Summer Drinking: The Food Center Liquor Store, Brookline, MA

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“Time is a jet plane it moves so fast” – Bob Dylan, “You’re A Big Girl Now”

I was texting with my drummer friend yesterday. He’d read my review of the RHCP’s new song, “Dark Necessities” and had reached out. Like me, he’s a huge fan of bands with strong rhythm sections like the Who, Rush, Rock Garden and of course, the RHCPs. Give me that bottom. He was complaining about the overly-produced sound of the drums. I have to admit that Danger Mouse put so much polish on the record I can almost see my reflection in it, but I still love the song. It’s in high rotation here at the house. He then mentioned his band had a gig that night, and said, “It’s almost like summer, man!”

Ah, summer. It always makes me think of Boston and the Food Center Liquor Store, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s nothing better than summer drinking. And while I have to consume some bourbon today (I’m working on a “deconstructed” mint julep, straight bourbon from the bottle with a peppermint in my mouth) for the Kentucky Derby, the world’s greatest sporting event, when summer comes it’ll be time to put away the dark liquors and heavy beers. Time to dust off the vodka lemonades and the Blue Moon. I would suggest buying stock in Ketel One immediately, they’re about to have a sales surge. When summer comes to the Midwest the entire region opens like a flower.

This time of year always takes me back. It’s not only summer’s arrival, but the fact that it’s graduation season takes me back to my own college graduation.  At the time, I took all the money I’d been gifted for graduating and bought a ticket to fly to Boston to join my buddies Matthew and GP who were both living out there. Matthew was in Law School and GP was peddling soft drinks. I had somehow convinced GP to move out there with me…I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet. My corporate overlords didn’t need me until September, so I thought, “What the Hell, why not?” Once I arrived in Boston and got myself ensconced at the apartment the three of us shared on Commonwealth Avenue, I immediately spent the rest of my Graduation Money at the used record store two blocks up from us, “In Your Ear.” I found all the Faces records on vinyl I’d been searching for in that used record store and I can close my eyes and still see myself standing there, mouth agape at my “huge” discovery. Unfortunately spending all my money on used albums wasn’t going to sustain me for the summer in super-expensive Boston.

Matthew and I went to the local grocery store on the outskirts of Brookline, the birthplace of JFK, and after watching Matthew fail while hitting on the beautiful, Hispanic store clerk, I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign on the window of the liquor store adjacent. My reduced circumstances made me bold and I strolled in and inquired after the opening. I was told the job was in the “other store,” two miles away, in the main village square of Brookline.

The next day, I set off on my adventure to find the Brookline Food Center Liquor Store. I walked for what seemed like forever until I finally spotted it, situated on a main street, next to a police station which I regarded with suspicion at the time. I strolled in and a man with sunglasses on (while inside) and a 70’s porno-star mustache was behind the register. I introduced myself and asked about the job. Being from Kansas, I had always thought I had no accent at all. Apparently to this hardened, Boston liquor store owner I sounded like I’d just wandered in off the plantation in Mississippi. He probably couldn’t delineate between Mississippi or Missouri as I was to find out later… He smiled at me and immediately started on my accent… “You ain’t from around here are you (it sounded like “ah yoo”)? You from down South somewhere?” I told him I was from Kansas and that was suddenly my name, “Kansas.” I asked again for the job and he replied “Uh, Ok Kansas, you uh, wanted for anything criminal? I got cop friends, I’ll know so don’t fucking lie to me.”His Boston accent was so thick I struggled to understand him. It took a while to adjust (he kept saying Food Center as Food Centah). It was an odd interview question. I replied that I had no record and I wasn’t wanted for anything criminal… well, nothing that would stick. “Ok Kansas, welcome to the Food Centah, you start (staht) tomorrow, be here at 3pm.” I had a job!

The next day, and really for the rest of the summer, it was my job to show up at the liquor store and a) stock the beer fridge and b) take the Massachusettes 5 cent beer can returns. The man with the mustache who was named Doug but referred to himself as “Uncle Chico” explained it to me my first day. He took me out of the cooler to the front of the beer display. We stood a few feet back and he said, “Kansas, look at that, do you see any gaps in the beer coolah?” There were none. “Thats how I wanna see my coolah from now on, no gaps.” I was literally responsible for walking into the cooler and pushing six packs forward so people could easily reach them. Every now and again, I’d get busy with beer can returns and I’d hear, in that thick Boston accent, “Kansas, Kansas?” and I’d run out to the store floor from the back cubby hole where we took returns and he would always say, when he was upset about the beer cooler, “Do you love Uncle Chico? Do you love Uncle Chico?” There was only one reply, I’d mumble “Yes, I love Uncle Chico…” “Then, uh, Kansas, will you do the fucking beer coolah, I see gaps.”

There were a group of guys that I worked with, salt of the earth guys, Kenny, Wardy, and Matt. The guy who was the night manager was named Murph. One was an artist, one was going to be a cop and one of the others was always looking for a construction job. People always speak of folks from the East being cold or stand-offish but those guys embraced me almost immediately. I have to admit they asked me if I grew up on a farm, I was from Kansas after all. I had to explain I didn’t grow up with a cow in my yard. I used to tell them the only thing different between Kansas and Boston was that in Kansas everything was in black and white and here in Boston everything was in color. They liked the Wizard of Oz comedy…

These guys went out drinking every night. The liquor store closed at 11pm and everyone on the shift was allowed to drink one beer of their choice. It was where I really developed a taste for good beer – not this American piss that passes for beer here – but good, exotic beers from far away places. That one beer after shift usually led us to the bar across the street. After the first couple of nights drinking with these guys, on a Tuesday night, I demurred when Matt asked me where we were gonna get beers later. He looked stunned when I said I was just gonna walk home. “Kansas, what the fuck are (ah) you talking about? It’s summah (summer)… you drink… you know, with your friends.” It was wisdom I carry with me to today. It’s what I always think of when I think of summer drinking. I was embarrassed I’d been so stupid and said “no” and at the same time I was honored that these guys had already accepted me as a friend. Although, I must confess they continued to ask me if Kansas was in the South… apparently I had an accent I was unaware of and they don’t teach geography in the Boston schools.

