Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Knowing The Difference...

I am a minister; not a preacher or reverend. Why?

To minister means to serve or help another. To preach is to make a proclamation, usually via a sermon. A reverend is one who is supposed to be revered or respected.  Which one do you think is more likely to be effective?

I CAN preach. I can do it well. I can preach in such a way that it'll make your head spin. But why should you listen to me? I'm just a man. Nothing more. The only words I can and will give you are the truth...not the truth as I see it, but the truth as it is. I know fire is hot and ice is cold. I know that stealing and killing are wrong. I know that loving and caring is right. If you can't understand those simple truths, no amount of preaching by me, or anyone else, will make you understand.

 I don't seek to be revered. I'll happily try to earn your respect, but I won't ask anyone, or even allow anyone, to automatically bestow it upon me. Don't call me "sir". I've never been knighted. I've worked my entire life. I have a name; feel free to use it.

I have done wrong. I freely admit it. When I make a mistake, I own up to it. I know that for every action there is a reaction or consequence. When I do wrong, I try as hard as I can to make it right.

I am a minister; not a preacher or reverend. Now you know why.

Friday, August 22, 2014


I've had some issues with owls. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike them, but, they have, on occasion, scared the crap out of me. In fact, I'll tell you a couple of owl stories...feel free to laugh and then remind me of it every time you see me...which happens. I'm glad y'all are still reading this silliness!

I used to live in a small town in Ohio called New Philadelphia. It was about a 30 or so minute drive from where my dad had a "vacation" home at Tappan Lake. His 2nd wife never really liked the place, so dad had stopped going there. I'd stop out once a month or so to check on the place for him, and if something needed repaired, I'd take care of that too.

It was a nice little place with 2 bedrooms, front and back porches, fireplace, and a number of black walnut trees on the property. I learned to loathe black walnuts. If you've ever hit one with a lawnmower and had it come flying back at you, you'll understand why. They're kinda like nature's golf balls.

One day, I decided I'd better check on the place, as a pretty bad storm had blown through the area. Good thing I did! The window in the one bedroom had been broken, presumably by a black walnut blown off one of the trees. It was nearing dusk, so I figured I'd grab some wood out of the shed, and board up the window.

Once I had that finished, I decided I'd go clean up any broken glass in the room. The room itself was a decent size, with 2 sets of bunk beds, 2 old 1940's dressers, a closet, and a big round mirror. There were only 2 lights in the room; one on the nightstand between the beds (it had been knocked over) and the other on the wall opposite the door, right near the foot of one of the top bunks.

As I entered the room, I heard something definitely critter-like. This wasn't going to be good. I knew it. But, whatever it was, quickly made it's way out through the space between the window and the board, so I didn't have to confront it. However, this did get me to thinking that as well as broken glass, I might have some sort of critter poo to clean up. I made my way across the darkened room to where I knew the light was. As I flicked on the light, a big-ass barn owl started flapping it's massive wings at me! Apparently, it had been perched right at the foot of the top bunk...probably in wait to devour whatever critter I had previously heard!

Needless to say, this scared this crap out of me. I would say that I merely jumped back, and then grabbed the owl and put him outside...but that would be a lie. The reality is more like this: I screamed like a bitch and ran out of the room. Once out of the room, I turned back around to see what the hell was in that room...and it was just an owl. Now the only question was HOW THE HELL DO I GET AN OWL OUT OF THE HOUSE????

If you've ever had a bird in the house, then you know how fun it is to get them OUT of the house. Now, make that bird an owl...a large, terrified (by me) owl. Mr. Owl wanted away from me and I wanted Mr. Owl out of the house. This should be easy, right? Guess again.

I opened both the front and back doors, so Mr. Owl would have a choice of escape routes. I grabbed a broom and started trying to shoo the owl out. Of course...this didn't work. Mr. Owl flew out of the room and into the kitchen and main living area. He should have just flown right out the front door, but in his obviously agitated state, was thinking less clearly than he should have been. Owls make a lot of noise when they're scared. I was mostly just muttering, "Shit", "Fuck" and "Dammit". A lot. This owl wasn't going to leave on his own. The broom was nowhere near as effective as I'd hoped. It was time for Plan B. Only problem...I didn't have a Plan B. (Note to reader and self: ALWAYS have a Plan B!)

