Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tennessee's Gamble

It appears as though the University of Tennessee is about to hand the keys to it's multi-million dollar corporation, known as the UT football program, over to 30-something year old coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin is the fired Oakland Raiders Coach, which is actually no knock on him. I actually thought he did pretty well in trying to deal with Raiders owner Al Davis, who should have his keys taken AWAY from him. Kiffin is supposedly assembling his staff. Some of whom I like, and some of whom I don't. He begins his Rocky Top tenure on a short lease, and he already has his detractors.

To make way for Kiffin, the Vols sent 17-year-coach Phil Fulmer out with a win over Kentucky on Saturday. Fulmer coached Tennessee to a National Championship in 1999 but hasn't even gotten to Vols to the SEC Championship game since 2007.......uh....last year. So it was time for him to go! I really think Fulmer is a good head coach, but his problem with this disastrous season was his choice for an offensive coordinator. Tennessee's defense was among the best in the nation, but the offense was among the worst. With the departure of longtime coordinator David Cutcliffe to Duke, Fulmer hired David Clawson from Richmond, an innovative offensive mind for sure, but it just didn't mesh. Perhaps because they didn't have the luxury of time to make it work. Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville faced the same dilemma with new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. In Auburn's case, Franklin was fired mid-season. I happen to think Tuberville pulled the trigger too quickly on Franklin, while Fulmer was simply not afforded the chance to make the new offense work. Rome wasn't built in a day, or one football season. The record shows Auburn's record got WORSE after Franklin's firing. In Tennessee's case, the baby was thrown out with the bath water. Being from Western Kentucky, I witnessed Franklin's offense produce a high school quarterback who threw for more than 90 touchdowns IN ONE SEASON, without the greatest athletes. Granted it was high school.....but it works in college too. It's just difficult to quickly shift from a traditional run-oriented offense to a version of the spread offense. Just look at Michigan this year.

In any event, I hope Kiffin gets a fair chance, although it would behoove him to win and win fast, beat Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and LSU in his first or second year, or a national championship (reccomended). I can't wait to see which team lands Tony Franklin because I know if they give him some time, he'll be lighting up the scoreboard again. I also can't wait to see Phil Fulmer, hanging around Knoxville, and wondering if he'll be looking pretty good as a coach in a couple of years. I really hope this move doesn't set the football program back, such as when Nebraska fired Frank Solich, Syracuse fired Paul Pasqualoni, etc, etc. When Tennessee ousted Johnny Majors, to make way for Fulmer, it moved the program forward, but so many times, these kinds of moves have set programs back for 10 years or more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gone Too Soon

I was thinking the other day, about all the musicians I've seen play, who are not with us anymore. I feel treasured to have witnessed their brilliance, yet sad that they were silenced, especially so young. Little Feat, with the late Lowell George for example. One of the best shows I ever saw. I was in college and went with Mike Harbin and Chuck Zumwalt. (What ever happened to those guys?) I never saw Little Feat after he died. Had no desire to. Someone pointed out to me later,"he always sung with his eyes closed, just like you." I never noticed:

Another was Bill Chase, a great trumpet player, a one hit wonder, who probably would have done so much more had he not died in a plane crash. I saw him at Dyersburg, TN, of all places. He wore it out. He left too soon.

I never went to see AC/DC after Bon Scott's passing. I wasn't that much of a fan of the band, until I saw them live in the 70s, and realized that they were as much Rock n Roll as Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry, The Stones, etc. They "got it" and Scott was the perfect front man to guitarist Angus Young's frenetic character on the side. I wonder if they ever would have become as big as they did had Scott lived. Death seems to spur sales and interest (see Elvis). BTW, I always thought Angus was a great guitar player, very underrated, and I never heard this song the same after Scott's passing. Strangely prophetic.

I never saw Stevie Ray Vaughan. One of my biggest regrets. He toured so much, I always thought, "I'll catch him next time..." When he died, it shook me.