Now, here I am, all these years later and I’m on the cusp of summer. Another summer has snuck up on me. I’m not sure where all the time went… It slips away, people. Dylan was right, “time is a jet plane.” I’m happy, with a great family and my job now doesn’t entail pushing six-packs forward to the sound of “do you love Uncle Chico?” Although I have to admit, pushing six-packs forward was a lot more fun and it didn’t keep me up at night…

I always try to remember the wisdom of the Food Centah…. And, I hope you all will remember this wisdom folks – “It’s summah (summer), you drink beer, you know, with your friends.”

Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from B&V

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There are holidays sprinkled throughout the year on the calendar. Some were created by Hallmark Cards, i.e. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and the grandmother of them all, Valentine’s Day. There are government mandated holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day and Arbor Day. Yes, Arbor Day, trees need some love, people. There’s even one holiday I actually like – Thanksgiving –  all I have to do is show up, drink and eat and watch football while napping after dinner, it’s almost perfect. Of course, there are religious holiday’s like Easter, Christmas, and Hanukkah just to name a few. For me, there is only one religious holiday I still observe and that is St. Patrick’s Day. Is there any other holiday that could better represent the ethos of BourbonAndVinyl than St. Patrick’s Day? I think not. St. Patrick’s Day is the BourbonAndVinyl “High Holy Day”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me. Italian, Austrian, Belgian, English, and who knows what else. I could be part collie, although I’m much taller than the average collie and not nearly as hairy. I’m the classic American mutt. But I love St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone is in green, everyone is drinking and everyone is just a little bit more friendly.

Perhaps it’s the timing of St. Patrick’s Day, in the spring, just after the Ides of March that I love so much. The weather is often sketchy but for the most part spring has begun to sprung and that rebel spirit of my youth is reawakened. My home town has purportedly the third biggest parade or the third biggest “celebration” (depending how you define that) in the U.S. There’s something cool about being the “third” best or biggest. Neil Young and Crazy Horse toured in the late 80’s billing themselves as the “Third Best Garage Band In the World”. They claimed that being first brings a lot of pressure: to remain on top, to remain #1. To be Second Best brings a lot of pressure to overtake the First Place guy. If you’re Third, you’re just cool and you know it. I can live with that title for my hometown.

In the old days, we’d go downtown to Westport and have breakfast at Kelly’s, the city’s oldest bar. From there we’d hit the parade, full of floats, some from old, historic Irish clans, others from local charitable groups and quite a few marching bands. As soon as that was over it was back to Westport. All the streets are blocked off, the cops form a perimeter, and drinking in the streets, where God intended it to be done, is legal for a day. We’d rage until the sun went down and beyond, eating from food trucks and staggering about women with “Fuck Me I’m Irish” buttons on. Ah, the wearing of the green. It’s a spring tradition in my town. Alas, now I work all day and if I’m lucky slip out to a local Irish pub for  one or two and then back home before dinner. But I always try to make it out however briefly to commemorate The Day.

In my early professional days, I’d always meet my buddy, the General, no matter what was happening and we’d head to Westport for St Patrick’s Day. We would occasionally slip down there early, but as the years wore on, we’d get down to the celebration later and later. We made a tradition of saying, “To hell with work and responsibilities, on this one day, we ride!!” The years seemed to strip away and we were college kids on spring break for eight or nine hours. Alas, my pal the General has disappeared into the fog of work and parenthood. I don’t get to see the General much these days. I keep telling him he’s in a tunnel and he will come out, but I digress. And my own situation has changed considerably. The Rock Chick loves St Patrick’s Day too, but I always feel overly protective of her while were out on St Patty’s. Work responsibilities have often shackled me to the desk just the same as it does the General.

Early in my career, I was interviewing internally for a job. The guy I was interviewing with decided to fly in on St Patrick’s Day. We were to meet at 10 am. Because the parade ran past our office he wasn’t able to even get through the parade traffic to the office until noon, my scheduled departure time. I can still remember sitting in a corner office, in what was an intense interview, while constantly glancing over the executive’s shoulder to the parade and my drunken friends who were waving at me below. “Why yes, I can be very responsible in a management position sir, uh, how long is this gonna take, I have a drunken, green train to catch?” He was a religious man so I had to tread lightly.

A few years ago, I drunkenly got on stage at an Irish pub up North and told my favorite St Patrick’s Day joke…which goes something like this… A proud Irishman in a kilt was walking home to his farmhouse after a wedding in town. He was terribly drunk and laid down by a tree and passed out. Around dawn a pair of milkmaids were walking by and spied our intrepid Irishman asleep. Shyly they approached the Irishman, and curious, peeked to see what was under his kilt. One of the milkmaids pulled the blue ribbon from her hair and tied it around his…manhood. They giggled together as they walked away. About an hour later the Irishman woke and feeling something was amiss “below”, pulled up the kilt. Spying the blue ribbon, he said, “I don’t know where you been lad, but I see you won first prize.” I think that sums it up.

While I’m not crazy about all Irish music I shall spend tonight listening to Van Morrison and U2, loudly! My day tomorrow won’t be complete if I can’t open my windows and hear a bagpipe or two off in the distance. Who doesn’t love bagpipe music?

I want to wish everybody out there in Ireland, the Irish diaspora and those of us who are merely Irish in spirit for a day – Happy St Patrick’s Day from BourbonAndVinyl!! Enjoy it people. Get out there and enjoy the spring weather (if it cooperates). Raise a Jameson or two! Put on something bright and obnoxiously green. Skip work and do something naughty! Head down to the tavern and “talk a little treason” as they say in my favorite John Wayne movie, ‘A Quiet Man’. Me, I’ve got work and responsibilities, so you all have to carry the torch for me… although I must admit I received a text from my old pal the General, my first in a while, asking what I was doing for the holiday… Hmmm, that rebel spirit just may be calling me. St Patrick’s Day, like Hope “springs eternal”…

Cheers! Slainte and Erin Go Bragh!

BourbonAndVinyl’s List of Overlooked Bands Whose Members Went On To Stardom

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“Got a call from an old friend, we used to be real close…” – “My Life”, Billy Joel

Well, it wasn’t actually a call, but I got an email from a high school friend of mine recently. I don’t think I’d seen or been in contact with the guy since they laid the diploma on me, many years ago. High school was something I wanted squarely in my rear view mirror. But I always liked BG and was delighted to revisit our friendship, virtually speaking. As part of our conversation, inspired by B&V he mentioned he was a fan of the 60’s English blues-rock band Free. Other than “All Right Now” I didn’t know much of their music. I did know two of the members of Free, lead vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke went on to form Bad Company. I have since picked up a couple of Free’s albums and I must admit, I’m damned impressed, but that’s another post in the making.