I sat down at the kitchen table, lit a cigarette, and tried to figure out just what the hell to do about this owl. I could have just said "Screw this", locked him in there for a week, and just come back later and scooped up the corpse, but that would mean a 2nd trip to Tappan Lake, and I just didn't want to. Also, I'm not that cruel. I also couldn't allow myself to be bested by an owl...although, it was looking more and more likely that I would be.

Having only one idea left, which should tell you everything you need to know about how much I cared about this situation, I went into the master bedroom, and grabbed a sheet from the cupboard. I figured, if I could throw this over the owl, I'd be able to bunch it up and put him outside, so he could go back to his owl world and regale his owl friends with his own version of this story (which would probably go something like, "So, I'm just sitting there, minding my own business, waiting to eat a critter, and this deranged human comes along, tries to blind me with a bright light and then starts screaming and trying to kill me with a broom! Seriously Frank, I was terrified!").

If you've never tried to throw a sheet over a moving owl, let me tell you...it's not fun. It also takes numerous tries. I literally spent at least an hour trying to do this. I was close to giving up, when Mr. Owl decided to perch on the back of the couch. He looked as worn out as I was. We just looked at each other, with sort of a "What the hell are we doing?" look...but like I said, I was NOT going to be bested by an owl. We continued our staring contest for a few minutes, while I slowly inched towards the couch. Mr. Owl wasn't moving. He did, however, poop on the couch. Owl poop stinks. I finally got the sheet over him, and got him outside. Mr. Owl seemed resigned to conquest, and didn't move much. It might have been shock...who knows...but once out on the porch, I carefully pulled the sheet off of him so he could fly away. Instead, he popped up onto the porch rail, and just looked at me. I turned around and closed the screen door, and Mr. Owl finally flew away.

I went back in and still had broken glass, critter poo, owl poo, and what I can only guess was the remnants of Mr. Owl's dinner, to clean up. My routine, 20 minute inspection took hours to complete. I was tired, sweaty, and chuckling to myself about the situation. I finished up, locked up the house, and drove back home to New Philly. I called dad when I got home to tell him the story. I told him I should charge him for this...and most dads probably would have agreed. Not Clyde. He was more concerned with whether or not I boarded up the window correctly and if I could go back and air the place out to get rid of the stench of critter poo stains.  I love my dad...but he's one of the reasons I drink.

If this isn't enough of a tale...I have another. Not quite as lengthy but every bit as entertaining.

If you've ever been to my house, you know what it's like. For those that haven't, it's an old Cape Code style house, lots of trees, and a mess of woods out back. We get a lot of critters through the yard. I've seen more than my share of deer, ground hogs, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, birds galore...and even the odd duck and Canadian goose. My upstairs bathroom window looks out over the back yard, and there's an evergreen right near the window...which gives a nice bit of privacy, should anyone for some odd reason want to try to look up into my bathroom. We occasionally get critters on the roof too. So far this summer, it's been a busy season for the raccoons. I'm starting to believe that my roof has become a popular mating spot for them.

But, this story is about owls...or, one owl in particular.

Some years back, I recall waking at around 2am to use the toilet. This is unusual only in the fact that it was 2am and I was already asleep...so I must have still been working down in the Strip District, as that was one of the few times in my life that I worked "normal people" hours.

As I said, the upstairs bathroom window looks out on the back yard. The toilet is right near the window (ventilation!). Beneath the window dormer is a small bit of roofing, and a gutter. (I tell you this, just to set the scene) When this was my grandmother's house, she would keep a small nightlight in the bathroom, for those late night visits. I used to as well...but often when the bulb would burn out, I'd leave it for months. I have no problem with just flicking on the light. Probably better that I do because, as we all know, us guys need all the help we can get when it comes to "aiming".

