Archive for May, 2011

A Self Proclaimed Redneck

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

REDNECK:  In modern usage a redneck is a stereotypical southern United States socially conservative, fiscally liberal, rural, working class white person with northern European ancestry. In layman’s terms Rednecks are often rude and crude Southerners, occasionally prone to violence, have proclivity (but not always) for NASCAR, certain types of Country music, and beer drinking. They can live in trailers, but not always.

They are often mistaken for white trash but there’s a difference. Rednecks are usually hard working and have jobs while White trash tends to be lazy. They are most likely blue collar. Not all rednecks are racists, but many are. They’re not all loud and brassy, but many can be.

My good friend Bubba (that’s not his real name but it suits his perceived persona) reminds me of a Vidalia onion because there are several layers to his personality. He typically has strong opinions on most topics and is not afraid to voice them. In his biblically allotted 3 score years and ten he has achieved more in his lifetime than many of us can only imagine. He has enjoyed a successful career as a mechanical engineer, has owned several music shops, and ran a successful business as an art dealer. But the underlying theme to his perpetual motion is music along with the love and support of his family.

He began learning and playing music at the age of 5, and studied to be a concert pianist until deciding at 15 years of age that he no longer had the inclination to light up Carnegie Hall. However, his love of music continued and he turned to the clarinet which he played in the High School band. One day, he was invited to join his friend’s popular music band providing he could play saxophone. He ran home and persuaded his mom to buy him a saxophone and has had a love affair with the instrument ever since. His first gig was at the local YWCA in Macon, Georgia in stark contrast to several years later when he played before a New Year’s Eve crowd of 3000 raucous fans at the Marriot Resort, Fairhope, Alabama supporting The Classic Four.

 He served six years in the regular army and his love for music continued unabated. He was assigned to play in the army band, but hooked up with local bands in need of a saxophone player on his weekends off. Following discharge from the army his quest for a better paying job to support his young family led him to Atlanta where he quickly found a musical venue, The Little Oak Tavern, to his liking.

I’m not sure whether growing up in Macon, Georgia was fortuitous or his destiny, but in his formative years Bubba rubbed shoulders with future rock and roll of famers. He grew up in the same street as Phil Lowndes, founder of Macon based Capricorn Records, who managed Otis Redding early in his career and guided the Allman Brothers to fame and fortune.

On a Sunday he would play in jam sessions at the Elk Club where featured vocalists may have included the late Otis Redding, or Little Richard. One time he witnessed Little Richard getting arrested in downtown Macon for kissing his boyfriend in public, and he cried when he learned Otis had been killed in a plane crash in 1967.

Attempting to pigeon hole Bubba into one category of music is almost impossible. I asked him what type of music was the most difficult to play. He paused a moment and replied: “There are several types of music but they all contain the same notes which are just arranged differently. If one hears a musician bleating about being unable to play in a particular key or style, he can’t truly call himself a genuine musician.”

Capricorn Records spearheaded the rise of Southern Rock, and the success of the Allman Brothers paved the way for other Southern rock bands, including Atlanta Rhythm Section, South Carolina based Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd also founded in Jacksonville. Bubba made it to the Georgia Rock and Roll Fame with Hayloft Jamboree with whom he played for over 6 years. In the late fifties the band had their own weekly TV show which gave them greater prominence on the local music scene.

Bubba arrived in Atlanta about the same time as “Underground Atlanta” officially opened in 1969 with new restaurants, bars, nightclubs and music venues installed in the old individual storefronts. At the time, Fulton County was the only county in the state of Georgia that permitted mixed alcoholic beverages to be served, provided that men wore coats and ties in places that served them. As a result, Underground Atlanta quickly became the center of downtown Atlanta nightlife.