As I thought about Free vs Bad Company, I started thinking about some of those great bands, like Free, that were to some degree overlooked. Sure, everybody hears about the “Supergroup” when it forms – Cream was considered a super group at the time it formed, or Manassas when Steven Stills formed them. The Traveling Wilbury’s may have been the super-est of the Supergroups. Even today we have Chickenfoot, a Supergroup made up of Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and RHCP drummer Chad Smith. Famous musicians come together all the time to form new bands.

But what about those bands who formed, didn’t hit it big and then split up and one or several of the members went on to stardom or superstardom. How bad would you feel if your lead singer went onto platinum success but you couldn’t make it work. It all gets back to chemistry. There is something magical when the right three, four or more guys get into a room and make music together. You wonder why some of these bands stay together when they can’t stand each other – they know their chemistry is magic. Don Henley couldn’t make the same kind of music without Glenn Frey and vice versa. There is something that David Lee Roth brings out in Eddie Van Halen’s guitar that no other lead singer has been able to. I quote Joe Strummer’s comment, “never underestimate the chemistry of the right four musicians in a room” (or something like that) all of the time. When I started thinking of some of these early “near-miss” bands I realized that there were more of them than I realized. I guess you could say about these bands, the whole was less than the sum of its parts. I guess the chemistry just wasn’t there. In most cases, I would suggest that these bands deserve another look, or perhaps another listen would be more appropriate. In each of these cases, one or several members went onto “greatness”.

This list is in no particular order:

  1. Free – I figured I’d start here since we already mentioned them. I think these guys were bigger in England than in the US. They were an influence on Zeppelin (who quote their song “The Hunter” on their first album) and The Faces who covered several of their songs live on stage. Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke went on to form the hugely successful Bad Company, but I love Free, it’s harder, bluesier music.
  2. Montrose – Sammy Hagar’s first band. They cut two fantastic albums, “Montrose” and “Paper Money” before Hagar went on to solo success. The records produced several hits, including the incendiary classic “Bad Motor Scooter” but Montrose never caught on the way Hagar was able to on his own.
  3. The Jeff Beck Group – as you probably suspect here, I’m talking about the original version of this band with Rod Stewart on vocals and Ronnie Wood on bass guitar. Beck treated the rest of the band as side men and they never came off the road long enough to write enough original material. Beck fired Wood and Rod left right behind him. Obviously Woody went on to join the Faces and then the Rolling Stones and Stewart went on to individual superstardom. The Jeff Beck Group was due to play Woodstock, which would probably have been a game-changer but Beck who was fond of fast cars, got into a car wreck and they had to cancel. Damn shame, as I think Jeff Beck is one of the greatest guitarists ever. The two albums these guys cut, “Truth” and “Beckola” remain huge influences on blues rock to this day.
  4. Generation X – formed in the heyday of Punk Rock, Generation X recorded two albums and were in the process of recording a third album when they broke up. Their lead singer was none other than Billy Idol. They even did an early version of “Dancing With Myself”. During the recording sessions for the third record, they split citing “creative differences”. Some in the band wanted to stay true to their punk roots, and some wanted to expand their sound.
  5. The Runaways – Now, this girl group may or may not have been famous. I can only tell you that the Runaways never got any radio play in my home town. Movies have been made about the craziness around this band. After they finally broke up The Runaways spawned the solo careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford.
  6. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Mayall’s Bluesbreakers have gotten a lot of attention over the years, and they did record the seminal “With Eric Clapton” album, which is still in high rotation here at B&V. I think of Mayall’s band as an English Prep School for Rock Stars. Who didn’t serve a stint in the Bluesbreakers – Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Ginger Bruce, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie. Every one of those folks went on to much bigger careers after leaving.
  7. The James Gang – Joe Walsh’s first group. After a promising debut, the other guys wanted more creative input and they wanted to veer away from the guitar, riff-driven songs that made their name. Everybody wants to be the front man, sigh. They veered back to the guitar rock that made them famous on “James Gang Rides Again” which is a classic, but the writing was on the wall. Joe took off and formed Barnstorm. After a string of solo hits including “Rocky Mountain Way” he joined the Eagles.
  8. Mother Love Bone – these guys were on the verge of stardom when their lead singer, Andrew Wood sadly overdosed. I love the stuff they’ve released. Who knows where they would have gone. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament ended up reforming a band around Mike McCready’s lead guitar. At the suggestion of Jack Irons of the RHCP’s, they auditioned a guy from San Diego named Eddie… I think it was Vedder… Pearl Jam became one of the biggest bands in the world.
  9. The Faces – the second band where Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (now on lead guitar) left to go on to bigger solo success. Actually Rod had a dual solo career at the same time he was serving as lead singer in the Faces. It apparently confused early-70s rock fans… Are the Faces his back up band? His solo career took off after “Maggie May” and the Faces died in the shadow of that success. Ronnie went on to the Stones, and drummer Kenny Jones went on to join the Who. Oh, and Rod did pretty well on his own too. The Faces absolutely deserve a second listen, but anybody whose read these posts before know I’m biased…
  10. Them – Van Morrison’s first group. They changed their line up so many times by the end it was just Van and whoever was available to come to the studio. I think Jimmy Page even played on a few Them singles. Van was probably destined to be a solo artist as he is rather mercurial, but Them had some great songs including “Gloria” and “Baby Please Don’t Go”.
  11. Buckingham-Nicks – Fleetwood Mac, at a loss after another guitarist had quit, were given the “Buckingham-Nicks” album as an audition of sorts for producer Greg Olson. They hired the producer and both Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. I always loved Lindsey and Stevie’s chemistry. I still do. This album is a lost gem.
  12. Buffalo Springfield – this band did better than most of the folks on this list. But with Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Bruce Palmer all in the band, who knows what they could have accomplished if they could have just gotten along. They didn’t want Neil to sing because, well for obvious reasons, and Stills kept wanting to play the lead guitar parts, which were supposed to be Neil’s. Too many cooks spoiled the broth.
  13. Uncle Tupelo – Both Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy who went on to form Son Volt and Wilco respectively were in Uncle Tupelo. I was never that big into alt country but Jay and Jeff apparently couldn’t get along. Everything I’ve read would suggest Jay Farrar is a control-freak but there are always two sides of the story. Son Volt had early success but Wilco is the band that has really stood the test of time.
  14. Whiskeytown – Ryan Adams’ first band. They were always a little sloppy but I like Whiskeytown. They’re another alt country band that I’ve seemed to get into as I get older. “Stranger’s Almanac” and “Pneumonia” were great records. Ryan went on to quite a solo career after “Heartbreaker” came out. Of course now that he’s cutting Taylor Swift cover albums, he’s dead to me.
  15. The Spencer Davis Group – for a band with Steve Winwood in it, these guys only had about three or four actual hits. After three years Winwood finally split to form Traffic, another personal favorite. The Spencer Davis Group even boasted bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson later of Elton John’s band. With all that talent you’d expect a little more here.

