Sunday, December 30, 2012

What's The Matter With Us ?

 I think at this point in the history of humankind we pretty much have to agree that we’re a fairly unwell and broken species. In the past week alone I’ve read about people who have shoved others in front of moving trains (for NO reason), parents who have harmed their children (NEVER a reason) and people who have just generally (and fatally) harmed others for no apparent reason. The dialogue goes; We need more guns, we need fewer guns, we need different leaders, we need the leaders we have to do more, we need church, church needs to stay out of this... The debate is intense and heated. That is, however, if you’re not paying attention to the ‘fiscal cliff’ that looms, oh so near! 
 Are you on facebook? Check the posts and calculate the “life sucks” posts. They are fairly equal with the “please pray for my _____” posts. We are in the water, slapping around, trying to keep from drowning and going back and forth between blaming God (fate, fortune, Buddha, Hindu, Astrology, Elvis or whoever you may pray to) or begging them for help. (We are also inviting everyone we know to something called Farmville but that’s another blog...) My humble question is; What’s wrong with us?
 We’re not naturally bad. We do good things. We help each other. We say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. We hold the elevator. We “after you” to pretty much anyone. We ‘like’ any post on facebook that hates cancer, racism, intolerance, animal cruelty, or really funny e-cards about drinking or how men/women aren’t as smart as ‘we’ are. In other words, on facebook at least, we like each other, we LIKE each other, we even LOVE each other (although there’s currently no button for that....) I’ve seen the posts; people that are struggling or suffering are met with ‘likes’ and posts of ‘I’m here for you”, ‘You’re beautiful, he/she doesn’t deserve you!’, ‘click “like” if you hate cancer, child abuse, gun-control, Kenny Chesney (okay, that’s just me!!). The point is, I really think we know how to be better. I think we know how to be good. It’s in us. The Moral Compass. Do I think there are bad people in the world? YES. Are they truly few and far between? YES.
 I think most of us want the best for others. I think we really do. I think that ideal gets distorted and muddied by the idea that we’re not good enough. FEAR. The most powerful motivator in this universe. Are you scared of cancer, poverty, death, humiliation, ridicule, Kenny Chesney (ok, again, that’s just me. I’m not scared of him, I’m just scared of what he represents...forget it...)? We all get scared, that’s a universal feeling. Today I heard a sermon from my preacher about Jesus being tempted (disclaimer: I’m a Christian), I remember thinking, Jesus had to be scared during this time. Later today, I shot guns with my daughter, (these two sentences together, should in no way lead you to determine my political beliefs, I am extraordinarily Liberal/conservative! (I love gay-gun owning-conservative-fox/news loving-astronauts). She was scared to fire the gun (.357 baby) but she trusted me (and her uncle Homer) and fired it once. A step of faith. Dr. Martin Luther King (one of my heroes) once said something to the effect of; “Faith isn’t seeing the entire staircase, it’s just taking the first step.”
 Maybe we’re just scared. Maybe we’re just like we were in high-school; afraid to take a stand that might call attention to ourselves. It's HARD! I’m lucky, I have a young daughter so I am commissioned to make a fool of myself. Will I wear a bathrobe to the grocery store? Of course! Do I honk my horn unnecessarily? YES! Even so, in the back of my mind, I’m afraid of being embarrassed. I don’t want to appear foolish. Even though my job (as a parent and an entertainer) requires that I make a complete fool of myself. 
 Fear is a big one. Fear has us hating others, fighting change, fighting the status quo, fear has us hating those that are different, those that are the same and those that might change things, because we all hate change! “I liked the cable channels where they were!”
 So what’s the point of this blog? i have no idea! I’m just struck by our similarities and our reluctance to voice them. I’m scared of fiscal cliffs, serial killers, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, poverty, arthritis, Kenny Chesney, snakes, heights, and being unloved. Maybe that last one’s the one, UNLOVED. We’re all loved. Someone loves you. Jesus knew that, that’s what gave him the strength to fight off the temptation. Buddha had the four noble truths. Dr. Martin Luther King had a supreme peace the night before he was murdered. I think (I THINK) that insight is a sudden revelation that this world ain’t everything, it’s just what’s now and it’s okay. The next episode is much, much better. Of course, there’s nothing saying that we can’t be better here and now. Let’s make the bad people a very small and rare population that is ostracized and looked upon as unusual. Let’s be the “better Angels of our nature” as Abraham Lincoln said. Let’s love a little harder, like a little more readily, be the people we want to meet tomorrow. I know we can do it. Tomorrow, when someone cuts you off in traffic just don’t flip them’s a start...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Uncle Wayne

