Call (that other) Tyrone

I remember this time when I was in junior high and high school, and my mom and my stepdad were still together. Every weekend they got together at parties with their buddies, predictably a little Southern soul-blues would be mingled in with Johnny Kemp’s “Just Got Paid” and all that New Jack Swing and hip-hop that I grew up with.

It was pretty embarrassing to me because at age 12, 13, 14, I wanted to be cool. But no kid forced to listen to the likes of Z.Z. Hill or Denise LaSalle was able to be very cool in rural north Mississippi, or anywhere else in the pre-dirty dirty South. (A small exception is for “My Tu-Tu”–I still love that song today!

We were very ’80s kids. I would rather listen to hip-hop, New Wave, Minneapolis funk. But oddly enough, I’d recently become a Monkees fan and started listening to “pop” oldies on the radio (trying to find old Monkees hits, since it was around the 20th anniversary of their TV show and, well, they did have a few radio hits). The mainstream oldies were at least somewhat popular, unlike the bluesy stuff released by Malaco, Ichiban, HSP, etc. Sadly, unlike now, race ended up somewhat mattering in my listening habits at the time. Oldies charts have historically been dominated by white artists, despite Motown’s best efforts; Southern soul has historically been made up of predominantly black artists. And for me, Southern soul was mostly a “black thing,” and a “grown folks thing,” therefore an “embarrassing thing.”

But one exception to the “No Southern Soul” rule was Tyrone Davis, whose earliest hit I can remember was a ballad called “In the Mood,” not the hit by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. Even in my Head Start days I was doing something akin to head-nodding every time that song came on the radio; it meant a lot to me even though the sexy factor must have been through the roof! I have to listen to it on YouTube just to find out what made me so giddy about it as a little kid.

Whateva. I want to especially talk about the experience I had around 1987 with Tyrone Davis’ greatest hits and why I became a more serious fan of his as I got older.

When I was in junior high–around 12, 13, 14 as I said before–we the family were headed home from a Saturday shopping trip, one of us popped an 8-track cartridge into the car stereo. (If it was an 8-track tape, we probably had the 1976 Pontiac Bonneville sedan in our possession at the time. 1986! 1987!)

It was the muscular guitar riff, the Rocky Road-tasting tone of it, that I remember to this day. One of my favorite intros to a soul 45 to date. Then the train-engine shuffle of a big band-style ensemble. Finally the gravelly yet caramel-smooth voice of a no-B.S. soul man.

“There must be somethin’ that I’m missin’…or is it somethin’ that she’s got?”

This chug-a-lug funk soon gave way to a slowed-down vintage groove, accompanied by a female voice welcoming listeners to O’Hare International Airport, hope you enjoy your stay in Chicago. In a fingersnap this chill mood picked up and led to an upbeat, hopeful intro. “I can’t stop…feelin’ this way about you, baby,” Tyrone crooned along the way.

Not much later on, I found out about a TV mail-order offer. Something about the best of Tyrone Davis. This advertisement featured snippets of Mr. Davis singing these hits, even featured music videos of him performing with his band or having a heart-to-heart with whomever his woman was. Here’s how to order!

Of course, I didn’t need to buy Tyrone Davis’ greatest hits to admire his body of work, as the oldies-but-goodies I started listening to as a kid included a boatload of soul classics I’d attached myself to during summer vacations in the Midwest. A certain station in the Chicago market, let’s say 102.7 on the FM dial, would play classics on the weekends; I don’t care whether the call letters were WBMX or WVAZ, I loved them both!

This continued when my family moved there in late 1990, when I discovered a 24-hour “dusties” station, Dustyradio 1390. During my junior and senior years of high school, it was an audio salvation for me, as “current” urban music began slowly losing its quality over the years, and I drifted a little more toward “rave” and mainstream alternative rock scenes. All this is how I began to reinvent myself more radically as a music fan and at once wage a personal war against an increasingly “corporate” music industry.

But not without realizing how infectious the hook to “Turning Point” really is, even in 2017!

Click or tap here for a Tyrone Davis mix from YouTube.


The Great Google Play Music Heist of 2016

I’d like to add an update to the last blog I published a few months ago: “Did you miss me?”

I’m afraid to tell you the following news, if you didn’t know already: Earlier in the year Songza was acquired by Google and absorbed into Google Play Music. Now Songza technically no longer exists. All you have left is a horrible mutation of Google Play Music which, through their radio component, never fails to sneak ads anywhere they wish (unless you pay for any premium service, like all these other music streaming services like Pandora or Spotify or this site or that site), including ads to actually cover up album artwork on their mobile version! That the user must remove themselves! (Pandora Mobile is also doing that crap to assault its “free” listeners and possibly angering them into paying for Pandora One.)

The only connection I have with Google Play Music is the free downloads I take advantage of every month, the Antenna Sampler. This is why I listen to so much indie, metal, classical, electro, etc. for free, no ads. I “purchased” all those tracks, thus I own them. If I wanted to actually pay money for tracks I would, but I rarely do that nowadays; there are bills to pay.

Nevertheless, although most of the free tracks are from independent labels, I realized long ago that indies are worth the low profile because their artists seem to pay more attention to the music itself – obviously not so much with major-label artists, most of whom seem to cater to the whims of their bosses, who seem to pay more attention to the money and whine a lot about why they still don’t have enough.

