Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another Semester Ends With A Bang

Just had a really nice end to the semester and our Music, Identity, and Social Life course. One of my students plays on the IU Women's Basketball team and the game last night vs. IPFW was also their Faculty Appreciation Night. Each member of the team got to pick their favorite instructor(s) and I was mighty honored to be among the fifteen or so faculty/employee honored at halftime. 

It was a really fun game to watch (an 80-37 blowout victory), enjoyed with fantastic company (thanks again Langston Collin Wilkins!), and it was awesome to discover that my student was the star of the team, signing autographs for all the kids after the game, and even had her picture on all the concession stand cups. 

Way to go, Taylor! Thanks again for a great semester in class and thanks also for the super nice end-of-semester shout out!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

S.E.M. Part I: My many thanks to Craig Gill & University Press of Mississippi

I had a great time in Pittsburgh last week at The Society for Ethnomusicology national conference and I plan to make a few posts about the recent trip. Consider this post here to be Part I. Beyond simply meeting with several brilliant scholars, hearing many interesting papers, and meeting lots of other talented future faculty/professionals (not to mention some real fun record hunting expeditions at Jerry's Records), I also had the privilege to meet up once again with one of the key people most responsible for making The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built a reality-- University Press of Mississippi Editor-In-Chief, Craig Gill. According to Craig, the press is very pleased with the Starday book's success and it remains one of their best sellers! Hooray!

Craig, thanks again for everything that you do on behalf of this book including promoting it at various national conferences like SEM all across the country! I am mighty proud to be associated with U. Press of Mississippi and continually thankful that they took a chance on this idea and contributed so much to making it happen!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Switchyard Comes to Indiana University!

I'd like to take a moment to publicly thank Laura Wanner and Tim Baker for coming to our Music, Identity, and Social Life class today at Indiana University to talk about their roles in creating and operating The Switchyard. You guys are awesome and it was fun to see so many students attentive and interested in alternatives to mainstream music and how these house concerts promote and sustain community. 

We've been having some great discussions in class about DIY music scenes and social action in Canada, Morocco, Brazil, and Indonesia, but it was really great to bring those concepts to a local level and focus on our own backyard Bloomington, IN gem for acoustic house concerts and potluck dinners--where Sunday night dinner meets back porch picking! As Tim says, "If you already know about the Switchyard, well then you're cool. And if you don't... then you're about to get cool." The next throwdown is Sunday Nov. 16 and I hope y'all can make it out and experience the magic for yourself. More details can be found here:

Thanks again, Tim & Laura (and thanks also to Kurt Baer for taking photos)!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy 30th Anniversary to Goofin' Records!

Today I'm wishing a HUGE Happy 30th Anniversary to Pete Hakonen and his Goofin' Records label.

[Pete Hakonen and I, August 2014]

For the past 30 years Goofin' has been releasing some of the best country, rockabilly, bluegrass, rautalanka, western swing, and rock and roll from Finland and around the world (discography here: Today is the big 3-0 celebration in Helsinki with High Noon, Wildfire Willie & the Ramblers, The Fanatic IV, Vesa snygg sekä satelliitti-yhtye, and DJ Bill Smoker

Wish I could be there to celebrate with y'all, but instead my internet congrats from afar will have to suffice. Pete, thanks again for your friendship, your warm welcome to Finland and everything you did to help me get acclimated, as well as welcoming me into the Goofin' family. Kiitos paljon! I'm mighty proud of our last release together and I look forward to many more projects in the future.

[Goofin GRCD 6177, The Starday Sessions]

For those unfamiliar with the great Goofin' legacy, you can stream or download DJ Bill Smoker's excellent 5-part podcast exploring the label here:

I also produced one podcast all about Goofin' artists covering Starday artists and the parallels between the two labels here:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A World Series Lineup of Kansas City-Themed Country Music Songs

So, I recently got into one of those pointless online debates with a mutual friend of my pal Thomas Grant Richardson. Thomas, who works at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, solicited the advice of his Facebook friends to “help me pick a team for the World Series.” Knowing that he likes country music, I attempted to appeal to his musical taste as a way of winning over a new Royals fan. Despite the obvious food advantage (BBQ is WAY better than Rice-A-Roni!), I suggested that there were easily more country music songs about KC than there were about Frisco. Perhaps I was choosing to be willfully ignorant of the large mass of San Francisco-themed country songs, or perhaps I was just nostalgic for my days growing up in Kansas, but either way it was just one of those unresearched gut-feelings filled with “truthiness” and everything that is right in the world. Thomas's friend disagreed and suggested that I had “far overstate[d]” my assumption.

