Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

A friend of mine once said that Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday.

Unlike Christmas, there weren't gifts.
Unlike Birthdays, there was no hunt to get the right thing.
Unlike Valentine's Day, no candy, no flowers.

Just family and friends, good cheer, and food. He liked that.

What I remember around our house at Thanksgiving was that it actually started the night before. My mother began getting the turkey prepped for the long ride in the oven that lay ahead.  Butter, for flavor, was put in strategic areas of the bird that only my mom knew.  The stuffing, the dinner rolls, the yams, the green beans, all were in various stages of 'getting ready.'

Turkey Day was filled with the house smelling, well, like Thanksgiving and that meant gooood. It began like that early and smelled scrumptious all day. When we were younger, we had a half of a sandwich for lunch to help keep us empty. Not that we needed an incentive not to fill up.

ETA was around three.

My mom was a great cook. Dad always says she couldn't even open a can when they were newlyweds but I'm here to tell ya that by the time I arrived, it was on.

One time I was interviewing Patti LaBelle and when I arrived she was cooking shrimp in the kitchen. I tasted it and declared it heavenly, Patti smiled and said, "Next time, I'll put my foot in the pot."

I had never heard that before.

It means next time I'll really cook for you.

Mom could put her foot in the pot.

The hardest thing is getting everything ready at the same time. Mom could do that. In spades. Everything that needed to be hot was and everything that had to be cold was cold. The plates were full, grace was said, and gentlemen start your engines.

Dinnertime at our house was like one of those old variety shows. My older sister, Leslie, sang opera at the table and my younger sister, Karen, was doing her Cher impression. My brother, Kirk, was trying to get my mom to bet a dollar on the football game. My dad tried to be funny and was, my mom didn't try but was a hoot.

Great food, great conversation, great memories.

I have my own Thanksgiving dinner now and it kind of goes like this....lots of taters, turkey, stuffing, rolls and family. First off, all the food is great and a miracle as well in that my wife doesn't cook. She has people bring a dish, which works, and I get a real home cooked meal.

I'm okay with that.

What's more important is who will be around the table. My family, Denise's mother, her sister, Jan, plus Jenna's father with not one but two dogs hoping something gets dropped.

Being thankful, is the order of the day.

That and watching football and having seconds and thirds and another slice of pie and...

It's a holiday with no presents.

The gift is sitting right there with you.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chris Stapleton

Did you see the Country Music Awards?
Mr. and Mrs. Stapleton

Did you see the duet with Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton? If you're like me the second name was a big Wha? I never heard of him, but I sure know who he is now.

And I like him.

Just a guy with a ZZ Top beard, a cowboy hat and a gift for writing great songs. Along with his wife Morgane, singing backup, he and Mr. Timberlake turned in the performance of the evening.

And they tore that place up.

Oh yeah, he also took home Male Vocalist Of The Year, New Artist Of The Year and Album Of The Year. That's a good haul for the night.

Heck, that's a career right there.

Adele, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw, George Strait, and Luke Bryan are just a few of the artists who've recorded his songs. So Chris has been around for awhile but for me it was an entree to him and an epiphany.

I always say country music is where grown ups go to hear grown up lyrics.

Hear me out.

Rock and roll as we knew it is pretty much dead. The last great rock band? U2. There are a few rock bands out there but the key word there is few. Can you say classic rock? I think you can.

If you turn on Top 40 radio it's a lot of formulaic pop. It's catchy but everything sounds like you've heard it before. Somewhere along the way the money guys figured out how to get people to buy the same thing over and over again. There are exceptions, of course, and you know who they are, but for the most part...


I've always liked rap and there's some good stuff out there but it's directed at young people and they're not talking to me.

As far as R & B goes is there a current Stevie Wonder, a Boys to Men, or even an Earth, Wind and Fire?

If you're looking for songs about losing love, marriage, divorce, growing older, all kinds of adult themes, country is the way to go.

Not to say you can't find songs there about partying, nightclubbing and first loves, but they're side by side with adult lyrics.

I love the song that Chris did on the CMAs, "Tennessee Whiskey."

You're as smooth as Tennessee whiskey, you're as sweet as strawberry wine, you're as warm as a glass of brandy, and honey, I stay stoned on your love all the time.

He wrote that.

I wish someone wrote that about me.

Country today sounds like it's made by people who were brought up on rock and roll as well as country music and I'm fine with that. Like what you like is a mantra of mine. Thing is, a lot of what you hear nowadays doesn't sound like what it did back in the day.

Chris, though, kinda brings us back to that.
And if you saw that performance and looked at the faces of the artists in the audience, as the cameras were panning around, they were fine with it, too.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Music Memories

Music has been berry berry good to me.

I remember my mom buying her 45's when I was younger and playing Sam and Dave on the box. "Hold On (I'm Coming)." To this day I say, "Coming to ya on a dusty road."

Wonder where that came from.

Yeah, yeah, I was a rock and roll deejay but know that began in an innocent place. I used to hear a song on the radio followed by another song and think, " I wouldn't have played that."

A friend of mine said, "Think you can do better?"

"I'd like to try."

That's what drew me to that job. They always say to find something you like to do and it won't seem like work.

I like research, like homework, and love music. So, being up on bands, groups, artists, was always fun, not work.

Getting paid to spin records? Mighty fine.

Lord knows it wasn't a lot of money. I ate plenty of mac and cheese and pee bee and jays in my day, but when you're young...

