Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jon and Kate Plus 8: Some new storyline ideas

I've held off opining about this couple, such as they are, because like everyone else in America, I've been over-saturated with coverage of their miserable lives. In the interest of marital harmony over the past few years, I've watched a few of the shows with Mrs. Fishing Musician. Of course, I've had no choice but to be deluged with the print, gossip, online and televised updates as to the minute facets of their lives. By virtue of being victimized in this manner, I feel qualified, if not mandated, to weigh in on their show and their lives.

First, I'll state for the record that the wife and I disagree on who the least desirable member of that union is. After watching Jon basically be the benchmark for the browbeaten husband during the brief times I've weighed in on the show, I'm on his side, although I think his middle age crazy response is a bit early in life as well as a bit childish.

The wife, on the other hand, clearly the wisest person in our home, weighs in with Kate. Jon's noncommunative "mute" persona did not go over well with her. Husbands are supposed to be happy, responsive, sexually charged at any moment of the day or night, ready to take care of the kids no matter how long he's been working or what his personal issues de jour are, and I understand this. Millions, if not billions, of men across the globe understand this. And we're happy about it, at least if you ask the wives.

I think, both Jon and Kate, in the beginning, did what they thought was best for their children in starting a reality show. I mean, how else would this couple financially make it? Who would buy the big house and the big van, as well as pay the immense food, medical, clothing and other bills their mega-brood calls for. Not to mention the toys. Just buying a moderate, non-spoiled child amount of toys for that many children would bankrupt the budget of most yuppie twin-degree households. How would any normal couple pay for eight college educations? Just daycare or a nannie would be more than most families could pay, even on healthy professional salaries.

But the responsibility goes beyond that. After already having two kids, somewhere near the national average, they decide to go for broke. Now they're yours for the rest of your natural lives, Jon and Kate. And ironically, even though you may ultimately divorce and lead quasi-separate lives, you're both joined at the hip for the next 20 years or so, and then will remained tethered to each others lives until you die. Unless Jon goes off and becomes a hermit living in a tin shed in a desert somewhere and surviving on whatever he can scrounge.

Obviously, America has a lot of problems right now. While Jon and Kate are making a comfortable income with their show, lots of other hardworking good parents who are much longer suffering than either of our heroes here are making ends meet as best they can. Job loss. No health insurance. Paying out the wazoo if they do have health insurance. Paying for college. Taking care of aging and ill parents and relatives. Working, many times, at jobs they can't stand, but nonetheless grateful for having the income to support their family.

This audience is not going to stand for Jon's little romance with a woman who wasn't even in puberty at the time he had his first kid. The earrings, the Ed Hardy shirts, the tattoos, the New York apartment, the BMW, the motorcycle, I could go on and on. Really now, Jon, do you actually think those Ed Hardy shirts make you look like anything BUT a loser? Is it a cry for help?

Likewise, no one that watches this show is going to be around for long as Kate degenerates into a TV version of the crying game, woeful and saying "why me". We know why me, Kate. You did nothing but fussed at that poor dude and glowered at him and chastised him and shook your head and gave him the silent treatment for many seasons now, and it's no wonder the dude is going through his second teenagehood now. You've got no one to blame but yourself.

And Kate. Just a word about that mullet haircut you've got. It's not happening. 1982 is calling and they want that hairstyle back. It reminds me of some sort of alien seed pod that's been grafted onto your brain and you must wear your hair that way to hide the mark of the beast.

So we need some interesting story ideas to spice up the show and get things going. Much of American I suspect, thinks you two want to keep the show going so you don't have to do what the rest of us working schlubs in America have to do: work for a living. Therefore, I think the motivation is there to come up with some interesting twists.

1. The Divorce Court Judge refers the couple not only to mediation and counseling, but proscribes various activities they have to participate in. Couples bonding weekends, perhaps where the two are handcuffed to each other for 72 hours in the midst of a tropical locale where counselors and other co-dependent types attempt to dissect their issues in a public and non-respectful format.

Perhaps induce a real experimental psychiatrist in another country into one of these forced counseling sessions. Medicate them with drugs that will make them tell the truth, or at least their innermost feelings. Surely there's some out of work CIA types familiar with chemical interrogation that could assist here. After taping their most innermost confessions, make them watch the videos while strapped to a chair with eyes pinned open a'la Clockwork Orange.

That, my friends, would be a show I would watch every week.

2. Two words: Sumo Wrestling. OK, really three words: Sumo Wrestling Costumes. Strap Jon and Kate up in a couple of these babies. Grease the the costumes up with some form of lubricant just to make things interesting. Take the marital warriors to a hilly area, someplace where their pratfalls might turn into hundred feet tumbles down hill and dale.

The goal of the fight is to fight your opponent until they are worn down to the point where they have to admit that the other party is right about everything. It's a winner take all divorce mediation taken to the next level.

3. Celebrity commentators. Have a split screen, with part showing the trials and travails of Jon and Kate and the other half with celebrity commentators giving their sage advice and opinions. Imagine Bill Maher, Kathy Griffith, Michael Moore, Perez Hilton, Oprah, Jerry Springer, and the ladies from The View are a few who immediately come to mind.

Celebritity commentators could every week, not unlike the Bill Maher show or a more bizarre version of Hollywood Squares. To make sure that it is as wild and wooly as it can be, choose a guest host each week. For more fun, choose a guest host that is bi-polar and who has a history of not taking his or her medications.

4. Merge other failing reality shows with Jon and Kate. Jon and Kate meet the Kardashians. Jon and Kate and the Rock of Love. Jon and Kate and Hulk Hogan. The possibilities are endless. They do it on Disney with the kids shows like Miley, Suite Life and so on with great success, why not with reality shows?

With the current aging out of work actors and actresses that undoubtedly need work, not to mention the plethora of once famous and now forgotten reality show rejects and has-beens, the talent pool for such an endeavor is endless. You wanna have some real fun? Bring in Steven Adler and Doc Hollywood for a weekend intervention with Jon.

The premise of the show could go like this. Someone like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton agrees to come live with Jon and Kate for a month and do whatever the custodial parent of the day says. They are boss. If the guest de jour doesn't do as they are told, they are shot with harmless paintball guns in non-vital locations. Want to up the ante? Have a bitch session, and before having it make sure every one is copiously intoxicated. During the middle of the session, issue stunguns or cattle prods to the participants and watch hilarity ensue. I mean, just how much ordering around do you think REAL celebutants are going to take before they start shocking Jon or Kate?

Or you could make Jon go live with Hulk Hogan and his brood for a month. Let Hulk show Jon how to be a real man in the face of divorce. Since both Jon and Kate are the new breed of reality celebs, make them hangout with members of reality shows past and present, good or bad. Sort of like a purgatory of reality shows. Just make sure that random reality star Flavor Flav plays a major role in this endeavor.

You'd have to do most of these shows without the kids around. You'd have to find some good stand-in parents to actually be responsible and take care of those children and make sure those children are being loved, educated and nurtured. But you wouldn't want to make a show about that. Because with the circus that has become the life of Jon and Kate, it seems no one cares about the kids. If they cared about the kids, they would have ended the show long ago.

