Just to know

manhattan flags.jpgFor many years now, I’ve had a loop of the song “City of New Orleans” finding it’s way into the front of my memory. The fact that it’s resurfaced for so many years now tells me that it has found a home in my subconscious and just raises its hand from time to time as some type of release or reflection for my soul. I hear Willie Nelsons version for which I am thankful for. I like Emmylou Harris’ comment one time that if America had a voice it would be Willie’s. “Good Morning America, how are ya?, don’t ya know me, I’m your native son!”

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In these days where it’s easier than ever to find heartaches, sadness, division and every other adjective that makes us feel like the good fibers of our world are frayed and thinning, the opening line to City of New Orleans feels like an internal barometer for me. I hear that line as the eternal optimist reaching out with his open heart saying ” hey everyone, what’s going on, you doing ok?” . I also hear him saying, “me too, I know it’s tough. But we really are in this crazy thing together”. There is a common road and everyone is traveling by his own light, culture and accumulated experiences. I think we need to remember our commonalities, those threads that hold us together. Love is an eternal language and it slides in and out of music, art, 4 legged creatures. Yes 3 legged too. The winged ones, the trees, the landscapes all speak in their own ways to us. Bringing us a sense of belonging, balance and peace.

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The natural world will bring us more truth than CNN or Fox, believe me ! There are the eternal truths, the one the Creator passes along through everything that he made. And there is the nonsense that the news brings us. Headlines of fact, but that’s where it all ends and where the big spin begins. The spin of misdirection, confusion and doubt reigns supreme.

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I wish you peace my friends. I wish for you a balance based in the deeper truths of the universe. Not to sounds crazy full of double talk and new age yak yak. This is simple stuff. Look to what the Creator made. Find the good stuff in your loved ones. Watch their smiles and how they love each other. Listen to the trees and the birds. Know you are loved. Know you matter.

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Know we all hold the same doubts. Know you are not alone.

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I hope the reminder to you and me that we all share the same stuff is comforting to your spirit. If you are hurting, know the continuum of life keeps going. The new reality will present it’s own gifts. Know our hearts beat and grieve with you. For we are all a thin veil from each other. Aloha, Peace, Blessing, Aho, and any other kind cultural gesture you wanna pass along, I’ll take it !

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Joshua Tree, California

Flags, Brooklyn NY

Glenn Simmons and Josey, Nashville TN

Paden Simmons and Dylan Simmons, Amtrak Train NY state

Tamra Simmons Nashville TN

Cross, Pensacola Beach

 

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Happy 80th Birthday Willie !!!

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Do you ever wonder what makes Willie Nelson keep working the road? First of all, I don’t think there is any reason anyone should quit what they do just because of age. If you can still pull it off and people want you to do it, then keep on going! I like Willie’s quote “All I do is play music and play golf, which one do you want me to quit?”.
I’ve heard the media say “what does he have left to prove?” “why would he want to stay out there on the road?”. I’d say — you know nothing about Willie Nelson.

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After penning 60’s country classics like “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Hello Walls”, “Nightlife”, and the most played jukebox song of all time “Crazy”, the world finally, in the mid 1970’s, began to hear what Nashville people had heard for years; the genius of Willie Nelson as an artist. 1975 brought us “Red Headed Stranger”, which in the early 1990’s, Paul Simon said he still listens to once a week, and the smash “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”. Someone in Willie’s road crew once said “We went out for a 6 week run and never came back”. 38 years later Willie is still on the road. Small clubs in no name towns to the most exclusive concert halls of the world, it doesn’t matter to him. His 1978 release “Stardust” stayed on Billboards top 100 albums for over 10 years!! While the numbers are amazing its the spirit that rings true.

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So back to the earlier questions. After millions of records sold, every major award in the world on his mantle, money in the bank, even after his little tangle with the IRS, why does he keep doing it? I’d venture to say it has always been about the connection to people. He may use the word “Fan”, but I don’t think he sees his listeners that way. I think he needs us as much as we need him. It’s an exchange of energy, of life’s blood, if you will.

