Slowhand: An Appreciation

I’ve recently taken to saying that the Beatles got me interested in playing guitar and that Eric Clapton has kept me interested.

The Beatles entered the world’s consciousness in 1962 (or 1963, depending on who you talk to).  I was a kid living in Bangkok, Thailand when my musical world changed.  I can honestly claim that I saw the Beatles, but not in concert.  They were on an Asian tour and stopped briefly in Thailand.  They never got off the plane, but were still greeted at the airport by adoring throngs.  And I was among them.  They came to the door and waved at us.

By the mid-1960s, when I was in high school, the Beatles were continuing to top the music charts, and I had grown tired and frustrated playing piano according to my parents’ wishes (and NOT playing the music I wanted to play).  My friend RIck Johnson had an old Sears Kay guitar he never played, so I bought it from him for ten dollars.  It was a horrible guitar, with a warped neck, but I didn’t care.  Buying songbooks from the local record store, I learned current tunes using the chord charts.  I confess to being self-taught, and every error in fingering styles, posture and playing is mine.

In college, I bought my first new guitar at the Post Exchange (PX) in Munich, Germany.  It was a twelve-string acoustic made by Framus (the company’s history may be worth another post, but not today).  I don’t know why I got a twelve string, except that I think I was angling to the top-of-the-line guitar in my price range.  I took that guitar with me to college, and played with other students in jam sessions, and even wrote a couple of songs with it.  I still have that guitar today.  It’s 50 years old!

Framus 12-string guitar

My first new guitar – now 50 years old. Framus 12-string

In 1970, the Beatles as a band came to an end.  Their legacy remains alive, but other than bootlegs and mashups, no new music from the Beatles was forthcoming.

At the same time, the British rock-and-blues scene was exploding.  Leading the charge was a fiery guitarist named Eric Clapton.  It seems everything associated with Clapton turned to gold.  He played with the Yardbirds (a group who spawned fellow guitarists Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page) and then with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and then lit up the world with the first “supergroup,” the power trio, Cream.

Many a day and night were spent listening to Cream albums, Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire, and Goodbye come to mind.

From Cream, Eric moved onto Blind Faith, who only released one album, but it still has a place in rock history.  Not just because of its original cover (which was “banned” and replaced).

I partially drifted away from listening to Clapton’s work after Derek and the Dominoes, which some people think is his greatest album.  But he kept showing up on the airwaves, and I saw him in concert in 1974 at what was then known as the Capital Centre.  He was promoting his first truly “solo” album then, 461 Ocean Boulevard.

I have albums and songbooks of Clapton’s music, and I’ve read about some of the tribulations he’s gone through, and lately, with the COVID-19 affecting everybody everywhere, I was pleased to learn that Eric had released a new album.

Motivated by the COVID cancellation of a Royal Albert Hall concert, Clapton decided to take his band (consisting of standout bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Chris Stainton and percussionist Steve Gadd) and set up in a country estate in West Sussex, England.  Recorded live, The Lady In The Balcony (reference to his wife Melia, who watched), the album is 17 tracks, 14 of which are acoustic (the other three are electrified but not the typical hall-filling power chords).  Many of these are Clapton classics, some are tributes, and all of them sound to me as if Eric and Co. had invited me to sit in the living room while they played.

Call me a fan!  I saw a few videos (I think there’s a DVD of the album) on YouTube and immediately said to myself, “I have got to get this album!”  Fortunately it was approaching Christmas so I dropped a not-too-subtle hint to my daughter, and lo and behold, I now have my own copy.

Coinciding with my recent venture into live performing, I’ve locked into this album’s rendition of Bell Bottom Blues (you can see it here) .  The song itself isn’t hard — I learned it quickly — but I’m just fascinated by the solo Eric plays, and I’m obsessing over learning it.  It’s hard trying to visualize it from the video, so I’m basically taking it measure by measure, lining up the sound with what he’s playing.  I’m no Eric Clapton, and since he’s the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and winner of some 18 Grammy awards, I never will be.  But I’m grateful that Eric Clapton has blessed the world with some outstanding music, and kept my interest in playing guitar alive.

Postscript:  Some people who aren’t as old as I am may not be familiar with Eric Clapton’s guitar playing skills.  Here is a video of a much younger Clapton demonstrating some of his chops.