Maybe Jon and Kate need to have a sit down reality check with a set of celebrity parents who have a ton of kids but actually appear to be doing a stellar job of being parents. Brad and Angelina. The Pitt family seems focused on taking care of their kids. You don't hear about Brad running the streets with some teenaged chick while Angelina is home raising the kids. They both are working their rear ends off in the movie business and when they're not, it sure seems like they are always with the kids.

Taking the kids places. Doing things as a family. Making sure the kids are having a good a decent life. That's the things you see Brad and Angelina doing when they're not working. They're TCB-taking care of bidness.

On final reflection, maybe Jon and Kate just need to grow up and accept responsibility for the children they bore. Gut it up, like my friend Arthur Seaton used to say. You've made your bed, now sleep in it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I know that google alerts and the like are sometimes monitored by corporate types to see what kind of talk goes on about their products. Witness the response from Orvis about my post detailing my 20 year satisfaction with one of their fly fishing rods.

So maybe Fender does the same. If I could bend the ear of a Fender executive with the power to re-introduce a discontinued product into commerce, I'd beg them to start making the Fender Super Champ amplifier, the Paul Rivera designed model.

I've been "playing at" guitar and bass since before I could drive. I'm not much better now than I was in my teen years when I had lots of practice time. I can actually play a few songs and a lot of riffs, but playing guitar never came easy to me like playing drums did. Hell, playing piano and keyboards has always been easier than guitar or bass for me, and probably because keyboard instruments are also, in their original form, percussion instruments.

But no matter. I will not be deterred on the guitar and bass. The advent of Garageband has made me a much better guitarist, thanks to GB's ability to loop rhythm tracks and import/export data from a song. I'm not trying to fool anyone with my musical compositions, but I do like them to sound the best they can, which frankly, like my guitar/bass playing, is still a pretty raw edge garage band sound.

Just last year, Fender introduced a new model called the Super Champ XD. It's a plenty nice amp for the money, especially if you bought one last year before they nearly doubled in price. It's a tube/solid state combo with digital effects and amp emulation. It's a cool amp, but it's not what I want.

The clean Fender sound on the Super Champ XD is about as close as you're gonna get with a mostly solid state amp to the classic Fender tube sound. I'm talking the beloved sound of the Harvard and the Princeton from the 1960's and 1970's. Some of the greatest rock and roll albums in history were recorded with tiny tube amps, and many fine current day albums are as well.

What middle aged guys like me who like a good guitar sound in their home studio or jams with friends want is an excellent sounding amp that weighs about 25 pounds. I want an amp to play blues and blues-rock on. We've got the expendable income to buy an amp in the $800 to $1,000 range.

The great thing about the Rivera designed Super Champ is the sound. For only having 18 watts, I'd swear it was almost as loud as a Fender Deluxe Reverb. It has a unique tube configuration that was peculiar to this Fender amp, and some writers say that's why it's such a great amp. This site here tells you about the amp better than I can:
But what I know about the Super Champ is this: It sounds marvelous and is big enough to gig a band with. In one of my old bands, we played some smaller places where they didn't want us to be blasting. Both of the guitarists, who had many, many amps of all sizes, chose to use these Super Champs as their amps. I played a jazz bop drum kit with smaller cymbal sizes to try to keep the level down, and the bassist used about a 200 watt Ampeg. So we were still able to wail on our axes but just at a reduced volume.
But the Super Champ keeps up with my full sized drum kit as well. I've played many gigs with the fellows and was always amazed at the volume coming out of that 18 watt amp.
So come on, Fender. I've seen the latest reissued, a vintage reissue Champ 57. It's selling here for $1,000 and that's a bit much for a 7 watt amp with a 8" speaker.
Give us something worth that kind of money. I can buy a REAL vintage 1950's champ in excellent condition for the same or less than you're selling the Champ 57 for. Class A. Hand wired point to point.
The point is, guys like me are willing to pay for a cool product. Give me something like a real all tube Super Champ, an absolute reissue of the Rivera model. Make it hand wired. Put a good speaker in it, not a cheapie like the one in the Super Champ XD. Once I changed the speaker out in the XD, it was a different, and far better sounding amplifier.
So here's what I want for my thousand dollars, Fender:
-A Rivera reissue Super Champ with the only changes being:
-a footswitch for channel switching that's not funky like the original;
-a direct out so I can connect to my mac via an interface.
-an excellent 10 speaker
-a cover.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I stumbled across this post about Houston Musician Herschel Berry
The blog is called She Won't Cooperate or I Want to Be the Girl With the Most Cake and is written by Renee Smith. She writes well and lives in Houston.

I liked it. It reminded me of when I used to see Herschel a lot, back in the 1983 to 1986 time period. Back then, during most of that time, Herschel had the timeless lineup of Wiley Hudgins on drums, Kenny Cordray on guitar, and Karl I can't recall his last name on bass. They were a tight unit, with Herschel handling rhythm guitar and lead vocal duties. All the other fellows sang backup quite well.

Cordray had co-written ZZ Top's hit "Francine" with Billy Gibbons. It was not unheard of for Billy to drop in on a Natives gig during this time period. Once I saw him with a couple of huge guys that were supposedly hockey players friends of his. They was BIG.

In any event, those were fun times. And the music just couldn't be beat. I often saw them at the old Ale House on Richmond, and there were times when the energy of the dancing filled-to-capacity crowd would shake the upstairs of the old house converted into a bar. The bandstand was upstairs and some heavy duty dancing could literally get the structure to rocking. I never was too keen on the way the whole floor bounced several inches, it just didn't bode well.

But I again digress, as I am want to do.

I'm glad to see Herschel is still making music. He was one of the busy local cats when I was coming up, along with folks like The Shake Russell-Dana Cooper Band. Herschel as well as Shake always took the time to talk to me about my musical projects and Herschel used to throw me the occasional bone with sub-gigs for other folks bands.

At the time, two brothers that were friends of mine ran a sound company that did the gigs for the Natives. I got to know the fellows pretty well for a time there, and they were all just fun loving guys and great musicians. They could generate an energy that no crowd could resist. The whole joint would be rocking, no matter what joint they were playing in.

I visited with Herschel on several occasions during that time period. I remember when he used to live in a really cool two story home in lower Montrose, on one of those huge oak lined and shaded quiet streets. I remember he had a tiny drum kit for his son there in the living room.

I got to play some with Herschel at some of the jam nights around town. It was always a lot of fun.

So anyway, Happy Anniversary Herschel. You rock, dude.

Armageddon: The Band

I'm talking about the 1970's one album band fronted by ex-Yardbird Keith Relf, whose untimely electrocution after the band's first album ended what was sure to be a promising career.

The ultimate Armageddon page, which was in existence wayyyyyy before wiki is found at It's not an incredibly long read, but then again, it was an incredibly short-lived band.