 Yesterday morning, my uncle Wayne Holt passed away. He tolerated no crap. Ever. Many of you knew Uncle Wayne from being on the road with me. He drove the van, sold the merch and was a part of the band. When Uncle Wayne got his facebook a lot of our fans friended him and he loved that. His profile picture forever was a shot of him in a terrible band house in Deadwood, SD but the smile on his face let you know that he was having a ball. 
It’s hard to explain my relationship with Uncle Wayne. He was more than just my uncle. He was my friend and my advisor. He was my dad’s younger brother. He and his wife and family were an important part of my father’s care when my dad was being treated for cancer. When I started touring, after my father had passed, Uncle Wayne went on the road with me, to drive and help with touring. When you tour together, you become close. You’re elbow to elbow 24/7. He and I would argue about everything. (We once had an argument that started with Muhammad Ali’s birthday and ended up with the war in Iraq and Rolling Stone magazine!). Even when I figured he was right, I’d still put up an argument; couldn’t let him know he was right; “No I don’t want to stop at Waffle House” (even though I was hungry and Waffle House is goood). He always drove the van like he stole it but I could sleep like a baby when he was driving. He would pump gas with a cigarette in his mouth just to freak out the band, all the while explaining to them how as long as you kept the flame away from the tank you were in no danger. We decided once to go see Little Bighorn. We were in Deadwood, SD and had to play that night. I misread the map, we left at 10:00 am and he drove the whole way to Little Bighorn and back by showtime (that’s 411 miles, one way, check it out if you don’t believe me).
 After a lot of miles, Uncle Wayne decided to come off the road. He was never replaced. I never hired another driver and sometimes we had two people doing part of what he did. Uncle Wayne was a brilliant mechanic. We developed a routine where I would go to his shop before or after every tour. Changing oil, general servicing and trouble shooting everything that could wrong on the next tour. Most of the time, my cousin Mark, who’s like a brother to me, would be there too and the three of us would always find time to go to lunch after the work was done. I would call Uncle Wayne, while driving down the road and describe some noise the van was making. He would diagnose it and tell me wether to find help right then or wait until I could get home and bring it to the shop. A mechanic that can diagnose a problem from a description over the phone is better than great in my opinion. I called more than once at 2 or 3 in the morning and he never got mad at being woken up, just asked what was wrong and then told me how to fix it. 
 Uncle Wayne wasn’t one to keep his opinions to himself (there are some people smiling as they read that sentence). He would tell me what I was doing wrong on stage or with my music and even though it would make me mad, I could hear an echo of my dad in it and I knew why he was saying it. I really, really miss him. I loved Uncle Wayne and I know he loved me. He wouldn’t have tolerated my crap if he didn’t. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Just got back from the gym and thanks to my iPod, I have this nugget of wisdom for you.
Also, remember to stretch and stay hydrated!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


 What a great weekend it has been for me personally and for the band! I want to thank all of our friends in the Detroit area who came out to see us @Callahan’s. Thanks to all of our friends in London. It was so great to see so many of you and get a chance to play the first of 2 sold out shows! Thank you to everyone in Windsor. The induction into the Canada South Blues Museum is a tremendous honor and I’m still beyond words!
 You guys have always treated us with warmth and respect and given us so much joy through the music that I can’t begin to tell you how precious you all are to us. Thanks to my amazing band of friends; Dan EUbanks, Tom Larson and Chris “Wingnut” Fuller for once again saddling up and hit the road with me. Thanks to my wife and daughter for understanding me and my need to play music and allowing me to be free to pursue it. A woman like Buff is a very rare thing on this planet and I thank God for her!
 Next up; A new band announcement, some new touring info and some new recording. 2012 is gonna be hot! R U Ready???

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A not so brief History of what's on TV...

