My Piano Voice

I realized recently how my piano playing is my voice.

Let me give that thought some context. I was driving home the other day, after time aboard a great old sailboat with a long-time friend, and during the time alone droning along the interstate to return to the real world and work, my ipod was randomly spinning up songs from my rather eclectic list. As the time passed and my ears heard some great old Elton John, Dave Matthews, Al Steward, Beatles, Eric Carmen, and more, along came one of my performance versions of one of my piano ballads from a long-ago recording session. It was stripped down and mostly the piano with only a few trinkets sprinkled lightly on top. And having been so long unheard or played by me, it hit me rather with fresh ears to hear.

The sounds reaching me were just a tad unfamiliar and arriving to my ears after spending about 3 hours underway with an old friend aboard the 32-foot ketch we’ve intermittently sailed for over two decades. The morning had given us a good breeze that turned into a severe clear sunny midday, and the sailing was beyond compare. Now, slightly suntanned and arm weary in places only hauling on taught lines will bring, and sort of zoning out during the drive back home and to work, this piece of music of mine was hitting me as if it were someone else.

And I realized that my piano playing, and particularly the way I arrange a piano ballad carries with it everything I wanted to say. Having grown up mostly playing the thing for myself, and yearning for an orchestra I might hear in my head in accompaniment, I heard now how my chording and use of pedal, and variable digitation of line within a song all are fat with my internal voice. And here now was a song with my original piano composition without my voice trying to sing with it and the often known fact of how my singing is mostly a detriment to my songs (with a nod to my generally good lyrics) came boldly strutting to the forefront of my listening to myself.

But more than that, as I paid attention to the piano playing itself, on that particular song, it hit me how I play the piano like it is singing. It is me singing, in part because I can’t sing very well with my voice, in part because as a boy I could hide in it and avoid mean people, in part because years later if/when people interrupt a lyrical song attempt I have trouble forgiving them yet do so easily if they interrupt just my piano voice, and in part because I was playing the piano at such a young age that it came to me in concert with my learning how to speak, or sing, or do most anything.

It may seem self-indulgent to spend this time explaining something so rudimentary and at the same time unimportant to most anyone else but myself. And yet, as I listened to other great piano players (well at least famous ones), hearing my song with fresh ears in comparison I was … dare I say it … pleased and thankful.  Here is one of my simpler solo piano takes.


Public and private school memories – an end to bullying

As a young boy until well into my college years, the idea of my becoming a doctor like my father was a comfortable plan that sat well with me. Many times I had been with him when seeing patients in their home, for he took me along sometimes when making house calls. If the patient had young children I could distract or play with I was useful to him a time or two while he practiced old fashioned medicine. I say old fashioned because he still genuinely enjoyed making visits in homes. He kept his phone number listed so any patient could call him at home anytime. Such medicine is long dead now in America, and he was a dying breed as nearly all of his colleagues had already built walls around their families and lives to usher in the new way. My father remained faithful to his preferences and was beloved by his patients. Growing up watching the respect and awe so many people gratefully offered to him motivated me to desire medicine like that in my future career.

But I was never going to follow in his footsteps and make it into Duke where we all assumed I would go if I didn’t start to get serious about making good grades. In addition, it was stressed by both of my parents that I would have to go to a school with better academics than the public school system of Polk County, Florida. So at a time when I should have been rising to the top of the heap in Junior High School by ascending to the ninth and oldest grade there, I instead matriculated to be a Freshman at a private Catholic High School, where my brother Jamie had preceded me with uplifting results that saw him attend a good college.

The shift was two-fold for me, involving both a marked rise in academic expectations and workload, and also the insertion of spiritual and religious education not allowed in public schools by then anymore. I loved both of those aspects of it all, but really chafed at missing out being the king of the hill like most of my friends back at Jr. High. And to make matters worse, my delusional hopes of how a religious and spirit-based high school would prove my fellow classmates and upperclassmen to be of good Christian character, these hopes were in desperate need of a reality check. And I got one pretty darned quickly.