Honorable Mention:

  1. Mudcrutch – Tom Petty and Mike Campbell’s first band. After they split Petty went on to form the Heartbreakers. Mudcrutch didn’t record more than a handful of singles, including an early version of “Don’t Do Me Like That” but they just didn’t take off. Petty and Campbell along with Benmont Tench revisited Mudcrutch a few years back and recorded a great album. Rumors have it their follow-up record is in the works for this year release.
  2. Band of Joy – Another band that only had a handful of singles, released on their lead singer’s retrospective, “Highway 61 to Timbuktu”, none other than Robert Plant. They also boasted a drummer by the name of John Bonham…. I wonder whatever happened to those guys?

If you like some of the artists mentioned in this post, perhaps you might want to check out their “back pages” as the saying goes. I really like most of the bands on this list. It’s great to check out some of these artists in their more formative period. I encourage everyone to do the same. Let me know if I missed any bands that should be on this list.

Turn it up loud, enjoy and as always, Cheers!

Playlist For My Friend’s Kerouac Retirement Drive

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There was a time when I was younger, when I felt like my life was going to be extraordinary. My life was going to be special, “outside the norm”. I wanted to be a rock star, but I neglected to learn an instrument, oh well. Some might say the fact that I waited so long to settle down, or the casual, gypsy-esque approach I took to life and career could be considered out of the ordinary, but in the end I’m just a working stiff punching a time clock. Some of the execs in places I’ve worked over the years behave like old-school French monarchs in advanced stages of dementia – inept and/or insane, think Louis the X, The Quarreler. I hear a lot of screaming at work. As I get older, I feel less and less extraordinary. This of course may have something to do with my good fortune to be friends with so many extraordinary individuals. My friends are an amazing collection of people – millionaires, consultants, lobbyists, architects, painters, musicians, Harley-enthusiasts, accounting partners, oil industry folks, astrophysicists, hummus enthusiasts, ex-basketball players, drummers… the list goes on. I am blessed with these friendships and I cherish them, but it certainly makes it hard to consider myself even “above-average”. These guys really set the bar high. The only thing I can point to as extraordinary in my life is my wife. I married extremely well. Thank God for the Rock Chick, she makes it all worth while.

One of the foremost of these friends of mine is my old pal GP. I usually don’t take requests here at BourbonAndVinyl, but just this once I had to make an exception when GP asked me for a playlist. I met GP (names obscured to protect the guilty), whose nicknames include Stinger, Pringle and The Mayor of Eldorado, my first week of college when we were both 18. He was one of my first room mates. I can still remember Matthew and I in the front seat of Matthew’s car driving to a freshman “mixer” with Stinger and another kid from Western Kansas in the back seat blaring Van Halen’s “Panama” with the windows down. Stinger’s face was a mask but the other kid looked terrified. I don’t think either of them were prepared for our David Lee Roth impersonations. The drunken evening ended up with Stinger holding me over his head and spinning me around like he was King Kong and I was a city bus. It was an odd beginning but it was the start of a wonderful friendship.

Stinger went on to be the “Campus Rep” for a big name beer company. During my intermittent stints of living with him, he’d drag me along to some beer event. I vaguely recall going over to Junction City to work a “Ladies Night – Male Stripper” event. My pay for the evening was all the beer I could drink, which is sadly how my current corporate overlords pay me. I did that a lot for Stinger, work for beer. We got to Junction City and these women were ready to party. The male stripper dudes were pretty lame and it didn’t take long for this rowdy crowd of drunken women to turn and start chanting, “we want the  beer guys”. Naturally Stinger ended up standing in the back of the room and I ended up on stage. The last thing I coherently remember is being ushered to the stage to the sound of Tina Turner singing “What’s Love Got To Do With It” in front of the unruly rabble of women who were out for blood. Well, at least they were out for some flesh. I seem to remember doing my “overbite, run in place” dance move while twitchily taking my shirt off. I barely escaped alive. I can say that I woke up with a few bucks in my underwear but that’s about all I can tell you about that night.

After college Stinger and I ended up in Boston for a summer working for some crazed character in a liquor store. Pretty soon I headed into exile in Arkansas and Stinger went to work for a big beer company. My father always said, “Son, marry a rich woman whose daddy owns a liquor store.” Stinger outdid us all on that scale. He rose through the ranks of the beer company like a rocket. Not only was he successful in work, I’ve always considered him successful in life because of the amazing amount of charity work he did and continues to do to this day. Eventually Stinger went to work selling the dark and murky brown fluid that gives this blog part of it’s name. And then, out of the blue, at a very young age, in my opinion, he announced he was retiring. Well, not exactly retiring, but stepping away from the rat race for a bit. He’ll focus on his vast real estate empire and his charity work and get a little rest. I’m sure he’ll end up working for somebody soon enough, he’s too industrious. But in the interim, and this is where I get jealous, he’s going on a Jack Kerouac excursion. He’s loading up the car with a camera, a small bag of luggage, some bourbon and an atlas. I trust he’ll be driving from sea to shining sea, as it were. I’ve always wanted to do that. I told the wife after a recent medical procedure, before the anesthesia wore off, we were selling everything, buying a Porsche and hitting the open road. It never quite materialized. But I can always imagine driving from the swamplands of the deep South, through the plains and climbing into the mountains while Kerouac’s jazz influenced cadence runs through my head. But alas, I gotta go to work Monday.