 Not too terribly long ago, (less than 100 years ago) when I was a kid (the younger version of the kid that I am now), we had 4 channels on our television. We weren’t being punished and it wasn’t because we were poor (we were), that’s just all there was! I grew up near Nashville, TN. Our channels were; 2, 4, 5 and 8 (the PBS station). If you watched television in those days, you were watching one of those 4 channels. If you missed a show, you missed it. You’d have to hear about it at school or work the next day but it was gone. If Evel Knievel was going to jump the Snake River Canyon, it was going to happen at 2:00PM eastern and you’d better calculate the time change to central and be in front of the tube! You could only watch one show at a time, so if you wanted to see Starsky & Hutch you would have to miss the Jeffersons. Then of course, thanks to Charles Paulson Ginsberg and the fine folks at Sony, we were blessed with VCR’s and we no longer had to miss George and “Weezie”. 
 So last night, I’m scrolling through the menu page on our TV, looking for something to watch. I’m restricting my choices to HD channels only to narrow down my options. I browse good old 2, 4, 5 & 8 (or in this case 1002, 1004, 1005 and 1008), nothing really grabs me there so I start to move out. Out past TBS, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, CNN, CNNI, HLN, Fox News, MSNBC and into the wild frontier of what is now Cable Television. I see AMC, OVC, HSN (I’m entranced by David Venable and his amazing kitchen wares! So much so that Buff and I almost order a giant spatula. Seriously this thing is incredible!), I see the Food Network. I can’t watch the Food Network too much because it makes me hungry. I like Guy Fieri. he seems like a good guy. Kind of a cooking version of Sammy Hagar. His show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has led me and my band to more fantastic lunches on the road than I can count! The Food Network, however, isn’t the only channel that will make you watch food. I stop at the Travel Channel for a moment to watch a show about a guy who goes around eating huge amounts of food within a certain timeframe (this episode was an 8 patty burger, two hotdogs w/slaw, fries, a coke and a milkshake made with butter pecan ice cream and with coffee cake mixed in it. He had to eat it all in 20 minutes. He did it.). I guess they show that on the Travel Channel because he has to ‘travel’ to these places to eat. We have a Weather Channel. The Weather Channel always seems to be talking about the weather somewhere else, usually where there’s a big storm, flood or tornado. It’s kind of like Weather porn. Then you get to the History Channel (and yes there is a History Channel 2 for even more History!) On the surface this channel seems like a great idea for kids. I wish, when I was in school, there had been a channel that I could watch to learn my history homework (Manifest Destiny, The War of 1812, the Missouri Compromise) but then again, in my school, we didn’t spend a lot of time studying Swamp People, Pawn Stars or Mudcats. We studied WWII, where we learned about Hitler but it’s only lately that I’ve been educated about Hitler’s bodyguards. I never really thought about Hitler having bodyguards. I don’t like Hitler. I think he was a real bastard and getting burned up in a ditch with a bullet in his head seems like fair play but I watched every episode of that show. It was fascinating I have to admit. I still think Hitler is an a**hole though. As well as being a crappy painter. You’ve also got National Geographic Channel, Animal Planet and the Military Channel all of which have captured me on many occasions. I watched some seriously disturbed Texans catching diamond-back rattlesnakes the other night, *shudder*!
 Then you come to the “women’s section”. I only call it that because the target audience seems to be definitely female. Lifetime, Hallmark, OWN (which is, of course, the Oprah Winfrey Network). There’s even a channel called Lifetime Real Women, not sure what there after there. When I watch these channels I want to curl up in my Snuggie with a cup of hot tea and just have a good cry. (Oh not really, I don’t watch those channels too much, nor do I have a Snuggie). I do watch a suprising amount of Disney Channel, Family Channel and Cartoon Network. My daughter and I are fans of Adventure Time with Finn and Jake. This may be one of the best shows on television. Seriously.
 The movie channels! Finally! I know that I’ll find a movie that I’ll enjoy watching. maybe Die Hard or Smokey & The Bandit! I remember the first time I heard about HBO. One of my friends went to visit some relatives and came back talking about how they had “home box office”. I thought for a long time that he meant they owned their own theatre. HBO! As a 12 year old, red blooded male, HBO could be your first chance to see real, naked ladies! Probably why my mom fought us getting cable for a long time! As I cruise down the list of HBO channels (Oh yes, the old days of one HBO channel are gone like acid washed jeans and the Fonz) HBO, HBO West (oddly and sadly not full of cowboy movies), HBO 2, HBO Family (probably no naked ladies there), HBO Family West, HBO Signature, HBO Signature West, HBO Comedy, HBO Comedy West, HBO Zone, HBO Latino and (yes, you guessed it...) HBO Latino...WEST! And that my friends is just HBO! You still have Cinemax (a whole ‘nother level of naked ladies, first time I saw it I thought we had somehow gotten free porn! Now it IS porn but it ain’t free!) Showtime, TMC, Starz and Encore. Each of which has at least 3 versions. I’m no mathmetician (and I’m too lazy to go back and add up all the channels) but that is a lot of television real estate. About 5,000 movies per hour or something like that.
 Sometimes I like to watch Univision, Galavision, Telefutura and of course Telemundo. I don’t speak very much Spanish but I think if I watch long enough I’ll get it by osmosis. Still waiting. I like to watch BBC and pretend that I’m British. I’ll sit in front of the “telly” with some beans and toast and get the latest football scores and see what Labour MP Eric Joyce is up too. (Apparently, getting into a bar fight!) I don’t watch much MTV anymore. I used to watch it all the time and sometimes, late at night, they might show a Jimi Hendrix video! I saw Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean video, Prince’s Little Red Corvette video and Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher video. I don’t know what happened. I know artists still make videos. (The Black Keys, Katy Perry and Beyonce are hard at work but with little love from big old MTV) Not so much music videos anymore on the Music Television channel. They might think about changing the name to RTV (reality television). Oh wait, there is an RTV channel already (Retrovision, awesome!). Sorry MTV. Now MTV has a lot of shows about young people living together, having babies, being Italian, a lot of punching, kicking, yelling, drinking and scratching. Kind of like some of the joints I play in (without the baby-birthin’)! Of course you’ve got your VH1’s, BET’s, CMT’s and GAC (wow! I just realized country music has two channels and they still play very little COUNTRY music - George Jones & Merle Haggard are you listening??) There should be a Blues Channel. Satellite radio has a Blues Channel (God Bless Bill Wax!) How come there’s not a TBC (The Blues Channel)? “The Blues Channel, all Blues music all day!” Maybe they could do a news report in the evenings and get B.B. King to read the days news headlines! Buddy Guy could do sports and Shemika Copeland could do the weather. I would only watch TBC for all of my news!! Maybe they could do a Blues version of The Real World with B.B., Buddy, Lonnie Brooks, Kim Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Ann Barton and Shemika; “This is the true story...of seven blues artists...picked to live in a together and have their lives find out what happens...when people stop being polite...and start getting real...The Real Blues World!” It would be amazing!
 So I’m back to my own TV quest; 5,386 channels later, no movies to watch, nothing interesting on, I switch off the TV and pick up a book. Books never let you down.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