For many years prior, I had always been known as a defender of those being bullied, but I myself had not really endured much in the way of getting thoroughly tormented by one. Usually in a 1:1 situation I could muster up enough courage to either present a willingness to fight and thus dissuade one, or somehow sidestep the need for true battle. But as a 14 year old Freshman in high school I encountered now genuine young men rather than boys, and some really mean ones at that. Two in particular spent the next two years tag teaming me and since I was new to these kids most of whom had attended a Catholic Jr. High School together, I had no real network of friends to assist in my outnumbered defense.

Beatings ensued.

What especially aggravated it all was my attitude which had been bolstered in Christian tolerance by my travels to Israel and the holy lands not long before. Just as I was really climbing a spiritual ladder of old and new testament knowledge and a fresh reading of the Gospels and challenging myself to love my neighbor (misinterpreting Jesus as somehow desiring me to endure stupid violence as a sign of faith in Him) these two boys really worked me over. It was largely my fault that it escalated because I’m sure had I not “turned the other cheek” and given them the idea that I was a genuine coward, we simply would have blackened each others’ eyes and bloodied a nose or two and then perhaps even become friends. Yet my deriding them as too stupid to be worth my lowering myself to their level, and my claiming them as spiritually worthless for tormenting an unresisting victim certainly was a different way to go: A stupid one, but it was definitely educational as time and blood loss accumulated.

I never ratted on them, choosing instead to focus on my academics, and so too I was increasingly interested in flirting with girls much more so than in coming across as a tattle-tale wussy. But it did weigh and wear me down as the next two years went by and my reputation at school became one of how I was strangely strong of spirit, but obviously either a coward or an idiot. I built my life around things I did outside of school, such as tennis (which I did play for the school’s team), and my growing popularity and friend network at the local skating rink which remained unaffected by my reputation in decline at the new school. Those worlds did not communicate with each other so my conflicting dual reputations did not collide. I found eventual romance at the skate rink, but I could never succeed with any girl I knew at the school. I can’t blame them then for thinking me unworthy.

Like such things sometimes will, everything changed in a flash with one deciding moment. As the years had gone by the three of us boys had grown rather used to an equilibrium of sorts in how they could taunt or sometimes torment and I would be a smartass perhaps in rebuttal, but not physical towards them in return. Yet for some reason I chose one day during the last week of my Sophomore year to react physically. I had only one more week to gut it out before summer break, but a terrible rage rose up in me as I was ascending an empty staircase to the second floor hallway with a large contingent of books balanced on my hip. It was the last moment between classes before the bell was to ring and the hallway was deserted already. But somehow one of the boys had snuck up behind me on cat paws. He threw a punch with all that he had at my lower back and it was a zinger. I had not seen him there and was unprepared to take the blow which landed squarely and powerfully exactly on my lower spine just above my butt.

My back uncontrollably reflexed outward and my books went flying as my knees briefly collapsed forward unto the hallway landing, and my attacker was two steps behind me laughing at the marvelous destruction and mayhem he had created. The pain in my back was tremendous as uncontrollable tears welled up in my eyes, but I could still see clearly in that last second before I kicked him with all of my might in the chest. He launched backward with both arms and legs limply flopping in trail stretching out towards anything to stop his flight backward as he became airborne. I knew immediately a mortal fear for his landing as he was going to fly down five steps or more to the midway landing of the staircase and I could easily envision him breaking his bloody neck or cracking his skull if he didn’t take the fall well.

Fortunately for us both he landed without breaking any major bone and without anyone having seen either of our blows taken or delivered. It was an absolutely private thing between us, nearly two years in the making. He was uninjured but lying on the landing in a crumpled heap moving pretty slowly, and I was gathering my things when someone then came up the stairs and soon a teacher got involved and we were sent to the Principal’s office. My tormenter never spoke to me then, or I don’t think ever again to me about anything. But as we were interrogated about our fighting, I answered honestly that I had kicked him down the stairs, but that he had struck the first blow.