There's some Swedish band who now goes by the same name, and no offense to them or their heavy metal fans, but I'm talking about the other Armageddon.

I clearly remember the first time I heard the band's first album, pictured above. My good friend Mog had just installed a Pioneer Supertuner and some great co-axial
6 x 9 speakers in his early 70's Duster, and we were on our way to some kind of high school Friday night party and he told me he had discovered a band that played with the intensity of Led Zeppelin but yet was different.

I'll mention that this same comparison to Led Zeppelin was made by me many years later in response to the style and tenor of Jane's Addiction 1986 at about the time of the release of their first album, Triple X (XXX). I think we were both right.

But so back in '75 or so, I had never heard of them and Mog had picked up the cassette tape at the local Evolution Tapes and Records. It rocked big time. It's still one of my favorite hard rock albums, yet even my hard rock maven friend Billy Ray isn't that big on them. Of course, it took Billy Ray about thirty years to realize that the Inner Mounting Flame album by The Mahavishnu Orchestra was an absolutely kickass album as well, so there's hope yet.

The party was a bore, and we ended up taking the long way home from the party so that we could listen to the rest of the tape. The Mog-ster was a musician himself, being a trumpet player, but he had a fine appreciation for blues based hard rock guitar music.

He was right, and years later, at one of our infrequent gatherings over the years, I gave him a copy of the above album on CD, an import I had bought from some small record store in San Francisco. He had forgotten all about them, but since I had bought the album I was able to listen to it every few years. It's one of my go to road trip cd's, keeping company with other road trip cd's like one of Santana's first three albums or the first three albums by Mahavishnu Orchestra. Strong stuff.

In any event, the Fishing Musician highly recommends this album. If you like Zep and some of the harder edged psyche0delic rock of the 70's, you're probably gonna like these guys. The guitar work by Martin Pugh is just amazing and Relf's vocals are over the top. I'm not such a big harmonica fan but I have to say Relf pulls off the harmonica riffs pretty well. Having heard the harmonica on the album, it just wouldn't sound right without it.

One of my main reasons for liking this band is the drummer, American Bobby Caldwell. I first heard of Caldwell through his excellent work with both Johnny and Edgar Winter, but his drumming on this Armageddon album is just awesome. He's working his rear off and, along with bassist Lou Cennamo, driving the hell outta that band.

Caldwell is living in Florida and a good friend of mine from high school who works for NASA sees Caldwell on occasion playing with the reunion version of Captain Beyond. Caldwell also played skins on one of my favorite songs of my tortured youth, Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.

Wiki says:

"Prior to these projects he played in some of
Johnny Winter's seminal albums like Live Johnny Winter And and also on Saints and Sinners. Bobby was also the drummer on Rick Derringer's All American Boy which produced the classic-rock radio staple Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.

He is still active and living in Florida and is currently playing in the new lineup of
Captain Beyond which includes original guitarist Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt who also played with Iron Butterfly on their Metamorphosis album. Bobby has 1 daughter, Ashley Caldwell Kincheloe."

So if you like old rock, particularly guitar oriented, blues derived hard rock and roll that is somewhat original and not formulaic, get ahold of the Armageddon album. Chances are, if you're a fan of this era and genre of music, you'll really like this album.

They're not Led Zeppelin, but there are some parallels between them. I'm a massive fan of Led Zeppelin and can't say that I think Armageddon was better than Led Zep, but they were different and they rocked just as hard in their own way.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Fishing Lanyard



A couple of years ago I discovered this great device and ended up buying the Morning Star Lanyard because I liked the way it felt. I outfitted it with a combination of Orvis and other accessories from other folks.
I don't have a picture of mine, but it's like the one in the middle, except I have:
---a small green Orvis flybox as shown in the top photo.
---my hemostats are the traditional chrome as shown in the top photo.
---I have a small rubber pad that is for straighting leaders.
---I carry a black spool like the one in the middle picture that holds several complete and ready to fish leaders. I use knotless leaders so changing leaders instead of adding (and tying a perfect knot with tiny line in a running stream/creek/river for a new tippet is not worth the trouble. It takes up valuable fishing time and I can repair the other tippet at my leisure.
---a bottle of upside down floatant on a reel. I can pull it and apply it to the fly very easily.
---a pair of nippers with the small protected needle on the end for clearing the eyes of hooks. Nippers are great because unlike fingernail clippers with a nail file, you can carry them on an airplane for a travel fishing trip. They are just simple clippers.
With these items, I can handle most of the fishing issues you might encounter standing in the middle of a moving body of water. I often use it when fishing in a boat, whether canoe, kayak or larger boat. It has most of what I need to change lures or leaders and the hemo's come in handy when trying to get that hook out of that wiggling fish mouth.
They are even handy for the bank or wading fisherman. But I think they really shine when it comes to boat fishing, particularly the smaller craft like canoes and kayaks where mobility is limited.
It's also a lot cooler than a vest. I normally wear a long sleeve UV fishing shirt in the daytime hours, and to add a vest, even a mesh vest over a longsleeve vented fishing shirt is a bit much, and frustrates the whole purpose of the back shirt vent.
I often use this item when I'm not fly fishing. I filled one of the mini green Orvis fly boxes with ultra light spinner baits, jigs and beetle spins for when I'm ultralight fishing, and found that even with two Orvis mini boxes on the lanyard it's still real easy on the neck.
The coated steel cable that Morning Star uses is "starchy", meaning it keeps its shape and doesn't sag under the weight of attachments, even when loaded as I occasionally do when I put both Orvis fly boxes on the lanyard. You can find the Morning Star website here
Orvis makes a dandy outfit too, and if you're keen on buying a ready made, "RTG" outfit, that's the one I'd go with. "RTG" means READY TO GO. You can find the Orvis lanyard here

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rod De'ath: My Favorite Rory Gallagher drummer

I'm a little OC, so I'm on a kick lately about the late great Rory Gallagher, the famed Irish Blues-Rock guitarist.

Not to take anything away from the other drummers who played with Rory, both in Taste and all forms of Rory bands thereafter, but Rod De'ath was my personal favorite. One strong reason for this is because when I was coming of age, so to speak, playing the drumset, I was listening to, and playing along with, Rory albums. When I was first learning to play the kit, songs like "Tattoo'd Lady" were excellent fodder for a drumset drummer to learn the basic beats of the mixture of rock and blues.

We played along with other stuff too, like the Stones, the Beatles, Creedence, Santana, the Woodstock albums and some of the other bands of the early seventies.

But no one in Houston that I knew had ever heard of Rory Gallagher, nor did they care. The fellows in the drum section at my school marching and concert bands thought he was an oaf compared to Buddy Rich, Carl Palmer, John Bonham, Billy Cobham, Lenny White and so many other flamboyant and talented drummers of that time period.

Billy Cobham was pretty much the shizizz to the guys in my drum sections, guys who were monsters already on the drumset at 13 years old. Cobham was the guru, and they'd spend hours and hours copping his solo's not only note for note, but with the exact sticking and correct rudiments he used.

