Friday, June 30, 2006

Apparel in Paris?

Well, the trip started out with a snag. We were under a "ground hold" in Nashville due to the incessant rain on the East Coast that left the Newark airport way behind schedule. We finally left Nashville two hours late and subsequently missed our connecting flight to Paris. After much cajoling and pleading, we managed to catch a plane to Bristol, UK and then a connection to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. Unfortunately a few of the band members did not get their luggage and it is still MIA as of last night.

The late arrival in Paris left our plans of seeing the Louvre in tatters, so we spent the day resting and drinking coffee to get on "local time". I took a Lunesta on the plane to Bristol and woke up just before we landed. No sleep hangover, no side effects.

The European power is based on 50 cycles as opposed to the 60 cycle standard in th U.S. Some of the electronic devices we use have no problem with that, but the power supply on my pedalboard (which Bob Britt is using) blew up. The other, identical power supply on Billy's board (which is also mine) is fine. Hmmmm.

The gig in London the following night was at the legendary Hammersmith. A rather old and a bit shabby theater, it was sold out and we had a great crowd. Mick Fleetwood, a friend of Billy and George's came by and I got to meet him. Very nice and very tall.

The curfew in London was 12:30, and like Paris before it, there was the threat of being locked in if we did not get the trucks loaded and on their way. This makes the "out" a little more chaotic than I would like, but the local crew was great and we got out of there on time.

The trip to Antwerp, where I am sitting in a hotel and writing this post, consisted of three hours on the road, a 90 minute ferry ride, and three more hours of overland travel. On the ferry from Paris to London, I got up and had breakfast at about 4:00 a.m. This time, I elected to remain sleeping on the bus and got a little more rest, which was most welcome.

It takes a few gigs to get a flow going, so everyone is keeping a positive attitude and trying to figure out the best way to do everything so that it becomes a routine. Now that we are back on the Continent, the drives become shorter for the most part, and we will not need to rush.

I had dinner at McDonald's: A Royal Cheese is what the 1/4 Pounder is called here and Diet Coke is "Coke Light". Ketchup is an extra 40 cents (Euros). Normally I woud eat something more nutritious and local, but a bunch of the crew and band took a sight-seeing train ride and I have not run into anyone I know all day.

I bought a Harry Potter book from the "English" section of a book store, since I only brought magazines and guitar instructional books with me on this trip, and I have already read the magazines cover-to-cover on planes, buses and ferrys. I do have a "Playing Cribbage to Win" book, but it has not paid off yet, since Britt has been beating me by a few pegs in most of the hands we have played.

Suprisingly, I have not met any English guys on the crew who play cribbage, but there is an American merch guy from Ohio who plays Euchre, so maybe we can find a third and a fourth.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Twelve Twangy Pieces

A good webfriend, who I have never met in person but have had conversations with for years is selling his Danelectro 12-String. I don't believe they are currently in production, so they are getting scarcer to find. I have been wanting a 12-string for a while now, and recently passed on a Rickenbacker from a guy in the same cyberhood.

I used to own a 1965 Rickenbacker 360 Convertible, a 12-string that had a metal comb that pulled the octave strings to the neck, thus "converting" it to a six string. I sold it to pay my rent during leaner times, much to my future regret. I had another, more recent 360 for a while, but had to sell it to replace some stolen guitars. The 12-string was - and still is - more of a "dessert land" axe than a "desert island" guitar in my typical collection du jour and it is usually the first to be sacrificed in order to replenish with the staples.

At the price he let it go for, I doubt I will ever sell this guitar, since I won't have enough in it to consider it an investment.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Night At The Opry

As in any town with a tourist attraction, you can often live there a long time without a visit to what other people travel across the world to see. So it is with the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Every Friday and Saturday night you can drop in to see Country Music veterans, rising stars and newcomers perform live at the Opry House located in the Gaylord Hotel complex.

Originally held at the War Memorial auditorium, eventually moving to the legendary Ryman Auditorium, the Opry is the longest running radio show in history, broadcast on WSM AM 650, and now online as well. There is a televised portion that is carried by GAC.