The Principal was a fair man, but the school had a strict policy against fighting that included automatic suspension which would go on our record and damage my college application questionnaires one day as something I would have to explain. My tormenter didn’t particularly care as he had been suspended multiple times before and was not college bound, rather just eager to squeak through high school and get a job.

I told the Principal that I would not tolerate being suspended over this. He looked at me with some glimmer of understanding, but said how his hands were tied and that the rules were the rules, etc.

“Sir,” I asked, “During my two years at this school how many times have I been sent to your office?” There was a pause as he looked at me.

“None,” he answered.

“And during those same years how many times has he been sent to your office?” Again, a pause as his eyes now narrowed and his head leaned back a bit.

“More than I can remember,” he answered.

“Then sir, I request that you let this matter go as settled and let us get back to class.” The Principal said nothing for a moment, then looked at my former tormentor who likewise said nothing.

“Get the fuck out of my office you two.”

I went home that day and told my parents that I was not willing to return to that high school for my Junior year and that I wanted to return to public school. They were stunned with little idea as to why, but I was adamant, and I suppose my brothers before me having been very rebellious in comparison to my request to change schools softened them to count their blessings. They relented with moderate ignorance as to my motives. I was doing well academically and why in the world would I want to harm my chances to get into Duke, etc., but oh well. They could see my mind was made up for some reason or another and they relented.

I guess the last thing about it all was how I changed when my Junior year began a few months later at a MUCH bigger school where again I was essentially an unknown in the network of students. Because I was still rather short and slight some Senior football players thought I was a first-year guy and they attempted to razz me on the first day. Over the summer I had thought many times about how I handled the previous two years and had come to realize that while I didn’t know much, I knew without any doubt I would rather fight and even get my ass beat a hundred times than gain a reputation of someone who would not fight.

So on day one at the new big school as I was walking down a crowded hallway a moderately harmless hazing incident occurred where two football meatheads tried to take my backpack and push me into the lockers. Tossing my knapsack down I erupted into an immediate challenge to fight them both right then and there. Though I was much like the Tasmanian Devil cartoon whirlwind, the truth is how either of them could have ripped my head off and shit down my neck. Yet, as I came towards them in a shockingly quick attack, they both were flabbergasted at my absolute serious intent of doing battle immediately.


“I’m not taking shit like this anymore,” I yelled as the hallway traffic stopped and tuned in. “Come on let’s go right now you bastards.” And they were backing up and putting up a hand to keep me back a bit saying things like, “Woah there little guy, back up… Hey we’re sorry man, Jeez.” As I calmed down they asked me my name and where I was from etc., and things simmered down quickly. But apparently word spread across the entire campus and within less than three hours on day one at the new school I had an entirely different reputation than I had earned and could not shake at the previous high school. Now I was known essentially as a bit crazy with a “don’t mess with Verner” tag.

And the shroud of an inability to secure a girlfriend at school was forever lifted.


Old Cars and Old Memories

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some rather iconic rides – classic cars  taught me a lot along the way, but oddly perhaps the most important lesson would be in how driving something that you identify with and relish is a very personal and satisfying thing.  I am painfully aware of how it is a blessing few enjoy or allow themselves, and that more than a few family or friends would resent how I’ve had the pleasure.  I wasn’t always good about taking pictures along the way and several memorable sets of wheels are now only in my memory and not in a scrap book, or an unread blog post.

Still I think it is worth an occasional fond remembrance by me.  I recall blown tires, near misses dodging a cur dog running in front of me on the interstate, old days long gone of applying turtle wax while wearing cutoff jeans that now I would be embarrassed to be seen in, specs of black paint on the pickup after a friend and I blasted a old spray can with a shot gun before realizing it still had enough air in it to emit some paint after all, hauling my stuff to and from college during summer breaks pulling a uhaul full of now long gone junk, learning the hard way a time or two about brakes, coolant, blown header gaskets, etc.