Another Keeper

My sister gave me a t-shirt a couple of years ago that says, “You can never have too many guitars.”  That’s a saying that’s familiar to guitarists and so with that in mind, I introduce my latest addition:  A Martin Dreadnought Junior (DJr-10E).

Martin DJr-10E Sapele

Martin DJr-10E Sapele

I need another guitar like I need another hole in my head, but I love guitars, and when someone told me they preferred their Martin “Junior” to their Taylor GS Mini, I had to check it out for myself.  Currently, my GS Mini-e Koa is my favorite acoustic guitar.

Taylor GS Mini-e Koa

Taylor GS Mini-e Koa

(No, those aren’t the same photo — I’ve taken to keeping them in cases due to the seasonal drop in humidity; it’s easier to keep them properly humidified this way).

Actually, I started out researching the “Streetmaster” version of the “Junior,” and now I’m not quite sure why.  I have a Streetmaster version of a Martin OMC-15ME (shown on the previous post, so I won’t post another image).  In the back of my mind, I think I figured I could use the guitar as a “beater” and not care if it got scuffed or dinged.  But as I checked the specs (Martin makes three versions:  one in Sitka Spruce, one in Sapele, and the Streetmaster, which is also Sapele).  I couldn’t really determine why the Streetmaster model sells for $100 more!

My research found me at the web site of Maury’s Music in Coaldale, Pennsylvania.  Maury’s is a Certified Martin dealer, and is located about 40 miles from Martin’s headquarters in Nazareth, PA.

C.F. Martin Headquarters

Guitar Maker C. F. Martin’s Nazareth, PA Headquarters

Apparently, Maury and his only employee (Maury, his wife Lori and one employee — Andrew are the only employees) drive to Nazareth and carry guitars directly back to their shop!

I spoke with Maury via email and asked him the tonal difference between the Sapele (sapele is a wood very much like mahogany) model and the Streetmaster and he indicated there was no difference.  So, not seeing any reason to pay an additional $!00, I started considering the Sapele.

Further discussions and reading on Maury’s site suggested that the sound of the guitar could be enhanced by upgrading the saddle and the bridge pins (the saddle is a bar of material over which the guitar strings are placed, which raises the strings up and allows a straight line to the nut.  Bridge pins hold the strings in place in the guitar body).  Heck, I figured if I was going to order a brand new guitar, I might as well get it right!  So I had the stock saddle replaced with buffalo bone, and bone with abalone inserts for the bridge pins.  Bone makes the guitar sound brighter than manmade materials, I learned.

So now I have two smaller guitars that have excellent sound and playability.  I have learned that smaller, shorter guitars work better for me, as I have small, thin hands, and overall I don’t feel like I’m “hunkering over” the instrument as I play.

I have a slightly guilty feeling about purchasing this guitar, because I have a custom guitar being made, and it is supposedly near being finished.

But you can’t have too many guitars, can you?

Phase II – In Which Doris Gets Her Oats

Apologies to the late John Lennon for appropriating his doggerel opening to The Two of Us.  Sometimes, the subject heading to one of these posts just pops into my head, and this was it.  John actually said, “Phase one…” but that doesn’t fit.

My reason for thinking of Phase II is that as a follow-on post to my previous entry, I have now taken the stage twice at the open mic night, and so now I’m no longer a first-timer, and am now moving into the “veteran” category!

Having a time constraint has caused me to focus more on shorter tunes, rather than the long, extended improvisations I’ve conducted in the privacy of my home.  This is a bit of a change, as I now have to work in a song introduction, play, repeat, and leave the stage.  I’ve been using a timer to practice, and that’s helping.

There’s also my voice.  When singing at home, it makes no difference if one is in the shower or the living room; there isn’t an audience, so hitting sour notes or a cracking voice aren’t issues.  But off-key singing in concert is most definitely a turn-off.  So, I’ve started using a capo (something I’ve looked down my nose at until recently).  This lets me change the key of a song without having to change the fingerings I know.

Guitar Capo

Guitar Capo

Thus, when I took the stage, I wanted to play songs I’ve known for a long time, that I like musically, and felt comfortable playing.  My first choice was David Crosby‘s Triad, a song I first heard performed by Jefferson Airplane on their Crown of Creation album (still one of my favorite “oldies” albums).

