Tribute: KC Public Radio DJ Bill Shapiro and His Saturday Show, Cyprus Avenue – Kept Me Company In My Bachelor Days

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*Photo taken from the internet, from KCUR’s website, and is likely copyrighted

**I usually address more general music topics here at B&V. Or perhaps better said, more universal topics. Today I’m bringing it home to Kansas City but I think the themes remain universal.**

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“Well, I’m caught one more time, up on Cyprus Avenue…” – Van Morrison, “Cyprus Avenue”

The Rock Chick put on a mask and slipped the confines of lockdown this weekend. She jumped solo into her car and headed for points West to see our daughter where they plan on an isolated, socially distanced weekend together. There will be hiking and sitting on the back patio but no shopping sprees in crowded malls or fancy dinners in small cafes on this trip…or so that’s what they’re telling me. Somehow this will still cost me a lot of money. While I’m happy for them this leaves me here at the house, “on my own…by myself” as Michael McDonald and Patti Labelle sang in a treacly way many years ago. Unfortunately the Rock Chick left me with an empty fridge, no ice, a full dishwasher and a hungry cat. Somehow I think this may have been by design… She did get me a bottle of Four Roses bourbon before she left… Mixed messages? Ah, marriage.

It didn’t take long after she left for me to start eating like a 13 year old. Dinner last night consisted of peanut butter and a bowl of Cheerios. As she was leaving I felt like quoting Bill Murray’s character in Stripes, “You can’t leave! All the plants will die.” I decided this weekend would be a clear-eyed, sober time for reading and reflection. In the past when the Rock Chick has left me she returned to find me slathered in bourbon, weeping while watching 1980 video of Springsteen and E Street Band muttering, “I can’t believe the Big Man is gone…” We don’t want another one of those. I hunkered down to read last night with the Royals’ game on but muted with the Stones on the stereo. Although I will admit, after a mere one chapter of a great new book I just started, I was at the fridge where I discovered the Rock Chick had left me a cold bottle of chardonnay… wine, that’s not really drinking, right? Of course the hungry cat woke me at 5 am this morning… He’s like my guilt, always lurking and making noise when I’m trying to sleep. I couldn’t help but think to myself, pull yourself together man you were a bachelor forever.

Although now it’s Saturday and I must admit, I’m at loose ends. I began to wonder what I used to do on weekends in my groovy, hipster bachelor days. Early on, there was always something happening on Saturdays. I had all these friends to hang out with. We were like a big, disorganized gang. But like the old song, “Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Ol’ Gang of Mine,” all my buddies got married and many started pumping out children. Gone were those days of hanging in a bar all Saturday afternoon, watching sports, “probably playing poker, drinking,” as the Stones sang. While I like to romanticize my bachelor days, I was single until well into my 30s and there was a lot of “me” time, where I was just plain alone.

Oddly, those Saturdays puttering around by myself are the ones I tend to remember. I tried to inflict some sort of regimented routine that would help me kill the hours until I headed out for the usual Saturday night debauchery. On Saturday during the day I would run errands. I would go to the gym to sweat out Friday night’s poison. I’d go to the dry cleaners. I usually slept kinda late having been up most of the night prior so these “chores” occurred late morning or early afternoon. Somewhere along the line, I turned my radio down to the small numbered stations, to the public radio end of the dial. I discovered this radio show on KCUR 89.3 in Kansas City, hosted by Bill Shapiro, ‘Cyprus Avenue’ named after the Van Morrison track on Astral Weeks. I can’t remember, but it might have been my groovy hippy friend the Jean Genie who turned me onto ‘Cyprus Avenue’ but it was a long time ago.

While ‘Cyprus Avenue’ was a local KC show, I know at one time it was syndicated to at least 50 stations. Regardless, I think everyone can relate to a radio show or DJ that really hooked you. When I was growing up there weren’t many radio shows that were consistently on the air to tune into. I remember Sunday nights in high school listening to ‘The Dr. Demento Show.’ Every now and then a local station would broadcast ‘The King Biscuit Flour Hour,’ a live concert program. I remember hearing April Wine one night on that show but those broadcasts weren’t really consistent. I remember that whenever David Lee Roth was on ‘Rockline’ that was “appointment” radio. You had to hear Roth call a joint a “behavior modification device” to understand. Later as terrestrial radio faded from my life and satellite radio took over I did listen to Bob Dylan’s ‘Theme Time Radio’ and the late, great Tom Petty’s ‘Buried Treasure.’ Dylan once said on his show of Bob Seger, “many call him a poor man’s Springsteen, but I think of Springsteen as a rich man’s Bob Seger.” I don’t know why, but that just stuck with me.

