Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Great Couple Weeks For Music: Pix and Thanks!

Wow, what a great couple weeks it’s been for music! Just thought I’d write a quick post to share some pictures from the past two weeks and to thank many of the kind folks who made it all possible…

Last weekend started with a bang at the the 11th Hepcat’s Hop at Ruuhijärvi. This festival was the first rockabilly show I attended in Finland when I came to visit two years ago and it was a lot of fun. It takes place in the middle of the Finnish countryside, next to a lake (or järvi in Finnish), in the middle of the summer when the sun never sets, and always includes a big party in a field, great food, great people, lots of old American cars, rockabilly cats and dolls dressed to the nines, and great music. I’ve been looking forward to this festival for a long time and I was excited this year to not only come back, but to perform as well.

With thanks to Tomi Valasvuo for the photos and the last minute sound set-up!

Due to a schedule conflict, the Hi-Fly Rangers were not able to attend the festival, but this created an opportunity to play some new songs with some new folks. Joining me for the gig were my pals Mika Liikari (from the Barnshakers) on upright bass and Eino Rastas (from the Hal Peters Trio) on guitar. Both are great musicians and I had a grand ol’ time rehearsing, traveling, and performing with them. Eino was one of the first Finnish thumb-picking guit-pickers and we injected a whole lot of swinging hillbilly jazz into our Ruuhijärvi set. And of course, we also did some rockin’ stuff too… 

With many thanks to Roi Hohenthal, here’s a video of us doing Floyd Tillman’s ‘Daisy May’:

I had been wondering for months about what I would tell my friends when they saw pictures of me performing in front of the venue’s massive and storied Confederate flag (formerly used by Finnish rockabilly legends Teddy & the Tigers on their tours in the late ‘70s), but in the end I didn’t need to worry. For the first time in the event’s history, the organizers decided to have one of the bands play outside in the field. They tell me it had nothing to do with me starting a near riot (OK, a passionate debate may be a better term) among festival goers over the use of the Confederate flag in the main hall, but I still wonder…

The rest of the night was just as fun as the set with Eino and Mika. With the exception of me, all of the bands were from Finland and I greatly enjoyed catching two of the Finnish rockabilly performers from the late’ 70s/early ‘80s rockabilly revival: Jussi Syren and Mystery Train.

Jussi is primarily doing bluegrass these days, so the rockabilly show was a rare treat (even if he denied my request for ‘Steady with Betty.’ Ha!), and I’ve seen Mystery Train perform a few times with Kitty Lee, but this was my first time seeing them with their former singer, Petri Mäntysalo , who now lives in Spain.   

Rounding out the evenings performances were Bettie & the Handsome Trio, a stellar father-daughter family blues band backed by some real good musicians, and the T-Bird Gang, one of Finland’s best rockabilly bands today.

Just as it was two years ago, it turned out to be a great party with great friends—I had a very enjoyable dinner with Mika and Roi and Teija Hohenthal (and thanks to DJ Boogie Chiller for the awesome BBQ!); I got to sit down and do some interviews with Eddie Laakso as well as Ode and Albert Hallikainen; had some great road tripping and pulla-snacking with Mika and Saana Syrjäläinen; got some nice press from Uusi Kesä newspaper in their article “Gibson tähdittää Hep Cat´s Hopia” (or, Gibson stars in Hep Cat’s Hop); caught up with many old friends and made several new friends as well. Tis all one can ask for in a gig and I send my many thanks to Albert and Ode for inviting me to be a part of it this year!

Sunday was a recovery day, but Monday picked up right where Saturday left off…
My pal Deke Dickerson came to Helsinki to finish up his European summer tour. It was a last-minute show at Lepakkomies, but it ended up selling out sometime around noon. Deke came by the Goofin’ shop around 6:00 and along with Pete Hakonen, Mack, and Merene Hovilainen, we went out for dinner at my favorite kebab and pizza joint, Ravintola Leijona.

The show itself was highly entertaining. Deke’s backing band of Jussi Huhtakangas, Lasse Sirko, and Juha Litmanen was stellar and the packed crowd, super low ceilings, extremely hot temperatures, and rockin’ music all combined to create a super Finnish sauna-like experience.  It was also a nice surprise to be called up on stage to do some singing and we banged out a rockin’ hillbilly version of Arlie Duff’s ‘Y’all Come,’ which we recently recorded together for the Starday Sessions tribute CD on Goofin.

