Sunday, September 27, 2009

Texas River Fishing Lore and Links

Those few of you who read my blogging on fishing and being a musician know by now I like fishing in rivers and creeks. I don't know why that is, except my father and I on many occasions did fish in rivers and creeks. We also fished a lot of lakes, saltwater Texas bays like the Lower Laguna Madre and Galveston Bay. Jetties. Beach and surf fishing in Galveston, Boliver, Matagorda, North Padre and South Padre. On party barges on lakes. Largemouth bass fishing at Lakes Livingston, Conroe, Palestine and Houston.

We fished for trout in Arkansas and Missouri and Colorado. Fished the dark and dangerous looking Suwannee River in Florida. Fished the lake at Disneyworld next to the Contemporary Resort where fish had been stocked in the just newly opened amusement park back in the day. The wide and slow Congaree River in South Carolina, where ominous overtones of Civil War battles can almost be felt in the air, and can been seen in the concrete and steel locks the Confederates built in the river to limit up-river excursions by the Union Army.

I've fished in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well. In boats and on piers and in the surf. I've fished in the Bahamas for bonefish, and other sorts of fish strange to me.

So I don't know why river and creek fishing holds such an allure for me. Maybe it was those spring breaks spent on the Guadalupe or on the upper Colorado near Bend, Texas, at the old Lemon Springs and Sulpher Springs campgrounds that are now a State Park. We spent much time on the Trinity River as well, both above and below Lake Livingston.

I've taken extended canoe and kayaking trips on several Texas rivers and streams, including the Guadalupe, the Medina, the Colorado and the Llano. There is nothing to me like the feeling of coming around an isolated bend, with no one around, and fishing in a deep pool or fishy looking rapid that hardly, if ever, gets fished.

So I thought I'd post a few links to some other good articles I've come across that talk about some good Texas fishing spots.

Here, Austin American Statesman writer Mike Leggett talks about fishing the Llano up near Mason.

An excellent piece here about Texas Rainbow Trout fishing with a little history on Texas trout stocking.

Here's a blurb about the Perdernales River Nature Park opened last year in Blanco County by the LCRA.

That'll get this new feature going. I've been trying to find an article that was talking about rainbows that are privately stocked in Cypress Creek in Central Texas. I'll keep looking for it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Texas Rainbow Trout 2009

As soon as the stocking locations are released from the TPWD, I'll be posting them here. It's my favorite time of year, when trout are stocked for several months in Texas, and it's quickly approaching. Come early December, it's time to go fishing for some tasty trout.

Living in Texas, with few exceptions like the Guadalupe and some limited fishing on large creeks feeding the Perdenales River that have private stocking of rainbows, trout fishing is a winter time activity.

I have found that fishing when it is cold and rainy is a prime time for fish catching. If you're willing to take the sometimes brutal winds and pelting rain, you can octen fill up a stringer quickly. Or so I have found, although there are exceptions.

I theorize that the colder conditions lower the water temperature to one that makes the trout their hungry-ist and frisky-ist. Over the past 30 years, during such cold and often rainy days, I have consistently caught trout on small spinners with ultralight fishing tackle.

I fished a 17 degree day at Meridian State Park lake one cold January morning years ago, and had a stringer in under thirty minutes. There was no one there fishing but me, a strong light rain and very cold, and the Park Ranger was surprised to see someone fishing at daybreak on the lake. It was hours before anyone appeared to fish there, and I fly fished and spin fished and just had a great time.

I had come prepared with a rainsuit and a several layers of fleece and jackets and gloves and some rubber boots, so I was relatively warm and dry. I had a small Coleman stove that I heated tea and coffee with. I would retreat into the covered area that was near the lake when I wanted to dry out. As I recall, it was a pavilion of sorts.

Billy Ray and I used to go fish the section of the Blanco in Blanco River State Park where the trout were stocked. It was pretty cold on both occasions, and we both struck out. But at most of the other lakes and rivers where trout are stocked in the State, I've caught trout. But always much better when it's cold.

I'm curious about whether the Gulp type of bait, a soft plastic impregnated with some sort of scent odor, would work on Texas Trout. I'm curious about what other people use as well.

We often use kernal corn for the kids, and they do pretty well with that. I've always fared well with various small Mepps spinners as well as a teeny-tiny gold bladed green bodied spinner I bought in Arkansas trout country many years ago. That's my secret weapon. I've had good luck with small bass plugs when they are hitting the surface.

Of course, I do a lot of fly fishing with drys and streamers and nymphs. Fly fishing for me is much more fun with drys, but in the right water underwater flies can be effective.

But mostly, I spin fish. I've got a new reel loaded with 4 lb. test line that I plan to use this year, along with an old Fenwick micro-ultralight rod from the 80's. It's a sweet rod that worked well with Llano and James river bass that I caught earlier this year. The real almost weighs nothing and was a name brand at a cheap price. It's solid and works well.

I also plan to use my Curado reel with a super ultra light zebco rod. I got the rod at a garage sale years ago, and it's probably 30 years old but is in great shape. It's very flexible but keeps a great bend and shape when fighting fish. The Curado has some of the high-tech braided line on it, and I would use some sort of mono or flourocarbon leader of 3 feet or so. I just think it'd be fun since the Curado has a great drag and I like the way the rod feels on the smallish stocked rainbows.

For years now, Billy Ray and I have been threating to make the rounds of some far out locations in West Texas that get trout. Take a 4 day or so road trip hitting and fishing some trout stocking locales we've never visited. Maybe he and I can get the gumption to do that this winter.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Another musician friend back from L.A.

One of my high school friends, JD, is back from living in LA after more than 25 years out there. The reason? No work for JD.

Which is strange. JD is a professional musician. He has a college degree from North Texas State in music instruction and guitar, as I recall. He taught for years at the prestigious Musician's Institute (or more exactly, the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) at MI). After graduating from college, JD made the LA move and although he was already a master guitar player at the time with a college degree from a recognized music university, he attended GIT and completed their 9 month program.

He did that to make contacts, and contacts he did make. I've known JD since 9th grade, and he's an awesome player. He was awesome in 9th grade, able to play any tune on guitar we wanted him too. I was in my first "real" band with JD at age 14, and by real band I mean a band that played well enough to get paid and that people actually thought sounded good.

But JD was heads and shoulders above us in ability, even way back then in 9th grade. As we grew older, although many of us took lessons and did a lot of playing and greatly increased our prowess on our instruments, JD's progress was always WAY ahead of ours.

I've known several "natural" musicians, with a gifted ear and often multi-instrumental abilities. JD is one of those kinds of guys too.

So after moving to LA and completing GIT in the early eighties, JD was impressing stellar guitar folks like Tommy Tedesco and Howard Roberts, to name a very few. Tedesco, Roberts and a few others, at that time, had lots of the TV and film scoring work tied up, meaning they played the guitar soundtracks as some of the "in demand" guys in L.A.

Now, historically, being a union studio musician playing soundtracks and jingles and doing sessions as a hired gun with various music stars was a pretty good paying profession. Those who managed their money or had side interests like the LA Session cats that owned and operated places like MI and the Dick Grove School of Music ended up doing ok financially as sidemen and teachers.

So JD got hooked up into this group of fellows and for several decades, has had more work than he could stand. JD taught at MI for several decades, leading to his writing several guitar instruction books for one of the biggies in that biz. Although not a college or junior college, MI is a technical school that has had many students go on to very successful music careers.

