Thanksgiving Joys

IF we could wipe away the genocidal history of the American Thanksgiving, it would be the perfect holiday for me. Imagine that the atrocities heaped upon the indigenous people of this land were not associated with it’s origin. Imagine if it were simply a day to give thanks. Such a worthy day it would be with no desecration of a concurrent holy birth, or a sacred moment of salvation, but just a day to gather in Unity and be grateful.  Maybe we could redefine it that way and be grateful for a hopeful future instead of an unjust past.  Maybe.

My Bride and I just enjoyed the best Thanksgiving of our 12 years together.  Now we have enjoyed some EXCELLENT Thanksgiving feasts with family and friends through the years, but THIS year we were joined in our own home by GRAND KIDS and of course, their parents (you remember, my daughter Rachel and her husband Cody Langness). Nothing beats that!

Aside from the enormous dinner prepared by my bride Deb and daughter Rachel, the festivities were like a 3-D movie of pure delight. I so loved seeing our grand daughters enjoy themselves and interact with each other. It was an unparalleled treat!

Did someone say “Photos please”?

I hope you had an enjoyable day too.  Before I sign off, I want you to know I’m working on a new song called “Meat and Potatoes”.  It’s a lament of a man being forced, by his own desire to live longer, into eating a more plant-based diet.  Personal?  You bet it is.  Stay tuned.

///Darrell
Darrell Elmer Rodgers
Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist
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Virginia Vacation & Reunion

We just returned from 10 days in Virginia where I took my Bride to see Colonial Williamsburg, and Jamestown, two historic places she had never seen.  We walked ourselves half to death (which doesn’t take long in our condition) but it was great weather, more late summer than fall, and we enjoyed ourselves.

If you’ve never seen Colonial Williamsburg, I recommend doing so at least once. See Jamestown as well.  I am always impressed with the way our predecessors carved out an English city in what was essentially a swampy jungle.  I am fascinated by the craftsmanship that went it just about everything they made. And I am astounded by the work it took.

In Williamsburg, it was work performed by African slaves, without whom this country would never have been built so relatively quickly.  It was good to visit the Peyton Randolf House and hear the living-history docents describe the contrasts between the lives of the slaves and those of their moneyed masters.  Peyton Randolf, the first President of the Continental Congress, resided in Williamsburg on a small, 4-acre “urban plantation” with his wife and 27 slaves. 27!!! to take care of just the two of them and 4 acres. They owned 4 other large plantations as well with hundreds of slaves all totaled.  The docent conveyed the most honest portrayal of colonial life I have ever heard. She did not embellish, nor did she hide or “dress up” anything. Very straight talk which we so much appreciated.

We ventured North after sightseeing to visit family and friends and attend my 45th high school reunion.  There were many old friends to see there including my buddy Joe Law with whom I enlisted in the Navy in 1972.  Joe has organized the past 5 reunions for us. It’s a tough job and we owe him deep gratitude. Also there was my old friend Tad Richardson, one of the first “kids” I met when we moved to Sterling, Va back in 1961.  We have history.

And of course I got to see my mom.  She’ll be 92 in November and seems to be doing well. I visited my sister and brother too and saw my cousin at the reunion.  Let’s call it a good trip.

 

///Darrell
Darrell Elmer Rodgers
Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist
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Slippin’ into the “Third World”

Before hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I was commiserating about the decline of America’s work ethic and the rise of isolationism in our attitudes. Violence I saw (in Charlottesville and San Francisco) conjured up images of bloody revolutions we have seen against dictatorships in less affluent countries. I wrote a song. I finished recording last night. I hope you enjoy “Third World”.

Be aware, this is just a satirical wake-up call. It’s not a prediction of what will be, but a warning against a possible outcome if we fail to arise. The good people of Houston are right now arising to help one another and are being joined by many fine Americans from across Texas and the nation. Let’s keep the attitude once we get past the trauma. Why wait for another catastrophe to demand it?

///Darrell
Darrell Elmer Rodgers
Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist
Posted in Folk, General Conversation, Music, Music Performance, Music Recording, songwriter, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boy! I needed that!

Believe it or not, I’m talking about a family reunion.  I know some of you would rather take a hot poker in your eye than attend a family reunion, and I kind of feel like that about air travel these days, but this reunion was superb.