I'm no Buddy Rich, but I'm considered to be a good drummer. But I got lucky in that the music I listened to in my childhood/teen years was stuff that moved me, or rather, I sought out music that wasn't necessarily being played on the radio. For me, drummers like Charlie Watts, Don Henley, Ringo Starr, Mitch Mitchell, Hal Blaine, Al Jackson and so many others were the groove inspiration for my sort of drumming.

And then came Rod De'ath, somewhere in '74. I read about Rory in a Rolling Stone or Circus magazine article, a blurb more likely about the offer to audition for the Stones, and began listening to him.

Rod ultimately left the band, and as I understand moved to America and had a family and later was involved in some sort of traumatic accident that caused him serious injuries.

I'd be curious to know whatever became of him. I've read conflicting web stories of various sources, none seeming too definative, about him losing his memory or an eye and his ability to play the drums. I don't know which if any are true, but whereever he is, I just want to acknowledge the great admiration and inspiration I have found in his drumming.

It always moves me. But in all fairness, so did the drumming of Wilgar Campbell and the other drummers who played with Rory in the 70's and 80's. There was just something for me in Rod's playing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Mysterious 1970's S&W Model 29 Lightweight

In the early 1980's as an officer in Houston, I used to work extra jobs with a fellow who had quite a collection of firearms. His name was Bill, and he had been a cop in Houston since the late 1960's.

One of his guns captivated me. It was a Model 29 .44 magnum Smith and Wesson, but it was lightweight! Now, Smith and Wesson did make lightweight revolvers since the 1950's, but the ones I have seen and owned were not made bigger than a .38 Special. I myself thing that one of the finest and safest concealed carry weapons is the Smith and Wesson Model 38 Bodyguard Airweight. But that's another topic.
The reason that the Bodyguard Airweight is so much lighter than it's all steel brethren is that the frame on the Airweight is aircraft aluminum. The barrel and cylinder are steel, but the resulting reduction in weight from the aluminum frame makes the airweight an easier and lighter concealed carry weapon. Made since the 1950's, it is recommended no +P ammo be used in them due to the lightweight frame. I've owned mine nearly 30 years and have shot regular .38 special ammo and have had no problems with it. It's still as tight as the day I bought it.
Of course, the Model 29 is the iconic Dirty Harry gun, the Most Powerful Handgun in the World. And at that time, it was. It was way too powerful for any type of urban policing use except for on TV, yet I knew officers who carried them in the 70's and 80's.

But the gun Bill had was special. It looked like the standard Model 29 with the 6 1/2 inch barrel pictured above, but it was significantly lighter than the standard pistol. I never weighed Bill's gun, but I would reckon it went empty for about 30 ounces, much lighter than the regular steel framed Model 29 which comes in at about 47 ounces unloaded.

I first saw the gun in 1980, and over the next several years was able to borrow that gun on several occasions for both hunting and target range use and to tell the truth, despite it's reduced weight, the recoil from .44 magnum loads was really not much worse than shooting the heavier steel Model 29. When you compare a lightweight J frame like the bodyguard to the all steel variety in .38 special caliber, the strong increase in felt recoil is immense between the steel and lightweight guns. The lightweight bodyguards are not unlike shooting lightning bolts from your hand. They kick and shoot quite a muzzle blast due to the short barrel.

But not so with the larger lightweight Model 29. For the most part, when I took it out in the field, I loaded it with .44 special solid bullets for the hog hunting we were doing on my friend's dad's rice farm. The farm was being destroyed by a large herd of hogs that had taken up residence in a hollow near my friends rice farm, and would literally destroy acres of rice at a time in their thrashing through his fields.

I joined other friends of his in a mass artillary attack on these hogs several times. Although I sported a rifle, I took this pistol as a backup, except I loaded it with specials. There was a significant reduction in recoil using the .44 specials, and that drastic reduction meant faster follow up shots on fast moving hogs. Frankly, although powerful, the magnums were just no fun to shoot.

The frame of this gun was definately made of aircraft aluminum, but the only other difference from the steel 29's that I recall was that the blueing was more blue than the black of all of the Model 29s I've seen from that period.

I wish I would have thought to have weighed the gun, or to have looked for a model number under the cylinder hinge. But my friends and I openly discussed with Bill the lightweight nature of the gun and the fact that he bought it in the 70's and that it did indeed sport an aircraft aluminum frame. Bill referred to it as The Model 29 Lightweight.

I've never found any reference to it online, but maybe I've looked in the wrong places. I have the Roy Jinks History of Smith and Wesson book, and could find no reference there.

I saw the gun. I know it existed. I know when I saw it. Other compentent and knowledgeable gun enthusiasts saw it and shot it along with me. We all recall it fondly. But as far as I can find out on the web, it wasn't until the early 1990's when Smith and Wesson reduced the weight of .44 magnums in their "Mountain Gun" series.

But again, as I often do, I digress. Does anyone know about this 1970's lightweight Model 29 of which I speak? Some friends suspect it's a prototype or something from their custom shop. I don't know. What I do know is that I tried to buy it and trade it for offers up to $1,000 back then, and I never could get Bill to part with it.

My favorite Rory Gallagher album

As reader Freg pointed out in a comment on my last post, his favorite blues-rock guitarist is Rory Gallagher. And that's a point that even I, a professional arguer, can't argue with. When you think of the "great" English blues-rock guitarists of the sixties and early seventies, the forefathers of the British blues-rock guitar genre, there's certainly some heavyweight contenders.

Big names like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page tend to dominate the discussions, but get among musicians who favor this type of music and you'll hear other names like Peter Green, Mick Taylor, David Gilmour and Brian Jones.

And the name of Rory Gallagher.
Rory, an Irishman, first hit the radar screen with his sixties band Taste. A few years thereafter, he started his own band. Thet incarnation which is my favorite was the 1973 to 1978 version, featuring Rod D'ath on drums, Gerry McAvoy on bass and Lou Martin on keyboards. This amazing band is the one that plays on Irish Tour '74.
Rory is right up there with Clapton, Page and Mick Taylor as far as those guitarists that I personally find to be interesting and innovative. Those artists, for various reasons, touch my musical soul and sooth the savage beast within that only music can do.

But if I had to pick one person to be able to emulate their guitar style, it would have to be Rory. From the solid blues rhythms and leads of songs like my favorite Rory tune "Used to Be" to the jazz flavored riffs and solos of "Calling Card" to the acoustic and o slide work of some of his softer numbers, Rory is DA MAN. As my good friend and fellow musicologist Dr. R.J. MacReady often likes to say about his favorite musicians, Rory's "Awesome"!

I owned this album and then CD for thirty years before I happened upon a DVD copy of the shows. What a great performance. Rory, passionately playing tones unheard to me on the electric guitar. As a drummer, I thought Rod D'ath was an amazing drummer, and sought to emulate his style at times in my own playing. Surprisingly, many Rory fans who are drummers tend to favor one of the other drummers who played in Rory's band, but I myself have always just sat in awe of Rod's timing and fills.