Running professionally with this group, JD had no spare time. In addition to working at GIT a few days a week, he had a busy daytime teaching schedule. He did jingles and the occasional TV show or soundtrack and was always trying to get more of that work. He played lots of recording sessions with all kinds of famous and failed musicians and got paid for all of it. One of the things he did a lot of was appearing with stars in the bands their musical directors put together in big towns for those acts that toured without a band.

He also played in some popular "party" bands, bands that worked the LA circuit of clubs and private parties. Clubs don't pay so well in LA, but the private parties do.

About 15 years ago, JD began easing into the digital age. It was becoming commonplace to use ProTools, and if you had a good computer and a knowledge of ProTools, often you could record your sessions at your house, with the work being emailed back and forth.

But JD said that it just started drying up all the way around this year. Things had been slow in the past few years. Sessions began decreasing. Parties payed less and often featured DJ's and rappers. He got laid off from the MI gig and wasn't getting anything through the union, although his reputation is still excellent and he is just as burning of a guitar player as he's always been. He's never fallen into any of the booze or drug traps that messed up many a Hollywood musician's life. In short, it was like nobody had any money anymore, and those who did have it were being very picky about who they spent it with.

JD still had students, but in the last year, they began falling away. Either they or their parents were losing jobs, and didn't have the money to pay for lessons any more.

So although he had some money coming in, he wasn't getting to play much, and he was quickly blasting through his savings. He said he was getting so bored that he was attending "jam nights" and "open mic stages" at various clubs just to do some playing with other folks. His business plan of not being in a band that worked for so long had run out of gas for him. At least for now.

So JD is back in Texas. He's doing some gigging all across the state. And trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The phrase fishing camp can mean an awful lot of different things, at least here in Texas.

It can be a commercial affair, a motel or bed and breakfast type place on the water somewhere where boats and guides and customers head out for fishing.

Some of my friends that own land adjacent to lakes or rivers or the bay have what they used to call "camp houses" or cabins set up for a permanent fishing camp setup, a place to getaway on your own property with cabins that are sometimes as nice as houses with bathrooms and running water and electricity.

What I usually think of when I hear fishing camp is a place set up by a bunch of fellows or families in close proximity to fresh or salt water that is conducive to fishing ("looks fishy" as we say in the biz). Maybe tents, or even an RV or trailer set up near a lake or river or creek or bay or ocean. Having some kind of boat action almost always makes it better, from a canoe to a fancy fishing boat.

In my kind of fishing camp, friends gather for a few days for some revelry and fishing and story telling, not unlike in a deer camp. We're just fishing instead of hunting. I've done all kinds of fishing with friends in fishing camps, especially in my younger years. It was a great and cheap.

I had a ski boat then, or rather my family did. It was used primarily for the annual 2 week South Padre Island/Port Isabel fishing vacation. So the other 50 weeks of the year, it was available. So if we were on a larger body of water with our fishing camp, we would bring water skis as well to break up the fishing action.

The standard operating procedure was to leave early on a Friday morning, several carloads or trailers with all kinds of stuff. BBQ cookers, huge ice chests, tents and canopies and pop up trailers. Most of my friends had some kind of huge boom box or 12v powered stereo system to keep the tunes cranking at the right times. Most times, we'd haul our own loads of cut wood on those trailers for cooking fires and bonfires.

One of my best friends would often bring his AMF Sunfish or his Hobie Cat for beach or lake or bay sailing. You could fit his Sunfish sideways through the walk-thru windshield of my folks' boat, so it was easy to take both.

When the conditions were right, since we lived in Houston we'd often head to various beaches to set up our fishing camps. Many is the time we set off on a late Thursday night or early Friday morning, riding that Boliver ferry over to Boliver Island to get surf fishing before the sun came up. We'd fish like madmen until late in the morning when we'd set up camp. Get some vittles going. Take naps in the hot afternoon. Go sailing or surfing (although no surfing on Boliver). Water Ski. Take the boat fishing on the bay side of Boliver. Go crabbing at various bay locations at the end of forlorn looking gravel and dirt roads and paths.

We also frequented lakes Livingston and Conroe, as well as certain Central Texas and Hill Country rivers.

My family had a place for years in East Texas that had a huge freshwater creek running through it, about 20 feet wide and 10 or so feet deep. Nice sized, year round creek, mostly springfed. It was fairly close to Houston, and it had a cabin built post WWII by a rich Houston architect. Rustic, but very sturdy, it was a two story number and was wired for electricity. Interestingly, although it was plumbed complete with kitchen sink, no water well or tank had ever been set up to run water through the system. I guess they just trucked in their water with them.

So it was a great base of operations. In fact, the coolest thing about the cabin was that it was on a bluff overlooking the creek, and was just steps away from the creek and the large pier we built out on it for fishing. It was in the middle of hundreds of acres of surrounding farms, and we owned 35 acres of it ourselves.

Of course, that closeness to the creek, despite being elevated about 25' above it on a bluff, led to it's downfall in the early 1980's when a horrendous flood came through and just leveled it to the foundation.

But back when that cabin was there, it was the perfect place for friends and I to go during high school and college, really up into my thirties, and set up a fishing camp. The cabin had electricity and ceiling fans and such, and offered a nice safe place to sleep and hang out, much nicer than a tent. An outhouse some distance away provided those services, but we had a small tank inside for running clean water to the kitchen.

We had some homemade large size picnic tables out near the pier where we could set up shop under a large, telephone pole mounted streetlight. If the creek was up, as it most often was, we'd use johnboats and 2 hp. motors to run trot lines up and down the deep eddys that ran though our property. If the creek was lower, we'd have to work a little bit harder and paddle the johnboat out of fear of grounding out the long shafted motor we had.

We'd cook something, whatever one of the master bbq cooks we always seemed to have in our crowd, ready to show off their prowess with brisket and sausage. Sometimes there would be a keg or mini-keg or just ice chests full of beer and water.

On the lakes, it was easy to find a nice shady spot on a slope above the water, where camp could be set up. We'd use tents and canopies or trailers, using Coleman lamps and campfires to keep camp lit up at night, when the best fishing was usually to be had in freshwater. We had a nice spot at Livingston that we hit for several years, with a nice sloping bank that was suitable for beaching a 17 foot skiboat in the soft mud of the shallows, and that was not too difficult to push the boat out of.

At beaches or on the bays, it's nice to have a trailer or a couple of truckbeds full of firewood. Bonfires at the beach are so nice at night, and although in some remote spots large driftwood logs are plentiful, sometimes they are not. Or they are too soaked to burn well. It was common for us to get a half a cord or more on some of our fishing camp expeditions to areas with little or no available wood.

Sometimes nowadays, Billy Ray and I set off on adventures. Last spring, we set up our fishing camp on the Llano river and had a blast. We didn't take a boat, although jon boat would have been ideal for running some trot lines. We just put out big rod holders pounded into the ground with saltwater fishing rigs tied to trees baited with chicken livers for catfish. During the day, we fly fished and spin/bait casted for bass and perch. It was great.

We want to set up a camp on the San Marcos River in the near future. Somewhere out near Martindale, at one of the private campgrounds that are on the river out there. In the fall, folks get busy with football and such, and the attendance at these campgrounds drops massively. The water is green and clear and large bass and catfish lurk in those emerald waters.

Back in my father's time, and my grandfather's time, fishing camps were not only for fun but for feeding the family. A successful fishing trip might mean months of meals for several families. My grandfather used to tell me of how they'd catch fish and clean them and freeze the cleaned fish, trying to maximize space in cooler boxes because they would catch so many fish. During the depression, he would tell me, fishing camps were a necessity of life.