As part of his retirement announcement he said, “Ken, this might be a BourbonAndVinyl story”. Now, I don’t usually do requests, but he called me out in a rather public way. I felt compelled to put together a playlist to celebrate his freedom in retirement. And, let’s face it, there is no freedom like the open road. The Rock Chick is better at play lists than I am, but I put together about 2 hours of music to get Stinger down the road a piece, as the saying goes. Now putting together a list like this is tough with Stinger. He’s not a screaming rock guy, I still remember the look on his face when he was trapped in Matthew’s Subaru when we met. I seem to remember he has a fondness for country music, which I despise outside of Johnny Cash. His two suggestions were “Dust In the Wind” and “Long May You Run”, not exactly “Highway to Hell”. I mixed the well-known with the obscure, the rockers with the mellow tunes… exactly what the Rock Chick advised me not to do… but what the hell. Here’s to my buddy Stinger… and you know with friends like him, and all the friends I’ve got, maybe just maybe, I am kind of extraordinary.

  1. Long May You Run – Stills-Young Band, by request
  2. Dust In the Wind – Kansas, by request
  3. Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers, “rollin’ down high 41…”
  4. Roll Me Away – Bob Seger, “I took a look down a westbound road, right away I made my choice…” My pal Dennis loves this song.
  5. Rockin’ Down the Highway – The Doobie Brothers
  6. Take It Easy – The Eagles, “don’t let the sound of your wheels drive you crazy…” RIP Glenn Frey
  7. Truckin’ – The Grateful Dead
  8. Running On Empty – Jackson Browne, it starts slow but it’s a great road tune
  9. Call Me the Breeze – Lynyrd Skynyrd, J.J Cale wrote this tune, a classic road tune
  10. Six Days On the Road – Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s side project, if you haven’t checked out this album, do yourself a favor and do so
  11. Helen Wheels – Paul McCartney, “hell on wheels”
  12. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen, If you know anything about BourbonAndVinyl, you know this had to be on here
  13. Road To Nowhere – Talking Heads, I hope Stinger wakes up every morning and thinks, where to now
  14. Roadhouse Blues – The Doors, this song works as a road song and a drinking song, so I get the double word score here
  15. Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers, mellow tune but there’s something about the lyric, “these smiling eyes are just a mirror for the sun” that I like
  16. Life Is a Highway – Tom Cochrane, “and I’m gonna ride it all night long”… hmm this might be a metaphor
  17. Route 66 – The Rolling Stones, this is a virtual travelogue of where Stinger may travel
  18. Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band, this could literally be Stinger’s theme song here
  19. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty, another great Petty road tune
  20. Going Mobile – The Who
  21. Travelin’ Man – Bob Seger, I actually prefer the studio version on the ‘Beautiful Loser’ album
  22. End of the Line – The Traveling Wilburys
  23. All Down the Line – The Rolling Stones, probably more of a train song than a road song but who can resist this riff?
  24. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide – ZZ Top, hopefully Stinger’s travels take him from Florida to Idaho, where it just so happens, we know a guy
  25. The Wild Horse – Rod Stewart, obscure gem here from the ‘Out of Order’ album about a guy who rambles about, totally overlooked
  26. Hitch a Ride – Boston, my buddy DJ feels there should always be a Boston song on every play list
  27. Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers, Gregg Allman also does a great version of this tune solo
  28. I’m Free – The Rolling Stones, “I’m free to do whatever I want, any ol’ time…” and Stinger is free now
  29. Free Ride – Edgar Winter, I mean, this playlist really writes itself
  30. Travelin’ – Tom Petty, an obscure B-side from his boxed set, it’ll stick in your head for days

I suggest putting this on “shuffle” and nudge that volume knob up as far as it’ll go. If anybody has a tune to add to this list, please feel free to respond in the comments.

Cheers!!

 

 

Black Sabbath Live & The Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse

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There’s never a better feeling than waking up in the morning with your ears ringing after a great, great concert. I could do without the headache from mixing beer and bourbon but we take the bad with the good in life. I saw Black Sabbath last night at Kansas City’s Sprint Center (pictured above by yours truly) and I can only describe it this way: Black Sabbath rained fire on Kansas City last night. The show took me back to high school… when a concert like this rolled through town it’s all anybody was talking about.

About a month ago, my good pal SB (name concealed to hide the guilty) asked me if I wanted to see Sabbath. The Rock Chick gave me a flat out “no” which I must admit surprised me. I even felt myself vacillate a little bit. When it came to Sabbath I was more of a Dio-era fan than Ozzy-led Sabbath fan, which I know is blasphemy. Sure, I own ‘Paranoid’ on vinyl but that’s only a sliver of their vast output. Luckily, about two years ago, I started purchasing their catalog, album by album. I was inspired by their late career gem, ’13’ which was produced by the intrepid Rick Rubin. That guy can coax the best out of any band/artist he’s working with. Don’t believe me? Just listen to what he did with Mick Jagger on ‘Wandering Spirit’. But when SB asked me if I wanted to check this band out, I had to ask, “Are you sure?” Sabbath isn’t a band that had “hits” in the conventional sense. They were hard core metal. Who could we get to go with us? SB smiled, “don’t worry, I have some friends in Salina who would love to go.”

Around 6 last night SB and I jumped in the Uber (don’t drink and drive kids) and headed down to Kansas City’s famous Drum Room to meet the Salina 4. These guys had driven in that morning from Salina, and from the appearance of things had been drinking since they’d arrived. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but these guys were some of the greatest students of rock and roll I’ve come across. These were some heavy weight rock dudes and I was wondering if I was going to be able to keep up. Within minutes we were discussing the lineup changes in the Scorpions. One of these guys had the temerity to ask me if I liked Thin Lizzy. Who doesn’t like Thin Lizzy? When the subject of my blog came up and the word bourbon was uttered, the next thing I knew I had a tumbler of Four Roses in my hand. If Sabbath wasn’t going to burn KC down the Apocalyptic Four Horsemen of Salina were. I couldn’t help but think, “buckle your seatbelts boys, these cats ain’t takin’ prisoners.”

The warm-up band was a new outfit, Rival Sons, out of California. One of the Four Horsemen assured me that they were “Zeppelin-esque”. He wasn’t lying. Great vocals, very Robert Plant-ish, coupled with some great bluesy rock guitar. I don’t know much about them but I will be perusing their catalog soon. I was surprised but they kept everybody in their seats, something that rarely happens with an opening band.

