Monday, September 30, 2013

To catch a thief

Hope you enjoyed your weekend.

Mine was OK until I tripped at the UT game on Saturday while letting a little girl out of the aisle so she could use the bathroom.

(I know what you're thinking and, no, I hadn't had any beer.)

The fall exacerbated the pain in my already aching back and banged up a previously perfect right knee.

So, Sunday was spent quietly on the couch, off my feet, with ice, ibuprofen and NFL football to keep me company.

After a brief nap, I watched a sentimental favorite, Warner Oland in "Charlie Chan in London."

The character has become controversial in our politically correct modern era. In this case, it's a shame, for two reasons.

First, I'm a sucker for black-and-white B-movie detective flicks of the 1930s and 1940s, my other favorite being the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce "Sherlock Holmes" series. The Chan series -- particularly with Oland -- is among the best.

Second, the ironic part about it is that Chan was conceived as an answer to negative Chinese characters in American popular culture at the time, especially Fu Manchu.

Author Earl Derr Biggers was inspired to write his first novel while staying at The House Without A Key in Hawaii. Chan is said to be based in part on Hawaiian detective Chang Apana.

Oland -- the best Chan -- played the character in 15 films for Fox until his death, when he was replaced by Sidney Toler (who was OK, especially before he moved to Monogram). The movies were wildly popular, both in the United States and in China. The series helped keep Fox afloat during the Depression.

Critics remain divided on Charlie Chan.

Michael Brodhead argues that "Biggers's sympathetic treatment of the Charlie Chan novels convinces the reader that the author consciously and forthrightly spoke out for the Chinese - a people to be not only accepted but admired."

John Soister argues that Charlie Chan is both a positive role model and an offensive stereotype; when Biggers created the character, he offered a unique alternative to stereotypical evil Chinamen, a man who was at the same time "sufficiently accommodating in personality... unthreatening in demeanor... and removed from his Asian homeland... to quell any underlying xenophobia."

For what it's worth, I think Chan is a good character if you take him in context of the times in which the movies were made. Like Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, an African-American who was often the smartest person on Jack Benny's radio show (and could needle Benny like no other member of the cast), Charlie Chan was smarter than everyone around him -- Caucasian or otherwise -- and, unlike so many stereotypical characters of the period (and even unlike Rochester), wasn't reduced to being domestic help, an evil thug, or a downright joke. 

I simply find the films to be fun, classic whodunits from a bygone era, especially on a Sunday night when I hurt like hell. 

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Killer turns 78

Can it be possible that Jerry Lee Lewis is 78?

Say it ain't so.

Hey, in case you haven't, check out his Mercury/Smash-era recordings. I put the best of them up there with any of his early rock-and-roll records.


Well, to me, he'll always be middle-aged crazy, tryin' to prove he still can...


Saturday, September 28, 2013




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Friday, September 27, 2013

Thought for the day

"Times are harder and the people are changing. Today most folks couldn't tell you who their neighbors are; all the guns are loaded, the front doors are bolted; ain't this ol' world takin' hate and fear just a little too far?" -- Jerry Hubbard (aka Jerry Reed), "Talk About The Good Times"

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

"The 'rawness' of Fulmer's dismissal..."

I read with interest this morning a story by featured columnist Brad Shepard on the website Bleacher Report.

In it, he says that Tennessee football coach Butch Jones has welcomed back former UT coach Phillip Fulmer, who attended his first practice since being forced out in 2008. Fulmer also addressed the team at Jones' request.

In the article, Shepard writes, "Now, enough time has passed for the rawness of Fulmer's dismissal to heal."

The rawness of Fulmer's dismissal

Interesting phrase.

My memory goes back further than the mid-to-late 1990s.

I remember Coach George "Bad News" Cafego receiving a used van (one the women's basketball team took to away games), given to him as a gift on George Cafego Day (Sept. 6, 1980) at the Georgia game. Those who know say that Coach Cafego -- a heck of a player in his day -- returned the van, never said a word, but was deeply hurt.

