Thanks to gifts of guitars from my maternal grandparents to my parents, being allowed to play them as much as I wanted to, the extraordinary experience listening to the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall and Mrs. Durfee's subsequent formal influence in junior high orchestra class, music afforded a rich, private world of auditory wonders I could happily escape into exploring notes and chords to spin melodies and harmonies for hours at a time. I was spending so much time alone in that world in my early teens my parents worried I had discovered and started doing drugs, but I wasn't. The sounds of music coming from the instruments as I strummed and plucked at them were all the high I needed, effectively carrying me into deep trancelike states more addictive than any drink or drug ever experienced later in life. I remember playing for a next door neighbor on our front porch one day while still living in Bellaire and falling into a trance only to be startled out of it by him shaking me and telling me in a quiet, concerned voice "Hey! Hey, man. You're drooling on your guitar!". I was so embarrassed but he understood, just saying "Wow, you were really getting into it," instead of making fun or ridiculing.
About the time I started learning to play 5-string banjo at fourteen, I met a kid named Scott at school in Midland who reminded me of a friend from grade school in Sayre named Ricky. They weren't at all alike in appearance (except that they both had straight, blond hair), but they both had a great sense of humor and exuberance for life that made them a pleasure to be with. Ricky befriended me in third grade, Scott in ninth grade and they both introduced me to family and friends who revealed musical paths in life I never would have taken without having known them.
The same year I met Scott, Ricky reintroduced me to his older and younger brothers–Jimmy and Gary–who both played guitar, and his little sister Sherry, their parents Betty and Winston, grandmother Beulah and their dogs Teeny, Tramp, Lady and Bobby. More about them and their strong influence (and limitless tolerance of me) later.
Scott introduced me to a bunch of his friends who were all in a local children's theater group and they talked me into going with them one day after school to the theater for auditions. I knew nothing about theater and didn't know what to expect or what I was getting into. Scott and his friends were so crazy and energetic. We had seen their theater group down at a park near our new house doing something weird as we drove into town for the first time ever that summer. Dad had groaned aloud upon spotting them and pointed, saying "Look at the hippies playing in the park. They're probably all doped up!". We giggled together as a family. Dad has mellowed a lot since then, thanks in part to them. So I was a little apprehensive about the auditions. I just hoped it wasn't going to be like school because I hated school.
It wasn't anything like school. The children's theater director, Ed Graczyk, put us on stage individually and in groups to perform different ways including free-form improvisation, which was fun because there were no rules we had to follow to do that. One kid named Bryce did an amazing rapid-fire solo performance of The Wizard of Oz, acting through each scene and playing each part in character. This was near the end of 1969 when rules were starting to grate on the nerves of teenagers whose only firm prospect in life was to soon be drafted into US armed forces and go fight the endlessly bloody war in Vietnam.
That day of auditions at the Midland Community Theater I happened to have my 12-string guitar with me (Scott had asked me the day before to bring it to school and I can remember him holding it for me, chewing on the handle of the guitar case as we rode the bus from school to the theater–the nut). Mr. Graczyk at one point asked me to go up on stage alone and play a couple of tunes, anything I wanted to play. So I played House of the Rising Sun (just the music, no singing) and Classical Gas as best I could without drooling all over the place. He seemed to like it, I was granted a scholarship to be in the Pickwick Players when I told him I couldn't pay the tuition fees and he teamed me up with Gerry Pyle who played keyboard and composed music for all of his original plays. Mr. Graczyk had been working on a musical at that time titled "Electric Folderol" which called for a rock band to appear up on stage on a raised platform wrapped in mirror mylar throughout the play (instead of down in the orchestra pit), playing Gerry's original backing music for singers as the scenes of the play unfolded below. I did my best playing electric guitar parts from Gerry's hand-scribed scores, but it was scary and Mr. Graczyk kept having to urge me to turn up the volume on my guitar.
