Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

20 October 2015

While We're On The Subject of Music...

Chris Erickson is a young pilot at our company up here in Washington. Easygoing and affable, he’s got an incredible sense of humor, which is probably why we get along as well as we do. But he’s not just a pilot: He’s a multi-talented guy who is handy with tools and can fix just about anything. (In fact, we lean on him a little too hard to be our general handyman.)

Chris is also an incredible musician who has taught me a lot about playing the guitar. We often “jam” together, which is really just playing the six or seven songs I know. Our intent is to polish our “act” enough that we eventually ambush karaoke night at the Bakery and take over with a surprise and impromptu duet set. We wanted to do it this past summer, but we’re “just not there yet.” Meaning I’m not good enough yet. Chris is plenty good enough. And I’m practicing.

We argue over certain songs. You know how, when there are different versions of the same song, it’s usually the one you heard first that’s the one you like best? Take “City of New Orleans,” for example. There have been so many versions of that great song over the years, from Willie Nelson to Judy Collins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed and John Denver. Even Steve Goodman, the guy who wrote the song did a version of it. I love ’em all but I, like you probably remember Arlo Guthrie’s as the definitive version.

Or “Me and Bobby McGee.” A number of people have done that one too. You might know that Kris Kristofferson wrote it and put it out as a single. But my introduction to the song was through Janis Joplin who’s version is definitive in my opinion. Chris begs to differ; he heard the Kristofferson version first and likes it best. I’m sensitive to that, so when we perform it, we make it a mashup of both Janis and Kris’s versions.

I like Janis’s version better because it’s more uptempo, more bluesy and has a key change in the middle. Kris Kristofferson’s version is kind of…I dunno…meh. It’s good, I guess, but maybe sometimes people who write songs aren’t always the best ones to interpret them. Wait, I take that back. On the other hand we have The Beatles: Has there ever been a remake or re-interpretation of a Beatles song by another artist that was worth a crap? No, there hasn’t. I’m sorry, there just hasn’t.

Then again… Chris and I do a version of “I Saw Her Standing There” that is killer. We’ll add it to our repertoire just as soon as we get the harmonies right and I perfect George Harrison’s mid-song guitar solo, which is proving to be troublesome. Nevertheless…I have no doubt that you will still prefer the Beatles version.

As I do.

18 October 2015

Odd Little Coincidences

It’s funny how things are connected in our lives in ways we cannot understand and don‘t even know.

In 2006 I began working in the town of Brewton, Alabama. Every time I’d drive up there from Pensacola I’d pass the “Welcome To Brewton!” sign which proudly notes that it was the home of William Lee Golden (singer with the really long hair in the Oak Ridge Boys) and Hank Locklin (also a country singer from an earlier period). I knew that Hank Locklin’s big hit was “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” but he had others as well.

Mr. Golden had long since departed Brewton. But Hank Locklin, who’d moved there in 1970 to be with his new wife who was from there, stayed. It was in Brewton in 2009 that he died at the age of 91. I remember the day; a lot of the locals knew him.

Flash-forward to 2015. My boss and I are in his brand-new Ford F-350 pickup truck, heading to North Dakota to pick up some helicopters and parts. As we drone along on the Interstate, the Sirius/XM radio is tuned to “Willie’s Roadhouse,” a station that plays lots of Country oldies from the 1950’s through the early ‘70s. And this song comes on…

Walking the floor
Feeling so blue
Smoke cigarettes
Drink coffee too
Honey, you’re the reason I don’t sleep at night…

Immediately I’m jolted out of my Interstate-induced slumber (apparently I have what they call “carcolepsy“). I know this song…love this song! But I haven‘t heard it in years - maybe not since the 1970’s. It’s a good song…catchy…the kind that stays with you, apparently for decades. I look at the radio. It‘s Hank Locklin: "You're The Reason (I Don't Sleep At Night)."

Well I’ll be damned. If I had only known. Or remembered. I would’ve gone to his house and talked to him. The guy had been a performing member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1960. His final appearance on the Opry was only two years before he died. The guy was a legend. We would have talked for hours, or until he called the cops to have me ejected.

It turns out that “You’re The Reason” was written by fellow Alabamian, Bobby Edwards who had a decent hit with it (but in a different key) on both the Country and Hot 100 music charts in 1961. But “You’re The Reason” was covered by a bunch of people, including (but not limited to) Hank Snow, Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn (a duet), John Fogerty and Hank Williams III (“Hank III”). Hey, a good song is a good song.

Even Gerry and the Pacemakers, they of the original British Invasion covered the song although they did not release it as a single. It was at a faster tempo of course, but it's a nearly-identical remake, even in the same key as Hank Locklin’s version! Check out both Locklin and Gerry and the Pacemakers' versions below!

There are so many different versions of this song it’s not even funny. And they’re all great! Hank Locklin’s version did not chart as highly as Edwards’ original but oddly it is the one I remember.

When we got back to Brewster, my friend, guitar mentor, hell of a musician and fellow pilot, Chris Erickson and I set out to learn “You’re The Reason” on our guitars. It’s not a complicated song: E, A, B7, that’s it. It’s even in a key I can sing (sort of - if you call what I do “singing”). We could probably do a passable job of it at The Bakery if they ever institute an open-mic night.

And you better hope to God they don’t.