I recall Ray Mears being denied entrance into the Ray Mears Room at Thompson-Boling Arena. I know that, for some strange reason, Ray Mears Boulevard isn't located on campus.

 I recall a press conference in Memphis on Friday, Nov. 13, 1992.

And I also recall the words of Mrs. John Elizabeth Bobo Majors:

"I've given one son to Tennessee. Now, I've given another."

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Marvin and Sarah

It has become a tradition once a year, one I hold dear, dinner and baseball with Marvin and Sarah West.

I knew all about Marvin long before I met him. Yes, it was partially because he covered UT sports for the Knoxville News Sentinel. But he also coached my stepdad, Mike McConkey, on a legendary Powell little league team that won 50-some games in a row.

I think I sealed the deal when I first talked to Marvin on the phone in 2000. I quoted his lead from his Oct. 17, 1982, column on Tennessee's first win over Alabama in 11 tries.

"What a strange and wonderful yo-yo is Tennessee football."

Maybe he just felt sorry for me.

Anyway, we got together to talk about his book "Tales of the Tennessee Vols" and fostered a friendship. He told me that wife Sarah is "the real story" and said again tonight that everybody likes Sarah more than they like him. I've never seen such a devoted couple.

Memories. Moments. Magic.

I once became so, uh, relaxed while watching a game with Marvin that I drifted off to dream. He woke me up and told me to go home.

I once left a dime and three pennies behind. I told Marvin it was a meager tip for Sarah's delicious dinner, all I could afford on a scribe's salary.

I once gave birth to a kidney stone in their living room. Marvin had to drive me home. Sarah followed in their car.

But mostly, I have listened.

Marvin told me about the time he printed a story about a UT football coaching change before John Majors had told the assistant who was getting axed. He said Majors called him long distance (Marvin was in Lexington, Ky., on a basketball assignment) seven times. Majors would say something, hang up, think of something else to say, and call back.

"To his credit," Marvin said, "John didn't hold a grudge and never mentioned it again."

He told me about the time Bill Battle was certain Marvin had planted a bug in the coach's offices. Battle made his assistants search under the table. They found some gum.

He talked about Big John Tate, about covering several Olympics, about being escorted along the border between North and South Korea. (Yep, the South Koreans liked Sarah best, too.)

He has given me advice, laughed at my bad jokes, even invited me to sing at one of his high school class reunions.

Of course, I'll never forget the day I thought he was dead. Long story made short, the daily paper posted a story on its website saying that Marvin had passed away in Lexington, Ky. It turned out to be another man named Marvin West.

When I called their lake house and Marvin answered the phone, I cried. Marvin told me to go back to work.

"See you on a bounce."

Marvin and Sarah are my friends. No, scratch that. They are family. And I love them very much.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

More than a name: Lt. Stanley K. Smiley

As a followup to yesterday's post, I am grateful to my friend, whom I shall call the Giant Rat of Knoxville, for providing me with this information about Lt. Stanley K. Smiley, whose POW/MIA bracelet I wear with pride. 


Name: Stanley Kutz Smiley
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 23, USS ORISKANY
Date of Birth: 31 January 1939
Home City of Record: Sidney NE
Date of Loss: 20 July 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161100N 1064059E
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4F
Refno: 1470

Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 April 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews, the SPOTLIGHT. Updated
by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.

REMARKS: Lt. Stanley K. Smiley was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 23
onboard the USS ORISKANY (CVA34). On the afternoon of July 20, 1969 he
launched in his A4F Skyhawk attack aircraft as the flight leader of a
two-aircraft flight on a road reconnaissance, bomb/strafe mission over Laos.

The aircraft were in Saravane Province, about 40 miles west of the South
Vietnamese city of A Shau when they had completed their initial mission and
were enroute to the aircraft carrier. Lt. Smiley sighted a truck and told
him wingman that he was going to confirm whether or not it was rolling stock
or a hulk. As the wingman prepared to follow his flight leader in an attack,
he saw Lt. Smiley's aircraft in a shallow dive about 60 degrees off the
planned attack heading. The aircraft crashed. The wingman reported that
Smiley never radioed any malfunction, the flight did not receive any
anti-aircraft fire during the mission, yet the crash occurred in a known
high concentration anti-aircraft artillery location. The aircraft did not
burn or explode upon impact with the ground.