And it was a surprise for my niece Amy who has a reputation for making surprise visits to family members around the country.  When my daughters learned that Amy was heading home for the 4th of July, they quickly planned a surprise rendezvous.  I thought it was bad timing for me, but it was the opportunity to see the first encounter between my youngest grand daughter Katie (1 and a half years old) and my mother Katy (91 and a half years old).  I HAD to be there!

So did the rest of the family, as it turned out, except for my cousin Robbie Murdick and his wife Cathy who had committed to a wedding and a trip to Florida, and their daughter Nicole who was hosting some friends, and my son-in-law Bernard DeCrane who is engulfed in work these days.  But the remaining 17 made it!

My sister and brother hosted gatherings at their respective homes on the weekend that were wonderful and Deb and I got in a visit to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture – an absolute gift.  The timed-tickets for that place are sold-out through October but they issue “left-over” walk up tickets each weekday afternoon at 1PM. Well, by 12:45 PM the line for those slots was already extremely long. But this graciously helpful volunteer asked me if I was a veteran and if I had ID to show it.  I did! So Deb and I were admitted straight away, 10 minutes before the waiting line. We had someone take our picture next to the display of the Virginia v. Loving court case that over-turned Virginia law in 1967 and made interracial marriage legal.

I also took Deb to Great Falls (with mom) and the Museum of American History and the Udar-Hazy Center of the Air and Space Museum.  We had great meals with family and lots of laughter. And abundant family LOVE. Boy! Yes!  I need that.

 

///Darrell
Darrell Elmer Rodgers
Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist

 

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Race Unity Day in Las Cruces

We spent Saturday setting up, hosting, and cleaning up a Pot Luck Picnic at Veterans’ Park here in Las Cruces. The purpose was to commemorate Race Unity Day, established in 1957 by the Baha’i Faith in the USA.  There was only a small turn-out, but those who came were sincerely committed to establishing and promoting unity among the diverse peoples of our city.  I learned some good things from them. The one that really stuck with me was a line that a life-long Las Cruces resident named Inez shared.  We were talking about how it was up to us to teach our children and grandchildren to TEACH unity.  It’s not enough to be prejudice-free.  We need to teach that through action and show others how to teach it through action.  Inez said that her grandmother used to say, regarding children,  “It’s not what you leave (for) them, it’s what you leave IN them”.  I sure do like that.

Although I was prepared to set up a P.A., the small crowd really didn’t need the amplification, so I did a few tunes “unplugged” as it were.

The crowd, being mostly older folks, kind of ran out of steam before the end of our third hour (98-degree heat) and so, we packed it up a bit early.  After we returned home, I received a call from someone who had mentioned that his friend had gone to the park, but saw no one. I guess we should have waited a bit longer.  The caller said they had read my letter to the editor and being veterans, had decided it was worth a visit. That was good to hear.   Below is the text of the opening lines my letter:

“To the Editor:
As a veteran, I remember fondly the many people of different races with whom I served our country. Those Americans came from all backgrounds and circumstances. Their friendship helped me overcome the faulty training of “us and them” with the unifying reality of “oneness” that binds us all as humans. We are all of the one human race.”

It was followed of course by an invitation to all to join us in Veterans’ Park.  Inez told me it was my letter that moved her to attend. I’m so glad she did.  And it was delightful to meet Shirely from Las Cruces, and Pat who drove from Demming  as well. And I want to thank our friend Kris for coming over to our house both before and after the picnic to help us load and unload the truck. I’m not as physically resilient as I once was.

Overall, it was a good experience and one that we will likely do again next year during the second weekend in June. There may be Race Unity Day observances that same weekend where you live. Check it out!

///Darrell
Darrell Elmer Rodgers
Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist

 

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Folk Festival reflections

Michael Parker (drums) Rick Heyman (bass)

First off, I love my band mates. These two guys just make my songs come alive and I so enjoy performing with them.  While driving four hours to rehearse was a bit grueling, the fun of working out arrangements with Rick Heyman and Michael Parker was invigorating.  It has been like that for these past nine years and I look forward to every session. Now if I can figure out how to get them into the studio….