I also like Against the Grain, Calling Card, and Tattoo, as well as his other albums.

I'm always surprised that some folks I talk to about music who consider themselves extremely knowledgeable about 60's and 70's guitar dominated blues rock have never heard of Rory. It's always my pleasure to introduce his music to them, and more often than not they leave as a fan of his.

For a guy who sold something like 30 million albums worldwide, and who was offered gigs with bands the likes of The Rolling Stones and Canned Heat and turned them down, it's amazing more people have not heard of him.

Poor Rory passed on in 1995. You can read his biography and interesting life story at any number of sites. His beloved brother, Donal, has a site, and you can find many devotional websites and blog posts discussing the talent that was Rory.

Maybe it's because I'm Scotch-Irish, and that my family took an extended stop for about 20 years in Northern Ireland in the 1600's in the ultimate journey from Scotland to America. My family merged Scottish and Irish genes during that time in Ireland, and although most didn't stay there when the time came to go to America, some did stay in Ireland.

Rory was from Cork County, not to far from Ulster, where my family resided.
Something in Rory's music really strikes an internal chord with me, as if it were music genetically programmed into my Irish tinged DNA. It's almost as if I can hear the Irish in his music. You can almost taste the whiskey in the blues that he sings.
I guess that's my Calling Card.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The London Sessions: Two Great Albums

I am a bluesman.
Ever since I first heard the real blues, the old stuff from years ago, I became a bluesman.
Muddy Waters. Howlin' Wolf.
Two of my favorite albums by old bluesmen merge with another musical interest of mine, which is English bluesmen.
The Howlin' Wolf London Sessions (1971) and The Muddy Waters London Sessions (1972).
English bluesmen like Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and many others. You talk to these old English cats and you find that their influences were largely the African American bluesmen who created the genre back in that time period between the 1920's and the 1950's.
So the Howlin' Wolf album features Clapton on guitar, The Rolling Stones Charlie Watts on drums and Billy Wyman on bass and Stevie Winwood on keyboards. Sure, it's the actual Howlin' Wolf blues diluted and reinterpreted by a bunch of still young English rock cats, but hey, they were actually creating a genre of their own.
The Howlin' Wolf London Sessions is my favorite of the two, possibly because I'm a bigger fan of the tunes on that disc (it's on cd and in itunes, I believe).
But the Muddy Waters album is no slouch either. The late, great Rory Gallagher handles guitar duties, with Stevie Winwood on keys, Rick Grech on bass and the explosive Jimi Hendrix and The Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell on drums.
So Winwood gets play on both albums.
What heady days those must have been. Rory Gallagher was just coming into international recognition in his solo career after his stint with Taste (he was so good that was asked to join the Rolling Stones when Mick Taylor left, before the offer was made to the ultimate replacement Ron Woods). Mitchell had done the Hendrix deal and was in demand and at the top of his game.
Clapton was right in the middle of his Derek and The Dominos phase. Of course, Watt's and Wyman's careers and fortunes with the Rolling Stones were already weathy British rock royalty and yet, only more and more success and fame was to come for these two original Stones. Clearly some of the top English blues based rock stars of the day.
Of course, in my humble opinion, the only way either project could have been cooler was if the members of Led Zeppelin had been involved. That's food for thought in and of itself. Any Zeppelin fan worth their salt knows many of Zep's best tunes are derived from old African American blues, and the members of Zep, particularly Plant and Page, were really into the whole Mississippi bluesman mystique and legends. And they came up with an entirely rocking way of reinterpreting the blues. But I digress...
Other artists followed suite and did London Session albums with a variety of players.
But these two are my favorites. In any event, these albums are lively, well played albums merging the unique styles of two iconic American bluesmen who literally invented the concept of "electric {guitar} blues" merged with the first generation of british musicians who worshipped the ground these guys walked on, musically and otherwise.
Sorry about the spacing. I can't get it to work right.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Richie Hayward Benefit

Many of you have heard some of Richie Haywards handiwork, even if off of the top of your head you don't know who he is. He's the original drummer of the group Little Feat, and after all these years, Little Feat is still funking and skunking and playing their particularly version of funky rhythm and blues.

In addition to holding downt the drum chair for Little Feat since 1969, wiki lists these artists as some of the people that's he's played with as well, and it reads like a who's who of rock and roll: Joan Armatrading, Kim Carnes, Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, James Cotton, The Doobie Brothers, Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton, Buddy Guy, Arlo Guthrie, Jonny Lang, Nils Lofgren, Taj Mahal, Robert Palmer, Van Dyke Parks, Robert Plant, Bob Seger, Carly Simon, Stephen Stills, Tom Waits,John Cale, Warren Zevon and Helen Watson.

Drummers from all over the world are giving a bit to help Richie out, since he is a U.S. Citizen living in Canada and he has no health insurance.
Of course, this year represents thirty years since the passing of the legendary front man of Little Feat, Lowell George.

Here's a link for more information:

More about Matagorda and The Brothers

Seems like my post last week about the area of Matagorda, both the town and the island, and how wild it still is down there.

The Houston Chronicle ran a nice article about Matagorda as well.

It's been a few years since I've been there, and apparently there's some new places to stay and some new places to eat. Good for Matagorda. I'll have to take the family and stay a weekend down at Karankawa Village and tell you how it goes.

I have two friends, brothers in facts, who used to have a place down in Matagorda, on that stretch of highway between the town and the island, right at the mouth of the Mighty Colorado. There's some good fishing in that part of the river at the right times, and I've seen some fabulous fishing out in back of those houses on occasions.

So these two brothers, we'll call them Chester and Fester, they're both professionals with their own separate practices and staffs, althought they share office space in a building their family has owned for years.

Chester comes off as the more sensible, more restrained and in control personality, although some say that Chester is actually wilder than his brother Fester, who is considered by all to be a wildman. Both of them are highly educated, and both of them are professionally competent at what they do, with legions of loyal repeat clientele. By saying they are both wildmen to some extent, I don't mean to imply they are heathens or bad folks.

Indeed, I always found them highly amusing and entertaining. I was never done wrong by them either personally or professionally, but they were both kind of like the wild guys in high school or in a college fraternity that never really settle down. Multiple marriages. Highly financially successful. Absolutely engaging to talk to on a personal basis.

For example, about ten years ago a friend of mine who was a property owner and lawyer informed me of his families property, which was located not to far out of Houston. It had been in the family for over a hundred years, and during that time had served as a family cattle ranch as well as a large sandpit operation. My friend's grandfather had trucked in florida bass way back in the sixties to stock the five large ponds that dotted the acreage.

My friends father and grandfather had carefully designed the lakes from sandpits of various depths that they had around the property. Each pond, ranging from about 2 acres to about 15 acres, was extremely varied in design and appearance. Clearly, his forefathers took great care in designing some varied lakes. One was large enough and clear of above water obstructions to water ski in and it was about 70 feet deep.

But our favorite lake was a three acre deal we called "The Jungle Lake", because it was shallow and full of standing timber both in the water and surrounding the lake. There was all types of highly interesting bass habitat in that lake for worming and plugging, not to mention fly fishing.