A few days before the closing performance of the play I found out the group had a tradition of having a party to celebrate the achievement. Bill–a Pickwick Players friend (and lead role actor in the play) I was staying with at the time while my family went on a camping trip in New Mexico–urged me during a group meeting at the theater to ask my parents if we could have it at our house. Bill and I had been fiddling around with my Dad's reel-to-reel tape recorder and Bill had taken up guitar while I was staying at his home. We had grown fond of each other's company so I told everyone I would ask but doubted they would go for it, revealing that my father thought Mr. Graczyk was gay. I had a bad habit of speaking too quickly and frankly at that age and immediately regretted saying what I had just said, fearing I had offended Mr. Graczyk. But he just laughed heartily at my blurted statement then promised to be as butch as possible if my family ended up hosting the party. Which we did.
Mom and Dad went to the closing performance of the play and after it was over, the entire cast and crew trooped right over to our house en masse. The party was a blast. Mom provided lots of snacks and drinks and Dad seemed to actually enjoy the spoof of the play the cast put on out in the back yard–performed by the "hippies" we had seen down at the park on our first day in town. I was enthralled by it all myself and forgot to keep an eye on Mr. Graczyk during the party to see how someone acted butch, but after it was over my parents seemed to have enjoyed it. They actually seemed to have softened a bit that night too.
All in all, that experience was significant and positive. It stoked my enthusiasm to become a professional musician somehow, actually earning a living performing my own original music somewhere, possibly even making a record album in a recording studio someday. So I began writing my own music and songs in earnest, recording them for posterity on Dad's reel-to-reel.
Almost fifty years later, I'm still writing original pieces. I just cranked one out today after having one of those ultra-vivid daytime dreams while napping after lunch. A dream so vivid I was compelled from the moment I woke up to get the dream story expressed in music and words.
We found a portal behind a huge pile of guano in a cave called Jester.
Jet black in the center and blue around the edges, we stepped through without hesitation.
Not a brilliant move, but it was worth it.
~ . ~
On the other side we met these pale-skinned imps, who were wearing bright, white boxer shorts with little red devils printed on 'em.
My youngest brother commented on how much he liked their style and they smiled and fed us food and drink . . . like nothing we'd ever had before.
Then things really began to get strange.
~ . ~
They marched out a pair of giant, blind white crawfish that started dancing the Macarena right there in front of us.
We didn't know what to think.
My middle brother fished down in his pockets, pulled out some change and tossed the coins at the feet of the dancing crawfish.
~ . ~
This seemed to go over pretty well and there were cheers all around as the party carried on throughout the night.
At one point blind catfish flew into the chamber and handed out party hats made of bat wings.
We all donned the party hats and posed with each other and with the catfish and crawfish for selfies.
Then the little imps all fell asleep.
We exited the cave.
~ . ~
Back outside, we looked at each other and wondered if what we had just experienced had really happened.
Then we started laughing.
We were still wearing the batwing hats.
This is a backing track for addition of a Theremin lead track sometime in the near future.
If I can learn to play Theremin well enough I'll try to create enough of these to fill an album titled Loose Tracks in celebration of my retirement from the daily grind.
This is a birthday gift for my brother who appreciates original technowave. It's 5.5 minutes of a rich mix of technowave passages for inducing positive alpha brainwave patterns essential for maintenance of vital gray matter and its vast neuralnetiverse.
Awakened from a bone-chilling nightmare all too real to ignore, this piece spewed forth from the realm of phantasms my subconscious mind is occasionally dragged into by horrific current events happening in the real world.
Election victory in tiny hand, it’s the brand boost of his dreams.
He is now king of the nation.
And the era of management by chaos and shock politics unfolds in all of its lurid glory.
Executive orders, deregulations and pardons abound, all premium photo ops.
Impeached, he revels in all the attention—no matter how distasteful and downright ugly.
But a deadly pandemic demands skillful, focused attention he simply cannot muster, totally overwhelming him in short order.
Surviving COVID-19 with platinum-medical care and arrogant flare, any tinge of empathy evades him.
Locked down and dying in droves, The People’s divisions widen abysmally.
His brand decomposes—tarnished then totally trashed.
All credibility goes right down the tubes.
Re-election lost, he frantically pressures for 11,780 extra votes. Deeply mired in demented denial, he threatens state election officials.
Failing to gain a single vote, he turns to sedition and insurrection by openly inciting riot and domestic terrorism.
