Showing posts with label Louisiana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louisiana. Show all posts

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em): Labour of Lust


The rules of the album challenge on Facebook was that you pick (just) 10 that influenced you big-time, and this is No. 10 -- Nick Lowe's "Labour of Lust."

I loved Lowe's music the first time I heard it, probably a year before this came out in June 1979, right between me graduating high school and starting college at LSU. Before I'd figured out that he was one of the driving forces and producers behind the whole Brit New Wave scene that was saving American rock 'n' roll, one great college-radio single at a time.

And years before I figured out he and I share a birthday.
 

Nick Lowe is a hell of a songwriter, and he writes an even better hook. The man, in the late '70s, was the power in power pop. Four words: "Cruel to Be Kind."

By the way, did I mention Rockpile? And that Lowe produced the first five albums of Elvis Costello, who used to be a roadie for Brinsley Schwarz, the pub-rock band (1969-'74) from which all things New Wave and power pop flowed (including Nick Lowe).


HOW BIG an influence is Nick Lowe in my musical world? Let me elucidate: 10a, 10b, 10c and 10d on my list probably would be Costello's "My Aim Is True," "This Year's Model" and "Armed Forces," then Lowe's 1978 LP "Jesus of Cool," which in this country became "Pure Pop for Now People" because the suits remembered what happened to the Beatles in 1966.

That about cover it, Skipper?

Seriously, by 1978 or so, rock 'n' roll was a bloated, self-satisfied son of a bitch, and (once again) needed the Brits to come to the rescue, mind the bollocks, then pry ours out of a corporate vise. As much as anyone, Nick Lowe took on what was a dirty job amid a music scene that couldn't be unseen, and made the extraction quite painless, actually.

There's an "American Squirm" joke in there somewhere, but I'm just not seeing it right now.

The End.


Friday, April 10, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em): Calcutta!


This influential LP came later in life -- as in, I-was-over-50 later in life. But influential is influential, a revelation is a revelation no matter how delayed, so here goes No. 9 on the list -- "Calcutta!" by Lawrence Welk.

As a Baby Boomer of a certain age, I absolutely was force-fed a diet of The Lawrence Welk Show every weekend. Saturday night on the network . . . Saturday or Sunday afternoon in syndication, you could count on Lawrence, Myron, Joe, Norma, Arthur, Bobby, Cissy, Gail and Dale to cheese up the living room TV set so much, all you really needed was a box of Ritz crackers for your evening to be complete.

Mama and Daddy loved The Lawrence Welk Show. And Mama and Daddy controlled the television when it counted -- the precise times for 1) Lawrence Welk on Saturday afternoons, 2) The Gospel Jubilee on Sunday mornings, and 3) whenever The Porter Wagoner Show was on -- maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately for my force-fed self, The Lawrence Welk Show was . . . was . . . was. . . .


A half century later, I am at a loss for words.

I, however, can show you:



NOW YOU KNOW why folks got one toke over the line.

In short, Lawrence Welk represented, for all of my youth, a big, lame joke. When it wasn't being the Abomination of Geritol Nation.

Well into married life, my wife -- subjected, in her youth, to the same Welk abuse as myself -- and I would watch reruns of the show on public TV for the sheer irony and hathos of it all. Sometimes, we still do.

Then at an estate sale one Sunday, one of the LP treasures of a passing generation presented itself to me. "Aw, what the hell," I told myself as I grabbed "Calcutta" for ironic listening enjoyment.

I cleaned the vintage 1961 vinyl, plopped it on the record player, and immediately a huge problem jumped right off the grooves and into my smug, superior little shit of a face.

The @#&%!$*!# album was good.

The Welk orchestra almost . . . Dare I say it? . . . No, I CAN'T! . . . Go on, say it, you little frickin' WIMP! . . . DON'T YELL AT ME!!!! . . . the Welk orchestra almost . . . uh . . . swung. It was really tight. And the "Calcutta" Welk was so much more fun than that Geritol- and Serutan-fueled weekly video constitutional might suggest.

YOU DON'T EXPECT, at least not in one's 50s, for it to be so earthshaking to discover one's parents -- well, at least kinda sorta -- were right. But on a matter involving such a deeply held principle? About something that strikes at the core of Boomer generational solidarity?

Consider my earth shaken, if not also stirred.


God help me, the title cut was fun. (I was already familiar with the "Calcutta" single, just not with the idea that it was "fun.") "Perfidia" was even better. Exquisite, even.

God help me, I had to give Lawrence Welk his due. I had been influenced.

And I wasn't even one "modern spiritual" over the line.