No sign was found during an aerial search that Lt. Smiley had successfully
ejected the aircraft, but the hostile threat in this area of Laos precluded
any close inspection of the air crash site.

Lt. Smiley was declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. No one really
gave him any hope of survival.

In 1988 a former officer in the Royal Lao Army, Somdee Phommachanh, stated
on national television that he was held captive along with two Americans at
a prison camp in northern Laos. He and the two Americans had become friends.
One day Somdee found one of the prisoners dead in his cell. Somdee
identified the American very positively from a photo. His name, he said, was
David Nelson. Somdee buried his friend with all the care he would a
cherished loved one, given his limited ability as a prisoner of war. The
other prisoner, Somdee said, was Stanley Smiley. It was not long after
Nelson died that the Vietnamese came and took Smiley away. Somdee does not
know what happened to him.

Although Somdee has been threatened, he has stuck to his story. Stanley
Smiley and David Nelson were held prisoner after American troops left
Southeast Asia and after the President of the United States announced that
all American prisoners of war had been released.

If Stanley Smiley and David Nelson survived, what of the others?  If Smiley
and Nelson were abandoned by the country they served, how many more were
also abandoned? Not a single American held by the Lao (and there were nearly
600 lost there) was ever released or negotiated for.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lt. Stanley K. Smiley

Hi gang.

Hope you survived Monday.

Have to make this one short and sweet. I had to be taken to the doctor. Somehow, I have managed to strain my lower back. And, I have a massive migraine to boot.

But I wanted to take a moment to mention Lt. Stanley K. Smiley.

Lt. Smiley was either captured or went missing on July 20, 1969 -- ironically the day Neil and Buzz landed on the moon -- in Laos.

I have worn POW/MIA bracelets for years. My last one broke and I bought this one through an organization that gives the profits to veterans' affairs and benefits programs.

If any member of Lt. Smiley's family reads this blog, please call me through my office at (865) 922-4136. I would love to talk to you. I am going to research Lt. Smiley and his story after I convalesce.

This bracelet in microcosm is a memorial for all American POW/MIAs in every war, and is especially for those who didn't make it home.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

'Lolly-Madonna' director dies

Richard Sarafian, who among other things directed "Lolly-Madonna XXX" (not an adult movie), filmed in Union County (Tenn.) in the summer of 1972, has died.

Sarafian is perhaps best known for the cult classic "Vanishing Point." His fans included Warren Beatty and Quentin Tarantino, according to the Associated Press.

Here is the AP story.

P.S. If you are Kathy Watts (Knoxville Central High School Class of 1971, who appeared in that film), please call me at 865-922-4136. I would love to interview you for the Shopper-News or even talk informally.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bear and John

My uncle Jeff Newgent took this photo of Paul William "Bear" Bryant and John Terrill Majors before the 1980 Tennessee/Alabama game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

This was back when men were men and plaid was plaid. (And, yep, I'd wear those pants if I could find a pair.)

P.S. Tennessee lost to No. 1-ranked Alabama 27-0.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

POW/MIA Recognition Day

And I remember Daddy sayin' you'll come back a better man; but I just wonder if they ever think of me... -- Merle Haggard


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Who should play the king (and I don't mean Elvis)

The news hit today that NBC is developing a miniseries based on the life of The King of Late Night.

Of course, I mean Johnny Carson.

Let me let you in on a little secret. Johnny Carson is my idol. More than Elvis, more than Ernie Pyle, more than anybody but my Dad, I have always wanted to be Johnny Carson.

I wanted to host "The Tonight Show." I wanted a sidekick like Ed and a bandleader like Doc (and a band like Doc's). I try to time my jokes like Johnny and it frustrates me that his is one of the voices that I can't impersonate. I've worked on it for years and just can't get it.

Anyway, the press release says the miniseries is based on a book called "Carson the Magnificent" by Bill Zehme (which is all but impossible to find) and that the Carson role hasn't yet been cast.