It was once again a great night, with great friends, and I really enjoyed catching up with my American hillbilly buddy over here in Finland and hearing about his recent book success, his upcoming tour with the Rev. Horton Heat, and all the cool projects happening in his world.

Thanks to Nisse Kärkkäinen for the on-stage pic of Deke and I and to Rami Poutiainen for the other pic of us. Not sure who took the pic of Tuomas Metsberg, Lasse, Jussi and I, but thanks to them too!

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent doing interviews in Helsinki for my project on American Roots Music in Finland, but on Thursday I was off to Jokela for some Hi-Fly rehearsing and ’48 Chevy cruising.

All tuned up and ready to go!

Sweet! I can’t believe Jake let me drive! Well, open container laws are different in Finland so I guess I can actually believe it… Photo by KK.

Some of the songs which we initially rehearsed as a joke, turned out to be some of my favorite songs we put together for the gigs. These included a minor key version of ‘Sittin’ On Top of the World’ as well as a rock and roll version of Roy Head’s ‘Treat Her Right.’
On Friday afternoon KK and I headed up to Hämeenlinna where we met up with Jake at our hotel. I suppose I really should have Googled the gig or something beforehand, but all I knew was that we had a gig and that we would be featuring our friend Pete Lapintie on piano for a few songs. As it turned out, we were one of the town’s featured after-parties for the Wanhaja Music Fest. This is one of Finland’s biggest rock festivals and included a lot of big names in the Finnish music scene including some roots guys like J. Karjalainen, M.A. Numminen, Tokela (with Latebird’s All Stars), as well as PMMP, Apulanta, Klamydia, and many other  mainstream popular Finnish bands. When we arrived in town I was pleased to find several posters around town for our gig promising an “Amazing Rockabilly Show” as well as an article about me in the Hämeen Sanomat. The title in particular made me smile: “Jenkkirokkari puhuu suomea ja rakastaa merirosvovitsejä,” or in English, “Yankee rocker speaks Finnish and Loves Pirate Jokes.” It’s funny because it’s true! For those of you who read Finnish, you can check it out here.

Many thanks to AP Sarjanto for writing the kind words, which is probably the first press the pirate joke book has received in the last ten years. And of course, thanks especially to Pete Lapintie for booking us, seeking out some great promotion, and then rockin’ the piano like a mad man for a dozen or so honky-tonkers and all-out rockers!

The gig itself was pretty awesome. Even though Samantha Fox, of ‘Touch Me’ fame, was playing next door to us at another of the festival’s after-parties, the venue still managed to pack the joint with folks eager for the promised “Amazing Rockabilly Show.” Before we took the stage around midnight the place was filled to near capacity and we ended up having lots of people dancing, lots of kind folks to chat with between sets, lots of new songs to play, lots of CD sales, lots of good food the next morning… just good times.

As it turned out, there were lots of broken guitar strings as well and KK took a photo of me changing my strings in the parking garage in between sets. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any video that has surfaced from this gig. So, instead of posting a link to our own video, I’ll post a link to Samantha Fox’s gig from next door. This way, all of y’all who came to see us and danced your tails off can see what you missed next door…

Touch Me (Hämeenlinna version 2013):

After a mighty fine breakfast and a little record diggin’ in Hämeenlinna, with my major scores being Buck Jones’s Bad LP on Rebel Records and a Finnish version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’), KK and I headed north to Pieksämäki for the Big Wheels festival.

On the drive up I was excited to finally meet this friendly beast… After seeing signs every 100 yards or so warning of moose crossings, and hearing stories about moose sightings being as common in Finland as 101 Strings LPs in a Salvation Army record box, I was starting to get real down because we hadn’t yet seen one. Even three and half or four hours north of Helsinki and still not a moose to be seen… Fortunately, this guy jumped out of the woodwork to save the day just as we were stopping to get our fill of coffee and pulla.

As we arrived in Pieksämäki, we were just in time to catch the Big Wheels cruising parade—hundreds of vintage American cars and trucks cruising the narrow, two-way streets of the little town and thousands of people standing on the streets to watch. In a word, it was beautiful. It was also captured on video by about a dozen different YouTube users. You can check it out here if you like, the cruising starts at around the 19:30 mark of the video:

After we settled into our swank hotel, which looked like it hadn’t seen a single update since the 1960s (awesome!), we headed over to the venue for the sound check. The venue was the old, abandoned railway station, Vanha Veturitallit, but instead of actually sound checking we spent about two hours playing with Jake and Taina’s kids and looking at old cars. When we finally did get around to the sound checking, everything looked and sounded great…

First up was the Shoebox Revue. I have dug Ari Sjöblom and Henri Pirttimäki’s music with the Flatbroke Trio for a long time and it was a real treat hearing them with drums and Elli Maple on vocals. Their rockin’ cover of Nick Curran’s ‘Kill My Baby’ was a highlight and a great start to the night.  

