Posted by: suek2001 | May 26, 2018

“Songs of the future, songs of the past”

I haven’t been  faithful in writing my blog in the past year. So, I would like to give myself a project to work on for the summer.

I’ve written in the past about The Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp . I truly enjoyed it. It was a life changing time for me. That Camp is now a part of history. This August, a new Camp will become a new tradition. It is the Americana Folk Camp. It’s song selection is a broad spectrum of acoustic music. So in that vein, I thought I would write a few blogs in celebration of some of the music that makes up Folk, Americana, bluegrass and acoustic. It’s hard to define the genre and I am sure that I will include songs that don’t fit the category but I am going to. I will include clips where necessary and add my own comments to them. If there is a selection that proves controversial or just confounds you as to it’s inclusion, please feel free to comment below…and last but certainly not least, if you like, love or even just tolerate this blog, please tell your friends..tell your enemies..just share the wealth with others.

Ahh..the first selections(for me it’s like trying to pick a favorite form of chocolate, hard to do)…

Our first selection comes from my home state. Minnesota. I am beginning this a few days after his birthday so it’s only right to include him. Bob Dylan has been cited as a huge influence in folk music and rock music as well. So, to honor the homeboy I shall choose one of my favorite Dylan tracks…sung BY him in his folk period. It’s “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall”.

This is a track that is haunting in it’s imagery. Dylan’s gift is that the lyric is the picture while the music is the basis for it and this song is one that he’s been lauded for. I cannot tell you what the lyrics mean but the images they bring to mind are amazing to me. Dylan’s voice starts off like a “folk cry” and then by the end builds to almost an angry snarl. I fell in love with this song while watching a movie called “Remember The Titans”. Leon Russell’s funky piano and scorching vocals sold me on this song. Here’s the scene..

 

A few years after the movie came out, Martin Scorsese directed a documentary on Dylan and the soundtrack became one I listened to a lot. I finally heard Bob’s own version the song and realized what a great piece it is.

So, for your musical enjoyment and edification, I give you the FIRST selection in my Americana blog, A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan..

 

Now, my next selection will go a bit further back than Dylan. I first discovered Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the PBS documentary “American Roots” in 2001. I was floored to see this strong woman play a searing electric guitar..(and yes, I said electric..she belongs in this blog no matter the instrument). Her style of blues and gospel just amazed me and it felt like she was one of music’s hidden secrets. Her gospel performances just give me the chills as I thought of all the modern Christian singers who owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

So, I shall include the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in this blog. Here she is backed by a gospel choir doing an old Sunday School staple, “Down By The Riverside”…She gives Chuck Berry a run for his money.

 

My next selection in this blog is a great folky bluesy number. I am one that LOVES to plug my friend’s talents and I have plugged this man’s talents in my blog before but this song really belongs here. Fred Grittner hails from St. Paul, Minnesota and has honed his craft with some of the most interesting images and themes. He remains a hidden gem in the Land of 10,000 lakes. So, I shall shine one of these gems in the light. The track “Always Something Hanging Over Me” should be a standard in every folk player’s repertoire. It’s lyrics of just fighting on when odds are against is a timeless theme. The mandolin is fantastic and the song is just too catchy to ignore. It came from his great indie album called Copper-Lined Sky. This version is a live version done at an Open Mic in Scottsdale, AZ with incredible assistance by the late, great Ray Duffy…Enjoy “Always Something Hanging Over Me” by Fred Grittner:

 

(For more info on Fred and his music and a link to purchase the album, click here:https://fredgrittner.bandcamp.com/album/copper-lined-sky)

 

My last track is from the artist that started this wonderful musical journey for me: John Denver. From listening to his music, my love for acoustic music grew. I discovered Gordon Lightfoot, Kingston Trio, Bob Gibson, John Stewart and so many more as a result of John Denver…I will probably feature a few John Denver tunes in this collection….

So let’s start with an epic one…a nine minute opus to the music of the hills…of the Carolinas. John often said he wanted to write a bluegrass symphony. He was told there was no such thing. He proved them wrong. This comes from one of his last studio albums before his death. When I first got the album “Different Directions”, I fell in love with this song. It reminded me of some of the suites that John wrote early in his career. I would sit in my room with the lights off and let the lyrics and music transport me to another world.  “Foxfire Suite” is not that well known outside of die-hard John Denver fans, but it should be. Here it is, in all its’ glory,  “Foxfire Suite” from the album Different Directions:

 

That should do it for now. Keep checking back to this blog for more Americana Favorites. Please share the blog if you enjoyed…and let the music play.

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Posted by: suek2001 | May 16, 2018

“I could listen to your music all night long”

It’s a chilly night here in my hometown in NE Minnesota. It’s the middle of May and it feels like March…Minnesota weather…it’s a strange thing…..

It brings to mind a stormy day in Minneapolis in 1998….May 15th, 1998.but wait, I am getting ahead of myself a bit…Let’s go back almost a year to about July 1997….that’s where this odd journey really began….

I was in Bible College at the time….trying to figure out whether writing or radio broadcasting would be my thing…..that’s what I was telling people anyway…I was really just trying to survive in school. My life had been turned upside down by the sudden death of my friend two years before…and the death of my Grandmother the year before…so, my head and my heart were in survival mode. I’m not sure how true it is but college life is a bubble life…a life of studying…writing endless papers that strain the talents of mediocre writers..and endless 3am conversations of meaningless esoterica that enhanced my sense of elitism. So, in the midst of all that, I saw the Kingston Trio with my Aunt Betsy in 1997. I thought it was a nice nod to our years of listening to their music and never thought I’d see them again. I wanted to but our lives were just too busy for such simple things as concerts….

..and then the emails came to my college email inbox…first from Bob Shane..and then from George Grove…Both men were members of the Kingston Trio…Shane is a founding member of this folk group that shook the world…Grove was their banjoist at this time for about 20 years….The emails let me know about concerts coming up and were friendly chats about music and history…nothing completely earth shattering but it helped fuel the idea that The Kingston Trio should be experienced again….

So, July of 1997…I get a phone call from my Aunt….John Denver is coming to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis…and playing with the Minnesota Orchestra….We were both excited…Betsy made sure to get great seats…second row from the stage…far left….