Like a lot of lakes in east Texas, there was a significant alligator population around the jungle lake on my friend's property. In fact, my friend told me to carry a pistol with me at all times due to the large number of snakes and gators around the shoreline. The lake hadn't been fished much at all in the last 10 years, and it was quite overgrown.

So one day I took Fester and his teenaged kids out to these lakes to do some fishing. His kids were nice kids, and since we had five large lakes all positioned next to one another, the kids headed off for a lake away from the old folks (Fester and I) while he and I concentrated on worm fishing the jungle lake.

Although there were several small boats and canoes that my friend owned that were ready for our use next to these lakes, for whatever hair brained reason, Fester decided to go wade fishing in the jungle lake. At it's shallowest, the jungle lake was about neck deep for Fester. So here you have this middle aged dude, wading around all kinds of snakey looking limbs and trees and weeds and basically a semi-swamp looking area, doing his fishing.

I told the fool that there were gators in the lake and that I had seen several that were large enough to do some serious eating on a grown human. That didn't bother him one bit, as he waded into the murky green water of the jungle lake.

Soon enough, about a hundred feet away, a gator did surface. I started laughing, and he wanted to know what was so funny. I pointed at the gator, quite visible from his position, and moved pretty darn fast getting out of that lake. That's about the closest to walking on water I've seen anyone do. It was almost like one of those cartoon characters from the sixties were the character is in a scared hurry and his legs are moving faster than his body.

Both brothers have settled down somewhat, as they are now well into their late fifties, but suffice it to say that alcohol has fueled many an adventure AND misadventure with these guys.

I know that in the recent past, Fester was at a gathering of old high school friends and their wives and he suddenly pulled out a pair of shears and clipped the necktie of a friend off, right below the knot, leaving a fashionable cravat in it's place. His only explanation was that the rather loud tie was distracting him from his favorite beverage.

In addition to having a house in Matagorda, they had one for years on the lower Guadalupe. Well, they were successful. In any event, one year there was a warm spell during winter on the coast and apparently specks were running in the bay. Fester came to my office in a tizzy, telling me I needed to come with him to Matagorda the following day and go fishing with him for these speckled trout.

At the same time, in walked Chester, who was planning a Guadalupe trout fly fishing trip the next day. Chester told me I needed to go with him and not Fester. Fester, of course, counter argued the point and finally, as a tie breaker, Chester asked me if Fester had ever told me about the time Fester had shot a hole in his boat with a .357 while out on the water. In. The. Gulf. Of. Mexico. Not in the bay or river, no but out in the ocean.

Seems it was a pretty smooth day on the gulf, and Fester and a few drunk friends decided to take his 20' boat out past the troughs in the Matagorda Island surf looking for kings and schools of trout. As they were fishing, a large snake crawled out from the back well where the fuel tanks were, sort of under the motor well.

In any event, you've got some drunk guys on a small boat with a big snake. As I heard the story that day from Chester, it was a water moccasin, but no matter. A big poisonous snake in a small boat. Fester carried pistols with him pretty much everywhere he went. In his car. At his office and home. And of course, in his boat. A nice nickel plated Smith and Wesson .357 magnum. For pirates, I suppose.

Before any of his friends coulds stop him, Fester dispatched that snake to the great beyond. Of course, in doing so, with only three shots, he placed several large holes in the bottom of his boat. Which was, as I mentioned, maybe about a half a mile offshore.

Water began pouring into the boat, rather quickly I understand, and one of the fisherman there had the sense to immediately crank the engine and head full speed to the beach, where they managed to beach the boat and make a safe exit from that situation. The boat was a goner though.

You'd be surprised, they said, just how big a hole that a 158 grain jacketed hollow point .357 makes in an upscale, thick hulled fiberglass boat. What was really surprising, Fester said, was just how fast a big boat like that with lots of deck space could fill up with water from three bullet holes.

The boat shooting incident and the alligator wading incident pretty much made it a no brainer that I would go rainbow trout fishing on the Guadalupe with Chester and forgo what could only prove to be Fester's next misadventure.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Omar and the Howlers: Hard Times in the Land of Plenty

21 years ago this year, the song "Hard Times in the Land of Plenty" was being played on AOR and rock stations everywhere. Penned and performed by Austin's own Kent "Omar" Dykes, it was everywhere on the radio in 1988. I remember that I went and bought the album as soon as I heard it. Yes, although I already had many cds by that point in the late 80's, sometimes, and especially for the blues, it's nice to have that "vinyl edge" that certain bands sounds deserve.

You can read all about Omar at his own website I've seen him numerous times in the past decade, both in Houston and Austin, and one thing for sure about Omar, that boy can play the guitar.
I'd recommend either of the above albums of his, if you want to check him out. Big Delta, the 2001 release, features the twin drumming powerhouse of Terry Bozzio and Barry "Frosty" Smith, along with Roscoe Beck on bass.

He's a big man, and he's one of the few guitarists who I've actually seen twist the neck of the guitar when playing a solo. You can actually see the flex of the next as he twists it. Try it sometime. I can't do it. He's a strong mo fo.

He's also a helluva decent guy. I had the opportunity some years ago at the Rhythm Room on Washington Avenue in Houston to sit down backstage (literally) and have a conversation with Omar about music and life and family. He lost his wife several years ago, what a tragedy. Left as a single parent, I feel the need to buy his stuff every time it comes out simply because it's good stuff and because he's an artist that I know is living a decent life, taking care of his family.

My friend Barry "Frosty" Smith was playing drums for Omar on that tour, and so I had the opportunity to hang with the band throughout the night. Rocking, just rocking.

But that wasn't the first time I met Omar. In the spring of 1988, I was playing in an original band that often played Fitzgerald's. Back then, Fitzgerald's was one of the homes of Texas blues in Houston, having had many a rising and falling blues star pass through it's doors over the years. The band I was playing with was hired by Sara Fitzgerald to do the opening for Omar and the Howlers.

It was a sold out house. Fitzgerald's has a very cool back stage setup, or it least it used to in the days when I was playing there. The upstairs stage is actually connected to a neighboring structure via a walkway, which provides nice dressing and "green" rooms for performers to use before, during and after shows. Most of the places I played didn't have this benefit, which really came in handy.

For example, as a Houston band member, if you do any gear moving at all, except in the rare cold times of year, you're going to be sweat city by the time you load in your gear and set it up under the stage lights. Not being in a famous band with roadies, I do my own loading in and out. If you're lucky, you have cool bandmembers and you all pitch in to load in and out together, because at places like Fitzgeralds, stairs are a bitch with heavy musical gear.

So that night, as I finished loading in and wandered into the backstage rooms to find a room to change into some dry clothes for the show, I met Omar who instantly provided me with some water and invited me into their particular green room. I met the band and had a beer with them and just really enjoyed talking to them. They caught the last part of our show and were very encouraging.