Finally the lights came down and the power and majesty of Black Sabbath was revealed. They opened with their eponymous song, “Black Sabbath”. Someone, somewhere needs to erect a statue for Tony Iommi. The guy is simply one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever seen live. The solo he played on “War Pigs” would melt the face off even the most ardent rock fan. All night long he filled the hall with loud, thick slabs of metal riffs. I left the show a true believer in Tony Iommi.

The unheralded hero of the night for me was Geezer Butler. I knew he was a good bass player but he shredded last night. His bass guitar was the driving instrument in a number of songs. He plays fucking heavy, heavy bass. His bass solo, before the awesome “N.I.B.” entitled creatively, “Bassically”, was awesome, truly one of the highlights of the show.

I don’t know who the drummer was but he filled in admirably for the MIA Bill Ward. I hate when bands reunite and leave a member or two out (talking to you Eddie Van Halen) but this kid was a great drummer. Ozzy was his usual maniac self, despite putting on a few extra lbs. The way Ozzy lumbers around clapping always calls to mind the actors from “Planet of the Apes”… there something very chimpanzee about his movements. But the Ozzman was in good voice and he did a nice job inciting the crowd with his usual, “Go, fucking, crazy”.

The setlist was pretty amazing as well. It’s as if the band said, fuck the fan expectations, we’re going to play what we want to play. Sure they did “Paranoid”, “War Pigs”, and “Iron Man”, but with a band like Sabbath, after those three well known songs they are literally free to play anything they want. They dug deep into the catalog for “Dirty Women” from ‘Technical Ecstasy’ and it was a true high point in the show, despite having lyrics that could have been written by my pal Matthew when he was 13…but I digress. They played a lot of stuff from their heavily Cream-influenced first album. I was thrilled they played “Into The Void” and “After Forever” from ‘Masters of Reality’ but I was hoping for “Sweet Leaf”… and I think most of the crowd was hoping for that one too, based on the smell of the arena. My only disappointment was the absence of any of the newer material from ’13’, which I’d have loved to hear live… “End of the Beginning” or “God Is Dead?” would have been a great add to the setlist.

After a fantastic version of “Paranoid” SB and I wandered out of the arena, drained. We’d lost the Salina Four Horsemen somewhere in the crazed exodus. Unfortunately SB left his bag of concert t-shirts under his seat, it was just that kinda night. The Sabs giveth, the Sabs taketh away. We were worried about the Salina 4, when I turned to SB and said, “Dude, I know where they are, they’re in the bar at the Drum Room…” And, naturally that’s where we found them with a table full of bourbon. The next thing I knew, I was drinking an Old Fashion. Things were just starting to get out of hand when I realized it was past midnight… as my dad used to say, “Son, nothing good happens after midnight…” Heeding those words, SB and I jumped into another Uber and escaped into the night. I can only surmise what damage the Salina 4 did last night… But I know one thing, and it may sound crazy…. I wanna party with those cowboys again…

 

“My Name Is Larry”: Requiem for a Suicide, 11/8/93, 22 Years Ago Today

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“My name is Larry, my name is Larry…” Wild Man Fischer, “My Name is Larry”

It’s early November and all the vodka has been put away for months. We’re deep into fall, or as I like to call it, the Bourbon Season. I always have this odd feeling that I’ve forgotten something as the calendar turns to November. I have two friends who have birthdays in early November but I generally remember those. It always takes me a while but eventually the memories come back. It’s like the Pink Floyd song, “The Gunner’sDream” and the line, “floating down, through the clouds, memories come rushing up to meet me now…” I can’t describe the dream-like feeling of remembering any better than those lyrics. It’s funny how music brings things back to me.

On November 8th, 1993, a Monday night, the Kansas City Chiefs, the team I’ve been cursed to follow since I was ten (I blame my father) played the Brett Favre-led Packers. It was a crisp fall evening but the Chiefs played well and the Packers were kind enough to turn the ball over 3 times that night and I returned home to my humble apartment after a big win. It was late, after midnight (Monday Night Football games are always a bear getting home through the traffic) and I had a message on my answering machine. It was from Lynnette, my friend Matthew’s wife. I will never forget the words I heard that night…”Ken, if you get a chance tomorrow you might want to call Matthew, he’s pretty upset. Larry killed himself…”

Suicide. It’s a funny sensation when you hear those words. No one ever told me if it was that Monday night, or the previous night, Sunday that Larry had killed himself. Sundays can really be hard when you’re alone, that’s what I remember thinking. Larry was Matthew’s uncle, his father Martin’s brother, but he was an “oops” baby and was closer in age to Matthew and I than he was to Martin. We’d been friends for a decade. I remember sitting down at my kitchen table, with a strong drink and shedding a tear or two. But this isn’t supposed to be a sad story, so I won’t dwell on that night, 22 years ago today. Today, I celebrate my friend Larry.

As a kid, to go to sleep I always turned the radio on. It had a “sleep” feature which would allow it to play for 45 minutes and then shut itself off. The hope for me was that I could listen to rock and roll music until I dosed off (sleep has always been difficult for me) and the radio would always turn itself off vs wake me back up. It was a shaky plan but it usually worked. On Sunday night, the rock station I listened to, and there weren’t many choices, played the Dr Demento Show. Dr Demento played comedy/novelty records for three or four hours. It was goofy shit, but I needed something to help me get to sleep. Especially on those awful Sunday nights, where I’d lay awake dreading going to school on Monday. One of the funniest songs I ever heard on Dr Demento was Wild Man Fischer’s “My Name is Larry.” Wild Man is the worst singer, other than perhaps me, to ever record his voice. In the song, after proclaiming his name is Larry over and over, he goes through the litany of his family members and their tepid reactions to him. When he gets to his Grandpa, the Grandpa says, “Larry when you want to come over you tell your mom and we’ll arrange something.” The main message of the song was that “Larry” was weird. I didn’t know anybody named Larry but my high school buddy Matthew did, his uncle in Iowa was named Larry and so he recorded “My Name is Larry” on cassette and kept it.