What do you do while your GPS is updating?

 Been a while since I blogged, so I got all coffee’d up this am (thank you Dunkin’ Donuts!) and decided to let it roll! Since the start of 2012, I have really been going through an artistic “re-evaluation” of where I am and “what’s next”, (Ok, I’ll try to quit using “quotations” for the rest of this blog anyway!). My musical background is obviously the Blues. The first music that really made sense to me on guitar was Blues. I know this part of the story has been told to death but Jimi Hendrix was my gateway drug into music. Specifically, hearing Hendrix made me pick up a guitar and learn how to play it. Once that ball was rolling, I had to feed the beast. My first guitar teacher told me that the music that I liked was Blues. He told me this after I brought him a Billy Idol song (Steve Stevens on guitar of course)that I wanted to learn, so I thank God that he didn’t tell me the kind of music I liked was post-industrial, neo-classical, bluegrass-punk!
 He hipped me to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who led me to Buddy Guy, Albert King, Guitar Slim, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Freddie King, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. It’s a very erratic path that I took; Jimi to Stevie to Buddy to the Kings to Wolf & Muddy and on and on. But there were side roads too; I found Clapton, Beck and Page. Through Clapton I found Robert Johnson and that opened up the whole Delta-type acoustic page of the book to me. I found Skip James, Son House, Fred McDowell, all the “Blinds” (Willie McTell, Lemon Jefferson, Willie Johnson, etc). The more new music I found and the more new artists I was exposed to, the more I wanted to find and learn. Sometimes, it took more than one listen to allow my brain to get wrapped around some of the artists I heard. I remember hearing John Lee Hooker’s Mad Man Blues the first time and almost running out of the room! He later became a cornerstone influence for me and one of the favorite bluesmen I ever met. I spent a lot of time in record stores just flipping through the Blues section looking for people I hadn’t heard of. 
 Buddy taught me about Earl Hooker, Little Walter, T-Bone Walker and Sonny Boy Williamson II. I was already a fan of Elvis, George Jones and Prince but the musicians that I worked with in Buddy’s band taught me about P-Funk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Youssou N’Dour and Earth, Wind & Fire. It was like reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica of Music!
 Somehow, in the maelstrom of my musical engulfment, I also found; Otis Spann, Little Brother Montgomery, Sonny Sharrock, Sly Stone, James Brown, Mozart, Grant Green, Rachmaninov, Big Joe Turner, Eddie Van Halen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Robert Nighthawk, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Joni Mitchell, Roy Buchanan, Motley Crue, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Ali Farke Toure, Koko Taylor, Elliott Smith and a literal cast of millions!
 This blog is just about my musical influences, so I’m not even mentioning my parents (my first influence), my wife and daughter (my most consistent influences), Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Eddie Murphy, John Wayne, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Portis, Bernard Lansky, John Ford, Steven Spielberg, Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. & Estle Ray Mann (Google them), Leo Fender, Les Paul, Ernie Ball, Jim Dunlop and Seymour Duncan just to name a few. 
 As an artist, you are like a musical and cultural sponge. You take on all of the sights, sounds and feels that cross your path and they all filter into your work somehow. As I start to mentally “build” my next record, I think it’s going to sound like a dusty old Fender amp and eau de club (stale beer, cigarette smoke and fried food). Of course, knowing me, it might start that way and end up smelling like a brand new spaceship, orbiting Saturn!...Stay Tuned