The Willie Nelson concert isn’t only about “Whiskey River” and “On The Road Again”, it is also about a spiritual exchange. An exchange of love and karma. It’s a ministry, you might say,one of truth, openness and love for everyone, no one is excluded, no one! It’s just what Willie does and we are the healthier for it.

Maybe in the end it’s closer to the line from the movie “Songwriter”, “I did it for the love but I wasn’t above the money !!! Happy Birthday to a world treasure !

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Acummulation or Appreciation

The year is 1980, I am living with my Grandparents on “M” st in Pensacola. Anyone that has ever lived with their Grandparents at 20 years old certainly understands the need for privacy. The front room was mine and my records were my best and closest friends. I spent so many late night hours listening and re listening to my favorite records of the time. I knew them inside and out, every song and every yell from the crowd on a “live” record. At the time I was working in a record store called the “Record Bar”. It was the musical education of a lifetime. My late nights took me through the likes of  Michael Franks, Bob Marley, Miles Davis, Willie Nelson and Tom Petty ! I played those records over and over. But the point is that I was sitting still when I was listening. Listening is what I was doing, not something else with music in the background. Big difference.

My friendd Walt Wlikins told me one time he and his wife would lay on their bed late at night, lights out and listened to Jackson Browne records. Just being in the moment.

Last night my wife and I sat on our couch for 2 hours, lights off and candles on, listening to our music. We didn’t hop up to change a song and we didn’t talk much. We listened. Every turn of the phrase, every beautiful bass inflection, every piano note. Perhaps music is meant to be listened to in the way we would watch a movie. The music is the entertainment, the focus, not something to have on when we are doing other things. Not that we can’t use it for that but the true and richest experience comes from the slow down, from the total immersion of yourself into each bar of music. Let it wash over you, it is wonderful.

It was one of the best nights we’ve had together in a long time. Just she and I, our music, mine and hers, memories, and the beauty of spending time together with an art form we love so much.

Maybe we have accumulated so much music and that added to our multi tasking lives really makes it harder to enjoy what we have. Last night we listened to twenty or thirty of our favorites out of the ten thousand songs on my ipod. but we listened quietly and found an even deeper connection with each other and the music we were sharing. For me the accumulation came at a price of appreciation, but the small movement of the scales last night was worth every drop. We can’t do this all the time but if and when you can with someone or by yourself I urge you to do so. It can be a very spiritual experience. Happy Listening !

Oh Sweet Texas

Most people that know me, know that Pensacola Florida is where I was born and is home. Although I have been forcefully displaced a few times in my younger years, I am a Floridian, pure and simple.

I have a friend and native Texas son, who when we were talking about heritage, he listed his blood lines among others as Scots, Cherokee and Texan. I got a kick out of that! I know how much he loves his home state and that his connection runs deep in his spirit. It’s almost how he breathes, inhaling her beauty and soul, and then exhaling sweetly that beauty and soul, into songs and stories.

Here is a pic of Austin native Walt Wilkins and Sherman native, Jim T Graham.

I have spent time in the Lone Star State and must say I feel like an adopted son.  I think the flip flop wearing, Country-Soul of Austin, despite Las Manitas  no longer serving up its Megas and coffee, would be a good fit for me if I ever had to flee.

Cunningham native and Tamra’s Aunt Neva

Itasca’s favorite Son, Sam Baker and I at Kellers Store in Mason Texas somewhere around 2005.

Tamra with our friend and the eternal Mayor of New Art Texas, Bill Worrell

They have an old saying in the Lone Star State,  that goes like this ” I wasn’t born here but I got here as quick as I could”.

The above picture is Tamra’s Bagota native Father Doyle Howell. Below is the always and forever cowgirl from Euless Texas, Tamra Simmons

and just a few years later…Bucko the horse is also from Texas but not the motorcycle !!