Thursday, April 09, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em): The compilations


Back when you were a broke-ass college student and you liked music (when albums were a thing and music piracy meant taping songs off the radio), you hit the bargain bins a lot and waited to be intrigued, surprised . . . or both.

Sometimes, you achieved "Holy shit!" You usually came to this point only after unwrapping the LP and putting it on the turntable. That point only could be reached after you got intrigued standing over the bargain bin.

Only after the record had spun, your speakers had thumped and "Holy shit!' had been reached could you then achieve "educated" and "impassioned."

These two bargain-bin compilation finds -- a combined No. 8 in my series of 10 influential albums -- checked all the boxes for me back in the day. The first was "The Soul Years," a 25th anniversary overview of Atlantic Records' soul and R&B history first released in 1973.

I was hooked with the first cut of the double album -- "Stick" McGhee and His Buddies' early Atlantic single from 1949, "Drinkin' Wine' Spo-Dee-O-Dee." This was not the kind of oldie you would have heard on Baton Rouge radio back then.

I think this is the kind of thing the young version of my parents would have liked -- before my old parents hated it.


ME, I WAS all in. That was even before I got to Joe Turner's original 1954 recording of "Shake, Rattle and Roll," which was not cleaned-up and white-i-cized like Bill Haley and His Comets' version, which wasn't even recorded until Turner's had hit No. 1 on the Billboard  R&B chart.

Unsurprisingly, this verse from "Big" Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll" was changed when Bill Haley recorded the song:

Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin' through
Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin' through
I can't believe my eyes, all that mess belongs to you
And this verse ain't there at all in Haley's cover:
I get over the hill and way down underneath
I get over the hill and way down underneath
You make me roll my eyes, even make me grit my teeth
It is good to find a compilation LP that's just as educational as a "Big Joe" Turner record.

And don't even get me started on how superior The Chords' "Sh-Boom" is to the Crew-Cuts' cover version.

WE FIND that "WCBS FM101 History of Rock -- The 50's" is a much more conventional album -- that is, "mostly stuff played on white radio stations" -- but it makes my "influential" list because it intimately acquainted me with what now are two of my favorite songs of all time.

Those would be (drum roll, please) . . . the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night" and the Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You."


And it was the Five Satins who gave us the term "doo-wop" -- them or The Turbans' with their slightly earlier "When You Dance." 

On NCIS: New Orleans, Scott Bakula always tells his TV special agents to "go learn things." When you're talking about music, that's always so much damn fun.


Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em):
The Man Who Built America


In 1979, Irish rock -- to American ears, at least -- amounted to Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy,  Rory Gallagher and . . . Horslips.

Outside the Emerald Isle in '79, U2 was still "U Who?"

And to be fair, in the United States, Horslips wasn't all that well known, either. But I knew who Horslips was, thanks to (I'm sure) WLSU on cable FM in Baton Rouge. College radio: It's important.

If you ask me, I'm not entirely sure you could have had the global phenomenon that was/is U2 without Irish predecessors like Thin Lizzy and Horslips, bands that were masters of the thematic LP masterpiece (in Thin Lizzy's case, think "Jailbreak") and in Horslips' case, think this album -- "The Man Who Built America," the story of Irish immigration to the United States and No. 7 in this series of 10 albums that were influential for yours truly.


HORSLIPS was one of those bands that could make you think, make you dance, make you play air guitar and make you cry bitter tears . . . all in the space of two sides of a long-play record. And the great thing is that Horslips is still around.

For me, this and "Aliens" are go-to albums, still.

U2 might have been leading the surge of Irish bands that flooded onto American radio dials starting in the early '80s, but don't forget the precursors who set the charges and blew the dam. One of those was Horslips.

I'm exceedingly glad about that.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em):
The contradiction of Mama and Daddy's 78s


The album-cover challenge continues, Part 4. The thing is, this ain't an album. It's a few 78s, ones that I've been playing since I was old enough to work a record player, which was age 4-ish.

First, behold this influential record of my youth -- Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up," on glorious shellac.

In many cases, high fidelity spun into 1950s homes, and into popular culture, at 78 rpm.

And so did the king of rock 'n' roll.

Now I have brought much of my analog musical formation into the digital present, I guess, preserved on not-so-glorious hard drives these days. (Don't worry; I still have the records.)

"All Shook Up." I couldn't tell you how many times I played this record -- this very 78 that's four years older than I am -- as a kid. The rough estimate: lots.

In 1957, "All Shook Up" was magic. As it still was when I first got a hold of it around 1964 or 1965. As it still is today.

Me (age not quite 3) and the Silvertone . . . and the records
THAT GOES as well for another of my little stash of Elvis on 78 . . . "Too Much." That's it sitting on a 1952 Webcor record changer here at Anachronism "R" Us.

