Saturday, July 20, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: The Big Show has landed


"One of these days, Alice! Pow! Straight to the moon!"

One of these days came 50 years ago today. Pow! We went straight to the moon.

Oddly enough, it wasn't Ralph Kramden's fist that got us there. No, it was three brave astronauts who climbed atop a gigantic Saturn V rocket four days before, blasted off into the heavens and took the whole damned planet with them for a lunar joyride.

July 20, 1969. It was a Sunday. I was 8 years old -- almost 8 and a half. Halves are very important when you're 8.

That day -- POW! -- straight to the moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins got there with Apollo 11. I suspect they kinda knew that I (and a few billion others) had hitched a ride on their rocket ship.

This episode of the Big Show has the moon on its mind, a way to remember the greatest thing mankind has done and give thanks to the three men who did it . . . and all the thousands of men and women who got them there.

In fact, this week's 3 Chords & the Truth doesn't have a single song that isn't a moon song. And they're all good. Fittingly good for an Apollo 11 anniversary program.

Mementos of a grade-school space nut
PUTTING THIS particular edition together put me, in a very real way, back in time. Back in our living room at 10645 Darryl Dr. in Baton Rouge. Back in front of the black-and-white, 21-inch Magnavox television tuned in to CBS and Walter Cronkite. Back to when I was an elementary-school spaceaholic, the one with all the Gemini-mission stickers all over the dresser mirror in my bedroom.

The 1960s were fraught times, like our own today. But a big difference was hope. We had hope. We knew we were better than our struggles and our national squabbles and missteps, and we had hope that, someday, we would overcome.

Someday.

We have yet to overcome and, indeed, we're backsliding. Today, we have a lot more Trump than we have hope.

BUT LOOKING BACK at Apollo 11 and those first glorious steps on a strange world, we know what the better angels of our human nature look like. And when we look up into a moonlit sky, we know that for those better angels, the sky is the limit.

And in an age seemingly bereft of heroes, we only have to look back within the lifetime of your broken-down old radio guy here to see a whole big bunch of them -- heroes who touched the moon, if not the stars.

For that, we give musical thanks.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The shack by the track

The shack by the track . . . from above (Google Maps)

I would have thought the "shack by the track" off of "beautiful Choctaw Trail" would have been long gone by now. After all, I've been long gone from Baton Rouge for more than 31 years.

But no. The shack -- a rather forlorn-looking Quonset hut even when it was still home to WIBR radio a half century ago -- still stands at what once was 600 Neosho St. in north Baton Rouge . . . at least according to the latest view available to Google Maps.

Google Maps street view
Back in the day -- my day -- it was hard to miss WIBR when you were driving down Choctaw, about a quarter mile off River Road on the north end of Capitol Lake. You can make quite the impact on a Quonset roof with enough black paint, a giant W, I, B and R's worth of black paint.

Time has worn away the giant WIBR on the roof, revealing the previous "1220 kilocycles" painted up there. To my generation, WIBR always was Radio 13, but when the brand-new station signed on in July 1948 -- Baton Rouge's seventh or eighth, counting all the FM stations its AM predecessors were opening before they closed them in just a few years -- it was WCLA, with 250 not-so-booming, daytime-only watts at 1220 on your radio dial.

In that Quonset hut, with a tower plopped down right in Capitol Lake. That right there had to have helped coverage, and with 250 watts, WCLA needed all the help it could get.

Morning Advocate, July 18, 1948

THAT Quonset hut, stuck between a contrived lake, a grimy industrial park and a "Choctaw Trail" that was beautiful only in the supreme irony of the WIBR announcers having dubbed it such, nevertheless was a tin-can incubator of Baton Rouge broadcasting royalty. Pappy Burge. Bob Earle. B.Z. (Bernard Zuccaro). "Ravin' Dave" Davison.  J.C. Politz.

That Quonset hut was the first radio station I'd ever been in -- the first time I got to glimpse what was on the other end of the radio waves energizing my transistor radio. It had to have been 1969, and I was an 8-year-old geek with mad telephone skillz -- mad enough to be quick enough on the rotary dial to score a MAJOR-LABEL LP from the then middle-of-the-road station.


OK, so the record album was Jimmy Roselli's Let Me Sing and I'm Happy and not the Beatles. Or even Bobby Sherman.

But it was a MAJOR AWARD . . . and it wasn't a leg lamp. ("The soft glow of electric sex" would have been lost on my prepubescent self.)

Yes, I still have that LP today.

