfer, although it may have been his first time on a golf course). Stephen wanted to play, we met at my golf course and headed out in a cart. He had a gig that night at the Comcast Center in Mansfield. The first hole he was rusty, sprayed the ball all over the place. I chalked it up to his lack utter lack of warm up. Next hole he was probably worse. This went on for nine holes, I was acting nonchalant, trying to keep his mind on anything other than his truly dreadful game. I even wondered if he had ever played on a real course before. Stephen was obviously extremely embarrassed and grew a little more frustrated on each hole. I was playing very well, maybe a couple over par, which added to both our discomfort. Thankfully after the opening nine holes, he found a convenient excuse to head back to the hotel. I love his music. He is a genius guitarist, a great songwriter, and is idolized by many. Chalk that one up to; we can’t do everything well. Very painful for both of us.
Another time, Ramblin c E A Jack Elliott stayed at our house for about a month, when the assumption wasn’t leave the next day, the morning after the concert. After several weeks, my wife was nudging me in the ribs, wanting me to make a few maybe not so subtle suggestions to Jack. He is a prince of a person, his heart is pure gold, and I was really enjoying his rambles, conversations. He is a verbal fellow and is highly entertaining, even one on one. Officially in my home he is known as Non-Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
The first time I met the late, great John Hartford was at a concert he was doing for FolkTree at the Town Hall. John got pretty famous early in his career for having written the great song “Gentle On My Mind.” The day we met he pulled up in his tour bus and his wife started hauling out records, tapes, and posters to be sold in the lobby of the hall. At some point, I guess I casually asked John casually if he would sign a poster for our office wall. He rolled up his long white shirtsleeves, raised his arms, took two sharpies out, one for each hand, and began confidently signing his name both forwards and backwards at the same time, with flourish. Fancy swirls and curlicues, and filigreed to a fare the well. John Hartford’s, two handed mirror image, simultaneous calligraphy was an amazing sight to witness. His signature easily put John Hancock to shame.
I will always remember one evening in particular when Garrison Keillor, drained from having just finishing his show, walked out to meet and greet a line of several hundred nicely cued up well wishing concert goers who were each hoping to see him or have a quick word with Garrison to tell him how much he has meant to them. That night, and on others to follow, Garrison Keillor talked to each person, going through the whole line of well wishers, giving each of them all the time in the world. He personalized autographs for them, listened to their stories, looked them in the eye and had follow up questions for them. This went on for almost two hours. I realized that he had no intention of leaving until the last person in the line had talked with him. He never looked at his watch once. I found the experience both humbling to witness and truly inspirational.
I met Otis Redding in 1964 after he performed in Tuscaloosa, in the now infamous Fosters Auditorium (where Gov. George Wallace, a bigoted man, stood in the school house door defying federal troops and Nicholas Katzenbach, an assistant Attorney General of the United States, during the Kennedy Presidency) and after the show I waited back stage to meet him and get his autograph. Otis Redding was TALL, and was wearing a plum colored vested suit. He was sweating like a horse but was happy to oblige. I asked him to sign two of the programs from the show. I still have one, I gave the other to my son on his 21st birthday. Sadly, I had bought tickets for another Otis Redding show that never happened. Florence Clark called me to break our concert date as she let me know about his plane crash. Footnote: Otis Redding signed his autograph “Respect, Otis Redding, (as you can see in the attached photo).”
PART XI – CHANGE OF PLANS
All things come to an end. That would happen to FolkTree. I realized that the financial risks of the business had escalated to a point where some of the time, I was writing six figure guarantees to artists long before we had sold a single ticket. Gradually, the business became riskier than I could comfortably afford. I was losing sleep and the stresses were starting to change me. This didn’t happen overnight and I had decidedly mixed feelings about closing FolkTree. On one hand I wanted it to continue, but on the other, we kept rolling the dice. So I simply called it a day. Very quietly, without fanfare. No notice was ever given, no announcements were made. No articles were written about our leaving the music scene. It was time for a change.
