Thursday, January 31, 2008

Short Thoughts

If you're an American Idol fan like me, you really should check out Vote For The Worst . There's a lot of humor, but also a lot of insight into how the producers are trying to steer the show this year. They don't want another goof like Sanjaya slipping through and almost winning, but Vote For The Worst sure does! They're also not above repeating rumors!

Last night it was followed by the lie detector game show, The Moment of Truth, which is a great concept, but poorly produced. It moves SO SLOW. They try to build tension with the shots before the answers, waiting for the True or False reading, etc and it drags the show down to the boring level. FYI, the lie detector tests are given prior to the filming of the show, so the sequences on the actual show are not the answers which are actually judged true or false.

We've had terrible weather the past few days ranging from storms to snow and ice. I still do my own forecasting and do pretty well, however I'm just like you in that I get frustrated when I flip over to The Weather Channel and I see "Storm Stories" instead of THE WEATHER! Cantore's a hoot though! By far my favorite at the Weather Channel.
I heard from Tara at the Lourdes Foundation today. They've gotten a great response for the Annual Mardi Gras Celebration, set for Fat Tuesday, February 5th from 6-9 PM. It's their biggest fundraiser. This year they were a little worried about the response because they moved it across the Ohio River to Metropolis. No problem! The Harrah's Grand Ballroom is fantastic, and the ticket sales are great! My band is honored to play for the event! There's still time to get tickets: Call (270) 444-2353 for tickets or for more information. It's a VERY worthy cause, and I'm proud to help em out!

I'm getting ready for the Super Bowl! So far on the menu: Little Smokies, My Hot Wings, and my homemade pizza, including my homemade crust! After that, my diet needs to kick in, in a big way! As for the game, I think the Patriots will probably win, however I'm really pulling for the Giants for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, my friendship with Giants GM Jerry Reese, and secondly, because the Miami Dolphins were my favorite team growing up. I followed them way before the undefeated season. The 17-0 season was magical for me and I hate to see it equaled. Their undefeated season can never be beaten, only tied, whether it's 17-0 or 19-0. Perfection is perfection. In the meantime, GO GIANTS!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Getting "Geared" Up...

I get a lot of questions about guitars, effects and amps...even though I'm the least savvy person when it comes to the latest gear, much less how it works. 99% of what I do is emotion and sweat, which is a really artistic way of saying I'm not very bright when it comes to the technical stuff.

Like everybody else, I usually am continually tinkering with my guitars, effects and amps, but I've carried the same guitars for the past several years, which IS highly unusual. For the record, they are (in no particular order of preference):

a. Epiphone 335, stock except for Bigsby
b. Early Reverend Rocco, HOT humbuckers
c. Custom Telecaster, SD Little 59/Rio Grande
d. Fender Stratocaster, USA, '82, Rio Grandes
* I have others, but these are the "players."
** YES, that IS WD-40 you see me spraying on my guitar necks/strings!
*** I DO have my eye open for a cool gold top...

a. '80s Fender Twin (Evil Twin)
b. Roland Cube (backup)
* TheTwin is hard to beat. I fell in love with these "red knob" twins when I saw Rev. Horton Heat playing through one in Memphis. The Evil Twin is the precursor to the reissues and VERY underrated. I use the Cube as a reliable "backup" I don't have enough money or muscle to carry 2 Twins. If I ever get to the point where I can pay someone to haul my amps, that might change! :o) Sometimes, when I have to use a backline, I look for Twins or Super Reverbs, although Marshalls are ok.

I use an AKG Wireless System, partly because I walk around a lot, but mostly because I have a bad tendency to wrap myself up in cables and trip and fall. Sometimes I run it into a pedalboard, and sometimes I run it straight. When I run it into a pedalboard, I go into a Stage Tuner-Boss Blues Driver-Boss Stereo Delay-Boss Chorus- Amp. (Very basic)

I use the tap on the delay quite a bit, but mostly leave it set for a short "Sun Records" Scotty Moore type sound.

If any of the aforementioned or other manufacturers wish to make me an endorser, feel free to e-mail me. As many will attest, I CAN be BOUGHT, and cheaper than most!

Odds and Ends:

It's been more than 3 months and I have still NOT had a cigarette. I can't figure it out either. Perhaps it's a tribute to how high the tobacco tax is now!

While going through some old files, I finally found the picture of my favorite Christmas Decoration of All Time: The 30 Ft Elvis in Kenton, Tennessee!!!