So I get to the network, and there you could like all kinds of music, which I did anyway. What began as rock and roll turned into jazz, pop, r and b, country, blues, show tunes, anything and everything.

Having the background I did helped me big time with the artists. I remember asking a question and having them cock their heads before they answered. You could almost see them thinking, "A conversation about music. What a concept."



I asked Bono what was it about U2 that made them stay together.

He said, "U2 is like the four legs of a table. Together you get something special. Take one leg away and the table falls down." I never heard it put quite like that.
Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie

I talked to Lindsey Buckingham about the ending of the Fleetwood Mac song, "Think About Me."

"I like a Details Man," he replied.

I didn't know I was one, I just wanted to let him know that what I heard sounded cool. BUT. It sure was great to hear him say that.

Knowing music got me to talk to people who were known for not talking.

I asked Janet Jackson what she was trying to accomplish when she went into the studio.

"Perfection. To give it everything I've got."
Janet Jackson
She went on to tell me of the long hours spent in the recording studio trying to find just that.

Music has always been very important to me.

A good friend.

There are songs that I've thought were perfect, for decades. There are also songs I've loved, imperfections and all, for just as long. There are parts of songs that I like.

There are bands, groups and artists that are like members of my family.

They've sure helped me through my worst times.

I'll bet if you had asked Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela they could have told you of music, of a song, that touched them.

I have a feeling we all could answer that question.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

This Gets Me Every Time

There's a part of Lord of The Rings that really grabs me.

Not the movie, the book.

When I was in college, that book was all the rage. Star Wars had yet to come out. The Matrix hadn't been made and Harry Potter? Never heard of him. They made a not good but great movie of Lord of The Rings but the book was the gateway for me.

Back to what grabs me.

In one part of the book, the good guys are in trouble. The bad guys are about to prevail. They're at a place called Gondor, the good guys are surrounded and as the saying goes, it don't look good. And then...the passage that makes me cry. Off in the distance the good guys hear,

"Horns, horns, horns...Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last."

Gets me every time.

I've been misting up to that for years. Why?

I love when it looks bleakest, when it looks hopeless, the cavalry comes to save the day. Comes to rescue you.

They've been making movies, writing books, doing TV shows about that forever.


Let's talk about real life.

There are people, everywhere, who need rescuing.

People who have a bit of bad luck, then a bit more bad luck, and before you know it, it turns into, "How'd I get here?"

Some people think that others can see bad things coming and think that those people chose to ignore the signs.

I tend to think differently.

I think Life is what it is. Or as Popeye says, "It yam what it yam." And sometimes it overwhelms.

Boy, a helping hand sure is a welcome thing.

I grew up thinking that. My parents taught me that.

Help people who need help. That old saying, "Treat people like you'd like to be treated."

I do like the concept of saving someone and being saved yourself.

That's why that passage speaks so eloquently to me.

Every time.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Bob Gibson

In 1964 I played for my first Little League team.

I was in Berlin, Germany, I was 10, and I was a pitcher. The teams' name? The Cardinals. Across the Atlantic, in the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals were beating the New York Yankees.

They were led by a future Hall of Famer, a pitcher named Bob Gibson.  He pitched for the Cardinals. I pitched for the Cardinals. And he became my hero.

Great choice.

He made me a Cardinal fan. Those teams were great. Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Orlando Cepeda, and Bill White were just a few of the players. Plus a guy who's known more today as an announcer than a ball player, Tim McCarver.

Tim was a catcher and I met him once. I asked him, "Were you the first catcher to lead the National League in triples?" He responded, "I'm the only catcher to lead the league in triples!"

I was just glad he talked to me.

Bob's Cards won the series in '64, '67, and almost in '68. They say almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Well, it also counted in that series. Ask Detroit Tiger fans, they'll tell you. A slip and a world championship. They'll know what I'm talking about.

For years I would say that if there was one game for all the marbles, you could pick whomever you wanted to be on the mound. I'm picking Bob Gibson to pitch that game.

So, life goes on, and I'm the weatherman on CBS. Now and again I would  point to Omaha on the map, where Bob lives, and say the high there that day followed by, "home of the greatest big game pitcher, Bob Gibson."

One day he released his second autobiography and I'm in my boss' office begging," please, oh please, can I go to Omaha so I can meet and interview Bob Gibson?"

He let me.

I go, and it was like a dream. I met him, his wife, Dear Wendy, his son Chris and his mother in law. He picked me up at the hotel, I had dinner at his house, we talked and hung out. And I fainted.

Just kidding but it was great.

The next day, I interviewed him on the air. From then on, he was just Bob, my friend.

Bob, former Yankee manager and great friend Joe Torre, Bob's son Chris, and me
Once, he came to New York and we watched the NFC football championship game on television. I asked him, "When you walk the streets of Manhattan, what do Yankee fans say to you?"

See, living there, I knew they could be, how do I say this nicely, kinda outspoken, when it came to players of other teams. Especially someone who beat them in the World Series.

Bob's answer surprised me.

"They're always very nice. Very warm."

They appreciate a battler, a tough as nails competitor.

I like that.

Bob used to have a golf tournament and gala for charity and I went every year. Used to close up the joint. At one of them, I knew I was having twins, and told him one of them would be named Miles Gibson McEwen.

For Bob.

Again, Bob's answer surprised me.

With a big smile on his face, he said, "What's wrong with Bob Gibson McEwen?" Followed by us laughing.

He and Wendy came to our house in Florida and Bob met Miles.

One Gibson meeting another.

One my hero.

One my son.

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