Of course, I stayed for the sold out show and it was just amazing. Omar is a power guitar player and often uses no effects to get the varied sounds out of his guitar. He often plays Fender Stratocasters and Fender tube amps, and gets an amazing variety out of those two devices just using his hands, no floor full of effects to get different sounds.

I've often felt that rock/blues trios have the ability to get "tighter" sounding than a quartet. I guess if you have three musicians and a singer, that you can be tight, but I think often that three good musicians (guitar, bass and drums) can often "lock in" to each other easier than even four musicians can. There is exceptions to every rule (Beatles, for example) but I like the think about some of my favorite artists that played in trios:

Jimmy Hendrix Experience


ZZ Top


Emerson, Lake and Palmer

So if you get the chance to catch Omar and the Howlers, do it. Buy a cd off of his website. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

AL Broussard: The most profound musical experience of my life

I've seen a lot of steller musicians, famous and infamous. I've been to rock concerts, outdoor festivals, concertos, the symphony, jazz shows and all forms of live music in between.

As a musician, I've played a lot of gigs and shows with lots of different types of band. I came up in the band program starting in 6th grade and continued in orchestral and symphonic and marching bands until I was into college. Likewise, I've been playing in rock, jazz, soul, blues and even the odd polka or klenzmer band since I was fourteen. Bands I was in during high school played dances and the like, and although my performing goes through peaks and valleys, it's a great part of my life.

Some of my musical experiences where I've been playing have been profound for me. It seemed like nothing could go wrong in 2002 and 2003 when it came to the 10 or so bands I played with during that time. I like to do substitution work especially in blues bands, and that year was a banner year for playing some great shows with some very well known regional bands.

But despite all of that, the most profound musical experience of my life happened on a cold and drizzly New Orleans night in February of 1994. I was at a seminar, and I had made a few new friends from other attendees who share my profession. Although from different parts of the country, we quickly agreed we needed serious Louisiana cuisine, some drinks, and a nice bar to hear some great NOLA music in.

We ended up at a place called The 711 Club, so known possibly because it is located at 711 Bourbon Street. It had a restaurant deal in the back courtyard, behind the smallish bar, known as The Tricou House. It's a famous old building with a lot of charm.

Billed in front of the club was AL BROUSSARD: THE HUMAN TRUMPET. We didn't know exactly what a performer billed as the human trumpet might do, but it seemed one of the more interesting things going on. It was slow that night on Bourbon Street, being the first Sunday after the end of Mardi Gras week, and I guess performers and revelers alike were in for that night.

And at about nine o'clock, a very elderly black gentleman sat behind an electric piano and microphone and commenced to render the most soulful and rocking creole blues and ragtime and jazz type New Orleans music I have ever heard, and that's saying something because I have lots of recordings by The Meters, Louis Armstrong, The Neville Brothers, Dr. John and other NOLA influenced artists.
It took me back to the days of 1926 when Al and Louis Armstrong and drummers like Baby Dodds were playing in Storyville in New Orleans. Al lived to be 95 years old, playing music I know until at least 2000, a year before his death, which is when I last saw him. He still "had it" at 94. What a dude.

Al reminded me of Louis Armstrong, so it was no surprise to learn that they played together quite a bit over their careers. Al never had the success that Louis had, but that didn't stop Al from playing those Orleans blues and boogie woogies late into the night every night.

And so the evening went. One spellbinding and hypnotizing tune after another. Usually at a bar band gig, you revel for the breaks so you can talk to your friends. Not so this night. The ten or so tourists in the place were simply mezmerized with the soul and beauty of Al's vocals and piano playing.

The human trumpet moniker came from the fact that Al could imitate with his mouth the sound of a soulful muted trumpet.

You can hear some of Al's tunes and I think buy downloads. Here's a link I found:

It might not strike you as the most soulful or original music you ever heard. But to me, it was like feeling part Louis Armstrong and part Robert Johnson. But it is well done and to me, hearing it live struck a serious chord. I was lucky enough to see him a few more times before he died. He kept performing until his nineties, and my last vision of him is loading up his keyboard onto his 1970's Honda Trail 90 motorcycle and putting off into the night after finishing a gig in the Quarter.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Life in Matagorda years ago

Scientists have been finding out all kinds of things about the genetic codes contained in the individualized dna that our cells carry. For example, is there a motor cycle riding gene that fellows like Texas Ghostrider have? Is there a fishing gene that makes me long to fish and to seek fishing opportunities of all kinds no matter where?

If so, it could make some sense as to why fishing relaxes me. As playing music relaxes me. But it could also be environmental, as I was raised around a lot of relatives and freinds who fished.

I've got fisherman on both sides of my family tree. My maternal grandfather was quite the fisherman, with one of his favorite spots being Lake Tannycomo near Branson, Mo. Back then, in the 30's and 40's, there wasn't much there but some campgrounds, some motor courts, and a few bait and boat rental shops. Heck, even until the 1970's when I visited the lake and a great nearby creek appropriately called "Fish Creek", Branson was still a tiny town. If it had even one stop light back then, I'd be surprised.

Going back several generations, on my father's side, my direct family lived in Texas long before electricity, public water or any other of the amenities we take for granted. Back then, you fished and hunted mainly for food to augment the family pantry. Sometimes what you hunted and fished for WAS the food you had in the family pantry. Like back when there was no ice or ice boxes and all meat had to be salted and smoked.

My daddy's people settled all over the State, primarily locating in East Texas, Central Texas and the Gulf Coast. But a few souls struck out for places like Uvalde and Alpine and even further west on out to Cal-if-or-ni-a. Almost all of my dad's people were farmers and/or ranchers of some sort, with cattle, pigs and chickens being mainstays of most of their lives for over a hundred years.

My father's large immediate family located in various Central Texas and East Texas locales, hunted often for deer, wild hogs and turkeys. A wide variety of birds were also considered fair game.

But the ones that must have been hardy SOB's were the ones that live on the coast in those days when indians still roamed and in many cases, ruled parts of the state.

Some of my dad's direct ancestors settled down in the town of Matagorda in the 1800's, and you know that was wild and wooley living down there back in those days. On the one hand, great fishing abounded, no doubt. I suspect they did a little alligator hunting and rattlesnake hunting (tastes like chicken) when the deer and various migratory ducks and geese were scarce. There are so many gators down there in the brackish water as well as rattlesnakes out the wazoo in various island and mainland locales that it seems it would be inescapeable not to kill one or two every now and then, just out of threats and bad situations.

From my college Texas History professor who resembled in appearance and humorous personality the actor Kevin Nealon, I recall his tale about the worst insult an early 1800's resident of Texas in the coastal regions could make to another settler. The insult was that they "stank like a Karankawa" indian.

Apparently, the coastal living Karankawas made a frequent practice of coating their bodies with "alligator grease" (rancid alligator fat, I suppose) to repel the ever-present hordes of mosquitos that thrive in coastal Texas, and apparently if you were downwind of a Karankawa so annointed you could smell them long before you could see or hear them.

Because Matagorda was an early Texas port, I suspect various spices and other types of staples came through on a regular basis. So they probably had a fairly constant supply of goods that they could buy or barter for.