The Soil Senders rock’n’roll trio followed with a high-energy set of rockabilly tunes and sweet harmonies.

We took the stage around midnight and it was probably the most fun I’ve had at a show in Finland. KK was rockin’ out on his knees mid-way through the first song, the dance floor was packed the whole night, we had great sound, great stage set-up, great lights, great fog machines (!!), and about 750 people asking for more after each song. After the second encore I was definitely done and I couldn’t possibly play another song even if I had wanted to… By that end of our last song I was shirtless, breathless, laid out on the floor, and utterly exhausted!

Many, many thanks are due to Maxi Mikkola for bringing us there, to his lady Piia for selling some of our merch during the show, to Anna Halonen for taking some stellar photos of our set, to the sound and lights crew for a job very well done, to everyone who came to talk to us after the show and buy records and/or CDs, and to everybody who came out to rock with us in Pieksämäki. I sure hope we can come back and do it again another time!

And that’s about the whole of it. The Hi-Fly Guys and myself are presently finishing up a new full-length record and it’s been real fun. I love the process of writing a new song, teaching it to the band, and then recording it the next day. I often dig the songs I write for at least a day or two, but almost always I change my mind after a couple days and throw them away to the scrap mp3-demo bin. The nice part about this process has been that I don’t have time to question my own songs for very long. It’s been fun and I think we’ve been getting some real good results. And of course we’ve been recording several of our favorite songs which we’ve been playing for the last two years at shows. It’s a good mix and I’m very much looking forward to sharing the finished results with people as soon as it is ready (but now, what do to about album art?!?!).

This weekend we’ll be playing at a dear friend’s wedding, and after that we’ve only got one more gig in Finland this year. It sure would be great to see some of our friends out at theReal Gone Records Rock and Roll Weekender on August 15th in Sastamala. It's going to be a great festival with lots of friends and a lot of great bands including Cliff Edmonds and the TelstarsWhistlebaitthe Cosh Boysthe Truly Lover TrioFoggy Mountain Rockersthe Lo-Lites, and many more! I am most certainly looking forward to leaving everything out there on the stage once again and catching all the great acts from around the world. Until then, Rockin’ Regards!!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

NEW PODCAST: A Tribute to Goofin' Records Paying Tribute to Starday Records

Well friends, I've finally done gone and started my own podcast. [Ooh... Awww...] The first episode is A Tribute to Goofin' Records Paying Tribute to Starday Records. If you'd like to hear some great Goofin' bands playing some great Starday tunes (including rockabilly, country, bluegrass, western swing, and more!), read up on the similarities between Goofin' and Starday, or see my pictorial discography of every 7" release on the Goofin' label, just follow the link.

To read the post but skip the music (I don't know why somebody might do this, but I'm giving you options), read on:

When I first came to Finland two years ago, I brought with me a handful of my new Starday books. I had no idea at that time if there were many Starday fans in Finland, or if there were many people who wanted to read about American roots music in English, but I was eager to find out. Sure, I knew that Tapio Väisänen, a renowned record collector who helped me with my early Starday discography research, lived near Helsinki. And the man who calls himself Starday on his YouTube channel, Pasi Koskela, lived in Finland as well. But beyond them, I had not a clue.
My first order of business in Finland was to visit the Goofin’ Records shop in Helsinki. I had first heard of Goofin’ in the early 2000s when my friend Sean Mencher gave me his High Noon CD released on the Goofin’ Records label. In the years that followed I came across the Goofin’ name several times over while picking up CDs or 45s by American touring acts such as Deke Dickerson, Martí Brom, Carl Sonny Leyland, Cave Catt Sammy, and others. Then, after performing at the Green Bay Rockin’ ‘50s Fest in 2005, I actually met Pete Hakonen, Goofin’s owner and founder. At the time, my friend Bill Hunt had just started his Cow Island Music label and Pete spent a lot of time talking to us about the pros and cons of running a roots record label.
Six years later I arrived in the Goofin’ shop and was happy to see Pete again. I was also happy to see an entire store in the middle of Helsinki, Finland dedicated to American roots music. Sure, there were a couple hard rock LPs from the ‘70s, maybe 30 or so, and a small section of Finnish music from the 1920s-‘60s, but everything else in the shop was related to 1940s-‘60s American roots music—blues, country, doo-wop, rockabilly, soul, rhythm and blues, Cajun, teen pop, Elvis, western swing, garage, surf, and everything in between. Hundreds of thousands of 45s, LPs, CDs, books, and anything else related to roots music. Before I could even soak it all in, Pete had called his friend Lester Peabody who lived just a few minutes from the shop. Within the hour the three of us had set up a recording session and even booked a performance at the upcoming Helsinki Rockabilly Week festival.
During my six weeks in Finland that summer the Goofin’ shop became sort of a home away from home. If I wasn’t in Vaasa taking Finnish language classes, I was probably in the shop meeting new folks, talking about music, and buying records. It certainly didn’t hurt that I was living just one block away at the time either. I was mesmerized by the scores of out-of-print 45s and CDs I was finding—stuff you just can’t find in the States (go ahead doubters, try to find a store selling stock copies of Go Cat Go’s ‘Please Mama Please’ or their Rock-A-Billy Record Co. 10”). I could go on forever about some of the amazing things I found in the shop, but perhaps most intriguing to me at that time was a giant wall of Goofin’ Records releases. I had already known about the Dave and Deke Combo, High Noon, the Frantic Flattops, Los Straitjackets, and a lot of the other American roots acts. I knew of Ray Campi, Huelyn Duvall, Jack Scott, Dale Hawkins, Narvel Felts, Jimmy Lee Fautheree, and some of the original ‘50s rockers as well, but now I was seeing their music on the Goofin’ label. I had even heard many of the International groups like the Go-Getters, Miss Mary Ann & the Ragtime Wranglers, Ray Collins’ Hot Club, Wildfire Willie & the Ramblers, as well as Finland’s own Barnshakers, but I didn’t realize that Goofin’ had been releasing records by all these different bands. The rest of the releases on the wall, however, were pretty much a mystery to me.
It was then that I decided that I would try to collect every vinyl release Goofin’ had issued. After all, what I already knew I really liked and what I didn’t know, I couldn’t wait to discover. I was particularly excited about finding new Finnish bands, as I always try to buy local music wherever and whenever I travel. The task, however, proved to be somewhat challenging for several reasons. In addition to financial restraints, I really had no idea just how much Goofin’ product was out there in the world. As it turns out, there are presently 90 different 45s, with twelve of them appearing on Gas—Goofin’s subsidiary label reserved for surf music. There are nine further releases on 10”, twenty-three 12” releases, and two 78s. I soon discovered that many of the releases were extremely limited runs back in the ‘80s but miraculously, and with the help of Pete and several generous collectors and friends in Finland, I completed the run. And while I can’t even begin to start collecting every CD on the Goofin’ label (there are well over 100), I also made a habit of picking up a few favorites each time I went to the store.
For a complete pictorial discography of every 7” Goofin’ release, see my flickr page:
This means that my Goofin’ song collection now totals 1,749 songs. While it’s nowhere near everything Goofin’ has released, just as I had hoped, I discovered some INCREDIBLE new music. Since buying these records I’ve gone to see a lot of the bands perform here in Finland and I’ve left concerts with a new favorite band on more occasions that I care to remember—the Hi-Fly Rangers, the Rockin’ 8-Balls, Dr. Snout & his Hogs of Rhythm, Lester Peabody Quartet, Whistlebait, Uncle John Trio, Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers, Spud’n’Nick & the Roughshods, Mike Bell & the Belltones, and so many more. Needless to say, I’ve been really impressed by the music Goofin’ has been putting into the world. It was therefore a huge honor for me when just a few months back, Goofin’ Records chose to release the Nate Gibson & Friends Starday Sessions tribute album.