Later, when scores of vets returned from WWII and The Korean War, as the masses were attending college on the GI Bill, many were spending weekends in fishing camps, enjoying their return to civilian status.

One of my older friends tells of the fishing camps he and his war/college buddies set up on the Medina River above Bandera each year. They'd drive down from Austin and set up a weeklong camp and have all kinds of fish to take back home with them.

And like my friends and I, they'd take with them memories of good times at fishing camps.

Talk Like A Pirate Day

It's upon us again. As CNN says: It was an idea born in 1995 on an Albany, Oregon, YMCA racquetball court. Baur, 54, and his friend Mark "Cap'n Slappy" Summers, 46, began unleashing insults at one another, as pirates might.

It gathered steam nationwide when columnist Dave Barry wrote about it, and Barry is happy to have helped publicize it and further "international misunderstanding".

The CNN article is here

In any event, it's Saturday, September 19th, 2009.

I heard about it a few years ago, but I couldn't interest any of the folks at the office in talking like pirates for more than a sentence or two. Likewise, on the homefront, Neither Mrs. El Fisho or the Fishsters could be interested in having a little pirate fun.


Thursday, September 17, 2009


I had good luck getting some emails when I posted about wanting to find some good Garcia Abu Matic 290 spincasting reels from the 1970's here at WANTED: GARCIA ABU-MATIC 290 REELS. So I thought I'd post about another favorite blast from my fishing past.
The two rods pictured above are from the late 70's/early 80's Lew's Fuji Speed Stick series. The company later went on to make reels and other products, but these rods were sort of ahead of their times in the mid-seventies when I can recall first seeing them.
First off, I have a casting and a spinning Lew's Fuji Speed Stick. They were called the Lew's Fugi Speed Stick because they were made by Lew's and the Speed Stick featured Fuji ceramic coated guides. I'll call them SS for the rest of this post.
I'd love to have a few more casting and spinning Speed Sticks, and I believe there were Speed Stick fly rods as well. I'd love to have a SS fly rod.
My SS rods are both bassing/inshore saltwater type rods. Back in the day when I got them, they would have been characterized as "brush rods", suitable for working worms or spinners or underwater plugs through weeds and trees and other types of vegitation.
Both are five foot six inch and from about the same time period. I can't recall if they made lighter duty rods, but I'd be interested in owning some variations of the different models that featured the black handles like the ones shown above.
Both my casting and spinning rods feature the black handles. On the spinning rod, it's a real flexible yet stiff rubber that's held to like new condition despite heavy fishing since I bought it in '75 or '76. It's unique in that the reel seat is the grip itself, which holds the reel secure and covers the reel feet with the black plastic material that the handle is made of.
My spinning rod has been paired with a Mitchell 300 since it's purchase. I remember they were both each priced at about $25 new. $50 was a lot of money for a fishing rig thirty some years ago.
My casting rod has played host to two various reels since it's purchase in that same time frame. Either an Ambassador 5000 or an Abu Matic 290 spincasting reel. It has recently seen use with a Shimano Curado this summer for some lake bass fishing.
Both of these rods are in great shape despite, as I said, heavy use. They've been fished all over the southern states for all kinds of fresh and saltwater fish.
When introduced, they were some of the high end consumer graphite rods. Back in the 1970's, I lived in Houston and had access to pretty decent fishing/firearms/outdoors departments at K-Mart and more expensive (but definately having "the good stuff") Oshman's.
But I thought the coolest fishing/firearms store around back in my mid and late-teens was Gibson's Discount Centers. I don't recall having any of those stores in Houston, but they were as close as Conroe. We traveled Texas a lot back then, whether visiting relatives or sightseeing and taking fishing trips and vacations, and lots of the smaller and medium sized towns had Gibson's.
Gibson's had a superior selection of stuff I could afford. Good Garcia rods ran about $12.00 for a great fiberglass rod in the early 70's. Same with Shakespeare and Daiwa. Other brands too. Classic reels were the Ambassador and the Mitchell 300 and their progeny. In many ways, the Mitchell 300 series is hard to beat even nowadays, from the smallest 300 series ultralight spinning reel to the large, surf fishing version of that series. Just excellent, sturdy instruments. Like the legendary AK-47, they will work and work well in wet and dirty environments.
Gibson's some great firearms, from M-1 carbines to shotguns to deer and .22 rifles. All kinds of pistols too. Although places like Oshman's had quite a few high end pistols in their stores, Gibson's had a better selection of moderately priced pistols that kids like me could convince their parents to buy for them with summer job earnings.
In any event, I bought those Lew's rods while on various visits to relatives. And they've been great ever since. And I miss the heck out of the reasonably priced discount chain, basically a K-Mart but targeted at smaller towns and cities. Although as a rule the Gibson's stores were smaller than many K-marts, the fishing and hunting and outdoors department was just huge. And the prices were crazy reasonable, compared to even other discount stores like K-Mart, and especially to hoity but cool stores like Oshman's.
Once, in the early 90's, I went fishing with a friend named Jerry who had a weekend place on an deep-east Texas river. When I say deep-east Texas, I mean deep "Behind the Pine Curtain".
My friend had one of these high end bass boats with all sorts of fancy electronic devices and live wells and telescoping chairs and all sorts of bells and whistles. When Jerry opened his garage to take me and the other guests skiing and fishing on the river, I saw he had a collection of rods and reels mounted in a custom rack that ran down one entire side of his very large garage/workshop facility.
It was awesome, and one day I hope to build myself a similar rack. Of course, he had the security system and cameras in that garage safeguarding what was several thousands of dollars of fishing gear.
There were easily 50 rod and reel combos mounted on that wall. Each rigged up with different lures and RTG (ready to go). Mostly baitcasting rods but a few spinning rods and a couple of fly rods, along with the mandatory spincasters. About ten of the bait casting reels were mounted on the vintage Lew's Speed Stick, and several of the spinning rods rigged with buzz bait spinners were these great rods as well.
We discussed our mutual admiration for these rods. He's about 20 years older than I am, so he had the means in the 1970's to buy A BUNCH of these great rods back in his younger days since he was working and all grown up. He's held on to them all these years, and although he had lots of high tech rods and reels of other manufacture, it was those Lew's that he said were his "go to" rods for much of his fishing. Jerry knew a good thing when he saw it.
He kept the wide variety rigged and ready so that he could grab appropriate rigs and be on the river in minutes ready to fish with the proper gear. Of course, he had voluminous tackle boxes on that boat, but he did a lot of tournament fishing across Texas and the South in his spare time, and all that gear was justified by the large amount of fish he would catch whenever he went fishing.
So Jerry is still fishing, I suspect, on his favorite stretch of that east Texas river. He grew up near there, and has been fishing that river for many years.
I hope to end up somewhere like that one day. Near a nice river or a creek, perhaps, or maybe on a Texas bay, with an arsenal of Lew's Speed Sticks rigged and ready to go for a variety of fish species in nearby locales.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Pictured above is "Captain" Harold Gunn and Bill Olson.

Recently, a friend of mine brought me his back issues from the last year or so of the Texas Outdoor Journal, a fishing and hunting magazine. I'd seen it and on occasion bought the random one at the grocery store, but for some reason never noticed the wealth of fishing information it contained. I think I wrongly assumed it was more oriented toward hunting, as the major magazines of my youth like Outdoor Life, Field and Stream and Sports Afield have become.