PART XIII. TRACY CHAPMAN
Looking back one of our early concerts in 1984 included an completely unknown musician I semi-discovered in the basement of a used paperback bookstore in Somerville on one particular evening. A staff person had been in the store and called me up and I drove over. There was no stage, no microphone. She was singing, essentially, to a handful of book buyers rummaging the shelves. Her name was Tracy Chapman and she was a young student from Cleveland studying at Tufts. She was cautious and shy at first. We gave her a microphone, a stage, an audience to sing in front of. She brought the house down. People were amazed. Tracy graced our stage a handful of times in those early days. When the Koppelmans offered her the major label recording contract she called me for advice about signing with them or with Rounder Records. I advised her to sign with Rounder, knowing many artists who had been dropped abruptly from major labels. She chose otherwise and the rest is history. Ironically, it was Tracy who starred in the final FolkTree concert (I chose not to tell her). I knew the door was closing that night, but I didn c E At want to acknowledge this to her. The concert wasn’t well attended. We lost money that night. Tracy arrived with a bad head cold. When Tracy walked off stage at the end of her show, roadies loaded out, our sound and lights were struck and the stage went dark for good. FolkTree was over. It took me quite a while to recover my equilibrium. Afterwards, I worked in real estate and property management, something I still have my hand in. But it has been music and its culture that have been a central focus point throughout my life since age 12 or 13.
In 1969, I lived in Boston where I briefly went to school, at BU, and had the benefit of the pre and post Woodstock music scene. I was there for a lot of great live music that summer. I will blog about some of it at another time. The first night I arrived in Boston I saw Sam and Dave at the Sugar Shack. The next night I saw Canned Heat at the Tea Party. That was a magical summer and the music on the radio was Crosby Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell, J.J. Jackson, and Howlin c E A Wolf. The FM radios played CSN ‘s Suite Judy Blue Eyes and In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans. I hitch hiked to Newport Pop/Folk and the Atlantic City Pop Festival which was held about two weeks prior to Woodstock. I had purchased my advanced three-day ticket (#22408) Woodstock Festival ticket at one of the head shops on Comm. Ave. or Charles Street, and when the day came I departed by South Station on a Peter Pan bus. I got to Port Authority just as they were shutting down the New York Thruway, so I simply spent the weekend in the Big Apple. I went back to see Hair on Broadway. Although I never made Woodstock, my original untorn three day ticket and my purple glossy brochure hang framed on the wall of my office. From what I heard, it was a pretty good show and they had a nice turnout. Years later, as FolkTree’s founder, I got to witness a lot more great music up close and meet lots of talented folks. It was a ride worth taking. In some ways I am still on it, I ‘m just not watching the weather, worrying about ticketing, or wheeling and dealing with agents and managers. Good Times for sure.
PART XIV. - CONCLUSION
Nowadays, I listen to a whole lot of great music. My tastes were defined a long time ago, but I am always looking for Amazing and I find it listening to XM radio, Pandora, various local FM stations. I rarely go out to see live music. I suppose I have seen my share. Musically, my horizons have both broadened and deepened.
Photography became important to me in the past year. Amazingly, that coincided with my buying a pretty good camera and some pretty good lenses. Who knew? Having a creative outlet has probably forestalled my midlife crisis. I feel confident now with a camera in my hand. Happily, my observational skills were always pretty decent, so I am having a crackerjack time shooting and editing my work. Shockingly to some, I have given up golf for photography. Not that the two are mutually exclusive. I just find that I prefer spending time shooting photographs rather than shooting for birdies.
I have two children, both grown, who are the apples of my eye, the lights of my life.
My daughter Sarah, 29, has seen the world. She spent a year with WorldTeach living in spartan conditions on the Majuro atoll in the Marshall Islands. Then Sarah was chosen as a Fulbright Scholar and spent a year living in northwestern Turkey. Sarah may be the only person in the world who speaks Marshallese, English, and Turkish. Seriously.
