Monday, August 31, 2015

More Songs On My iPod

These are some lesser known songs that grab me. Some you may know. Some you may not.

Danny Says--The Ramones

I saw the Ramones in concert once. They did maybe thirty songs in twenty minutes. Ramones fans are chuckling and nodding their heads knowingly. "1, 2, 3, 4...."

This song is on the album, End of the Century. It was produced by Mister Wall of Sound himself, Phil Spector.

Written by Joey Ramone, Danny refers to one Danny Shields, their manager. It's a tune that builds and builds and it also has a number of great lines--"It ain't Christmas if there ain't no snow" is one of them. It's also a love song (by the Ramones?) and has one line that is one of my all time favorites--"Thinking about you and me and you and me."

Tender Love--The Force MD's

How old school is this? Back when MTV played nothing but music videos, this jam seemed to be on all the time.

It was featured in the movie Krush Groove, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were the writers and if you don't know who they are ask Janet Jackson.

This song couldn't be sweeter.

The piano, the heavenly lead vocals, the angels singing background. I love the falsetto throughout the song.

Love how it ends.

Oh yeah. The girl in the video that they're singing to?

Sweet and Pretty.

It's Bad You Know--R.L. Burnside

Blame this pick on the HBO series, The Sopranos. Heard it on there and never looked back.

I've always been a sucker for a drum beat like this one. It begins with it, along comes a harp and off we go....

Would I be an idjit if I said nothing sounds quite like it?

Then I'm an idjit 'cause nothing does.

R.L. was a bluesman. I say was because he passed away in 2005 but left alot behind including this gem.

Sparse vocals, great organ, cool song.

Cry For Love--Iggy Pop

Having been on the radio in Detroit, I heard about the rock legends of the Motor City. Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, Iggy Pop.

Real name James Osterberg.

Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols co-wrote this along with Iggy.

The lyrics are great and here's a classic example of that old joke of singing the words wrong.

The line is "Cry for Love, on every salmon morning." I thought it was "every sammy morning." Didn't understand it but I thought, hey, if it's good enough for Iggy, it's good enough for me.

I've been singing that, loud, in the car,  for years.

You'll also hear other lyrics like, "...seize the world and shake it upside down, and every stinking bum should wear a crown."

Don't short shrift the melody, it rocks.

"Cry for Love, 'cause imitation's boring."

Good words. Good song.

Your Heart--Donovan Frankenreiter

This starts off with a question....How often have you heard mariachi horns in a song that's not a mariachi song?

Uh, like never. But trust me on this, you'll like how he mixes them into this tune.

Turns out he's a surfer and is tight with singer Jack Johnson but don't let that fool you. He played in a group called Peanut Butter and Jam when he was 18. He's in his 40s now so he's been doing this for awhile.

If you've ever been in a Mexican restaurant you've heard the beginning of this. It then continues on to a great song and the middle break? Mariachi time.

Trust me. And enjoy.

Last one.

Showdown at Big Sky--Robbie Robertson

A bit of rock history.... Robbie Robertson used to be in The Band, was the principal song writer and lead guitar player. Plus he was the first guy I ever saw that wore a dress shirt with the top button of the shirt buttoned. And no tie. I had never seen that before and thought that was, how do I say this, very rock and roll.

I began doing that. Because of him.

U2 and Peter Gabriel are on this album which won the Juno award for Album of the Year in Canada, but that's another story for another day.

It begins with a shimmering guitar that leads you down a path that you didn't know you wanted to go down. Alot of songs are "I love you, yes I do, woo woo woo."

This isn't one of them.

The words are haunting, the melody is, as well.

And then Sam Llanas of The Bodeans comes in singing the refrain..."Showdown at Big Sky, Darkness at High Noon..."

I've been loving this one for years. Check it out.

And those are a few more songs I like.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

The Kirkster

I've known my brother, Kirk, a long time. Even before he even knew he was Kirk.