Crown of Creation, 1968 by Jefferson Airplane

Crown of Creation album cover, 1968

It wasn’t until I heard Crosby’s performance of it on the live, 4 Way Street double album by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young that I fell in love with the guitar work!

CSNY - 4 Way Street

4 Way Street live double album by CSN&Y

The problem I’ve had with this song is that I cannot sing it in the key in which it’s written, and it uses the upper part of the guitar neck, so I’ve never cared to use a capo to adjust it to my voice.  Until now.  I found that by placing the capo on the third fret, I could sing with the music and still reach the upper frets.

However, I felt to make that easier, I needed to use a guitar that allows easier access to the higher notes, and that meant using an acoustic guitar with a cutaway.  Given that this was going to be an all-acoustic (no amplification) performance, I wanted a guitar that would also project well.  Hmm.  I had purchased a Martin OMC-15ME that, once I received it, did not love.  It went into a case and I mentally put it on my “sell” list.  Maybe it would do?

Martin OMC-15ME Streetmaster in Weathered Red

Martin OMC-15ME Streetmaster in Weathered Red

I took it to Melodee Music, hoping to buy a truss rod wrench to give it some neck relief.  They didn’t have one in stock, but the tech there offered to do the job, and so I drooled over other guitars while he did the job.  And it did the job!  I now found the guitar playable.

So, I capo’ed and practiced, and took the stage.  I introduced the song and played it, blowing the lyrics on the first chorus, but I just surged through it to the end.  I then introduced my second song (sans capo) by saying that my last attempt at a sing-along hadn’t worked too well, but if folks knew the lyrics, they could sing along now.  Then I played the BeatlesMaxwell’s Silver Hammer, which I completely nailed!

I got some exuberant applause, which is more than just polite acknowledgment, which made me feel pretty good!  After the show, the emcee came to me and complimented me by saying I was a “monster” guitar player.  Given that he’s no slouch on the instrument himself, I considered that terrific praise!

We’re now heading into the holiday season, and I’d like to play at least one instrumental I learned last year, and have been getting familiar with again, Bing Crosby‘s (no relation to David) I’ll Be Home For Christmas.  I’m also focusing on another Beatles (Paul McCartney, actually) song as performed by the British duo, Peter & Gordon.  I haven’t yet decided between World Without Love, I Don’t Want to See You Again, or the Beatles’ No Reply.

But I have a week to decide.  And practice.

Another Box Checked

Last night I finally made my performing debut.  For years (decades, actually) I have avoided taking the stage, preferring to play my guitar and sing songs in the privacy of my home.  I’ve taken to referring to myself as a “bedroom soloist.”

That changed last night.  Here’s the story, told in brief:

A few weeks ago I was informed of a local group that meets every week to sing and play music.  The Folk Club of Reston/Herndon (Virginia) has been gathering for 36 years, and I just now heard of it!  Given that I lived in Reston for 27 years and that I was there when the club was founded, I was a bit taken aback at my ignorance.  But, there’s no time like the present, so I thought I’d check it out.  Tuesdays are free evenings for me usually, so this worked out well.

The venue is the back room of the Amphora Diner Deluxe, a 365-day eatery that serves a full assortment of meals and cuisines.

Amphore Diner Deluxe

Amphora Diner Deluxe, Herndon, VA

After my first visit, I came away thinking to myself, “I can do this!”  The variety of performers ranged from semi-professionals to those, who like me, play for their own pleasure and fulfillment. So, I decide to take the risk and join them.

It’s a simple and well-established process:  A sign-up board is placed to the side of the performing area and those who wish to play add their names.  Each performer is given eight minutes (including set up time).  Once a month there is a “showcase” performance, where the star is given 24 minutes.  There is usually a concert once a month with a featured artist and a small cover charge.  There is a brief intermission, and guests are free to eat during performances.

So, given an eight-minute performance window, I decided to practice a couple of songs that I hoped I would have down pat, and loaded my guitar into my car and arrived early enough to get my name on the list.  As it turned out, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is probably not the high demand date, so I was informed each performer would be allowed twelve minutes instead of eight.