A few years later, Matthew and my freshman year in college, we went off to KSU. At the mid-term, Christmas break I made the colossal mistake of transferring to rival school KU, for the worst reason anyone can choose to make a life change: a chick. That worked out about as well as everyone predicted and by early April the lass did me the favor of breaking up with me. I was the devastated, young romantic. Matthew, who was still at KSU, jumped in his car and picked me up. We were going up to Iowa to visit his uncle, whose name was Larry. Larry had been in the Navy or the Merchant Marine, I forget which, and was in his late 20s and was going to ISU in Ames on the GI Bill. Having just gone through a break up, the beer was flowing for me the entire drive up to Ames. Matthew produced the cassette of “My Name Is Larry” and we laughed the entire way up. I can remember closing my eyes, later on the drive, while Triumph played “Magic Power” and hoping the lyrics were true: “I’m young now, I’m wild and I’m free.” I was putting my freshman year behind me. By the time we got to Iowa we were a wreck. I was underage so Larry let me use his military ID, we looked nothing alike, he had sandy blonde hair and was a good looking dude. I was a head taller than he was. We hit the bar with a gusto rarely seen in Iowa. Matthew and I kept singing, “My Name is Larry” at the top of our lungs. We were a complete liability that night and yet, by the end, Larry and I had become friends, well as close to friends as Larry was capable. He had also managed to produce, out of thin air, a coed with perfect posture and huge breasts. Larry was the man! It was to be the first of many trips up to Iowa to party with Larry, who was one of the coolest guys I knew.

 After college I saw Larry sporadically. He held a number of jobs. He lived in Kansas City for a while, during my exile time in Arkansas so I lost track of him. Then he moved to Dallas and got married. When Matthew got married I flew down to Dallas for the ceremony. I was the best-man. At the rehearsal dinner, my old friend Larry sat across the table from me with his wife, Hope, and we laughed the entire night. He told me, after my toast, I was the funniest person he knew. (He probably needed to get out more). He wanted to be my road manager and take me out on the comedy circuit. I was selling medical supplies at the time and thought that was a more sound career choice. We had fun reconnecting at the wedding but I could tell there was an undercurrent of sadness about my old friend. Hope seemed overly affectionate that night and I didn’t think anything of it.

I had always wondered why I had had to cab it in from the airport when I flew in for the wedding. I had assumed as “best man” somebody would send a car. “I’m kind of a big deal around here,” folks, that kinda deal. I found out years later, Matthew’s family and Hope had apparently been having an intervention for Larry the day I’d arrived. Nobody told me. Larry had gone to a bar about a year earlier to meet a friend who didn’t show, and met a lady instead. It was always the ladies for Larry, they were his Achilles Heel, even after his marriage it seems. Chicks dug Larry. This girl liked cocaine and she turned Larry on in a bathroom stall, ah the early 90s, with sex afterwards. I live by one rule, stay away from white powders people, stick with murky, brown, distilled fluids. There are no upsides in powders and pills, people. Apparently my friend Larry had a prodigious appetite. He was burning through Hope and his assets faster than she could keep up.

The “Intervention” held for a while, but like most folks I hang around with, the “dark side” is strong. Summer of ’93 found Hope and Larry in Kansas City for a weekend visit. I met them in Waldo at a bar named Kennedy’s. They were both in high spirits. Back then, Kennedy’s was located in the lobby of an old theater, which has since burned down, with cramped, small booths. We were all crammed into one of the booths in the front of the bar. I was trying to theorize why Matthew’s wife seemed to hate me. Larry was philosophical as usual. “Ken, you’re one of the most obnoxious people in the world, and she’s from the south. Chicks down there don’t dig your loud, vulgar sense of humor. You’r like olives, an acquired taste.” Gee, thanks Larry. We drank until closing time and I cabbed it back to my apartment. I remember hugging Larry and Hope goodbye. It was our typical laugh-filled evening. It was to be the last time I ever saw Larry.

By that November he had terminated his marriage to Hope in order to save her financially, and perhaps emotionally. He’d burned up all their money. He was staying temporarily at a cheap hotel. Then, that night, in early November 1993, early fall, he wandered into the field next to the hotel with a gun and as Neil Young once sang, he “touched the night.”

That night at Kennedy’s is what always sticks out in my memory. Larry smiling and laughing. I always tried extra hard to make Larry laugh because I felt the well of sorrow in him. I always wonder if there was something I could of said or done, anything to have helped him. People describe suicide as “selfish”, but I’m not sure that’s an accurate description. Larry got, as U2 once sang, “caught in a moment” and “couldn’t get out of it”. I wish I’d been bold enough to ask, “Are you OK?” or “Is there something wrong” but I never did. I’m always quick to do so now with my friends, a lesson Larry taught me. It saddens me to think of all the things Larry has missed in the last 22 years. But for me, I like to think about that first trip to Iowa. I like to put on Wild Man Fischer and sing along…”My name is Larry”…. Perhaps in a lot of ways I see myself when I was young in Larry. I pushed through the darkness and I wish I could have helped my friend do the same.

I miss you buddy. Cheers!

The Downtown Train to Wichita: The Road to Drew’s Wedding and the real Mayor of El Dorado, KS

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Weddings. Call me an old sap, but I do so enjoy weddings. Of course, in my younger days, I was actually “in” 13 weddings. I was a best man three times, a groomsman in several others and I don’t know how many times I was an usher. I shouldn’t even count the times I was an usher, it’s a bit of a menial role, like a bar back. Some of the weddings I was in, I was just sort of available. It was like my buddies said, “Well, my fiancé has more friends than I do, we need an extra body. Hey, Ken is fun, lets plug him in there somewhere.” And to be frank, in my early days I was usually idle and had nothing better to do. Why not rent a tux and stand up for a friend. Especially if there was an open bar.

For some strange reason, most of my good friends graduated from college and went to work for a large, Fortune 500 company for a year or two and then quit. Some went back to school at that point, some got jobs at smaller firms. Some of us stop cutting our hair and went to Europe. I chose the latter. Rod Stewart as a youth was sent by his father to Europe “to find himself” and it helped him write the classic tune “Every Picture Tells a Story.” It wasn’t as productive a trip for me, but I did have a good time, but those records are sealed until 25 years after I’ve died. State secrets, people.

I had recently quit my job and started the aforementioned “hair growing” when I got a call from a dear old friend from Wichita, Kansas, Drew. Drew was one of my roommates in college and has been referenced in BourbonAndVinyl many times, my record store friend. We’d always go shopping for music together. I remember skipping class to go down to the record store the day Springsteen’s “Live 1975 to 1985” came out. We went back to the apartment and crowded around Drew’s turntable, amazed at what we were hearing. Drew had recently quit his job and was pursuing a graduate degree down in Wichita, his hometown.