"Who should play Johnny Carson?" IMDB asks.

One answer and one answer only: Kevin Spacey.

Need proof?

I would have said Rich Little (and here's why), but he's too old.

Get Spacey or give up.

Meanwhile, here's a note to Carson Entertainment: Get the original shows on TV. Not "Carson's Comedy Classics." The show. The full show. Unedited. Please. Pretty please?

I'd watch it every night at 11:30, certainly over Leno and what's his name on ABC, and even over Letterman, who has lost his edge.


P.S. This is my all-time favorite Carson moment.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

$400 Million lottery? Who cares!


You say the Powerball is up to $400 million?

Big deal.

I've got silver in the stars and gold in the morning sun, to quote Don Williams.

Plus, look at this poster I won from Graceland. Yep, that's announcing the 2013 inductees to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

I've got everything I need, y'all.

That being said, if I do win the big payoff, next week's dateline will be  from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, USA.

Hey, a guy can't dream, can't he?

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sept. 17, 1923

He was born on this date 90 years ago. He lived hard, our hero, played hard -- in more ways than one -- died young, and created pure poetry.

Here's to him. Thank God he's not here to hear the train wreck on Music Row.

And as I wonder where he is ... I'm so lonesome I could cry. 




Isn't that a wonderful word?

If you've got real ones, you know what I mean.

Let me tell you a true tale.

Late this morning, just before noon, I pulled up to Beaver Brook Country Club for the monthly Halls Business and Professional Association meeting.

After chatting with Bob Crye, Ted Hatfield, my co-worker Shannon Carey and Sue Walker (the younger), I strolled into the dining room and saw Sue Walker (the elder). Sue the Elder is Sue the Younger's aunt.

Sue (the elder) sees me, says hello and adds, "I have something for you."

Up she comes with a bag that contains an Elvis photograph souvenir album and an Elvis Christmas candy tin.

"Do you have that?" she asks of the album. "If you do, you have two."

"Nope," I say. "Sure don't.

"What did I do to deserve this?"

"Nothing," Sue says. (Which is usually what I've done to deserve any gift.) "We're friends."

Friends. What a great word.

"Open the tin," she says.

In it were individual bags of peanut brittle.

"Did you make that yourself?"

"Yep," Sue says. "I wouldn't just give you an empty tin!"

How about that, huh? I sported a smile the rest of the day.

Not bad for a Tuesday back in reality after a three-day vacation.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

A few minutes with Jakey Rooney

Ferndale, Mich. -- Have you ever wondered why people bother to go to the ballpark and don't bother to watch the ballgame? I have.

I did yesterday while taking in a Tigers game at Comerica Park.

Cheers. Chuckles. Cacophony. Chaos.

An entire row of tween girls left in the second inning and didn't return until the eighth. That was the good part, come to think about it.

A man who was old enough to know better audibly kept trying to decide whether to ride the carousel or the Ferris wheel. Guess he called an audible when he got there.

A few rows in front of us, a group kept gabbing about somebody's birthday, singing and standing while blocking my view of home plate.

"Seriously?" I said. "I have a birthday every year."

It is a free country, in theory, but why would one pay good money to NOT watch the game? (Jets fans need not answer.)

Maybe I am not the best barometer. I keep score. Rap music is repugnant. The only wave I want to see is from the Fox Sports Detroit girls.

I had just about had enough, loudly lamenting the HDTV receiver and my recliner, when Alex Aliva went deep with what proved to be the game winner.

"You know," I said, looking down on the green field of glory, "I carry on and complain, and yet I love this damned ol' game."

It's so good, in fact, that I wished these folks had watched.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mabe in Motown

Ferndale, Mich. -- So, in a span of 20 minutes, I bought a Detroit Tigers jacket, a Jack Lord "Hawaii Five-O" bust and a book called "Elvis Died For Somebody's Sins (But Not Mine)."

That's the way Mabester rolls in Motown.

Fall has arrived in Ferndale. The temperature dropped to a frosty 48 last night. Today was terrific. Sixty-seven and sunny. Super.