In the past years issues that I've been reading of the Texas Outdoor Journal, I've found a wealth of freshwater and saltwater fishing information. As El Fishing Musician, it has been said that I'd fish in a sink with 6" of water if I thought there were fish in there, and that was only half-jokingly.

I fish anywhere and everywhere in this great state. Salt and Fresh. I don't get to do enough deep water salt fishing these days but that hasn't always been the case. Likewise, these days I've been making up for lost time in the Hill Country, since a plethora of my fishing buddies have relocated and now populate this area, giving me the excuse to travel there as well as my local ready made buddies who have their home for me to stay, keeping travel costs low. Plus I get to see my friends, and one in particular.

Likewise, I've got a great friend, an old band buddy named El Bar. El Bar just recently bought a place in the Palestine-Tyler-Longview metroplex, and got a new fancy bass boat as well. He's been fishing all the lakes within about 50 miles of there, and there are plenty of great fishing lakes in that area. So going up there will be kinda regular to stay at his Farm (it'll be a farm until he gets some ranch critters and then it'll be a Ranch). He's built two ponds to lure me up there to fish, and I've volunteered to stock his tanks with some high end Florida strain bass.

My Fam and I also regularly spend between one and two weeks fishing at the coast, either bay or surf, anywhere from Port Aransas to Port Isabel. Again, my longtime Houston buddie Dougie and his bride recently bought a canal lot in Port Isabel and have ample space for visitors. In fact, their whole lower floor is set up for guests. You can fish off their back porch for a variety of fish, and his boat is only feet away available to lower into the water to head out on the bay.

Doug and his wife have now both retired, and she and Doug now travel to the Pacific Northwest in the summers with their uber-fine trailer to do some salmon and trout fishing and miss out on the Texas heat. So we'll be heading down there sometime in the next few months for an extended weekend visiting our friends, eating fine, and fishing lots and lots.

So the great thing about the Texas Outdoor Journal is that there are articles for all these areas and more. Regional fishing updates in every issue, with pretty good information about all of the areas I regularly fish and more. Cause when I'm not thinking about the places I'm getting to fish now, I'm daydreaming and scheming on fishing trips to places I have not fished.

I'm going to subscribe tomorow to this publication. Their website is at They also have the Texas Outdoors News radio network, broadcasting weekly shows. Their website has some of the shows available for listening online at

I'd note that one of my favorite local Houston childhood entertainers is a co-host of the radio show. Harold Gunn, once the host of the locally infamous Captain Harold's Theater of the Sky movie show on local tv. I think at one time he had a talk show, and apparently he appeared in a movie in 1980 called Hotwire.

Although he hasn't the foggiest idea who I am, over the years as a native Houstonian I have briefly met Captain Harold at numerous public gatherings, hunting and fishing shows and the like. I remember he attended one political fundraiser when I was in my young teens that I was also at, and I received a blue "suitable for framing" official membership into his Captain Harold's Air Force.

I think I still have that item in my childhood scrapbook over at my folk's house. It also contains my official fan club membership card and autographed photo from 1968 from the Banana Splits Fan Club. When I was in mid-elementary school, my friends and I thought the Banana Splits gave The Monkees a run for their money. But that's another story.

Captain Harold also writes and edits for the Texas Outdoor Journal. The Captain and Bill Olson, the Editor/Publisher of the Texas Outdoor Journal host the radio show.

It's all good, and as I said, I'll be subscribing this week.

In the past few hours of reading some of these magazines this evening, I've read good articles with very useful information on locations, guides, places to fish without guides, baits, lures and the like about rivers, creeks, lakes and all kinds of saltwater fishing. Plus all kinds of hunting articles.

So Captain Harold still rides. That makes me happy. If I'm not incorrect, I believe Bill Olson used to appear with the Captain Harold Air Force skits on (I believe, Channel 26) in the 70's and Channel 2 NBC in the 1980's. If so, that makes me happy that old friends are still hanging together.

One more Captain Harold story. Back in 1988, a band I was playing with used to regularly play Friday or Saturday nights at the now defunct but then infamous Red Lion Pub on Main Street. For a while, we were a popular local original act, with a fiery female singer and great guitar and bass players (the drummer, me, was just ok).

I can't recall if Captain Harold was dining or drinking there, but I recall the entire band was quite excited about his presence, and we dedicated some song to him that night before he left. He was, as usual, very nice and seemed a bit embarrassed at the attention. Nice fellow.

In any event, I'd be curious if any of the readers remembered Captain Harold and his Air Force. I can't recall the movies he played on his show, but I remember that they were the ones we were watching when I was old enough to stay up late on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

R.I.P Patrick Swayze and Why I Love Point Break

It's never good when people just a little bit older than yourself are passing away. And of course, it's not good at all when you or a loved one or friend is the one passing away.

I never met Patrick, but always could sort of identify with him. Not personally, but as a Houston boy like Patrick, I've known a lot of people who reminded me of him. Or vice versa. His bravery surrounding his death is admirable and yet so sad, for he obviously wanted so much to live.

I loved the movie Red Dawn. At the time, and even now (I bought it recently on the $5 pile at the store), it's still a good movie. If you watch it with younger folks, you kinda have to explain the cold war thing but with all of the warring we've been doing for most of the last decade, young folks understand war all too well.

As the stereotypical male action movie watcher, I fit right in the demographic for movies like Red Dawn. Yeah, I saw Dirty Dancing and Ghost too, and they were great movies, but not enough gunplay for entertaining the El Fisho. Roadhouse, of course, didn't have much if any gunplay but had plenty of high drama and action to satisfy the action movie fan. It even had romance and mystery, although I don't think Mrs. El Fisho considers it to be a chick flick in the least.

In any event, I became crestfallen, I say crestfallen this morning when reading one of the articles on various newspaper websites that said that the movie Point Break was a failure and a sign that Swayze's career was waning.

Well, knock me over with a feather. I'm no movie maven like my friend R.J. and I don't know all kinds of trivia and facts and figures like he does but I know what I like. R.J. can tell you how this story has been told in other movies and make all sorts of analogies and highly intelligent observations about all kinds of interactions and repeats in storylines. All I can tell you is if I like it. Sometimes I can even break down why I liked a movie, usually for very simple reasons.

Like Point Break. It was a little farsical in the FBI department, and Keanu and Busey weren't the best actual representation of how the FBI might run an undercover operation (hint: don't go to HQ, don't go on raids of drug houses and by all means, after the bad guy finds out you are FBI, don't go back into the fold of criminals and pretend you're not).

I thought it was one of Swayze's finest roles. I know he did some if not all of his own surfing in the flick, and I'm sure he did many of the other stunts, maybe even the harrowing sky diving scene. He was athletic as hell and often injured himself doing his own stunts.

Swayze was great in the bank robber mode and fantastic in the juiced-up surf guru action junkie mode of Bodhi. Of course, he's a bit over the top with all of his philosophizing, but the night surfing scenes were well shot as were all of the surfing scenes and they were cool as hell.

I wish I could have done the rewrite on that screenplay. I wouldn't have had Johnny Utah mingling with the folks at FBI HQ. Utah would have been absolutely undercover. No going on raids, no public meets with his backup team, a full cover including apartment and some kind of token job at some law firm.

Likewise, once Busey's character Angelo Pappas and Utah chase the bank robbers in their masks, Utah's cover is blown. Bodhi would have had no choice but to kill Utah if he reappeared. Of course, love is to blame in the movie, as Lori Petty's character Tyler is the downfall of Utah. At his point, R.J. would insert several movie references about similar relationships both in real history and in past cinema. I'm not that smart. Maybe he'll comment and give me an enlightenment. Seriously, that dude is smart.