So, as I said, it's around 2am, I've just woke from a deep sleep, and am standing by the window, relieving myself. "HOO! HOO!" Scared the hell out of me! A damned owl was peeking right in the window and started making noise at me! Seeing what I was doing, he was probably thinking I was strangling a snake. Startled, I yelled at Mr. Owl, he flapped his big ass wings at me and took off. Yes...I made a mess. Damned owl scared the piss outta me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


OK, so everyone is making cute little videos, dumping buckets of ice water on themselves, to raise awareness of ALS. Personally, I'd rather these people just make a donation to a worthy cause and ask their friends to do the same...but hey, I guess whatever works.

But just what the hell is ALS (some of you may be asking)? First off, "Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease (motor neuron disease to my friends overseas) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed." That is a direct quote from the ALS Association's web site (www.alsa.org). Secondly, ALS is one of the few things on this planet that terrifies me. 

I've long joked that my only fear is quicksand (it was when I was a kid, not so much now) but the reality is this: I am scared shitless of ever being diagnosed with ALS.

We had a distant cousin who had it. Sharon was a gorgeous gal, with a loving husband, 3 kids, and everything to look forward to. One day, while changing her youngest's diaper, she couldn't get her fingers to work the safety pin (yep, we're going back a ways). She felt FINE, but just couldn't get it to work. Over the next few weeks, things like this kept happening, so she went to see her doctor. Tests were done, and finally a diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's) was made. This was the 1970s and essentially, this young, beautiful, vibrant woman had been given a slow death sentence.

As one can imagine, a disorder like this doesn't only affect the patient. It affects the entire family. Sharon's oldest, Kimmy, was about 10 or 11 at the time. Over the next couple of years, she had to take on more of her mother's duties at home because Sharon could just no longer do them. That meant raising her younger siblings, as well as helping to take care of her wheelchair-bound, and later bedridden, mother. It was too much for Kimmy. She became distant with the family and seemed, rightly, pissed off. I haven't heard from her since her mother passed, and that was a long time ago. I hope she's OK.

But Sharon, she was a trouper. She fought hard til the end. It was heartbreaking to see this disorder tear her down, bit by bit. She just got weaker and weaker with each passing day. She had no muscle tone or control left at all. She eventually couldn't even breathe on her own, and shortly after that, she died.

The worst part? Her mind was still fully intact. She had become a prisoner in her own body. That's what terrifies me so much about ALS.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no known cause of ALS, and it's only hereditary in a very small percentage of cases. But it's still an awful way to go...and we all know that the only way to end it is through research. That costs money. Sure, the ice water challenge makes for a cute little video, good for a laugh I suppose, but I would, personally, rather see the folks making these videos just send a donation instead. Hey, times are tough. I get it. I'm so broke people should be writing country and blues songs about me! But if you have the money for a video camera or a really nice cell phone, you can probably afford to send a buck or two. There's a link on the www.alsa.org site where you can make a donation.

I won't challenge you to. I'll just ask.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Rare Music Video Review

I've written hundreds of music reviews in my career as a writer. Maybe thousands, I don't know...I've never counted. But, as the music industry continues to change, I guess I should too.

Let's face it. No one buys music anymore. There's a good reason for this...most of it sucks. Case in point, anything The Black Keys have done since their "Brothers" disc.

Before you go pointing fingers and crying foul, I've worked with Dan Auerbach. He was still a kid in his late teens, early 20s, and playing with his old band The Barn Burners. They used to open for me from time to time. The kid had amazing talent then, and I'm sure still does. He has, however, fallen into the trap that is the industry.

Their earlier releases were pure fun! Grungy, bluesy, garage-y...I didn't like everything they did but I enjoyed most of it. Then came "Brothers". Damn. That was the record every artist dreams of. Not a bad song on it. I listened to that release repeatedly, start to finish, for hours at a time...until Dan started leasing his songs out to every possible commercial venture possible. And hey, why shouldn't he? He has to make a living. He and Patrick Carney always made good money touring, but they were in a position to make more. Selling out? Hardly. It was a smart business choice.