Born in Berlin, Germany, he was the last of the six McEwen kids.

He sure was cute as a youngster, big cheeks, an affinity for cookies and sweet as he could be. He also was smart and he used that and his cuteness to knock on our neighbor's doors to ask them if they could spare a cookie or two. They saw a scrumptious little kid and we saw our house fill up with cookies.

I went to L.A. to do stand up comedy and the person I missed the most? Him. Life is funny and I don't mean ha ha. Starving, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, riding the bus to get to comedy clubs and missing my baby brother.

That would be me.

As Kirk got older, his big brother got into radio and would send him swag back home. First in Detroit and then in Chicago. Lynyrd Skynyrd paper weights, various rock bands' tee shirts, Police singles in the shape of a police badge, that kind of thing.

Remember Pitch, Hit and Run?

It was a baseball competition that combined the talents it took to be a Major Leaguer. Kirk entered that contest and I watched him on teevee in Yankee Stadium when I was in my Los Angeles living room with my roommates.

He took second in the entire country.

Now, c'mon, how many people do you know saw their brother holding a huge trophy, on television, 3000 miles away?

He was twelve.

And I had a puffed out chest.

As a junior in high school he was Class President.  In between his junior and senior years he ran for and won President of the Maryland Association of Student Councils for the entire state of Maryland. Somewhere there's a picture of a high school Kirkster in a tie that's worth the price of admission.

He went to the University of Maryland for a spell and then began a career in radio.

Kirk started out hitting the ball hard and just got better and better. He was 19, the station was 98ROCK in Baltimore and he sounded great. He used to sing on the air like Axl Rose, be funny, be cool and just generally be entertaining as hell. That afternoon shift is what got him promoted to morning drive and that show made him a legend.

It was called KML, Kirk, Mark and Lopez.

Kirk, Mark and Lopez
My brother, Mark Ondayko and newsman Bob Lopez. They owned that town. Funny thing, Lopez lived across the hall from me in our college dorm long before he worked with Kirk.

They were about the biggest thing Baltimore had ever heard. I used to come home and hang with him and at the height of his fame it was like going around with a rock star.

He met Kelleigh. Sweet Dear Kelleigh.

They got married in Maui and I was there. Talk about a party. Talk about a wedding.

If you're going to tie the knot, Maui's a great place to do it.

They now have two kids, Tatum, my niece and Cauley, my nephew. Kirk's a great father. And Kelleigh is a wonderful mother.

I have to tell you a story.

Kirk had moved on and was on the air here in Florida. The family, sans Kirk, came to visit when Cauley was a baby and had to be carried everywhere. When they got here I put out my arms and Cauley came right to me. And THEN, he looked at me and you could see him thinking, "Hey, you're not my dad. You look like him but you're not him."

He never came back to me that trip.
Miles, Tatum, Griffin and Cauley

Kirk told me  early on, that he wanted our kids, the cousins, to know each other and he was determined to have them together as often as possible. It worked. Tatum is a big deal in our house and just visited for a week. Cauley stories are the rage with my twins. By the way, he calls each of them Griffin.

Kirk has returned to Baltimore to 98ROCK and it's been a love fest. He's glad to be back and the listeners are glad, too.

Lucky them.

I always tell him he's in my Hall of Fame. Not because he's my brother but because he's that good. He's also in my brother Hall of Fame.

He's earned that.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

George Harrison

This was in a hotel room in New York.

That's George Harrison, me, and the other person is Ravi Shankar. Now, if you are of a certain age, Ravi needs no introduction. If not, I guess you can just say he's Nora Jones' father.

My good friend, and CBS This Morning co-host, Harry Smith saw this and casually asked, "Who's the woman?" I thought that was funny then and I still think it's funny now.

A bit of well known history.

They were called the Fab Four.

Of course I'm talking about the Beatles. They made many of us pick up guitars, write songs and form bands.

