Monday, July 13, 2009

See The World On A Greyhound!

Here we are in the Great White North! I really do love playing in Canada. The people here are invariably friendly and very supportive of our music and it’s always a joy to perform for them. A lot has been going on, but the way we’ve been traveling, I haven’t had a chance to really put it down. So, while I have a few minutes, we’ll start from the beginning.
Our merch guy, many of you know, is Milburn. Great young man, enthusiastic and a truly good person. If Milburn has a weakness, it would be his inability to realize the time frame that we operate under in this organization. This is the world of RIGHT NOW. Not tomorrow, later, at your earliest convenience, but RIGHT NOW!! Months ago, when this tour was planned, I advised Milburn to get a passport. The law has become stricter concerning travel to and from Canada from the US and now a passport is required (in the past a drivers license and a birth certificate would work.). When I suggested this to Milburn, I immediately forgot about it, assuming that the task was now firmly on his plate and I could move on to other issues. A passport is a rather lengthy and involved process that can take up to a month to go through. In the meantime, back at SHB HQ, work documents are being filed and personnel are being recorded for the trip. Milburn, not understanding ‘right now’, doesn’t get his passport. Weeks go by and I ask him, with only 2 weeks to go until we leave for the tour, if he has his passport. Nope. I won’t bore you with the details of what we went through to get him a passport, but it involved multiple trips to Nashville, visits to very official buildings and finally ended with the hope that his passport would be processed and expedited to us on the road before we had to enter Canada. It kind of went like this; 1. Passport gets to his house and is overnighted to the last US gig that we’re playing at. 2. Wrong address has it sent back to Tennessee. 3. We leave Milburn in Great Falls MT with instructions to get his passport (resent from Tennessee) the next day and catch a bus to catch up with us in Canada. 4. We drive the 5 hours to the first Canadian gig. 5. Milburn gets on bus & drives for 40 hours!! From Great Falls to Butte to Seattle to Vancouver… (Check this route on a map, or go to and check out the route for Great Falls MT to Red Deer AB, it’s insane!). 6. Misses 2 towns and 3 shows, covers over 1600 miles but rejoins us and had a great time and a learning experience. Valuable lesson learned; do what you gotta do RIGHT NOW!!
Shows are going good and we’re seeing a new area of Canada that we haven’t been to before. I’m introducing Richard to some interesting new foods; Greek, Japanese and today Vietnamese! True Texan, he’s game for anything!
Still getting over the shock of Michael Jackson’s death (and Steve McNair's for that matter!!) Now the investigations and allegations start and we are hearing everyday that Michael’s body hasn’t been buried, who will raise his kids?, he was on drugs, he was in terrible shape, he was in great shape, who has his brain?, it just goes on and on. I think that when you die, you should be allowed to die, be given the dignity in death that often your not given in life, be remembered for your good works and the world should just move on. If you don’t buy the argument that as an entertainer you make calculated choices to increase the mystique of your celebrity, (i.e. Wear masks, buy the elephant man’s bones, sleep in an oxygen tank, etc.) then at least grant the argument that as humans, we all screw up and if you’re a rich, international superstar with endless bucks and plenty of people willing to allow you a pass for any and everything you want, your mistakes will be ten-fold, hell, a thousand-fold what the rest of us do. The dirt and negativity serves no purpose. If we learn that Michael Jackson was a raging drug addict, it won’t stop people from abusing drugs, it won’t help in the reform of the pharmaceutical industry, or the general practice of over medicating, it won’t make people more sympathetic to how the world’s criticism can weigh on a performer and make a fragile human being turn to any sort of ‘self medicating’ protective devices. Most importantly, I think, it won’t help his kids. It won’t give them peace of mind or fond memories of their father, it won’t help them make sense of the loss of the only parent they’ve ever known. Same goes for Steve McNair; all of the sordid allegations of infidelity don’t help the family that he’s left behind to cope with their loss. We all do dumb things that we regret, we all make bad choices that come back and bite us, if you’re reading this and you haven’t made a poor choice in the last 24 hours, congratulations, I’d like your autograph!
I guess all this ties into the down side of having this insatiable hunger for the next piece of celebrity dirt. We like to build up our celebrities, tear them down, give them forgiveness and then tear ‘em down again if they make it back up. I’m not saying this from a position of “I know it all” but just working it out as I type it. What makes us like that? Is it some kind of, “well at least I’m not as bad as so and so.” thing? I remember when Elvis died, the first day it was all shock and sadness over his passing and then the drug stories started coming out and the eating stories started coming out and for a long time Elvis was the punch line to a fat, drugged out joke. If you ever go to Graceland, in the trophy room there is a frame with about 20 canceled checks to 20 different charities for $1,000.00 each, from like 1959 or something, anyway a LOT of money, just given away to help people. No framed headline from any newspaper saying, “Look what Elvis did!” just the checks framed long after he passed. You gotta admit though that that story isn’t as interesting as how much bacon he could consume at breakfast. At least now it seems like he’s finally being recognized (or at least debated)more for his contributions to popular music than for how many peanut butter and Demerol sandwiches he could consume in one sitting, but it sure is an interesting phenomenon. If you care, just watch the Michael Jackson story unfold; we’ll hear sordid tales of drugs and assorted mischief, his work will be over-shadowed and pushed to the back and then in 10 years or so when the dust has settled and some other poor soul has blasted off into outer space and become the new sensation, some new artist will do a cover of Thriller or name check Michael as their biggest influence and all of the sudden it will become cool to like Michael Jackson the entertainer again. I’m reminded of the tag line to a show that used to come on the E channel (yes I realize the irony of this sentence!) “Fame, ain’t it a bitch?”.