And you know what? After half a century and more, the Elvis records still sound pretty much like new. Hell, I have many compact discs that sound a lot worse. I mean, some of these old 78s sound great.

RCA Victor's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was, indeed, all that. All that and a pair of blue suede shoes.

Now let's turn to a couple more 78s that more fully became touchstones when I hit my 50s -- Walter Brown's "Fine Brown Baby" / "My Baby's Boogie Woogie" and The Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me."

In 1946, when my parents were still newlyweds, they were buying "race" records and hillbilly blues records from their favorite Baton Rouge music emporiums.


LOW-DOWN BLUES. R&B. Along with pop, jump and country twangfests like the Delmore Brothers.

"She's got what it takes, make a preacher lay his Bible down," sangeth Mr. Brown. You should hear the flip side.

If you want to know the music of my soul, my folks' old 78s will get you close.

If you want to know what was it that made me the musical creature that I am -- if you want to hear the records I was playing when I was but a lad, just old enough to get into my folks records and operate a record changer -- here you go. This and Fats Domino . . . and Ivory Joe Hunter . . . and Fats Domino . . . and Hank Williams . . . and Louis Jordan.

This is about as personal as it gets.

This is who I am. The music of my parents' young adulthood (and my record-geek childhood) sounded like the world -- the Deep South -- I was born into damn near six decades ago.

It was eclectic, the Louisiana . . . the South of my youth. It was seemingly at odds with itself if you didn't look any further than the surface of things. It was also rich beyond measure.

Take Brown, the blues shouter who once sang with Jay McShann's orchestra. In the particular culture I entered into during the spring of 1961, black shouters like him could sit next to white twangers like Ernest Tubb in the record cabinet in the bottom of the old Silvertone console -- even if they couldn't sit next to each other at the Woolworth's lunch counter.

AND NO ONE thought twice about either peculiarity.

This explains my parents' music-buying habits of the 1940s and '50s, long before I came along and, a few years later, started raiding their music collection. It also explains the complex and contradictory inner lives of these people -- formed by the Southern society that brought us Williams, Louis Armstrong and Jim Crow -- who could in 1946 buy racy records by blues shouters, then in 1971 yell at me about my expletive-deleted "n***er music."

People who thought Dick Clark was a communist, probably because of the fatal combination of "beatnik music" and race mixing on "American Bandstand."

Those George Wallace and David Duke voters.

A couple more of the blackest white people on earth -- as Southern Caucasians surely are -- who may have found it just cause for homicide if you had told them that back in the day.

Go figure.

The South: It's a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, tucked away in an enigma and fueled by contradiction. These records give you a peek under its hood a little bit . . . its and mine.

You might not completely understand either of us, me and the South, but it will be a start.


The records that made me (some of 'em): The B-52's


Well, I am up to No. 3 in the post-pictures-of-formative-albums challenge. So far, so good.

Now watch me forget No. 4.

The year: 1979. The guy: Idiot, 18-year-old me, spending much time at carrier-current WLSU (soon to be on FM as WPRG, then eventually KLSU). The album: "The B-52's." (Really, is the distinction between plural and possessive really that hard to decipher?)

The LP arrives at the station, and it starts getting airplay -- "Dance This Mess Around" was the first radio cut. I think my first reaction was along the lines of "What the FUCK is THIS SHIT?!"
My first exposure to the B-52s (B-52's? I give up) left me thinking that Yoko Ono had taken some really bad shit, man.

Then "Dance This Mess Around" started to grow on me. And grow on me. And grow on me.

 
I MEAN, "Why WON'T you dance with me? I AIN'T no Limburger!" That pretty much sums up the life of a college freshman.

And thus I learned -- not for the first time, certainly not for the last -- a great life lesson: "You may hate it now, but wait till you drive it!" In this case, the B-52s (sans apostrophe) turned out a hell of a lot better than the Family Truckster.

Bought the album in the fall of '79. Still have it today.

By the way, did you know there's a moon in the sky called the moon? You learn something every day.


Friday, February 21, 2020

3 Chords & the Truth: Carnival in the bunker


Just because you're hunkered down in an apocalypse bunker in the Trumpian States of Amerika, that doesn't mean you can't spruce the place up a bit and celebrate Mardi Gras.

Let's just call Carnival time the bright spot between secular, never-ending Lent and religious Lent plus the ongoing secular, never-ending Lent in this national vale of moonbattery.

That's where we are on this edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

But . . . the music's great, the music is fine, and the music on the Big Show (one hopes) will get us through every form of Lenten mortification.