After his death, I made up my mine. I'm going to see everybody I ever wanted to see, first chance I get. I don't want to miss them, in case they are taken away. I went to see Clapton, The Who, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Todd Rundgren, Bonnie Raitt, The Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, Gatemouth Brown, Santanna, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Bill Monroe, Dr. John, Porter Waggoner and many more. Bill Monroe, Porter Waggoner, Kim Wilson, and others signed my cool is that!

I saw Bonnie in Mississippi, not long after Katrina, with Jon Cleary on keys. You could have heard a pin drop in the hall several times. Bridget and I were breathless.

I stood through the rain, outdoors to hear Gatemouth play. I knew he was suffering from cancer, but Katrina finished him off. He "killed" the night I saw him though.

A perfect spring night, a glass of wine, and Steely Dan.

I always wanted to see Carlos play. He exceeded my expectations. He had just released "Supernatural," but it hadn't hit big yet. The best 20 dollar concert ticket I ever bought. We worked our way up to the front row. A must see...

I was on the front row for Isley's! Ernie threw me about a half dozen picks!

Bridget and I saw Todd Rundgren in Memphis. We had it all planned to catch Todd's show at the New Daisy, and then head across the street to a bar to hear Shawn Lane with the Willys. Unfortunately, Lane had hurt his leg the night before, and didn't show up! Dang!

It was Christmas in New Orleans, Briggy and I went to see Dr. John. What a precious memory.

Some of those have left us since. There are sitll a few on my lists, such as Loretta Lynn (Damn I love her) and The Kinks....but I'll see them 1st chance I get too. I don't want to miss any of them. I had already missed Jimi, Janis, Jim and so many others years earlier through the curse of 27 or earlier, or later. To me.....80 years old is young now!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Help Wanted: Must Win Big

Coaching sports in college is a tough business. Think about it. You're supposed to get a group of 18 to 21 year olds, to do what they are SUPPOSED to do, ALL AT THE SAME TIME! Tougher still, when you have so much pressure to make them do just that.

Phillip Fulmer is out as football coach at the University of Tennessee. His crime was a losing record this year, and not winning a national championship in 10 years. Pretty tough for Phil. You have to consider though, that he was so well compensated over the years that he's a millionaire several times over. It costs $6 million just to fire him! So why fire him? You have to consider this. The University of Tennessee football program brings in about 68 million dollars a year through ticket sales, concessions, souvenirs, media rights contracts and the league's annual distribution checks. That money supports almost all of Tennessee athletics programs, and needless to say how much Tennessee football means to the economy of the city and the region. If the Vols aren't winning, that figure goes down in a hurry. Way down. So much so, that the $6 million buyout, doesn't seem like much at all. They simply cannot afford to field a loser. Even for a short time. Of course the trick is, hiring a winner to take his place.

Kentucky's basketball program got rid of Coach Tubby Smith for much the same reason, except he wasn't a loser. He just didn't make it to the Final Four in the last few years. He won only 1 national championship too, and had only made it to 2 Final Fours during his tenure. Sure he won 20 games each season, but that's not good enough for the boosters with the fat wallets and fat egos. They're not contributing to a program which is really good. They're paying for really great, and if it's not there, the money stops coming. Kentucky basketball, like Tennessee football measures its sucess not by how many games they win, but by how few they lose. The wins are measured by how many points. If it's not enough, in many fans and boosters' eyes, it counts as a loss, even if it's a win.

At Kentucky, they were sure they'd get Florida's Billy Donovan, the Rick Pitino protege with a national championship under his belt. Of course, he'd leave Florida for a chance to coach the Wildcats! If he turned them down, there were some who felt sure they'd get Rick Pitino to leave Louisville, and return to Lexington. Whoops... neither happened. Maybe one or both realized how good they had it, and how quickly it could turn at UK should they not make a Final Four in the next two years. Kentucky settled on Billy Gillispie, an "up and comer" who had a good run at Texas A&M. But already, in Lexington, after a loss to little VMI at Rupp Arena, there are those who are screaming to jettison BG, and of all things, bring Tubby back! Can Gillispie get the Cats back to Final Four? Who knows. The only thing certain is that he does not have the luxury of time.