I really can’t think of a more fitting label to release a Starday tribute. Not only had several of the contributing artists (Deke Dickerson, Sean Mencher, the Barnshakers, and the Hi-Fly Rangers) already recorded for Goofin’, I’ve come to notice a lot more similarities between Goofin’ and Starday. Most obviously, they are both record labels interested in promoting and preserving American roots music—traditional country, rockabilly, western swing, bluegrass, and much more. Both also emphasized instrumental music, with Goofin’ even operating its own instrumental subsidiary label. Furthermore, each label owned a physical shop. This, to me, is one of the main reasons independent labels can be successful. Not only are they able to distribute their own music, store owners also have first-hand knowledge about what is selling and what is not. Furthermore, the shop serves as a great meeting point for local musicians and fans of the music and it also keeps people updated on the latest developments in the worldwide scene (Goofin’ always stocks the latest releases from Bluelight, Jungle, Wild, Sleazy, Cow Island, El Toro, Vintjärn, Ventrella, Rock-A-Billy Record Co. and Tail back in the day, and so many more great roots labels).
Just like Starday did back in the Texas/California days, I also love that Goofin’ actively promotes the local music scene. The overall output of Goofin’ is overwhelmingly Finnish and more than half of the Goofin’ releases this year and all of the releases last year have been by Finnish bands. A further connection between the two labels is that they both issue(d) a lot of music! There are several other wonderful independent labels in Finland promoting roots music (Jungle, Bluelight, Jupiter Stroll, and Snowflake come to mind), but Goofin’s total recorded output since its founding in 1984 exceeds them all. I should also note that of the 1,749 Goofin’ songs that I own, 34 of them (roughly 2%) are Starday covers. This is, of course, not including the most recent Starday Sessions tribute, which bumps Goofin’s percentage of Starday covers up to 2.8% of their entire recorded catalog (at least that which is in my collection). How about that! It can most certainly be ascertained that I am not the first Starday fan in Finland (and hopefully not the last!).
After realizing this, I got the idea to put together a podcast spotlighting some of the Goofin’ artists covering Starday artists. With the kind permission of Goofin’ Records owner Pete Hakonen, I am now able to present some of these Starday gems from the Goofin’ catalog. In doing so, I hope that you’ll discover some new bands that you dig and maybe even hear a couple new songs from bands you already knew. I give a hearty cheers to Goofin’ for releasing all of this great music and an extra hearty cheers to all the bands and performers for keeping the Starday catalog alive and well—from George “Thumper” Jones to Sonny Fisher, Link Davis to Ken Clark, even Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell all the way down to Stringbean (David Akeman), and so much more. We’ve got bluegrass, traditional country, rockabilly, honky-tonk, western swing, and swingin’ instrumentals— just a whole lot of good stuff! It should also be noted that with the exception of High Noon (Texas), Darrel Higham (England), Rusti Steel & the Tintax (England), the Dave & Deke Combo (California), the Go-Getters (Sweden), and myself (I still have a hard time answering where I’m from), all of these bands are from Finland. Here’s hopin’ y’all dig it… Y’all come!
*Note: Every effort was made to avoid playing the same song twice, even if recorded by multiple bands for Goofin’, though I did break this rule just once.
*Another Note: I apologize for the sound quality on some of the vinyl transfers. I do not have my normal digitizing set-up with me here in Finland, but this is something I hope to correct for future podcasts.
*Another Note: This here is my first ever attempt at a podcast but eventually I plan to incorporate this podcast into both my blog (Starday, Finland, Rockabilly, Country Music, Records, Cars, Guitars, and Whatever Else Comes Up and my website ( For now you can visit each site fore more information on my music, my research, and other assorted projects.
* Final Note: To purchase any of these fine recordings, as well as all other Goofin' releases, please
Track Listing:
High Noon – How Come It from GRLP 6074, Live in Texas and Japan LP
The Slippers – Rockin’ Daddy from GRCD 6049, Chance to Dance CD
Uncle John Trio – Tall Tall Trees from GRCD 6170, For Your Pleasure CD
Jussi Syren Rockabilly Revival – Steady With Betty from GRCD 6137, Stayin’ On Top Of the Beat CD
High Noon – Feelin’ No Pain from GRCD 6039, Glory Bound CD
Ellis & the Angry Teens – Half My Fault from GRCD 6094, Put the Blame on Alcohol CD
The Barnshakers – Fast Jivin’ from GRCD 6048, A Honky Tonk Session with the Barnshakers CD
Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers – Lost from GRCD 6168, Shave and Haircut CD
The Rockin’ 8-Balls – All the Time from GRCD 6108, Eight Balls O’ Fire! CD
Darrel Higham with the Barnshakers – Don’t Be Gone Long from GOOFY 570, Pretty Little Devil 45 EP
The Rhythm Hogs – Don’t Big Shot Me from GOOFY 514, Real Rock Drive 45 EP
Hal Peters and his Trio – You’re Gone from GRCD 6038, Fireball Mail CD
Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers – Down at the Opry from GRCD 6169, Shave and Haircut CD
Rusti Steel & the Tintax – Kitty Kat from GOOFY 6012, Rock’n’Roll Call LP
The Ballroomers – Sittin’ On Top from GOOFY 504, Sway with the Ballroomers 45 EP
The Dave & Deke Combo – Tally Ho GRCL 61209, Moonshine Melodies LP
Hal Peters and his Trio – Down In the Holler from GOOFY 6015, Rockin’ the Country LP
Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers – Walk Slowly Darling from GRCD 6168, Shave and Haircut CD
Lester Peabody – Sweet Rosie from GRCD 6072, Focus on Guitars CD
The Slippers – I Can’t Loose from GRCD 6048, Chance to Dance CD
The Hi-Fly Rangers – I’m Through from GRCD 6135, Hot Ride Ride To the Moon CD
Hal Peters and his Trio – Too Much Water from GOOFY 6015, Rockin’ the Country LP
Shaun Young – Move Around from GRCD 6127, Wiggle Walk CD
Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers – Big Man from GRCD 6168, Shave and Haircut CD
High Noon – Hold Me Baby from GRCD 6039, Glory Bound CD
The Barnshakers – Maybe Little Baby from GRCD 6118, Five Minutes To Live CD
The Go-Getters – All the Time from GRCD 6065, Hotter Than A Pepper CD
Nate Gibson with Deke Dickerson – Y’all Come from GRCD 6177, The Starday Sessions CD

