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The Skipper

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As long as I’m talking about Nashville buddies who have wonderful blogs, allow me to introduce you to Skip Adams!

Skip Adams and I go waaaaay back. When I first moved to Naples, Florida, back in mid-1960s, I ran into Skip– literally, with my Corvair into the back of his car– and he was kind enough to forgive me. With his brother, Danny, we played some gigs with me trying to alter my nasty old Silvertone electric guitar to play like an electric bass. Nobody in Naples could play guitar like Skip, and that caused a lot of resentment.

One time, I traded Danny something or other for a little motorbike, which I tried to keep a secret from my mom. When Mom found out, she went roaring over to the Adams’ house, spitting fire and planning to tell Skip and Danny’s mom a thing or two about the hooligan kids she had raised and how they were a bad influence on her little angel. Millie Adams became my mom’s best friend and they became even closer when my father passed away in Skip’s and my senior year in high school. They were a pair, those two, and set Naples on its ear! Skip and I played around in various band formats when he had to time to class up whatever I was trying to promote; high-school hops, country-club gigs, whatever.

After high school, Skip stayed with his music and in a big way. In addition to his film and television credits as an editor, sound supervisor and music supervisor, Skip is also a songwriter, musician, record producer and music publisher with several top-ten records worldwide to his credit. Dave Mason, Survivor and Sam Harris are among those who have recorded his songs. He currently makes his home in the Nashville, Tennessee area; he was based in LA before that, where he owned and operated a successful studio. He’s worked on over 40 TV shows or movies, including The Wonder Years, Dawson Creek, and LA Law, and was nominated for at least one Emmy.

A few years ago we all gathered in Naples for our high-school reunion, and had the happy idea of playing acoustic music together one night at a Class of 1970 barbecue and then playing a few electric sets at the reunion dinner. With Jeff Gargiulo as band director, alternating lead guitar with Skip, we rocked the joint to the point that folks not associated with the reunion stopped me on breaks to ask if we were for hire for other occasions down there! I played rhythm guitar on my old Mosrite electric and just tried to keep up. Another NHS rocker, Skip Reznor, played the keys, Mike Threlkeld was on violin, and Nick Koch came in on drums toward the end of the evening, giving the Miami session player Jeff had arranged for us a rest. We may have grayed up a bit, but we had ’em all on the floor dancing and laughing and that’s what it’s all about.

I’d expected Skip to have grown musicially in the 40 years since I had heard him, but I was unprepared for what he came up with. It was so soulful, tuneful and advanced from what other guitar players I knew were doing that I was shocked. But Skip has always shocked people; he can’t help it. He zigs when the rest of us are trying to figure out how to zag. In his hands, which had always been more than capable, his guitar sang out clear, focused and elegant melodies that no one else could have come up with.

Jim, Skip and Jeff; still rocking after all those years . . .

Please check out his blog, which traces the creative and songwriting process:

http://blogadams.com/

Delta

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My great friend from Nashville, John Beasley, created an amazing blog that takes you on a tour of blues-related sites in the Mississippi Delta.

Beaz knows whereof he speaks. He’s a talented singer and player, and makes the best margaritas you can imagine. He can do anything in the world except teach me how to play Deep River Blues as well as he does.

You will enjoy the trip through the Delta with Beaz as your guide; that I guarantee.

The photos shown were taken by the Beaz and show the outside neon sign and stage at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero juke joint in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Son of It’s a Gas Gas Gas

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Yesterday afternoon, we began smelling gas out front and it seemed to be coming from in front of the house next door, where we had had a major gas leak a couple of weeks ago. Some of the smell also seemed to be coming from the driveways between our houses; there’s a small iron access cover there that may allow gas to escape.

Washington Gas came out in the middle of Hurricane Sandy and determined there was a leak, coming out of the ground itself and from under that cover, but that it wasn’t dangerous because of the wind. They promised to be out today to fix it.

