How Great Thou Art

February 16, 1968: Elvis Presley’s album How Great Thou Art is certified gold!

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How Great Thou Art is my mom’s favorite gospel song and she wants it sung at her funeral.  She has Casey sing it at everybody else’s funeral.  Casey does sing it beautifully but then again he sings everything beautifully.

Thankfully today there was no funeral and I sang it just for fun and joy.

Speaking of fun, Claudia and I went to the Bronx Zoo today. We’re members. It’s such an amazing deal. $104 a year for all the zoos – Bronx, Central Park, Brooklyn + the Aquarium and Queens and parking is included. Today would’ve cost $60, so you do the math.  Plus we got 10% off in the Crane Cafe.  So, with two granola bars and coffee…we saved 63 cents more!!

I wanted to see big animals, so we checked out the Bison – they smelled funky even at a distance but looked majestic.  We saw the giraffes.  They were indoors and looked a little jammed up but pretty impressive. The tigers were magnificent. 3 of them walking back and forth looked like they were thinking of something, maybe like how to get the hell out of their grassland and come eat some stupid human behind the glass taking pictures. The aardvark was cool – huge and in the dark, and the rhino’s horn was fierce.

How Great Thou Art. God’s creatures. I love me some critters!

I Saw The Light

January 26, 1947 Hank Williams, Sr. writes I Saw the Light!

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Yesterday ‘s song, Jesus Take The Wheel was a contemporary pop God song and today’s song, I Saw The Light, is an old country God song.

Is someone trying to get me to pay attention?

Well it’s working. Claudia and I are going to the Brooklyn Tabernacle tomorrow.  I have a friend in the choir and the service there is so good! And the choir is too!  You have to get there really early for a good seat and since the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir played at Obama’s Inauguration, I’m sure it will be even more packed than usual!

I love Hank Williams songs and old country songs that tell you the whole story in just a few lines, have a melody you can sing back after one hearing and that can be harmonized from beginning to end. Simple and Perfect!

Precious Lord

January 13, 1957 Elvis Presley was recording Take My Hand, Precious Lord

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Take My Hand Precious Lord has been covered by every gospel singer.  When i played with Linda Hopkins it was the first time I ever played it or heard it, so Linda told me to play Amazing Grace and that Precious Lord would work over it and I did and it does!

Thomas A. Dorsey, the writer of this song, tells a great story of how it came to him after everything in his life fell apart and he just started singing it. It’s in the documentary Say Amen, Somebody.

Well, we are back in the city.  We drove for an hour in heavy fog in the mountains.  I could only see about 4 feet in front of the car.  Claudia was a little nervous so I got her a big wild cherry lollipop for the ride home and she relaxed a little. All right, I had a lollipop too. It was a strawberry-banana and yes, after I finished mine I finished Claudia’s cause she was going too slow with hers!

Take My Hand, Precious Lord.

more tomorrow!

Amazing Grace

October 26, 1911 Happy Birthday Mahalia Jackson!

ice bucket

I love gospel singers and Mahalia Jackson was the original Queen of Gospel!

Well it just so happens we flew Cookie Watkins in from Vegas to sing at this Clive Davis tribute show for MMRF tomorrow night. Cookie sang with the Stingers for years and was in Beehive playing Tina Turner which she has continued in the show Legends and in her own show all over the world.

I’m thrilled she took a few minutes after a backstage rehearsal at the venue to sing Amazing Grace tonight with the wonderful singer Stanley Hopkins. I’m having Cookie sing Janis Joplin tomorrow night in our show and it will be amazing.

Rehearsal starts at 11, so I’m going to bed.

Amazing Grace!  Coming to you from Old Greenwich, CT!

Lord I’m Discouraged

April 28, 1934 Delta Bluesman Charley Patton dies.

Caroline Hirsch (owner of Caroline’s) used to own a club called Delta 88 on Eighth Avenue where I played.  Whenever I see Caroline we reminisce about the good old days.

It was a great bar with BBQ and Blues. What else does a real man need? Yeah, well now I eat vegetables and fish (no BBQ for me) but I still play the blues. Does this make me less of a man?

Charley Patton was a legend in delta blues.  Delta blues is where bluegrass, gospel, and blues all hang out.  This is sort of the model for a new band I’m putting together called Willie & the Swagga.

My buddy Chris Fischer, great keyboardist and musician, created the caricature below for my new band.

Willie & the Swagga

I’m in the studio these days recording original songs written by Claudia and myself for Willie & the Swagga and should be done by the fall.  It’s always good to go back and play old Charley tunes cause as my friend Ann Ruckert says, “We’re just standing on the shoulders of the great ones who came before us.”

Lord I’m Discouraged is one of my favorite Charley Patton tunes…