Well, as I don’t really have time to research all the country music songs that are either about or mention Kansas City, as I think that list would be HUGE, I thought I’d just go ahead and make a lineup of the strongest Kansas City-Themed Country Music Songs that I could find and see if anyone else can make a San Francisco Country Music Song lineup that matches up! Dare ye to take the challenge? I’m sure a good one can be made and I’d love to see a comparison in anticipation of Tuesday’s big Game One!

1. Lead-off tune. The Royals are known for their speed, so this one’s gotta be quick… I’ll go with Merle Travis’ “Kansas City Blues” from his Unissued Radio Shows, 1944-1948 CD. At 1 minute and 40 seconds, this tune is QUICK and to the point!
2. Batting second, I need a free-swinger to get the line-up moving… Bob Wills is about the most swinging thing in country music, so I’ll go with his rockin’ version of “Kansas City” from Bear Family's  Faded Love 1947-1973 box set [CD9]. (Though the swinging duet version by George Jones and Johnny Paycheck gets an honorable mention if a pinch-hitter is needed.)
3. Batting third, if I am to match KC’s lineup, I need a lefty in here to mix it up, so I’ll go with Flatt and Scruggs’ “Kansas City” from their A Boy Named Sue album. (In this case, “lefty” being a not-so-subtle reference to Earl Scruggs’ left-leaning politics.)
4. Batting clean-up I need a heavy hitter, and Buck Owens had a #2 Billboard smash hit with his “The Kansas City Song” on Capitol 2783.
5. And of course, every good line-up has to have a big hitter backing up the clean-up spot, so I’ll go with Roger Miller’s 1965 Top 10 hit “Kansas City Star” on Smash 1998.
6. For the 6-spot, I’ll go back to the mid-80s, the last time KC was relevant in either the baseball or country music charts, with Steve Wariner’s #15 hit “Kansas City Lights.”
7. But of course, this year’s Royals team is defined by its youth, so for the seventh spot I’ll pencil in Crazy Joe and his Mad River Outlaws. Crazy Joe was just 28 years old when he released “Kansas City Baby” on his The King of Nerd-A-Billy album, coincidentally the same age as the average of all players on the Royals’ 40-man roster. (, accessed 10-21-14)
8. At the bottom of the order there’s generally more speed, so I’ll follow Crazy Joe with the excellent speedy (read: up-tempo), swinging “Kansas City Kitty,” by Dave Stuckey and the Rhythm Gang, from their Get A Load of This CD.
9. And because the Royals have been eeking out their 1-run victories thanks to their speedy base-running, I’ll go with another speedster in the 9-hole: One of the fastest pickers in all of country music, Mr. Joe Maphis and his “Kansas City Shuffle” from his Starday LP King of the Strings.

Now that there’s a speedy, young country music lineup with some heavy-hitters thrown in for good measure. Here's hoping someone is up to the challenge of making a lineup to face-off against it. I know there are indeed a lot of good country San Francisco songs. I checked iTunes and there are roughly 120 “San Francisco” or “Frisco” songs in the country-related genres (compared to roughly 150 “Kansas City” songs in similar genres), so to all of my San Francisco fan/country music-loving friends, I’d love to see how your Lineup of Frisco-Themed Country Music Songs compares #1-9!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

High-Res Starday Album Covers Have Been Posted To the Starday Story Facebook Page

Howdy internet... I just posted some higher res versions of the first 100 Starday album covers ever made over on my The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built page. Feel free to check 'em out if you're into that sort of thing. And while you're there, please feel free to give the ol' Starday book page a 'like' if you're so inclined. It's just a wee shy of 1,000 likes milestone at the moment and I'm trying to keep it up to date with new posts once a week or so. Thanks for your continued support! - Ndg

The actual link:

SLP 101 - George Jones

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Final Kanesville Update (At Least For A Little While)...