I had signed up to be fourth, but with the empty slots, that became second.  After the first performer left the stage, I was introduced as a first-timer at the club.  I added that I was a first-timer overall, and that as my “maiden voyage,” would allow myself three mistakes.  I then introduced my first song, Michael Nesmith‘s Roll With the Flow.  It took me a minute to get my bearings, so to speak:  bright lights in my eyes, and finding my voice.  Fortunately, any jitters mostly disappeared, although I felt at times I was struggling with my voice.  I followed that with Steve Goodman‘s Six Hours Ahead of the Sun, a tune I’d only recently been teaching myself.  Oddly enough, I think I played the latter better than the former, even though I started with what I thought would be my best offering.

Given that I had more time than I’d planned for, I decided to add my rendition of Brewer & Shipley‘s interpretation of Witchi-Tai To, an Indian chant that I’ve loved since I first heard them perform it in the early 1970s.  I tried to get the audience engaged in singing it as a “round” (the style used to sing Row Row Row Your Boat, for reference), but as I learned later, many in the audience couldn’t make out the words.

Which is another fact I only learned about:  Performances are mostly acoustic-only, meaning that there is no amplification and no microphones, which I thought from my previous visits were the norm.  I’m glad I practiced acoustically, but it was a lesson learned that I needed to consider: What un-enhanced music sounds like, and how to better project.  My voice is not my strong point, so I need to work on it.

Overall, I had a lot of fun.  I made a few mistakes, but as I learned early on, many in the audience don’t notice, and some of the other performers made errors, too.  Some more glaring than mine!  The main objective is to have a good time, and in that I succeeded.  I even had one audience member thank me for Witchi-Tai To, saying she’d heard Brewer & Shipley play it in concert, and hadn’t heard it in years.

Now, I’m no longer a rookie.  I’ve decided to do it again, and so I’m going to work on some new material and give it another go!


Vacationing, 2021 Style

I am constantly being reminded of how much things have changed since I was younger.

Indeed, I remember flying as a kid, and having a meal on a tray served to me, accompanied by metal utensils, all as part of my ticket.  Flight attendants were called stewardesses and were glamorous and professional.  Airplanes had smoking sections, and one could actually walk up to the gate, show a boarding pass and enter the airplane.

Well, that’s all gone.  And so is carefree vacation travel, it seems.

I have returned from my trip to four of California’s national parks, and while I had an extremely enjoyable time, the reminders that today’s reality is far removed from the past were everywhere.

I have taken to mentioning the “triple-whammy” that affected this trip:  COVID-19, heat and wildfires.

Arriving in Fresno, I learned that the area (the central valley of California) had been experiencing a record-setting 66 straight days of 100°+ temperatures.  The heat and lack of rainfall or mountain water runoff has resulted in drought and wildfires.  A look at the map here suggests the entire Pacific northwest is ablaze (the map in the link is updated continuously).  The rampant fires had two immediate effects:  A smoky haze over the valley (which, I was told, could affect the taste of crops), and the closure of all of California’s national forests.

But once I got into the higher elevations, the sky was clear, strikingly blue, and the parks were tremendous!  But COVID-19 had wreaked havoc on the park workers.  Visitor centers were closed, as were restaurants and a number of facilities.  Earlier closures had caused the workforce to find work elsewhere, and the slow re-opening of the parks found jobs unfilled.  In Yosemite, for example, only the hotels (the Wawona and the Ahwanee) had open restaurants, and the Yosemite Lodge’s eatery was the only other dining choice.

The Ahwahnee Hotel

Ahwahnee Hotel. Built in 1926 at a cost of $1.25 million.

Still, it was the scenery I was after, and scenery I got!  Having visited Yosemite in the winter of 2015, it was quite a change to see it in summer.  The Tunnel View was spectacular, despite that lack of water in Bridalveil Falls.

Tunnel View, Yosemite NP

The famous Tunnel View scene, entering Yosemite National Park, with El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls

The giant Sequoia trees were impressive, even though I found photographing them a challenge (maybe different lenses might have helped?).  Some of the oldest living organisms on the planet, hardy and majestic.

General Sherman Giant Sequoia

It took 32 of us humans to circle the trunk of the General Sherman, estimated to be 2,500 years old.