Remember Nebraska, when they fired Frank Solich, after a 9 win season to hire Bill Callahan, who came closer to losing 9 in one year? Remember Syracuse, when they fired Paul Pasqualoni for only winning 8 or 9 games a season, only to find themselves with a program that turned into a perennial doormat? Better get it right, or set your program back another 10 years, or more.

That should be on the minds of those at Tennessee in replacing Fulmer. They need a superstar coach, and they need him now, but is one available? Plenty were touting Texas Tech's Mike Leach, until the Red Raiders got shellacked at Oklahoma. What about Steve Spurrier? or Tampa Bay Bucs Coach Jon Gruden? Not interested. Some were pushing Butch Davis, until North Carolina got smoked by unranked NC State. Uh oh. Who do they hire now? I don't know, except that whoever they hire better win, win big and win fast. They simply cannot afford anything less.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heavy Weather & Hard Times

Like so many other businesses, the broadcasting industry is bracing for layoffs. For some, it's been happening in waves for the past couple of years, but many believe, especially after Christmas, it will become even more widespread.

It's already begun in some corners. NBC Universal, the new owner of The Weather Channel, during "Green Week," chose to axe the entire environmental unit of the The Weather Channel, along with 3 popular on-air meteorologists.

At The Weather Channel, the article says on-air meteorologists Dave Schwartz, Cheryl Lemke and Eboni Deon are gone. I actually was a Mississippi State classmate of Dave Schwartz when I finished up my meteorology education. I found him to be a nice person, in person. Maybe a bit syrupy on the air for my taste, but that was his personality, and many really like him. He was really into learning about my local region, especially the "Little Egypt" part of Southern Illinois. I hope he lands on his feet. Likewise, I always liked Cheryl Lemke, although I never met her. Forecast Earth was hosted by Natalie Allen, a Memphis native, who left KFSM in Ft. Smith, AR shortly before I was offered a job there......but that's another story!

I think we'll see many more layoffs in broadcasting, along with other industries in the coming months. In broadcasting, the annual dry spell for revenue follows the elections, which are ripe with political advertising, and the Christmas advertising, which end around the holidays. That's when the axes will fall at many stations, especially for those making the higher salaries (I never fell into that catagory....LOL). At any rate, it looks like it could be a "hard candy" Christmas for many of us, including your local television celebrities. Stay Tuned.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Read It In The Newspaper, While You Can...

It used to be a Sunday tradition. Bridget and I would drive to Fulton and stop and get a Commercial Appeal, Jackson Sun or Paducah Sun and later that day, we could peruse the paper and enjoy the articles. How sad the other day, when we drove to town and saw the Commercial Appeal racks turned around and later, removed completely. They quit delivering to Fulton and many areas in West Tennessee too.

I read an interesting piece in the New York Post lately, about the decline of newspapers nationwide and how it could also affect Local TV Newsrooms.

Here's a quote: "Most local newscasts have for years taken much or most of their hard news from newspapers. The freshest genuine news that local TV newscasts now provide are weather forecasts, unless you count updates and previews of "American Idol," "Survivor" and "Dancing With The Stars."

I used to get asked all the time, "How much of the TV news comes straight from the newspaper?" The correct answer is, quite a bit. First thing in the morning, producers scan the local newspapers to get story ideas and see what they missed. Also, local newspaper editors make sure to watch the local TV news in the evening, to see if THEY missed anything. Nothing to be ashamed of, on either side, as it makes good sense to check out other outlets and see if you missed on any stories.

Is there professional jealousy between print and TV? Yes, but more so among some print reporters. There is one reporter at the Paducah Sun, whom I respect greatly, who makes no secret in his columns about his dislike for television news. The ironic part, of course, is that the Paducah television station and biggest newspaper are owned by the same company. These days, both, like so many companies in other businesses, are feeling the pinch of the current economy. That begs the question, why don't they combine their resources? I've wondered this for years, as it would enhance both's ability to cover the local news.