Yesterday I took a second jaunt back over to my favorite record shop, Tim Behren’s Kanesville Kollectibles, to take just one more quick look around at everything I missed the last time. I didn’t have as much time as I did the previous go-round, but I did manage to find a few more gems in a yet undiscovered (by me) corner of the shop, including one of my all-time favorite 45s: “Rhythm and Booze” by Corky Jones (aka Buck Owens). Great stuff! One of my favorite things to collect is the one or two-off rockabilly records by strictly country singers and I was mighty happy to find a cheap copy of Buck's classic (thanks again, Tim)! Thrilled I was as well to add several more killer rockabilly, western swing, honky-tonk, and R&B platters to the collection. And in case anyone is not yet convinced that they should take a trip to western Iowa to do some record digging, here’s the short list of 45s I found today in short time and on a short budget…

Corky Jones – Rhythm and Booze / Hot Dog – Pep 45107
Ruth Brown – Hello Little Boy – Atlantic 1027
Clarence White – Tuff and Stringy – Bakersfield International 1003
Billy Gray – Country and Western Dance-O-Rama No. 7 Pt. 1 – Decca 2233 (with cover)
Spade Cooley – Country and Western Dance-O-Rama No. 3 Pt. 2 – Decca 2226 (with cover)
Elvis Presley – Milkcow Blues Boogie – RCA 6382
Dave Stogner – Western Dance in HiFi EP – Decca 2589 (with cover)
Elvis Presley – King Creole EP – RCA 4321
Kelly Gordon – A Phonograph Record – Mercury 72136
Cliffie Stone – Barracuda – Capitol 3131
Marva Whitney – It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To) – King 6229
The Olympics – Western Movies – Demon 1508
The Premiers – Farmer John – WB 5443
Barry Martin – Got A Whole Lot of Loving To Do – RCA 7834
Pearl Bailey – I Can’t Rock and Roll to Save My Soul – Mercury 70926
Faron Young – I Can’t Dance – Capitol 3898
The Treniers – Rock’n’Roll Call – Epic 5-9144
Ray Stevens – Jeremiah Peabody’s Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills – Mercury 71843
And since I didn’t post many photos of the top floor last time around, here are some recent pictures of the top floor—
another pic of the chaotic 45 room (just because it makes me smile)

the dollar country LP room...

the dollar rock LP room...

and the everything else dollar LP room (impossible to get a good angle of this room that shows everything in here)...

And I’ll add a pic of the first floor jazz section too, just to give y'all a contrast of how well this place is organized on the first floor…

OK. See y'all next time in Council Bluffs, IA!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More Kanesville Koolness... Record Score and Playlist Included!

Today I took a few moments out of my day to venture out across state borders to visit my favorite record shop in the States, Tim Behren's Kanesville Kollectibles in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A big part of me says, don't tell anybody else about this gem of a store because I'd like to go back there and buy everything in it. Yet another part of me says that I should tell everyone I know about this place so that they all go and support Tim's shop. I guess the latter argument wins out at the end of the day. Seriously, if you've never been, and you dig vinyl, it's well worth a road trip. There are three floors of records as well as some music books, comics, DVDs, record players, assorted audio gear, tapes, and CDs... all in all, more than a million kollectibles (though to be fair, can we really call a Dora Hall 45 a "kollectible?").

I love this store and I've posted about it before on this blog (see my Jan. 7, 2014 "Kanesville Record Heaven" entry for a picture of the main floor), but the rest of the shop is equally intriguing. Basically, the first floor is the main floor-- the 45s and LPs that are all graded, priced, and categorized. The basement floor, of which one small portion is photographed below, is dedicated to 78s...

And the second floor is the dollar floor... An entire room filled to the brim with dollar country LPs (man, I love this room!), a whole room full of dollar rock LPs, a massive room of dollar "other" LPs... and then there's this:

And no, I didn't go in that room... Today I didn't even make it out of the first floor, and I really didn't even cover more than one tiny corner of the first floor, but I did found some killer bargains. I've been excited to go to Kanesville for a little while now because I saw on Facebook last week that Tim had acquired approximately 1,000 early country and bluegrass LPs. The collection is indeed impressive and it seems like he's got just about every bluegrass LP that ever was made for sale... I pulled out a stack of about 20 that I wanted to buy... but then I found a few boxes of country 45s... Yikes! Once again I found so many great ones that I just couldn't pass up, that I had to put most of the LPs back on the shelf (lucky for all you bluegrass and early country collectors out there, particularly those who dig early King original LPs!).

In case anybody is curious about what I found today (or rather, what I could afford of the gems that I found), here's a photo of my latest haul (not including the LPs) and YouTube links so you can hear almost everything for yourself. There are some real exciting 45s in the bunch for those who dig rockabilly, honky-tonk, hillbilly bop, and western swing. I also pawed through a couple boxes of empty sleeves and managed to find about 20 Starday sleeves and about 80 others for which I've been looking. Stellar day indeed!