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Gig: Sound Review Editor for the Journal of American Folklore

Hooray! I'm very happy to announce that I will be taking over as the new Sound Review Editor for the Journal of American Folklore. It's a great honor to be associated with this wonderful publication and staff and I send my sincerest thanks to co-editors Jim Leary and Tom DuBois for trusting me with the position. I can't even tell y'all how excited I am for the next issue!

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Pop, the Moxie Man: Extended Pop Update

Well, friends, I made it back to Finland safely today and I thought I’d take just a moment to reflect on one of the craziest trips I’ve ever taken. I’m not sure when or if the Moxie soda company is going to look for a new mascot or spokesperson, but after this trip I’d like to nominate my pop for the job. If ever a man had moxie (defined by Merriam-Webster as: 1. energy, pep 2. courage, determination 3. know-how ), it’s my pop. He proved it once again during the last two weeks and I will be forever grateful that I was able to fly back to the States and be a witness.

As many friends already know, pop took a bad fall on the morning of June 20th. As he was crawling back into bed after a morning bathroom run, he became very lightheaded and passed out, hitting his head on the night stand on the way down. Fortunately, my mom was home when it happened and called for help. An ambulance came and moments later pop was being rushed into the emergency surgery room to get a pacemaker installed. Doctor Merliss later told me that pop’s heart rate was all the way down to 15 and fading and that he and his team installed the pacemaker in record time— less than 5 minutes! I thanked him for saving pop’s life, or at least being one of the many people enabling his recovery, but wasn’t really sure how to say it. I think I said something like: Thank you so much! Go Science! Go Awesome Team of Doctors!

Even though the pacemaker began working immediately, pop’s lungs and kidneys had already failed as well. Pop was unconscious, uncomfortable and restless, and had to get intubated to keep him breathing. My family struggled with all of the immediate medical decisions needing to be made and in a word, the whole experience of trying to guess what pop would have wanted was horrific. It was at this point that I got an email from my brother informing me of pop’s condition. After a bit of schedule mixing (my MANY thanks to the Hi-Fly Rangers and the organizers of the Puistoblues Festival for understanding my last minute performance cancellation), money maneuvering, and considerable borrowing (you know who you are—THANK YOU!!!), I booked a flight home for the following day. A short while later I received another email from my brother confirming that it was a good decision to come home quickly.

I have little interest in reliving that 25-hour commute home but while I was sitting on those airplanes something incredible happened. When I arrived at Bryan-Lincoln General Hospital on Saturday morning I was greeted by pop. “Hey, son. It’s good to see you. Thanks for coming!” Sure he was weak, also confused about the previous days’ events, hooked up to a million machines (I don’t think he’d much appreciate me posting any photos of him during this time) but he was living! And thinking! And resting! During those first couple days the doctors had been incredibly frank about their expectations for pop, acknowledging that many times 86 year-olds don’t make it through these types of major events. At that point, we weren’t sure if he’d ever leave the hospital. By the end of the day, however, he was standing up and even taking his first steps since the fall!

While he was in the ICU, the outpouring of support for my pop was awesome. He got lots of cards and prayers and I appreciate all the friends who sent me emails and Facebook messages to check in on him. 