Well, secondly, the Folk Festival is a remarkable event in Tucson. Think of it: Five stages, over 100 acts, for about 10 hours a day for TWO DAYS, in the heart of the city, ALL FREE to the Public.  It is amazing that such a professional show-of-shows can be executed each year by a team of volunteers.  From their humble beginnings around a kitchen table 32 years ago, the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association has turned into a fantastic organization and a real credit to the City of Tucson.

Next, I’m blown away by the talent of the many friends I have made there over the years.  Here are some photos of just a few of the musicians I so admire:

The John Coinman Band

John Coinman, one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet, is a hell of a songwriter and composer. His band mates are outstanding. Blair Forward (bass) and Larry Cobb (drums) have been playing with John for years. Neal Harry (whom we call the “Jimi Hendrix of Pedal Steel”) is a superb addition we get to enjoy in Tucson.

Don Armstrong and the Whiskeypalians

Don Armstrong often performs solo. He and his late wife Victoria have written some of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear and Don still sings them wonderfully.  We were lucky to have him joined by his many stellar musician friends this year. It turned out to be too difficult for me to get them all in a single photo.  On the left is Nick Coventry on fiddle, hidden from view is Michael Ronstadt on cello, that’s Michael Markowitz on Mandolin, Don Armstrong (leaning with guitar) Slim Rost on bass, Gary Mackender and Alvin Blaine on Dobro (and anything else handy). Behind Don, blocked from view, is Jim Lipson providing percussion.  Jim is the prime-mover of the Tucson Folk Festival.  All of these guys are TOP-NOTCH musicians with many years of performing experience.  I was EmCee for this stage and told the audience they had just seen over 300 years of performance experience and 50 of those were Don’s.

Heather Hardy making folks dance

Heather “li’l mama” Hardy and her band have a way of bringing the audience to their feet.  In fact, it happens every time. That’s bassist Larry Lerma in the straw hat – the keeper of the groove.

Young Elizabeth Tighe (pronounced “tie”), who surprisingly is only 16, got some strong back up this year from “I Hear Voices” singers Suzy Ronstadt and Bobby Kimmel and Bobby Ronstadt on accordion, Michael Ronstadt (again) on cello, Michael Markowitz on Mandolin and Tom Potter on percussion.

Elizabeth Tighe with some strong support

She did a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Your No Good” with all those Ronstadts and Bobby Kimmel (founder of the Stone Poneys) backing her up. Delightful.

Jim Pipkin with Cliff Cordes

There’s way too much to cover in one post but I want to tell you that my friend Jim Pipkin (aka Jim Gahar) opened the festival in fine form with accompaniment on harmonica by Cliff Cordes. Jim writes story songs that paint pictures in your mind.

And my friend Eric Ramsey, possibly the best slide-blues player in Arizona right now, won the 2017 Stefan George Memorial Songwriting Contest.  One of his two entries was a tribute to Stephan George (another friend we lost in 2015).

Eric Ramsey on Slide

Eric also gave a workshop on slide guitar that I was able to attend. I don’t know that I learned what he taught, but I sure enjoyed the session!

There were of course many many more friends performing but it would take too many pages to mention them all. I heard some really good home grown music and provided some of it myself. And what more can one festival performer ask for?

Next year!

 

///Darrell
Darrell Elmer Rodgers
Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist
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Another GREAT festival in Tucson

I so enjoyed performing with my band-mates on Saturday!  We had a great time AND delivered a good set six of new songs, and one old one. Because the act before us finished a bit early, we were able to be set-up and ready to go at the stoke of 1:30 PM. We finished the new songs and realized we had more time to fill, so I explained to the audience about how that was the 28th anniversary of my father’s passing at age 63 – the same age I am now – and how one of his favorite songs to sing-along with was, ironically, “When I’m 64” by the Beatles (ironic, since he didn’t make it to 64).  The audience then graciously joined me in singing the last two lines: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty four?”

We finished with “Snuggle Up to my Good Side, Baby” (my baby-boomer generation love song), and all was right with the world.  Well, except for my sweet daughter Rachel, who lost her Grandfather just 2 weeks before her 7th birthday.  Now 35 (in 2 weeks) and a mother of two, she got a little teary.  But then, so did I.

Here are some photos taken by my dear Bride:

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