It is sad to contemplate how many of these old life rafts are likely now in a junk yard.  And sad but true it is hard for me to get too excited about modern automobiles of any kind.  Sure I see a pretty mustang once every now and again, or a modern Challenger with a shaker hood scoop and more horsepower than anything I ever rode in … maybe 🙂 … But upon closer inspection I find plastic and control sway arms that look like pencils where once 1″ thick steel was not enough.  I see pickup trucks with their rear ends lowered and low profile street tires on them with undercarriage fluorescent lighting beneath and sounding like roaring tennis ball cans carrying soda-pop and mostly I’m repulsed.

My daily driver is a 1969 Ford Bronco with 3 on the tree (look it up) and an old 302 I can largely understand, and I sometimes still miss an old 1922 Ford Model T I used to drive to work for a while.  It wouldn’t go over 45 or so, and you had to manually swing the wiper blade if it was raining, but the old chitty chitty bang bang still makes me smile when I’m remembering.

I guess all in all, I’m just getting old.



Being at the beach – Sad Changes

My wife and I went to the beach for a half day yesterday, and on the one hand it was a beautiful time, while on another front it was a sad thing for me.

As we walked the beach on this crystal-clear afternoon, we both were remembering times with our children in decades past. I was reaching back even further in my mind to the 1970s when I was a teenager who enjoyed the beach before so many things that now fill up the time for most people there now. She and I recalled watching our children play in the sand, build sandcastles, or sit in a lounger in the shade and read a book (an actual book with pages). I recalled being a boy and seeing a dozen or more Sunfish sailboats up and down the beach, near to shore, and their larger coastal cruising sailing yacht cousins 5-10 miles out making their passage between island inlets. On most any sunny day with wind, the Belleair Beach sailboat activity was ever present, and on lighter sea days, early in the mornings it was often we would see water skiers plowing up and down the beach.

As a boy, I remember walking up and down the beach with clumps of old cottages separated by many empty lots; these covered with Australian pines and packed full of sandspur grasses beneath. Kites being flown was also common back then, and small planes pulling banner ads up and down the beach were fun to watch. Before the freezes of the late 70s, wild parakeets flew the island in flocks, and few people had portable radios to drown out the noise of those birds. Most houses didn’t have central A/C and instead had functional windows with screens.

Yesterday was a day for my wife and me to compare our memories against the present and feel some lament for so many things lost. Teenagers walking the beach now have earphones in and are looking down at their phones as they saunter past (deaf to the hiss of the waves and oblivious to the cries of seagulls). A few motorboats are making way, bashing their noisy paths through the small chop of waves, but no sails, little or big, are out there. Two wave runners are growling away out there doing a dirt bike on the water dance, but there are no water skiers. Every now and again as we walk, we pass some young adults gathered around portable umbrellas, lounging in folding chairs while staring at their phones. Blessedly most of their “music” is via earbuds, but sometimes one party or other of them may be playing something on a portable speaker; I can’t call it music, but they probably would. Every old vacant lot has been built upon, with houses more and more alike; square lines and well-trimmed landscaping with the pines and the parakeets all but forgotten. The oddity of seeing a pool at a beach house is more and more common.

I don’t mean to lament getting old or draw attention to this man’s version of a description of a generation gap. I try not to judge young people’s obliterating a rare beauty, nor do I forget how the generations before me would likely have begrudged my watching TV at the beach on rainy days, and the “crap” I listened to on AM radio when I was a kid. But there is a sad passing of the gavel kind of feeling for me and my wife as we walk the beach now. For us it is still stunning and worthwhile when we can get there. Yet there is a sadness in it as well.

I try not to worry too much about what it will all be like in another 20 years. I tell myself, there is enough here right now to fret over so let tomorrow’s drama find its way in its own proper time. But I do sometimes miss the beach I remember from my youth.



Boyhood Faith – Israel trip

I grew up dutifully attending the First United Methodist Church with my mother nearly every week. Sometimes my dad would be there, but not always as he was fond of visiting any of his patients that were hospitalized in the mornings even on Sundays, perhaps especially on Sundays. Church would include my going to Sunday School in the hour before sanctuary worship, and then usually the family going out to the members only Yacht Club for the after church brunch and hobnobbing session with the elite of my hometown. A few of my Sunday School classmates and other regular school mates who went to other churches had a similar routine including the Yacht Club lunch, and so for the most part we all knew our lucky place in the world and which daddies were the doctors, lawyers, judges, or business owners.