Kings Canyon reminded me of a lesser-known Yosemite.  The granite formations were similar, and some of the scenery every bit as lovely.

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

But Death Valley was the place I wanted to visit most.  Zabriskie Point, in particular.  I remember having a (vinyl) record album of the soundtrack of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 film of the same name.

Zabriskie Point Soundtrack

Album cover for Zabriskie Point soundtrack

I never saw the movie (it can’t be found online today!) but the music was early Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead and John Fahey.  For some reason, images of Zabriskie Point have always appealed to me.  I wanted to see for myself.

Our bus descended down from the heights, and I saw the elevation markers dropping: 8,000 feet, 7,000 feet, 6,000 feet…

Before the trip was done, I found myself at -282 feet.  The lowest elevation point in the United States, only about twenty miles from Zabriskie Point.  Choosing one photo out of the many I took was quite a challenge.  I may change my mind, but here it is:

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley NP, CA.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley NP, CA.

The author at Badwater Basin.  Sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat required!

Badwater Basin, Death Valley NP, CA.

Badwater Basin, Death Valley. The lowest elevation (282 feet below sea level) in the U. S.

Suffice it to say, it was HOT.  Some people say that it’s not so bad due to the absence of humidity.  Still, it was HOT.

Furnace Creek (Death Valley) Visitor Center.  At noon.

Furnace Creek (Death Valley) Visitor Center. At noon.

Another notch on the scenic vacation belt!

A Return To (Almost) Normal

A week from now I hope to be traveling through some of America’s national parks again. There was a PBS series a few years ago by Ken Burns, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

Video formats for Ken Burns'

Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” available for purchase in various formats.

I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve written before (I think) that on my 60th birthday I drove to Great Falls Park and purchased a lifetime senior pass.

NPS Lifetime Senior Pass

National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass for 60+

I still maintain that was the best birthday present I could have given myself!

The COVID pandemic caused innumerable lockdowns and travel restrictions.  Cruise lines halted operations, and getting into and out of countries became a game of chance.  The nastiness isn’t over yet, but there seems to be some semblance of normalcy returning.

I said, “Some.”  I have been alerted that I will need to wear a face diaper (mask) during my air travels, and when required in public areas.  My trip will take me to California, so I can expect to have to wear the darn thing a lot, despite being fully vaccinated.  I don’t like it, but I’m not going to let it be a deal-killer, because my travel bug has bitten me, and I must go.

This will be my seventh Road Scholar trip.  A few months ago, I saw that the company had once again started their in-person study tours (like everyone else, they had gone to Zoom during the lockdowns).  The trip is titled, “Four Jewels” and encompasses Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite and Death Valley.  Believe it or not, it was the Death Valley mention that sold me!

Road Scholar Image: Death Valley

Road Scholar image: Death Valley

I have already begun my preparations.  I’m making sure my camera is fully charged, I have plenty of storage (a 32GB SD card has done me well on other photo trips), I bought a new pair of 5.11 Decoy Convertible pants (lightweight, SPF 50+, packable) and am deciding what apparel I need (weather in the parks can go from hot to cold in the span of hours).  But that’s part of the fun!

I expect to have photos and observations to post here upon my return.  Stay tuned.

Active Melody

Much to my surprise and amazement, I’ve found an online guitar instruction site that has actually improved my guitar playing!  That site is  I have toyed with a number of sites, and found many of them helpful, but none quite seemed to fit my style.

One site I visited often was the Blues Guitar Institute.  It has some terrific content, but I was put off by its $14.99/month ($99.99 annual) fee.  Some terrific free sites, such as JustinGuitar and Marty Schwartz’s lessons are great for quick lessons, but many of these sites are focused on learning songs.  I wanted something with a little more structure (but not TOO much), and then I found Brian Sherrill.

Brian Sherrill, of Active Melody

Brian Sherrill of

Brian doesn’t promote himself.  In fact, I didn’t know his last name until I did some searching online.  Which is kind of cool, because at ActiveMelody, it’s just Brian and his lessons.

Key to his approach is that Brian explains the “why” of certain guitar playing.  Yes, it’s music theory, but he downplays that aspect, choosing instead to show how to play.  The when and why part of it fall in place gradually.

