Teach Your Children

March 11, 1970, Deja Vu, the first album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is released!

day 338

I used to sing Teach Your Children in high school.  In my school, Nazareth, in the 70’s, I was sort of in a hippie clique and CSNY was our jam! We overlistened to this album and I had the big stereo and would blast it.  The louder the better!

Claudia and i had a great day writing.  I worked on a song all day and she worked on her novel!

I also worked with Elle Winter – she’s performing at a fundraiser for St. Baldricks tomorrow at the Red Lion.  Come on down and catch her set starting at 8pm and stick around for a full night of music and head shaving for charity! I won’t be shaving my head but maybe i can get a trim?  Tuesday, March 12 at the Red Lion, 151 Bleecker Street.  No cover.  Donations at the door!

And now its popcorn and tv time!

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

July 3, 1969 Sly and the Family Stone appeared with James Brown, Led Zeppelin Jeff Beck, Savoy Brown, Johnny Winter, Jethro Tull, Buddy Guy Blues Band, Mothers Of Invention and Ten Years After at the four day US Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. (via


I love Sly and the Family Stone. I use this song all the time with the Stingers to thank the audience and introduce the band.

Today in music – Sly @ the Newport Jazz Festival.  I was once cast in a commercial for this festival, many years ago.

I think the casting agent was my old friend Pat Sweeney from Reed Sweeney Reed.  They had offices around the corner from my office on 57th street and 8th Avenue.  I remember when I auditioned they said if you play any other instruments bring them in.

Now three weeks prior to this audition I had bought a silver plated soprano sax.  I didn’t exactly know how to play it yet, but it was very pretty and was a great horn. Even though I was auditioning for piano, I brought it with me.

So at the audition, first I go in with four guys, all heavy hitters in the music industry and I’m playing piano, and they said, “Thanks. Next.” You see, auditions suck.

Then they asked me to play the sax.  I kind of realize that I’m in over my head – I can barely scwark a note out and the band they put me with was some of the dudes from the Saturday Night Live band. I was mortified.  Well, whenever I’m insecure my motto is “Act a fool,” so I start pretending I’m this rock star sax player – honking, squeaking shrill and squawking. I drop to my knees and am so out of breath I fall flat on my back for the last note. I had the guys in the band hysterically laughing. Needless to say I booked the commercial and none of the other guys did.  Luckily I talked them into letting me play piano for the shoot.

When in doubt, act the fool.

Thank you for letting me be myself again.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

June 2, 1998 Helen Carter (Carter Family) died.

blogging again

I don’t know which version of this song I heard first – probably the Carter family’s —  but this was my introduction to country bluegrass music. They’re singing about his mother dying, yet the song is a feelgood tune. That’s what the blues do. This also was my introduction to bluegrass harmony singing and country chords.  So it’s a good tuturial song to teach, music wise, even though it’s got sad lyrics.

You know I like to keep this blog upbeat and fun, but while Claudia and I were at the country house a couple of days ago, I got some sad news from my neighbor, Jim. I knew something was up when I saw the realtor showing his house.  They had done so much work on that house (unlike us) and he was very proud of his property. I  knew his grandson was sick with leukemia but last we talked he was doing okay. Well, as we were pulling in our driveway Jim was packing up to leave and he told me his grandson had passed away.

He was just a boy.  It’s not right.

It reminds me that every day’s a gift and to stay grateful.

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by Lord, by and by
There’s a better home awaiting
In the sky Lord, in the sky.

The Ballad of Jed Clampett / Petticoat Junction

May 11, 1979 bluegrass musician Lester Flatt died.

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were the musicians playing The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction and Hee Haw. I watched these shows all the time as a kid and sang the theme songs every time they came on. What I learned later was that these two were the fathers of the whole bluegrass movement.  I have every record they ever made.

So Claudia and I had dinner with good friends John and Robin tonight. They took us to a fancy French restaurant.  (I didn’t think we were going out, so I looked a bit like Jed Clampett.)  When we got back to their house John and I started fooling around with these theme songs. Overall a great night with good food, good friends and music.

What else could a guy ask for?

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…