Lives are endangered and people are killed.
Impeachment looming again, his company jet is prepared for quick escape.
Turned away from airstrip after airstrip he heads straight for Russia.
If that traitor Snowden can settle in the land of Tsars, then by god so can he.
Insanity consumes him.
His legacy a shambles, meager accomplishments are neatly erased, one-by-one.
Cold gray runway coming into sight, he expects to be warmly greeted at the Kremlin . . . with golden showers.
After reading a 1970s sci-fi novel about an electronica musician able to invoke wild emotions in listeners, I've thought the story premise completely plausible. I can't remember the title or author now, and all efforts to search it up on the world wide web have failed. I'll keep looking for it and will know it when I see it and am able to read a few paragraphs from its first pages. In the meantime . . .
When composing a new piece of music there's always a mind movie playing in my head as its sonic shape forms and congeals. A favorite subject matter is a novel written almost 35 years ago. This is the first of many to come for compilation on a new album titled "Reacher Tracks" telling that story with nothing but instrumental musical compositions. The novel is free for download on the publications page.
Sitting around the house waiting for an invitation to get a shot in the arm, this little ditty began demanding creation.
(Aimlessly knocking around the house . . .)
So you’re gonna go out and catch a heavy load?
Then you’re gonna come back and bring it all home?
You know you’re gonna spread it around right here.
Are you gonna feel any guilt or fear?
Are you gonna shed a single damn tear?
Or you gonna just watch it unfold with a sneer?
Go on out then,
And do what you will.
Then see what happens,
When we’re all
Living in hell.
Living in hell.
So many people
Think it’s a scam
Going out maskless
They don’t give a damn.
It won’t go away
It’s up in our face.
The human race.
(meanwhile, at a local hospital . . .)
It’s unaware of religious faith.
Of social standing, sexual preference and trade.
Rich or poor it makes itself at home,
Sucking out life right down into the bone.
Replicating now at breakneck pace.
Then mutating in any damn place.
Vaccines are coming
But maybe too late.
Variants may get
Around them anyway.
So what’s it gonna be
Are you gonna take a stand?
Sharing truth and empathy
Even bits of sympathy.
Can you dig down deep
For some common sense.
Or is hatred your creed
Fueled by ignorance?
Is hatred your creed
Fueled by ignorance?
(and, fun and games out on the streets . . .)
Talking up and down,
And left and right.
It’s enough to
Make us all cringe.
Locked down at home
On a TV binge.
Well I’m locked and loaded
Trying not to come unhinged.
Wondering when the hell
It might all end.
Or is this a new way of life
We have to live.
A new way of life
We all have to live.
A new way of life.
A new way of life.
We all have to live.
We all have to live.
And for all wanting to listen to music without the crazy old hermit caterwauling into a can . . .
This piece was sequenced up while watching episodes of the Our Planet documentary, contemplating our ability to destroy 66% of wildlife on Earth within a single generation. An astoundingly horrific feat of total idiocy and selfishness.
This tune was composed while relatives sheltered together from the winter storm that struck Texas in mid February and left some of them scrambling to recover from extensive freeze damage to their water system.
We all now refer to Oncor as Offcor as they allow excessive electric power billing without missing a beat, even for the days their jinky damn power grid was delivering zero-point-shit to customers.
Received first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine a few days ago. Minor reactions included itchy roof of mouth, achey arm, dizziness, screwy appetite, sleepiness. Nothing too bad but enough to get me thinking about what's going on inside as my body builds its defenses against the virus, sparking a musical creation.
SONGS & TUNES OF CIRCUMSTANCE
Fast asleep one Sunday morning while living in a high-rise apartment in downtown Dallas a few years before the turn of the century, my dreams were interrupted by a strange sound outside from the street eighteen floors below. Leaping from bed and racing out to the balcony, I peered down at the strangest single-vehicle accident I've ever seen. After snapping this photo and unable to go back to sleep, I sat down at my brand new digital recording studio and began recording songs as the policeman helped the poor fellow with the flipped car sort things out. Still the age before digital photography was readily available to mere consumers, I received the developed negatives a few weeks later, scanned them into my computer and emailed them to friends and family which had been incredulous when I first told them this odd story of circumstance.