So, next time I use my Google Play Music account, I need to remind someone to kick me if I ever try to take advantage of their so-called radio stations again.


Did you miss me?

Tonight as I type this, I’m watching Family Feud with Steve Harvey on GSN, and during commercials I’m listening to some weird but needed indie R&B on my Songza app. (Yes! R&B actually still exists!)

Glad to be back with you again for 2016.  Had a video clip of me running around taking videos of New Year’s Eve in Chicago; it’s on YouTube but if you’re too much in a hurry to type an extra URL, just wait for my next post. I try to be accommodating.

Yes, it’s nice and cold in Chicago; not like the previous two weeks in which at least 3 days per week were in single digits and it was difficult to breathe without a scarf over your head…or an oxygen mask (I kept saying at least I don’t live in Minnesota, where it was only slightly worse!).

Today’s high was supposed to be at least 34 degrees Fahrenheit. In the next few days…we expect temperatures to be in the 40s and 50s! Then next week back to the old 2os routine and my usual sour disposition during Midwest winter.  Have lived here for like 25 years and I still never get over it!

Check ya again soon, but I have to be at work tomorrow at 8:30, I live on the other side of town, and tomorrow morning I aim not to be here too long.



Disco baby

A recent listen to “Get Up and Boogie,” by Silver Convention – part of an Internet radio station called “8 Tracks, Dance Hit Radio” on my iTunes – inspired this story.

I was born in 1974, at the height of the disco revolution, the DJ culture, the far-out fashion, the relentless 4/4 beats that went on until EVERYBODY got tired. By the time things mellowed down, I was still too young to be an ace clubhead. At 5 or 6, I was in fact a very frustrated clubhead, but still got a chance to be escorted to the local watering holes in a very small north Mississippi town by my mother and other grown-ups.  IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, OK? So chill.

This is where I cut my teeth on disco and Southern soul classics like Chic’s “Good Times” or “Disco Nights” by GQ on one side, and “Tit for Tat” by Bobby Bland or stuff like that on the other side.

And of course there was the best of both worlds: Johnnie Taylor’s game-changing “Disco Lady,” which could move the crowd without coming off as Grandpa’s jam and at the same time rock plenty of “blue notes” every now and then.

Had mad love for Donna Summer, Chaka Khan with or without Rufus, KC and the Sunshine Band. Earth, Wind & Fire was a name on countless people’s lips during the latter 70s and onward. I also went on to deal with the likes of Ohio Players, LTD, and Con Funk Shun, though I can’t remember Con Funk Shun really doing “disco.”

Speaking of funk, even though the disco era is not really known for being extra funky (at least not to some of the older folks reading this), my young brain and ears quickly equated “disco” with “funk” and vice versa.  This beat will be with me for life! I thought.

Fast forward to 2015. I’ve added house, techno, bits of hip-hop, and yes some of that EDM to my dance music arsenal, at least as a listener. But I still love the old school.  I’m in my 40s now and, having discovered something called nu-disco – which to my delight sounds very much like, and even better than, “the old songs” – I couldn’t be happier nowadays to shake my groove thang.

Or at least nod my head some.

Wingin’ it: Draft of the Day

Here is one of the easiest, and one of the hardest, tasks of the writer’s life:  writing a draft without a net, “freestyling” on paper or computer as a budding MC does.  I have recently succeeded but no, I haven’t finished more than my usual poems and lyrics.

But this fiction stuff, man, it’s been in my blood (or at least I think so) for the last 3 decades or so.  I think it all started when I was fictionalizing obituaries in the local small-town paper when I was in grade school.  I wrote at least one about some kid who “died” of the measles. (Well, it’s a start.)

Today it’s more of a matter of work getting in the way.  Twenty or so years ago, when I was going to high school and attempting college for the first time, it was more a matter of school and music (that is, my numerous and rather incomplete attempts at songwriting and advancing my keyboard skills) getting in the way. At any rate, I want to do the work but the work isn’t being done!  Where is the time? Where are the priorities?

All that being said, I established a little routine earlier this year called Draft of the Day. This project involves two writing pads, a pen, and my imagination.  Plus I like giving silly names to my projects.

First I write a draft about any subject, any character, in the first pad; then, wherever I stop in that draft on a given day, I sketch a summary in the second pad (or I’m about to) regarding what I wrote today and where the story’s going next time. Just a little office housekeeping.

The results of this so far?  I wrote about a man who got into a bad accident and, while recuperating at the hospital, has to put up with two friends arguing with the TV remote and discussing plans for the future.  That’s all I got because I haven’t touched the draft in ages! But once again, it’s a start. My plan for now is to review what I’ve written and see what kind of plot I can conjure out of this handful of paragraphs.

However, on one of my more “established” ideas, such as the Royal Grocery series I’m working on, the progress is a little slower. Even though I am also developing a proper plot line for one of the RG stories, I’ve also attempted to write a draft involving my existing characters and a party gone awry.  However, I’m pretty much stuck in the muck and mire, as I’ve already written a few paragraphs in which two of the characters almost come to blows. But I’ve struggled to talk about what happens before and after.  That or I’ve written mostly mornings before I go to work, so I only have that much time then.  So looks like I am forced to rely on notes I’ve written while hammering away at the draft and bending some nails in the process. Maybe I can fashion those notes into a synopsis as I go along.

So I guess going at a story NaNoWriMo-style works for some ideas but not so much for others? But I don’t give up.