Is that homeowner the luckiest person in America or WHAT!!!! Dang! What I'd give for that!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On the ESPN Budweiser Hot Seat?

Rather ironic that on the day Golf Channel Anchorette Kelly Tilghman returns to work, comes news of the discipline of another female sportscaster who picked a bad time for a bad choice of words.

Tilghman was given a couple of weeks off for her flippant on-air remark about how other pro golfers could have a chance against Tiger Woods.

ESPN's Dana Jacobson's remarks & antics were not on-air, but in public at an ESPN fundraiser. The Chicago Tribune reports she was suspended for a week. Should it have been more? Well depends on who you ask.

ESPN's was throwing a celebrity roast in Atlantic City for Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic of the "Mike & Mike" ESPN-Radio show. By all reports, many of the speakers were not very funny and not very witty. A large part of that probably had to do with the fact that many of the speakers were former or current athletes. Many people think professional athletes are, for the most part, not very bright and not very articulate. After working my share of sporting events over the years, including several NFL games, I can confirm that those people are correct. With some notable exceptions, most athletes are as good at writing and speaking, as I would be at blocking and tackling in the NFL, but ESPN prides itself in how they've blurred the line between athletics and entertainment to create "athletainment."

Now roasts are known for raunchy remarks sometimes, but you wouldn't think this one would get too far out of hand, since it was raising money for the Jimmy V Foundation to fight cancer. You also wouldn't think that if it DID get out of hand, it would be an ESPN anchor limboing under the lower limits of bad taste, but that's exactly what Jacobson did. The only excuse she had which Tilghman couldn't use, is that she was very, very drunk. When I read the words she yelled before getting the hook, I couldn't believe it.

While swilling vodka, she said "f--k (Notre Dame football coach) Charlie Weiss, f--k Touchdown Jesus" and finally, ( I would have stepped aside, anticipating the lightning strike) she took it even a step further, which is drawing protests from at least one Christian organization.

I have to agree with them. Remember, this is the same ESPN which fired Rush Limbaugh for racially-charged remarks. You would think Jacobson's remarks are even further out of line. This is why it's never a good idea to drink at the office Christmas Party, much less at a high profile function attended by your boss AND the press. If the video of this ever turns up, you have to wonder if the suspension will become a firing. ESPN says they won't be doing another "celebrity roast" in the foreseeable future, but for the time being, as they say on ESPN SportsCenter, "Dana Jacobson. You're ON the Budweiser Hot Seat."

Monday, January 21, 2008

On MLK Day

My career has certainly taken some twisty turns. I've gone from working most holidays, including 20 of the last 25 Christmases, to getting OFF on holidays, including today's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I didn't know what to do with the time off, but did take a little time to reflect on Dr. King and his "dream."
I remember the 60s and 70s well. I remember the turmoil our country was undergoing. I remember how Dr. King's influence possibly prevented untold violence, yet also still started the movement and change of attitudes and laws.

Three things happened to me today to bring it home. I was headed to town to run some errands when I heard a remarkable story by former Southern California Basketball Coach George Raveling, one of my most admired coaches. I was listening to my MP3's shuffling during my daily bike ride, and up came Champion Jack Dupree's Freedom. Finally, I cheered as the New York Giants made the Super Bowl because my friend, Jerry Reese, the Giants General Manager had attained the highest level of his profession.

I always admired Coach Raveling because he really did teach his players as much about life as he did about basketball. When I used to work with Tennessee-Martin Basketball coach Cal Luther, I remember George Raveling agreeing to a "home and home" with the Skyhawks. That was VERY rare for a small school like UT-Martin, but Raveling thought it would be educational for the UTM kids to come to Los Angeles, and likewise for HIS players/kids to visit the rural South. He was right. The UTM players got to experience LA on their visit, and the USC players, including Harold Minor, who was a highly touted college player at the time, came to West Tennessee and learned a little about life between the coasts. What I didn't know until today, was that Raveling has the original draft of King's "I Have A Dream" speech. I heard Raveling interviewed on ESPN radio. Raveling was there and volunteered as a security guard. It's a facinating story! One of the most interesting things which came out of his story was the revelation that the "I Have A Dream" concept was ad-libbed. The great Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was behind them on the podium and started yelling, "Tell em about your dream, Martin," and THAT'S how the concept came about. Later, Raveling says Martin met with President Kennedy and he kept saying how much he admired that "I Have A Dream" speech and the press seized upon that as the title of the speech.

