Danger, Chaos Ahoy!

Pandora, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

After having read David Sedaris’s current New Yorker essay “Pearl,” I thought it might be fun for me – and to a lesser extent you, invisible reader – to ramble a bit, stagger from topic to topic, to sprinkle and sling rather than weave.

For example, how bout some cool band names for free?

Chutney Grouper and the Crybabies. (blues)

Betty Wont and the Willie Makeits (three-chord rock).

The Narcissistic Namby Pamby Wannabes (emo).

Cry Me a Pipeline (whatever).

Confetti Penises (glam rock).

Of course, having a cool name doesn’t ensure the band is gonna be worth a damn. I think “Blue Oyster Cult” is the coolest of names, but I’d much rather listen to The Animals.[1]

Truth be typed, luddite that I am, I’m not at all into streaming services. I want my music on an LP or CD with the songs arranged carefully with a thematic purpose, like the Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet or Joni Mitchell’s Blue – in other words, tunes woven not slung.[2]

Pandora, for example, is aptly named; tune into the Tom Petty Station and you’re liable to be subjected to Neil Diamond crooning “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” Of course, Pandora’s a low rent platform; with Spotify, Amazon, and Apple, you can fashion your own playlists, but what retired beach-dwelling hedonistic retired English teacher has time for that?

The sad but not-at-all-shocking truth is that at the age of 68, for me, the current music these crazy mixed-up kids and thirty-something coke-sniffers and bling boasters are producing doesn’t, as Judy Birdsong[3] used to say, flip my switch. 

No sir, not indeed!

The indifferent news is that Caroline and I haven’t, despite the pandemic, cashed in our Atlanta 2020 Stones tickets.

So, we’ve got our fingers crossed.


[1] By the way, today – 13 May 2021 – is the great Eric Burdon’s 80th birthday. 

[2] Okay, Boomer.

[3] 1 June 1954 – 14 May 2017.

Garage Band Modernism

I’ve never cared for rock songs with lush orchestral arrangements, cellos and violins sugar-coating the three or four chords that make up the melody. Take the Stones’ “As Tears Go By,” for example, overwrought in every way, the lyrics lamenting unspecified dissatisfaction, the strings transporting the speaker’s melancholy to the suburbs of tragedy, Schmaltzville, where eyes mist over at the slightest sentimentality: puppy dogs, Grandmas, Eugene Fields’s bathetic “Little Boy Blue.”[1]

This is what I’m talking about:

snippet from “As Tears Go By”

Hey, crybaby singerboy, take a hint from Frederick Henry, read some Lucretius, grab an umbrella, and head to a pub.[2]

Compare “As Tears Go By” with this ditty from the same album, December’s Children.

snippet of “Get Off My Cloud”

Now, that’s more like it. 

And speaking of the Stones, man oh man, after the psychedelic silliness of Their Satanic Majesties Request, hearing the six successive opening G chords of “Honky Tonk Women” was like welcoming home a long-lost prodigal cousin returning deprogrammed from some sort of Scientology-like hypno-indoctrination. 

beginning of “Honky Tonk Women”

To quote that Big Mama Thornton of Modernist literature, Sweet Molly Bloom, “Yes!”  

Anyway, I really dig garage bands, Sam the Sham, ? & the Mysterians, the Kingsmen, the Human Beinz, etcetera.

Forgive my Western predilection to have to rank things. It’s sort of stupid really, but that said, in my not-all-that humble opinion, the greatest garage album of all time – and this may surprise you – is Patti Smith’s first release, Horses – a masterpiece whose subtitle could be “TS Eliot meets the Troggs.”

For example, here’s a snippet from the first song of the flipside, “Kimberly.”

snippet of Kimberly

You “Waste Land” junkies out there no doubt caught the echoic allusion to bats with baby faces and violet skies.

Horses is Modernist garage band, flashing with fragmented musical and literary allusions that imbue its songs with concentrated meaning and ultimately create a constellation of images revolving around alienation.