As good as their word, the Washington Gas crew is out front with a big digging machine on a flatbed truck and they’re hard at work to solve the problem.

What it appears to me is that the rain caused the temporary asphalt patch put in by the WSSC sewer-line replacement crew to sag, which may have popped the repaired gas line. So that means the Washington Gas folks will have to dig up the street yet again to put that pesky line in place.

This entire sewer-repair effort has been fraught with interest, as my Granny used to say.

I sure don’t envy those Washington Gas staff’s job today; it’s a cold, wet miserable day to have to dig up a street in search of a gas leak. I’m sure these folks have places they’d rather be, homes or family that may be feeling the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, and there’s surely an element of risk in such an undertaking. And, let’s face it; they’re really having to fix a problem someone else created for them.

Yet they are efficient, cheerful, informative and dedicated. Thanks, Washington Gas! Anyone who helps keep my family, neighbors and me from being blown to atoms has my unstinting support and admiration!!!

Inside Hitler’s Bunker

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These stills are from a YouTube video. They show my dad in one of Hitler’s underground bunkers. I thought all this time that the bunker my dad had been in (and grabbed some souvenirs in the process) was the Berlin one; the caption on this video says it was the bunker under Hitler’s private home, called the Berghof. The caption also says that Dad was the first American G.I. to enter the bunker. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say.

Just after the war, my dad was temporarily assigned to the 101st Airborne Division; in the video, you can plainly see the Screaming Eagle embroidered patch on his shoulder. Why he was chosen for this little film, which is in an early version of color, is not known to me. Maybe it was because he was a photogenic person or maybe it was because he was persuasive and talked his way into it. Don’t know; my dad never mentioned any of this stuff to me, other than to say he had grabbed a bunch of junk in Hitler’s bunker after the war. Anything I learned about his wartime experiences was from overhearing his conversations when a couple of other WWII vets visited our home in the mid-1960s.

Anyway, he sent home a roll of about a dozen water colors and a larger oil pastel that Hitler, an artist earlier in his life, had stored in that bunker. I gave away the watercolors to some friends in Naples in the early 1970s and burned the painting in the early 1990s. I reasoned that destroying an artist’s work is the biggest insult one can do him. All the paintings were of street scenes or of buildings; I guess people weren’t important to Adolf Hitler.

So here are some images illustrating one tiny portion of the aftermath of a hideous episode in the history of our world.

War Trophies

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I just submitted this photo to Shorpy.com, my favorite web site, and figured I’d post it here, too.

My dad served with the 82nd Airborne in WWII, and sent home an enormous batch of trophies, as seen in this photo taken on the front porch of our family farm after the war. Many of these guns, flags and uniforms were loaned to a museum in Fernandina Beach, Florida, and went astray. We were able to recover a few of them in the early 1970s and the automatic-weapon stamps from the ATF cost us a fortune; I believe it was $500 per gun. You should have seen it when the Naples police chief, my mom, two of my friends and I carried this stash of weapons into the Bank of Naples to store in their safe-deposit vault!

They were all sold or given away long ago, except for a 7.65mm Walther PPK I’ve kept. Dad picked that pistol up in the bunker in Berlin where Adolph Hitler had committed suicide with a pistol of the same make and caliber. Now, that model pistol is much more famous for being the pistol that James Bond keeps under that well-tailored suit jacket of his. [Edit: just learned that the bunker may have been the one under Hitler’s home, not the one in Berlin. No way of knowing for sure.]

My dad even brought back that dog in the photo; her name was Beulah.

Here’s a photo of Dad showing the campaign ribbons and such that he had earned in that war. I guess he was about 21 years old in this photo taken after the war.

My grandmother had an 8″ x 10″ glossy of the following Associated Press photo on the wall in her den. It shows my dad in WWII; she also had the yellowed newspaper clipping which identified him in the photo. Its headline, I remember, was Local Trooper Advances Under Enemy Fire.