These days, she is living in Ann Arbor, working on her PhD in Education at the University of Michigan, having earned her undergraduate degree from Tufts University, where she played varsity lacrosse; and her Masters at Harvard, where she was a Proctor and an assistant to the Dean of the Harvard College. For several summers, Sarah volunteered at the Hole In the Wall Camp, in Ashford, CT, founded by Paul Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward, to give a world class camp experience to kids that have cancer and blood disorders. They do an amazing job there. Sarah’s doctoral research, including several grants and projects she is involved with, are focusing in on eating disorders in the student population.
Sarah was recently chosen as one of only six Emerging Scholars in the whole nation. She is on her way to bigger and better.
My son, Andy, 25, is an all around great guy. He will give you the shirt off his back. No finer person to be found anywhere. Among other things, he is a highly knowledgeable sports aficionado, a movie buff, and an athlete. His people skills are truly exceptional. He has a rare and natural ability to make people, even strangers, feel at home around him. The staff at Costco know his name and shout out hellos as he shops. He connects with waitresses and bus drivers. Nobody has a bad word to say about him. Andy also has spectacular observational skills.
These days Andy has just about recovered from major back surgery, but he is rehabbing pretty well and getting healthier. He was co captain of his high school golf team and started on the Arlington High varsity basketball team.
Andy graduated from Bentley University two years ago, he then worked for Art Technology Group until it was bought by Oracle in 2011. Andy now works in South Boston for Rue La La, working in their finance department. Andy’s future plans may include law school or an MBA. And as it turns out, Andy is a bit of a music fan himself, having traveled to Bonnaroo in Tennessee and to many New England shows. During college he worked four consecutive summers at Fenway Park as a vendor selling water and peanuts. I have no doubt that it taught him the value of money and the level of work it takes to become successful; two pretty good traits to have when you are 25. Andy is also a mentor in the Big Brothers – Little Brothers. I am extraordinarily proud of my children.
I have been blessed, and that is something I try never to take for granted. Although I am a son of the South and identify myself as such, I love Boston which has been my home for 32 years. And not too long ago I realized that I have lived longer in Massachusetts than in Alabama. I was only in Mississippi briefly. So that’s the story. I write, take photographs, and a good deal of it ends up right here in HarryShots. I hope that you’ll visit this website regularly for the music and the quotes, the photography, and more.
Good health and happiness to you,
Click These Songs to Go to the Post
- “Here Comes The Sun” by Yellow Dubmarine
- “Homemade Boat” by Dry Land Fish
- “Feelin Alright (LIVE)” by The Black Crowes
- Sid Selvidge 1943-2013. An Appreciation
- “Graceland” (LIVE version) by Paul Simon
- “Dirty Water” (Boston, You’re My Home) by The Standells (1966)
- “Golden Slumbers” (The Beatles) by UAKTI
- “Here Comes The Sun” by UAKTI
- Annette Funicello – The Mickey Mouse Club – A Thank You
- “Four and Twenty” – Chris Hillman
- “Wenyukela” – by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
- “Calico Train (instrumental)” by Steve Martin
- “Treetop Flyer” by Stephen Stills
- “I Like It Like That” by Chris Kenner
- “Xiger Xiger” by Hanggai
- “Hill Country Girl” by Will Kimbrough
- “I’m Going Home” by the late, great Alvin Lee