When I encountered "the shack by the track" somewhere on the cusp of the '60s becoming the '70s, it was a weekend. I'd won this record album from a big-time radio station in a small-time structure in a city that sometimes confused big-time and small-potatoes, my parents had difficulty with the concept of "regular business hours," and so the old man steered the 1967 Mercury Park Lane off "beautiful Choctaw Trail," through the lovely meadow of Quonset, concrete and quiet despair, then up to the gravel parking in front of 600 Neosho St.

There were two cars there -- ours and the weekend disc jockey's.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.

A young man answered the door. Long hair, blue jeans, bare feet.

"My boy here won a record album."

OHMYGAWDOHMYGAWDOHMYGAWD . . . IT'S STEVE ST. JOHN! I JUST HEARD HIM ON THE CAR RADIO!

The young man let us into the reception area, from which you could see EVERYTHING through the big studio window. They could launch Apollo 8 from that control room.

If you somehow didn't get electrocuted by all the technology in there, you might could get yourself to the damn moon. I did not say "damn", though "damn" was the least of the colorful language I learned from Ralphie's -- uh, my -- old man. Daddy would have whipped my ass; I would have learned a few new terms for future reference, no doubt.

WIBR handout, circa 1955

THE FAMOUS weekend DJ, Steve St. John, apologized for his casual attire and bare feet amid the musical merry-go-round of Andy Williams, Jerry Vale and whatnot. He explained that things were pretty cas on weekends at WIBR, and he was gracious about our lackadaisical attitude toward Monday-Friday, 9 to 5.

And I got my Jimmy Roselli album, which I expect to fully musically appreciate any year now.

Later, I figured out that Steve St. John (who by this time had advanced well beyond "weekend guy" in the WIBR and Baton Rouge-radio pecking order) was Steven Robert Earle, son of Bob Earle, who ran the joint.

Yours truly, a former "overnight guy" himself, also figured out that radio was one of the coolest things ever, in the sense that one "figures out" what one knew all along. Quonset-hut studios, as it turns out, only add to the mystique.

And they're apparently damned durable -- more durable than the major station that gave out major awards to majorly geeky little kids. WIBR, decades past its MOR and Top-40 heyday, is (at best) an afterthought today, something a major radio chain doesn't quite know what to do with. In recent years, it's been off the air a lot more that it's been on the air.

Now, it rebroadcasts KQXL, the big urban station in Baton Rouge. In my mind's eye, WXOK is the big urban station in Baton Rouge, but that's another memory of faded glory . . . in my hometown.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: Cooler than average


Embrace the chill.

3 Chords & the Truth, you see, is cooler than average. Way cooler than average.

Cool music, cool concept, cool production values . . . and a moderately acceptable host. That works out, when you do the math, to cooler than average. If you grade on a curve -- that is, factor in what you hear on the radio in most locales -- the Big Show is way cooler than average.

That's what I'm sayin'.

And that's what you'll hear, right here on this here program.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Tuesday, July 02, 2019

We have reached our sell-by date as a country


Let me try to get my head around this thing: Nike yanked a special-edition Fourth of July shoe because Colin Kaepernick was offended by the Betsy Ross flag "because of its connection to an era of slavery."

Two immediate reactions:

1. Supportive as I was of the kneeling protests during the national anthem at football games and the like . . . Nike and Colin Kaepernick can kiss my red, white and blue ass.


 2. The Constitution of the United States has an even more intimate connection to the "era of slavery." Perhaps we need to just rip up the whole fucking thing and call a merciful end to a country that seems to have attained -- and blown past -- its sell-by date.



We're outta here, bitches. And we're keeping the beef.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: Patching it together


How do you put the Big Show together every week? One patch at a time.

You see, 3 Chords & the Truth is like a patchwork quilt. It has a bunch of musical scraps to it, and to the untrained eye, they look like pretty damned random scraps. To the untrained ear, it sounds like nothing sensible will come out of this mishmash.

Kind of how a box of discarded scraps looks like . . . a box of discarded scraps. Until you put them together into a beautiful quilt. Until you take the disorder and make it into order -- into a meaningful theme.

Until you create functional art out of random disorder.

That's exactly what's going on with the Big Show each and every week. We make a musical whole out of random songs and wildly diverse records.

It's a patchwork.

IT'S A SEEMING MESS until you add something that's in rare supply on the radio these days -- a vision.

I guess that's why the program's not on the radio. You need vision . . . and a bit of patience to see how things are going to turn out.

How the scraps get transformed into a whole.

Patchwork. That's the ticket to quality radio, even if it's just on the Internet.

Now let's you and me dig into that box of bits and pieces and see what we can make out of it.