At first, I was reluctant to pay ($89.00 annually).  There is a forum on the site, and I joined to nose around a bit and investigate.  One of the posters there made the observation that the annual charge was roughly what one would pay for a single in-person lesson with a tutor.  Since I’d done that not long ago, I had to admit he had a point, so I signed up.

One of the best decisions I’ve made.  After a year of COVID lockdowns, it felt nice to get some structure to my playing.  Since I’ve been able to work from home, which means I can grab a guitar any time and spend a few minutes practicing, having lessons to practice has been a great help.

Membership also provides me access to tablature (TAB) downloads, jam tracks and “part two” of lessons when available.  The PDF downloads have been a terrific aide, and I’m only now beginning to take advantage of the jam tracks.  Well worth the $89!

Brian doesn’t know (and likely doesn’t care) that I’m posting this.  But I’m quite happy with and confess to being a satisfied customer!

The Age-Old Problem of Old Age

Having just celebrated my 30th year without drugs or alcohol,

30 Year Medallion

Fancy 30 Year Medallion

and with my 70th birthday fast approaching, I’ve decided I am not prepared to go gentle into that good night.  With my blood sugar now an issue, the best treatment I’ve found, according to experts, is diet and exercise.  Well, I refuse to completely omit some foods from my diet (after all, I don’t want to live forever, and I don’t want it to feel like I am, either), but exercise is something I can do something about.

When I was a teenager I was a passenger in a car that hydroplaned into a tree at about 45 mph and as a result, suffered a compression fracture in my spine.  Six weeks in a body cast during the August-September time frame was no picnic, let me assure you!  Doctors told me I would likely have arthritis and rheumatism by the time I was in my mid-twenties.

There were a few setbacks, but overall, my back didn’t hinder me at all.  In my forties, after having shaken the alcohol demon, I started running.  I thought it was easy and cheap (all you need are some shoes and shorts, right?).  Traveling a lot on business meant I could go for a run outside my hotel, and it became a way of sightseeing, too!

I ran my first marathon when I was 54.  The next year (2006) I ran my best marathon, in 4:32:56.  Not an earth-shaking time, but that’s a 10:25 minute-per-mile pace, and I’m quite happy with it.

Over time, my hip (and knee) began to slow me down.  Before COVID-19 shut down the world, I was having issues completing even a 5K distance without pain.  I stopped trying during the lockdown.

But I’m back at it.  I went out today for the second time this week.  OK, I know a layoff takes a while to come back from, so I’m perfectly fine with being slow and having to take walk breaks.  I finished a 5K distance today in 47:26, for an average of 14:42/mile.  Which I actually find a bit surprising.  I thought i’d be slower!

During the run, I started a checklist of things I have attempted to remedy my hip/back/knee problem.  Here’s a partial list (there may be others I haven’t yet remembered):

  • Physical therapy.  Several times, with different therapists
  • Chiropractic
  • Yoga
  • Trans-dermal Electronic Stimulation (TENS)
  • Theragun massage gun
  • Shoe inserts
  • Adjusting pace/shoes

I do not have the time or money to dedicate to treatment such as professional athletes receive.  I have gone to a physical therapist who trains many (shout out to Dr. Keri Webb and Resurgent Sports!), though.

Ten years ago, I took a distance training course through the Potomac River Running store chain.  During one of our training runs, I remember my coach Caitlyn telling me to hold up and end my run.  She had seen a “hitch in my giddy-up,” as she put it.  Yes, it’s been an issue for quite a while.  When I was younger, I could tough it out and run through it.

But the plain truth of the matter is that as I’ve gotten older, the injury of my youth has finally caught up to me.

I’m still going to try.  I need the exercise and I just like being out on the trails and paths.  I just won’t be setting any records.  Still.

Summertime Blues

Despite the somber sounding title, this is an upbeat post.  In fact, it’s a call-back to what may be considered one of the top summer songs of the rock era.  Eddie Cochran wrote and recorded this anthem of teenage angst and frustration in 1958.  I first heard it performed on record by the band Blue Cheer,

VIncebus Eruptum - album by Blue Cheer

The album cover for Vincebus Eruptum, by Blue Cheer (1968)

and then shortly after by the Who (the version recorded on the Live At Leeds album is tremendous).