- “This Morning I Am Born Again” – by Lucy Kaplansky
- “Hope of A Lifetime” by The Milk Carton Kids
- “Feelin’ Alright” by Joe Cocker
- “Carolina Traveler” by John McEuen and Earl Scruggs
- “Tumblin” by Arlen Roth with Sonny Landreth
- “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
- “Far From Me” by Justin Townes Earle
- “Lost John Dean” by Kane, Welch, and Kaplan
- “Ripple” (live) by Jimmy Ibbotson
- “Daniel and The Sacred Harp” (alternate take) by The Band
- “Texas Style Zydeco” by Shelley King
- “Detroit Steel” by Otis Gibbs
- “Glory, Hallelujah” by The Deep Dark Woods
- “City of Immigrants” by Steve Earle
- “Yea Alabama” by The Alabama Million Dollar Band
- “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- “Mama’s Little Baby” by Delbert McClinton
- “Auld Lang Syne” by Dougie Maclean
- “Nothing But The Wheel” by Peter Wolf
- “The Happy Organ” by Dave “Baby” Cortez
- “What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life” by Maurice Larcange
- “Ave Maria” by Josh Groban
- “Away In A Manger” by Patty Loveless
- “We Three Kings (of Orient Are)” by Jimmy Smith
- “Ding! Dong! Merrily On High” by The Kings College Choir
- “For Unto Us A Child Is Born” by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
- “Veni Emmanuel” by Stile Antico
- “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
- “Midnight Clear” by The Trans Siberian Orchestra
- “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by the Ambrosian Singers and Leonard Raver, organist
- “Come On In My Kitchen” by Peter Green and Nigel Watson
- “Do Wah Diddy” by Manfred Mann
- “Mexican Home” by John Prine with Josh Ritter
- “Three Chords” by Dan Reeder
- “Am I Wrong?” by Al Kooper
- “White Cliffs of Dover” by Vera Lynn
- “Shenandoah Breakdown” by Jerry Douglas
- “This Flower” by Kasey Chambers
- “Over The River and Through The Woods”
- “Bama Bound” by Danny Brooks
- “If I Go, I’m Goin’ ” by Gregory Alan Isakov
- “The Path to Your Door” by Walt Wilkins
- “Drive” (For Daddy Gene) by Alan Jackson
- “Nancy Whiskey” by Gaelic Storm
- “Green Green” by The New Christy Minstrels
- “Move Up” by Patty Griffin & Friends
- “Through To Sunrise” by Girlyman
- GO VOTE FOR SOMEONE. YOUR CHOICE. TODAY. NOW.
- “Brand New Tennessee Waltz” by Jesse Winchester
- “Yea Alabama” by The University of Alabama Million Dollar Band
- “My Tennessee Mountain Home” by Dolly Parton
- “Amarillo Highway” by Terry Allen
- “Soul Man” by Sam & Dave
- “Give Me Time” by Dawes
- “Y’all Come Back Saloon” by The Oak Ridge Boys
- “Aberdeen” by Bukka White
- “Catfish John” by Joe Higgs with Toots and the Maytals
- “Blackwaterslide” by Bert Jansch
- “Homegrown Tomatoes” by Misty River
- “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle” by The Merry Macs
- “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature” by The Guess Who
- “Angeline” by Blue Moon Rising
- “Last Letter Home” by Russell Smith and The Amazin’ Rhythm Aces
- “Fireball Mail” (1942) by Roy Acuff
- Blessissippi: a 14 minute MUST SEE film from “EXPLORE.ORG about The Blues and Missisissippi, and The South
- “New Railroad” by Crooked Still
- “Where The Blues Began” by Artie Traum
- “Orphan” by Sam Baker
- “Midnight On The Water” by Caroline Herring
- “Looking for The Heart of Saturday Night” by Tom Waits
- 3 Songs by JOHN STARLING: “Long Time Gone” – “Dark Hollow” – & “Jordan”
- “Sweet Soul Music” by Arthur Conley
- “Saints and Sinners” by David Francey
- “Souvenirs” (LIVE) by John Prine and Steve Goodman
- “Oh, Amarillo” by Emmylou Harris
- “Choctaw Bingo” by Ray Wylie Hubbard
- “Crossroads” by The Allman Joys (early version of Allman Brothers Band)
- “Outfit” by Drive By Truckers
- “Abraham, Martin, & John” by Andy Williams – R.I.P.
