Apologies Dear Readers - Crazy Links Edition

As this thingamabob continues, conventional wisdom suggests most of my sizzling-hot new posts will most likely be unveiled on weekends. ...umm... But hey, not this week. I'm headed to West Virginia! I intend to spend most of my time there playing with my adorable niece & helping my brother install some light fixtures, as long as it doesn't interfere with my chilling out.

If I post at all, it'll be due to the fact that I've found a way to rub two sticks together & upload via dial up.

Good Times!


Way Back Music

Lexington KY, 1988:

One morning during my sophomore year in college, I woke up with the type of primal, superlative hangover one hopes to experience no more than five times in one life. I currently have no more than one of these left on my scorecard. I'm trying to avoid it. Unable to sleep & unable to move from my bed, the only entertainment within reach was a clock radio. All the stations were full of nothing but the most mundane BS. Desperately scanning the dial in search of anything good, I finally turned all the way to the left, below NPR. When I reached 88.1 FM I found something I desperately needed.

It was a sonic revelati
on. Banjo, Mandolin, Fiddle & deliciously twangy high harmony singing. I was instantly transported back in time into a culture I'd been doing my best to deny. Regional Fiddle Contests attended with my parents. AM Gospel radio in my Mamaw's kitchen. It all came flooding back into my soul.

After an hour or so I was able to make it across the room to the stereo. I turned on the big speakers to the same station, WRFL (which must have been brand new at the time) & crawled back to bed again. The show was called Blue Yodel #9, hosted by Brother Ephraim McDowell. That morning a DJ saved my life.

Since then I've always kept at least a small part of my wide ranging ear tuned to Bluegrass & Folk music. One of my all-time favorite records
is "They Can't Put It Back" by Rich Kirby & Michael Kline, on the June Appal (Appalshop) label from Whitesburg, KY. Anytime I choose to listen to this record, I can easily return to a wonderful, childlike state of mind.

I once used a tune from it in a showstopping class presentation on Schenkerian Analysis. Who woulda thunk?

Kudos to my parents for owning this album in the first place. The last time I listened to it all the way through was via iPod on a train in the South of France. It doesn't matter where or when I hear it. It's always great.

The internet evangelist in me is saddened to report that I can't find the stunning original cover photos by Doug Yarrow anywhere on the web. The image I've used here is from a reprint. It appears that the album can now be purchased as a digital download. I'll remain satisfied with the LP copy I obtained from the Lexington Public Library in their great vinyl sell-off of the mid-90's.

Turn the Radio On!

(please note: I'll pretend to be a good congressman here, & will revise & extend my remarks later.)


UK Visa Nightmare!

I spent most of today recording the next record. So let's have a Kokolo post, shall we? This is dedicated to Martin Atkins, who asked me to write this. Please buy his book. It's the greatest music business book I've ever read.

Our UK booking agent proudly offers the service of sorting out the work permits (for an extra fee of course.) In practice the process is often a bit strange. On one tour I received the Permits via super blurry fax fifteen minutes after I'd meant to leave for the airport. Good thing I was running late. As I reviewed the documents in the car to JFK, I noticed that there was a permit for our trombone player, who is a British citizen and doesn't need one, but none for me. Big Problem! After assorted hurried consultations and phone calls to the agent, it was decided that I'd just have to enter the UK as a tourist. I'd say I was traveling with the trombone player to "visit" his parents in Yorkshire. All parties were briefed to play along with the story if they received a call from immigration.

The plan called for me to rush off the plane and get to the front of the immigration line while the others dawdled behind, effectively separating our group in the eyes of the authorities. As it turned out, we were landing in Manchester, not crowded Heathrow as we usually do. By the time the passengers divided into EU & Non-EU lines, the band was only three or four people behind me. To complicate things, our singer had taken an earlier flight and was there already, waiting on "the bench" because we had his work permit. Luckily, he was aware of the drama & knew that he should ignore me as if I were a stranger.

I was very tired that morning, but smiled bravely and stepped to the counter. "Good Morning Sir. Your passport is in terrible shape, isn't it? Just visiting, are you? I see you've been here three times in the past year. Is that correct? Please take a seat for a moment, won't you?" I sat down on the bench & waited as the rest of the flight was processed without incident. I was then called forward again. "Sir, you've had a work permit on your previous trips & none now. Do you have a job in the States? And your job lets you take so much time off? You must be very lucky." I truthfully answered "Yes" to everything. "Sir, there's really no reason why I should be required let you into the UK today. I could easily send you home on the next flight."