Live At Leeds by the Who (1970)

Live At Leeds double-LP album cover by the Who, 1970

It’s a pretty simple song: The standard I, IV, V chord structure of blues and many rock songs.

So why post an article about it?

Realizing that almost a month has gone by since my last post, I felt the need to update the blog.  And since I’ve been playing a lot of guitar this year, and it’s summertime, it all seemed to fit.  In fact, I’m pretty upbeat about my guitar playing of late as well, and the blues has been a big part of that.

There are times when I feel playing nothing but blues guitar is a bit limiting, so I keep going back to some non-blues pieces I enjoy playing.  Songs from artists such as America, David Crosby, the Allman Brothers, and the vastly underrated (in my opinion) Love.

I suppose most everyone remembers the summers of their youth as the “best of times.” In my case, the years 1967-1969 were not only the best of my time, but were pivotal years in modern history and culture.  There was the “Summer of Love” (1967) and Woodstock (1969).

Woodstock (1969) Logo

The 1969 Woodstock Music & Arts Festival logo

Yes, there was turmoil (the riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fiasco at the Democrat Convention in 1968), but the music generated spoke powerfully of the social issues of the day.  Sentiment against the ongoing war in Vietnam had divided the USA, and many songs reflected this division.

Every time I pick up my guitar and play a song from the summers of my youth, I am transported back in time to those days, where I wander with a smile on my face and memories that live forever.  Summertime blues?  Never!

Thank You. Welcome. Good-bye.

Can of Hormel Spam

The original SPAM – Shoulder of Pork and Ham.

Spam has been around almost since the Internet went live.  In fact, I’d probably wager the first spam message was sent the day after the Internet went live! And I’d likely lose that wager.  According to Digital Trends, the first spam message was probably sent in 1978 over the Internet precursor, ARPANET.  Six years ago, in 2015, spam traffic accounted for some 85% of all Internet traffic.  Whew!

Spam email isn’t news and it isn’t new. So, why am I writing about it now?  Simply for the fact that spammers today seem to have adopted a common practice:  Sending emails masquerading as “welcome” messages.  In essence, the unsolicited email arrives in one’s inbox and reads something like this:  “Welcome to the XYZ slimy product and service company.  We value your privacy and respect your time, so we won’t pester you needlessly.  If you wish to unsubscribe from our mailing, please click here,” with the “here” containing a link.  Which one should absolutely not, ever, never click!

The warped humor I find in these mails is the opening assertion – a “welcome” message, as if I’d actually gone to so-and-so’s web site and signed up for something.  Then, as if the message was responding to this ridiculous assumption, the smooth language meant to assuage and fears and calm the recipient down.  Many of these bogus emails contain some sort of “legalese” text suggesting one can read their privacy terms and so on.  Again, never, ever click on a link in a spam message.

The “unsubscribe” offer is exactly the opposite.  By clicking to “unsubscribe” to email one never subscribed to in the first place, is a guarantee that your email address will be validated and then sold to spammers worldwide.  You might as well close your email account now, because if you think you get a lot of spam now, be prepared for the tsunami…

By now you’d have thought most people would understand this, but the mere fact these spam messages continue says two things:  (a) There must still be gullible people in the world, and (b) the cost of sending these messages by the thousands (millions?) is so low that it is made up for by a very small percentage of people clicking on the links in them.

It wasn’t my intent to make a product recommendation, but it occurred to me now, so here it is:  I have been using a software program called SpamSieve since it first came out in 2002!


Rein in your spam with SpamSieve

I’ve run it on every Mac I’ve owned since, and it has never failed, never caused problems, and continues to be updated nearly twenty years later.  It cost $30 and has paid for itself many times over.  Macworld called it a “must-have spam filter,” and I agree.  One can “train” it to a wildly specific degree, or set it up to use its defaults.  Either way, it’s unobtrusive (starts automatically when the email program launches) and never shows its “face” until an update is available.

All in all, in this day of inboxes overflowing with spam, it’s nice to have something that will just stand guard and move it aside until one is ready to give the junk a once-over and delete it permanently.  Maybe that’s why I find these “welcome” messages less than unwelcome.