Finally, after all these years, we were going to see John Denver together for a third time. It was meant to be…..We circled the date…May 15th, 1998….and then…John’s plane crashed into Monterey Bay on October 12th, 1997….destroying our dreams and aging us both overnight…John was such a huge part of my life..I felt like my childhood was ripped from me. We were devastated….

Then came the note from George…asking if we were going to be in St. Paul in May of ’98…apparently, the Kingston Trio were coming back to the Twin Cities…and would be performing as part of a Senior Expo(huh?) at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul.

Wow…I hadn’t been there since I was six years old….I saw half of a John Denver concert there. My family walked out in protest over his support of Governor Wendell Anderson…(I never got exactly why but I never really forgave them either)…

So, I told Betsy of George’s note and she seemed excited too…We had planned on going out to dinner and just remembering John Denver that night but a KT concert was so much better…

My semester at school seemed like a long one..I wasn’t really even trying to get great grades..just trying to remember to show up for class and do homework…I was thrilled the concert wasn’t until the middle of May..as that meant school would be out and I wouldn’t be distracted…

May 15th turned out to be a hot summer day…windy too..I recall that rain and storms were in the forecast..and in my errands of that day, I could feel the storms coming. I went to a salon in Uptown where I received one of the worst hair cuts of my life….and then ran home to change.

Betsy picked me up about 4pm or so…I recall the humidity was high..and the winds were blowing. My Aunt was all about making a huge night out of it. So, we stopped for dinner at Nordstroms at the Mall of America in Bloomington. They had a small restaurant that served great soup and sandwiches…nothing fancy but it wasn’t cheap.

As we sat near the window, we noticed rain moving in…and then it got dark…really dark..and the rains poured…hard….and we saw hail stones hit the windows. My Aunt and I were the type to not fear weather but be fascinated by it…and then the skies turned green…in the rain….to this day, I have never seen anything like it…

As the storm moved past the Mall, Betsy and I went to the car and decided to drive to St. Paul and listen to the radio. I can still see us driving down the main road…listening to a local talk station as they gave storm reports. Tornadoes were spotted near Downtown St. Paul. I was afraid that the concert would be cancelled due to weather. We noticed that traffic lights were out…branches from trees were scattered everywhere…and the power seem out for blocks.

We made our way to the Auditorium and the Senior Expo was in full swing…We got our tickets and were in the front row. The Kingston Trio took the stage…and the punch these guys had was amazing. The songs filled the place..their harmonies..the banjos…the guitars were just amazing. George Grove’s voice blended with Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds and the tightness of their harmonies on “Early Morning Rain” just floored me….During the show, Nick Reynolds said something I never forgot…

“I was in my hotel room watching the television before the show tonight…they kept saying, stay away from windows..so I had to go over to the window to see what the hell was going on”…Betsy and I nearly fell out of our chairs…as that is the truest thing weather geeks would do…and we did…

The songs flowed that night…Nick’s big solo was a tender rendition of “Hobo’s Lullaby”…Bob Shane did a great “Scotch and Soda”..truly his song….and if I could tell you what George’s solo song was, I would…all I recall is that he said something about Don Mclean in his song intro….but the show overall was fantastic…and Betsy and I knew were going to see  The Kingston Trio as often as we could…I would say more of the setlist but this was before I became a geek about concert setlists…

So ,after the show was over, I tried to get backstage…it wasn’t hard..no security in those days…and George Grove had asked that I stop by…I ran into Nick Reynolds and trying articulating what a profound influence his music was to me. He stared at me and then yelled to his Triomates that he was heading back to the hotel. I should have just turned around and left then..as I felt thoroughly embarrassed…but I was a fool and figured I would keep going….So, I walked up to the dressing room and knocked..and met Bob Shane….

Bob Shane’s voice is something I had been listening to for about ten years at that point. To meet the man behind so many great vocals on so many great songs left me fumbling for words…all I could manage was  “WOW..this is like meeting the Beatles”..He just smiled…said nothing….Now, I really wanted to run….but then this guy came around the corner…..great big smile…and a calming presence….”Suzy-q? It’s nice to finally meet you after exchanging emails”..His smile and easy going manner relaxed me..George Grove….. we had a nice conversation…He asked if my Aunt came..and I said yes..He wanted to meet her. So, I ran to the merchandise table and wheeled her backstage..and she met George and Bob….and someone took our picture…

This is the result:

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting

 

By now, other people had begun to notice them and were letting them know what a great time they had. Betsy and I made our exits and we went to the merchandise table…

We picked up the same CD to purchase that night. We each got our own copy. As we drove away from the arena, My Aunt ripped open her copy of “The Kingston Trio: Live From the Crazy Horse”..and wow what a rush…we blasted that disc all the way home….and to this day, when I hear it, I flash back to that night….

So, here it is 20 years later…and I think of that night and smile with a bit of sadness…as my Aunt died ten years later….and the group I love is no more…but for a moment, that night meant everything….

A few months later, I would discover a treasure trove of people who loved The Kingston Trio…one of them would go on to be my best friend, David….I would go on to miraculously graduate college…and start my life in a new city…My Aunt and I would see the Trio two more times….and I would see them six more times before the lineup I love would enter Kingston Trio history. I would meet up with the Trio and their fans at Fantasy Camp six more times…..none of that would be possible without the urging of that note from George Grove.

So, now  twenty years later, all I have are the memories of that night….and the blessings that life has given me since then. That concert came along at a transitional time in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything…so whenever I want to drift back in time….I listen to this album..and think of my Aunt and I singing to the Trio at the top of our lungs….

This weekend was an anniversary of sorts….a year ago this week, my dear friend David passed away…suddenly…..and thus began the mourning….for those who are new to this blog, here’s my tribute to my friend David..

https://suek2001.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/i-can-promise-you-a-memory-to-keep/

They say that in life there are lessons to be learned in tragedy..in loss…in trials…whatever the cliche is…..and looking back over the past year, I have no idea if I learned anything…

To be honest, I have about the same faith in God that I did a year ago….I have the same view of my awesome church family I did a year ago…I have the same love for my city I did a year ago….So, I am not sure what lesson I learned..or what great new road I am supposed to go on.