In other words, it’s a work of art.

The masterpiece cut of this masterpiece album is the 9:42 penultimate song “Land,” which, to my ear, has the greatest transition in all of rock-n-roll. Check it out. (The transition occurs at 1.11 minutes.)

the beginning of “Land”

The boy was in the hallway drinking a glass of tea
From the other end of the hallway a rhythm was generating
Another boy was sliding up the hallway
He merged perfectly with the hallway,
He merged perfectly, the mirror in the hallway

The boy looked at Johnny, Johnny wanted to run,
but the movie kept moving as planned
The boy took Johnny, he pushed him against the locker,
He drove it in, he drove it home, he drove it deep in Johnny
The boy disappeared, Johnny fell on his knees,
started crashing his head against the locker,
started crashing his head against the locker,
started laughing hysterically

When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he’s being surrounded by
horses, horses, horses, horses
coming in in all directions
white shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses.
Do you know how to pony like bony maroney
Do you know how to twist, well it goes like this, it goes like this
Baby mash potato, do the alligator, do the alligator

What follows is eight minutes of stream-of-consciousness as Johnny’s brain transitions from sentience to eternal silence.

Now that’s what I call transcending a sub-genre. It’s simultaneously raw and polished, gritty and eloquent, Rimbaud and Wicked Wilson Pickett playing pingpong backstage in a dance hall.


[1] I’m being unfair to the Stones, “As Tears Go By” isn’t nearly as bad as “Little Boy Blue.” 

[2] Here’s Henry describing leaving the corpse of his wife in A Farewell to Arms.

“But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-bye to a statue. After a while, I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”

Pleasure Chest Rocks Chico Feo

What a blast we had digging on Pleasure Chest, an absolutely great show band with an eclectic repertoire of killer covers. We’re talking Booker T, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Erma Thomas, and, drum roll, the Buckinghams. Time won’t let me, no it won’t and by the way, time ain’t on my side, no it ain’t.

Here’s a peek:

An Homage to Bo Diddley

I can’t remember when I first heard the song “Bo Diddley” with its hambone beat, hypnotic riffs, and Jerome Green powered maracas, but it thrilled me. I realize that Chuck Berry’s more wide-ranging musically and possesses a deeper canon, but Bo’s early songs with their African rhythms reverberated in my marrowbone like nothing else in early rock-n-roll. 

Later in high school, my friend Tim Miskel turned me onto the album Animal Tracks. On the final cut of Side 1, Eric Burdon provides a five-minute bio of Bo, which initiated a mild obsession.

One day, one night
Came a Cadillac, four headlights
Came a man with a big long fat cigar.
He said “Come here son, I’m going to make you a star.”
Bo Diddley said, “Uh, what’s in it for me?”
The man said, “Uh, shut your mouth son and play the guitar
And you just wait and see.”

                                    From “The Story of Boy Diddley,” Animal Tracks

Whenever I’d go into a new record store, I’d see if they had any Diddley. No luck ever until one day I wandered into Fox Music House on King Street in Charleston. Their inventory was eclectic, old-fashioned, but sparse. You could cop some Doris Day but not the Stones. As I was flipping through their loosely organized bins, I found a first edition copy of Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (recorded live at the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, SC). Fox sold albums for the exorbitant price of five dollars a pop.[1]  I actually tried to talk the clerk into a discount. “No one’s ever going to buy this record,” I argued. “It’ been sitting here since since 1964.” It was no dice, but I snatched it up anyway. By the way, the vinyl was heavy on those discs of yore; you could beat someone senseless with a pre-70s LP.

Alas, one debauched night in the first semester of my freshman year, I left Beach Party on the floor of the suite adjoining our dorm rooms, and someone stepped on it. The damned thing cracked like a glass plate.

Chalk it up to the wages of carelessness or drunkenness or gangafication or a combination of the three.