I'm sure they fished, although I'm sure gill nets and trot lines were more favored than, as they were probably highly productive for speckled trout, redfish, croaker, gafftop catfish and a variety of other creatures that prowl the bays and surf. Catching a shrimp run was probably a treat, and crabbing probably provided some food as well. Although people have been fishing with so called sporting rods and reels since the 1400's, those who fished for food probably did employ fishing rods and reels on some occasions but when you're fishing for high volume family feeding food, nothing beats a cast net or gill net or trot line.

Of course, they probably also used single or double hook lines that were tied off to a tree or something on shore. Back then, the bays were teaming, literally jumping with redfish and sand trout and speckled trout and flounder and just all kinds of marine life. I bet there were schools of shrimp and mullet that would just boggle the mind.

But alligators and rattlesnakes are still inescapeable parts of the bay and dunes and bottom land that covers both sides of Matagorda Bay and it's surrounds.

Just ten years ago, I was driving down a rural dirt/sand "road" on Matagorda Island that cut through some small dunes and my jeep hit a soft spot in the sand and slid into the side of a sand dune, exposing what can only be described as a nest of cranky rattlesnakes.

That cured me of ever going into the dunes when nature calls.

The gators tend to be in the marshy, brackish water areas that surround either edge of the bay. If you go driving down some of the county roads that go out of the city of Matagorda proper, you'll see signs in the swampy roadside areas warning of alligators. Believe it. I wouldn't suspect that gators would venture into the dunes or to the beach. Too dry and sandy with poor traction. And too many damn rattle snakes.

For those who may be skeptical about alligators in salt water, I offer the following misadventure.

Many years ago, in my young twenties, I went fishing in the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Now, I've grown up around coastal Texas and have fished and explored extensively up and down the Texas Gulf coast, by boat and by car. I KNOW there are gators in the brackish backwaters and back bays of the major bay systems, particularly from Matagorda northward. I've seen them.

But this particular morning as we arrived about 5:30 A.M. in one of the far reaches of the Anahuac NWR to do some fishing, we came upon the most humongous school of shrimp I've ever seen. Being chased by a school of some kind of mullet. A big school of sand trout. It happened right in front of us in a canal feeding into another canal there in the NWR, and it was a sight to behold.

My friend Bobby and I grabbed the seine and jumped into the waist deep water, latching up load after load of BIG shrimp and mullet. Literally, a heaping pile of shrimp and mullet, numbering in the hundreds laying on the bank. Even if we caught no fish, we'd be having a big shrimp fry that night. There were so many shrimp in that school that our huge haul didn't even make a dent in the size or fury of it.

After dumping several heavy loads of shrimp and mullet on shore, we clambered out of the water, and began loading the shrimp into ice chests and trash bags. We threw most of the mullet back, keeping a few to use for bait. We filled up several ice chests with shrimp, and then set about fishing for larger game fish with live shrimp and live mullet.

Of course, we were patting ourselves on the back so hard that we nearly threw our arms out of the socket. Nothing like this had ever happened to any of us. We had a third friend with us fishing who did not join us in the water for our landfall bounty. he pointed to the middle of the channel where just a few minutes before we had been actively working the seine along the bottom of the channel.

There was a nice big ass alligator thrashing about, as if someone had been disturbing it's territory.

I can only imagine it was many times more prevalent back in the early days of Texas colonization. Alligators and rattlers everywhere.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

L.A. Friends part 1

Or El Lay, as some of my friends who live there refer to it. I've always liked L.A., and I've already posted about there. I go out there several times a year to visit with friends and occasionally TCB (take care of business). Despite having been raised in Houston, a close approximation to L.A. (closer than Chicago or New York), I've always liked it.

Since I occasionally post about California issues and stories, I've been getting quite a few return Golden State readers. No accounting for taste, I always say, but I'm happy they're stopping by.

Many of my L.A. friends are musicians, and if ever there was a place to see a wide range of musical entertainment, it's L.A. Well, O.K. Vegas has a lot of varied musical acts as well, but it seems like there is less hassle and less expense seeing acts in L.A. than in Vegas.

Jazz and fresh rock and roll thrives in L.A. For example, on Monday evenings, my good friend John Z. headlines an all star jam session at The Baked Potato in Studio City. If you're a player, not only can you jam with some big name talented rock and jazz artists, but you see and hear great groupings doing some heavy musicating and you can meet tons of folks and find future gigs and recording sessions with some very happening musicians.

John grew up in Houston, and has since gone on to become a mainstay of the L.A. music community. He plays in side bands with his good friend Danny Carey, famed drummer of Tool. He does all kinds of recording and gigging with all sorts of configurations of folks. He teaches lessons. He may still do jingles and commercials, but I'm not sure about that.

Back in the eighties and early nineties, I had the opportunity to visit California and specifically L.A. on much more frequent trips. A lot of my artistically inclined friends moved to L.A. after high school or college.

Out of all of those friends, one has been out there for nearly 30 years, doing guitar session work on albums and teaching at some of the cool local music schools and colleges that dot the L.A. landscape. His name is Robert, and we had our first band together when we were in the 9th grade. Over the years, I'd catch up with him in L.A., or he'd be in Houston or Austin playing on someone's album or tour, and we'd get to spend some time together.

But about 7 years ago, we put our old high school band together to perform at one of our high school reunions. Well, almost the original band, we had to get Robert's brother to cover bass because our old bassist had given it up long ago. Although John (the singer and second guitarist) and I have been playing in bands all these years, we were not like Robert, and playing with successful artists live and in the studio.

The reunion gig went well, in fact, since we had a ringer with Robert on guitar, it went better than anyone expected, because we were only able to get together twice in the year and a half before the gig to rehearse. But we're mostly all in the same place as far as musical interests go, so being on the same page wasn't that hard. But it didn't hurt having an L.A. session great covering the lead guitar duties!

Robert is not gigging as much these days. Gigging gets hard on a body, particularly if that body is required to do things in the daytime hours. Most of Robert's work is during the day now, so he's actually available to go eat with or just hang around when I visit L.A. these days, as opposed to his younger days when my only hopes of seeing him were onstage at any number of L.A. area clubs.

One of Billy Ray's good friends, a stellar drummer named Wayne, just got a corporate gig with a major musical instrument manufacturer as a corporate representative, and he's based in L.A. Back in the earlier part of this decade, I used to go see Wayne's band when they'd come to Houston, and I was always amazed by his drumming. He's a guy with real drumming talent, not a hacker like me.

So I'm hoping to met up at least once with Wayne the next time I'm out in L.A. Wayne, as a part of his job, has to make occasional rounds to some of the clubs and shows that are going on around town, visiting with his companies artists. It's a cool way to go, hanging onto his coat tails, and usually that entails "guest list" entry (meaning no waiting in line) and often times free drink and food. Those in the industry are often comped a lot of stuff at these places when their companies artists are playing. So it's usually going to some of the really cool places and not having to spend a lot of cash, other than for taxies.