There is nothing like the death of a loved one to bring about the reality of mortality. This past week, I mourned the passing of a friend from my Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp…Dan Yount….I didn’t write a blog dedicated to him because truth be told, I didn’t know him that well or for that long….that’s not to say his life didn’t impact me in any way…It did….He was diagnosed with ALS a few years ago…and that laugh…that smile..that fighting spirit never wavered.

Just think…to know your body is failing and to keep fighting to live…to love..to laugh…to smile…that was an amazing lesson to me….our time on this earth is precious…what in the world am I doing with it?

What did Dan do with his? He made it known that he loved his family, his friends..and shared his songwriting skills…He wrote a great sea shanty about Lake Michigan that became an instant favorite to me and was featured on THE Kingston Trio’s last album…It’s called Lake Michigan…

 

So, I mourned Dan’s loss but rejoiced in the freedom of his healing for eternity now but I will miss that smile and that joy at Camp….We need more people like Dan Yount in this world.

I know I said I am basically the same since last year but I have one caveat…I didn’t sleep a lot or lose a lot of weight due to lack of appetite(actually the opposite)..what I found myself doing was getting angry…angry at something happening to friends…an injustice of sorts….all my anger that was a part of my grief was channelled to that…it  it felt good for a while to go do battle with some usurpers of a folk music brand…but lately, it’s lost its punch…and maybe Dan’s death made me realize that life is too short to remain angry over something I cannot control…and then seeing these same friends move to a new chapter in their lives gives me reason to do the same….so the usurpers can have their victory. I have my life…and that’s more important.

So, this emotional weekend draws to a close and there’s a strange sensation I am feeling…a feeling of freedom from sadness…a movement towards celebration. I was friends with David Ruiz for 19 years….that’s a long time…a lot of memories..a lot of music…a lot of rooting for each other…Our time as friends was a great one….and the feeling I have now is joy…joy in the fact that as a child I didn’t have friends…really close friends..but God has blessed me with some great ones in my adulthood. I shall praise Him for that.

My blog entry comes from a worship song that was sung in church this morning…and the line hit me like a lightning bolt. The time David had on this planet was not his time but God’s time…and the same goes for me…My time on this planet really isn’t mine. It is God’s time…I pray I use it wisely. I pray that I use it for His glory….and I pray that it lasts a bit longer….

 

Posted by: suek2001 | April 24, 2018

“Looking out for Lordfrench!”

When the news came over my Facebook feed, I was on a break at my job…I must have stared at my phone…and held my mouth open for ten minutes…I couldn’t read anymore..I couldn’t listen to music…nothing….I just sat there…and then I remembered my faith and prayed…prayed for his family..prayed for his friends..prayed for all of us who were touched by him…

It’s about eight hours later, and I am staring at a computer screen…still not sure what to say….Tom Delisle is dead….gone from this Earth….gone…just like that…How can I wrap my brain around that? How? Why?

There will be people who will write better tributes to Tom….filled with personal anecdotes…or deep dives into the history that Tom was a part of….I can’t really speak to any of that. Tom and I knew each other through a discussion group…for John Stewart fans….called Bloodlines….He was more than a fan…more than a producer and writer in Detroit circles…more than what anyone could describe in a paragraph…He was a friend to John Stewart and a friend to so many and one of the founders of The Trio Fantasy Camp….an event I count down to every year. I’ve written of that elsewhere….so I won’t talk much about it now…

I will say that Tom Delisle was smart, passionate and funny as hell. He would host the evening concerts and introduce the acts and tell stories from his life…from John’s life…from history…..He worked with Richard Dawson, Tony Orlando..wrote for the Detroit Free Press…produced so many things….all of that enriched his stage deliveries with stories that were hilarious and real. Thanks to Tom, I will never look at Tony Orlando, Detroit and John Stewart, the same way again.

I think what I loved most about his stories were that I felt apart of the early Fantasy Camps…even though I didn’t attend in the early years. I felt like I got to know John Stewart a little bit even though John had long passed when I started going to Camp….I felt like I got to know a bit of Kingston Trio musical history…even though I wasn’t even born in their heyday…all of that became alive when Tom took that stage….it was like being invited into a club and never being kicked out.

Tom was known as Lordfrench in the John Stewart discussion group..and whenever he posted, it was an event. He would add history…his insights and sheer JOY and LOVE for whatever music he was talking about. I recall he and I had some private exchanges after I mentioned that I loved “Lonesome Picker Rides Again”…a great album by John Stewart. He seemed excited that I was really starting to soak in John Stewart’s work…and there was not a trace of “Oh..you’re not a fan if you don’t have….” He even said that John’s music was like lightning and could transform people when they least expected it…and Tom loved that. Looking through my email folders, I had a few folder for groups of people…and then some just for individuals….one was for George Grove emails….another for my late friend David Ruiz and the last was for Tom Delisle….He was in great company….

I will admit this hasn’t been a very cohesive blog but as John Stewart put it once “this is my way of crying”. I think Tom would like that I tried to honor him….and I hope I have….

In closing, I will post a couple of videos from You Tube of Tom Delisle at Fantasy Camp….and some great songs that I know Tom would have loved….and made me think of him today…

Here’s Tom and John Stewart:

 

Tom Delisle on Pat Boone and The Kingston Trio..with John Stewart:

 

Here’s a song that Tom helped inspire John Stewart to write..about Camp….Old Friends in the Morning Light:

 

This is a great song that John Stewart wrote…he mentions a lot of people that mean something to him…and Tom Delisle gets a shout out too(Looking out for Lordfrench)

 

 

This one has been running through my head all day….originally written by Fred Grittner and performed by John August Lee and Fred Grittner and appearing on their album “China Sky”… written in tribute to John Stewart..I recall Tom reading the lyrics and becoming teary….So, I will close with this song….and say to Tom and all those that are mourning….we will all find that place we can linger….Rest in Peace Tom. Keep the ones we loved laughing till we get there…

Posted by: suek2001 | April 13, 2018

“The radio reminds me of my home far away…”

This is a day in musical history. I was reminded that a certain song was released as a single to radio stations 47 years ago…on April 12th,1971…this song would take a slow and steady climb until it reached the top of the charts in September of that year…

This song changed John Denver’s life and altered the history of West Virginia..and became a sports anthem,  West Virginia’s state song and fueled dreams of stardom to anyone with an acoustic guitar….