Later, in graduate school, all hepped up on Dada, my friends Jake Williams, Keith Sanders, and I had a mini Bo revival. We nearly wore out Keith’s Diddley’s records. We’d meet on Sunday evenings, prepare dinner, imbibe second tier scotch, and jive talk our way into the wee hours while listening to Keith’s world class vinyl collection.

A few flips of the calendar later, in the pre-children early years of my marriage to Judy Birdsong, I got to see Bo play live at a club in North Charleston. In between sets, I approached him as he walked off stage.

Wesley: Oh, man, Bo, I’m such a big fan. This is such an honor.

Bo: silence.

Wesley: Hey, Bo, where’s Jerome Green, your maraca man?

Bo: deceased.

Wesley: How about the Duchess?

Bo: Chicago.

Wesley (finally getting the hint): Well, thank you so much!

Bo: head nod.

Well, in the course of the years that followed – childbirth, school days, graduation, empty nest, cancer, the death of Judy – my Bo Diddley obsession faded away,[2] though I still listened to him now and then and sometimes included one of his songs on the mixed tapes and later mixed CDs I made for my students who won vocabulary bees. 

When Caroline, my second wife, took me to meet her father Lee Tigner for the first time in the wilds of Awendaw, I discovered that he, too, was a Diddley devotee and could match me lyric for lyric. He also had met Bo in person but received a somewhat warmer albeit taciturn response. After Bo’s demise, Lee made the pilgrimage to Bronson, Florida, to visit the grave of the master. We’re talking about serious admiration. 

Lee Tigner at Bo Diddley’s grave

Anyway, Lee and I bonded over Bo, which is perhaps a small compensation to him in light of my being an unintrepid indoorsman. 

A couple of weeks ago, on an internet hunt, I found a copy of the late departed Bo Diddley’s Beach Party for sale and ordered it. It finally arrived today. So now, when Lee’s birthday comes around, I’ve gotten him a gift that I know he’s gonna dig, at least more than he did the last Christmas president I got him, an autographed copy of a mystery set on Folly Beach that Lee pegged as the worst novel ever published in the United States.

I’ll leave you with this:


[1] Back then, most albums cost under three bucks.

[2] If you’re gonna get all grammatical on me and say the “away” is unnecessary, I’ll respond by saying that it’s an allusion to Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” which uses the Bo Diddley beat. 

The Moore Brothers, Ridiculous and Sublime Edition

Self-portrait as a Bobble Head

Last night, the Moore Brothers, Fleming and Wesley, performed at George Fox’s Chico Feo Music Extravaganza. The elder Moore, Wesley, his head bobbing like, well, like a Bobble Head, recited his poem “Roaring Twenties Redux.”

Wowee, pretty silly.

Roaring Twenties Redux

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It’s so elegant
So intelligent

TS Eliot, “The Waste Land”

One-two-three, one-two-three, ow, uh, alright, uh!

Wilson Pickett, “Land of a Thousand Dances”

Once this pandemic is done, y’all, people gonna be hollering siss-boom-bah, packing the tattoo parlors, barbershops and bars, macro-dosing, doing the Hedonism like it’s wa-wa-tusi, dancing on tables, dancing in the streets, there’ll be swingin’ and swayin’ and records playin’, live bands blasting covers past curfew, PO-lice sirens wailing and blue lights swirling, sweatpants discarded, shimmering gowns flowin’, flasks flashin’ in the comet light of the apocalyptic party, alack and alas and all that jazz!


Brother Fleming, on the other hand, teamed up with Robert Lighthouse and David George Sink for a moving tribute to the Charleston Nine.

Here’s an excerpt:

As our late mother was won’t to say “There’s no accounting for taste.”

Robert Lighthouse, Swedish Bluesman Extraordinaire

What do you think of when you think of Sweden? Viking ships? Ingmar Bergman? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? The blues?

The blues? What in the hell am I talking about?

I’m talking about Robert Lighthouse – nee Ivan R. Palinic[1], the Swedish blues guitarist who at the tender age of fourteen heard an Alan Lomax field recording of Muddy Waters – boom – Road to Damascus. Farewell, Nazareth, hail, Dr. Ross, John Lee Hooker, and Jimi Hendrix.

