Uncle Mike

I think Uncle Mike would have resorted to his favorite scammonism: “There’s people dying today who never died before.” Then he’d laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. I don’t even think he’d know, you know that it applied to him for once. He’d just laugh that big beautiful laugh, and you would laugh with him because you couldn’t help it. Because you had to. His laughter was gravity, undeniable and a universal force. A raconteur’s raconteur and a fierce social justice warrior who put his time where his mouth was and his mouth where his mouth was (via various radio ventures). There is a banality to the scammonisn that was one of his favorite jokes. But today it carries more weight. Today, it’s true. There are people dying today who have never died before. And today, that guy who died in our realm leaves a lot more room for charisma and gravitas because he was hogging a bunch of it. Now some of that goes back and you can have it too. Just remember Michael Pryor. And how he laughed. And how he told stories. And how literate he was. And how passionate he was. And do half of that in your life. A third if that’s all you can do. Be a third of what my Uncle Mike was and you will be amazing.

Everything Is Healing Nicely

The best Frank Zappa story of all time was offered up by his wife Gail, on the little booklet that comes with the CD release Everything Is Healing Nicely, companion piece to his final pre-humous work, The Yellow Shark. The story encapsulates what the overall meaning this final work held, especially if you’ve ever read a word about Zappa’s previous disastrous attempts to have orchestras play his music. She wrote:

Part of Frank’s overall plan was to compose on the Synclavier for the Ensemble Modern so the first order of business was to see how well this plan would work. On the night before the first day of rehearsals, he asked me reorchestrate his Synclavier composition entitled “Igor” and arrange it for the Ensemble Modern, preparing printed parts and a conductor’s score. Frank replace the title with “This Is A Test” right before printing out the parts for the next morning, just so that the musicians would know the purpose of this short piece. As so often happens, the title stuck.

This recording is a first take performance by musicians who were sight-reading music just handed to them. It illustrates not only the technical skill of this orchestra but the fact that they managed to be expressive and impart a style into what they played, even while struggling to accurately render something they had never seen before.

It’s interesting to note that one of these tests was “G-Spot Tornado.” After about an hour of rehearsing, Frank deemed it a failed experiment and put it aside. The members of the ensemble however were determined to master it and continued to practice it on their own. By the time that the Yellow Shark concerts took place, “G-Spot Tornado” served as the finale and the encore.

I love that story; that story sometimes brings me to tears. Frank Zappa had spent maybe millions of dollars and countless fruitless months and years trying to hear an orchestra make sense of those funny little dots on paper, and now, finally, nearly moments before he was to discorporate permanently, the band of musicians plucky enough, dedicated enough, and good enough to play Frank Zappa’s music came together and played it. That is the meaning of this project, and it is the story Gail tells you with her decision to let us all hear how Yellow Shark came to pass.

Gail Zappa got a lot of flak from fans for allegedly being over-litigious, for clamping down hard on the music, and for maybe not treating the original band so well, but I can tell you, friends, once I got my hot little hands on EIHN, I was a Gail fan for life. In it, she gave us one of the best information sources available for those interested in grokking the life and music of the man. I adore her for letting me have it, and I always will.

Gail Zappa today stopped refusing to die. She was 70. We will probably be talking about her a great deal during Zappadan.

High Time We Went

When I hear a competitor on one of these TV talent shows perform “A Little Help From My Friends,” I always get a little snobby.

You know, there was another band who did this before called The Beatles, I says. Why not perform it straight like Ringo?

But. C’mon. Who am I kidding?

The lilting pipes, the majestic 6/8 time, the big, big Jimmy Page guitar up above, and let’s not forget Madeline Bell, Rosetta Hightower, Sunny Wheetman, and Patrice Holloway lending power and cred*; of COURSE you’re going to do the Joe Cocker version. Of course you are.

You kind of have to.

If you do, you’d better bring it. I call this the “Bill Withers Test,” but it could just as easily be attributed to Joe Cocker, who died today at 70. If you’re going to cover the Grease Band’s version of “Friends,” friends, you had better bring it.

And they rarely do.

Because this song arrangement makes the attack of the song’s first note vital. It is utterly exposed and in a specific place within that quiet pocket of music. Due to that, I think that this arrangement of this song may be one of the most difficult things to do as a singer.

Usher did it okay I guess. But even these seasoned professionals missed their marks.

But this kid just blows it. He floats up to find the pitch. (Not that the judges you know, notice this.)

You need to nail it. Right on the pin. Like John Robert Cocker did.