The song is “Take Me Home, Country Roads”…or “Country Roads” as it’s most commonly known.  The song began it’s life in a jam session with John Denver, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert in December of 1970…and the song would go on to define John’s career….even becoming the title to his 1994 autobiography….

West Virginians took to the song immediately…even though the geography mentioned in the song …(“Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah River”) only happens in a small corner of the state, the song came to symbolize the state. I even recall a sauna company calling itself “Almost Heaven of Renick, West Virginia”. WVU uses it an as their anthem and there are countless You Tube/Facebook videos to prove it.

Bill and Taffy wrote the majority of the song while John wrote the second verse(All My memories”) and the bridge(“I hear her voice”)…as I recall John had to write that second verse because Bill’s verse was deemed too racy to play on radio…You be the judge…Here’s the original verse as written by Bill and Taffy:

“In the foothills, hiding from the clouds…

Pink and purple, West Virginia farmhouse.

Naked ladies, men who looked like Christ…

And a dog named Pancho, nibbling on the rice.”

 

I think I like the final lyrics better. As most of my readers know, I am a huge John Denver fan but I was not a big fan of this song.  I was born the year it came out and by the time I realized what music was, this song was on the verge of being overplayed.My Aunt Betsy introduced me to John Denver music when I was five years old..and this song was a favorite of hers. It was the song that John was noted for so he seemed to have to sing it on almost every special he starred in. It is a great song but familiarity ruined it for me for years. It also didn’t help that my Mom sang this around the house repeatedly..and she didn’t just sing it, she whined it all the way through….that killed any desire for me to listen to it.

So, it took me years to want to listen to it but I had to admit than when I finally sat down and listened to it as an adult, I found out what a great tune it is…that opening guitar riff…the lyrics that paint an image..the melody of longing and joy and a chorus that you cannot help but sing…..It really is a great tune….and it’s a sing-along tune…as any great folk song would be…a great sing a long tune….Someone years ago said that John Denver was a modern Stephen Foster…and in Country Roads, I can see what they mean….as there are shades of “Suwannee River” is some of his songs..especially “Roads”…

It’s been 20 years since John Denver passed away…and yet, “Country Roads” still matters…a friend went to an open mic a few years ago…and performed a couple of songs…got  little reaction but he launched into “Country Roads” and got the whole bar singing…My Mom and I were singing “Country Roads” while driving around town on a recent visit…and I did the song at an Open Mic at Fantasy Camp last year…that was an adventure…

The song was suggested to me to do…as my friend Fred Grittner said, “I know it’s threadbare but I promise you, you do ‘Country Roads’ and you’ll have them eating out of the palm of your hand”. I chose it because the lyrics and melody seemed simple…and I wanted to sing a John Denver song….I rehearsed it all week with my great back up band “The Chilly Winds”..and it became apparent , the high notes would be difficult (no matter what key we tried)..plus, I was developing some heat related allergies which caused me to lose my voice at one point….

I also noticed that I couldn’t recall the lyrics during rehearsal…amazing, a song that’s been around as I have been alive, and I couldn’t recall the words…I still hear the banjo player, John Birchler, yelling out lyrics to me during our many rehearsals…”DARK AND DUSTY!!!!!” while Bruce Blazej and Dennis Ray helped me in belting out the words and harmonizing whenever the song needed it.

At one point in rehearsal, I stopped singing and just talked the lyrics…I stopped talking to people for almost a day to save my voice…and by the time I took the stage that Saturday, I was ready to be done with the song and not look back…

Funny thing, I got up on stage and belted it out…hit the high notes mostly(what I lacked in perfect pitch, I made up for in enthusiasm), and by the second verse, I KNEW it was great….it also helped to have Bruce, John and Dennis provide fantastic instrumentation and vocals….and by the time we reached the last chorus with everyone joining in, I felt like I did John Denver proud, made my Mom proud and felt the presence of my late friend David with me. Mom would later break down in tears as she song the performance video…Music still can move people….and when I listened to that song tonight, I hit every high note perfectly!

Here’s the original single version of the song…

 

..and here’s MY favorite version of the song(must be the banjo played by the late, great Pete Huttlinger!) from John’s 1995 live concert “The Wildlife Concert”…..

 

..and I shall end this blog with the performance most readers want to see…My thanks to Ron Eklind for the fabulous video capture of me singing “Country Roads”….Enjoy!

 

..and for more information on the actual song…here’s a WIKI link..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Me_Home,_Country_Roads

 

 

Posted by: suek2001 | February 22, 2018

“Hear me calling, I’ll lead you home..”

There are few forces of human spiritual power on this planet….some preachers think that money and church membership are what give them power…others think the love of their congregation gives them power….but the true  preachers know they are powerless without God…the author and finisher of our faith…Billy Graham was a true preacher…a true minister…

Today, Billy Graham is walking by sight today…today, he is home….he passed away this morning…but not really…as he put it “I am not dead but truly alive in Christ”…Hearing of his passing flashed me back to June of 1996….

It was an interesting time in my life. I was in the midst of Bible College…on my third Major change…and trying to figure out who I was without my best friend Dennis..and without my Grandmother…both passed away within months of each other…

The BIlly Graham Crusade was to be held in Minneapolis at the Metrodome…mere blocks from where I lived at the time.  I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about it..all that traffic..and the media coverage…I was worried the media coverage would be negative..as Christianity had taken a beating within the media…as they tried to show those of faith were somehow clueless to their intellectual ways….

I recall that some local bars weren’t happy with the Crusade either..as they were nervous that they would lose business due to no one buying their booze…

All of the fears turned out unfounded. The local media aired story after story all week of great things Graham had done…great things others had done for him…and even the bars made money..not from the booze but from food sales…

I went to the Crusades for two nights….I worked a lot at my retail job that week but I managed to go on two seperate nights. The opening night, I saw George Beverly Shea sing the old hymns and hear Grahams simple message of Christ’s love..in a stadium that seated 70,000, there was not an empty seat until that altar call….when the aisles were crammed full of people…all wanting to surrender it all to Jesus….

