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