That disc was going to be impossible to follow up. They should have waited years to even try. But in today's market, that's not possible. Gotta keep on selling! The follow up disc, "El Camino" sucked balls. It had one decent song and the whole project just sounded rushed. I can guarantee it didn't generate the revenue that "Brothers" did...but the momentum carried them into the arena circuit. More money! Good for them!

I just watched the video for "Weight of Love", from their latest release. Oh Lord...it was, for lack of a better word, pretentious. This is what happens when 2 kids from Ohio get money. Gone is their usual wit. It's been replaced by super models, tits, and absurdity. The song is really pretty boring. Hardcore Keys fans will dig it...but it's totally unmemorable. The video, which Rolling Stone describes as "clever" and summarizes as "Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney play sweaty televangelists slowly whipping an audience into a flat-out frenzy" just tells me that their reviewer and I must have been watching different videos.

Sure, in the background, you can occasionally see the boys playing televangelists on TV...but the bulk of the video is T&A, in see-through white robes. Need to sell merchandise? T&A works every time, and probably will again this time.

But the reality is, this so-called "clever" short is anything but. To my eyes, it looks like a talented film student with the potential for a great career as a cinematographer has tried his hand at directing...and came up with the most cliche thing he could. The lighting and movement reminds me of Jesus Christ Superstar...but without the originality. It's just a bunch of models, with no sort of story line, just flailing about. There's a beach. Sand. Water. Sunshine. The indoor scenes are dimly lit...wooooo so intense and sensitive...not. Lots of slowed down footage...another sad attempt at giving it some sort of emotion. It just fails on every level. I'm sure teenage boys all over will find a spank-worthy moment or two...but for serious music fans, this is a waste of time. The song itself is "ok" but it's not a single. Danny can write a good hook. He can write some great songs...but he's apparently still lost in the shadow of "Brothers" and having a tough time finding his muse again. Coupled with his recent divorce and new-found single parenthood, I'm sure he's got a lot on his mind. He should just take more time off, get his life in order, and wait a while before releasing anything new. The Black Keys should be setting themselves up for a big comeback in a few years....not just babbling on about nothing like the rest of us do.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams: Pissed Off!

Please, do NOT feel sorry for Robin Williams. Also, do NOT try to turn him into a martyr. He committed suicide...the most selfish act a person can do. Yeah...you read that correctly. He was selfish.

I've lived with suicidal depression most of my life. I've fought it and fought hard. It does NOT get easier. Depression sucks. It drains your energy and your desire. Every now and then, I'm lucky and have a few days where my suicidal impulses don't pop up. But then, like a rash or an old friend, they're back. I've learned that this is nothing more than my brain misfiring. While I do know this, it doesn't stop, or even slow down, my suicidal impulses. It doesn't fix my depression.  It does, however, keep me from acting on these impulses. Also, I am a very blessed man in a lot of ways. I have people in my life that I know love me and care about me...like my better half. Whenever a really strong suicidal impulse kicks in, and I'm seriously thinking about gulping down all of my pills, slicing an artery, or hanging myself (these are the 3 most common ideations that pop into my head), I am able to stop myself by imagining how hard it would be on her, to come home and find me like that. I just can't do it. I'm not that fucking selfish. The suicidal impulses are still there...but I manage to stop myself. The pain is still there, as is the daily misery of it...but I will not put another person through that. I may be a failure at a lot of things in this world, but I at least try to not add to anyone else's misery.

I always looked up to Robin Williams. Sure, I enjoyed his comedy and his movies...but I also saw him for who he was. Those of us who have been labeled by society as 'mentally ill' often tend to recognize each other. Like me, Robin Williams was an addict. It, all too often,goes with the territory. I've managed to keep my addictions under some level of control. Robin Williams had trouble with that. I won't fault the man for that. I know how hard it is. I secretly applauded him every time that I read he was re-admitting himself to a rehab program. I knew that he was fully aware of his condition. Just like I am. He had recently been in rehab...again. The problem with most rehab programs is...they don't work. These programs (wrongly) assume that we will follow through on the never-ending maintenance care that goes with it. These programs fail to realize that those of us who enter these programs are fucked up people. These programs don't fix us. We're simply more well-adjusted fuck ups when we leave.