 It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Ignore the Johnsons, reap the whirlwind

I attribute the present state of American culture and politics to, back in 1980, people not listening to the anti-drug message of the Brothers Johnson.
Angel dust was, and is, some bad juju.
Things could have been so, so different today had we listened to some common sense advice and not trusted that dust. But we didn't, and now we must rely on legal weed and lethal opioids to dull the screaming of our brains as they react to the suck surrounding us.

The suck that came because "Don't trust that Dust" was just too flippin' complicated a message for we idiots to embrace 39 years ago . . . when we still might have had a chance in hell.
That is all.

Busing, Democratic mau-mauing and the Twitter thingy

Sorry, I'm too lazy to rewrite my tweetstorm for the blog thing, so here you go.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A night at the ballpark

Went to tonight's second game of the College World Series championship here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska . . . where we saw a cute baby.













Oh, and the ball game, too.

 
And then we saw the cute baby with a cute hat. Mom may be just a little bit proud here.
And then we saw the little thunderhead that couldn't. They got the game in --  without a rain delay . . . or a drop of rain.

The wrong team won, alas, but there's always Game 3 tomorrow night.

Play ball!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: Tragically hip


Because someday I'll be old -- and someday is today -- there's only one thing to do.

I'll put on a double-knit polyester shirt. With a wiiiiiiiiiide collar.

I'll put on a too-tight pair of bell-bottom blue jeans (and these days, all my jeans are too tight anyway).

I'll scare up a gold chain or three as I get ready for this edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.


I'LL ATTEMPT to hide my bald spot. Then I'll attempt to avoid fast convertibles, speedboats or going outside on windy days.

Then I'll put on a Donna Summer record, talk about getting down, try to engage you in a rap session, attempt a dance move no one over 40 should even think about, much less do . . . and then I'll proclaim everything groovy.

And I'll think kind thoughts about you, my people, for you loyal listeners of the Big Show are righteous dudes . . . and dudettes.

This edition of the program, you see, is Tragically Hip.

If you think you can boogie down in Funkytown, maybe you can be Tragically Hip, too. Or if that's not your bag, man, you can just sit over there with all the freaks and be dismissive of it all. It's a free country, man.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

And lead us not into tempta . . . oh, screw it


The Democratic Party has become so woke . . . and so puritanical . . . and so alien to the spiritual concepts of grace and forgiveness . . . and so beholden to its most extreme voices . . . and so intent on demonizing its own peculiar versions of The Other -- so solipsisticly intent upon becoming a funhouse-mirror reflection of Trumpism -- that there's really no more point, actually.

Joe Biden
Our only alternative now is to watch the United States reap what it has sown and for us, somehow, to find ways to bear the unbearable pain of watching one's country die an agonizing death from a condition that hasn't the decency to kill one expeditiously and just be done with it. Oh . . . and manage, somehow, not to end up destitute, imprisoned or dead as the sociopolitical malignancy consumes the body politic.

Normally, I would counsel seeking refuge in one's religion. Then again, I am Roman Catholic, and I know from the bitter experience of the past two decades that, institutionally, my church will be worse than useless as shelter from the storm. As for the evangelicals, Southern Baptists and the like . . . their institutional feet are on fire, and their asses are catching.

Really, when the woker-than-thou are stooping to Trumpian tactics to smear Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden as some sort of cryptoracist enabler of Jim Crowism, what the hell chance do the rest of us stand?


THAT "joke about calling black men 'boys'" came as Biden spoke off the cuff at a New York fundraiser, lamenting the loss of the sort of political comity that allowed him to work with even the likes of the notorious longtime senator from Mississippi, James O. Eastland.

Here, from a pool report by The Wall Street Journalis what Biden actually said:
Mr. Biden then recalled his time serving in the Senate. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, briefly channeling the late Mississippi senator’s Southern drawl. Mr. Biden said of Mr. Eastland, “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”

Mr. Biden then brought up a deceased Georgia senator, “a guy like Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys. Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
THE DISINGENUOUSNESS with which Biden's remarks are being characterized by presidential rivals Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris and any number of other party Jacobins is staggering, even by contemporary Americal political standards, which have been influenced by Donald Trump -- and not for the better. Obviously.

Let me add that I choose to characterize the criticism of Biden as cynical because I find it difficult to believe that reasonably accomplished politicians -- or journalists -- can be that goddamned stupid. But Donald J. Trump is president of the United States, so I totally could be wrong on that account.

And the cynicism (and perhaps abject numbskullery), it runs as deep to the left as it does to the right -- leaving sanity stuck in the middle and shit out of luck.