Champion Jack Dupree has long been one of my favorites. His "Freedom" is one of my favorite songs. It talks about Martin Luther King, Jr and how he led the way for racial freedom and equality. He sings about how children learn to play the black and white keys on the piano to make "harmony." It's truly inspirational.

I've known Jerry Reese for years. I first met him when he was an assistant coach at UT Martin in the 80s. I was always struck by how dedicated, organized and hard working he was. Later, when I met my future wife, Bridget, I found she was a classmate of his at Lake County High School in Tiptonville, Tennessee. Like me, she thought the world of Jerry. As a quarterback, Jerry led Lake County to a state championship. All the kids in school loved him. To be around him, you couldn't help it. They voted him Mr. Lake County High School! Briggy told me how at that point, a teacher (& in this case I use that term loosely) called some of the kids in and warned them that "they better think about what they were doing" by voting Jerry Mr. LCHS. The kids wound up upset that a teacher would even raise that issue. Well, they DID think about what they were doing and that's why they thought there was no better candidate for Mr. Lake County High School than Jerry. As the clock wound down in Sunday's NFC Championship game, and the Giants punched their ticket to the Super Bowl, I thought to myself, " Yep..he's proven himself as Mr. LCHS again!" Jerry wasn't the 1st African-American GM in the NFL, and he'd be the first to say it shouldn't be an issue in his case. As usual, of course, he's right, and that's the greatest tribute to Dr. King's legacy. Because of Dr. King, it's not that big of a big deal. Dr. King's work opened the door for Coach Raveling, Jack Dupree, Jerry Reese and millions of others. We haven't achieved the totality of "The Dream" yet, but we're on the way.

Gosh, I hope the Giants beat the Patriots.....

Friday, January 18, 2008

No Mulligans Allowed!

I was watching when it happened. A red flag went up in my head immediately. I thought to myself, "I can't believe she could be so stupid as to say that word." She did, and now she's paying the price.

Kelly Tilghman landed her 1st network job at the Golf Channel as a "twenty-something" with scant experience, but flowing blond hair, piercing eyes and looks that you just can't "teach." Trouble is, it's also hard to teach some of the finer points of broadcasting. It's a "knack." Some have it. Some don't. This was not her first bonehead moment on live television, but it was the first which could be construed as racist, even if it was purely innocent on her part. By all accounts, it was purely innocent. After all, she's a famous personal friend of Tiger's. She even takes part in some of his personal golf events, which raises the question about "conflict of interest," but that's another matter.

She's had plenty of defenders, including ESPN's Mike Tirico, Scott Van Pelt and even Tiger Woods himself. Trouble is, her words are indefensible. She should have known better to even have that word in any recess of her brain, given her duties. In her position, she should have known better than to voice any phrase or concept which could open the door for anyone to raise the issue, let alone Rev. Al Sharpton.

There's been a domino effect on several fronts. Golf week magazine waded into the controversy with a noose on their front cover.

That resulted in an apology, and a firing. Now we all know the name of the magazine game is selling magazines and one of the ways to do that is with a controversial cover, but evidently this went too far for the gentile golf audience, and more importantly, the advertisers who foot the bills. Golfweek's move was far worse than Tilghman's. While her's was the result of stupidity and inexperience. Golfweek's was a calculated move designed to "cash in" on the matter by fanning the flames.

So where will it end? How long will her suspension last? Will they go ahead and fire her? Who knows! One thing's for sure. She's learned one of the most important lessons of live broadcasting. There are no mulligans!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

As Well

I learned long ago to never argue with members of the public. If they're wrong, they'll never admit it. I also found sometimes, they're RIGHT!

I guess it was around a year ago I was enjoying one of my favorite passions. I was enjoying a Fat Moe Burger while killing time between getting off work and playing a gig at Moe's that night. There were a few people in the joint that night. There was a table full of middle aged folks having an after work office get together. There were some 20-somethings at the bar trying to "see and BE seen." Across the room from me, against the wall, was a middle aged married couple. Mid-Fat-Moe-Burger-bite, a booming voice rang out. "AS WELL!"

I looked up and surveyed the room, and it came again. "AS WELL!" It was coming from across the room, from the middle aged couple's table, from the man. He stared straight at me, with a very disdainful look and yelled, "AS WELL!"

