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.

A Paean to Warren Zevon, Hivah!

I went home with a waitress the way I always do
How was I to know she was with the Russians, too?

I was gambling in Havana, I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns, and money
Dad, get me out of this, hiyah!

An innocent bystander,
Somehow I got stuck between a rock and a hard place,
And I’m down on my luck.
Yes, I’m down on my luck.
Well, I’m down on my luck.

I’m hiding in Honduras, I’m a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns, and money
The shit has hit the fan.

                                                “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”

image from Britannica

I miss Warren Zevon, his catchy tunes, his erudite cynicism, his geo-political obsessions. The first Zevon song I heard came blasting from an AM/FM radio in my cramped three-brother bedroom in 1977 when I had moved back home as a place to crash before getting married. I had just dropped out of grad school, didn’t have a job, and even though my wife-to-be was relatively wealthy, my mother insisted that every day I drive fifteen miles to the Temp Agency on Rivers Avenue to see if I could cop some sort of stopgap gig in construction, a trade I had never plied. It was, in a word, depressing.

And, of course, no one ever chose me, lacking both construction boots and biceps.[1]  

The song blasting from that radio on that autumn evening was “Werewolves of London,” a joyous, literate, tongue-in-cheek send-up celebrity society.

Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen
Doing the Werewolves of London
I saw Lon Chaney, Jr. walking with the Queen
Doing the Werewolves of London
I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s
And his hair was perfect.

Those lyrics are perfect – slyly allusive, absurd, funny, like the howling ah-hoos of the chorus. With Warren I had a pal, someone I could relate to, a hip, literate compadre who employed humor to keep chase away the darkness that stalked him like an obsessive spurned lover.[2]

The majority of my hometown Summerville pals had moved on, and most of the ones who had stayed fell into the demographic of “white males without a college degree,” hard drinkers and pot smokers who wouldn’t know Lon Chaney, Jr. from Zeno of Elea.[3]

And as the years passed, I continued to follow Warren’s career and was lucky enough to see him twice, once in a bar called the Music Farm with a Canadian backup band in 1992 and a couple of years later in a solo acoustic show at Mynskens on Market Street. 

Although we would never have a conversation, he would continue to be my pal up to the very end when he accepted his death sentence of Mesothelioma with characteristic good humor. 

Warren Zevon is sitting at a table in a Hollywood hotel cafe, patiently waiting for someone to bring him a menu. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes seep by. “At a time like this,” he says with an arched eyebrow and a low, rumbling laugh, “you really get the feeling of time marching on.”

David Fricke, “Warren Zevon and the Art of Dying”

I’m writing this on 15 November 2020 in the interregnum between Trump’s concession and Biden’s inauguration and could use a new Zevon name-dropping record to drop, something rhyming “Kayleigh” and “Tiffany,” “Giuliani” and “Proud Boy Army,” something with a resonant bass line, emphatic drumming, and lively guitar licks that would provide me the opportunity to show off my gold-capped molars in a wide ass sardonic grin.

Guess I’ll just have to settle for “Boom Boom Mancini,” “Desperado’s Under the Eaves,” and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.”


[1] I did do some substitute teaching, though it was more like babysitting than pedagogy, and eventually through a set of divine missteps seemingly ordained by Tyche herself, landed a job at a community college teaching in one semester English 101, Technical Report Writing, and Business English. Obviously, they were as desperate as I was.

[2] In fact, a hade-sporting skull bogarting a cigarette became Zevon’s trademark. 

[3] Yes, I am a card-carrying elitist. Check this out: 


Return of the Singer/Songwriter Soapbox

Image by George Alan Fox

After a week off, Chico Feo’s Songwriter’s Soapbox returned in fine fashion. George Alan Fox, our inimitable host, bookended the extravaganza with a sampling of original tunes. This one’s my favorite, the brilliant “Figurin’ It Out,” performed at the end of the evening.

Pernell McDaniel laid down some country tunes he had recently written:

Alas, I didn’t get to record an outstanding set by Captain Philip Frandino, whose song “Compromise” speaks to our times. I promise to get him next time he performs.

Here’s a second or to of my occasional poem on Georgia flipping Democratic:

What an easy act to follow, especially for a talented songwriter like Gracie Trice, who, believe it or not, just started writing songs last month.

OMG, as the young people say, get a load of these spoken words by Brianna Stello:

Brother Fleming Moore did a set ending with a gospel tune.

Alas, I also failed to record Jeff Lowry, whom I also promise to video next time he performs, and, even though I did video Jason Chambers, I did so on his phone and don’t have access. It’s a big ass file, and I’ll add it if he can transport it. Lastly, several other performers were outstanding, but I didn’t catch some of their names.

What fun, y’all. Whitney Wienmann was there, celebrating her birthday, along with Caroline Tigner Moore. In addition, a Who’s Who of Folly illuminati made the scene: Surfer Phil, Tyler, Greg, Jesse, Matthew, Dan and Becca (who did a duet early in the evening with Becca on banjo) – the list goes on and on.

A shoutout to bartenders Rachelle, Katie, and Gavin. I also believe I saw a hatless Solly lurking on the periphery.

So if you’re in town, next Monday, head out to Chico Feo. Open Mike starts at 6PM.

Cheers!

Marvelous Night for a Moon Dance

brought to you by Foxy G’s Smoky Goodness!!

Here are some brief videos chronicling a bit of what went down at the Songwriter Soap Box last night on the Edge of America.

The first clip features singer/songwriter Fleming Moore accompanied by bluesman Robert Lighthouse on guitar and an unnamed percussionist.

Next, Robert Lighthouse solo, laying down some blues.

Here’s an excerpt of Jason Chambers reading one of his poems.

Too, too short of a clip of the incomparable Danielle Howle.

Sorry, I couldn’t provide videos for all of the performers who included George Alan Fox, Pernell McDaniel, Toomey Tucker, Charlie Stonecypher, Pete Burbage, Eric Barnett, Jeff Lowry, Jamime Crisp, George Honeycutt and Bobby Sutton, Eliza Novella, and Leon David.