Sunday, November 27, 2022

Farewell, Yellow Brick Road

 



I just finished watching Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium.
My heart is full and I shed more than a few tears as I watched. Elton John has been a huge musical influence in my life. 

I started playing the piano when I was six years old. A lot of little girls in my hometown took piano lessons, though only a few stuck with it for more than a couple of years or so. It just wasn't cool to play the piano.

Not that anybody teased me or bullied me for playing! But very few friends really noticed ... it's funny that, as important as piano was to me -- after all, piano lessons took up ten years of my life and by the time I was a senior in high school I was practicing up to six hours a day -- as important as piano was in my life, there have been former classmates who have been surprised to learn that I am a musician!

Elton John showed me that there was potential for a pianist beyond the classical concert stage or church musician or piano teacher. I've since realized that there were other examples all along: Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington became famous in the world of jazz long before I was born. Scott Joplin's brand of ragtime music was occasionally heard in old TV westerns and became wildly popular for a period because of "The Sting." There was Jerry Lee Lewis ... but I could never envision myself playing his style of music. 

It was Elton John, with his arpeggiated chords, and unconventional voicings and bass lines, and rhythms that helped me to better understand the piano as percussion instrument, who fired my imagination for possibilities. From the moment that I heard his first single, "Your Song," I was hooked. 

I'd never abandon all the Bach and Beethoven and Chopin that I'd studied for so many years. They are such an excellent foundation for any type of music that one may wish to pursue! And though Elton John was my first "piano hero" from the world of popular music, there are others ... right up there is Billy Joel, who incorporated Beethoven into one of his own songs; and to an extent Barry Manilow, who borrowed from Chopin to compose his hit "Could It Be Magic." Stevie Wonder and Freddy Mercury and Paul McCartney and Carole King and Alicia Keys have all since impressed me in their use of the piano.

But Elton John's my favorite. I've seen him in concert several times -- twice with Billy Joel, and what a treat for me! -- and I'll probably watch this Disney+ presentation a couple more times before they pull it into the vault. 

Thank you, Sir Elton. You'll never know me, but you've influenced me more than you could ever know.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Let's Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello

Bumper Sticker purchased at Ernest Tubb's Record Store

The title of this post is actually the title of a song recorded by country legend Ernest Tubb. I just heard the news that Ernest Tubb's Record Shop is closed as of yesterday. 

Do you suppose that John Hartford had a premonition when he wrote this song?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI5lv7Sb5Ds

No, I expect that Hartford observed the trends of 1972 and thought them through to a natural conclusion. Makes me sad, though. 

I don't go to Nashville on a regular basis, never did, but any time I went, a visit to Ernest Tubb's was in order. I enjoyed browsing and exploring the vast array of music, most on compact disc, and made quite a few discoveries. I honestly can't tell you that they carried "hit country" stuff (though it's a reasonably safe bet that they did) -- I was more interested in the traditional country and bluegrass, the obscure and hard-to-find. I enjoyed browsing the souvenirs and memorabilia, and always let my imagination take me back to times never personally experienced, daydreaming about the legendary musicians who performed on Ernest Tubb's Midnite Jamboree Radio Shows.

It's telling that on my last visit to Nashville's Lower Broadway, after an early lunch at Jack's and a visit to the Mother Church -- Ryman Auditorium -- I didn't cross the street to visit Ernest Tubb's; just couldn't stand the noise and the crowds. And maybe it's the recent years' crowds' appetite for the loud and flashy that helped to drive the old record shop out of business; the brief announcement of the closing said only that "due to changes in circumstances out of our control, it’s now clear the best way forward is to sell the business and the real estate."

Linebaugh's, the restaurant/barber shop mentioned in Hartford's song, once served the likes of Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves but is long since closed. The Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman for Opryland almost 50 years ago. At the time there was talk of removing all of the Ryman's memorabilia to Opryland and tearing down the Mother Church! But I'm here to tell you that the Ryman's walls talk, and I hope that enough of the throngs who visit Nashville nowadays will actually listen.

Gruhn's Guitars, another of my favorite Broadway "wonderlands," has moved away from Broadway. Hatch Show Print has relocated. All but a couple of the gritty old honky-tonks have vanished, replaced by glitzy, expensive and L.O.U.D. celebrity establishments. 

And now Ernest Tubb's is gone ... seems like nothin's left of what made Nashville, Nashville.


 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

How Little Winters Follow Spring


Wind howled all night. It's still blowing and the "real feel" is 26°. Appalachian lore says there are five "little winters" -- Locust, Redbud, Dogwood,  Blackberry,  Britches -- before spring is finally here to stay. 

Redbuds are in bloom, and I've seen a few dogwoods in bloom as well, so I don't know which little winter we're "officially" in. But I'm pulling for Dogwood. 😉


If you're interested to know more about the "little winters," try this link:

https://www.thetomahawk.com/uncategorized/old-timers-had-a-name-for-all-these-weather-changes/?fbclid=IwAR38ot1ndLcBsN7uf_pbO8xTHkOSlpnbAm1vP7Fj-ak0hViYmFe02gbJEbg#:~:text=The%20snow%20white%20blooms%20of,t%20very%20long%20or%20cold

Monday, April 18, 2022

BRP

 


Sometimes I drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for -- as Forrest Gump would say -- "no p'ticular reason." 

But the real reason is because there's always something new to see. Not long ago, these trees were completely bare; today they're dressed in the green of early spring.


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Loch Norman Highland Games



Attended Loch Norman Highland Games last weekend. Although it was a first for Rita Kochensparger and myself, it felt like Old Home Day, seeing so many friends: Neil Anderson, Scooter Muse, Aubrey Gray, Colin Shoemaker, Stephanie Sellers Morrow, Donald Cameron, Heather Gallia, Celtic Exchange (Danny), The Celtic Bag Co. (John), Chris Kagan, Tawnya Kagan, Jacqueline Murdock Habenicht, Robin Frye, Debbie MacFarland Webb, Sam Moffitt (you didn't see me but I saw you 🙂), Clan Forrester Society, Inc. ... gosh, so many people; I'm sure I've left some people out? 

Pictured are the Tannahill Weavers , one of my all-time favorites and one of my big musical inspirations.

Even though it was C.O.L.D. it felt good to be out festivaling.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

What's Best?

"I believe this to my core—there is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor. The creative arts are subjective, and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most. It's like a song or an album is made and it almost has a radar to find the person when they need it the most." ~ Jon Batiste

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Fog



Fog sets in, making for a haunting and mysterious scene. I drive with the window down and all is silent. And even while keeping a wary eye out for deer and bear,  I feel so relaxed and peaceful.