- “Twilight Time” by The Three Suns
- “Roll Um Easy” by Lowell George and Little Feat
- “Hard Being Right” by A.J. Roach
- “Church Street Blues” by Norman Blake
- “I’m Dreaming of A White President” by Randy Newman
- “Music You Mighta Made” by Gurf Morlix
- “Queen of the Silver Dollar” by Emmylou Harris
- “Wash And Fold” by Will Kimbrough with Tommy Womack (Daddy)
- “The Carnival Song” by Jeff Black
- “Green Eyed Girl” by Greg Trooper
- “Coming Home” by Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
- “CALLING TRAINS”
- “Jubilation T. Cornpone” from the Broadway musical L’il Abner
- “Annachie Gordon” by The Unthanks
- “Lodi” by Jeffrey Foucault
- “Wichita Falls” (live) by Houston Marchman
- “Wilson Pickett” by Tim Krekel Orchestra
- “Sweet Tequila Blues” by Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez
- “Come Go With Me” by The Del Vikings
- “A Prayer For My Friends” by Terri Hendrix
- “Coahoma” by Corey Harris
- “Ford Econoline” by Nanci Griffith
- “A Lover’s Question” by Clyde McPhatter
- “Mohawk River” by Ramsay Midwood
- “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills, & Nash
- “Rising of The Moon” – Riverdance
- “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly and The Crickets, with Wolfman Jack
- “Mean Old World” by Duane Allman and Eric Clapton
- “Handsome Molly” by Newfound Road
- “Jessica” by The Allman Brothers
- “Glory Bound” by The Wailin’ Jennys
- “Saved” by Bob Dylan
- “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” by Little Feat
- “Ya Got Trouble” by Robert Preston in The Music Man
- “Uncle John’s Band” by The Grateful Dead
- “Alabama Pines” by Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit
- “Love Potion No. 9″ by The Clovers
- “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
- “Farther Along” by The Grascals
- “Honky Tonk Women” by Humble Pie
- “A Night In Summer Long Ago” by Mark Knopfler
- The Ballad of Davy Crockett by Walt Disney Studios (The Wellingtons)
- “The Panama Limited” by Booker T. Washington White (Bukka)
- “How The West Was Won” by Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops
- “Faithless Love” by J.D. Souther
- “Long Time Gone” by Dickey Betts
- “Golfing Blues” by Loudon Wainwright III
- “People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals
- “Big Old Jet Airliner” by The Steve Miller Band
- “Mountain Greenery” by The Art Van Damme Quartet
- “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” by Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
- “Hard Times” by Jacob Sweet
- “Country Roads” by Toots (Hibbert) & The Maytals
- “Magnificent Seven” by Elmer Bernstein
- “Going Back to Georgia” by Nanci Griffith with Adam Duritz
- “Que Sera Sera” by Maurice Larcange
- “Rovin’ Gambler” by Dierks Bentley and The Punch Brothers
- “If Heaven” by Gretchen Peters
- “All The Gold in California” by Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers…plus a personal rant about commercial country radio airplay
- “Dream Lover” by Bobby Darin
- “That’s The Way That The World Goes Round” (live) by John Prine
- The Andy Griffith Show Theme. R.I.P. Andy Griffith 1926-2012
- “Rock Me On The Water” by Jackson Browne
- “Up On Cripple Creek” by Gomez
- “Thirty Days In The Hole” by Humble Pie
- “Ripple” by Chris Hillman
- “Never Going Back Again” by The Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ)
- “Run To The Middle of the Morning” by Kendal Carson
- “Where The Soul Never Dies” by Cody Shuler and Pine Mountain Railroad
- “I Got The Sun In The Morning” by Harry “Bing” Crosby
- “Get Me Gone” by Walt Wilkins
- “John Peel” by Paul Burch
- “Vaseline Machine Gun” by Leo Kottke
- “Home to Houston” by Steve Earle
- “Tennessee Blues” by Steve Earle IT’S STEVE EARLE WEEK AT HS
- “Jerusalem” by Steve Earle
- “Texas Eagle” by Steve Earle
- STEVE EARLE WEEK at HarryShots we start with “Ft. Worth Blues” by Steve Earle
- “High On A Mountain Top” by Loretta Lynn
- “Mean Old World” by Duane Allman and Eric Clapton
- “Statistician’s Blues” by Todd Snider
- “Graceland” by Dan Bern
- “Come On Down to My Boat, Baby” by Every Mother’s Son