While I was rambling around Kansas City on those, let’s admit it, lonely Saturdays, Bill Shapiro’s ‘Cyprus Avenue’ kept me company. In Shapiro I found a kindred spirit. He came on at noon. The first hour was always a new show with the second hour was an encore presentation of a previous show. Often I’d find myself driving around on purpose, detouring downtown or through the River Market, just to keep listening to whatever music Bill was playing. The man knew more about music than I can ever dream of. He was a lawyer by trade, but wow he was a music aficionado. He had approached KCUR at a fund raising event and they gave him a show. He broadcast ‘Cyprus Avenue’ for 40 years. He knew, played and spoke about some of the most obscure stuff I’d ever heard. He played rock n roll, jazz, blue grass, folk, country rock… literally everything.

I learned a shit ton about music from listening to ‘Cyprus Avenue.’ I’d heard about Sam Cooke but it wasn’t until I heard Shapiro play cuts from Sam’s The Man And His Music did I realize that all those hits were the same man. I only stopped my car after that show to stop at the record store and buy the album. The same could be said for Jimi Hendrix’s Live At the Fillmore East or Van Morrison’s vault collection The Philosopher’s Stone. I first heard both albums on ‘Cyprus Avenue.’ I first heard Neil Young’s Silver And Gold on the show and bought it the same day. Same goes for the Clash’s Sandanista! I can’t tell you which albums he played but I know he turned me onto some Dylan, Bob Marley and Buffalo Springfield. I’d never heard of Chuck Prophet until I heard him on ‘Cyprus Avenue.’ I knew who Gram Parsons was, but had never heard his music until I heard it on 89.3 KCUR on a Saturday afternoon.

Sadly, Bill Shapiro passed away in January of this year at the age of 82. A musical prophet slipped his mortal coil. The amount of musical knowledge that went with him is incalculable. I had heard the news – my friend the Jean Genie told me about it and said I should apply to replace him, high praise indeed – but with all the crazy stuff going on in 2020 I didn’t get around to saying anything in these pages, my bad. It had slipped my mind, which I’m embarrassed about until I realized that once again I was going to find myself alone on a Saturday afternoon. Only this time my old “friend” and radio companion wasn’t going to be around to turn me onto something new or something classic that I missed. And that is truly sad. I wanted to sit down and pay tribute to the man who turned me onto so much music. This post may not be read far and wide, but I felt it was an important one to do as Bill had such a big influence on me.

It’s a crazy world and things are nuts right now. I urge everyone to find those things that bring you joy and revel in them. Take care of each other out there. If you’re not driving, take a nip or two and turn up the stereo. I just wish today I could slip “one more time…up on Cyprus Avenue…”

RIP Bill Shapiro.

 

 

Humor: The Key To A Strong Marriage – Burt Reynold’s “Sharky’s Machine”

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As I’ve often referred to in BourbonAndVinyl, I was single for a long, long time. And then I met a really cool chick, The Rock Chick, and settled down and got married. One might think that this late entry into the realm of marital bliss might leave me somewhat clueless on subject of a successful, happy marriage. How could a bourbon drinking bounder figure out the intricacies of something so complicated as marriage. I turned for wisdom on the subject, where I always turn, to the culture of the late 70s and early 80s. In the case of marriage, I turned to Burt Reynold’s and his 1981 movie, ‘Sharky’s Machine.’ I had tried to glean something from watching Kojak reruns but there was no wisdom on marriage there…”Who Loves Ya, Baby.”

Even though I married an extremely cool woman, with a great sense of humor, she’s still a woman. Men and woman have been inexplicably getting married since the dawn of time. I read somewhere somebody describing men and women as being “members of two distinct and warring tribes.” I think that sums it up. How any two people can set aside the differences that daily life generates, especially when you take into consideration the raising of children and the conflict that generates, is a mystery.

Marriage is minefield. I mean, it’s a happy thing if you’re doing right, but there are always mines out in that field. The mines typically come in the form of questions… for example:

“Do these pants make me look fat?”

“Do you like this outfit?”

“Which shoes do you like best with this skirt?”

“I know the game is on, but can you come in here and help me unload the dishwasher?”

“My mother is coming to visit, isn’t that great?”