The gentleman was obviously in a bad mood and wanted to send me home. We began a cycle in which he would interrogate me for a bit, then disappear into the mirrored glass booth to speak with his superiors for ten minutes. It went on and on. Having no other choice, I remained calm. After everything I've been through over the years, I instinctively realized that whatever was going to happen would and I'd just go along with it no matter what. After about 30 or 40 minutes of this exchange, I started to notice assorted band members peeking through the windows at five minute intervals to see if I'd been deported yet. While remaining outwardly calm I was thinking to myself, "Don't look at me, fools. Don't you know they have CCTV everywhere? You'll just fuck everything up!" Eventually, I was allowed to enter England. The Immigration officer was clearly disappointed when he said, "Welcome to the UK, Sir." He obviously realized I was there to play gigs. My guess is his boss also knew how much of an extra burden to the workload it would be if I was refused.

For our latest tour we made a lot of noise about getting the hard copies of the UK Work Permits mailed to us ahead of time. After that fell through, we spent the first week of the tour in the Baltics calling the booking agency every day to make sure everything was OK. We were told that everything was fine & the permits would be mailed to us via the Lithuanian promoters. It didn't happen. On our last day in Lithuania, the agent promised that the Permits were being faxed that minute to the terminal at Heathrow and all we had to do was tell Immigration they were on file. We finally arrived at Heathrow part way through an 18 hour travel day. We approached the counter, waited a few minutes and were told, "I'm sorry. There aren't any permits here for you." What fun! This time it was the entire band (except for the Brit) sitting on the bench together. The only thing we had was the booking agent's contact info and the name and number of the UK Home Office employee who had issued the permits. It was 5:30 on a Friday afternoon. Neither of these people were answering the phone. We waited and then waited some more, as the Immigration folks tried to reach our contacts.

As I sat there, I had no choice but to observe the other problem cases around us. A planeload of Brazilians arrived to watch an important Football match. Quite a few of them were refused for various reasons and they all needed translators. I also saw a 14 or 15 year old kid from Africa who arrived with no passport at all. All he had was a crumpled piece of paper written in pencil. I have no idea what happened to him. I hope he's OK wherever he is. The whole time I was just sitting there thinking, "I bet we could've gotten in as tourists, but we can't change our story now, can we?" A few hours later the booking agent finally answered his cell phone and told the Immigration people that he didn't understand why we were being held up as he thought everything had been taken care of. It was flimsy information at best, but they finally let us in with barely enough time to make it onto our transfer flight. In this case, I think they let us in because we stuck to our story & they finally realized that the booking agent's office had fucked up. Either that or the Brazilians wore them down.

Just before we left the country, someone handed us the work permits. We then found out we were still being charged for them.

Good Times!


The Chuck Issue

One of the responses to my mass e-mail about Styx was from my brother. He said;

"It could have been worse. Scott Santibanez could have been an REO Speedwagon fan. I must admit, though, that I'm still not completely recovered from your Chuck Mangione obsession."

This bit of information opened up the floor to some great comments such as;

"Chuck Mangione? And you were ashamed of Styx. Your little brother just ratted you out. We can get some mileage off of this on our next Kokolo trip."


"hahaha.....you're the true gangster of love, jt!"

I consider Gangster of Love to be an honorific. *note to the readership - if you think you'll likely click only one of my links, make sure it's the 'gangster of love' one in the previous sentence* I never said I was ashamed of Styx. It was Junior High School! The thing with Chuck Mangione started before that. Here's the story:

Once upon a time, my heart's greatest desire was to receive this album for Christmas. I think I'd been listening to Casey Kasem's top 40 countdown & became obsessed with "Tragedy." It's completely ridiculous to think about today, but the reason I liked the song so much was because it had this massive explosion noise during the chorus. Believe it or not, I think that explosion may have had a small influence on track number 2 from this album of mine.

I was an enthusiastic young baby trumpeter at the time, and I was seriously jonesing for some Bee Gees in my life. I believe that my folks thought it would be better if I had a trumpet album instead. Then again, it's entirely possible that they didn't want to be tortured by the robo-funk disco stylings of the Brothers Gibb (not to mention the explosions) in their peaceful home. This was the pre-Walkman era. There were no headphones in our house yet.

Not being Jazz Folk, they likely had no idea how to proceed. I'm pretty sure my Mom asked the Band Director at the school where she worked what album I should get for Christmas.

And so it came to pass that I became the proud owner of "An Evening of Magic, Live at the Hollywood Bowl."