Among the more popular spots in Underground Atlanta were Dante’s Down the Hatch, Scarlett O’Hara’s, The Blarney Stone, The Rustler’s Den, The Front Page, The Bank Note and Mulenbrink’s Saloon, where Atlanta’s Piano Red under the name Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, played from 1969 to 1979. Bubba played in a band called Night Shift at Scarlet O’Hara’s for a couple of years which he considers were some of the most enjoyable times in his musical career.

The heyday of Underground Atlanta lasted for only half a decade. When neighboring Dekalb County relaxed their restrictions on alcohol consumption in the early 1970s, new bars sprouted up in other parts of the city, generating competition. The dress code restrictions were dropped and fights began to break out. The construction of the MARTA East Line beginning in 1975 tore out several blocks of clubs and eliminated parking. Crime became uncontrollable and the area was considered dangerous. In 1980, Underground Atlanta was closed. A few businesses struggled to stay open but by 1982 they left and the area was once again abandoned.

Underground Atlanta may have closed but Bubba kept on playing. One of his subsequent gigs was at the famous Fox Theater when Chuck Leavell hired Bubba to play in a cover band for a rock revival concert featuring The Ronettes, Lou Christie, and Duke of Earl. Chuck Leavell currently plays keyboards for The Rolling Stones and Bubba continues to play in not one but two bands; Junction Band on a weekly basis and Swing South on special occasions.

 In a recent advertisement flyer, Junction Band was described as “one of the most popular local country and western swing bands to emerge from the dirt roads of metropolitan Atlanta. Bubba didn’t particularly care for the “country and western” handle and preferred to be known as a band that can play “music for all occasions.” You can catch up with Junction Band at local venues around Atlanta on most weekends while Swing South will be playing at the Georgia Mountain Fair in October.

 In between passing his musical knowledge onto grateful young students, he is currently producing a CD entitled “Dos Old Hombres” featuring tall horses (camels) which will be released later this year. Does Bubba qualify to be a redneck? No, but he could be a good ol’ boy. Good Ol’ Boys are the average white male southerner. Middle class, usually college educated, the good ol’ boy is simply an all around fun loving southern boy. He likes to tell a good joke, but tends to watch his mouth around the ladies. He likes to go fishin’ and huntin’ and can do all the outdoors stuff including golf, but could also hold his own in an ivy league setting. However, there is one thing I know for sure; Bubba is by no means “average.” He is a remarkable man who has enjoyed life to the full, and it’s not over until the fat lady sings!

NB: this post is dedicated to “ Nu-Way Weiniers Inc.” in Macon; an institution since 1916 and voted one of America’s ten best hot dog joints by Gourmet Magazine in 2001.

Chump or Trump for President……?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The late Harold Wilson, former Labor Prime Minister, once said that a week was a long time in politics meaning that the fortunes of a politician can be transformed in a blink of an eye by a turn of events. Take for example Barak Obama; his recent approval rating among the American electorate had dropped to 42%. He couldn’t even make the guest list to the Royal Wedding; joining other notable absentees in the shape of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Sarah Ferguson.

The omissions of Blair and Ferguson merely highlighted the vindictiveness of the Queen. She has never forgiven Blair for coercing her into agreeing to a State funeral for Diana. Neither was she amused when Blair’s Government banned fox hunting which was a favorite past time of the nobility. Sarah Ferguson has behaved foolishly on several occasions; none more so than when caught on camera sucking the toe of some nondescript American banker. Nevertheless, she is the mother of two of the Queen’s grandchildren who were guests at the wedding and consequently Fergie should have been included in the wedding party.

Sorry, I digress. No sooner were we recovering from hangovers celebrating the Royal Wedding, news broke on the 1st May that American Navy Seals had broken into Osama Bin Laden’s heavily fortified compound and killed him; nearly ten years after 911. Bin Laden’s body was quickly removed and dumped into the Arabian Sea arousing questions in my mind of why it was necessary to dispose of the body so hastily. Twenty fours later, Obama’s approval rating rose by 11 points thus confirming Harold Wilson’s hypothesis.