“Don’t you remember, I told you we were going to the “Phantom Of The Opera” over a month ago…”

“Can we do something with all these albums of yours?”

The list could go on. The entire mood of the household is dependent on how I answer those questions. Things can go from blissful to sullen and angry at the drop of a hat. I learned this, as I’ve learned everything in my life… The Hard Way.

But then I remembered the old Burt Reynold’s movie, ‘Sharky’s Machine’ and it all became clear to me. As the lead character, Sharky, Burt plays a tough, streetwise, wise-cracking, Atlanta police officer. He has a steak-out go incredibly wrong and gets moved out of Narcotics and into the Vice Squad, a unit of misfits and burn outs. Ah, the 70s… I could have written the standard plot lines they used, or at least I like to think I could. Anyway, Sharky’s partner in the Vice Squad is a man named Arch played by Bernie Casey.

Arch is into Zen. In a great scene that can be found on Youtube if you search on the words “Sharky’s Machine Ghosting Scenes,” Arch explains how  he used Zen to avoid being shot when he was out on a domestic violence call. He was circling the house when the culprit comes out of the back door with a sawed-off shot gun. He thought for sure he was dead. It was then that he applied his Zen theory and he completely “disappeared.” He ceased to exist. His face went blank, his arms went slack. He was putting off zero energy, zero emotion. Instead of shooting him, the culprit just walked past him.

Later in the movie, Arch gets into a gun battle with the crazed, coke-addled villain, Victor. Arch is injured and so is Victor. Victor manages to disarm Arch. Once again Arch is faced with a sawed-off shotgun in his face. And you watch Ben Casey, in what should have been an Academy Award winning performance, in my humble opinion, do his “Ghosting,” Zen disappearing act. His arms and jaw go slack. His eyes are a complete blank. He is literally out of his body. Victor screams at him twice, I guess to see if he’ll react. Arch knows if he reacts in anyway, Victor will shoot him in the face. So he stays Zen disappeared. Victor just turns and walks away down the hallway leaving Arch alive. I have no idea why those scenes made such an impression on me, but I’ve always remembered them.

Then, years later I got married and suddenly I realized why I was meant to remember ‘Sharky’s Machine’ and the Zen-disappearance scenes.

When my wife comes into the room and says, say, “Were you eating potato chips in the kitchen, because you got crumbs, EVERYWHERE…” in the past I would have defended myself. Or blamed the cat. But not now. Now, I do what I like to call, “The Sharky’s Machine.”

I let my arms fall to my side. My jaw goes slack. I emit no emotion, zero energy. My eyes go blank and I completely disappear. I know that if I react in anyway, I’m likely to get shot in the face with a metaphorical, emotional shot gun. Oddly, the Sharky’s Machine seems to work. The other night my wife asked me if I wanted to get a winter place in Phoenix to be nearer to her daughter. Early into the conversation she said, “Are you Sharky’s Machining me?” The lesson there, is that the Sharky’s Machine Maneuver works even when she knows I’m doing it.

The Sharky’s Machine has saved me countless arguments, apologies, flowers and chocolates. It’s literally saved me thousands of hours of anguish. And I owe it all to Burt Reynold’s and Bernie Casey. I knew it was a must to share this bit of wisdom with the rest of the world.

I’m sure it would work for women out there too, when your husband asks you, say, “Do you want to skip our anniversary and go to the football game instead?” Or, “Do you think your friend would be interested in a threesome?” Or worse, “What do you think of my blog?” I think the Sharky’s Machine is a perfect move for you ladies out there.

Remember folks, marriage is a compromise. And, more importantly, “Nobody leans on Sharky’s Machine.”

Cheers! (Youtube.com, search on “Sharky’s Machine Ghosting Scenes.”)

The Return of My Turntable

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Last year, my wife’s company was bought out by their fiercest competitor. By summer my wife could brook no more of the jackbooted oppressor’s bullshit and she “retired”. My wife is not an idle person nor retirement age, so I knew this would not bode well for my sedentary, settled life style. I was hoping she’d settle into an “arts and crafts” phase. I even suggested we turn the spare room into her “sewing room”. My wife doesn’t sew, she’s the Rock Chick. Before I knew it, we were moving. We (she) decided it was time to leave the leafy suburbs and move back downtown. Well, I knew she needed a project but moving? I will now be able to add “aging hipster” to my resume. If I grow a soul-patch and start wearing funny porkpie hats with little brims my wife has vowed to divorce me.