The  next night I saw Graham’s crusade was that Saturday night….the Youth Night..featuring music from two of the top acts in Christian music…DC Talk..and Micheal W. Smith…Those two acts alone could fill that stadium with their fans…and I recall that DC Talk rocked the house…I tried getting a seat closer but wound up getting their later than my friends. I sat in the nosebleed section..with the parents of the kids down by the stage….and true to my style, I didn’t care if no one around me got up and shouted and danced..I did…and then Michael W. Smith took the stage..did a handful of hits…and then did a special version of his song “I’ll Lead You Home”..with Billy Graham’s voice mixed in…

I will never forget..all these teenagers and young people went wild when they heard Billy’s voice. Even at the ripe old age of 76, Billy could get a cross-generational crowd  on their feet..Billy came out and delivered a fantastic sermon…and even though I felt my world was in a shambles, I knew that whatever path God set me on,  it would be His path…so I should trust Him….and then that song…the altar call…

“I surrender all, all to thee my blessed savior, I surrender all…”

It’s amazing what a gift surrendering is…surrendering confusion..surrendering fear…surrendering control…all to the One who Is in control…I did a lot of surrendering that night…..while I didn’t go up to the altar, I realized the truth of God’s love….even a Bible College kids needs to be reminded every now and then…

Billy Graham would preach more crusades…and pray with leaders and kings…but his message of Christ’s love and forgiveness goes far beyond a title…I know a few people who came to Christ through Graham’s ministry..Some are with him in Heaven right now…saying “Thank You”…

Today,  the internet is full of quotes from Billy Graham on Heaven…this is the one I will close my blog with:

“The moment we take our last breath on earth, we take our first in heaven.”–Billy Graham….

…and one last time…his altar call song…

Posted by: suek2001 | February 13, 2018

“..and they’d sing in the real old style…”

(This will be an open letter to The Kingston Trio of 2005-2017)

To the gentlemen that made up this line up of The Kingston Trio for 12 years…..

(George Grove, Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty)

It has been over four months since you last took the stage as “The Kingston Trio”.  It’s been longer since I heard that you would eventually leave the group I love. (For those reading this wondering what happened, I honestly don’t know and much has been speculated about the line up change…I shall not add to that..) I will admit that it’s been nearly impossible to think of this line up in the past tense.

I have been wanting to write this for months but I just couldn’t work up the courage. It takes courage to say goodbye to an entity I love..because then the grief happens..and I had enough grief last year..this seemed to add to it…

I had been a fan of The Kingston Trio since that fateful Fall Friday night in 1987 when I heard MTA on an oldies program. Something about the humor, the drive  and the chemistry that exuded from that record, cut right through me. I was about 16 years old…and teens are notorious for being fickle fans….so I expected to like The Kingston Trio for about a year or so…but my Aunt liked it too…and so , a love,  an obsession and an understanding of acoustic music as a whole was born.

The years went by and college happened and love bloomed with someone at the time so music became something to listen to in my spare time…so the fickleness of fandom settled in during the 1990’s….

Then, the internet was born and I decided to see if there were other fans out there of some bands I liked…The Kingston Trio was a part of that…and wow, were there fans…and then I found myself seeing The Kingston Trio in person in 1997…and the fickle fandom faded..and a real devotion to the music was born.

I won’t waste any more time detailing line up changes in this period…as telling you history seems redundant…but the moment I first saw you, George Grove, Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty on stage in St. Cloud, MN around 2007, I knew I was witnessing something special.

Anyone can be in a band.. be it rock and folk…and think they are creating music..and they are..but what you gentleman did was create magic in that music. The chemistry in voices and instruments and even stage personas was like nothing I’d ever seen….

I love music…and if the voices are right..and the guitars are right…..for a brief moment, that can send me to another world…..George, Bill and Rick, there wasn’t just ONE moment, there were millions of moments….and the songs brought to life in concert…some never done by previous iterations…jumped into my heart like never before. Songs by the great John Stewart…”New Frontier”.. “Road To Freedom”..songs with great guitar and banjo that were sonic works of art.

George Grove , you are more than just a musician…you are an artist and a fan of great music. I love that you create your own verve with a lot of the banjo solos. You once told me it was like musical “self-defense” but I don’t think that is quite right…for in self-defense, you are taking a stand against forces trying to wear you down but that’s not what you did on stage….What you did onstage was bring to life the spirit of all those banjo players in The Kingston Trio before you, and incorporate them into your style….becoming the fan who pays tribute to the legacy every time you stepped out onstage.

George, you are an amazing human being…..more than just a first rate banjo player. You are a first rate friend….not just to me but to all those you mentored throughout your career and at all those Kingston Trio Fantasy Camps….I know my life is better for having your friendship…and your support of my writing and other endeavors means a lot to me. I don’t think this note can cover all that you’ve meant to me and so many others over the years. I hope it comes close.

Bill Zorn, what can I say? You were given a nearly impossible task..fill the shoes of the legendary Bob Shane when he retired….This is a man that even Frank Sinatra didn’t want to try to top…and somehow, the transition was seamless. Your on stage persona carried a gravitas of a leader and the banter carried history and humor. You invited the audience in to the show and let them feel like they were not only watching great music but folk history in it’s evolution. Your rhythm guitar playing sparkled on some of the great fast songs……and was the perfect accent on the ballads.  For years, fans have dissected the banjo and guitar solos but your rhythm playing gave such a great foundation that the sound of the Trio would suffer without it.

Bill, your voice needs to be mentioned. In the last 12 years your vocals have been some of the best I have heard in KT history. I tried telling you last year that “Jasmine” was a stellar vocal but I don’t think I conveyed it nearly enough. Your take on “Scotch and Soda” was very well done as you didn’t copy Bob Shane but added a great inflection of our voice into it to bring a different feel to a song that can intimidate the best singers.  I wish we had gotten to know each other over the years but I respected your privacy as to not intrude too much at shows. I will say thank you for all the times you did chat with me at Fantasy Camp and the endless pictures I made you pose for. They, along with all the great concerts, are my memories to keep…

Rick Dougherty, the new kid! You certainly proved your worth right out of the gate when you joined The Kingston Trio in 2005. I really believed that you saved this band on so many levels. You were the missing link, with your fantastic skills on the tenor…with that buoyant personality onstage…and with the purest high tenor vocal  that is otherworldly. I have a confession to make. I don’t just love your voice, I adore your voice. The joy, the heartbreak, those notes you hit all in a song amaze me.  This will probably be the ONLY time I will admit this in public, but your voice is better than John Denver’s..to my ears…and you know how I feel about Denver.

