- June 2013 (1)
- May 2013 (5)
- April 2013 (1)
- March 2013 (1)
- February 2013 (6)
- January 2013 (3)
- December 2012 (4)
- November 2012 (6)
- October 2012 (2)
- September 2012 (3)
- August 2012 (4)
- July 2012 (3)
- May 2012 (2)
- April 2012 (2)
- March 2012 (5)
- February 2012 (4)
- January 2012 (9)
- December 2011 (6)
- November 2011 (4)
- October 2011 (4)
- September 2011 (1)
- August 2011 (5)
- July 2011 (1)
- June 2011 (7)
- May 2011 (7)
- April 2011 (9)
- March 2011 (7)
- February 2011 (9)
- January 2011 (2)
- December 2010 (3)
- November 2010 (2)
I once met a psychic who could see the future, but couldn’t remember it. At least that’s what she told me when I ask who was going to be the next president. She said she could see a name but she forgot who it was. I was sorry I had paid in advance. Apparently looking into the future she could see me coming from a mile away.
On a trip to Sedona, Arizona some months ago, I was reminded of that psychic when I realized I had arrived in what I call, “the woo woo capital of America. There are psychics, fortunetellers, tarot card readers, and crystal ball gazers on every corner. It’s easier to find someone to do your charts than to do your laundry in Sedona. I tried one of everything, and there was considerable disagreement as to what exactly my future holds. Several did suggest there would be major career changes for me in the next few years. I couldn’t argue if you consider retirement a career change. I think they need to adjust their spiel based on the age of the client.
I also tried a few places that specialized in reading your past, your way past all the way back to previous lives. People took pictures of my aura, and read my chakra, and took me to visit power points. It was all for a column I wrote for National Geographic Traveler magazine. This video shows part of my Sedona journey to get in touch with myself. By the way after my chakra massage I did feel like a new person, or I did until I stood up and realized I had the same old bad knees. That’s when I finally got an accurate reading on my future. There will be pain and stiffness.
Andrae Crouch is one of the greatest songwriters of the past fifty years. The music seems to just flow from his body. When he walks you expect to see a trail of dancing notes leaving a wake as he passes. Every day he sits at the piano creating new melodies, most of which are never written down, lost to a moment in time. For anyone else this would probably produce a panicked response, “Oh what was that song I was playing yesterday, I can’t remember it and it was so good, I’ll never have anything that good again.” And then we would spend the next several months in writer’s block trying to reproduce what we had done before, but never capturing it and also not able to move on to anything new.
With Andrae, the music flows like water from one of those faucets with the motion sensor. He just goes to the sink, or piano, waves his hands over the keys and the melodies come pouring out. Obviously his songs are not all instant classics, although some are, but others he works on and plays day after day making changes in the chords, melody and adding lyrics. What’s so amazing though is even his throw-away songs start from a higher place than where many songwriters finish.
Recently I was with a group of friends who used to hang out with Andrae when we all got together for an impromptu reunion at his house. Just like the old days Andrae sat at the piano and started played. Bill Maxwell, his former producer and drummer, decided to challenge Andrae. He said, “Andrae, write a new song on the spot like you used to do and make it a song about seeing Boyd again.” Boyd is of course me, Boyd Matson and not really much of a subject of inspiration for a song.
Andrae though about it for maybe five second and then started playing a new tune. He worked out a melody, seemingly without thinking, and then started with the lyrics, which were not the usual rhyming suspects. The man has still got it. His voice isn’t the powerful instrument it once was, but he is still a creative songwriting genius.
This video is that instant song, Andrae’s “Song 4 Boyd” as it was created in real time.
Watching the Texas Tornados perform at Jazz Fest in New Orleans this year brought back good memories of the times I spent filming these guys and other influential Texas based musicians for stories on the Today Show. The original Tornados was made up of Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez. Sahm and Meyers were the key members of the Sir Douglas Quintet in the 60’s that recorded such hits as “She’s About a Mover” and “Mendocino.” Based on the band’s name, many fans thought they were another British import band. Of course once anybody heard Dough talk, there was no doubt these guys were from Texas.
Freddy Fender had two big hits on his own, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and Flaco was a leading figure in Tex-Mex or Conjunto music. Freddy and Doug are now deceased but Doug’s son Shawn has joined the Tornados.
I don’t have a copy of the story I did with the Tornados, but I found a copy of story I did on Tex-Mex music when the Today Show was on location in San Antonio. In this piece I have some very rare footage of Flaco playing guitar with his father Santiago playing accordion in their front yard in San Antonio. Santiago, who is credited with creating the Conjunto sound talks about how he combined German Polka music with a little hot sauce to come up with the Conjunto style. I’m not sure of the exact date when I did this story in the early 80’s, but Santiago died in 1984.