My church attendance was not anything I rebelled against much. My brothers before me had generally succeeded in getting old enough to say ‘no’ and/or had embarrassed mom and dad enough in 1960s era long hair hippy rebellion that by the time I was going with mom they were not. For the most part I liked it although I sometimes chaffed at the attire my mother insisted I wear in comparison to some of my cohorts. The Yacht Club had a coat and tie minimum dress code and we weren’t going to church without the social gathering afterwards so I had to wear what mom said and I did.

As the years went by Sunday School achieved its goal in familiarizing me with the entire bible, and at the urging of my mother one summer I read it again on my own with relish. At church the preacher who presided over our Methodist flock was a fantastically worthy and righteous spiritual inspiration, and many times I was touched and enlightened by his message. Of course, my father was his physician and they had a friendship that saw the reverend over to our house for dinner or a swim now and then so I could see his sincerity and utter lack of hypocrisy both on and off the field. He was a beacon of a life lived in righteous relationship with God.

All of this added up to how for me church was mostly a positive experience. The biggest thing about it that fought against good spiritual growth was knowing most of my Sunday School classmates when they were not in church. This irony grew especially pronounced as the teen years came and mom tried to get me to attend UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) on Sunday evenings. Our church was the big one, and so our UMYF included some of the kids from other nearby Methodist churches. We all went to school together for the most part and knew each other about as much as kids turned loose in a giant recess on the blacktop could. But everybody coming to ‘the big one’ where there was room enough to cage and feed us all in a cafeteria set up of sufficient capacity fostered a wildness in the air that could stifle any moment of serious spiritual growth.

It was supposed to be fun and we could dress casually in our normal school clothes instead of coats and ties for some of us. We could play games or basketball. So as a young teen I could ‘enjoy’ spending a long few hours keeping my head down and staying out of the way of the bigger older kids while we all went through the line and got the same pizza they served at school, etc. In addition any classmate girl a young boy might be sweet on and could talk to at school would instead be talking to the older junior high football quarterback or some such. It was a king of the hill environment and I was not anywhere near the top.

My mother hoped that the youth program would be another spiritual building block, but back then it sucked for me and I did not like UMYF at all. I’m told how years later that program did get much better at breaking out the kids by ages and developing into “small group” dynamics etc. However, for me it was spiritually draining to see the same kids who just recently had been quietly reverent in prayer all dressed up to honor God now turn into little loud-mouthed bullies and braggarts just like they were in school. My being an egg head and a fly on the wall probably didn’t endear me to any of the other kids much either so we all likely shared the desire for me not to be there.

Yet out of duty and obedience to my mother and her advice that I keep trying it I went many times. “Be patient,” she said. “Try to find someone who is sitting alone and go talk to them.” Or, “If you are not having a good time get out your bible and read something.” These ideas worked only a few times wherein a good conversation or new interpretation on refreshed bible readings did happen, but they were the exception.

In contrast what really cemented my spiritual faith was when my mother took me on a journey to the Holy Lands of Israel. I was just turned 13 and though I had travelled several times with the folks to resorts where my father was giving speeches or helping with the Board Certification Test of Internal Medicine, this was my first long distance trek abroad. As a gift, my grandparents had always taken each grandchild before me on an “around the world” trip when they got old enough. But with six years between me and my nearest brother who got one, Mammy and Pap had grown a tad too old to do it again when it was my turn. Lucky for me my mom was enticed at the last minute to join in and go on a church planned Holy Lands tour with a Methodist Bishop and some of her other friends at our church. She would likely not have gone with just a preacher and Sunday school teacher group, but she could not resist a Bishop. Best of all, I could go. “Just keep still, speak when spoken to, and make me proud. I’m sure I can count on you to be a gentleman.” And she could.