I was sitting around, doing next to nothing as a newly unemployed person, when Drew called. He was getting married. I was honored that he asked me to be a groomsman. It was his goal to have all 5 of us who had lived together in his wedding party. We had dispersed pretty widely by this time. I was in KC during the “moving back-in with my parents” phase of life. We had one roommate who lived in Hannibal, Mo named Denny. One of the others, Pringle, had moved to Louisville. The final roomie, Stretch was still in school at KSU so he’d be easy to find. I quickly agreed. All I had to do was go and get my measurements taken for the tux and off we’d go. I was an old pro by this time, as I’d already been in four weddings by this time, typically of people I barely knew.

Logistics being what they are, it was decided that everyone would convene at my parent’s house and we’d pile into my car to drive to Wichita. Wichita is literally, in the middle of nowhere. Pringle and Stretch flew and drove in from Louisville and Manhattan respectively. After spending an evening toasting our newly departed friend, we piled into my car and weaved down to Union Station to meet the train. Denny, who lived in Hannibal, merely a state away, decided to take the Amtrak over to KC. I think he spent most the time in the bar car, but who could blame him. The guy knows how to live.

We spent the evening in Westport, the local bar district, speculating on what the bride might be like. Drew had not been a big lady’s man in college and we all wondered what this was going to be like. Stretch, Pringle and I were all single so we were hopeful that she had friends with loose moral fiber. I always did well at weddings, but it was probably the fact I was always in a tuxedo vs anything I ever did. Despite what my mother thinks, I do not resemble Richard Gere.

We awoke at my parent’s home hungover and ready for the road. At the time, for reasons inexplicable, I was driving a Chevy Beretta. Every single one of us is over 6 feet tall. We had over 24 feet of hungover groomsmen and we were going to cram into my Chevy Beretta for a 3 hour drive through cow country to get to Wichita. This could have perhaps been planned better. Stretch drove a dilapidated pickup truck that we couldn’t all fit in and everybody else had either flown or ridden the train.

We were young and largely unemployed. Well, Stretch was in college and I was unemployed. Denny and Pringle both had good jobs. We were dressed in “colorful” concert t-shirts. Denny had a pink polo on. Pringle was dressed in a nice beer-themed golf shirt. This was not an impressive rabble. We’d left early because my mother was hovering around and that made Denny nervous. “Kenny, I think your mom wants us out of here…” Actually, she just wanted me out of there, but that’s another blog. In those days, we had convinced ourselves that it was a Kansas state law that you were required to carry a six-pack for every person in the car. In this particular instance that meant a case of beer. I never condone drinking and driving but we were nursing hangovers. And frankly, I wasn’t drinking, I was driving. So, don’t drink and drive, kids.

We were just outside of El Dorado, Kansas when Denny said, “Hey dudes, we’re awfully early, we have two hours to kill. Let’s stop in El Dorado at this bar I know.” Denny sold farm chemicals and used to know every backwater town’s bar in the tri-state area.

I was reluctant. I’ve never been a rural guy. I grew up in the suburbs, for God’s sake. I was thinking it’d be better to get to Wichita, close to where the rehearsal was and then find a bar. But Denny was adamant and El Dorado is only a short drive from Wichita, what could this hurt…

When I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the cinder block “building” that Denny assured me was a “great, little bar” I began to feel the familiar fear rising. The only thing this place was missing was a kid sitting on the roof with a banjo strumming to “Dueling Banjos”. I’d lived in Arkansas for three years prior to this and I knew we were only a few smart-ass comments away from being beaten with axe handles.

We walked into the front door like a conquering motor cycle gang only to find the place was packed with factory workers who had just come off duty. This was a union, oil-processing plant bar. These guys were filthy from work. I glanced at our group quickly, we were all in shorts and tennis-shoes. The locals were in cowboy boots. We looked like a gay dance troupe. The whole place fell silent. An “old whiskey” standing by the pool table, smiled and said to Denny, who was completely at home in this place, “Are you guys some kinda traveling basketball team?” I realized we were taller than just about everyone in the bar, and thought that’ll be a small comfort as they are beating us with tire irons.

Denny just smiled at the “old whiskey” and said, “We’re the New York Knicks…” which for reasons I’m still not clear about, got a loud, unanimous laugh. I turned quickly to Stretch and said, “We are gonna die…” but he was off and headed to the bar. I, for one, was in full panic mode.

We were standing there at the bar, Pringle, Stretch and I, when the locals began to circle around us. One said, “Where’d you get that fancy Van Halen shirt?” This was quickly getting out of hand. I was trying to think of a really macho response when I heard the song start… Denny had wandered to the very back of the bar to the juke box. He was going to “play some tunes for the crowd”. I heard the first strains of piano and I knew our fate was sealed. Suddenly, over the loud speakers I heard…

“Outside, another yellow moon has punched a hole in the nighttime, yes…”

Holy shit, Denny was playing “Downtown Train” and not the Tom Waits’ original version, this was Rod Stewart’s version. Now, I’ll admit I’ve always been a huge Rod Stewart fan, but not in El Dorado, Kansas. I almost screamed to Denny at the back of the bar, “My God man, you’ve killed us, run!” but instead I just stood frozen, catatonic with fear. I did glance, wide-eyed at Denny and he was standing with a hand on the juke box, singing along with a huge smile. I thought, “this is a nice, last image to see in my life… my friend Denny happily crooning to “Downtown Train” by Rod.”

Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, Pringle stepped up on the bar foot rail. He was oblivious to the musical catastrophe we were experiencing. “This is a great bar! Everybody is drinking my brand, Budweiser, and not that pussy Bud Lite… Bartender, I’d like to buy a round for everyone in the house. Budweiser for everyone!”

I had never seen the mood of a bar change more quickly. There was a loud cheer from the working-stiff cowboys. The “old whiskey” said, “Buddy you could get elected mayor of El Dorado, if you’re not careful” while chuckling though his missing front teeth.

As the beers were being delivered, suddenly, inexplicably, I heard the entire bar, all the voices, singing, “will I see you tonight, on a downtown traaaaain” and I realized, slowly, that we were going to live.

The Mayor El Dorado had saved us. All it took was a round of Bud reds. So if you’re ever in El Dorado during a shift change… Budweiser and Rod Stewart will get you home.