I was always told that the owner, at that time, wanted competition between the local TV and newspaper since there was no other real competition for either in town, and it benefited the readers and viewers to have that healthy competition. It made good sense for many years and worked well for readers and viewers. These days though, the game has changed. First of all, there IS more competition these days, from a number of sources. Newspapers nationwide are hurting to the point that they're contracting their delivery areas, as subscriber numbers go down. The old joke goes to look at the obituaries, and that's how many fewer newspapers will be sold that day. On the television side, the internet has eaten into viewership, like cable television, and further sliced up the pool of consumers. More younger people get THEIR news, if they get it at all, over the internet, from a myriad of sources. Viewer habits are much different than they were even 5 years ago. Maybe that's why people still come up to me almost every day and say, "I watch you every morning!"

Are reporters dumber than they used to be? That's a tough one. I know I'm a much better reporter/meteorologist and overall smarter person than I was back when I started, for sure. Although I was always honest and tried as hard as I could to present the true story. Nowadays, when I work with some young reporters, I'm amazed at how hard it is to get them to comprehend the facts of a story. Maybe that was ME so many years ago, or maybe it's today's news reporters aren't too bright. I'm not sure! One thing I AM sure of, is that most reporters are much more interested in doing a good, factual story, and not as much interested in the company's profit margin, sometimes, much to the chagrin of the newspapers, or TV stations managers. Also, older, more experienced reporters and meteorologists ARE much better than younger ones. The same holds true, of course, for carpenters, attorneys, truckdrivers, matter your trade, you know what I'm talking about.

Newspapers and TV Stations are still powerful, but only a fraction of what they once were and less powerful each day, and the trend promises to continue, unless they learn how to harness the internet and consumer habits of today. If they combined their newsrooms and advertising, they could cut costly management positions, cover the news much more effectively and increase their bottom lines, however both are saddled with managers who understand print, or TV, but not both, and precious fewer who understand how to profitably produce information on the world wide web, which is where it's ALL going. Some newspapers and television stations have already combined their operations, and more probably will in the future. Those which don't learn how to adapt won't survive. I hope they do survive. We need reliable news from trusted, experienced, professional journalists, more than ever.

Telethon Night

Saturday night/Sunday morning was my 20th Lions Club Telethon of Stars. Hard to believe. It makes for a lot of fun on the long night. I played twice, at 4 AM and again about 5:15 AM. Lot's of us who play the long overnight shift have gotten to know each other and it's like a family reunion.

It was good to see my old buddies Rhonda Belford, a talented singer-songwriter out of Southern Illinois, Becky Freeman, a talented singer from Cadiz who's had us for the Cadiz Relay for Life Benefits over the years, and my former co-worker Johnette Worak, along with some of my other former co-workers from TV, including John Champion along with his lovely wife Michelle, and Jeff Bidwell.

This year the Telethon was moved to the Carson Center for the Performing Arts because of construction at the Expo Center in Paducah. The Carson Center is a beautiful hall and I love playing there. The telethon made the 3rd time I've gotten to play there. The telethon itself is the longest running locally produced telethon in the nation. This was the 52nd year. It benefits Easter Seals West Kentucky in Paducah; T.L.C. of Southern Illinois; Community Developmental Services (CDS) in Martin, Tennessee; and Easter Seals Southeast Missouri. All of the centers deal with disabled children and adults, with CDS focusing primarily on adults. All of the money raised by the telethon goes directly to these centers. At PATS, we transport several of the people served by Easter Seals, so in that way, the telethon is closer to my heart than ever before. The more I've met them through my work at PATS, the more I've realized just how special they are.

I played the 335 through their backline, which for me was a Fender Deluxe. It's always tough to get the tone dialed in with a 30 second sound-check, but in these situations, it's necessary, and it sounded pretty good! (thanks Joe and the rest of the crew!) I'm usually in low gear for a day or so after telethon night, so I'm glad it's only once a year, but it's a wonderful night for a very worthy cause.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking for old friends again

Every now and again, I go looking for some old friends on Youtube.....

I love Joe Cocker, and someone did a great captioned video of him at Woodstock.....maybe this explains some things about "my generation."

I used to shop at Big Star, I used to listen to Big Star! That was 30 years ago....they're still around???

I'm still high from meeting one of my heroes earlier this year: Derek O'Brien. I got to see another of my idols the same night, Lou Ann Barton, but I'm still too scared to meet her. Maybe one day. Derek's the coolest though....