And dat's the name of dat tune.

Period.

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


Thursday, February 13, 2020

If you wigged out, Luzianne had you covered

Baton Rouge State-Times, Feb. 12, 1970

Maybe it's the caffeine.

Well, switching to Sanka might've been one cup over the line, so 50 years ago in coffee-loving Louisiana, Luzianne had a plan for when the ladies might get a little jacked up and tear their hair out -- buy our coffee, get wigs cheap.

Works for me. So, did they have any toupées?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Unfortunately, the judge believed in jail

Aug. 8, 1974: The front page of the Baton Rouge (La.) State-Times had the biggest headline I'd ever seen in my 13½ years on Earth: Nixon to Quit.
Inside, on Page 20-A, was this campaign ad for Gil Dozier, running for Public Service Commissioner that fall.

His campaign chairman, Dr. Billy Cannon -- local orthodontist and LSU's only Heisman Trophy winner -- paid for it. Dozier lost.
But the next year, Dozier got himself elected Louisiana agriculture commissioner. And in 1980, he got himself convicted on federal racketeering and extortion charges. After a failed appeal in 1982, he took up residence in the federal pen in Fort Worth, Texas.

In 1983, Cannon ended up in federal prison, too -- in Texarkana, Texas -- after being convicted of counterfeiting $6 million in $100 bills. Both got out of the pen in 1986.

I wonder how many folks ever think "Hey! Both of these guys went to federal pen -- funny how life works" when seeing an old newspaper political ad from their misspent youth. I'll bet a bunch . . . if they're from Louisiana.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Wigged out

July 28, 1970: This. Just this.

It would be a decade, roughly, before I figured out what a deeply, deeply weird place I came from. It would be another decade or so before it dawned on all of us what deeply strange times in which we Baby Boomers came of age.

Aug. 27, 2019: All the incentive anyone needs to open a saving account (assuming we had any money to save) would be . . . interest on our deposits.

Monday, August 26, 2019

I missed all the big events


July 24, 1970: The Antichrist takes up residence at a Baton Rouge, La., appliance store. And I freakin' missed it.

I had no idea that the malevolent ruler of the world had such a fascination with color TV. He and the 9-year-old me would have had something to talk about.

I bet he could have gotten me an RCA AccuColor set long before 1975, when the Old Man finally relented, succumbing to non-stop bitching by me and my mother and admitting that color television was not, alas, a fad. We did not get an RCA from McLeod's, however.

My father was a Magnavox man.

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, 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.

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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Dude sounds like he's on pot


National politics is so dysfunctional, disheartening and -- frankly -- bat-shit crazy that I largely have lost the will to comment on such a shitshow.

Sen. John Kennedy
Which brings me to Louisiana's junior U.S. senator, John Kennedy. And the matter of shit.

There is much that could be said about Kennedy. Most would fall under the category of dysfunctional, disheartening and -- frankly -- bat-shit crazy.

But I will say this: I am a Southerner and there is no way in hell I would vote for any Southern politician who can't keep his metaphors straight.

"Urinate or get off the pot?"  Really? Really?

REALLY???

I am old enough to have used the proverbial pot, which my Louisiana family referred to a a "slop jar." And I well know the choice that we all face in life: Shit or get off the pot.

And Kennedy's mangling of a damned fine metaphor is just too damned much to take. Get it straight, podna, or shut the f*** up.

That is all.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: It's the Mardi Gras loco


Throw me somethin', Mister!

Preferably, my sanity.

I don't know about you, but right now I'm in need of a weapon of mass distraction. And here comes Mardi Gras to fill the bill.

We at the Big Show intend to latch on and run with it. After the daily assaults on our national sanity -- and grasp on reality -- we need a little blowout right now. We need to let it all hang out . . . whatever your favored conception of "it" might be.

This extra long, extra good edition of 3 Chords & the Truth is our attempt at that -- a last blowout before Lent, when we atone for our myriad sins. It's a lot like the last two years, only ecclesiastical.

And it only lasts till Easter.

SO EAT, drink and be merry, children, for Wednesday we fast.

So listen to the music and party, mes amis, for tomorrow is another day. Which probably will be as bat-shit crazy as yesterday, for we've been doing some national penance for a while now.

Grab some joy while -- and where -- you can.

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


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The unshakable burden of growing up fascist


I have come to explain my native region of the country as born fascist. Fascist from its settlement by the white man -- fascist before we knew what fascism was.

The American South is fascist, was fascist and always has been fascist. Adolf Hitler and his German Nazis carefully studied the South as a blueprint for the kind of society they wanted to build at home -- and violently impose upon the world.

