Jimi

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This is a picture of me with my son on the site of the original Woodstock stage where Jimi once famously played the Star Spangled Banner. We were swept up in the moment. What better place for a jumping air guitar salute? “None more better place” is the answer.

Starting a series on icons of rock- I am starting with Jimi Hendrix.

There were guitars that screamed and guitars that jangled. And then came Jimi and the guitar would speak clearly of pain and of joy…..huh?….what?

Jimi and the guitar were one-he slept with his guitar because he was his guitar. When he had nothing as a small boy-he had a broom that he pretended was his guitar and it was his only friend.

Like Tom Hanks in Castaway with Wilson-unnatural bond of person to object.

And I forgot to mention-the best rock guitarist ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. No discussion needed.

[Since this is a blog –allow me to go on a bit more]

Especially for you kids that are new to rock music.

Rock is blues based.

This is a basic timeline.jimi-3

For purists only-this can sound a little rough as we cannot go back to the 1930’s and imagine how it would feel.  We can’t walk on those dusty roads and hitch a ride to the next town with 12 cents in our pocket.

Robert Johnson arrived and let the world know that something was going on in the delta. The best blues music is always someone going on a rant with their guitar about how things are in their world. You could say that about the best rock music, the best country music or the best hip hop music.

The truth thrown out there in a compelling way.

T-bone Walker added some fire to the guitar- he started doing things that no one else could.

“They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday is just as bad.”

There are other songs that I should pick to show off the virtuoso in action—-but this is sooooo smooooooth.  It just dances and tickles the music palette before seeping gently into your soul.

Jimi ran all that energy and inspiration in one big liftoff that reached orbit. We got great guitar players now-we don’t have a name that I can place next .

Jack White is close if you make me force a choice. Close still does not fit. Like a giant stone used in the pyramids-it has to ease in there perfectly. I am still waiting.

And here is where we finish for now.

I am going for less fire and more heart in these tunes and want to end with one of the greats in that next group to follow. SVR spent his whole career chasing down Hendrix-he even carried one of the master’s wah wah pedals on this journey. I am not going to throw a link here-but I do write about a show where I was lucky to catch him with his boots on this pedal early in my blogging days.

Maybe lucky is not the right word- Let’s try blessed.

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The Seven Wonders of Rock n Roll-#1 The Crossroads

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I wrote my favorite post a few months ago. https://caveoffame.com/2013/02/20/the-devils-music/

And since then I have goggled around and have found no boot tracks to mark the consecrated ground of the “Seven Wonders of Rock”. None have attempted to single these out: from the big guys of Rolling Stone and Spin all the way down to the insignificant little-guy blogger in a cave like me.

"The Crossroads", where Robert Johns...
“The Crossroads”, where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for mastery of the blues, according to the legend. It is the intersection of U.S. Routes 61 and 49, at Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am starting at The Crossroads-There is a marker at the intersection of U.S. Routes 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi that is the tourist spot to go. This may or may not be the place of legend and it does work …but…I have this idea of a more rural deserted crossroads at midnight with a full moon(devil optional). Robert Johnson made a choice that night and played guitar like he was chased by the hounds of hell for the rest on his days on earth. Rock n Roll was born here! So when I go I will be taking pictures at both places…the one that is marked and the one that I have in my mind as yet unmarked.

It has to be in Mississippi -The crossroads where black and white music mixed to create an American phenomenon that took over the whole world. The devil has been in the details ever since.

My plan is to roll these out one by one until we have all seven-  Then create a separate  page- and just maybe another site where people can send pictures and opinions because that would be awesome!  There is still time to change my mind on these wonders. I will entertain any suggestions and give you full credit if you can convince me of an error.

And lastly I am not enforcing the “be nice” WordPress decorum if you want to leave opinions. These 7 wonders are for all of us and it is more important that I get this right (or close to it) instead of feeling warm and fuzzy all over with tons of like buttons.

As of now I have no actual pictures because I have visited none of these sites, I hope to change that in the near future!

The Devil’s Music

Robert Johnson's studio portrait, circa 1935—o...
Robert Johnson’s studio portrait, circa 1935—one of only two verified known published photographs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine yourself as a struggling bluesman in the 1930’s going from town to town, playing little juke joints and street corners in the rural south. Maybe you get in trouble with women and whiskey, maybe you catch some grief for playing evil music…I’m just guessing here. You may even wonder if playing this type of music is a good or bad thing. There would not be much fame or money—Rock stars don’t exist yet because you are going to be the first one.