They also changed the world.

George was one of those four. If you're younger you've heard and read and heard and read what a big deal they were. It's absolutely true. Every move, every utterance, everything they did was done under a microscope.  It's not a secret when I say there isn't a group today that is close to being as big as they were. The release of an album by them was a huge deal back then. Before "Hey Jude" songs on the radio were like two and a half minutes long, maybe three. "Hey Jude" clocked in longer than seven minutes. What to do? Radio played it anyway.

Just one story in a very long line of stories.

Back to why I was there.

It was for the release of Ravi Shankar's album, Chants of India, produced by, you guessed it, George Harrison. They'd been friends for decades and it was fun watching them. They finished each other's sentences, laughed at each other's jokes and were very comfortable in each other's company. George knew that being involved in the interview would get major attention for Ravi and he was right.

There was just one catch.

His publicist said we couldn't ask him anything about being in 'that group' or about any of his solo work. The whole interview had to be about Ravi, and George's involvement with Ravi's music.

And that's where the fun began.

My job was to bring up the Beatles without stepping over the line that had been drawn in the sand. I was excited to be around George and also nervous not knowing how our talk was going to go.

For him? One in a zillion interviews he'd done. For me? A rare chance to talk to a Beatle.

When we were settling in I mentioned I was a new father and my daughter's name was Maya.

Ravi said excitedly. "Do you know what Maya means?" I didn't. George jumped in,"It means many things, but one definition is one of extraordinary power and wisdom." That was pretty cool. We chatted about my Maya for awhile and then got down to the interview.

We discussed Ravi's music, his new album, why George thought it was so important, and then came the moment when I brought up the subject I wasn't supposed to bring up.

"You were in the Beatles, the biggest band in the world," I said. " You met kings and queens and  talked to movie stars and captains of industry. What was it about this man that made you stop?"

Georges' eyes twinkled as he answered. "We'd met everybody and hung out with everyone and all kinds of people told us we were this and we were that. Truth was, I was tired of all of it and then this little man (and there he turned and smiled at Ravi) came into my life and made it worthwhile again."

He talked about how Ravi knew very little of who the Beatles were.  George talked about how special and unique Ravi was. He talked of how Ravi taught him to see the world in a totally different way.

And more.

When George was done, I thought, "I'm good."

The interview wound down and it ended.

We shook hands, took a couple of pictures and off they went.

Two old friends.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Ed Bradley

There was no one more important in my time at CBS than Ed Bradley.

He was a dear friend and he was a highly respected figure to me and everyone else. He was also a gentle soul and a top notch newsman.

Top notch. He garnered 20 Emmys.

He was good and he was cool as well. Believe you me, it's hard to be a cool newsman. 

Ed made it look easy.

I first met him at a banquet that honored Coretta Scott King. It was a black tie affair. I was there and as it turned out, Ed was too. I'd never met him but I sure knew who he was. We shook hands and he said, "I'm hearing good things about you." I said," Thank you" back but I've never forgotten. I was brand new and to have someone like that even acknowledge me was just...

A couple of Cool Ed Bradley stories...

That picture you see is from my 40th Birthday Party. Look at my face. Kid in a candy store. That night was a blur but I remember Ed asking, "Do you have any Nevilles?" He was a big fan of the Neville Brothers. As it turned out, so was I, and they were on the box toot sweet.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

Years before, I was in New Orleans standing in front of the famous club, Tipitina's, when I heard a voice say with a smile, "What are you doing here?"

Ed Bradley.

I explained I was in town for Mardi Gras and since the Neville Brothers were playing there that night, I thought I'd go see them. "Good choice," he said with a grin, and then said he had to go and he disappeared. Later on, I'm in the crowd, the Neville Brothers are onstage, and who comes out? Ed Bradley.  Guess what song they did?  If you said, "60 Minute Man," you would be correct.

Most people don't know he was an accomplished cook.

