Traveling – Nashville

For as many years as I’ve been involved in the world of music, I have never been to Nashville, Tennessee.

So while you are reading this, I am winding up my stay. Comments are disabled as I will be on the road and can’t respond.

My itinerary:

Arrive in Nashville on Friday, August 2nd.

Friday night, a trolley tour scheduled called the “Soul of Music City Night Tour!”

Then Saturday we will tour the Johnny Cash Museum and the old Ryman Auditorium, with a destination of the Grand Ole Opry for a backstage tour at 3:30.

Then back to the Grand Ole Opry at 7 pm for a very special show for all of us Texas music fans.

Gary P. Nunn will be 74 years old in December and his music career has spanned over four decades, but his show at the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday, August 3rd is his debut at the historic venue!

There are over 800 people traveling from Texas to Tennessee to see him perform there. Isn’t that amazing? There will be a fun after-party at the Opryland Hotel and I will be there for sure!

Then on Sunday, I will tour the Country Music Hall of Fame specifically to see their exhibit, “Outlaws and Armadillos,” featuring Texas music artists, and including photos taken by my awesome editor, Ronald McKeown of Buddy Magazine!

Me and Ron McKeown

I will be covering this journey for Buddy Magazine! And, I already have a working title for the piece: “Taking Texas to Tennessee!”

I am so grateful to have the opportunity for this adventure!

Failure?

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all felt like we have failed at something or another during our lifetime. Yesterday, for me, could easily be one of those times. So, I thought about it and decided that “failure” is simply a matter of perspective.

I have a 1958 version of the Thorndike Barnhart Dictionary on my desk and consulted it for the true definition of the word. Here’s what it had to say:

Failure: 1. a being unable to do or become; 2. a not doing, neglecting; 3. a being lacking or absent being not enough, 4. losing strength; becoming weak…

So, let me start at the beginning. As most of you know, I write for Buddy Magazine. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to have a presence at a Dallas event, Lake-A-Palooza. As part of the exchange for me working a booth, I got to bring my books.

I have everything needed for an outdoor event. I have a pop-up canopy, an 8′ table, a 6′ table, card table and chairs. So, of course, I offered my setup.

Unloading was easy as I could drive my car in, unload, than go park. Setting up the canopy required help. Thankfully, the nice folks setting up next to me offered to help.

Take a look at the lake white capping in the background. The wind blew so hard that I had to put the easels away and lay my books down flat on the table.

Long story short, I was at this event for 12 hours and walked away with $76. Was it a failure? This is where my musings come in. Financially, yes it was a failure. That is not much money for the amount of hours invested.

Physically, it was a failure. I had to do the entire setup and tear down by myself (thank goodness for kind neighbors). Because the event was not over when I decided to leave, I couldn’t drive my car back in to load everything. I had to carry it all one piece at a time to the car. When I left around 8:30 last night, there was not one part of my body that didn’t ache.

BUT, in another way, it was a great success. I got to tell so many people about my stories and put my books in a few new hands.

So, how do you define failure? To me it’s all subjective.

Would I do it again? NO! Not by myself. That was the lesson I took away from it. At 67, I no longer can handle the big stuff alone. So, next time, I take someone with me or don’t go. 🙂

All-in-all, everything turned out okay. The wind finally laid and it turned into a beautiful day with lots of music and people.

The opposite of failure is success. And who knows – maybe next time I’ll sell out of books and go home with a pocketful of money!

At any rate, I LOVE this quote!

Willie

Because I couldn’t make my blog post until after last night happened, it’s late going up.

Let me explain. As most of you know, I work for a music magazine, Buddy, The Original Texas Music Magazine. Along with that comes a few perks now and then. Last night I had two free tickets to a Willie Nelson and Family show at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum, Dallas.

Myself and another Buddy staffer attended the event, at first thinking we were getting Press Passes, then finding out we only had general admission tickets. Considering the cost of those, it was still a good deal.

I had taken my book, “The Convict and the Rose” to gift to Willie. But, it became obvious, there was going to be no personal contact with him.

Why that book in particular? Because the artwork on the cover was done by Rick Sikes in the late seventies, commissioned by Willie for an album he wanted to release by the same title. But, as fate will sometimes do, around the time they were getting to release the project, IRS started looking at Willie and his attorneys advised him against having any contact with a convict. Therefore, the project was shelved.

In 2004, Rick and Willie reunited and Rick gave him all the original artwork.

Rick Sikes and Willie Nelson

Since Willie never used the artwork, when I wrote “The Convict and the Rose,” I decided to utilize it. And that is why I wanted to get the book into his hands last night.

After lots of dead ends, I reached out by text to Willie’s ex-wife, Connie. At her suggestion, I found Willie’s bus driver, known simply as Gates.