Rick, your generous with your musical talents…and you are generous with your time. There are so many great moments, conversations..both personal and professional than I cannot begin to count. All of these moments are locked in my mind and they delight me to no end. Thank you for your time..thank you for your generous spirit..thanks for all the laughter….

In closing, let me just say thank you to George, Bill and Rick..for the honor of seeing you bring to life the catalogue of the one of the greatest folk acts of all time. You were charged with keeping the legacy of a band that dominated the folk scene, inspired millions to pick up guitars and put banjo music on Top 40 radio….You did it flawlessly…from singing “MTA”…”Maria”…”Where Have All the Flowers Gone”..to new classics like “Forever and a Day”…and “Don’t You Let It Rain”…..the musical memories you have given to so many of us can never be supplanted.

There may be new members in the line up but it won’t be the same…and to paraphrase a John Stewart lyric “these are only folk groups but they’re folk groups without you”…this feels like the end of an era….

So, as you three go on to new paths, I do hope you’ll stay in touch..not just with us the fans..but with each other..for a brotherhood like yours is rare in this world. I do hope that you can come back to the stage…with a new name…maybe even new music but that fantastic dynamic won’t change. I just feel privileged to have been able to witness it.  Thank you for twelve amazing years.

May God richly bless you all,

Sue Keller

AKA Suzy-q

 

 

Posted by: suek2001 | December 31, 2017

“M is for the many things she gave me”

Today is my Mom’s birthday. I wish I could be with her..I really do…She had a bit of a lonely day but the joy and love she brings to my heart is never ending..

In the past couple of years, we have had some hilarious and weird conversations….I’ve posted them on Facebook…so I decided that I will copy them into my blog…and share it with the world…the awesomeness that is my Mom…and don’t ask me how old she is…as women rarely reveal their age….

Here’s a post from me about Mom’s take on fashion:

——I love my Mom for so many things but she blindsided me this morning. I told her of Kanye West’s assertion that he was a pioneer for black men in fashion and that no one else like him is at the end of the runway.

Mom’s reply” Hey what about that one guy? The one that likes to change his name a lot?”

I said “Combs?”..(Sean Combs to be exact)

Mom insists: “Yeah, Combs! He’s been at this a lot longer than Kanye has”. So I find it hilarious that Mom gave me a history lesson on black men in fashion.

 

Here’s another conversation about music:

It went something like this:

Mom: Hey Kid, I found a cassette tape of Led Zepplin…put it in my tape player to see if it works..
Me: Oh really? You listened to Zepplin? What tape? What do you think of it?
Mom:I don’t know..I think it was called “Led Zepplin” or something…
Me: What did you think?
Mom: It was really loud and annoying ..I was yelling “Make it Stop!” It started off nice and then got screechy..
Me: They are an acquired taste for some..I happen do dig them..
Mom: Oh, hey..I was going to ask you. Didn’t the lead singer have a kid with some weird name like Moon Pie?
Me: Moon Pie? I have no idea who that could be?
Mom: Oh come on..you know..Zap-something….He had a couple of kids?
Me: Oh you mean Frank Zappa?
Mom: Yeah..that’s the one..Didn’t he have a kid named Moonpie?
Me: No…that was Moon Unit….and Frank Zappa wasn’t the lead singer of Led Zepplin
Mom: He wasn’t? What was his band name?
Me: Mothers of Invention…
Mom:..and there was no kid named Moon Pie but Moon Unit?
Me: Right..
Mom: Well, I was close….
(We both laugh)…

Here’s one about Country Music:

Mom: Guess Who’s coming to Florida?
Me: Who?
Mom: Oh..come on Barb, what’s the name…a guy..singer..I’ll think of it…
Me: Any idea what songs he sings?
Mom: Yeah..what’s the name of that song?….(pause for a moment)..Oh yeah, “High People in Low Places”…
Me: Oh, do you mean Garth Brooks????
Mom: Yeah…that’s the song right????
Me: Well, sorta…it’s “Friends in Low Places”…
Mom: Well, I got it partly right..maybe they were high when he wrote it and that’s why they were in a low place???
(((((Both of us laughing hysterically))))

 

Mom also makes a great alarm clock:

Mom(rather loudly): GOOOD GOOOD morning!!!!!!! I’ve been up for awhile..ate my breakfast..took a shower..got dressed…took a walk..got a load of laundry in..all before 10am..and what, pray tell, have you been up to??????

Me: I rolled out of bed…

 

Sometimes conversations can be about the oddest things:

Me:(trying to tell her about an article I read) :Did you hear about the sonic booms—”
Mom(interrupts): “No, but if you hum a few bars, I’ll bet I know it!”(starts laughing to herself)
Me: Well, it seems NASA is trying to test Sonic Booms on the space coast”
(As I am telling her this, I hear Mom singing softly)
Mom: (to her own tune):” Boom…Boom..Boom..”
Me: Are you singing?
Mom: “Yep(still chuckling) Hoping to get that tune stuck in your head all day!!”
Me: So, even if you don’t hear them, you thought you’d bring them to your living room?”
Mom: “They’re in my head right NOW!” (Mom laughing hilariously)
(It actually worked!)–(we moved on to talking about the Northern Lights..)
Mom: “Some guy on the news was asked about seeing the Northern Lights…I guess if you could see them down here, they’d be the Southern Lights?”
Me: “Not sure you have Southern Lights”
Mom: “Oh there is..they are in Texas on a Friday Night!”

—-Mom needs to get her own RIMSHOT machine!