And I need to send an extra special thank you to Kate and Louise Betton, who even went so far as to make my favorite Rice Krispies treats and send them to me (and they were awesome as always!). You guys are the best! 

And while it is not always the best circumstances under which to come together, these scary hospital trips also serve to reunite the family. It was so great to support pop with the whole family including my mother, brother, sister-in-law, sister, brother-in-law, my aunt, my nieces and nephew, and even the newest member of the family: Greta the dog

Greta, my brother and sister-in-law’s new pup, was about nine weeks old when I arrived and it was a real joy to meet her for the first time. We played, we cuddled (dog therapy really works!!), and she seemed to take a real interest in Kenny Roberts’ first Starday LP when I played it for her.

Every day we went to the hospital to check on pop and every single day yielded further improvement. We talked about religion, politics, philosophy, music, medical treatment wishes, and whatever else came to our minds and only once did I nearly pass out and need to lie down (a huge improvement considering my previous history with needles, blood, and hospital visits). After just one week, pop was ready to leave the hospital and transition into a rehab facility so that he could gain enough strength to eventually get back to independent living. His turnaround was remarkable. He was getting stronger each day, with many thanks to the wonderful nursing staffs and his physical and occupational therapists, even graduating from a walker to his preferred method of transportation (walking with a cane) in a matter of days! His lungs were functioning better than ever. His heart came back too. The kidneys hadn’t fully kicked in yet, but fortunately there’s a dialysis center in Lincoln (a few actually), so he didn’t need to stay in the hospital just for that.  His nephrologist Dr. Govaerts later told us that he thinks there is a 98-99% chance that pop’s kidneys are going to start working again on their own, so that is very encouraging as well. Once in the rehab center, things began to feel more normal. We set up pop’s Wii in his room and he very quickly developed a smooth opposite-handed, seated bowling technique (no left-handed bowling with a freshly installed pacemaker) which made our evening bowling competitions quite enjoyable.

While at the rehab center with pop, I also got to play a little guitar.

This came about because an earlier trip to Best Buy for computer software quickly escalated into something else. As I was leaving the store I saw a table at the front filled with guitar effects pedals—all 50% off the lowest already discounted open-box price. I asked the nearest manager if he had a Boss Looper Station and he said he just sold it, but that if I wanted any other pedal in the store he’d make me a deal. I quickly discovered that the Best Buy chain was ridding themselves of their entire music departments and the Lincoln store was hoping to get rid of everything… and fast. 

This made for some great sales and possibly the first time I’ve ever walked into a major chain store, asked to speak with a manager, and began naming my own prices for things. If anyone lives in a town with a Best Buy that has a musical instrument section, I recommend that you go check it out ASAP! The sales were mind-blowing and I actually went back to the store four days in a row to buy more things. Pictured here is my haul from Day One. The Fender Pawn Shop ’51 is actually pretty sweet. Although I’ve never been a Fender man myself, I find this maple tele neck strapped to a strat body quite charming and real playable. Best of both worlds here… On Day Three I picked up the Boss ME-70 multi-effects pedal and that is my new favorite toy (watch out Helsinki metro commuters, I’ve finally got a looper!).

There were many other memorable events that took place during my short visit. There were some mighty creative games of H.O.R.S.E. played on my nieces and nephew’s home court; Swimming and water-baseball games in the backyard; a fun off-road bike ride around Holmes Lake with my nephew; seeing my mom, who had been experiencing some pain related to the immense amount of stress she was under, getting much healthier during my stay (Go Mom Go!!); 

visiting with my awesome and inspirational Aunt Karen, who has been kicking cancer’s butt and is doing great; picnicking with my brother and his family; I even got to take my nieces and nephew (along with their parents and my mother) to their first ever live rock’n’roll show: Junior Brown

My nephew has been getting more and more into the guitar and I was glad to see him diggin’ the fancy JB pickin’ up close. 

I also loved watching my nieces dancing and laughing with their parents to ‘My Wife Thinks You’re Dead.’ After Junior’s set the fam retreated homeward and I was treated to some mighty fine rockin’ courtesy of my former labelmate Dave Gonzalez (Stone River Boys on Cow Island Music) and his rockabilly supergroup the Paladins

I had a ball and met some mighty cool people in the process, including one of pop’s PT’s! The final group of the night was the Self-Righteous Brothers, which featured Benji from the Mezcal Brothers, who also played earlier in the day. This was all part of Zoo Bar’s 40th Anniversary 3-day celebration and if anybody is ever passing through Lincoln, NE, I can’t give any live music venue a higher recommendation.