I ducked into a quirky bookstore in Birmingham. Tomes were tossed to and fro, piles and piles, rows and rows. It was my kind of joint.

I was hunting "A Confederacy of Dunces" but found the Elvis book instead. Had to buy it. It's by a cat called Mick Farren. Ever heard of him?

"Within these pages you'll meet the likes of Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Gore Vidal, and steam open correspondence between the author and Pete Townshend," writes Charles Shaar Murray in the forward. "And, much more importantly, you're about to go one-on-one with a world class raconteur..."

How can one resist that?

So, Tennessee lost to Oregon and the Tigers lost to the Royals. As Luther H. Gillis, private eye, might say, "Who cares!"

I am on vacation. Plus, that just means the Tigs will win tomorrow. See ya at Comerica Park!

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Kanye karate-chopped by The King!

Guess what, Kanye? You ain't The King.

At best, you're an inflamed boil on the buttocks of society. And that's being charitable.

Elvis fans and people of goodwill everywhere breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when Lisa Marie Presley, E's daughter and executor of his estate, dispelled a rumor that Graceland is for sale in a USA Today article.

Earlier this summer, a British tabloid rag reported that West, best known for making an ass of himself at every opportunity, was interested in purchasing the Memphis mansion for (an expression I hate) his "baby mama" Kim Kardashian (another name I wish I had never heard).

Forget it. These gates are closed to you, Kanye.

"Sometimes there are rumors about it (Graceland) being sold," Presley told USA Today, "and that is NEVER going to happen. There's always a rumor. It is NOT getting sold. Graceland was given to me and will always be mine and then passed to my children," she says. "It will never be sold."

Thank God and thankyouverymuch!

I take great comfort in knowing that my nieces and godsons will still be listening to The King when Kanye is reduced to the ash heap of cultural irrelevance.

Graceland has also been named the Best Iconic American Attraction in the 10Best Readers' Choice contest, topping the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty and The White House.

Long live The King!

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lamenting the hobo

I've always wanted to be a hobo.

I don't know whether it is because of, or in spite of, the fact I've lived in the same town my whole life, but I have a yearning, burning urge to wander.

The good news is that I have seen 47 of the 50 United States, some of them on what used to be called the blue highways.

But every now and then, usually on Friday nights when I am driving east on I-640 near Broadway, I will see a freight train. And wish I could hop aboard just like in the movies, a modern-day Jimmie Rodgers, riding the rails.

I've always loved trains. Most boys do, for whatever reason. As I mentioned yesterday, I first entered Manhattan by rail. I would travel that way exclusively if I could.

But those days are long, long gone, unless I move to the Northeast.

It all started when I was three or four. My dad bought me a model train set of the Chattanooga Choo Choo. It even came with some kind of liquid that would produce smoke from the engine's chimney. I'd dream about being an engineer. Or a brakeman. Or, hell I'll say it, a hobo.

It got worse the first time I heard Jimmie Rodgers. Somebody -- I think it was one of my grandfathers -- had some Rodgers hobo songs on 78s. Later, I heard Merle Haggard, and then Dolly, Emmylou and Linda, sing Jimmie's "Hobo's Meditation."

Tonight as I lay on the boxcar, just waiting for a train to pass by;
What will become of the hobo whenever his time comes to die?

At Clear Springs Baptist Church, I heard "Life's Railway to Heaven" and figured that's where the hobo was ultimately headed. That's the way I wanted to go, I'll tell you for sure.

The itch endures. If I could, I'd take off tomorrow and ride every line that Amtrak serves. Oh, I'd pay for a ticket, of course, which is why this will remain a dream, at least for now.

But I admire the hobo of yesteryear. It's easy, you see, for it to seem romantic from the comfort of one's easy chair.

I love the television series "The Fugitive." I always perked up when David Janssen's Dr. Richard Kimble would hop a freight. In a couple of episodes at least, such an action comes back to haunt the good doctor.

As it is, I sit here in Halls, dreaming my dreams, living vicariously through shows and songs, lamenting the life of the hobo.