What a kind and sweet gentleman he turned out to be. When I told him Connie had told me to ask for him and he would get me what I needed he just grinned.

“So, what is it that you want to give Willie?”

I reached into my purse and pulled out the book. He took it and while I stood and watched, he went directly onto the bus and came back out empty-handed. He gave me a thumbs-up and a grin.

So, in a round-about way, a copy of “The Convict and the Rose” is now on Willie Nelson’s bus! Whether he’ll pick it up and read it is another story, but at least I accomplished what I set out to.

The show was sold-out. No surprise there. The Bomb Factory, which holds just under 5,000 people, had removed all tables and chairs and people were packed in elbow-to-elbow like sardines.

Willie played for 70 minutes. He did most of his classics and never faltered.

I am in amazement that at 84, soon to be 85, he is still going strong.

The lighting was terrible, so these pictures are very poor quality, but I was there and had a wonderful time!

Sister Bobbi, Mickey Rafael and Paul English

And the best part…Willie now has a copy of my book! It was worth the cold misting rain and aching feet to accomplish it.

Combatting Veteran Suicide One Song – One Story at a time – Dan Johnson

As a staff writer for Buddy Magazine, I get lots of Press Releases about new projects from music artists. But, when the Press Release came across my desk for this project, I knew I had to try and find a bigger platform to showcase it. To say it touched my heart is putting it mildly. I was blown away by the depth and the passion Texas songwriter, Dan Johnson, put into the Hemingway Project. Let me tell you a little about it.

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Imagine you are a soldier returning home from Afghanistan or Syria or some other war-torn country. Maybe limbs are missing, or your body is scarred in some other way. Or perhaps deep in the recesses of your mind, thoughts and emotions are twisted with guilt.

At what point do you decide you have nothing more to offer and the world has nothing left to hold you?

Now you have the theme for Hemingway.

But it gets more personal, as I discovered in a recent interview with the tall bearded unassuming Texas Songwriter, Dan Johnson.

The day before Johnson turned eleven, his father, a U.S. Navy veteran, decided he could no longer cope and he took his life.

“My dad needed someone to personally connect with him. Someone to say the words to him that even though suicide might end his pain, it will amplify it for his loved ones for the rest of their lives,” Johnson said.

The story of how The Hemingway Project was born is astounding. Without a doubt, Johnson has a calling.

“It was a very specific moment for me,” Johnson recalled. “I was doing a show at Hoot’s in Amarillo. The manager, a good friend, is a Marine who came back with really tremendous post-traumatic stress. I asked why he’d changed his Facebook profile picture to a bloody red number twenty-two. He said he was part of ‘Twenty-Two Kill,’ and explained it is an organization that tries to help reduce veteran suicides through raising awareness. Then he told me there is an average of twenty-two veteran suicides per day. That nailed me to the wall. I knew I had to do something.”

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Another layer of dimension to this project came directly from the famed author, Ernest Hemingway.

Johnson recalls that the song, “Hemingway,” came to him during a visit to the late great Ernest Hemingway’s home in Florida. Standing in the study where so many of Hemingway’s stories were born was the perfect catalyst. But, because of the grave subject matter, he didn’t do anything with the song until much later. After visiting with his friend at the club in Amarillo, he had a thought.

Johnson said, “I play around two-hundred shows every year, and I have a microphone. If I ran into this guy in a bar, something tells me there’s somebody in every single bar I’m in who has either been affected by this or is currently struggling with thoughts of suicide. It was then I decided I would sing the “Hemingway” song in the middle of every show I do and tell my dad’s story.”

I don’t know about you, but I cannot listen to this song without getting tears in my eyes. War brings nothing but tragedy and it is heart-breaking.

The rest of the ideas for the project came together at a bar in Ireland where Johnson was performing.

“I was playing in a bar in Ireland and as I always do, I sang the “Hemingway” song and told my story. After the show a man said he needed to buy me a drink. I could immediately tell he was an American. And, then he told me that I may have just saved his life.” Johnson paused and cleared his throat.

“This active duty soldier was hiding out in Ireland on leave because he could no longer stand the pain of going home. He’d done three consecutive tours of duty and killed far too many people to find any sense of normalcy. Each time he went home, he felt a greater disassociation with the people he loved. For him, it became more painful to see his family than to stay in war. He displayed all the warning signs that night. He started crying and told me how much it meant to him that I would take time in my shows to try to help people. So that was it. That’s when it all came together.”

Each of the five songs on Hemingway is deep and story-driven. Johnson brings the characters to life in each line, each lyric, each aching note.

When Johnson teamed up with Texas novelist, Travis Erwin, to create short stories to accompany each song, it took the Hemingway project into a much broader spectrum. With a writing style much like Johnson’s, Erwin weaves stories together in an intricate web of multi-dimensional characters and situations that are masterfully intertwined.