When I was a kid, my Dad gave me a cassette tape, Joe Cocker’s Greatest Hits. Like many things passed down generationally, I was too young at the time to understand its import. I did eventually listen to it, and my life changed. The best thing on it, the one that sticks with me hardest, is Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain.” The erstwhile Claudine Longet standard gets a badly-needed injection of soul here. It’s brilliant and stands as one of my favorite tracks ever. And I can’t imagine how blessed an experience it would have been to be present in the room when they performed the barn-burner “Cry Me A River.”

One hears the phrase “musician’s musician” from time to time. I suspect that Joe Cocker headed that list. He picked good music and the players with the best chops. He was fabulous, and I adore his music.

* None of these singers were even referenced in the film 20 Feet from Stardom, a highly praised documentary that I found to be a bit lazy, case in point…


P.S. It would be wrong to mention Joe Cocker and not mention Bobby Keys, who also appeared in Mad Dogs and died earlier this month.


Bye For Now

If you’re not a listener of The Howard Stern Show, then I’m really sorry about this. I don’t know how to explain Eric S. Lynch to you.

Suffice it to say that 12 years ago Friday, a young man called Howard Stern to stick up for an American Idol contestant of whom the KOAM had said needed to drop some weight in order to be a star.

Howard was more interested in the caller than his subject. “What’s wrong with you? There’s something wrong, right?”

“I’m a disabled person,” he replied.

I think you can hear the love in Howard’s voice immediately.

I think Howard knew right off the bat that in the jungle of Wack-Packery (forgive me, Eric did not like that term being applied to him), he had found a superstar. And Eric never failed to disappoint.

Any time I passed a radio and Eric was on the air, I would have to stop whatever it is that I’m doing and listen. I’d just have to. He was that compelling. Even when he was boring. Even when he was angry. Even when he was weirdly demanding. I’d just stop. And listen. Because I just had to know what was up with this ridiculously serious, horribly stricken little man.

And I sure ain’t the only one. Probably his most well-known fan was Jimmy Kimmel.

One of the greatest running gags regarding Eric was the Stern Show’s constant harassment of him to try to get him to “fly with balloons.” Howard today said he always saw the effort as a gag, and that he would never actually go through with it.

Not Jimmy. “There was no price I was unwilling to pay to make that happen,” he said on the show this morning. And, as they recounted on today’s show, the great joy in the gag was Eric’s refusal to relent. There was no amount of money, there was no promise of any kind of favors that could cause him to succumb to that indignity.

Of Eric, columnist Rob Eshman writes today, “Nothing was funny to him. In the Marx Brother-ian world that Howard created, he was a 3-foot tall, wheelchair-bound, severely disabled Margaret Dumont.

Well. I never.

The other miracle of Eric S. Lynch was how much he managed to parlay from being a regular Stern caller. He got a wide fan base out of the deal. He got TV parts out of the deal. Heck, he got laid out of the deal.

But the biggest miracle of all regarding Eric S. Lynch is that we had him around as long as we did. He told Howard early on his doctors did not expect him to live to 20. He was 39 when, on Saturday, his small body finally gave out.

When I saw the initial reports I didn’t believe it. Another popular thing to do was to start rumors on the Internet that Eric was dead. This time, though, the reports were from people inside Eric’s direct circle. Soon the story was picked up by TMZ, The Atlantic, and Variety.

Dig it. I said Variety.

I just wish Eric could read everything, all the tweets, all the serious news coverage, all the wishes. He spent a lot of his time feeling embattled by the Show. I wonder if he knew the swing of his gravitas, how far he reached and how powerful. I always called him my “favorite comedian.”

Quite a career you had there, pal. Bye for now.

Mrs. Featherbottom

So Fox “News” interviews Larry King about Robin Williams’ death. Runs some nice film of Williams’ appearance in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and credits the film to 20th Century Fox. Just kidding. It was just some dude who dressed up like Mrs. Doubtfire and danced around in his living room and posted it to YouTube.

It starts at 30 seconds or so and is HILARIOUS.

I mean why not just use this?

Speaking of Robin Williams: Norm MacDonald won the Internet today, everybody.

There was also this from The Roots’ Questlove.

This is Jim Rockford. At the tone leave your name and message, I’ll get back to you.

“For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.” (Studio Boss Harry Cohn, upon rejecting Peter Falk’s screen test for columbia Pictures. One of the wrongest guys ever.)

For a guy who gets mighty nostalgic about ’70s television, whose Tivo more often than not tops out with content from MeTV, it’s been quite a week. First, James Garner, primarily known as private eye Jim Rockford, dies. Second, filed under “Hollywood is out of ideas,” talk of a Columbo re-tread surfaces.