More recent video, with Lou Ann, Derek and Denny Freeman, who played with Bob Dylan recently....and at a custom car shop, no less.....too cool!

I really like the Black Keys....

But I love one of their inspirations even more....a guy I opened for once...RL Burnside....

I miss ya RL! Just like I miss Jr. Kimbrough....another of the Mississippi Hill Country greats I opened for once....

I noticed where AC/DC is releasing their first album in years. Am I the only one, who saw and misses Bon Scott as lead singer of this band???? I mean, the "new" guy's good....but he ain't no Bon...

Finally....I'm a blues why would I dig 80's band, "Vixen"???/ Well....#1, THEY ROCK, and #2...My buddy Chris plays with 'em!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Results

The vote is in, and change is coming in several ways. The country's voters decided to change from a Republican president to a Democratic president. The most cited reason was the economy. That's not a surprise. When you start taking money out of voters pockets, they're ready for a change. In my job now, I talk to a lot of "salt of the Earth" people, and they're hurting. They're ready for a change. A change for the better. Rightly or wrongly, they blame the Republican party for their economic woes. Many did not support the economic bailout, which cost 700 billion of their dollars, only to see some of those executives who caused the mess, partying from the spoils days later. Many blamed the Republican party for the high price of fuel, which wound up driving up the costs of so many items besides gas. I don't think as many voters were against John McCain, as were simply against the Republican party. The majority of voters wanted to give the Democratic party, and Barak Obama a chance to turn things around. Although there are a few exceptions, in the course of history, the US economy has historically done better under Democratic administrations than Republican, believe it or not.

On a sad note, I heard from some voters who voted for McCain, not because they supported his policies, but simply because of Obama's race, or because of the false accusations contained in anti-Obama chain e-mails. Sadly, there are still some racists in America and sadly, there are those who know that their fear is a big motivator, especially among the ignorant. To Obama's credit, he overcame the hate campaign, and if he's voted out in 4 years, it'll be because he didn't get the job done, not because of his race. The stakes were and are too high to allow that to become a factor. I can understand why his election is a source of pride for African Americans, but I didn't notice a lot of bravado, just quiet pride, and hope. Hope that Obama can deliver. To my mind, he can't be worse than some of the white presidents we've had over the years, but I can understand the aprehension. Whether you or I voted for him, he's OUR president now. Let's give him his due respect and work with him to help work through America's current situation.

Another incumbent lost his election for a much higher paying post! Tennessee football coach Phil Fulmer was ousted after 17 years and ONLY 1 National Championship. I like Fulmer, but I thought the Vols needed a change. There's a chance the program could get worse, but of course, a chance it could get better. It's ironic in the sense that his ouster is not unlike that of his predecessor, Johnny Majors. There were those who hated Vols Assistant Coach Fulmer at the time, because they thought he had stabbed Majors in the back. Needless to say, with a 6 million dollar buyout, Fulmer is richer for the experience. Coaching at this level can be a very tough, but enriching job. All you have to do to stay at that level is to get 22 twenty-year-old boys to do exactly what they're supposed to do, all at the same time, and win very single game. I guess when you look at it in that regard, they earn every penny!

Who's the next Vols coach? Mentioned so far are former Oakland Raiders coach Layne Kiffin, current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John Gruden and Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, among others. Gruden is a former UT Grad Assistant, who met and married his wife, a UT alum, while in Knoxville. Those who know him, say "no way." He's addicted to the NFL. Texas Tech promises to negotiate an extension for Leach at the end of the season. Also, his style, while exciting, doesn't lend itself to winning a national championship. Kiffin is interesting though. He did as good as he was ALLOWED to do with Al Davis. He has the pedigree, as the son of Monte Kiffin, and as the recruiting coordinator at Southern Cal, he convinced USC Coach Pete Carroll to recruit nationwide and served as his recruiting coordinator. One thing for sure, if whoever they hire at UT doesn't get the job done, they'll be voted out in LESS than 4 years. There's more leeway for President of the United States, than there is for Tennessee football coach!