Robin Williams was a selfish son-of-a-bitch. He left behind his wife, his kids, his friends. Screw the fans. He gave us what we wanted. He was never going to live forever. But he left those closest to him with a lifetime of misery. Will his wife ever forget finding him and calling 911? Will his kids ever forget being told that their father committed suicide? Man, that's some seriously selfish bullshit.

Yes, depression is one of the most awful things a person can live with. I live with it. I know. I routinely pray for it to end. My suicidal impulses kick in and tell me that I CAN END IT. But I won't. I will not cause that level of grief, misery, and anger to anyone...especially not anyone that I love. I'm just not that selfish.

Those of you reading this who didn't know this about me...well, SURPRISE! I know that people often see me as jovial, full of life, and disturbingly optimistic. You see that side of me because that's all YOU need to know. I have no desire to bog you down with what I deal with privately every single God-damned day. You don't need to know about it. While I'm sure many of you would like to help...you can't. It doesn't work like that. I know what I have to live for...and I hang on to that like a life line. It still doesn't stop the depression or the suicidal impulses. They are as autonomic to me as blinking or breathing. I can't stop it. Sure, I tried medication. In our society, it's almost impossible not to! In my case, the medication gave me a week of normalcy. I actually slept like a normal person. I felt good. And then my body said "ENOUGH!" and fought the poison I was putting into me. The tremors started. I was working my way to a full-on seizure. Oh joy! The risk of more brain damage! Just what I want! Not! When I told the doc what was happening, he told me to stop the medication immediately. This was, by the way, the safest medication known for my condition. The others would have brought about worse side effects. So, I opted for a life without the meds. For that, I got the return of the depression, the insomnia, and the suicidal impulses.

Robin Williams gave up and gave in to his impulses. I can understand why...but I cannot condone it. In short, he was a selfish prick. I feel bad that he couldn't trust anyone enough to talk to them. Maybe that's where he & I differ. I learned that sometimes I have to do just that. Talk to someone. It's sad that he couldn't.

Many will say things like, "I can't imagine the pain he must have been in!" Damned right you can't. But I can. The past month has been one of my worst in a long time, when it comes to depression and suicidal impulses. I don't know why it has been...but it has. 2-3 times a day, that overwhelming urge to just end it strikes...and then it's a matter of stopping myself. As soon as it calms down a bit, the next wave hits and I have to do it again. I have to do all of this in addition to living my life...a life which many have remarked to me as being such an amazing and interesting life. Damned right it is. It has to be.

There is no message in Robin Williams' suicide. Look for one all you want. He was just one of the millions of us who deal with this every day. He was just, finally, selfish enough to give in. And I'm pissed off as hell about it. He made it 63 years living with it. He had a wife and three kids. He was successful. But he was also selfish. For that, I blame him. I blame our self-centric society. But at the end of the day, I have to blame him for being selfish and giving up. My deepest sympathies go to his family, his friends, and anyone effected by his suicide. My anger goes to Robin Williams, and all of the others who opted for the easy way out. Maybe that's my own selfishness. When I hear about others committing suicide, that little voice in my head says, "See! THEY did it! So can YOU!" and the impulses come on strong and fast. But, I will force myself through this, like I always do. Like I HAVE to do. I will not do that to the people I care about. I will not become a sad anniversary.

My maternal grandmother committed suicide. She gassed herself in the car. My mother and her twin sister both lived with depression. I live with it. It's a fucking disease people. We don't ask for it. We don't do anything special to get it. You can't catch it. But some of us have it. Probably someone you know. Possibly someone you care about. Don't label us. Don't coddle us. Hold us accountable for our actions. It makes us stronger. It's easy to be weak and selfish. It's difficult to be strong and hold on. More difficult than you'll ever realize and more difficult than Robin Williams could handle anymore.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Where Is The Next Big Thing?