 

Mom recently got a cell phone and she had fun with it as in this example:

Mom:”Hey, I’m calling from my new cell phone, how does it sound?”
Me:”Sounds fine..a bit echoey but most cell phones are like that”
Mom:”Oh Really? It sounds good overall ,right?”
Me:”It’s better than most…most sound you’re calling from underwater”…
Mom:”Gurgle…Gurgle..gurgle…gurp”

 

This holiday season has had a few exchanges. I have found out that she is horrible about waiting to open presents…I recently ordered a Kingston Trio concert CD for Christmas…and that led to this exchange:

Mom: So, will you give me a little, bitty hint?
Me: a little hint?
Mom: Just a little one…
Me: Okay…it shipped from Arizona
Mom: What kind of hint is that? That’s NOT a big hint..
Me: Well, you said little hint…
Mom: I know what I said..but how am I(stops mid-sentence)..Oh I know what it is…
Me: What do you think it is?
Mom: I’m not going to tell you..
Me:Oh, why not?
Mom: It would ruin the surprise!!!
(Mom laughs…I bang my head on the table..)

..and this holiday classic:

Opening gifts with my mom over the phone…both of us have it on speaker…
The conversation went sort of like this:
“You there?”
“What?? I can’t hear you!”
“Open your gift”…
“Which one?”
“I don’t know..I can’t recall what I put in what gift bag”…
“What?”
“O..I love it….where did you find it?”
“Find what? What did you open?”
“What?”
….Christmas eve long distance…gotta love it….

…and when one of the gifts she found was a knife set:

She loves reading the “tips for knife safety” to me..
1. Never run with a knife…
2, Never test the sharpness of the knife with your finger…
3. Never try to catch a falling knife..
Mom thinks they are trying to ruin her fun. “Now I can be a cut up”, she said…

 

…and as a cold snap hits our area…my city has been featured on the news…She called me at work to let me know she saw Lake Superior on the News..

Mom: It looks really cold..They showed the lake and I KNEW it..I started screaming at the TV, “That’s Minnesota!!!!” So when you get home, kid, look it up online! They even show your bridge!!!”

Me: I will but you realize I see it outside my window right now as well!!!!

 

..and then later during the national news, this happened:

Mom has been unreasonably excited over something today…Apparently, on her local news(Fort Myers FL), they showed a clip of Lake Superior with steam and the Lift Bridge in the background…She had to call me at work to let me know..You’d swear Ricky Nelson came back to life….As I was watching the NBC Nightly News(the national one), they showed that same clip..and she called and screamed into my ear “DID YOU SEE IT???”..Seeing it was cool but Mom’s excitement about it made my day!!!!

 

 

 

..and then finally let us close with a conversation about life and death:

We were talking about life insurance and such…I told her that if anything happens that I will dig into my 401K at work to cover it..She felt that was sweet…and then this..
Me: I do have life insurance…
Mom: Oh yeah, how much?
(told her the figure..she seemed almost excited)
Me: ..and you are my beneficiary
Mom: So, slip on any banana peels lately?
Me: No but winter is coming and there’s ice…
Mom: Oh we shouldn’t joke about things like this…
—–pause on Mom’s side—-
Mom: On the other hand, you’ve got the hills…I’ve still got a shot..(she laughs hard)…

 

My mom..ever the optimist…🙂

 

I treasure every one of these conversations…and the thousands more we’ve had over the years…She is truly one of life’s constant blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: suek2001 | December 10, 2017

“I hate to see you get lost on a long, long ride”

There is a movement that is growing across the country….through politics..through entertainment, through corporate America and through the media…..the #METOO movement…

It is about bringing awareness to the issue of sexual assault/harassment…

I hope this isn’t a trend but a sea change….and I have been cheering on others as they bravely speak up…and I guess it is time to share my story….I have resisted because I didn’t want to be seen as jumping on the bandwagon of sorts…but the more I read the stories out there…the more I read the statements from the ignorant with their excuses for blaming the victim, the more I realized, my voice had to be heard.

The incident that comes to mind has several layers to it…and it is hard for me to even revisit in my head…It all started around 2001…I had just moved to my dream city in NE MN…and started going to a church…a small Pentecostal church….When I moved to this town, I knew no one…and I was scared..desperate to fit in..and determined to make the dream of living here a reality….

I made some friends from this church…developed a crush on a guy…let’s call him Arthur( for the sake of protecting names)…Arthur was a cute, young guy…I tried everything to get him to notice me as more than just a new woman at church….he did but in that “let’s be friends” kind of way…I was hoping he’d eventually change his mind…..then,  another guy came into my friendship circle…an older man..not really that attractive but a boisterous personality…let’s call him Bruce..(again name change to protect from any future claims)…He seemed to always be around me at Church…

One afternoon, it was a nice warm Fall day, I asked a bunch of my new friends from church if they wanted to take a walk by the Lake…the only one interested was Bruce…I was hoping Arthur would change his mind..nope…it wound up being just Bruce…….

As we walked along the shore, we talked…and I was impressed that he talked as much as I did…I wasn’t thinking romance with Bruce in any real way as I was just delighted to make friends…We stood along a pier and watched some boats go by…it was a wonderful day with a nice breeze..so, plenty of people were around..all of a sudden , he puts his arms around me…and I was a bit taken aback…but as a proud Midwestern girl, I didn’t want to make a scene..especially on such a lovely day..I just froze and looked for a chance to unleash myself from his unwelcome embrace…

He did..I said nothing..as I had no idea what to say…again, I was alone in a new city trying to find my place….so we walked back to a picnic table….and sat…all of a sudden, I got up and said “oh I must go..my Mom will be wondering why I haven’t called”…So, I bid him farewell…and walked as quickly away as I could….

I will admit, I was weirded out around him after that, but I didn’t tell anyone…as I really wanted to fit in around this new church..and I still was trying to catch Arthur’s attention…to no avail….

A few months went by and around mid-January..something else happened..I usually walk to church as it’s close by..but it happened to be chilly that day…..so Bruce offered to give me a ride home..so I wouldn’t  walk on the icy sidewalks….I figured, “why not, free ride?”….

He tried putting his hand on my knee..I quietly moved my knee out of his way…we pulled up in front of my building and I tried to just wave and say thanks….He hugged me…(and hugs don’t bother me, as I grew up in some Southern Pentecostal churches) His hug lingered…and his hands moved lower on my back…and the sounds he was making made my skin crawl…I freed myself…ran up the stairs…and ran to the bathroom and threw up….and cried and cried for about ten minutes….