On the 82nd Airborne site, it has this caption:

An infantryman from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division goes out on a one-man sortie while covered by a comrade in the background, near Bra, Belgium, on December 24, 1944″

The three-week battle, of which the above photo illustrates one brief moment, was later called the Battle of the Bulge or the Ardennes Offensive; one of the last desperate efforts of Nazi Germany to survive. I think that’s a Thompson submachine gun in one of my dad’s hands; those might be wire cutters in the other.

Pretty grim situation for a kid just out of his teens. No helmet, either. No one likes to wear a helmet on Christmas Eve.

Hi To Our Friends Around the World!

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WordPress provides interesting stats about the blogs they host, and guess what?

Since starting this blog back in July, I’ve been gratified and amazed not only at how many folks here in the United States have visited it (several thousand), but also how many folks from other countries have stopped by.

In order of the number of views– and we’re talking hundreds of views per country in some of the top ones– we’ve had viewers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, France, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Colombia, Netherlands, Mexico, Poland, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, Russian Federation, Romania, Sweden, Japan, Portugal, Malaysia, New Zealand, Denmark, Serbia, Republic of Korea, Belgium, Switzerland, Pakistan, Norway, Thailand, Turkey, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Egypt, Macedonia, Lithuania, Ireland, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Peru, Georgia, Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Solvenia, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, French Polynesia, Venezuela, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Uraguay, Lebanon, Macai, Taiwan, Chile, Uganda, Bhutan, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Nepal, El Salvador, Mozambique, Czech Republic, Moldava, Slovakia, Jordan, Iceland, Guatemala, Ukraine, and Grenada!

That’s over 75 countries other than the U.S!

Am I excited about this? You bet! I’ll continue to try to create entries that I hope you’ll find interesting and informative. I also greatly appreciate all the nice comments I’ve received.

Maybe this blog is in some whacky way useful in bringing people from all over a bit closer together!

Thanks again!

–Jim

The Ry Cooder/Steve Vai Crossroads Guitar Duel

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A wonderful 1986 Walter Hill film, Crossroads explores the relationship between a Julliard-trained college boy who loves the blues (Lightnin’ Boy, played by Ralph Macchio) and Willie Brown (played by Joe Seneca, who shared a birthday with yours truly).

The plot is that Willie, like his friend and mentor, the blues legend Robert Johnson, sold his soul to the Devil– at a crossroads, of course– in order to be the best harp player in the world. Lightnin’ Boy will try to save Willie’s soul (and his own) by winning a haircutting guitar duel with the Devil’s guitar player, Jack Butler, played by the astonishing Steve Vai.

Here’s the duel, which is actually played by Steve Vai with Ry Cooder playing Macchio’s part, or at least the bottleneck portion of it. I’ve heard so many conflicting stories about who played exactly what in this sequence that I don’t believe anyone except Cooder and Vai and maybe the film/sound editor knows for sure!

Macchio’s hands are obviously sped up in the Peganini’s Caprice #24 section but he does a rather nice job of mimicking the actual hand positions. He was coached by Arlen Roth, who has a ton of great instructional materials available on many aspects of the guitar. The harp playing in this clip is by blues great Sonny Terry, whom I was lucky enough to meet in Tampa one night in 1972.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6nbos_crossroads-the-guitar-duel_shortfilms

Macchio’s “playing” a ’70s maple-necked Telecaster (either an American Standard or a Japanese Squier; no skunk-stripe on the back of the neck) in this, while Vai “plays” a red variant of his trademark Jackson whammy-barred specials. Most folks say Vai played his portion of the actual duel on his heavily customized “Green Meanie” Charvel guitar in the studio.

This is, to my knowledge, the ultimate guitar-playing scene in any flick. Some ’60s albums used to be labeled, “Play it LOUD;” I recommend “Play this video FULL-SCREEN!”

And LOUD.

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