Being on that trip, as the only child surrounded by adults all searching for spiritual and historical context, while visiting many places the bible speaks of was an enormous boost to my faith. I had challenged myself to have faith without seeing, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing,” said Jesus (John 20:29) yet being here in a bus full of tourists traipsing into Bethlehem, or seeing Golgotha, or standing on the Temple mount, experiencing living history was putting reality into many words I had read and studied, but before felt were far away, almost fictional. In comparison to our group praying in the garden of Gethsemane beside centuries old olive trees, somehow back home anyone pretending that playing volleyball in a church gym could hope to be spiritually magnetic or uplifting seemed utterly ridiculous.

When I returned from Israel I was spiritually hungry and starting in a new private Catholic High School where old testament studies were required. I grew and learned. I continued to try UMYF periodically for a few more months, but there was one final nail in the coffin for me after that year’s Christmas season, during a New Year’s Eve social thrown together by one of the popular girls of church and a classmate near my age. After a regular UMYF dinner one evening, somebody was going to grab the church’s van and load up about a dozen of us to drive over to her house for cookies and games until the midnight hour countdown and then bring us all back home one by one. It sounded fun, and the girl’s mother was a friend of my mom’s so I was encouraged to go.

After the countdown we were all tired and I remember our sort of staggering out the front door and slowly moving towards the van. The neighborhood was quiet and most of the lights were off such that the night sky was ablaze with stars almost the same way they can be at sea, or as seen when deep into the woods on a clear night. There was little moon that evening and as I looked up and saw not only the stars, but clearly a galaxy or two with the cosmos lit up almost as if it were a painting, I leaned my head back and turning around slowly I uttered in a calm reverent voice, “God.”

There was a silence as the kids near me stopped walking and talking and I realized something was wrong. I brought my gaze out from the heavens and looked around for what the matter was, and saw utter repulsion on several faces. Somehow to them I had taken the Lord’s name in vain and my calling on His name had ruined the whole evening for them. 13 year olds. We loaded up in the van, but all chit chat and/or party giggles were silenced and though my home was not the nearest to our current location I expected to be the first kid to be dropped off, and I was.

“Hey honey, did you have a nice time at the party?” Mother asked.

“Yes mom, it was a fun time and the cookies were great. You should take a look outside at the stars mom, it is incredible tonight.”

“Really? OK, I will.” And she went outside to see for herself. “My God, you are right. They are just incredible.”

“Good night mom, I’m going to bed.”

“Happy New Year sweetheart.”

That was the last time I went to UMYF youth group. Though I enjoyed the adult worship in the sanctuary with mom and sometimes with dad there as well until I left for college, something ended in me about wanting any more time with my “classmates” there. My mother, heretofore always capable of needling me into changing my mind or using guilt of some sort to get me “back to it”; somehow she sensed a shift in my calm refusal ever to go there again.

My spiritual journey was my own now, between myself and God.


Don’t regret another’s suffering

Don’t regret another’s suffering for two reasons, both for how it may be necessary, and for how it opens doors. As people learn how they will and won’t allow others to treat them, and thus what they will demand of themselves regarding how they will and won’t treat their fellows, suffering is frequently an absolute necessary ingredient in cooking the sauce of growth.   And like a 350 degree oven on eggs, batter, butter, and sugar the exposure to the heat of suffering may indeed bake something later delicious, but there is no way to fully combine these ingredients without that last step.

This song takes a similar journey in how the last minute can’t really express itself unless and until one has taken the simple ingredients of the first 3:30 and allowed them to coagulate a bit. I.E. one has to listen and relax into it a bit. I don’t expect many will make or take that time, but hopefully those who do will be adequately pleased.  You may listen in a new window (3 weeks ahead of its official release) at: CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

And if any reading this feel overwhelmingly urged to make me suffer your criticism of it for my personal growth, you may find me on social media and indulge yourself.