So at a point in your life when you wonder just what the hell you are doing…you meet a white man at the crossroads (because he won’t go into town at night) and sign a record deal that probably makes him a lot more money than you- this seals the deal and makes you devote your life (there won’t be much of it left) playing the devil’s music.

Yeah, I made that up…

The actual legend has the young Robert Johnson meeting the devil at a crossroads at midnight and selling his soul in order to play guitar like no one ever played it before.  The devil wouldn’t take too long to collect on this bargain as Robert Johnson would die at the age of 27 by means of poison; either a jealous woman or angry man? (the details are sketchy at best) There is little doubt that he got real talent so quick that people were looking for a story. There is also no doubt that stories fly fast and furious when you leave this earth by tangled means.

When his records were re-released many years later in England…they had a profound influence on musicians like Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling stones. If blues is the cornerstone of rock music, it is not too much of a stretch to say that a lot of the weight and grit in that first heavy brick can be traced back to this man. Rock music owes its substance to him.

I have taken shots at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they got it right by putting him in with the first nominees.

So as I am starting a page called “The of 7 Wonders of Rock Music” with a crossroads in Mississippi- There is a marker at the intersection of U.S. Routes 61 and 49 in Clarksdale. This is the one that is tagged as the tourist place of  this legend… But to complete this wonder, I would also go with any deserted crossroads in the State of Mississippi at Midnight (full moon optional) as a pure rock n roll alternative.

We have the first of the seven wonders of Rock music…6 more to go…get your comments in now to help find the others.

ZZ Top and John Lee Hooker-Cheap Sunglasses- The Origins of Rock Part 1

Don't Look Back (John Lee Hooker album)
Don’t Look Back (John Lee Hooker album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have started working on a timeline of Rock music and I am being careful; something I post on WordPress might not get corrected immediately.  It could stand there for a long time as a monument to my ineptitude-so we go one step at a time.

There is an argument about the first rock song ever created-Is it “Rock around the Clock” by Bill Haley or one of the many other better sounding songs around that era? John Lee Hooker gets thrown in this mix with his 1948 “Boogie Chillun”.

While my brain is churning these things- I hear “Cheap Sunglasses” on the radio and all I can think is “Damn- that is John Lee Hooker- from the growling “tiger in a cage” vocal to the surly guitar riff.” But then -that is not John Lee Hooker-that is three guys from Texas putting a strong amount of boogie flavor into a song about wearing plastic sunglasses while stalking cute chicks and trying to look cool with epic beards.

They take a musical style and bend it to their own view point- adding in the tight sweaters and cheap sunglasses while removing years and years of the frustration that created the riff to begin with.

I don’t want to start another lawsuit but this goes right to the roots of rock. That difference between inspiration and downright theft. When white musicians started borrowing blues and gospel for the first time -Rock started to gain form.  Almost nobody disputes that.

John Lee Hooker playing John Lee Hooker is pure blues. ZZ Top playing John Lee Hooker is Rock Music. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup doing “That’s alright Mama” is delta R&B while Elvis Presley covering the same song is Rock n Roll. It’s like the same river flowing through a different landscape.  I am not saying that the originals are bad…I love all of it!!!…Even those famed Robert Johnson records from the 1930’s, but when Eric Clapton takes those records and channels them through his own experience and talent-they become something else…they have to …different time-different culture-different world.

Happy Birthday “Killer”

Starting this wordpress site on rock music got me thinking about the timeline of rock music. You know the proverbial “where did it all start?”
I’m not going back to the “Crossroads” with Robert Johnson although I want to because blues is the foundation of so much great music. I am also not buying “Rock around the Clock” with Bill Haley and the Comets. That song is just a little too processed to be the beginning. 1957 and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by the conflicted Wildman of Louisiana-Jerry Lee Lewis, born today in 1935-is where it all starts. The story is well known about the marriage to his 13 year old cousin that burned out his rise to fame very quickly. He was the first great character, kicking his chair across stage, playing piano with his feet. The “Killer” (that is his nickname) put on a show. The “Killer” is still putting on shows….he has outlived countless equally possessed souls who followed him down that path to stardom. From Buddy Holly to Lynyrd Skynyrd in plane crashes. Overdoses of Jimi Hendrix to Amy Whinehouse. Suicides of Kurt Cobain and Michael Hutchence…the list of the fallen goes on and on (This blog plans to get to a lot of these).  Jerry Lee survives to celebrate his 77th birthday and that says something about how the fire in your soul can keep you burning. “Great balls of fire” must keep you burning even longer…Rock on Jerry!