The video ends with music from a young Joe King Carrasco, another Texas musician, who takes Tex-Mex to the next level with what he calls at the time Nuevo Wavo or Tex-Mex Rock & Roll. His “Party Weekend” is still a bit of a party classic.
Once again I wish I had all the outtakes from this shoot. There are moments that can never be captured again, not only with Flaco and his father, Santiago, but also the images of a very young Boyd Matson and Bryant Gumbel.
Setting a proper formal table. People were paying good money for these lessons in NYC when I did this story in the early 90′s. I just didn’t think the information would be of any practical use for the average family with young kids. But to test my concerns I tried to share my newly learned skills with my children, Erica and Taylor.
Using my kids as props in a short satire piece is probably just another in a long list of parenting choices that has weakened their commitment to following rules and regulations, and eroded their willingness to submit whole heartedly to the voices of authority. Oh well, on the positive side their childhood experiences should provide more than enough material if they want to write one of those “Daddy Dearest” books. It will be story of all the things our dad made us do that kept us from having a normal childhood, like when he made us go on trips where we had to sleep on the ground and carry our own toilet paper, and then tried to tell us it was a vacation.
“Driver training in a claustrophobic, Plexiglas coffin”, might be one way to describe the experience of learning to pilot an experimental one-person deep diving submarine. Another way to describe it would be, “a thrilling adventure into the unknown”, especially when your driving instructor is world-renowned ocean scientist, Dr. Sylvia Earle. I was with Sylvia a few years ago in the National Maine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington State where she was testing “Deep Worker”, a one person sub to be used in her “Sustainable Seas” project to study and inform people about the health of the world’s oceans.
The advantage of the sub is it’s ability to take researchers down 2,000 feet to visit parts of the ocean that can’t be accessed on scuba. It also makes it possible for air breathing humans to remain underwater for extended periods of time, far longer than would be possible on scuba, and of course being in the sub means the diver can stay dry and avoid the wrinkled prune like appearance that comes from sitting too long in the bath. The down side being, if something goes wrong, you spring a leak, the sub fills with water and wrinkled skin is the least of your worries.
I though about this story and some of my other adventures in tiny submarines this week when National Geographic and James Cameron teamed up to dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on the planet. It was a historic event. Cameron’s dive was the first manned solo trip down more than 35,000 feet beneath the ocean. And it was only the second manned visit to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in history. Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh made the first trip 51 years ago. Walsh was on board the support ship this week to welcome Cameron back to the surface and into membership in a very exclusive club of people who’ve been to the deepest part of the ocean.
This story reviews some of Sylvia Earle’s pioneering work in deep sea exploration, as well as showing what it’s like to squeeze into a one person sub, especially for someone my size. It may also leave you with the question, “If I had a $500,000 submarine, would I let Boyd drive it?”
This being a big election year, and with one party having trouble falling in love with a candidate, I thought it would be fun to look back at one of my favorite candidates for public office. Kinky Friedman ran for Governor of Texas a few years ago in one of the most entertaining campaigns ever staged by someone who was serious about getting elected. He had bumper stickers that read, “He Ain’t Kinky, He’s my Governor” and “Kinky for Governor, How hard Can It Be?” For the record he was campaigning against the incumbent Governor of Texas, Rick Perry.
I’ve known Kinky since the mid seventies. When we first met he was writing and performing country music with a satirical social message. Satire and irreverent humor don’t usually translate into elected office. Of course in those days he wasn’t running for anything, although he may have been running from a few things. He had one band called the “Exxon Brothers”, but correspondence from Exxon’s legal department forced a name change and the group became “Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jew Boys.” For the benefit of the concerned politically correct, members of the JDL were some of his biggest supporters. They got the joke and the message.
In 1986 he ran as a Republican for Justice of the Peace in Kerrville, Texas. He lost that election, an outcome he would duplicate as an independent running for Governor in 2006. In between his two runs for office, Kinky was still singing some but primarily he became a novelist, writing mystery novels staring himself as a country singer / private detective. It was during this time in the late 80’s that I drove my red Cadillac down to Kerrville to do a story about Kinky for the TV Show, “USA Today on TV”.
By the way, the red ’63 Cadillac, which still runs and was the car used in all my “Flying the Coupe” stories is now in my driveway and it’s For Sale. It comes with a copy of all the “Flying the Coupe” stories if anyone is interested.
This video in which Kinky sings some, reads a few lines from one of his novels, and shares a bit of the Kinkster’s philosophy will give you a glimpse of the colorful character that later tried to be Governor. It may also explain why his campaign got a lot of coverage from the press, but not enough votes from the public. I say his not winning was a big loss for Texas. And who knows, had he won, this year Kinky might be the front-runner in the Republican primaries.
One of the best perks of working for the Today Show in the eighties was their willingness to let me do stories about almost anything that interested me. I didn’t have to ask, “Is this story the stuff of front page headline news?” I just had to bring them compelling stories that were factually correct and well crafted. I worked under the assumption that if it was interesting to me, then there must be other people who would be equally fascinated with the topic as well.