The Finds:
Johnny Carroll - Rock'n'Roll Ruby - Decca 29940
Grady Martin - Country & Western Dance-O-Rama EP - Decca 2231 (with pic sleeve)
Bobby Roberts - I'm Gonna Comb You Outta My Hair - King 4837 (promo w/ sleeve)
Bob Wills - So Let's Rock - Decca 29909
John D. Loudermilk - Susie's House - Columbia 41165
Hank Penny - You're Bound To Look Like A Monkey - RCA 4633
Bob Luman - Boston Rocker EP - WB 5506
Webb Pierce - Teenage Boogie - Decca 30045
T. Texas Tyler - He Done Her Wrong - Decca 28544
Merle Travis - Louisiana Boogie - Capitol 2902
Bobby Lord - Sack - Columbia 41155
Johnny Horton - I Won't Forget - Mercury 70014
Wanda Jackson - Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad - Capitol 3575
Eddie Cochran - Summertime Blues - Liberty 55144
Del Reeves w/ Chester Smith - Love, Love, Love - Capitol 3819
Bob Newman - Haulin' Freight - King 5216
Werly Fairburn - Baby He's A Wolf - Capitol 2770
Sheb Wooley - Humdinger - MGM 12114
Charline Arthur - Just Look, Don't Touch, He's Mine - RCA 6428 (2 copies)
Johnny Horton - Honky Tonk Man - Columbia 42302 (picture sleeve)
Floyd Robinson - Makin' Love - RCA 7529
Elvis Presley - Mystery Train - RCA 6357
Red Foley - Pinball Boogie - Decca 29100
Tennessee Ernie Ford - Rock City Boogie - Capitol 1911
Ernest Tubb - Thirty Days (To Come Back Home) - Decca 29731
Merle Travis - Cannon Ball Rag - Capitol 2245
Patsy Cline - Walking Dream - Decca 30542
Johnnie and Jack - Camel Walk Stroll - RCA 7137
Wynn Stewart - Uncle Tom Got Caught - Challenge 59061
Faron Young - Honey Stop! (And Think Of Me) - Capitol 3805
Carl Belew - Cool Gator Shoes - Decca 30947
Elvis Presley - My Baby Left Me - RCA 6540
Hank Thompson - Rockin' In the Congo - Capitol 3623
Red Foley - The Hoot Owl Boogie - Decca 29894
Lefty Frizzell - You're Humbuggin' Me - Columbia 41268
The Louvin Brothers - Cash on the Barrel Head - Capitol 3523

Also included in the haul were the 100+ sleeves (including 20 Starday sleeves!), the record case, and 4 LPs  including a clean copy of Porter Wagoner's The Cold Hard Facts of Life and a couple Starday LPs I didn't have. And just in case anybody is afraid that I bought up all the goodies, know that I didn't even have a chance to paw through 99% of the first floor... And as much as I'd like to keep this place a well-known secret for me and me alone, I'd also love to help Tim out and see my friends rake some similar hauls. I also believe in record karma, so if you know any good places like this that I should be checking out, please do let me know! So that said... if you dig records, go to Kanesville Kollectibles in Council Bluffs, IA. You will definitely be glad you did. And I'd be mighty appreciative if you let 'em know how you heard about it!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Global Business Institute 2014

Well friends, the 2014 Global Business Institute is now officially in the books and I want to take a moment to publicly thank the wonderful staff of the Institute for International Business (specifically, Sara Reeves for hiring me), the Program Assistant staff (Andrew Davis, Patrick Ferguson, Sara Nehring, and Lindsey Pullum) for doing such an extraordinary job this summer, and all of the students who participated in GBI this year. 

For those of you not yet in the know, the Global Business Institute is an academically-rigorous, competitive business program that culls together approximately 100 students (from many thousands of applicants) from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, and Tunisia. Students submit a business plan that they believe will help their country and they are selected based on the originality and feasibility of their project ideas (among other considerations). The program, funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Coca-Cola Company, and Indiana University, brings the students to IU where they spend one month learning about American business and entrepreneurship from a wonderful group of coaches and faculty at the Kelley School of Business, and then compete against each other in teams to find out which country can put together the best business proposal that will make a positive change in their homeland. The Top Ten (out of 18) teams then present their ideas in Washington D.C. to the U.S. Department of State before heading to Atlanta to meet with Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent and other Coke leaders.