Among the brightest highlights of the trip, however, came on the 4th of July—Independence Day. America’s Birthday. A day when Americans, particularly Nebraskans, spend crazy amounts of money to make pretty explosions in the sky and also damage their hearing. It’s also a day for BBQ and baseball. The local baseball team, the Lincoln Saltdogs of the Northern League, had a home game and fireworks display scheduled for the 4th and ever since I got to town we had been talking about wanting to take the whole family to the game. As pop’s recovery progressed, it seemed more and more plausible that he may even get to come to the game with us. On July 2nd we purchased tickets in the wheelchair accessible section of the ballpark, but by the 3rd pop was already moving around with just a cane. It was most certainly game on!

After a lovely morning spent tooling around town with mother (including a fourth and final Best Buy run), we busted pop out of the rehab facility around 4:00 and headed to my brother and sister-in-law’s place for a good ol’ fashioned backyard cookout with delicious Fairbury Hot Dogs (the official hot dog of the Nebraska Cornhuskers) and Moxie soda. 

The weather was perfect, the pool water was warm, and it was awesome to have the whole family together for the holiday.

From there we booked it over to Haymarket Park to catch the Saltdogs versus the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks. While it wasn’t a victory for the home team, it was still an exciting game to watch and a gorgeous night out at one of the nicest ballparks around, overlooking the Cornhuskers football stadium, the Nebraska capital building, the new convention center, and even the active train yards just past center field. Mom and pop posed for a shot with Homer, the Saltdogs mascot, and a good time was had by all. 

The fireworks show after the game was equally awesome and on the drive home we saw about a million more impressive, independent fireworks shows.

It was exactly two weeks prior to this game that I got the email informing me of pop’s condition. The doctor’s had predicted that if he were to recover from this at all, it would take many months. Two weeks later we’re at a baseball game and living the good life. I know there is still a long road to go towards full recovery. He is still probably a few days away from returning home, and I know he’s not a big fan of dialysis, but his determination to get stronger and better every day is both encouraging and inspiring. He’s got a lot of energy left in the tank, a lot of life to live, a lot of projects to complete, and he’s taking all the proper steps to get better… According to Merriam-Webster, that man’s got moxie!

Speaking of Moxie, I love that soda. It’s got a unique taste, some folks may describe it as bitter or medicinal, but to me it's just real refreshing. It’s the oldest continuously produced soft drink in the U.S. and it’s the official state soft drink of Maine. Dr. Augustin Thompson, a Massachusetts physician, introduced the beverage in 1884, claiming that it cured paralysis, softening of the brain, and mental imbecility among other ills. When soda became the rage, they just changed the marketing approach from Moxie nerve food to Moxie elixir to Moxie soda. Genius! I used to drink it with several of my Moxie-obsessed friends (Ben and Julio, here's to y'all!) when I was living in Boston and I also played a few shows sponsored by Moxie with Rex Trailer. It’s like liquid memories for me, but I have never found it anywhere outside of New England. Cut to Lincoln, Nebraska 2013. Apparently the drink is now being produced and distributed nationally by the Orca Beverage Co. and that means Moxie in glass bottles nationwide! Yee-Haw!

I went to six or seven grocery stores and bought every bottle of Moxie I could find. Nobody else in my family had ever had it before and all seemed to enjoy it. Pop’s reaction was priceless. I wish there was a Moxie Faces Flickr or Buzzfeed page similar to the Malört Faces ones that I’ve seen, as this would surely make a worthy entry.

I remember a couple years ago there was quite the controversy in New England when Moxie ditched their famous Moxie Man logo and went with a more modern label design. Fans of the soda were outraged and Moxie has since gone back to using their vintage logo. But just in case they’re still thinking about changing up their image, and if they still want to keep a vintage look (hey, my pop was born in 1927—that’s pretty vintage for ya!), and if they’re looking for a man who has come to represent a fighting spirit, a love for life with energy and pep, with the determination to never give up, and the know-how to come back from near death (this is the fourth time the doctors have said that he probably won’t make it out of the hospital), then my pop is your guy. 

Think about it, Moxie, think about it!

For anyone wishing to write my pop a letter of encouragement, or if somebody from the Moxie company wants to use my pop’s likeness to market future products, I’m sure he’d love to hear from you! Just send me a private message and I’ll be happy to send you his address.