That philosophy is how I got the show to let me start a weekly series called, “On the Record.” News organizations for the most part in those days ignored stories about the music business unless it involved a rock star getting arrested or overdosing. We had a Hollywood segment on the show and a movie review segment, but no regular music coverage. Being of a generation that considered rock and roll a soundtrack for life, I thought by ignoring music stories we were failing to report on an area of interest to a big chunk of our audience.
The Today Show agreed to let me cover music, in addition to my other stories, and I used that platform to meet and film artists whose music appealed to me, whether or not they happened to be at the top of the charts. And that’s how in 1981 I ended up in Louisiana spending a few days with some of the pioneers of Cajun music.
Dennis McGee, Dewey Balfa, and Sady Courville, fiddle players and singers all had a big influence on 20th century Cajun music. I had heard some of their early recordings and decided it was a music genre whose story needed to be told and documented for a larger audience. I spend a few days hanging out with the guys and their family and friends, listening to music, hearing their life stories, and sharing some great meals. This is the Today Show piece that came from my time in Cajun country.
Davy Jones of “The Monkees” died today of a heart attack. The group was created to be a fictional band on a TV show, but in a case of life imitating art, The Monkees became one of the biggest selling bands in the country in the late 60’s. In the 80’s I did this “where are they now?” story about the group for the Today Show.
They were hired for their looks and ability to act. The show concept was about a group of guys in an out of work band. They were supposed to a kind of spoof on the Beatles, but they were also to be a safe band, one that wouldn’t frighten parents. They fact they all had a little musical ability and three of the guys played instruments probably helped Peter, Davy, Michael, and Micky get the gig. It wasn’t that the producers wanted them to really play their instruments in the show, but it would add to the believability if it looked as if they were really playing. They were really singing, but after a couple of hit records they also wanted to be the guys they were pretending to be, they wanted to play the instruments on their records and have more creative imput into the music.
Michael Nesmith, the most accomplished musician and song writer in the group, led the fight for the change. Eventually the boys got their way and became the musicians playing on their own albums. By the time I did this, where are they now, story the guys were mostly dabbling in music part time while making their living in other ways. But over the years there was always enough of a demand for “The Monkees” that they would occasionally reunite for short projects. Nesmith continued to perform, as a solo artist and in a group called First National Band. He also produced some movies, wrote a couple of novels, and is credited with thinking of the concept that would eventually become MTV.
Upon hear of the death of Davy Jones today, Nesmith posted these wonderful thoughts on his facebook page which I’m reposting here.
“All the lovely people. Where do they all come from?
So many lovely and heartfelt messages of condolence and sympathy, I don’t know what to say, except my sincere thank you to all. I share and appreciate your feelings.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity.
That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality. I will think of him as existing within the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane.
David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us.
I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels.”
Motown Records was started by Barry Gordy to give black artists in the Detroit area a shot at making hit records, but what he ended up creating was a company that provided a soundtrack for life during much of the 60’s and 70’s. On the 20th anniversary of Motown, the company was headquartered in Los Angeles, their first million selling singer, Smokey Robinson, was still recording, but he was also a vice-president at Motown.
This video is a story I did for the Today Show looking back at Motown’s success on their 20th anniversary. At the end of the story after filming the Temptations in a rehearsal the guys were sitting around and sang a little song especially for the Today Show.
Since most people are thinking about that great American institution the Super Bowl today, I though before the game begins you could use a little break and enjoy a few moments of pleasure from another American institution, Motown Records.
If digital camers had been around when I was in college, and if they were as inexpensive and available as they are today, then I suspect there would be endless hours of incriminating video that I would would be trying to collect and destroy. There were film cameras and I did have one, 8mm silent, and use it occasionally to film my roommates and our friends.
Film and processing cost money, and I was also concerned that the person processing the footage might look at it and I didn’t want that kind of attention focused on my private behavior, especially in the 60′s. So filming was limited, but I did record my roommates and some of our friends hanging out being college kids.
This video is for them. I can’t imagine it being of interest to anyone who didn’t go to college with me. I’m posting it because that’s the easiest way to get it out to the people who’ve asked if I still had any of the films I took while in school.
I’ve put music behind the video, but the original film is silent, which is good news for everyone because you won’t have to listen to my bad sax playing. However, it’s also unfortunate because you won’t be able to hear the guitar playing and singing of Rod Ruthrauff or the trombone playing of Byron Fisher. In addition to Rod, Byron, and me, there are also scenes with our roomates,Chuck Seymore, and Richard Mixon, as well as some young ladies whom I will not embarrass by naming.
For some reason we’re all rather clean cut in these pictures. The beards and really long hair will apparently live only in our memories.