- “I’ll Be Seeing You” by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
- “The Ballad of Oregon” by River City Extension
- “Rule Britannia” by H.M. Royal Marine Band (hear, hear)
- “Candle In The Wind” by Elton John
- “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers (live)
- Arthel “Doc” Watson 1923-2012
- “Dueling Banjos” by The Dillards
- “This Land Is Your Land” by Little Feat
- “Rusty Old American Dream” by David Wilcox
- “The Car Song” by Woody Guthrie
- “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” by Peter Rowan and Jerry Douglas
- “Hammer and Nails” by Cindy Bullens
- “Toes” by The Zac Brown Band
- “Tico Tico” by Ethel Smith
- “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” by The Springfields
- “Stopping By” by Jason Isbell
- “Smokestack Lightnin” by Frankie Lee
- “Turn Your Radio On” by The Carter Family with Bonnie Owens
- “Queen of The Silver Dollar” by Sarah Jarosz and Black Prairie
- “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard” by Paul Simon
- “Goin Down The Road” by The Allman Brothers
- Meet In The Middle by Diamond Rio
- In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
- Domino by Van Morrison
- “The Guitar” by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
- “True Love Ways” by My Morning Jacket
- “Round and Round” by Perry Como
- “Ye re Ddjate” by Idrissa Soumaoro
- “How Lucky” by Boundary Road
- “Cholene” by Kate Taylor
- “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann
- “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane” by Norman Blake
- “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” by We Are Augustines
- “Waitin’ For The Bus” / “Jesus Just Left Chicago” – Daughtry
- Aberdeen by Booker Bukka White
- Tossin’ and Turnin’ by Bobby Lewis (1961)
- Uncle John’s Band by Joe Higgs, The Godfather of Reggae
- “Heather Down the Moor” by June Tabor and Martin Simpson
- “Rocky Top” by The Flying Burrito Brothers
- “Ring Them Bells” by Sarah Jarosz
- “One Day I Will” by Nathan Salsburg
- “Didn’t It Rain” (outtake) by Levon Helm and The Band
- “Tennessee Blues” by Steve Earle
- “Move Up” by Patty Griffin and Friends
- “But It’s Allright” by J.J. Jackson
- “Preachin’ Blues” by Son House
- “Seven Bridges Road” by Steve Young
- “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Eric Burdon
- “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” by Miley Cyrus
- “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams
- “Jack and Lucy” by Delia Bell and Bill Grant
- “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King of Rock and Roll” by Long John Baldry
- “Louisiana Rain” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
- “Drug Store Truck Driving Man” by The Byrds
- “Sugar Magnolia” by The Grateful Dead
- “Ain’t Got No Home” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry
- “Delaware Slide” by George Thorogood & The Destroyers
- “Snowin’ On Raton” by Gretchen Peters and Tom Russell
- “The Old Lamplighter” by The Kay Kyser Orchestra, with Mike Douglas
- In Memoriam: Earl Scruggs 1924-2012
- “Gettin’ By” by Jerry Jeff Walker
- “Rose of Cimarron” by Del Castillo with John Bohlinger and Megan Mullins
- “Burn Down the Trailer Park” by Paul Thorn
- “Big Green Car” by Jimmy Carroll
- “Wild Mountain Thyme” by Greg Joy
- “Return of The Grievous Angel” by Laughing Gravy
- “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King
- “Lone Star Blues” by Delbert McClinton
- “Iron Mike’s Main Man’s Last Request” by Todd Snider
- “Roll Um Easy” by J.D. Souther
- “The Parting Glass” by Cara Dillon
- “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” by Buddy Clark
- “Rad Gumbo” by Little Feat
- “Sixteenth Avenue” by Lacy J. Dalton
- “I Killed Walter Matthau” by Steve Poltz
- “Sing, Sing, Sing” (With A Swing) by Benny Goodman
- “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees
- “Guitar Town” by Steve Earle
- “Guitar Town” by Emmylou Harris
- “Colfax” by Kevin Gordon
- “Harlan County Line” by Dave Alvin
- “Little Martha” by Leo Kottke
- “Whipping Post” by Mountain Heart
- “One Hundred Million Years” by M. Ward