Of course, when a guy as iconic as Garner discorporates, it makes a guy like me go look him up. Here are a few things I found in his Wiki you might not expect:

  • He was a veteran, having served 14 months in Korea with the 5th Regimental Combat Team in the Korean War.
  • He was a Sooners fan. Garner was a native of Oklahoma and frequently attended football games at OU. He never graduated high school but received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at OU in 1995.
  • He marched on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. “In his autobiography, Garner recalled sitting in third row listening to King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”
  • He was a lifelong Democrat. “For his role in the 1985 CBS miniseries Space, the character’s party affiliation was changed from Republican as in the book to reflect Garner’s personal views. Garner said, ‘My wife would leave me if I played a Republican.'”
  • Garner died one month prior to his 58th wedding anniversary. The story goes that he met her at an Adlai Stevenson political rally in 1956 and they married two weeks later.

Seems to me the guy was every bit as likeable as he seemed on the TV machine.


Aaron has mixed feelings about the idea of a Columbo remake with Mark Ruffalo in the title role. I got a better idea: Let’s do Baretta first.

Now. Let’s get to one more little thing you may or may not have known: One of Steven Spielberg’s first jobs? Directing the first episode of “Columbo.”


HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA


Creationist Ken Ham calls to end space program because aliens are going to hell anyway


Keep Reaching For The Stars

There were only two (2) radio shows that I considered to be so vital that I would regularly record them to listen to later.

The other one was The Howard Stern Show.

However, way before I was a rabid fan of the KOAM, I was listening to American Top 40. The show, which began airing when I was two years old, was certainly required listening for me by the time I was, oh, what, eight?

I can specifically remember acts and songs Casey introduced me to. “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward. “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh. “Emotion” by Samantha Sang (and the Bee Gees). “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran. And on and on and on and on.

Kasey Casem long passed on his mantle to Ryan Seacrest, and I have long stopped listening, except occassionally when I think to catch the rebroadcast on satellite radio. (And rebroadcasting the Casem-era countdowns is such a stroke of genius that I’m certain Sirius will end the practice soon if it has not already.) Because there’s only one fella as far as I’m concerned who was up to this task. (And also, admittedly, because I am an old man who is no longer interested in most of the product touted by the good ol’ Top 40.

Anyway, so long to the steadiest voice ever to air, and thanks for feeding me music for many, many years.

Radio Legend Casey Kasem Dead at 82

Not to mention: “A political liberal, he narrated a campaign ad for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign,[16] hosted fundraisers for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988,[17] supported Ralph Nader for U.S. President in 2000, and supported progressive Democrat Dennis Kucinich in his 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns.[18]”

And now for something glib and probably inappropriate, but utterly unavoidable:

Or this

Also of interest



Dad got one of these for Fadah’s Day.

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Hope it fits.

(He confirms that it does fit. Can’t lose!)




“But [O.J. Simpson’s manager Norman] Pardo also says [O.J.] Simpson asked that race not be the focal point of his Nevada defense because Illinois senator Barack Obama was running in the presidential election that November and Simpson didn’t want to hurt his chances.”

Maybe the man is redeemable after all.

(C’mon. JOKING.)

Twenty years after infamous Bronco chase, O.J. Simpson still a mystery


“A sewer worker is like a brain surgeon. We’re both specialists.” (Edward Lillywhite Norton)


Beth Scalet

I was 11 years old, I think, and I was staying with the family in southeast Kansas, and my Dad was to join us on Christmas morning. I remember waiting for him, and I remember him walking in the door and handing me a record album in Christmas wrapping. I unwrapped it.

The album was called “It’s a Living…” by Beth Scalet, with the artist’s plucky, smiling face ostensibly cruising down the road in a convertible. I think I thanked my Dad for the gift at the time, surely I must have; but I don’t remember at the time being much impressed.

As I grew older, I would, from time to time, put this collection on my turntable. Dad shared at some point this was a friend of his, which must have impressed me at some point to listen. The album grew with me, or I with it, through the years and was and is now one of my favorites ever of all time. It is a masterful, authentic, and lovely set of songs of which I have often been downright evangelistic about.

Beth was an independent artist based in the Kansas City area. Think Melissa Etheridge but without “I’m The Only One.” You know. Kinda. Among Beth’s last recording efforts was a mash note to Bob Dylan, “Beth Loves Bob.”

I am glad to have had an e-mail exchange with her a few years ago telling her this. I am glad she knew she counted me as a fan.

Sadly, this week, Beth Scalet stopped refusing to die.

Her music is on Amazon and CDBaby.

She was really something.