There are a lot of interesting versions of songs out there. One of the current internet faves is a band from Finland doing a country version of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck". Obviously, no one remembers Hayseed Dixie. Don't worry, this will disappear as quickly as it got here.

There are tribute acts galore. Hell, I have friends in a Deadbolt tribute band! They're really good at it too.



I don't get it. There seem to be more bands than ever...and not a one of them sounds original. Hell, they don't even try to sound original. There are more genres and sub-genres than ever before...a sound tailored to almost any taste. And they're all pretty fucking boring.

Sure sure sure...blame it on the record companies. Easy target. Just remember, they're only selling what someone else is creating. Sure, they're scum...but they can only do so much.

I honestly can't remember the last big thing. What? Grunge? That was mostly just punk, 15 years after it started. Swing? Another rehash. Rap? Hip hop? Pop? Country? Lady Gaga? That Minaj thing? Again, nothing NEW. As not only a musician but a music fan, it makes me want to scream! No wonder all anyone listens to is old stuff. The new stuff sucks. So, maybe it's better to copy something old and good than try to create something new that will fall on deaf ears.

OK, you could ask me why I'm not writing the next big thing. Maybe I have been...but I've been doing it so long that I'm well-past any point of relevance. I write all sorts of stuff. People like it...but it ain't "hit" material. I'm kinda glad about that. Hits are whatever the lowest common denominator will find popular. Luckily, I haven't sunk that low. Yet.

But really, where is the new music? Where are the pissed off teens, flipping the bird to the world and making their own sound? Where are the idealistic college students trying to change the world? They're around...copping everyone else's sounds and hoping to make it onto American Idol or whatever hunk of shit TV show or web site they think will make them famous.

I used to be able to hit the low end of the radio dial and find something new and interesting. Nope. Not any more. Just more bands rehashing the same sounds, and honestly, if I hear one more whiny white girl singing about anything, I just may go berzerk. Lately, I've been hearing classic rock from the college and indie stations. Sweet Jesus wept...

Maybe music has lost it's cultural value to western society. No one cares. It's like an overload. There's so much out there that no one can find it. It's easier to listen to what you're told to listen to. The corporations still own the airwaves, and it's cheaper for them to keep on churning out crap than invest in something new and unproven.

I've been turning more and more to non-western sounds...just because I need to hear something fresh, at least to me. Music is about sound. Have we run out of ideas for sounds? Have we all become so jaded that we can no longer enjoy anything new? Have I just become too old to get it? I don't think so. While nothing thrills me like the sound of a loud guitar, I can get into all sorts of sounds. I like to hear things that I'm unfamiliar with. Maybe I'm an odd man out in that regard.

Maybe the creation of all of the separate musical genres has finally killed music. People will ask, "Well, what does it sound like?"...expecting an answer that they can relate to. Personally, I'd like to hear someone say "It sounds like nothing you've ever heard before!" Now THAT would intrigue me!

Years ago, I met Sam Phillips. He gave the world rock and roll. He took the initial chances. He recorded the blues guys, R&B guys, country singers, black musicians and white musicians. He was a business man. He would record anything, any time, anywhere. All you had to do was pay him. When he heard something that he knew, deep down inside, that other people would want to hear, he made the deals to record and release that sound. Sam and I were talking once, and I was trying to use the appropriate generic terms; rock & roll, rockabilly, blues, country, pop, etc... Sam put it in a way that only he could. In that deep Alabama drawl of his, he sounded almost pissed off at my ignorance and told me, "It's all rock and rollllll, maaaan!" I understood him completely. If it rocks, it moves you. It gets inside of you. It takes you over. I haven't heard anything new like that in a long, long, long time.

Maybe it's over. I hope not. I hope someone out there proves me wrong.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Telecasters After Midnight

When I was 15, I was expelled from school for a semester for carrying a straight razor. It was only the 6th day of school. Long story short, a guy had been trying to start a fight with me since day 1, and as I'd been dealing with a LOT of personal issues, I finally let loose on him. I still have a scar on the ring finger of my right hand from where I knocked one of his front teeth out and it was embedded in my finger. The cops were called. I was frisked. They found the razor. End of story.