The movie ends with Utah casting his badge into the ocean, just like Dirty Harry did. Unbelieveably, although Utah has chased Bodhi literally half way across the world, he lets him slip from his grasp to go surf "the big one". Surely, Utah had some 'splaining to do to the local Aussie constabulary over that one.

Who's to know that Bodhi didn't get swept under a wave and wash up miles down the shore, barely clinging to life, but unseen by law enforcement. Crawling into the jungle, he starts a new life as a dead man on the run while Utah starts his new life surfing the breaks. We are left with unfinished business in the movie as written, but how cool would it have been for a sequel where, nearly 20 years later, Bodhi and Utah cross paths again. For any number of reasons and with all kinds of mayhem. But alas, that is not to be.

SO, I was disheartened to learn that apparently nobody but me liked this flick. I watched it *many times* when it was out on video and on cable back in the day. It's not perfect, but it's a dang good movie.

As a final praise of this fine movie, it was an excellent grouping of a diverse group of actors who I thought, and still rightly think, did a fine job acting out their roles. Swayze and his gang of merry followers were totally in character for what you expect of surfing and gun-toting outlaws. Likewise, this might have been Busey's finest role. He and Keanu had a certain chemistry throughout the whole flick that was just magic.

The other actors, from Petty to Tom Sizemore (the frazzled undercover narc) to a guest appearence by Anthony Kiedis, do a convincing job in the movie. If I had to award a top actor award for that movie, it'd be a tie between Busey and Swayze. Clearly, it was Busey's finest moment, in control but out of control at the same time. And as mentioned above, Swayze was just outstanding as the cult of bank robbers leader. It might be the only bad guy role I saw Swayze in, but it was certainly, imho, a stellar moment in his career.

Rest in Peace, Sir.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Water Wagon

One of the things I'm trying to do with all of the seemingly random postings I do here is make a database of sorts of cool stuff to assist you in accomplishing music making or fishing. Both of these activities give me great enjoyment and really help me relax, and perhaps in a way, be myself.

So by writing about different types of fishing and music gear, maybe others who never heard of these items might find something they are interested in. I wonder just how many fishing musicians there are out there? In America? In the World?

One of the products I remember using as a youth was a small foam boat known as The Water Wagon. Made up near Amarillo, it was marketed in lots of outdoor magazines during the 1970's. Essentially, it is a small pontoon type boat between which a seat was mounted on a frame that connected the two pontoons. A small electric or gas motor (2 hp) could be hooked up, or the user could wear swim fins since his feet dangled in the water.

I found some interesting posts on the subject at a forum I often read for fishing information in Texas about Water Wagons. There are now many types of small single user crafts available, and some are very nice and very expensive. I've seen one model that can be collapsed and backpacked to remote fisheries, weighing about 24 pounds. It doesn't look that comfortable to be taking on a long high elevation hike to a mountain lake in Calfornia, but I'll be damned if some of my friends have not done just that.

In any event, the coolest thing about the water wagon derivative boat is that it can be homemade. There are different types of foam and construction methods but if you're reasonably handy with a few tools, you could make a nice farm pond or state park size lake fishing boat. Some of these boats are sturdy enough for big bass boat type seats and small 2 hp motors, although the electric motor might be a better choice for a boat this size.

I've fished in a variety of boats like this. I'm not always a big fan of getting my feet wet, and at times in certain weedy locales I've almost felt as if my feet and calves were snake bait, but a inexpensive plastic set of strap on snakeguards cured most of that fear.

Still, there was that time on the San Marcos while tubing with some friends that a HUGE water moccasin lay perfectly camo'd on a lilly pad and weed patch next to the shoreline. I almost didn't see him, he was that well hidden in plain sight. Fortunately, he didn't feel like messing with us.

So here are some links to some threads about water wagon type boats.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


As I mentioned in an earlier post here at Cool and cheap Fender Amps, Fender has several outstanding inexpensive amps for practice and recording called the Vibro Champ XD and the Super Champ XD. They are pretty similar in sound, except the Super Champ XD has some great upgrades from the Vibro Champ XD for just a small bit more cashola. A Bigger speaker, one additional tube, and a second footwitchable channel are the main differences.

The Super Champ XD is retailing for an AMAZING $299 most places. I found one on sale cheaper than that last year, and with a Guitar Center discount coupon and a $15 GC gift card given (for customer loyalty and also as a great marketing ploy) for far less. In fact, I walked out the door with mine for less than the Vibro Champ was going for.

Some places are selling them for $100 more. The smaller inde music stores I've visited are selling theirs for around $400 to $425. But most online places I've seen the Super Champ XD is going for $299 with free shipping.

Mine is still stock. Reading reviews of this amp at Harmony Central and various retailers with review sections, it seems like some owners like speaker and tube replacement. I won't say I won't ever mod the amp but right now I am quite pleased with it.

I'm a drummer who is learning guitar, er, who has been learning guitar since my youth in the early seventies. I still know about 4 of the basic chords, but I can pick better than I can chord, which is very frustrating because I really want to play many of the rhythm parts of songs and not the leads. Such is life.

But although my geetar skills may be subpar for the amount of time (sporadic and with long periods of non-guitar playing) I've invested since the beginning of my six string quest, I have been AROUND great sounding guitarists with great sounding rigs and amps A LOT.

Many of my favorite players, both in terms of folks I've played with in bands and folks I've bought the records of, play lots of Fender tube amps. It's just always been that way. Twin Reverb. The Bassman. Deluxe Classic. Vibro King. Princetons. Super Champs. Those are the names of amps that you see most often if you're playing rock and roll or blues in Texas, and everywhere else in the world, I suspect.

True enough, you'll see some Vox AC's or Mesa Boogie's or Marshall stacks (more likely half-stacks) that folks play looking for the wide variety of brit based rock and blues guitar sounds. One of my former bandmates and great friends, THE VINTAGE GUITAR MAN, owns a world famous vintage guitar business. He's been selling rock and roll and blues electric guitars since the sixties.

Not only does The Vintage Guitar Man sell lots of cool stuff, in the forty years he's been doing it he's kept samples of exemplary condition amps and guitars for his own stash. Sometimes he calls it his retirement plan. Now, he's got everything from the highly desired Marshalls and Fenders to Voxes to Mesas to Traynors to Kendrick (and other custom boutique amps) from all vintages.

Out of all those amps that he has in his personal collection, plus whatever fine stuff he has currently in inventory in new and used amps, what amps does The Vintage Guitar Man play himself. He can play anything he wants to, literally.

He plays three amps. One is a Traynor Combo with a single 12 speaker. The second is a Silver Jubilee anniversary Marshall 12 combo model. Last but not least, his favorite amp in the world is the Rivera-era Fender Super Champ. The real Super Champ.

But the Super Champ XD comes close to the early 80's Rivera Super Champ on the clean Fender channel. I can hear a difference, but it's like hearing the difference in the voices of a father and a son who sound the same, just 30 years apart. For a gigging amp, I know the Rivera Super Champ has far more "real" watts and power than the XD. But again, the XD can crank it louder than most of it's target audience will ever need to it. But the cool thing is, the XD can get "that sound" (whatever the sound you're looking for is) at really low volume levels.