For better or worse, I still own a copy of this album. It's a sprawling double LP package simply reeking of late 70's Major Label bloat. I haven't listened to it in a long time. Somewhat curiously, I haven't gotten rid of it either. I don't think I really need to listen to it as I can replay the most significant portions inside my head using my trusty brain pod. I'd never claim CM as an influence, but I learned a lot from this record. If nothing else, it exposed me to the sound and concept of shit-hot session cats, totally in the pocket & grooving together live. My memory of this LP is all about the band. Chuck is fine, but the band is where it's at.

Even as I type this, I've just spotted through the record for the first time in 10 years. I was looking for my favorite part, the bass solo on "Hide and Seek" - (It's on side 3.) I'm not sure what else Charles Meeks ever did, but he's totally killing it here.

Back when this was my first and only "trumpet" album, Chuck (who plays fluegelhorn) obviously influenced my development. When I started taking private lessons my teacher was clearly frustrated with my tone. He finally asked, "What records are you listening to?" I said, "I've got this Chuck Mangione album..." He nearly fell off his chair as he replied, "That's it! You sound like a damn fluegelhorn!" He then gave me a list of great trumpet players & advised me to start searching out their records.

I soon found this Miles Davis album. It was the first LP I ever purchased. I absolutely hated it at the time though it became important to me later. My teacher gave me some Clifford Brown tapes & I was on my way. The tapes looked exactly like the picture on the left.

A few years ago I was out in the Hamptons on a summer weekend. If you must know, we stayed in the most glamorous, mosquito-ridden Public Campground available. One night we had a few drinks in town before heading back to the tent. Strolling down the sidewalk, I took notice of a small man facing away from me. His shiny jacket featured the classic Chuck Mangione silhouette logo right between the shoulder blades. I thought to myself, "What fool would be caught dead wearing that silly jacket in this day and age?" Guess who? Chuck always was a self-promoter.

Recommended listening: The Bass Solo from "Hide and Seek"

The e-mail that started it all

(Originally written in the middle of the night on 11/16/2007)

After the briefest conversation with a coworker today, I now find myself inexplicably transported back to the murky headwaters of the early 1980's. After leaving the comfortable confines of rural Haymond Elementary School (my last class there may have had as many as 15 kids in it - encompassing 5th & 6th grade,) I started a new school year at Grafton Middle School in the big city. The 2000 census reports a population of 5489 for Grafton, West Virginia. I think it was actually a bit larger in the 80's, but not by much. As far as I was concerned the switch was a welcome entry into an eye opening new cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Soon after arriving at GMS, I made a great new friend named Scott S. We probably found each other due to the fact that we were both geeky smart musicians. Basically the kiss of death in the greater Grafton milieu. It never mattered to me that Scott was 100% Filipino in a 99% Caucasian town. Luckily my parents raised me in such a way that I never had a reason to consider skin tone relevant when dealing with other humans. In retrospect I'm sure my friendship with Scott was beyond strange for some Graftonians. Then again, we were each beyond strange in our own way so our friendship made sense.

Upon entering 7th Grade I hadn't been exposed to much music other than what my parents listened to. Believe me, the music could've been better. Then again it could've been worse too. There are more than a few of my parents' old records that I still enjoy today. As an example: if you say "Willie Nelson" or "Neil Diamond" I will most often reply with "Heck Yeah!"

Geeky as he was, Scott was a big city Grafton kid & he was into Styx. He believed in them with the truehearted fervor only an adolescent boy can sustain & was convinced that they were singlehandedly responsible for defending & saving the sacred craft of rock & roll against evil forces. It was never clear to me who the evil forces were, but I liked Scott & therefore I liked Styx as well. With great sadness I'm forced to report that I even owned a few of their solo albums after they broke up. In fact, I performed my first psuedo head banging maneuvers to Styx solo albums. The Horror!

If I'd only known Mick & Dave back then I might've been lucky enough to rock out to Rush or Triumph. All things considered, it turned out all right. When I was in 9th or 10th grade, a new girl moved to town from LA. She introduced me to The Police. Shortly after that, I started hanging out with a kid who's college age brother turned us on to Dead Kennedys, Black Flag & Fear. Around the same time I met an exchange student from Australia who brought Midnight Oil & Talking Heads to the party. After that I just kept going & never stopped exploring. Somewhat strangely, my exploration ultimately led me to several years in which I listened to nothing but Classical & Jazz but that's another story.

In some ways it's never gotten better than when I loved Styx more than anything.

Required listening: Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) from Pieces of Eight