What does this have to do with Telecasters? Well, in my case...a good deal. This was a pivotal point in my life. Having been kicked out of school, dear old dad told me, flat out, that I was not going to just sit around. I thought he meant I'd be sent to military school, or worse, Catholic school, but no...he had other plans. I was sent to work in the billing department of his office. Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:00pm. For a whopping $4.00 an hour. (Minimum wage was $3.35, so I was doing pretty well, in retrospect)

I was already a musician. I was playing guitar, bass, and drums. I'll be honest...I was an awful drummer. But I tried and I played with enthusiasm. I had an old Slingerland kit that I had talked mum into buying for me when I was 13 for a mere $100. I drove the family crazy with it. Dad always said he hated those drums...but on more than one occasion, I came home to find Dad pounding away at them. If you know my dad, you can imagine what a sight it was. For those of you who don't know him, imagine Bob Newhart with a bad Alan Alda perm, and plaid pants...banging away like a sorry Buddy Rich wannabe. Yep.

So, I started this job and decided that I would buy a REAL electric guitar. Something professional! I was working a grownup job, so the money would be rolling in...right? Then I discovered the various payroll deductions that make adult life suck. State taxes, city taxes, Social Security, etc. The guitar of my dreams was likely to remain just that. Until...

My friend Mark, who is and always has been one helluva picker, was selling his Fender Telecaster Deluxe. I had always wanted a Tele...and this was the DELUXE!!!! We all know that Deluxe anything is BETTER, right? The price: $150. I asked if he could wait a week or so until I got my paycheck. He agreed. Dad had decided at this point that most of MY money was going into the bank. Grrrrr. Now even this guitar was turning into a pipe dream. But wait....the drums. I came to the realization that I was a better guitarist than drummer. If I could sell those drums, I could get the guitar! Phone calls were made. Word was put around that these things were for sale. A friend at the local music store made a few calls. The next day, an old guy...gosh, he must've been 35 or 40, called. He gave me his story about having just gotten a divorce and had been forced to sell his drums. Problem? He was a drummer and couldn't make a living without drums! His pitch worked. Over he came with $150 in cash and away went the drums. A phone call to Mark was made, and he borrowed the family car and brought me the Telecaster Deluxe!!!!

Man, it was like a dream. It played so nicely and sounded, well, just fucking amazing! I was accustomed to plunking away on a Fender Musicmaster (sort of a student model) that sounded OK...but nothing like this Tele! This thing sang, screamed, and snarled! (Still does!) It's only flaws were purely cosmetic...and I didn't care.

It was the ugliest shade of shit brown I have even seen...and had a few gouges in the body. I mean deep, sharp chunks, somehow, knocked out if it. I didn't care. This was my baby! It has late 70s DiMarzio super distortion pickups in it...and for a 15 year old in 1981 who lived for The Ramones, The Clash, & The Sex Pistols, it was everything I could ever hope for!

I drove the family and the neighbors insane with it. I had a small Marlboro G20B amp at the time, and this guitar sounded best with the volume UP! If only that amp had gone to eleven! A house rule was laid down. I could play as loud as I wanted until 6:00pm. Any later, volume DOWN to a whisper. While I didn't like this idea (because really, electric guitars played by 15 year old boys should be LOUD) but I went along with it. If it was after 6, and no one was home, up went the volume. If someone came home...well, I'd merely lost track of the time.

I'm 48 now. I still have that same guitar. About a year or so after I got it, a friend of the family, a furniture maker by trade, offered to refinish it for me. I wanted it RED. You just never saw red guitars at the time...at least not at the local music stores. Maybe something more burgundy, but never red. I knew the exact shade I wanted and asked if he could match it. He said that he easily could. A week later, the guitar came back, RED...and he'd even filled and fixed the gouges! It looked brand spanketty new! To say that I was proud to play that guitar would be an understatement.