For instance, by messing with the voices and the vibratone effect, the other evening I found an Eric Johnson-ey tone, similar to the sound of his guitar on his killer song Soulful Terrain. Now, I can get that same sound out of my pocket pod, and it would be close to being as good as the Super Champ XD but the XD has than "tube edge" to it.

So far, just seeking some easily found tones on the Super Champ XD amp, I've been able to pull a very believeable Stevie Ray like tone (voice 6), a great clean Fender tone, a Cream (think Badge) type sound, a sort of late 80's Neil Young type tone, a nice Marshall Plexi type sound and a Fender Bassman type of sound. For fun, I hooked up a 12" speaker I had handy, and the tone and volume just increased greatly.

Of course, the light weight of the amp is in part due to the 10" speaker choice, and I'm sure an upgrade to the speaker would yield fantastic results. But again, the speaker that's in there is sounding good to me, so until I really get the bug to put an Eminence Ragin' Cajun speaker in there (the most recommended replacement in all of my readings), it's doing well.

My amp is well constructed. It came well packed and although you have to buy the $25 footswitch (be careful to order the specified one as others won't work with it), it's still a bargain. My amp and Billy Ray's Vibro XD were a "10" in quality control.

I've owned numerous Fender guitars and amps over the past 35 years. They were all good, and I wish I still had the ones that I sold or traded. All of my stuff, except for the Deluxe Reverb Reissue that Billy Ray talked me out of, was originally lower end and cheaper Fender items. They were always excellently made, and except in the case of replacing tubes and speakers in 30+ year old tube amps, I've never had any problems with my Fender purchases. So I suspect this amp will last a long time, probably serving El Fisho Jr. long after I'm gone. El Fisho Jr. has already noticed the difference between this amp and other amps he plays on, including a Mesa combo and an old Fender tube amp, and anytime he and I are playing music, he's trying to beat me to plugging into the Super Champ XD.

He keeps saying: How come these other amps (that he has access to) don't sound like that?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Simon Cowell is so wrong

I don't watch American Idol. It's not my cup of tea. My taste in music includes virtually every genre of music that has existed. Gregorian chants, classic rock, pop, new wave, improvisational, jazz, fusion, fifties rockabilly, old and new blues, country and western, big band, classical, symphonic, marching and even jaunts into Saharan blues are all included in my record collection. But for whatever reason, I have more respect for musicians who make their own music, rather than those who simply sing along to the great music written by others.

I don't chastise the American Idol wannabes for their manner of making music. As long as you're making music, everybody wins. But it's just not my thing.

Neither is the abrasive Simon Cowell. Yes, I know, he's laughing all the way to the bank regardless of public opinion about him.

But when Simon makes an assinine statement about how he would've signed the Beatles except for Ringo, well, to drummers like me, those are fighting words. According to the Huff Post, which I occasionally read, Cowell was discussing how he didn't much care for Ringo Starr:

LOS ANGELES — The Beatles once got in trouble over a flip comment about Jesus. Now Simon Cowell has ruffled feathers with a quip about the Beatles.
Cowell says that he really was joking when he claimed the legendary group wouldn't have made the cut on "American Idol" or "Britain's Got Talent."
After drawing fire for the remark, the producer and TV talent-show judge said Friday he's repeatedly referred to the Beatles as the group he wished he could have signed.
Cowell was on CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday when he was asked how the Beatles would have done as contestants. He replied that he would have taken the group – minus drummer Ringo Starr.

Ringo Starr, a/k/a Richard Starkey, took a lot of hits in the early days for not being a Buddy Rich type of drummer. Of course, Ringo is probably directly responsible for MORE people becoming drummers than any other individual alive or dead. Certainly, he made Ludwig drums a lot of money over the years, and personally I've always thought he was a drummer's drummer.

If you've ever seen any of Ringo's tours the past few decades, where his band is composed of big stars from various famous bands of the past, you know that Ringo is a drumming and musical force to be reckoned with. In fact, as I recall, it was Ringo's solo works that gave him more success than the other Beatles in the immediate years following the breakup of the Beatles.

One needs only to watch the dvd of The Concert for Bangladesh with Ringo singing (and drumming) his then hit "It don't come easy" to feel and know what Ringo was capable of. Of course, soon after Ringo's successful top 40 run, the solo efforts of the other Beatles equaled or exceeded his solo successes. Wings. All Things Must Pass. Lennon's great albums.

After the Beatles broke up, music took all kinds of turns. Lots of rock got very complicated and the musicianship and technical nature of the music changed. After years of highly complicated drumming that accompanied acts who thrived on technical prowess, music again turned back toward the simple.

Debates have raged for years about who the best rock drummers have been in the last 50 or so years. It seems Ringo always comes out on top. His simple beats played to the songs, and were often more memorable for the spaces he left in the music than for any blazing technical prowess. Ringo has "soul" and in hindsight, it is apparent that the Beatles decision to add him to the band is one of the factors that made them The Beatles.

Ask any of the stars of drumming past and present about Ringo, and nearly to a man and woman they'll tell you that they learned how to drum by listening to and playing along with Beatles records. I know I did. Those same drummers will tell you that after they had decades of experience playing "complicated" music, they learned that less is more and that what is so amazing about Ringo is that he figured that out in the early part of his career, instead of decades later as they did.

Ringo, you rock. You've always rocked.

Simon, you would do well to learn by analogy from Ringo's life. Less is more.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Stratocaster Bargain

Through a most generous trade from Billy Ray, I acquired a Fender Lite Ash Stratocaster. It's made in Korea, but with very nice Seymour Duncan pickups. It sports a lite ash body (3 piece body) with a birdseye maple neck. Mine is natural finish with the black pickguard, knobs and pickups.

Billy Ray picked it up on a mega-sale a couple of years ago at GC. Billy Ray has a longtime friend who worked then and the friend alerted him him to this super sale and he picked it up for just over $300 smackers. They sell normally for twice that for the street price.

Billy Ray is sort of a high end Gibson and Rickenbacker man these and truth be told, has never been much of a Fender man. True, he did recently go buy a Nashville Tele model with the hip piezo pickup, but in the near 30 years we've been running around together, I've seen more Gibsons and other brands than I have Fenders. I suppose the Nuno Bettancourt model he sported for much of the 1990's qualifies as a strat derivative, but up until he bought the lite ash strat, he'd never owned one.

Billy Ray owned a Les Paul when we first met, along with a Rickenbacker bass, and I suppose the die was cast way back then.

So Billy Ray was far more enamored recently with my early 1980's Fender Musicmaster Bass Amp with the nice eminence guitar speaker. It was the last of the handwired, Class A tube amps, and I've owned a couple. This one was totally rehabbed and retubed by an amp guru in Houston, so I had about $500 total into it. Although designed as a bass practice amp that was made in the 1970's and 1980's, it's true calling is as a guitar tube amp. It screams and gets that break up blues sound at a lower volume and it's a great recording amp. Because the enclosure is twice as big as the similar but lesser powered blackface and silverface Champ amps and the Musicmaster sports a 12" speaker, it gets that same classic sound but at about 2 to 3 times the volume and without that "boxey" sound smaller tube amps often exhibit. Excellent recording amp.

So Billy Ray had to have the Musicmaster Bass Amp and threw the Lite Ash Strat and another guitar at me in trade.

Each of us think we got the best end of the trade out of this one. I think this guitar is fab.

As noted in the numerous reviews at Harmony Central, it's a fantastic value. In fact, I'd compare it with the other mid-priced excellent Fender value, the Jimmy Vaughn Strat. I think both the Lite Ash and the Jimmy Vaughn Strats sound better than any of the American strats.

