Case of the Blues

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The band had just finished making up a song out of nothing, out of thin air.  Where there had been total silence suddenly there was music, good music, a tune than engaged you, had you feeling the beat and moving your body.  It sounded like a song that had been crafted and perfected over time, and yet it had been created on the spot in one take, even though when it began no one had any idea where it would go or how it would end.

Bill Maxwell the drummer said to Abraham Laboriel the bass player, who had shown up only minutes earlier in time for this last song of the session, “Let’s do a slow blues number.  Abe you start us off.”  With those words as his only guide Abe began a little improv riff on the base.  A few bars later, Greg Mathieson added some organ, then Bill started laying down the rhythm and Hadley Hockensmith began layering in a very soulful guitar.  Finally, right on cue, Phil Driscoll began to sing, mashing up lyrics from two or three songs and making up a few of his own.  Later in the song Phil would add more texture to the music with his trumpet.

I call this number, “Case of the Blues”, based on some of the lyrics, but as Greg said when they finished, “It’s called the blues, but when you play like this it leaves you smiling and happy and feeling great.  Case of the Blues does all that and more; it also left me feeling amazed at the talent of my friends and what they can instantly create from nothing.

20 Years of Too Much Fun

I used to joke, “I have the greatest job in the world, but it does have a dark side.”  Then I would explain, “I’ve also been bitten, scratched and pooped on by one of every creature at your local zoo.”  I was only half kidding, because there is a price the body pays for having too much fun.

While recovering from my third knee surgery I was thinking about some of the fun I’ve had in doing a job my wife describes as, “summer camp for adults.”  This year I celebrate twenty years of working at National Geographic, or twenty years of getting paid to go to summer camp as Betty calls it.  It has been filled with multiple adventures of a lifetime, and how many of those should one person be allowed to have in one lifetime?  Clearly I’ve enjoyed more than my share.

I was also reflecting on some of the costs of that fun.  In addition to the three knee surgeries, I’ve had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders, a foot surgery, a dislocated elbow, fractured pelvis, scapula, great toe, and fractured ribs twice, a lower back injury, a few stiches on occasion, numerous bites, scrapes, and cuts, as well as a variety of infections.

No wonder my orthopedist, David Johnson, calls me his annuity.  He really is a good doctor and he’s worked miracles with this beat up old body.  He also has a good sense of humor and reviews some of my MRI’s and surgery films for a little musical history of a few of my adventures in the field that have led to adventures in hospitals and recovery rooms.

The music is a blues song, appropriately titled, “Hurts Me Too.”  I previously posted a video I shot showing my friends Bill Maxwell, Hadley Hockensmith, Phil Driscoll, Michiko Hill, and Pee Wee Hill recording this song, but now I’ve added video showing highlights of several of the adventures which ended up hurting me too.

You Don’t Know Me

You Don’t Know Me.  Did you ever say that to someone who was giving you a hard time about your life?  It’s a familiar response to criticism usually uttered in anger.  But when Texas songwriter Cindy Walker teamed up with Eddy Arnold to turn those words into a song, it gave the phrase a completely different feeling and meaning.  You Don’t Know Me, became an aching, haunting, cry of unfulfilled love.  It also became a hit song for Eddy Arnold, Ray Charles, and many other performers.

This version was one of the songs my friends recorded for me in LA last spring when they kindly agreed to show up and play some blues for my cameras at Phil Driscoll’s recording studio.  There were no rehearsals, no music, and nothing was planned in advance.  They just showed up and started jamming.  The results were amazing, like they had been playing together for years.

For You Don’t Know Me, it’s Phill on vocals and piano, Bill Maxwell on drums, Hadley Hockensmith on guitar, Michiko Hill on organ and Pee Wee Hill on bass.  Enjoy!