The evidence of this lies in the headlines of your daily newspaper today . . . and it was ever present in the headlines of yesteryear's daily newspapers, too. The articles here both were on the front page of the Morning World-Herald right here in Omaha, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 1948.

The police commissioner using his police powers to determine what records could and couldn't be sold in stores or played on jukeboxes was in Memphis. James O. Eastland -- the U.S. senator who went out of his way to make sure reporters knew he had referred to an NAACP official with a vile racial slur -- represented Mississippi, right next door to Tennessee.

Eastland served until 1978. Because Mississippi.

Any white Southerner of a certain age -- namely my age -- has to live in fear, to some degree, in the wake of the "woke" attempts at purging all racial transgressors from public life, regardless of the offense or whether it occurred decades ago. On one hand, it is inexcusable that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam dressed up in blackface as a 20-something. It ain't good that Virginia attorney general Mark Herring browned up his face as a 19-year-old college freshman to impersonate one of his favorite rappers.

Northam is 59 now; Herring is 57. I am 57 -- almost 58.

On the one hand, this stuff is bad. Oughtn't have happened. Even in the 1980s, white Southerners should have known this stuff was unacceptable.

On the other hand . . . what the hell do people expect? How, in the name of basic sentience and a basic knowledge of American history, is anyone surprised?

And when, exactly, did Americans lose any belief in the tenets of grace, forgiveness and redemption? When did we all decide that it was impossible for people to change, to grow?

Listen, those of us born during the tail end of Jim Crow -- many of us raised by thoroughly racist parents within thoroughly racist families in a pervasively racist Southern society and culture -- too often didn't know what we didn't know. We all had to deal with the burden of our upbringing.

You have to understand the ubiquity of an extremely warped culture, and the Jim Crow and post-Jim Crow South was an extremely warped culture. After World War II, Germans of a certain age were allowed to redeem themselves once the Nazi regime had been relegated to several awful chapters of a world history textbook. Apparently, Southerners such as Northam and Herring in the commonwealth will not be granted that opportunity -- by their own countrymen, no less.


OBVIOUSLY, Northam botched his opportunity to explain himself and shine a light on what was, and to a large degree still is, a sick and racist culture. There probably will not now be a fruitful national dialogue about the role of culture -- particularly racist cultures -- in forming civil society and what it means to have been formed by a deviant society.

Neither will we have a productive national discussion about how we -- each of us -- might shed the unbearable burden of our upbringing. In this case, our very Southern upbringing.

Let me say it again: The American South, basically, was Nazi before the Nazis were Nazi. And that's the air that was the burden of Southern whites' upbringing. We didn't know anything else.

In the case of this Southern white boy who came into the world in the Louisiana of 1961, my first inkling that my world might be seriously f***ed up was network television. Specifically, Julia and Room 222. I cannot tell you how revolutionary it was to see black folk who were anything but the stereotypical "n*****s" we had been carefully taught to see and believe in.

There's a word to describe the upbringing of lots of Southern kids just like me. That would be "brainwashing." It started at birth and primarily was administered by parents who themselves had been brainwashed since birth.

Not to put too fine a point on it, network television was we Southerners' very own version of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty or the Voice of America. Many of our parents, kinfolk and the other adults surrounding us did not see it that way. In their vision, ABC, NBC and CBS were more like a bunch of "agitators," a bunch of "n***** lovers" or a "bunch of goddamn commerniss."

This can't be overstated. It just can't. Oh . . . I was born and raised in Baton Rouge. I went to public schools. That means, for my grade level, that I went to de jure segregated schools until fourth grade in 1970.

And when my school was "integrated" -- and in 1970 "neighborhood schools" was a federal-court desegregation tool in Baton Rouge -- my school had two black kids . . . whose family had lived in the neighborhood before there was a neighborhood. One, Janice, was in my class.

She was my friend, and we played together at recess. A teacher told me I shouldn't do that -- it didn't look right to be playing with "a colored girl." To her credit, my racist mother (rather inexplicably, given "racist") called the NAACP to complain about that one.

Janice was treated horribly across the board. Seeing that was another brick knocked out of the wall. A major reinforcement to the counternarrative coming from Radio Free Dixie -- a.k.a., ABC, NBC and CBS.

So, on one level, I'm reluctant to condemn Ralph Northam, as bad as it all is. I was guilty of something worse than blackface when I was just 4 years old. But we Southerners just have to quit lying to ourselves and everybody else. We have to look -- hard -- at who we were . . . and are.

And we, at long last, have to be accountable.

We Southerners, in addition to a racism/fascism problem, have had a sincerity problem for a long damn time now.