There's a Master up yonder in Heaven; got a place that we might call our home.
Will we have to work for a living? Or can we continue to roam? 

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

I was still in the shower.

My grandfather Wayne Wyatt, who passed away last September, poked his head into the bathroom and said, "A plane has hit the World Trade Center."

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

"Terrible accident," I think.

By the time I got to the bottom of the stairs, the second plane hit the other tower.

This was no accident.

I went to work. Doug Shipman called to talk about a golf tournament. I asked if I could call him back.

I watched news coverage on a small black-and-white TV. My boss came in about 10 and told us to get to work.

"If you just sit there, the terrorists have won."

She was right. I went to work.

Then it hit me:

I was in Manhattan the week before. It was my first trip to New York. I took a train to Grand Central Station. I met Tom Selleck. I saw those magnificent twin towers.

Turns out a guy with whom I once attended church, Tony Karnes, perished in the attacks. So, too, did so many others.

Everything changed. Nothing changed.

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The timbre of the typewriter

A friend and coworker, who knows of my love for manual typewriters, sent me this delicious ditty by Melissa Nelson. My hat is off to you, Melissa. My words would be meager compared to yours. 

Submitted for your approval...

I miss manual typewriters. Growing up, we had an old, stout, incredibly heavy portable Olivetti. It had cloth ribbons--cloth! And moreover, the ribbon divided horizontally into equal rows of black and red ink. RED INK was reserved for oomph. ALL CAPS is the new RED, kids.

And, when you reached the right margin of the page, you had to take your finger and whisk the carriage return lever, give it a good thrust, to send the carriage back to the left margin.

The sound of fingers and keys flying across a portable, non-electric machine was (and remains) unmistakable and cool. Not cool because it's nostalgic, but cool by very definition. It was nothing like the clicking sound of early computer keyboards or the muffled fingertip-toe we make today. Olivetti meant business. It bellowed "I'm getting this all down! Every word of it!"

The act of putting ink to paper was loud. Engaging. A partnership of unapologetic PDA (public dispensing of audio.) Remember that when the carriage went as far to the right as it could go, a bell went off? There was nothing like the percussion of being a whiz typist on a roll: frenzy to clatter to clamor to smoking, unholy hooves pounding, to building...building...buiiiiiiiiiiiilding to....DING! Repeat faster/louder on the next line. And the next.

It was just as fun to be conscious of the orchestral percussion as it was to be totally unaware, lost in the zone of what I was writing (until my Mom would reach her limit of invasive annoyances & yell, "Criminently, give it a rest!").

I used to love to try to decipher words and sentences left on a spent ribbon--the red was generally conservatively littered with the alphabet...but those ABC's sometimes actually wore holes in the black ink half. You could milk a ribbon for a very long time. You rewound them and used them again and again. Until you wore. It. Out.

If you're still reading this and wondering what prompted the post...I watched someone typing at their computer, stop, reach up and whisk their finger across the touch screen...and I flashed on the oddly similar motion of typing and whisking the carriage back to the left margin. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The End.

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Otis and the Waltz

Happy birthday to the late, great, nobody-can-imitate Otis Redding.

The Big O sang from his soul. He makes my top 10 favorite singers list with room to spare.

Did you ever hear how he got his big break?

The story goes that Otis was chauffeuring a group to Stax Records and carrying their instruments into the famous Memphis music studio.

After the session, Otis begged the guys in the booth to listen to him. They said OK.

Otis sang "These Arms of Mine" and the rest is history. If that's not exactly the way it happened, it should be.

My Volunteer State readers (and others of goodwill) may like to hear Otis' stunning version of "The Tennessee Waltz."

Oh, yeah. I remember THE night...

Happy birthday to Macon, Ga.'s favorite son. We lost you too soon, my man.

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Sunday, September 08, 2013

For any band that covers 'Wagon Wheel'...

...the line should be:

"But he's a-headed EAST from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City, Tennessee."

I give Dylan a break because he was probably stoned at the time...

Just some friendly advice from an East Tennessean who thinks geography should be correct, even in song.