From graphic violence to exquisitely tender moments, Hemingway is a journey that touches everyone in some way. No one is spared.

Hemingway released on July 27. For more information about the project, the non-profit and Dan Johnson, visit http://www.operationhemingway.org.

Folks, I know this is a long blog, but believe me when I say I only hit the highlights. There is no short way to tell this story. I am deeply moved by the depth and passion of this project and by the phenomenal results. Dan Johnson often finds himself counseling someone who has reached that brink. And, he needs our help. There is a donation button on the OperationHemingway.Org site. It’s my birthday month, and this is the group I choose to support by asking for donations from family and friends. If you are so inclined, please join the fight.

TO DONATE, CLICK HERE!

PURCHASE THE CD/AUDIO BOOK

Thank you! And PLEASE share everywhere! Together, we can make a difference.

Follow Dan Johnson:   FACEBOOK    TWITTER

 

 

 

Autographs in the Rain

I very recently had the pleasure of interviewing the ever-enigmatic Kinky Friedman for a magazine feature. He has released an album after a forty-year hiatus, CIRCUS OF LIFE. I want to share two stories with you.

First, he talked about a phone call he got from Willie Nelson at 3 am. Kinky was in Texas and Willie in Hawaii. The conversation went like this according to Kinky.

Willie: “Hi, Kinky. What are you doing?”

Kinky: “Watching Matlock.”

Willie: “Kinky, that’s a sure sign of depression Turn it off. Turn off Matlock and get busy writing.”

And, so he did.

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On this album, I found a tribute song to Willie, “Autographs in the Rain.” Kinky stated that he’d seen this happen many times. People would be lined up for autographs and when the rain started. the fans didn’t leave and neither did Willie. And, while I couldn’t find a photo of Willie signing in the rain, I did find one of him signing a woman’s boob. 🙂

Willie_Signing_Boob

Everyone loves Willie. And the main reason for that is he has always taken time to connect with his fans. He understood that if those people didn’t pay their money and spend their time to come and see him, he wouldn’t have much of a career. And, he’s always been sincere about it. Many of today’s artists have forgotten that or they are just paranoid to get too close to their fans.

I have met Willie personally on three occasions. Once, Rick and I even had dinner with the band backstage. I was awestruck!

I love Willie Nelson. He is now 85 years young and eventually, his journey here will end. That day will break my heart. Here are a few personal photos of the graciousness of Willie Nelson.

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Willie Nelson and Rick Sikes reunited after 40 years. And Willie remembered.

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Wilie signing Rick’s 1964 Martin D-35. I still have it and it is a prized possession.

Willie Group Pic
Group picture = L-R Rick Sikes, Willie Nelson, Jan Sikes, Kay Shields Perot

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Willie taking a look at my sister, Linda Broday’s, first published book!

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Willie talking to Rick Sikes after a show. He was exhausted, but still took time to visit.

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Jan Sikes and Willie after the concert. Look at the sweat under Willie’s arm. He was exhausted and I don’t know where my smile was. I think I was just feeling his exhaustion.

And, then last, but certainly not least, I want to share a pen and ink drawing Rick did of Willie. I thought he captured the essence of Willie Nelson perfectly!

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I can’t say why I was particularly drawn to share this with you. Perhaps it was the conversation with Kinky that sparked it. The feature article will appear in the July issue of Buddy Magazine.

Jan’s TOP TEN Music CDs 2017

Jan's Top Ten NewMusic CDs for 2017

Most of you know that I am a staff writer for Buddy Magazine (The Original Texas Music Magazine). Part of my job is to review new music as it is released throughout the year. This list is the best of what I heard and is based on my opinion. I hope you’ll find something new that you haven’t heard before and that you’ll check it out.

#1

Willie_Boys_Album   Purchase Link

Just when you think Willie Nelson cannot do anything new under the sun, he does. I loved everything about this CD, from the cover to the liner notes, to the songs and production. But, what struck me the most about the project was the blending of voices and guitars that can only come from a family connection. Willie’s two sons, Lukas and Micah join him on this CD.

#2

Stars_Foster  PURCHASE LINK

This CD accompanies a compilation of short stories from Radney Foster, which made #1 on my Top Ten books for 2017. This entire project from start to finish a perfect example of what storytelling should be. I loved every song on this CD but one that stands out is “Belmont and Sixth,” about a homeless veteran.

#3

Close Ties  PURCHASE LINK

If aging has done anything for this timeless Americana troubadour, it has only enhanced his powerful songwriting prowess.  Close Ties, is beyond a doubt the most intimate as he weaves deep personal stories that expose vulnerabilities and regrets. It is quite possibly Rodney Crowell’s best work to date with wry, straight-as-an-arrow stories about his life.