Around this time, I recall reading that BB King had named his guitar Lucille. I figured that my guitar should have a name too...but what? Out of nowhere, the name Agatha popped into my head...and that's been her name ever since. I have friends that, to this day, will ask about Agatha. Even my friends know her name!

I've taken this guitar to a lot of places. Almost every band I've played in, I've played Agatha. If you ever saw a Rowdy Bovines show, you saw Agatha. I've recorded hundreds of songs with her. Played countless gigs with her. At one point, my girlfriend at the time added a drawing of Elvis, which looked mighty killer. I've long since sweated that off of her. A lot of guitarists are thrilled to get their heroes to sign their guitars. Usually, that goes to my old Gibson ES 120T. Only three have ever been asked to sign Agatha, and they are three of the best ever. And they're all known for playing Telecasters too. Danny Gatton, Evan Johns, and Tino Gonzales. I've since sweated Tino's signature off. Danny signed it along the top, so that when I look down, I see his name. We were friends and he has always been an inspiration to my playing. Agatha was one of the last guitars Danny set up...and trust me, he was a genius at setups! I actually retired Agatha for a while after he died. I put his obituary in her case, along with the guitar. One day, I pulled her out, reread his obituary for the umpteenth time, and felt that Danny would be mad at me for just letting her collect dust. So, I started playing her again. I recorded the 1st and 2nd Tremblers records with her. Evan Johns...well, being Evan, and unable to find a marker, carved his name into her with a pen knife, while sitting on the side of the stage at The Decade. He is the ONLY human I would ever consider allowing near her with a sharp object. Why? Because he's Evan Johns!

Agatha was stolen once. Naturally, I freaked right the fuck out. But, we were meant to be together, and I got her back two weeks later. I learned a serious lesson about honesty from that...but it's a story for another time. Once, at a funeral, a cousin asked my dad why I never remarried. Dad answered that I was still with my first love. My cousin gave him a confused look, and Dad just played air guitar...my cousin understood immediately.

I've owned other Teles. Quite a few, actually. But...none compare. Not by a long shot. As the years went on, I started worrying about losing her again. I didn't want to risk her being stolen, or worse, crushed by a moron baggage handler. As I started touring more, this became a real concern, so I went in search of a Telecaster to tour with. I tried quite a few...none 'fit'. I eventually found one...an 80s Mexican Tele, with 3 Strat-style pickups. It was only a couple hundred bucks. The only other one quite like it that I know of is owned by Dave Gonzales of The Paladins. We had a nice talk about these one night splitting a bill here in town. It was too clean sounding, so I figured I'd hot rod it a bit, and use it as my road Tele. I had a pickup that Gatton gave me put into the bridge position. It's a screamer! Oddly enough,this guitar too is red. That never hit me until a few years after I got it. What is it with me and red Telecasters? Anyhoo, I grew so fond of that guitar, and the hotrod job I had done on it, that it became my primary guitar. Agatha was put into semi-retirement...only to be used for studio sessions and the rare gig. Whenever we did a Bovines reunion, I'd bring her out. That guitar IS The Rowdy Bovines. Her sound is what made the band what it was. Not quite distorted but just big, fat tone. Definitely not rockabilly, which we were always accused of being.

The past few years, I've only played her at home. I took her out to a gig once, and was panicky all night. I kept looking to make sure she was still right where I left her. Yep...I'm a nut.

I recently recorded with a new project, Losers After Midnight. The 1st two rehearsals we had, I used my road Tele. But it wasn't quite the sound I wanted. I wanted the roar, the scream, and the snarl that only Agatha can produce. So, I slapped some fresh strings on her and into the studio we went! Man O Man! She was screaming! I wanted to go for a nastier sound than I usually do. I almost always play through Fender amps. In the studio, I normally use a 61 Bassman or an old Supro. But this time, I used....a Peavey! I had been experimenting with this amp, and tried Agatha through her with a modified overdrive box I have. WOW! It's kinda like the sound of the world exploding! I figured, the Bassman would be in the studio if I needed it...just in case...but I was hoping to catch this sound. I think we did. But the real secret to that sound is Agatha. Agatha is the sound of rock and roll. Period.