So fly your home state flag, wear her in your heart, sing her songs and remember her as fondly as you might your first love ! And if you ever get a chance to slip on down Texas way, she is waiting, arms open and eyes a shinning !

Shine A Light: Your personal musical journey

I think music is like wine; the older it is the better it gets. The key is that those artists or songs have been with you on your own personal journey. That have been the sweet, wonderful fabrics that have woven you world together. Sometimes the transport to those times is even better if you haven’t heard the artist in a while.

I know every time I hear Willie Nelson it takes me to a place of peace and comfort. Willie has been part of my fabric since 1978. Been there through births, deaths and divorce. Sunny days, Winter and Summer. The point isn’t that Willie is the greatest artist, it’s just that I’ve listened to his music for so long, that it makes a connection way down deep in your soul. Yours may be Miles Davis or the Bee Gees, I don’t know.

Days of growing up on the Gulf Coast with Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley music,  those sounds feel like I am at home no matter where on this planet I am. Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl”, transcends me to 1982, where I was immersed in a world of sun, beach, and fun that defies description here.

It also brings back memories of my cousin Randy and I sliding a tape of “Hard Promises” in a rental car deck and just driving along the coast for hours.

We all have our musical journey. I hope you are in touch with yours. It’s a really cool thing, to let it wash over you.

The connection is sweet and it gets richer all the time. What’s the music that does that for you? Think back on the stuff that makes you stand still and smile when you hear it.

Shine A Light: Chet Atkins

Writer, picker extraordinaire, finder of talent and record producer ! Not bad for an ole boy from Luttrell, Tennessee.

I first remember seeing Chet’s name on Waylon Jennings records. Little did I know, Chet was already a master and a legend by that time, and had become a record mogul !

Chet Atkins was responsible for bringing Waylon Jennings out of Phoenix, and he kept recording Willie Nelson again and again, despite the fact that they couldn’t sell any records on him. Well, things turned out pretty good for both Waylon and Willie.

Atkins history goes way back from Homer and Jethro, to the Carter Family, and Eddy Arnold. Surprisingly enough in a weird twist, Elvis Presley’s rise gave way for Atkins. Steve Sholes began working with Presley and Sholes have Atkins control of Nashville RCA. With the popularity of Presley and Rock and Roll, they began stripping steel and fiddle from Country records. That gave birth to the smooth, clean style that was known as the Nashville Sound.

So go check out Chet Atkins. If Mark Knopfler calls him the greatest guitar player, then there must be something to it.

Shine A Light: Leon Russell

I was watching the re broadcast of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. Elton John was inducting Leon Russell, and it  was a great, sincere and most honest induction. Elton reminded us of Leon’s phenomenal session career. I will give you a brief glimpse, because if I list all of the artists’ records he played on, I might lose you. Here ya go, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Everly Brothers, Del Shannon, Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the night”, that was Leon. Oh yeah, The Byrd’s “Mr. Tambourine”, that was Leon. Every single Beach Boys record, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Herb Alpert, George Harrison and B.B. King. His timeless song “A Song For You” has been cut over 4o times and was a hit for Willie Nelson in the movie, “Honeysuckle Rose”. Leon was in Phil Spector’s house band, and that meant he played on every song that Spector did. Look up Phil Spectors career if you aren’t familiar. That alone will blow you away.

Leon is one my cousin Cyndi’s favorite. I love her and her love for Leon turned me on to his music a long long time ago.

You’ll remember Leon’s hits as an artist as well. “Tightrope”, “A Song For You”,”Delta Lady”, “This Masquerade” and my favorite “Lady Blue”. It’s good energy for Elton to call Leon and do a record with him last year called “The Union”. Mighty fine group of songs on there. But more, I think it did wonders for Leon’s spirit and hopefully put some much deserved money and attention on this great artist. Go check him out. Buy his music. He is just a click away!!