Monthly Archives: June 2011

Key To The Highway, Two Versions

First, virtuoso harmonica player Little Walter playing this blues tune:

Then Eric Clapton playing and singing the tune years later with Derek and The Dominos:

Listen in particular to Duane Allman’s wonderful slide guitar playing on that track, recorded just before he died in a motorcycle accident.



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Children Drowning

I was just listening to an interview on the NPR show “Here And Now”; Robin Young was interviewing an experienced East Coast lifeguard who emphasized how quickly a young child can drown. It can take as little as twenty seconds. This tragedy often happens in backyard pools.

We never had a backyard pool at our rural place in Knox County, MO, but we had ponds.

I’m reminded of an incident back in the middle 1980s; it must have been 1987. Betsy and I had taken our kids down to a pond to swim. Our daughter Adrian was about three years old; she boldly walked out into the water and then went under. Oh, no! I waded out and pulled her to the surface. She came up gasping and laughing; she was too young to know what danger threatened her!



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Skip James

Want to hear some hauntingly sad and soulful singing and Delta-style acoustic guitar? Oh, go ahead and listen; it won’t hurt you, but it will affect you if you have ever endured hard times:

The lyrics:

Hard time’s is here
An ev’rywhere you go
Times are harder
Than th’ever been befo’

Um, hm-hm
Um, hm-hm
Um, hm-hm-hm

You know that people
They are driftin’ from do’ to do’
But they can’t find no heaven
I don’t care where they go

Um, hm-hm
Um, hm-hm-hm

People, if I ever can get up
Off a-this old hard killin’ flo’
Lord, I’ll never get down
This low no mo’

Um, hm-hm-hm
Hm, um-hm
Hm, hm-hm
Hm, hm-hm-hm

Well, you hear me singin’
This old lonesome song



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Mother Nature Gets Riled Up

Another title possibility: Natural Pruning

At one o’clock this morning I was sleeping soundly. I heard a bashing at my door; I thought it was my downstairs neighbor Scotty, a young roofer, probably wanting to bum a cigarette and induce me to come down to his place and talk. I ignored the bashing; I didn’t want to talk with anyone just then — I just wanted to sleep. Then the bashing resumed. Oh, hell, I thought; I reluctantly got up and discovered that strong wind and rain were coming through my kitchen window. The wind was causing my unlocked hallway door to repeatedly bang. I shut the window, locked the door, and went back to sleep for a while. I got up at dawn; I mopped up the floor and went out for a walk along Maine St.

Such arboreal devastation! There must have been 60 MPH (or more) straight-line winds racing through Quincy last night. The sidewalks were blocked by torn-off tree branches as much as eight inches in diameter. Just on Maine Street, the tree debris, even if chipped up, would fill a railroad freight car. I’ve never seen the like. The electricity is off in the North Side of Quincy and has been for several hours. Must have been some lightning strikes! I was at the Hy-Vee grocery store early this morning and a woman walked by me and said, “Damn, this is the only place to get a cup of coffee this morning! The rest of town is just shut down!”



Filed under General and Local, Quincy

Guitar Rag

You should hear this; one of the first instrumental blues tunes ever recorded. It’s by guitar-player Sylvester Weaver back in 1923. I’ve played this tune for many years:

Later there was this classic version by Leon McAuliffe:

A touching comment from Leon’s daughter, copied from Youtube:

I think the video is early 60’s. Because Dad didn’t wear the fancy uniforms till then. I remember when he first got them it made a real buzz around the house everyone had a funny opinion of them. It was such a change from the normal band uniform. Thank you for posting these video’s I have enjoyed each one. From Leon’s daughter Lucy.

Listen to country singer Barbara Mandrell playing the tune, just tearing it up on steel guitar:


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Bats and Squirrels

It’s always unsettling to encounter wild creatures in your house. Take a look at this photo by Bev Wigney; a squirrel she found in her kitchen:

In her Facebook comments Bev also mentioned finding bats in her house. I’ve told this story before, but please indulge me and allow me to tell it again.

It was back in the 1990s. My ex and I were sound asleep in our upstairs bedroom. I was awakened by the whooshing sound of a bat zooming around near the ceiling. I blearily thought, “I don’t want to deal with this! Maybe it’ll find it’s way out…”

Then the bat landed on the pillow right next to my head with an audible “plop”. Why? By then I was truly awake. I got up and caught the bat in a cap, accidentally killing it in the process. Too bad, but I really don’t like sharing a pillow with a possibly rabid bat.

At that time a half-grown kestrel was living in the house, hanging out on a high window-sill in the kitchen. I presented the little raptor with the dead bat and the kestrel spent about four hours devouring it. There wasn’t much left when it was finished.



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A Musical Duo

Sometimes musicians can “sync up”, a magical interconnection which defies logical analysis. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Billie Holiday –there are many examples, and I’ve personally had it happen a few times.

Listen to pedal steel guitar player Speedy West and electric guitarist Jimmy Bryant play some blues-inflected country instrumentals back in the 1950s:

This music reminds me strongly of the big-band music of Count Basie and Duke Ellington back in the 1930s and 1940s; it swings, and as Duke Ellington once said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”.


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