*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.**
“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.