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Book 1. En Nueva York 57-58 Continued…And Book 4. In Anticipation Of Nicky’s Memorial, July 18th, Magen’s Bay.

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 1. En Nueva York 57-58 Continued…

It was the time of “Little Bitty Pretty One, “Wake Up Lil’ Susie”, “You Send Me”, “Honey Comb”, “That’ll Be The Day”, “Rockin’ Robin”, Don Larsen’s perfect game, Sputnik, and The Asiatic Flu. All of which made a big and lasting impression on me.

Years later I would spend two weeks in a tour bus with the Great Bobby Day (“Little Bitty Pretty One” and “Rockin’ Robin”) crisscrossing the US from Burlington Iowa, to Daytona Beach Fla, on a tour called the “Thirtieth Anniversary Of Rock N Roll”. Bobby Day was style and grace, talent and kindness personified. He was every bit as smooth, graceful and exciting as his tunes.

 The Everly Brothers big hit “Wake Up Little Susie” was one of, if not the first song in which I was consciously aware of “the writer” inserting a “twist” and intentionally shaping the story line. I had a sort of moment of objective “ah ha” clarity (and believe me it only lasted a moment) before I fell back into full on non-thinking subjective acceptance of the idea that “all the singers were for real, and all their songs were “true for true.”

Years later when my manager Doc Pomus, began teaching me how things really worked i.e. How a song was written, how a session was produced, how a record was made, what a Music Publisher did, how Elvis got co-writing credits on Otis Blackwell’s songs, etc I was quite disappointed and very much upset and disillusioned.

 I much preferred the illusion that the process was somehow magically organic, as if the song “emerged” from the singer while the joy and groove of the moment dictated the arrangement and the music played.

I was really disappointed with the truth. I felt as if something wonderful and life sustaining had been taken away. Of course I can now look back and (in knowledgeable company,) snerk aloud at what a silly and foolish boy I was, but the truth is I am still more he that any completely grown up me.

 The facts are… When I performed (and still when I perform now) the emotion inherent in the moment DID dictate the arrangement (the timing, the rhythm, the dynamics and sometimes even the key) and as far as possible, the song DID emerge Which is why I seem unable to, hardly ever or maybe never play a tune exactly the same way twice.

In my first gig in the states after “getting off the boat” I was singing at a great folk club/coffee house called “The House Of Pegasus” in Fort Lauderdale.

The manager turned to the owner and said”listen he even does his own fade outs”. I remember wondering “why would he mention that?” and then “aren’t we supposed to do that?” that’s how we all did it in the Islands. We didn’t or I didn’t know that fade outs were artificial artifacts of studio recording rather than an expressive and soulful vocally managed dimuendo. Ahh… my dear friends, you could have filled a google parallel universes with what I didn’t know then, and possibly even more with what I don’t know now.

 In any case, and lucky for me, it was a great season for song, Sputnik was the beginning of a painfully long, continuing and essential lesson in humility for “The Otherin” (and me too) and the freakin’ Asiatic Flu did everything but recycle me.

Often the “weakest” or most vulnerable part of the body is the first to go and in my case the weakest link resides in my poor frizzgaggled noggin.

When the fever (any fever) hits or comes upon me, my tenuous grip (on what foolish folk think is the one reality and I recognize as at most a temporary and consensual compromise) slips and I am gone. Replaced by a double babbling babushka balloon head, or “El Exehente Generalissimo Delirioso” aka the rock that wept, or the stone that squeaked and cried. Yezzer, I am vulnerable to fever.

 In those days Gale and I had no beds, we slept instead on folding aluminum lounge chairs, the kind with woven plastic straps across an aluminum frame. When the Asiatic landed in my noggin, I was allowed or encouraged (or a combo of both) to move  my recliner out of a shared bedroom and into a far corner of the living room, a sort of poor man’s quarantine, I s’ppose.

I spent two weeks out there in the ultra nunca never none land of delerioso serioso, babbling soliloquies all day waiting for Mud to come home from work.

 It’s interesting to note that you can pile all the blankets in the world on top of the poor soul trying to sleep on such a device and they don’t and won’t do a bit of good. Until and unless you realize that the cold air is coming up from under, through and between the plastic straps. It’s a pitiful, follyishous thing. I confess that it took me an embarrassingly long and uncomfortable time to figger’ it out.

God Bless Mother, the music in the background and Red Candy Apples (the only thing I would eat) for getting me through.

Interestingly, the Spanish flu epidemic (a related strain of two generations earlier) is what we think killed our people in Scotland, leaving our father Frankie’s Mother Sally, “an orphan girl alone in the world” and encouraging her migration to New York, her career as a tragic bar room singer, the arms of the naughty, cowardly married Irish rascal that knocked her up ah..Ah mean got her with child and then denied the little lad for fear of “The wrath of wife”. Our little orphan girl Grand Mother Sally Travis, Died in turn in the TB wards on Welfare Island at 26, leaving little Frankie all but orphaned himself. Crikey, Yikes! it feels like I’m having a flu-mo delerioso flashboink!

 Yes, It was the winter of our discontent, my poor finger was bent forward and taped to the palm of my hand (if that whompin’ girl had seen me, she would have whupped me silly), Gale, in a flurry of belonging longing or longing to belong, joined a cigarette smoking,  garrison belted, black leather jacketed gang, she was now known by two separate noms de guerre “Mike” and “The Cat” and in a flushed rush of tough teenage solidarity forever, she shaved her eyebrows absolutely and completely, clean off.

Mud was ready to get herself and her sprung off sprung back to the Antilles, The Archipelago, The West Indies, The Islands of The West, The Caribees, The Spanish Main, The Blessed Virgins…Continues…

 Book 4. In Anticipation of Nicky’s Memorial, July 18th, Magen’s Bay.

 I nave been invited to sing at Nicky’s (The Mighty Whitey) memorial scheduled for July the 18th at Magens Bay, in St. Thomas. I am arranging to be there and prepared to sing my heart out. I am so happy that Tuts and Tim and Nicky and I recently took a little trip together up to Jos Van Dyke to see the Fox. We were talking with him and Tessa about doing a three man concert there featuring Ruben, Nicky and Myself. That sadly will never be.

Take a look at “A Little Trip To Jos Van Dyke” and “Continued..A Little Trip To Jos Van Dyke”  (March 2010) In them, I‘ve tried to capture some of what was wonderful about the time together.

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Book 4. Sad Beyond Words.

July 3, 2010 2 comments

Book 4. Sad Beyond v Words.

The phone rang a short while ago (7:30 AM July 3rd) and it was Tuts calling from St. Thomas to tell me that our friend Nicky (The Mighty Whitey) Russel was gone. Of course we (and he) and everyone else knew that his going was coming, or as we might say in the islands “He wa comin’ tu go”. Nevertheless, that  he is now no more among us, that he has left this plane and phase shifted out of this dimension to who knows where, leaves many of us missing him and what might have been and sad beyond words. I am sad beyond words. I offer my most heartfelt condolences to his beautiful sisters, his beautiful sons, and his beautiful wife Janet.

 LeBiega/Tuts, was Mighty Whitey’s un-official Theme song for over thirty years. Here is a recording of he and I doing LaBiega Carousel/Tutsie, in St. Thomas, not too long ago,

along with a recording of what he recently told me was his favorite of my songs, Captain Creole.

 Listen and you will hear beautiful Nicky singing in all his glory on both of these recordings.

God and Good Blessed you Nicky, We Love you and we will miss you forever,