For a taste of that, let's listen to a segment from today's edition of All Things Considered on NPR:


 
LET'S JUST get something straight. And as a born-and-raised son of the Deep South -- a son of a certain age even -- I am well-positioned to set something straight:

"Boy" is not always and everywhere a racialized term of derision.

Eastland, the onetime Mississippi segregationist, was old enough to be Joe Biden's father. In the South -- and I have no damned idea how Yankees addressed men young enough to be their offspring in familiar settings -- it would not be uncommon for someone of Eastland's age and generation to informally address a whippersnapper as "boy." It had nothing to do with race.

If the addressee were African-American, it could have something to do with malignant racialist intent. Or not. It merely could have been a case of cluelessness, or momentarily forgetting that it was fraught to address a young black man the same way you might familiarly speak to a young white man.

I am 58 years old, Southern and male. If I had a dollar for every time I have been called "boy," by my parents, older relatives, acquaintances and even buddies, I could say "screw it all" right now and move to an island paradise far, far away from this insane, imploding country.

Ditto for "son," which is used in a gentler context than "boy." This is not brain surgery; what Joe Biden was saying isn't particularly opaque, and it shouldn't be controversial in the slightest.

Then we get to the unspoken implications of "woke" Democrats' condemnation of Biden for even attempting to work with (or even associate with) past segregationists in the United States Senate.

One implication is that grace does not exist. Another is that people's views cannot moderate or change over decades. Yet another is that those we deeply disagree with cannot be engaged with, only targeted and destroyed. And if someone is -- or was -- a racist. . . .

In the moral universe of what is emerging as today's Democratic Party, there is no redemption, only condemnation. We know where this road ends -- where the internal logic of this worldview dictates that it must end.

In the universe of woke Democrats, my Southern self was obligated to condemn and hate my racist Southern parents, along with every last one of my racist Southern kinfolk. In this moral universe, if I had failed to denounce them -- to expose their thought crime -- I would have been as guilty as they.

In this universe, one is nothing more than the worst thing one believes or the worst thing one ever has done, for which there is no forgiveness or redemption. Ever.

But if you want to write an article comparing and contrasting your various abortions -- abortions, plural -- then declare one, which came at age 41, the best ever . . . well, that's something not only to be tolerated but, indeed, celebrated. On the New York magazine website, no less.

AND AMERICA, such as it is, is supposed to think Joe Biden is guilty of some sort of fucking moral outrage here? Or that Donald Trump is the real problem here?

Donald Trump is a problem -- a massive problem. But he is not the problem.


That large swaths of the Democratic Party have a problem with what Biden said -- or at least want their own "low-information voters" to think folks should have a problem with it -- bodes well for the re-election of a massive problem.

But even if we somehow do manage to rid ourselves of this turbulent president, that just leaves us with the Democrats. If our only choice ends up being between the devil and the deep blue sea, we might find that a decisive contingent of voters might loathe Trump but also figure he'd put us out of our national misery a hell of a lot faster.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: Crank it up(ish)


Crank it up!

Ish.

Sorry, but this week on the Big Show, I don't feel like being a fanatic about it. So instead of turning the show up to 12, I'm settling in at just about 9 and a half.


That said, 3 Chords & the Truth is as worth a listen as it is every week. Really worth a listen.

You'll be amazed! You'll be entertained! You'll be eclecticized! And you might even be edified!

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera and so on. Ish.

Just listen, OK? And tell everybody you know . . . or don't know. Ish.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Monday, June 10, 2019

I may not be woke, but I got common sense!


My father has been dead for 18 years, now, and his words keep coming back to haunt me . . . and mock the insane times in which I now live.

During one memorable kitchen-table argument -- where the young, college-educated me was sneering at some then-self-evidently incredible thing he was throwing at me -- the retired pipefitter's resentment of the degree he'd paid for was as subtle as an acetylene torch.

"You might have book learnin', but I got common sense!" my old man thundered.

About 35 years later, I get it. I really get it.

I may not be on CNN, but I got common sense. And any political party that is questioning whether "electability" is important in a system where candidates run for office, and the one with the most votes wins . . . has a big damn problem.

And the mental, cultural and philosophical rot in the Democratic Party is such that -- God help us all -- Donald Trump is going to win in 2020, just so long as he doesn't spark a depression or cause us to lose a war.

No,  I may not be writing stories for The Atlantic like Jemele Hill, but I got common sense. Which leads me to not even consider writing a couple of paragraphs like this:
Nevertheless, Biden’s elevation to front-runner is a testament to how much President Donald Trump has shaken the faith of those who believe the White House could better reflect what America looked like.