I'm impressed with the build quality. Although much of the hardware components could be easily replaced with higher end stuff for very little money, I'm so happy with the sound of it that I don't want to mess with changing the parts out since it's working so well.

Many of the reviewers at Harmony Central recommend the same standard replacements for this guitar as for other import guitars. Replace the tuners. Replace the plastic nut. The five way switch apparently is a stinker with a plastic box and needs to go, and the pots should be reduced from 500k pots to 250k pots. Some commenters indicate a better sound was also received by replacing the wiring harness with higher quality wire and adding 2 tremelo springs to the stock 3 for a firmer tremelo.

A few of the commenters said they had wired the bridge pickup to the lower tone control as well. But like me, most of the commenters are plenty happy with the stock gear. Chances are, unless you are an absolute tonehead with the ears of a dog, you won't be able to hear the difference between the stock model and the modified one.

I love the bluesy sound the SD pickups put out. Playing through a small Fender tube amp, it was easy to get the breakup tone that so many blues and rock players cherish with the Lite Ash. I'll say more in a later review of playing this guitar through a Fender Super Champ XD, but every now and then a player finds a guitar that just speaks to him and fits him just right. For me, that is this guitar. I've been looking for it for a long time, and through circumstance, lucked into it.

The V neck fits my medium sized hand better than ANY guitar I have ever played, and that includes some PRS, Fender and Gibson Custom shop issues. This neck was literally made for me and according to the reviews, lots of others like it too. I wish the back was lacquered with some vintage lacquer to match the natural finish, but that's something I could get done fairly easily and cheaply.

I have not weighed it but it seems a tad lighter than some of the other strats I have played over the years. I favor the straps made with the slightly stretchy neophrene shoulder pad that allows a wee bit of movement and strech on the strap but a major increase in comfort. For me, it prevents "guitar shoulder".

It's probably, imho, one of the best guitar values out there right now. Several of my working musician friends in Austin and one in LA use one of these as their working axes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The two best sounding Stratocasters I ever heard


The year was 1984, and I was playing in an original blues rock band in Houston called The Students. The guitarist for that band, Mikey Ray, had a pawn shop find of a 1964 Stratocaster that he had gotten for about $500. His other guitar was an early 1980's Tokai reproduction Stratocaster.
The Fender, obviously, was pure vintage at that time, and sounded better than any Strat I have heard before or since. Good wood perhaps, and a good neck, and likely some pickups that were wound "just so" with just the right kind of magnets and wire. Whatever it was, I've heard other 64's and they just couldn't come close.
But one other guitar Mikey Ray had came close to sounding as good as that '64 Strat. It was an 1980's Tokai replica, from Japan. Lots of rumors have gone around about the late 70's and early 80's Tokai's being made from NOS Fender Stratocaster components, and I'm not sure I believe those rumors. But again, they set out to duplicate the Stratocaster in every way with that particular model, and did a great job. I tend to believe that guitars that sound good have well wound pickups, a nice resonant wood body, a good bridge and tuners and a nice neck. The Tokai had it all, and time after time, folks around Houston heard that Tokai and just thought it was grand, even folks who were playing real 1950's and 1960's Stratocasters.
But alas, in 1985 both guitars were traded to another friend of mine who owns a vintage guitar shop. The Lake Placid Blue 1964 Fender went straight away to Stevie Ray Vaughn, and I don't know where the Tokai went. I just wish I had possessed the sense to buy BOTH of those guitars from Mikey Ray.
Mikey Ray, at the time, was transitioning from a style similar to Clapton and Beck to a more hyper-kinetic Eddie Van Halen style. The Eddie style required "shred" guitars, and I'm sad to say that the two best sounding strats ever were traded for a couple of Charvel guitars and some kind of shred amp.
Those were the days, though. Mikey Ray would play those two Strats through a twin Fender Bassman setup. He had some sort of device made by dbx that split his signal into a stereo signal, which in turn fed each of the Bassman amps, each loaded with 4 ten inch speakers. Mikey would use an MXR distortion pedal, an Ibanez Tube Screamer for solos, and a wah pedal of some kind. But the sound he got was just fantastic.
I've played with a few folks in the intervening years who love the early Tokai Strats. I've yet to find one that sounds like I imagine that old sunburst Tokai sounded 25 years ago, but I'll keep looking. I know where two are that sound pretty dang good.

Justin Adams: Rocking guitarist and gimbri player

Justin Adams is another one of my favorite musicians. He's been on my radar screen since the early 2000's, when he joined Robert Plant's band called Strange Sensation. In the pictures above, he shows some of his talents, namely playing the guitar and playing the gnawa-ian Gimbri.

If you listen to the Strange Sensations debut CD, you'll hear a version of Hey Joe. Likewise, if you happen to have any of the Strange Sensation DVD's of them live in Concert, you'll see Justin playing the Gimbri intro and rhythm throughout their version of Hey Joe.

Hey Joe has been covered hundreds of times by "famous" recording artists, and probably tens of thousands of times if you include bar bands and the like. But the unconventional version, which is unconventional in large part due to the driving rhythm of the gimbri played by Justin Adams.

I was so inspired by the sound back in 2002 when Dreamland came out that I found a gimbri to purchase. It's history is unique. Wikipedia says it better than I can:

The sintir (Arabic: سنتير‎), also known as the Guembri (Arabic: الكمبري‎), Gimbri or Hejhouj, is a three stringed skin-covered bass plucked lute used by the Gnawa people. It is approximately the size of a guitar, with a body a carved from a log and covered on the playing side with camel. The neck is a simple stick with one short and two long goat strings that produce a percussive sound similar to a pizzicato cello or double bass.

Here's a link to Justin's myspace page:

Here's a wikipedia entry on Strange Sensation. Unfortunately, former drummer Michael Lee has passed on back in November of 2008. Lee was one of my favorite drummers to work with Plant and with Plant and Page. I had high hopes that if Jason Bonham wouldn't do the Led Zeppelin Reunion that Michael Lee would be asked, but that was not to be.

Strange Sensation
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The Strange Sensation is Robert Plant's backing band, formed during his nine-year break from solo recording. After 1993's Fate of Nations, Plant teamed up with former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to form Page and Plant. The first album, No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, explored world music reinterpretations of Led Zeppelin songs, featuring a Moroccan string band and Egyptian orchestra supplementing a core group of rock and roll musicians. The duo's next album, Walking into Clarksdale and the subsequent tour were more traditional rock enterprises. Plant turned his attention to North African music, in particular Tuareg rock and Mali's desert music festivals.
In 2002, Plant returned with
Dreamland, an album of blues and rock covers with the original Strange Sensation lineup, but credited as a Plant solo album. The following release was 2003's Sixty Six to Timbuktu, a compilation that included his earliest solo recordings for CBS Records as a teenager in 1966, to his newest song, "Win My Train Fare Home (If I'm Lucky)," performed at Mali's Festival of the Desert with Justin Adams. On 25 April 2005, the first full-length Strange Sensation album was released: Mighty ReArranger, a blend of world and Western music influences, with mystical, oblique and somewhat cynical references to religion and destiny. The album also contains some subtle political statements.
On 16 September 2005, the band performed Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin songs at Soundstage Studios in
Chicago, and the performance was broadcast in the 2006-2007 season of the PBS series Soundstage. This has also been released on DVD as Soundstage: Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation.