This is a collection of songs and tunes arising from life circumstances spanning a little more than four decades, all composed and recorded during a fifteen-year attempt to become a professional at songwriting and solo performance.
After wasting too much time and expense struggling to use multitrack tape recorders of various kinds without any satisfactory results, I finally purchased a Roland VS-880 along with a VS-CDR (a QPS CDWriter connected to the VS-880 via SCSI), an Audio-Technica AT8010 mic with stand and an early version of Soundforge audio editing software running on the ever-crappy Wintel platform and began recording songs in digital format with much more satisfying results.
With this little rig producing decent enough results for an inexperienced indie singer/songwriter attempting to break into the business but reluctant to spend big bucks on professional studio time or for a more advanced equipment/software set at the time, I embarked on an enjoyable stretch of years writing, recording, editing and producing forty-some odd original tunes and one guitar arrangement of a traditional lullaby in digital format. Some I have been very satisfied with, others not so much, but all enough to freely share here with anyone able to enjoy them too.
Their download files are all pretty large, having been produced before I finally stopped wasting time trying to use the inferior Wintel platform running Soundforge in favor of the excellent Apple/Garageband/Logic Pro kit, and little understanding of how to properly optimize those early sound files without suffering loss. I've thought about re-recording them all but not much, more interested in exploring new avenues to create new works.
A life circumstance story is the reason for creation of each tune, as described in the liner notes included with each CD back in the days when they were distributed on that antiquated medium guaranteed to last forever and ever and...
now included here for anyone to read (and print if still prone to utilizing that antiquated technology) without having to pay me one red cent, or bitcoin (if that digital currency does actually exist). And back in the rare days I performed live, these were the stories I shared before playing each associated tune. I never became famous, by any measure, and I'm not so sure I'm very disappointed by that outcome. As thrilling as it was to perform live, I was never very great at it no matter how nervous I was before showtime and I'm not sure fame and fortune would not have totally destroyed me.
Most of these songs and tunes were first published on compact disc almost immediately after they were written and composed. Others took longer to gel into something good enough to spend time recording. Eventually I'll publish all of those CD albums again here.
Some people may wonder why some of the songs are being republished here in this collection after first appearing on another album in the form of physical CD. I dunno. I just wanted to do this. Also, CDs get damaged or lost. Having them stored in the cloud is another way to preserve them all.
I recommend you not buy copies of my CDs which are out there on the World Wide Web in various places (including Amazon), being sold by people I may have given copies to or by people who received copies given to them by someone else who now (sadly) are trying to make an easy buck off of something I never intended to be sold for any price. There may even be people out there trying to sell the digital versions online, an illegal activity considering they are all copyright protected. Alas, I cannot waste my precious time trying to control actions of such lowlifes, but I will say they are charging much more than any of my music is worth, which amounts to precisely $0.00. So, buyer beware.
During final weeks living in Tehran I would go on long walks east to the end of the street we lived on, Kuchi Kaj, and then as far out beyond that point as I dared across undeveloped land seeking vast stretches of unscarred sand. At that time, citizens of Tehran had not yet become hostile toward Americans (I suspect not many average Iranian citizens are hostile toward Americans these days) but as is the case anywhere in the world there were plenty of bad people out and about, especially along the fringes of that city of four million souls at the time I lived there. Also, the Sha's police forces were at their best when avoided.
Already a fan of Frank Herbert's DUNE series of stories, I hoped to catch glimpses of nomadic goat herders known as the Qashqai. A fiercely independent people averse to dwelling in cities within walled structures like the one my family lived in there, I longed to see them out in the wild dune lands plying their trade and craft. Famous for superb carpets woven from hand-spun harvested from their herds and dyed deepest hues in the land, everything about them was intriguing to me as I was seized by youthful wanderlust I felt almost powerless to resist. I never saw any Qashqai but still dream of them roaming the deserts skirting the Alborz Mountains, living as they have for centuries totally unconcerned with the overcomplexity of urban living. A very cool existence.
A little music video for my nephew on his birthday–a taste of something he left behind when he moved down under.