And now just to add some meaningless words in the effort to make this blog post needlessly longer when, really, I’ve already said what my original thought was, I am simply prattling to increase the searchability of this mostly impotent endeavor at getting my song noticed.  🙂  But then again, about  a year ago one of my songs that I didn’t push at all got tens of thousands of “spins” on spotify for no reason I can imagine… like the African man says to Meryl Streep in “Out Of Africa”… “The Gods are happy Bo-poo, they play with us.”  Please don’t take that as an encouragement or personal endorsement towards monotheism.  🙂


Not What We Cling To, But What We Let Go

Sometimes we are defined not by what we have, but by that we have let go. Such is the summary behind the song “And You’re Mine”.

For reasons only the digital fairy dust dispensers can know, this song of mine from over five years ago has started to be listened to more regularly on spotify. And there is a juicy irony for me to digest herein, for my letting go of trying to market my music very much at all after spending gobs of time learning how others do it, after reading books, after downloading articles, after chasing down rabbit holes of the music industry of old and of new, after all of those things and so much more, I could barely claim to have attracted more than a beer fart’s worth of interest in my music – except of course for perhaps a dozen or so very discerning fans who somehow had actually listened to more than 20 seconds of a song of mine before chasing squirrels. (Is that sentence long enough for ya?)

True the song does have some interesting stuff in it. And the lyrics were sprouted when I was but a teenager, so there are some fresh puerile naivete nuggets as the song flops between a bassa nova rhythm for choruses and a more regular beat on the verses. And it has an interesting mandolin addition that instead of the usual flam-fest one gets, in here the mandolin is mostly plucked and by a good player indeed. I remember recording him at my home studio as the last ornament on the song’s tree after a studio session to do so was post-poned.  It was a pleasure to work with a good player on the mandolin and I think it made the whole coda of the song interesting.

Click Here to Listen on Spotify


Image Search Check six of twenty

Every now and then I just do a double check on “images” google or other search engines will find if/when I search my name.  With a somewhat unique name I didn’t have to change it for my songwriting and recording efforts.  Yet I share the name with a well liked young professional chef who now resides in New Zealand and doesn’t write songs that I’m aware of so life is generally good.  I doubt sharing the same name troubles either of us and I hope he is thriving.

It is interesting to me to note how some of the images are older, and some are associated with relatively recent things.  And yet, some of my more popular songs and/or their cover art didn’t make the top 20, while a different one did.  There is not any perfect rhyme or reason to it that I can decipher, but I’m sure a good nerd to explain it to me, and I’m glad not to have one waste his or my time doing so.  It does entertain me just a tiny bit though, and I have to take care not to do the search too often.   Compared to some photographs out there of me doing civic things and/or that my few friends might have snapped of me in my natural habitat, I’m actually grateful that these 6 don’t offend.  phew.

Below are the 6 out of top 20 images that are me.


Highest Rating Surprise – Best Ever, But Not Fair Of Course

About a year ago I invested in an anonymous review of this song, Say Goodbye, which is a simple piano ballad with a VERY somber and hopefully beautiful aspect to it.  You can click here to listen to it for free in a new window if you like.

Now of course it isn’t fair to compare apples and oranges like that.  Some of my favorite songs of old were studio recorded with great attention to arrangement and/or much more complex than just a simple ballad; and they had excellent musicians in collaboration on them.   Still even those I most like didn’t score as high as this plaintively soft song.  In fact this one was recorded and produced by myself in isolation from others; I did the PAD strings, and the sound engineering myself.  True, my wife did make a request of me as I was writing portions of it which likely challenged me to improve it.  But still it hits me as kind of interesting that the highest rated song of mine is one I did entirely on my own.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my recording studio time with several producers in the past (most all of them), and I’m not comparing myself as a producer with anybody.  But I’m wondering about how this song is truer, perhaps, to my genuine musical inspirations.  When left alone to play and write a song, I most often create something soft, sweet, and yes a bit sad.  And it is really difficult for me to write a song that is based on joy versus angst.  Perhaps the reason this one turned out more pleasing than some to anonymous listeners across the internet is due to authenticity and lack of dilution from writer through producer and collaborators and on to digital +s/-s on a computer.  Or then again, perhaps it is just how this time my review request fell on a red moon shading across a cactus plant in Arizona, who knows?  Meanwhile, I need to play piano more these days.