Have a good week, y'all.

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Words I wish I'd never heard

Inspired by a well-received Facebook post, submitted for your approval is a list of words I wish I had never, ever heard. 

Twerking. Besties. Butt chugging. Charles Manson. Jay Leno.

Ted Turner. Colorization of classic cinema. Coldplay.

Remakes. Robin Thicke. Rewind.

"For English, press one." Ebonics. Ebola.

Buttafuoco. Light beer. Beverly Hills. Bills.


But. Can't. Won't. Don't. 

Kardashian. Khloe. Cancer.

Honey Boo Boo. Hangover. Hurt.

"Two Broke Girls." "Too Legit to Quit." "Et tu, Brute?"

Soccer. Simpson (O.J.) Simpson. (Jessica)

Autotune. Awesome! "All Shook Up." (Yes, I hate that song.)

Exclamation points. Excuses. Ignorance.

"They canceled 'Freaks and Geeks.'" "And now, the 17th season of 'Dancing with the Stars.'"

Content. (Now used in journalism circles instead of "news.") New Coke. Newbies.

Ryan Seacrest. Rubbernecking. Richard Simmons.

Gangnam Style. Got Milk? Gaga (as in Lady).

Kevin Federline. Levi Johnston. Johnny Knoxville.

Smartphone. Cellphone. Telephone.

"Let me put you on hold."

Racism. Fascism. Communism. Extremism.

And, finally, Beliebers.

Friday, September 06, 2013

A burger fit for a king (and Dolly's still the queen)

Well, I was in a bit of a pickle for about 15 minutes last night. Meeting friends at a new (to me) restaurant on Market Square -- The Stock and Barrel -- I noticed the specialties were burgers and bourbon.

I'm a beer guy when it comes to potent potables, so that was no problem. But did they ever have a selection of burgers.

"What shall I get?" I said to myself as I scanned the menu.

And then I saw it.

Peanut butter. Fried bananas. Bentons' bacon.

I know what you're thinking. And you're right. The burger is called The Elvis.

I did a double take. Too good to be true. But no. It was there.

I came. I ate. I conquered.

Next time you're downtown, stop by. The service and food are superb. And, chances are, you'll find a burger you will love, whether it's The Elvis or The Billy or even the Free Bird.

Oh, and by the way: in case you missed it, my buddy Bradley Reeves had a fantastic show last night on WDVX-FM. Boy, howdy. The highlight of the evening were RARE Dolly Parton recordings, including a live performance from 1960 on a Maryville, Tenn., radio show and some other goodies.

Do not miss this one, y'all. The program will be archived for two weeks and can be found by visiting the WDVX website, clicking on Archives, scrolling to Thursday, Sept. 5, and beginning with the 10 p.m. hour "East Tennessee Quiver." The rare Dolly recordings begin about 11 p.m.

Wait until you hear Dolly sing "Making Believe." That's country music, y'all.

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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The King conquers New York -- again!

Yes, I always get myself a little something for Elvis Week.

Cause, well, you know.

This year's item (finally!) arrived today. It's the rereleased 40th anniversary vinyl version of "Elvis As Recorded at Madison Square Garden," taken from the June 10, 1972, evening performance, one of four shows The King performed that summer at MSG, shattering box office records at the time.

Beautifully remastered in the HQ-180 RTI Premium vinyl pressing, the show has never sounded better. It is MUCH livelier than the original release, which failed to capture the excitement of the quivering crowd.

Elvis and the TCB Band were at the top of their game for The King's first concert appearance in New York since the "Ed Sullivan Show" heyday of the 1950s. This is the best of the officially released live albums from Elvis' 1970s RCA catalogue.

From the bombastic "Also Sprach Zarathustra" straight into a hard-driving "That's All Right" to favorites like "Suspicious Minds" and a funky version of "Hound Dog," you simply can't beat it. If you are a casual fan who only wants one Elvis live album for your collection, this is it.

"Boy, the band was on its toes then and Elvis put so many songs in that set and sounded incredible," says Elvis fan and guitarist extraordinaire Ross Southerland, who knows of what he speaks.