I took a date, Taryn, to his apartment for dinner.  When we arrived, Ed was in the kitchen, with reading glasses on, following the recipe for that night's dinner. The open cook book was on an easel protected by a plastic cover. He was in the middle of preparing the meal and when it was done, it was delicious. We washed it down with a red wine that I brought and off we went to the Beacon Theater.

On the bill that night...Reverend Al Green, the Staple Singers and Bobby 'Blue' Bland. He was there to introduce the Reverend but the thing I remember the most? Going through the crowd with Ed and watching the faces of the people as they recognized him. The double takes. It was hysterical.

Good times.

Ed passed away on November 9, 2006 due to complications from leukemia.

At his memorial, it seemed like everyone was there. Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, singer Paul Simon, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Diane Sawyer, Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, the list goes on and on. His good friends Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Jimmy Buffett were there.

Aaron Neville sang.

Wynton Marsalis played.

Former President Bill Clinton spoke.

And at the end the congregation left the church to the strains of "When the Saints Go Marching In," with people waving white handkerchiefs in the style of a New Orleans funeral.

I still have mine.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Non Traditional Therapies

Let's go to the Wayback machine.

Back when I had my stroke.

There I was laid up and not knowing where to turn for rehab. There was the traditional rehab covering the usual suspects, Physical, Speech, and Occupational therapies. But I'm not here to talk about them but instead my experiences with NON traditional therapies.

My rule of thumb is that when stroke strikes, try anything, and I do mean anything, to heal, to get better. I say if it works, keep it, if it doesn't, discard it and move on.

A couple of turns I took around the dance floor...


So there I was in a dimly lit office with my eyes closed listening to a voice saying, "You're getting sleepy..."

Truth was, the voice didn't say that, and I never felt sleepy.

Fact is, I didn't feel anything but it was my first foray down the 'try anything' road. It was early in my rehab and the thinking was that this kind of therapy would help me to accelerate the healing. Well, at least that was the purpose.

For me? It didn't do that.

Remember, I said try everything. Eventually I left. Which leads me to...

Oxygen Therapy.

My stroke was an ischemic stroke. A clot blocked blood and oxygen to my brain. Stands to reason that a jolt of oxygen would be good for me. And it was. I lay flat on my back and was put inside a hyperbaric chamber and breathed in pure oxygen for an hour.

I first discovered hyperbaric chambers from that picture of Michael Jackson with one.

Mine was a glass lined chamber, sort of like the kind of tube a person uses to get an MRI. But cozier. I had to go to a changing room where I took off my shoes, jeans, and shirt. I replaced them with a robe and off I went. In the chamber itself, I watched TV or listened to music or took a nap. I breathed in the oxygen the whole time. At the end of every session my wife said my speech was clearer and I moved better. There was just one thing...

It was about $200 a shot and my insurance wouldn't  cover it.

Up next...


It's been around a long time, some believe it originated around 100 BC in China. It's the practice of inserting needles into the body. I heard that and on came the cold sweats.


I was wrong.

First of all they're small, thin needles.
 And second, I'm here to tell you they don't hurt. Didn't hurt me.

Acupuncture is done many times in conjunction with laser therapy, mine was. My stroke affected my dominant side. I'm right handed. So, I went there to mainly help my right hand.

It was eye opening to see charts on the wall that were different than what I was used to seeing. And it was eye opening to have needles in me. Very calming, as well.

Did it help me? That's the million dollar question. All I know is I had limited range of movement when I started--better movement when I left.

Just recently I was contacted by an acupuncturist, she says she might be able to help me even now. As they say in the movies, I'm going back in. More on that whole experience later.

My stroke was massive. It's taken me down a path I didn't even know was there. Trying things I didn't know existed. Anything that helps you get out of that dark space, is worth checking out as far as I'm concerned.

All strokes are like snowflakes. Different. So are the ways to combat them.

Don't be afraid to try them.

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