If you read this far, please know you can download for free  one of those songs I spoke of that I enjoy and that this song beat out anyway… you can download it with just a  click here.


Talent Dying Young R.I.P. Dan Gallagher

It was the fall of 2016 when I last saw Dan Gallagher. It was my tenth recording session where he was going to be adding his guitar magic, and as usual I had bounced preliminary scratch recordings to the producer who knew which of his chosen studio players wanted to hear them beforehand and which ones prefer to come in cold and improvise. Over several years and nearly 4 dozen original songs of mine that Dan played on I had already learned I could trust him.

I mention the scratch recordings being available for collaborators to have if needed, and Dan was one of those players who DEFINITELY studied them beforehand. Most times my songs can have a reliable structure through about 90% of the way through them, but somewhere there usually lurks a chord stretch, or a rhythm change, or something inside most of them that mucks up the reliability and predictability. It can drive drummers crazy, and I’m sure my producer wanted to pelt me a time or two. But Dan would have studied them and always arrived on record day having sheeted them out, with copious notes on what he wanted to play. There would be layers in his approach such that he was almost like an orchestra conductor who had heard it all before and he knew ahead of time which layer he wanted to play first, second, third, and on down the line. And no matter how much there was in his head to get done, once completed any song he worked with would lose weight and gain mass (sounds like an ultimate rudeness to Newton, but that’s how I would describe it).

I myself am a passable acoustic guitar player, but I don’t generally try to play the electric guitar much, and after collaborating with Gallagher why would I? It’s not that he would in any way make me uncomfortable if I tried; no he was always a humble and gentle soul when giving of his sound. He never made me feel anything but glad that he was gonna have something to add to a song of mine. And though his sounds would often cement a song, they practically never stole it or took it over, or swept anything aside. And a few times after hearing what I had written he would humbly say he didn’t want to do much on it. But if he did want to add himself I learned to count on being happy that he did.

On our penultimate recording session together I did something I’ve not done before or since. I wanted to have a drummer, Dan on his guitar, and myself on keys late one evening after a few brews or a scotch and just record whatever we could spit out. I wanted an improv session with my intent being to record and compose something around whatever we conjured. And Dan would not have his preferred ability to analyze and sheet the tune. Sure he could jam with a rock and roll band, but this was different. I wanted to folk/singersongwriter noodle. We were all miserably uncomfortable for a while – and sounded pretty pitiful (smile), and yet after a few long hours of mucking around something did eventually come of it. And one session later a binary song (really trinary if you listen hard enough) “My Frozen Heart” became one of the last songs that Dan played on for me. It was the fruit of that late night improv time we had. When I brought it back to the studio to put it down Dan did his thing on it. He has some great work through it, but I especially like it after the 3:20 mark when the song drops back for a bassa nova rhythm easy grove that slowly boils up and up into finally a long rock and roll fade away – and it was my pleasure to tell Dan for the coda, “play whatever you want… the song is yours til the end. Run me off the road.”

I received the sad news yesterday that Dan died suddenly. I’ve collaborated with more than a few professional studio musicians. Some I hardly know and who never had time for me anyway except a bare minimum and always with the clock and cash register running; cold pros akin to a brain surgeon you might want for an operation but not for dinner with your family. Some may have even died and I would not know, nor be sad to think I would play with them no more. But the sensation that hit me when I heard Dan Gallagher died was one of loss; loss of his future notes played if I sought him out again to work together; loss of what he might play for others I would likely not even hear but I would feel confident saying it would be humble, good, and worth the soundwaves. I don’t know if I will record anymore, but I’m certain that if I do Mr. Gallagher will be sorely missed.


Not to hijack a moment, but if you want to hear his last long solo fade away he did for me a few years back, listen for free to “My Frozen Heart” at:

Click Here

Or a video snippet of some of his licks and riffs is below