“Muddy ’67” photograph by David Gahr

I chatted with Robert in bright sunshine on our dock yesterday before his gig at the Singer/Songwriter’s Soapbox at Chico Feo, the best free music you’ll find in anywhere in what once was called Tri-County Area.[1]

Prompted by my questions, Robert related a CliffNote summary his life: moving to the States at eighteen, playing for tips on DC street corners, getting discovered by Charlie Sayles, the one-eyed harp master (who also got his start in music playing for tips on street corners).

Charlie Sayles

Robert toured Belgium and Holland with Charlie’s band and ended up landing a record deal of his own. His critically acclaimed first album, Drive-Thru Love, available on Smithsonian Folk Ways Recordings[2], includes both covers and originals. In addition to his second record, Deep Down in the Mud, Robert also appears on the Folkways compilation 1996 album, The Blues You Would Just Hate to Lose, Vol. II.  He has shared a stage with Dr. John and opened for Taj Mahal and Johnny Winter, whom Robert describes as a man of few words but many bong hits.

The pianist/blues impresario Gary Erwin (aka Shrimp City Slim) recruited Robert to appear at blues festivals in Camden, Greenwood, and Charleston, and somehow, Robert and my brother Fleming met, and, the rest, as they say, is history.

If you ever get the chance, check him out.

Here’s a clip of his version of the Charlie Patton tune “Rattlesnake Blues.”

And him warming up at Chico Feo last night (8 March 2021)

photo credit I-and-I


[1] That be Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties. The Soapbox runs on Mondays from 6 to 10. Be there are be square.

[2] How cool to share a label with Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger Leadbelly, and Dave Van Ronk. I made the mistake of clicking on their website and see a Lord Lavender calypso record I can’t live without.


[1] Robert tells me that his surname, which is Croatian, means fire-starter, as in arsonist, so he anglicized it to “Lighthouse” in the sense of setting a house on fire, not in the sense of guiding sailors safely to shore. 

Open Mike Community Spotlight

Captain Phil (You Can’t Keep a Maimed Man Down) Frandino

If you live within thirty miles of the Edge of America and can afford to party on Monday nights, you owe it to yourself to take in the Singer/Songwriter Soapbox held at Chico Feo from six to ten.

This event, hosted by the killer musician and songwriter George Alan Fox, showcases an eclectic array of music makers and poets, not only rockstar wannabes, but established entertainers like Danielle Howle and Robert Lighthouse.

The sessions have led to community building on Folly the likes I’ve never seen. Caroline and I I have met so many talented musicians –  Pernell McDaniel, Jeff Lowry, and Captain Phil Frandino, for example. Plus, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for talents of people I already knew, like Charlie Stonecypher and his funky ukulele (complete with wha-wha pedal), and now I’ve developed an even greater appreciation of the deep and soulful poetry of my pal Jason Chambers. Not only have the performers grown closer with each other, but they have also formed friendships with the audience as well. The word family is overused, but it is sort of like that, like distant cousins at a family reunion.

Last night the guitarist David Sink sat in with the acts, and man, oh, man. 

The first clip features George Fox performing a lovely original song “Books, Seeds, and Bullets” inspired by the Singer/Songwriter Soapbox.[1]


[1] And what an honor have my name mentioned in the lyrics.

video shot by Fleming Moore

Next some solo guitar work by David Sink at the end of Brother Fleming Moore’s paean to marital discord, “Busted Husband.”

Oh yeah, and Pernell McDaniel was in the house selling copies of his new CD. More about that later!