The whole concept of the raid raises many concerns.  The hunt for America’s most wanted man was conducted over many years. Bin Laden was found through one of his personal couriers. Following investigations by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies, the courier was identified in 2007. In mid-2010 he was tracked down to the large compound in Abbott Abad, home to Pakistan’s leading military academy, north-east of the capital Islamabad. In February 2011 it was determined that there was “sound intelligence” that bin Laden was holed up in the compound and the rest is history.

With his approval ratings continuing to fall, is it a coincidence that Obama authorized the strike with less than 19 months to go to the presidential elections?  He has failed to generate economic recovery or lower gas prices. Unemployment rates are increasing once more not to mention his unpopular health reforms which have yet to take effect.

Only twenty four hours after attempting to projects himself as a strong commander-in-chief he shot himself in the foot with ill considered contradictions of how the raid unfolded. Initially the White House claimed that bin Laden had participated in a firefight using his wife as a human shield when he was shot dead. Then they corrected this by admitting bin Laden was unarmed and was not protected by his wife. They still maintain he resisted capture but it is unclear how he did so. The White House then decided to place its own spin on events by explaining that the initial confusion was the result of trying to provide a great deal of information in haste and they were a victim of the “fogs of war.”

The fact that the Navy Seals disposed of bin Laden’s body so quickly into the sea coupled with the double speak emanating from the White House leads many understandably to claim conspiracy theories. Requests to produce pictures of bin Laden’s demise have also been denied on the premise that the body was badly disfigured and another old chestnut, in the interests of national security.

Now you naturally assume that the Republican Party would be rubbing their hands in anticipation of pitching their candidate against the hapless, fork-tongued chump in the White House in next year’s Presidential election. Romney, Huckabee, Paul, Pawlenty and Palin, Gingrich have been mentioned as potential early runners.

The first two are admirable men but lost the Republican nomination to lame duck John McCain in 2008 and they have done nothing since to convince me they could win an election 4 years later. Paul is a loose cannon, Pawlenty lacks charisma, Palin sounds like a broken B side record, and twice divorced Newt Gingrich will not appeal to the Bible belt voters even though he has the best credentials.

So we have a dyed ginger double comb over, alternatively known as Donald Trump, arrogantly striding along the parapets, and leading in the polls to win the republican nomination. Donald Trump is a very successful real estate mogul with an ego the size of the Big Apple. He is currently the host of a reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” where he engages in considerable nepotism by using his two sons and daughter as his assistants on the show.

He has been involved in the political scene these past few weeks by demanding that Mr. Obama discloses a legal birth certificate to prove he is qualified to hold office. Obama eventually produced a birth certificate to satisfy all concerned but Trump remains in the headlines and more significantly maintains his lead in the polls.

One wonders if his posturing is to be taken seriously. Let’s take a look at his track record as it relates to politics. He has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats, showered praise on Bill and Hillary Clinton and suggested that Ronald Reagan was a con man with little “beneath that smile”. He once favored Canadian-style single payer healthcare and abortion rights.

His policy stances – “With respect to Libya, I’m interested in Libya if we take the oil. If we don’t take the oil, no interest”, applying a 25 per cent tax on Chinese products – are calculated to grab headlines and little else. Next month he will announce his decision on whether to run for the republican nomination on the season finale of his show which ultimately reeks of a publicity stunt. Significantly he favors the brash, loud mouthed contestants on his show and appears diametrically opposed to the softly-spoken variety.

Who is the loser in all this egomaniacal posturing? The American people as usual. I cannot understand why the Republican Party cannot produce a serious candidate with appropriate credentials to offer a serious alternative to solving the real issues affecting the country.

 Some would suggest that Donald Trump is a serious candidate if you consider Ronald Reagan was originally a second rate actor in Hollywood. But let’s not forget that Reagan served 8 years as Governor of California, the most populated state in American, and thereby had served his apprenticeship for office not merely hosting a show called “Celebrity Apprentice.”