[edit] Lineup
Justin Adams -
bass, bendir, lap steel guitar, mandolin, tehardant; Wayward Sheiks member and former collaborater with Jah Wobble and Tuareg Tinariwen
John Baggott - keyboards and synthesizer; jazz and trip hop artist, also a member of Portishead's live band
Clive Deamer - bendir and drums; a jazz-influenced player who has appeared on trip hop albums and is also a member of Portishead's live band
Billy Fuller - electric and stand-up bass; formerly of Fuzz Against Junk and currently also a member of The Moles and Malakai
Robert Plant - vocals
Skin Tyson - bass, acoustic, electric and lap steel guitars; Britpop musician with Cast and Men from Mars

[edit] Former members
Charlie Jones - bassist for Page and Plant
Porl Thompson - multi-instrumentalist for Page and Plant, current member of The Cure
Michael Lee - drummer for Page and Plant

The Second Amendment and a Police Officer

Read Jason's excellent post here I Disagree! at Cigars Donuts and Coffee about why he as a police officer is not afraid of law abiding citizens carrying guns to protect themselves.

Very Excellent. Couldn't have said it better with the late Charlton Heston and the entire editorial board of the NRA.

And just every now and then, an armed citizen is able to help save the life of a police officer. Perhaps the President of the HPOU should consider that fact.

The only thing I'd add to his post is to make it easy on yourself and get a concealed handgun license. Then you've got no worries if you're a law abiding citizen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More Reality Show ideas

As you know, I'm not a big reality show fan. I watched the first season of Survivor and that was about all I could take. But since I'm married, Mrs. El Fisho likes to watch the occasional reality show, and I am sentenced to watch it with her. You also know I have little use for Jon and Kate and their show.

So what's in the news today about our favorite reality TV fodder? We hear about former reality tv star Tila Tequila and her alleged football player boyfriend having an alleged fracus. He went to jail, she went to the hospital.

So what about a tag team wrestling match between Tila and Kate? As their team members, I select the ladies of The Voice. Libruls behind Tila and conservatives behind Kate.

So what's the prize? Well, I guess that depends on your pov. Loser gets Jon on their show for 6 months, or winner gets Jon on their show for 6 months.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Harry Dean Stanton Rocks

One of my favorite actors is Harry Dean Stanton. He didn't really hit my radar screen until his role in Repo Man in 1984, although I had seen him in many movies and TV shows going back to Gunsmoke in the 60's. Later in 1984, his roles in Red Dawn and Paris, Texas piqued my interest. For I remembered this actor in iconic parts going back in my youth. Kelly's Heroes. Two Lane Blacktop. The Black Marble. Escape from New York. Alien and so many, many other movies.

About the time in my early twenties when I realized that I had been a fan of this iconic character actor since my youth, I began visiting Los Angeles on a semi-regular basis. Lots of high school and college friends had relocated to El Lay from Houston, for various reasons. Many were musicians, some were actors and surfers, and still some moved west for the weather or for business opportunities. There was a time when my friends stretched from the beaches of sunny Southern California to the mountains and hills surrounding the greater Los Angeles area.
Being a musician, of course, I spent much of my time on these trips with my musician friends. Many of those friends lived in cheaper areas around Hollywood like Silver Lake, North Hollywood, Studio City and Echo Park. Those who tended to be stuck in day job hell often lived in various parts of the Valley. Some of my friends went west to attend the noted studio musician school called Musician's Institute, which at the time was on seedy Hollywood Boulevard itself.
Myself, I went out there for an audition in 1984 and was accepted, being auditioned by none other than Joe Porcaro, famed studio musician and father of the late Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro. A reassessment of what I would do for a living led to my deciding not to go out to LA, and in the long run, it's good that I didn't. But at the time, it's something I really wanted to do.
No matter. I ended up chickening out on moving to LA in my early twenties and became content with visiting as often as I could. As I mentioned, my friend group out there ranged from club musicians to studio musicians to folks who worked regular jobs like as an accountant at Target stores. Several friends worked as junior A&R people for the record labels, as they cruised Hollywood and West Hollywood live music bars at night looking for new talent.
One of my friends from high school, a drummer named Eric, had family connections in LA and had moved out there the day he graduated. He got a job working in the mail room of a large record label, playing drums everywhere he could at night. Soon, he got promoted to an A&R scout, whose job it was to scout LA clubs for talented acts the label might be interested in. It was on a jaunt with Eric that I first saw the Harry Dean Stanton Band.
The first time I saw Harry's band was at a place called Jack's Sugar Shack, which then in the early to mid 80's was located west of WeHo (West Hollywood). Jack's had a tiki bar motif and booked the kind of bands I like listening to, then and now. The Blasters. The Thunderbirds. Lots of So Cal and Texas blues and blues rock acts that were famous, but not yet ready for arena sized crowds.
Eric took me to see lots of good bands in Hollywood in those years. One of his better finds in 1986 was a then relatively unknown band called Jane's Addiction. He took me to the rundown O.N. Club to see them. If you saw the movie Valley Girl, you might remember the club Nick Cage hangs at, the one that has no seats or chairs, just a bar and a stage. That's was the O.N. Club.
One night, Eric drug me into Jack's and I recognized the guy at the bar getting water. It was Harry Dean. He was friendly and cordial and I even got to speak with him for a few moments. His music, a cross between country and rock and folk with a mexican tinge to it, was excellent. He can be heard singing on the soundtrack to Paris, Texas.
Jack's later moved to deepest darkest Hollywood, taking up residence on a gritty sidestreet of Hollywood Boulevard. Still a rendition of a tiki bar, this locale featured a mural of Lovey and Thurston Howell from Gilligan's Island. I saw Harry Dean's band several times there as well.
The last time I saw Harry Dean's band playing was in the early nineties at the infamous Hollywood gin joint The Mint. Although at that time he was well into his sixties, he was still cranking out wonderful music, singing and playing guitar and fronting his band like he was in his twenties or thirties.
It was not unusual then to see Harry at other music shows. I remember in 1986 or so that I was at a packed show of then super popular R&B musician Billy Vera. Vera and his orchestra often held court at a bar called The Country Club, and on several occasions I saw Harry Dean enjoying Vera's music at that spot.
I wish I could have the opportunity to have dinner or a few drinks with Harry Dean. Ah, the stories he could tell. I know that after he got out of the Navy and college in Kentucky, when he first came to LA, he was roommates with Jack Nicholson. Don't you know there were some stories and parties at that house worth a retelling of.
Harry Dean is relatively easy to find and if I wanted to, I guess I could stalk him at Dan Tana's restaurant in WeHo, where he is not only known to frequently dine but to also hang on the sidewalk in front and smoke. Stalking's not my style, but maybe he'll come across this blog and invite me for a jam session.
Harry has lived a relatively low profile life for a movie star. One of my favorite stories involves the filming of the movie Easy Rider. Stanton was not in this movie, but visited the set long enough to scrawl his name in large letters on the wall of the jail cell occupied by Nicholson in the movie.
More than having dinner or drinks with Harry Dean, I'd like to play some music with him. I'd be happy to back him on drums, or acoustic guitar or even bass. Just the chance to feel a little of that on-stage magic with Harry Dean.
Here's a youtube of Harry Dean playing "Love Potion Number Nine" at The Mint.
When I first began seeing Harry Dean playing music, he was in his fifties. Occasionally, you'd see a young woman on his arms back in those days, half his age. More power to him. It's hard to believe that he had as much energy in his fifties as I did in my twenties.
Harry Dean. You rock.