Radio, Radio

“I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial.” Elvis Costello, “Radio, Radio”

I acquired my first radio when I was 14 or so, an antiquated amplitude modulation model.[1]  I’d listen to it for hours at a time until the radio’s vacuum tubes would overheat, which necessitated removing them with a damp wash cloth. I’d hold the terry-cloth-shrouded tube in my hand until it cooled and I could reinsert its delicate prongs into the semi-circular holes from which they’d been extracted. Although I possess the fine motor skills of an untrained seal, by necessity I became adept at removing and reasserting the tubes, sometimes having to adjust slightly a prong that had been bent in the operation. Usually, the radio was tuned to the Mighty WTMA – Tiger Radio – whose premiere DJ, the late great Booby Nash, entertained the Charleston area with his repertoire of monologues, skits, fictitious call-ins, and playlists.

Nash in the 60s (image via WTMA Pictures)

In fact, Booby Nash was the first person I heard employ the phrase “late great.” 

“And here’s an oldie but goldy,” he’d say in his easy-on-the-ears baritone, “the late great Sam Cooke’s ‘Chain Gang.’”

Click for a snippet of Sam singing “Chain Gang.”

Ignorant, I didn’t like most of the oldies; they were unfamiliar. I’d much rather hear Marvin Gaye’s contemporary 1967 cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” than the Shirelles’s 1961 rendition of “Tonight’s the Night.” In my estimation, WTMA played too many oldies. I wanted to hear the Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B” or Bobby Fuller’s cover of “I Fought the Law,” not Elvis’s or Chuck Berry’s antediluvian 1950s tunes.

Like I said, I was ignorant.

Milo Hamilton with Henry Aaron

In the summers, before there was such a thing as cable, I’d listen to the Atlanta Braves on that radio, the broadcasts fading in and out as competitive wavelengths waxed and waned, which could be, shall we say, a tad frustrating at times. The Braves’ play-by-play announcer Milo Hamilton might have Phil Niekro checking a runner at first when suddenly scratching static would avalanche over the play-by-play as some other station butted in with forty seconds of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”  By the time Milo’s voice reemerged from the deep, the runner at first had scored, and now runners stood at second and third. And, of course, the radio’s tubes could go on the fritz at the most inconvenient times during those Braves Baseball broadcasts.

Still, there were some stations like WNOX in Knoxville whose 50,000 watts provided better wavelength stability. That’s where I first heard “heavy” bands like Cream and Grand Funk Railroad.[2] In Chronicles, Dylan describes staying up in the wee hours listening to distant niche radio stations that provided him with an invaluable education in Americana music. By the way, I highly recommend Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour where he plays a DJ doing an old-time radio format. Although the program’s now defunct, you can still catch his whiskey-themed broadcast here. Dylan’s knowledge of the history of American music is encyclopedic, and listening to these broadcasts is highly educational if you’re into popular music.[3]

Eventually, alas, that old radio kicked the bucket, and I can’t remember if we replaced it or not. I think probably not. My father, though, rigged half a stereo system with an amp, turntable, and one speaker he encased in a fabric-façaded cabinet so I could listen to mono LPs. Thanks to my impatience and lack of fine motor skills, the mid-side songs I’d manually re-cue on the LPs would end up scratched and with their pop and crackle replicate the static of nighttime am radio listening.

I actually used to claim that a record doesn’t have character if it hasn’t been scratched. 


[1] Better known in its abbreviated form am.

[2] WTMA didn’t stray from standard Top 40 fare.

[3] Of course, he had a staff but still.

Charlie Stonecypher and Rik Cribbs at Songwriter’s Soap Box, Chico Feo, 23 November 2020

Rik Cribb

The festivities ran from six to ten, but in this “edition,” I’m only featuring two performances.* First, Folly Beach’s own Renaissance man, Charlie Stonecypher, bassist, uke thrasher, newspaper columnist, and for the seventh straight year, South Carolina’s Body Board Champion. Hit it, Charlie.

Next, Rik Cribbs, a Charleston legend, taking time out from his Honeymoon to perform.

Happy Thanksgiving, and this year I’m very thankful for George Alan Fox for doing such an excellent job of putting the show together each week. Bravo, George.


*It takes literally hours to upload these videos, hence the brevity. Youtube and I have had a falling out.