Our good friends Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll were on the 8:30 slot last night, so we accepted thier kind offer of backstage passes to watch the proceedings. In a storage locker just off the stage are some old framed photographs of the Opry and it's stars in the Golden years of the '50's and '60's.

The Louvin Brothers, Chet Atkins and Grandpa Jones

The large room is a meeting place for the friends and families of the performers and for the musicians to hang out and catch up on the latest news and gossip.

Donna and Tim

We met Australian singer Melinda Schneider and her family there. Donna sang on a track of Melinda's new record, which was co-written by Melinda and Elizabeth. Melinda and Elizabeth were posing for pictures, so I snapped the shot below.

Melinda and Elizabeth

A good steel guitar player can always draw a crowd. One of the old photos I saw had what might be the Cherokee Cowboys (Ray Price's backing band) checking out a pedal steel. The non-pedal in the foreground was soon to be overshadowed by the pedal version.

Backstage Back in the Day

The stage is large and open. You can sit onstage, behind the band and watch the show. Stagehands and crew routinely walk across the stage during performances in keeping with the radio show tradition. The Whites opened the show.

The Whites Onstage

You can't see an Opry show without cloggers. These youngsters were due to hit the stage early on during the first set.

Junior Cloggers

Clogging is Hillbilly Aerobics...lots of movement and flash and lots of athletic ability to do it well.


The house band gets a copy of the song chart and an mp3 of the actual track to listen to before going on. Elizabeth did two songs "He Got No Heart", an up-tempo Rockabilly tune, and "Before I Go That Far" a pretty ballad. Songs and parts are worked out in the rehearsal cage, right offstage.

The Rehearsal Cage

Elizabeth has a new record coming out soon, and Tim is in the middle of getting his new release distributed. They are great friends and extremely talented people.

Elizabeth and Tim

The ballad had a signature piano lick, and it was quickly learned by the house piano player.

Running Over The Piano Intro

Long-time Opry band member and session legend Jimmy Capps has probably played more songs on guitar than anyone else in Nashville. He is a master of acoustic rhythm guitar, which is something of a lost art in modern Nashville.

Jimmy Capps and Elizabeth Cook

"He Got No Heart" is a brisk two-beat Honky Tonk tune. The band read down the chart in a few minutes and EC was ready to go on.

"He Got No Heart" Chart Run Through

In the wings, you can see musicians and emcees hobknobbing. From left to right is Jimmy C. Newman talking to General Manager Pete Fisher, Jonathon McEuen tuning his Taylor 12-string, and Eddie Stubbs talking to John McEuen right before the father and son McEuens did Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" for Father's Day, and then a rousing guitar and banjo workout of Prince's "Kiss".

In The Wings

All of the seats in the Opry House are good, but a big video screen makes it hard to miss anything.

On The Big Screen

It's common to see old friends backstage. I ran into Mike McAdam, who was playing with Pinmonkey later that night. Pinmonkey drummer Mike Crouch was the sound engineer when I was Lee Roy Parnell's guitar tech. Mike McAdam played guitar in Lee Roy's band at the time. Small world.

Mike McAdam and Me

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Back To Where He Once Belonged

Billy Preston has died, after being in a extended coma due to kidney disease. Beatle fans know him as the 5th Beatle, and his claim to that title of unofficial bandmember is unchalleged. George Martin produced and even played on some of the Beatles finest tunes, but I doubt he ever jammed with them. Billy Preston, as seen on the "Complete Rooftop Concert" video and heard on the "Let It Be" album was an integral part of their sound at that point in time. His piano solo on "Get Back" is perfect, and his sensitive accompaniment on "Don't Let Me Down" helps make Lennon's plea for "a love that lasts forever" sound both desperate and hopeful.

His solo career, which peaked during my early teens, had hits such as "Nothing From Nothing" and "Will It Go 'Round In Circles", and put earthy church grooves onto Top 40 radio. His authorship of Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful" surely kept the bills paid, and his recent appearance at the Concert for George tribute for the late Beatle was a high point. His great B-3 playing and soulful voice lifted the house band's version of "My Sweet Lord" and transformed the song from a simple prayer into a rousing Spiritual. Thanks, Mr. Preston for all of your music. Say Hi to George for me.