#4

Lili Cover  PURCHASE LINK

There is no singular word that describes Lili Blessing’s voice…Pure, rich, subtle, smooth as silk, yet powerful and edgy are words that come close but fall short. She is like a young Norah Jones or Adele. Seamless transitions into falsetto and powerful dynamic delivery set this Indie Alternative artist apart from anything I’ve heard.

#5

Carter Bill  PURCHASE LINK

I get excited when I discover a new artist that has been around for decades making original creative music. Such is the case with Bill Carter. He writes the kind of songs other artists turn to for inspiration and their own material. For over three decades, Carter has been turning out songs that legends of rock, blues, and country have recorded. On this self-titled album, Carter’s unique style and skillful musicianship is the mark of a man who has spent a lifetime honing his craft.  Carter plays all the instruments, sings the songs and he also produced the album. Wow!! 

#6

kerrielepai1 (1)  PURCHASE LINK

Whoever said white girls couldn’t sing the blues have never heard Kerrie Lepai. With her powerhouse voice and undeniable range, she is a force to reckoned with. While Kerrie Lepai may be a new name to you, it’s one you won’t soon forget. If you love the blues and all that it embodies, along with the smoking hot guitar of Andrew Jr. Boy Jones, this album is for you.

#7

Steve_Krase  PURCHASE LINK

Houston-based blues harmonica ace, Steve Krase released his fourth album, Should’ve Seen It Coming, for Connor Ray Music. Most of this album was recorded live over two nights, at the Red Shack in Houston. The spotlight tune of the album is unequivocally “Repo Man,” written by brother David. It allows everyone to show off musically and vocally. “I won’t knock on your door/I won’t bang your wife/But I’ll take your car in the middle of the night/Cuz I’m a repo man…” The lyrics are catchy and humorous, but the arrangement is seriously incredible.

#8

Medullacover  PURCHASE LINK

This album is different in many ways, but mostly in the unique interpretation of lyrics and melodies done only the way Jerrod Medulla can. It is is fresh, sexy, sultry and diverse. It is hard to classify Jerrod’s music. It is a mix between Americana, Rock and Blues with a little Jazz thrown in.

#9

Keepsake  PURCHASE LINK

Nothing describes Mike Blakely’s vocal and songwriting style better than straightforward and genuine. Listening to his new CD, Keepsake, is like going on an easy rambling trail ride. Mike’s “no frills” music touches something deep inside. If you enjoy listening to lyrics that have meaning, tell a story or carry a message while the melody flows like a cool mountain stream, you will enjoy Keepsake.

#10

Baker_Land  PURCHASE LINK

What you’ll hear on Land of Doubt is stunning beautifully arranged strains of chords and melodies with lyrics deeper than the roots of an old oak tree. Baker is well-known for surviving a violent terrorist attack in Peru in 1986. He suffered some hearing loss in the explosion but has defeated all obstacles to emerge as a respected songwriter and performer. Land of Doubt opens with simplistic yet complex guitar chords from Will Kimbrough on “Summer Wind.” I am immediately reminded of Willie Nelson’s style of intermingling guitar licks with meaningful lyrics.

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting new artists, perhaps finding new music that touches you or simply been entertained. Thank you for taking a look at a big part of what I do in life. 

 

Blues That Make You Feel SO good!

Andrew Jr. Boy Jones is a blues artist who’s been around a long time. He started his career playing in Freddie King’s backing band, the Thunderbirds when he was 16. I recently interviewed him for the Original Texas Music Magazine, Buddy and fell in love with this humble man. He told me during the interview that “he didn’t choose the blues, the blues chose him.” And, lucky for us they did.

And to put the icing on the cake, his wife, Kerrie Lepai Jones, is the most amazing white woman blues singer on the planet!  Don’t believe me? Click HERE and see for yourself!

She put together a YouTube video that showcases “Jr. Boy” and his lengthy career. Click HERE to watch. Nobody plays blues rifts like him. He has his own unique style that he developed over the years and it sets him apart from any other blues picker around.

There is a point to this blog. Last night, in Austin, Texas, at the historic Antone’s nightclub, Andrew Jr. Boy  and Kerrie did a show. Now, I’ve lived in Texas a long time and even lived in Austin for many years, but last night was my first visit to Antone’s. Was I impressed with the club? No. BUT, the music I heard last night – the BLUES – was spectacular – made me feel oh so good!

I snapped a couple of pictures.

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I recorded a live FB video on my phone and even though the quality isn’t great, the “special” ingredient that Andrew Jr. Boy and Kerrie have shines! You can see them on my Facebook Page Here.

They both have brand new CDs. I know they’d be extremely appreciative if you’d head over to CDBaby and pick up a copy of both. I can give you a written guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

andrewjrboyjones1  CLICK HERE TO ORDER IT’S ME AGAIN

kerrielepai1  CLICK HERE TO ORDER ORGANIC BLUES

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