I must also mention the CD rerelease as well because it contains a DVD of rare 8mm footage from this engagement. Don't miss it.

But, when it comes to sound and ambience, as Ross says, "Wax is where it's at, man!"

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

'Another Self Portrait'

And so we come to Robert Zimmerman.

You know him better as Bob Dylan, and I have always had an interesting relationship with his music. There was a time when I preferred his songs (and, let's face it, the man is a poet) performed by others.

I have softened on that as I've aged, although it still remains true for at least one song: Joe Cocker's cover of "I Shall Be Released."

Having said that, one of my favorite albums -- one of the 20 or so I would take with me to the proverbial deserted island -- is "Nashville Skyline." I love it so much I have it in several forms -- two vinyls (one sealed), a reel-to-reel tape and a compact disc.

It was with great interest and hopeful curiosity, then, that I purchased "Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)," Vol. 10 in Columbia's Dylan "The Bootleg Series."

I knew I wanted to hear the alternate takes from "Nashville Skyline," and they are here, including "I Threw It All Away" and "Country Pie."

But the true treat is the disc (it's on the deluxe edition) that includes live performances with The Band at Isle of Wight, a few of which I had seen and heard via YouTube videos. Among those highlights are a better-than-the-record version of "I Threw It All Away," and great live versions of "Maggie's Farm," "Wild Mountain Time," "One Too Many Mornings" and "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine." Sadly, the live version of "Lay Lady Lay" leaves one longing for the studio cut. I'm not sure why. There are also a slew of Dylan signature songs for the fans, everything from "Like a Rolling Stone" to "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)" to "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Also of note are the bare-boned cuts from Dylan's often maligned "Self Portrait." The album, full of strings, covers and overblown arrangements, was universally panned upon its release, with one critic actually writing, "What is this s--t?"

Here, we are treated to the raw Dylan sound, and it's almost as if we're hearing a different album while "House Carpenter" or "Thirsty Boots" (one of my favorite songs of the Civil Rights era) play.

The inclusion of the demo of "When I Paint My Masterpiece" has also generated a bit of buzz. As you may know, Dylan gave the tune to The Band, who turned it into one of their signature songs. As usual, hearing it by the songwriter gives it an extra layer of complexity and feeling.

"Another Self Portrait" is a must-have for Dylan devotees and students of American music. But, if you just like music from this particular period or simply want to hear an artist evolve songs from demo to recording sessions, you'll like it, too.

Turns out Dylan painted a masterpiece while everyone was looking elsewhere.

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Monday, September 02, 2013

Unforgettable Labor Day reunion

Happy Labor Day!

I hope you don't have to work today, but if you do, my hat is off to you. I know this ol' world keeps spinning around, and here's to the working people who make it happen.

Hey, remember the Jerry Lewis MDA telethons? I used to watch at least pieces of them every Labor Day.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Jerry Lewis is kind of annoying. (There are some truly bizarre, yet fascinating clips on YouTube of him talking to Dick Cavett.) But, I like him, and about one thing there is no doubt: Jerry Lewis did more for the Muscular Dystrophy Association than any 50 other people combined. I still can't get over how the MDA unceremoniously dumped him after all those years. And, no, I've not watched the telethon since, nor will I give a cent to the MDA.

Jerry's telethons were fascinating. Live TV. Hours and hours of it. You never knew who might show up. Johnny Carson! Frank Sinatra! Wayne Newton! Sammy Davis Jr.! Some random act you've never heard of!

This is my favorite clip. Francis Albert Sinatra, who could get away with nearly everything, reunited Jerry with his former sidekick, Dean Martin, in 1976, 20 years after they had worked together or seen one another. And I think this is the ONLY time they ever saw each other until Dino's death. (Correct me on that if I'm wrong.)

Update: My friend Michael Henderson reminded me that Jerry talked to Dino by phone for about 15 minutes when Dean Martin Jr. died. 

Oh, and here's my second favorite clip

Have a great, relaxing, rejuvenating day.

And here's to ya, Jer. We miss ya, pal.

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