It felt like a violation to me….and I ran through all the reasons in my head..Maybe I led him on…maybe I didn’t refuse enough..maybe I really was just too inexperienced to know anything…

That afternoon, I watched a football game on TV….My anger, my disgust…and my almost violent rage was channeled into watching that game….it released a lot in me….but not quite enough….

I skipped church for several weeks…finally worked up the courage to go and Bruce was not there…Arthur was but I didn’t greet him…

Throughout all this, I felt I had no one to turn to…except an online friend…David..He listened…and he believed me….if it weren’t for him and my Mother’s sheer outrage, I would have felt really alone.

Throughout this whole nightmare, my faith in God endured…until, I talked to the pastor of this church…He was young guy..he had known Bruce longer than he had known me..and he wanted the two of us to sit down and reason together….that I would not do….In my mind, he violated my personal space..and my trust…there was no way of reasoning over that. The Pastor did agree to talk with Bruce to hear what he had to say…

I saw the pastor a week later and was told that Bruce denied everything and said I was delusional…and as the pastor said “it’s really his word against yours..and with no evidence, there’s nothing we can do”….and then the rage of a faithless person took over in my soul..

I stopped going to that church..I stopped going to any for a few months…I couldn’t understand why a man called by God could take such a meager view of the whole situation…I found out months later when I ran into Arthur, that Bruce told him, I left the church because I pressured Bruce for sex and was rejected by him….Arthur, for his part, thought that didn’t sound right…I couldn’t tell Arthur the truth..as I felt a lot of shame..(Arthur would go onto the mission field and I lost track of him after that)…

For a time, music became my salvation….and songs by John Stewart became anthems for me…in my darkest, angriest days, there was one John Stewart song I played over and over…”Wolves in the Kitchen”…I wrote about why in this entry:

https://suek2001.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/you-better-wake-up-the-child/

 

Between that and my friend David encouraging me to keep my dream of living in my city a chance…and also being there to talk about the struggles of faith in my life, I survived and found my way back to church…it took a long time to find a fellowship I can trust…and even when I did, it took years to trust the people and the Pastor of Abundant Life Church in Duluth…and through example after example, they have shown me what true Christ-followers are….(too many to list here)..My life is different than it was when I first moved to my city. I have friends both in town and around the world. I don’t feel alone or lost anymore….that horrible incident is just a chapter…a painful chapter…but one that exists but also ended…

God is an amazing God….He knows that we have our issues…we need to work through them..and after all the fighting..all the arguing…all the raging..we can be welcomed back into His embrace….I forgave the pastor for his shortsightedness..as I felt I had to to move forward in my faith…I saw Bruce once on a bus…and realized I was still angry…and truth be told, in 2017,  I still haven’t really forgiven him for his actions….maybe this blog is my way of letting go…and maybe…just maybe, this will help someone else say…#METOO…

 

 

Posted by: suek2001 | September 6, 2017

“Rockin’ as the night rolls on”–John Stewart…

Just wrote a rather intense entry..and I rarely write two entries in the same day but John Stewart is worthy of two entries….

John Stewart is famous for his songs about trains..love…horses…and Americana…and a lot of his songs are acoustic based…and yet, the man could right some great, rambunctious tunes that you can’t help but crank…..

So, let’s talk about some of them…Well, first off is a song he wrote to GET a hit…and he did…and he hated it but for me it is THE song of summer….with Stevie Nicks….A great guitar opening..and that mysterious key…and the lyrics all about California…

 

Try not to crank that one up…..John also could take some great songs with great lyrics and breathe fire on them with electric guitars…I am not certain but I believe James Burton plays the opening on this blistering “Arkansas Breakout”…try not to air guitar to this one….

 

Then we have another great track from the early 80’s called “Judy in G Major”…from a rare album called Blondes….a short number but extremely catchy and great pop..

 

Then we have a great track that John wrote for Elvis to sing but he never got that chance….but we got a great rocker out of it…called Runaway Fool of Love…two versions exist..here’s the first appearance of this song…on the epic “Phoenix Concerts” album…(if you haven’t heard this album, it is a MUST own)

 

The Eagles were burning up the airwaves with a California Rock in the ’70’s but John Stewart could write songs in  fun and imagery that could rival anything the Eagles did…..this song seems deceptively simple in subject matter but anyone who has been to Arizona in August for Fantasy Camp knows how true this song is…Recorded live at Chuck’s Cellar in Los Altos, CA this song burns in the memory…

 

Here’s a great road trip song…you can’t help but love…released on an album called “Wires From the Bunker”..a collection of songs that John had hoped to be hits at some point…but remained hidden from the world until they were released in the late 90’s……this one is called American Way…Try NOT to sing along…

 

This next one came out on John’s first album “California Bloodlines”…and it ends that album with a thunderous roar…..however, this version just amps up the awesome even more…another great road-trip song…and a personal favorite….This one is called “Never Goin’ Back”…and like all great rockers from the 70’s, this is a loooooong version:

 

..and our next rockin’ track is an angry song…with few words but they make an incredible statement….and the verse about the “warlords” is my favorite lyrical indictment of the political system on record..the piano just makes this song…..Here is “Wolves in the Kitchen”:

..and as a bonus here is The John Stewart Band doing their rockin’ version of Wolves in Scottsdale, AZ last year…led by the awesomely talented Dave..”Dave” Batti:

 

..and speaking of Dave Batti…he was the subject of a John Stewart song..how many of us can say this? Here’s a song that John said he started in the ’60’s as “Judy on the intercom”..but then updated it for the internet age…written in the growing nature on the ‘net, some of the references are a bit dated but that doesn’t stop this song from rocking…from one of his last albums…here’s “Davey on the Internet”….

 

 

…and I will close with one of my favorite rockers…..and it will be the John Stewart Band that closes this blog out….The John Stewart Band closed out every Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp I went to..and they rocked the place….this song has become a favorite of mine…John originally did this song on “Havana”  as a soft spoken bluesy number but the JSB kicks it to a whole ‘nuther level…with shades of Clapton, this song delivers some punch….This version comes from their album, “One Night in Prescott”….If you don’t have it, find it and get it soon….you’ll be glad you did….

 

So, that should get your John Stewart celebration off to a great start…..After hearing John Stewart, you’ll be a daydream believer too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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