I nodded and smiled. His wife looked embarrassed. He said, "I watch the news and I've counted you saying AS WELL 15 times in just a few minutes time!." "Why do you say that over and over? It's not just you. It's ALL OVER the national news too. You guys keep saying it and it REALLY irritates me!"

Was the guy a jerk? Yes, BUT, did he have a point? After thinking about it for a minute, I concluded that yes, he did. I had been using that as a "crutch phrase." It was a kind of time killer while I was ad-libbing and moving to the next thought. If it bothered him to that point, that it made him a real jerk about it, then maybe he DID have a point. I told him, "You know what? You've got a point. I'm really going to try to express that differently, and I'm really going to try to NOT make that a "crutch phrase" and communicate BETTER.

He smiled. He had gotten his point across. His wife was relieved, although still somewhat embarrassed, I think. I ate my Fat Moe Burger (awesome!), played my gig (awesome!) and went about my business.

Over the next week or so, on the air, every time those words escaped my lips, I cringed a little. I substituted other words. I would say "too" or "in addition to" instead of "as well." Over the next few weeks, I broke the habit and threw away the crutch. I NEVER realized how much I leaned on it, until the guy called me out.

A few months later, a call came to me at work. I answered. It was an elderly gentleman. He only had one question. "I've been watching for a long time and am a big fan of yours, but I just wonder. Did they make a policy or change a rule, to where you weren't supposed to say "as well" as much?"

I told him the story. We shared a laugh. We both agreed the end result was better. I know I'm not right all the time. Sometimes, the customer is well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

So Long Mr. "Shop & Swap"

I found out the other day about the death of Bill Carter (Here's the Story), longtime DJ at WIRJ-AM in Humboldt, TN. He did the "Swap and Shop" show on WIRJ since 1949, EXCEPT for a few months, when it was hosted by ME, while Bill was in the hospital and recovering from an illness. The months I did the show, I realized how tough it was to keep the show moving and keep the information straight. I also realized how it was "tailor-made" for Bill. Nobody could do it like him!

He was indeed a character, He was indeed a local legend. He really was a kind person. I started at WIRJ right out of college in 1982 and Bill took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. I wasn't very good, but Bill was always encouraging and helpful. He was a bit quirky, that's for sure, but he had a heart of gold and I'll never forget him.

I called in and spoke with Bill a few years ago. As always, he had a smile in his voice and was thrilled to hear from one of the WIRJ Alums! The radio board in the picture above looks just like the one we used 26 years ago. I guarantee it is. I wonder if the show will continue without Bill. I wonder how it can.

RIP Bill "Swap and Shop" Carter. We'll miss you.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Don't Look For Lasting Stardom From American Idol

Tomorrow night, American Idol returns, and I'll be honest and admit I'll be parked in front of the TV with millions of others. I admit, I'm hooked, but not for the reasons you might think. You have to realize that American Idol is NOT a talent or singing competition. It produces stars, but with notable exception, only the 15 minute kind Warhol predicted. It remains to be seen if Carrie Underwood can become the next Wynona or Wynette, but so far she's the exception rather than the rule. Year one winner Kelly Clarkson's Summer Tour last year fell victim to lagging ticket sales.

But even Clarkson has fared better than Ruben Studdard, Fantasia and Taylor Hicks. This is not to say they're complete flops, but they're hardly the next Luther, Dianna Ross or Elvis either. In fact, some of the Idol losers have fared much better: Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daltry for example.

Why is this? It's because at it's heart of hearts, American Idol isn't a talent competition designed to discover America's newest singing sensation. It's a reality show, designed to show the heartbreak and the thrills of the chase for stardom, and let viewers participate by "owning" a piece of the action and helping write the script. Did you really think Sanjaya was one of the top 10 talented singers in all of the USA?

While scouring those stadiums full of hopefuls, AI producers are not looking for great singers as much as they are looking for great storylines: the fast food worker/single mom who quit her job just for the audition, the high-school dropout reaching for their dream, the bar-band singer's last shot to give music a try before giving up and getting a "real job."

As for the bad auditions, producers claim they're not "set-ups," but instead are simply bad singers who overestimate their own talent. I don't doubt some of that is true. I also don't doubt there are some slick ones who can fool even the producers and get their own moment of fame in the hall of shame. It's certainly shameful how the innocent ones are exploited, and it'll be interesting to see if they're treated a little kinder this year. Each of the past few years got a little meaner and the public backlash grew. On the other hand, it's been proven that viewers love watching train wrecks, so get ready for some real Cayce Jones action.

It's just another one of the storylines...