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2012...When she's dreaming and the other thing...

New Years. A reset. A Do-over. Like rebooting your computer. Fresh as a daisy. 2011 is in the books. What a year! It’s been a year of wars, victories, lies and scandal and that’s just in the SHB! Joke! Actually, once again, I’ve been blessed with an amazing group of people who have made it a year that feels like one big WIN! (No offense Charlie Sheen!) I’m proud of the band and the way we’ve been able to create music and entertain people. Our drummer, Marshal Weaver left the band in August and it was a rough time for me for sure! I never made any official announcements about it, just because it hurt! Marshal and I have been friends and family for a long time. That’s how it is when you’re in a band; you’re family. Forever. Marshal and I have had more of a brotherly relationship that anyone in the band; we both can really piss each other off, but if someone comes between us, God help ‘em! I think that’s where the best music comes from. It has to have an edge. I’ve always said that I hope people love us or hate us but anything in between is apathy and that’s the worst thing in the world. Marshal’s one of the best drummers I’ve ever worked with and certainly one of my favorites. I truly love and respect him. I know whatever he does he’ll be amazing. 
 What a miracle that Tom Larson, former SHB drummer, would be willing and able to step in and fill the gap! I can’t believe the blessing! Tom is an amazing percussionist and also a brother and another favorite musician/drummer. He played in the SHB for several years before leaving to pursue other musical opportunities. The SHB’s like the Mafia; you never really leave...
 Dan Eubanks is leaving now to pursue his solo career. I truly hate to lose him! He’s been a brother on the road and we’ve gone through stuff that you couldn’t imagine. I’ve loved the music that we’ve created and he’s made me a better musician by being here. He’s an incredibly gifted songwriter and singer. If you’ve seen any of the shows in the last few months, you’ve seen Dan opening the gigs with amazing solo sets. You’ve seen the Dio jacket, the Big Nasty perch on top of the bass rig and the sheer rock and roll on the right side of the stage. He’ll be successful and my love and respect for him will remain unabated (I used a football term just for you D!). 
 So what’s next? I’m really not sure. I have a lot of music written, a lot of gigs to play and I’m looking forward to 2012 and creating a new body of work. The videos that I’ve been posting on YouTube are works that we’ve recorded over the last year. They’re slated for recordings that might never see the light of day, (at least until I’m dead and my daughter releases the box set!) I hope you dig the videos and I really hope you dig the songs! I’m very proud of them. You know, there are a lot of free programs out there that allow you to record the audio from YouTube to your computer. I’m just saying that it’s an interesting fact. Sometimes after an artist posts 10 tracks or so, he might even post a running order to let you know how he’d sequence the record. Not that I would ever condone recording the audio from the videos I’m posting! I’m just saying it’s possible and they’re good songs that I’m proud of. 
 In the South, we have a New Years tradition; the tradition is to eat turnip greens, black-eyed peas and hog jowl for New Years Day. It’s supposed to bring good luck for the year. I’ve eaten it every year for the last 35 or so and I have to say, it must be working! Luck or blessing or whatever, I’m so grateful for my wife and daughter, for the family and friends that I have, you all have enriched my life beyond measure. May God bless you as He’s blessed me for the coming year! See you soon!