- “Steve Earle” by Lydia Loveless
- “I Gotta Go” by Robert Earl Keen
- “Galveston” by Jimmy Webb with Lucinda Williams
- “Long Line of Losers” by Kevin Fowler
- “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long” by The Notorious Cherry Bombs [Vince Gill on lead vocals]
- “I’ll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle” by Pure Prairie League
- “Beer Season” by Thom Shepherd
- “Beer, Bait, and Ammo” by Kevin Fowler
- “The Wedding Song” by Charlie Robison and Natalie Maines
- “Pony Boy” by The Allman Brothers
- “I’ll Never Find Another You” by The Seekers
- “Long Time Gone” by The Dixie Chicks
- “My Old Man” by Rosanna Goodman
- “Hey” by Karen Peck and New River
- “Catfish John” (studio outtake) by The Grateful Dead
- “Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic” by Jaime Brockett
- “Late In The Evening” by Paul Simon
- “It’s Late” by Ricky Nelson
- “Sheraton Gibson” by Pete Townshend
- “Bella Notte” from Lady and The Tramp (Disney)
- “Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers
- “Passing By” by Cary Hudson
- “Tennessee Waltz” by Hem
- “American Hearts” by A.A. Bondy
- “Hey Conductor” by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer
- “Tuscaloosa Suntan” by Lipbone Redding
- “Show Me The Road” by Harvey Reid
- “Wide River to Cross” by Buddy Miller
- “Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn
- “Gentle Annie” by Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Transatlantic Sessions)
- “(Talk to Me of) Mendocino” by Kate and Anna McGarrigle
- “Come A Long Way” (remastered) by Kate and Anna McGarrigle
- “The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III
- “Swimming Song” by Kate and Anna McGarrigle
- “My Little Girl” by Pierce Pettis
- “Tour of Duty” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
- “Your Long Journey” by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
- Alabama Alma Mater by The University of Alabama Million Dollar Band
- “The Old Plank Road” by Robin and Linda Williams
- “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield
- “Courtin’ In The Kitchen” by Gaelic Storm
- “I Am The Light of This World” by Jorma Kaukonen
- “Unwed Fathers” by Ben Kyle and Carrie Rodriguez
- “Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters
- “Small Town Saturday Night” by Hal Ketchum
- “Sing Sing With A Swing” by Benny Goodman
- “Pachelbel Canon” by The Canadian Brass
- “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
- “Suo Gan” by John Williams, from the movie soundtrack of Empire of the Sun
- Christmas Medley by Placido Domingo
- “Last Month of the Year” by the Tarbox Ramblers
- “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” by John Starling
- “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting by An Open Fire) by Mel Torme
- “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Faith, Family, and Friends
- “The Holly and The Ivy” by The New York Choral Artists
- “Silver Bells” by Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely
- “Sleigh Ride” by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops
- “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” by Jerry Douglas
- “Go Tell It On the Mountain” by Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops
- “Love’s Old Sweet Song” by Thurl Ravencroft and The Mellomen
- “Stand By Me” by The Groovegrass Boyz
- “Too Sick to Pray” by Phosphorescent
- “Suo Gan” by Marge Butler
- “Statistician’s Blues” by Todd Snider
- “The Parting Glass” by The Wailin’ Jennys
- “Steam Powered Aereo Plane” by New Grass Revival
- “Macire” by Boubacar Traore
- “Crossroads” by Leslie West
- “Blooming Heather” by Kate Rusby
- “Long Black Veil” by Harry Manx
- “Sowin’ On the Mountain” by Marley’s Ghost
- “She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by Guy Clark
- “Up Memphis Blues” by Tommy Womack
- “Sail Away Odyssey” by Erik Darling
- “Walking In Jerusalem” by Jason Eady
- “Con Te Partiro” by Andrea Bocelli
- “Coal War” by Joshua James
- “Choctaw Bingo” by James McMurtry
- “Juarez” by Brad Colerick
- “Calling Trains” by unknown train announcer