We had about a month to move out of the old place. One of the first things the wife decided to disassemble was the basement. The basement was my ultimate “man cave”. Instead of having a sports theme with Chiefs memorabilia (I typically try to hide the fact that I’m a Chiefs fan) I chose a musical theme. My basement was the “Rock and Roll Basement.” My box sets were proudly displayed alongside album covers hung on the wall. We had giant murals of the Rolling Stones and U2 hung in the bar (yes I had a bar, Bourbon is in the title of this blog). I’m not sure what’s going to happen to all that rock art, but I fear a bonfire is in my wife’s future plans.

A sad by-product of the basement tear-down was the break down and movement of my stereo. Oh sure, we had a radio and iPod docks upstairs but it’s just not the same. By the time I had the stereo disassembled and moved over to the storage area of the new place, it looked like C3PO after the Stormtroopers shot him up on the Death Star. Wires were sprawled all over the displaced components like electronic spaghetti. Atop it all was my beloved turntable (not pictured above, I took that image from the inter-web). I had to admit to myself the ol’ turntable hadn’t gotten as much use in the “Rock n Roll Basement” as it once did in my old bachelor pad. My wife had designed the cabinets so the turntable was down below. I had to pull out a rolling shelf to get to it. Pretty soon I just stopped trying to pull it out. I’d play my music in other formats.

We’ve been in the new place for about a month and I have to admit I’ve struggled with this move. I was not enamored with the old house, or the old neighborhood. I’m not a neighborhood kind of guy. I’m more of a “pull up the drawbridge”, “fill the moat with alligators” kind of guy. Since we’d moved out to the suburbs I kept running into people from my sketchy past which was always a bit un-nerving. I really had no explanation for this odd feeling of displacement. I couldn’t get myself settled in the new place. As I told a friend recently, just once I want to reach for a light switch in the dark and have it actually be where I thought it’d be.

The AV situation at the house was a mess. The old owners left all their old, crappy stereo and TV equipment. Beyond that it was more complicated than my minimal AV skills could manage. I quickly hired some folks to come in and set the whole thing up. The very skilled and competent folks were booked up until mid February. This would mean going without music for quite some time. It is what it is.

As a kid, when I got my first stereo, and it was a combined system – radio, turntable, and cassette deck all in one, I was thrilled. My first album was “Some Girls” by the Rolling Stones. I can remember gingerly putting it on the turntable for the first time. I nervously dropped the needle onto the vinyl… there was a pop and a small hiss until the needle finally found the groove. When the needle finds that groove its like a needle hitting the vein. The endorphins raced into my brain. I’ve never felt a high quite like the moment the music starts. I remember my father asking me a short time later, why I owned all those “different” records. Apparently my father was under the impression each record contained the same songs. As if an AC/DC album was like a ZZ Top album. After “Some Girls” I was a hooked, avid collector.

The AV guys finally showed up yesterday and set up all my stuff including my turntable. The head guy knows more about music than I ever will. We had an amazing conversation about Little Feat and Lowell George. Before I knew it, over the speakers downstairs I heard my music playing. Not the radio, finally it was my music playing. It’s amazing how much more settled I suddenly felt now that I had access to my music. The AV guys randomly grabbed an album to test the turntable. It happened to be Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’, not the most joyous album. I was standing in the kitchen, trying to stay out of the AV guys’ way (I admit, I was hovering, excited like a kid on Christmas) when I heard that familiar sound of the needle finding the groove. Just like that I was back in my bedroom in my folks house. I could smell the carpet and see he wallpaper. The warm analog sound of the album embraced me like a mother holding a new baby. ‘Nebraska’ may not be the most joyous album, and my wife was hating it while it played, but I was ecstatic.

I knew, finally, I was home.

The best news, or perhaps it’s bad news for my wife, is that my turntable is now much, much more accessible. I think my vinyl is going to come back into my life in a big way, like a long lost friend. I’ve already played ‘Some Girls’ and the Allman Brothers’ ‘Idlewild South’… this could go on all weekend. If you’re out there and you don’t have a turntable, or perhaps someone has convinced you to put your turntable in mothballs in the basement, take my word for it, you need to set it back up. Vinyl has become hipster territory. The last time I was in a record store I was the only person there without a “man-bun”. It’s time the rock and rollers took it back. Get your turntables out people, it’s time.

Actually, joyful, it’s also time for me to go turn a record over. God that feels good.

Cheers!