This is perhaps Trump’s most crucial victory yet: successfully persuading Democrats—especially African American voters—not just to lower the bar, but to abandon the idea that inclusion and bold ideas matter more than appeasing the patriarchy.
HOLY SHIT on a $7.99 shingle, Batman! Alas, 1968 repeats itself . . . this time as parody.

Well, yeah, Donald Trump might be the end of American democracy, if not America itself . . . but . . . but . . . if we run someone who can beat him . . . does that mean we're giving in to The Man?

The bat-shit, it burns! Doctor, my eyes!

Meanwhile, this is the cover story in the current edition of The Atlantic.



I'M SORRY, Daddy. I'm sorry for everything.

I hope the last laugh you're having, free of this vale of tears, is a long and satisfying one.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: Night trippin'


The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor.

This week on 3 Chords & the Truth, we'll be night trippin' in honor of Dr. John, the Night Tripper. If you ask me, that's absotively mos' scocious.

An' dat's all I got to say about dem tunes. Y'all just listen to the Big Show, and then say hey to yo' mama and them.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Friday, June 07, 2019

Turning working girls into pretty women is our bidness


Baton Rouge: June 6, 1974.

The decision is made that if you cannot do anything about working girls downtown, you at least can turn them into pretty women.

Either that, or my hometown was the epicenter of unintentionally hilarious advertising during my youth.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: No, it's not your device


You're going to hear some things on the Big Show.

Rest assured, there's nothing wrong with your smartphone, computer, Internet radio, tablet or hi-fi apparatus. No, it's us.

I mean that in a good way.

You see, 3 Chords & the Truth is built to surprise, shock and stun.

I mean that in a good way.

SO, WHEN your mind gets blown -- as it is likely to be at least once during this edition (actually, every edition) of the Big Show -- you're not losing your mind, and there's not a solitary thing wrong with your preferred means of accessing podcasts. It's not you; it's us.

I mean that in the absolute best way.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Friday, May 31, 2019

How to create middle-age stranglers

May 30, 1966.

Buddhist monks were setting themselves alight as the war in Vietnam intensified apace. Surveyor 1 headed for the first soft lunar landing of an unmanned American spacecraft. The Klan was being the Klan in Denham Springs, La. -- which meant that Denham Springs was just being Denham Springs.

And "A WOWIE ZOWIE ZING-A-LING SWING-A-LING THING" had just hit Baton Rouge. The Teen-Age Rattler apparently was "the new fun sensation sweeping the nation."

The reaction to this, no doubt, from every person old enough in 1966 to have spawned a teenager was "Oh, joy." Note the lack of an exclamation point.

THE TEEN-AGE RATTLER was billed as being some sort of bad-complexioned, ill-tempered, bastard child of a hula hoop and maracas.

The "bad-complexioned, ill-tempered and bastard child" parts of the description are solely mine.

I gotta tell you that, as a 5-year-old kid in Baton Rouge on Memorial Day 1966, I would have loved this shit. My parents, not so much.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!

For just a measly extra buck, you could buy a 45 single of the original Teen-Age Rattler song, "as recorded by the sensational Happy Four quartet." As opposed to the sensational Happy Four septet.
Considering that you could go down to the TG&Y dime store and buy a hot-off-the-record-press copy of the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" for something like six bits, I can't see the Happy Four's rattlin' wreck of a hack promotional song as much of a bargain.
THEN AGAIN, this is the 58-year-old me talking and not the 5-year-old me talking. On the other hand, the 5-year-old me had his share of Beatles' records. Until July 1966, that is.
July was the month John Lennon's "we're more popular than Jesus" interview hit the States, and Mama busted up my Beatles records. It was Louisiana; she was far from alone. Apparently, cracking up commie records from Limey purveyors of beatnik music was less inconvenient than actually attending worship services.

Not that I'm still bitter or shit.

BUT BACK to May 1966 and the Teen-Age Rattler.

At the time, the Teen-Age Rattler made no impression on the pre-kindergarten me whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I'd never heard of the things until . . . well . . . today.

My best guess is that the "Rattle in the morning . . . rattle at night . . . rattle anytime . . . it's dynamite!" sensation was a sensation in the same vein Donald Trump is sentient -- hardly.

After all, there DID come to be a Generation X. That could not have happened had the "greatest generation" quite understandably been driven to cut short the rattling lives of their rattling teen offspring.

Now let us speak no more of this. We wouldn't want to give rogue youth social-media "influencers" any ideas.