It was a fantastic program and I am incredibly thankful for the experience. I was hired as the Lead Program Assistant which meant that I spent the month prior to the program working in the IIB office organizing GBI social events, piecing together countless program details, and planning ways to acclimate students to life in the United States, life in Bloomington, Indiana, and life on campus at Indiana University. Once the program began, I moved into Eigenmann Residence Hall to live with the students, manage my staff of four Program Assistants, and foster a structured, supportive, and fun learning environment for all. While I had previously studied abroad, worked at the Global Village Living-Learning Center, and taught IU courses in International Studies, this was my first time working directly with students from the Middle East and Northern Africa and I am so grateful for the learning opportunity! It was also refreshing to work with so many students outside of the classroom, but still be very much a part of their learning experience at IU.
Because the program coincided with Ramadan, there were many opportunities for discussions about culture, religion, and politics and it was cool to see that so many students were willing and interested in engaging in such dialogue. I was even invited by my Pakistani friends to try fasting… which was then followed by my first Iftar (my Roza Kushai, if you will). Thanks are due again to Ovais and Zarmina Raza and their family for welcoming me and all of the Pakistani students into their beautiful home to break fast together.  If I learned one thing from the experience, it’s that I should not have overslept Suhoor (yikes, 26 hours with no food or water). If I learned two things, it is that Pakistani food is delicious and well worth the wait! 

There were, of course, many other highlights from the experience... I can’t possibly name them all, but one was hearing Egypt’s Karim Yehia, who had competed on several TV singing competitions including Arab Idol, tell me that he had never sung in English in front of anybody, and then letting me play guitar while he belted out fantastic versions of Elvis Presley’s ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and Josh Turner’s ‘Your Man’ at Culture Night. 

Another was the pomade/art supply trip in the Galaxie with El-Mehdi Iraqi, Amine Bouhaji, Salma El Gamal, and Sara Hasnawi and then giving Mehdi a pompadour just before the Farewell Awards Dinner (his hair even stood up to his celebratory bounds and leaps after his Moroccan team had won first place in the competition #scholarswithgreathair). 

Listening to and talking about our hip-hop record collections in the dorm with Hamza Cranky, Tunisia’s breakdancing champion, was also a real good time...

As was pedal boating in the Indiana Central Canal with my Algerian friends Ayoub Hedjouli, Yasser Belouadah, and Nina Laribi (though that is some seriously hard work and I’m so glad I didn’t fall in like one particular unfortunate individual…;). 

There were many killer ping pong matches throughout the month and a lot of memorable iftars as well. Truly, there were so many wonderful encounters with brilliant students… I can’t possibly mention them all here, but as a group we went to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game and shouted well-known soccer chants, we went bowling at the IMU, we went romping in Bradford Woods, we frolicked and Frisbeed around Brown County State Park, we heard some great country music by Lexi Minnich and ate some great food at the Taste of Bloomington festival, we watched a lot of World Cup (1-2-3, viva l’Algerie!), we ate goodbye cake together, and so much more. We also went to classes, studied, and put in a lot of team work time in the evenings. 

Then, of course, there were the fantastic final presentations which I found very promising. I sure hope that some of these business plans get funded because they were addressing some very important social needs in every country. It was indeed a wonderful month!

What I remember most though is the conversations about life in each country (and about students’ experiences in this country), about  differences (and similarities) in education, about dating (ok, mostly differences here), about employment opportunities, about music around the world (thanks again to Tinhinane AitHamouda for all the insights on Berber music and culture!), about cultural difference (Indiana had just legalized gay marriage while the students were here which opened up some interesting and charged conversations), about the Muslim way of life (both in theory and in practice), similarities and differences in the Quran and the Bible, about national conflicts, about peace, about humanitarianism, and about stand-up comedy (Omer Rizwan, you know your funny stuff!) among many topics. Somewhere between the role of policy enforcer for RPS (Residential Programs and Services), Indiana University, and GBI, as well as LPA and manager of the PA staff, I managed to foster many friendships with students and staffers that I hope will continue for many years into the future.

GBIers, you guys were awesome and I’m mighty glad that I could be a part of your experience. Y'all are incredibly talented and inspiring students and I can’t wait to see how y'all build upon the skills learned here at IU and use them to give back to your own communities. And I can’t wait to visit those communities sometime in the future! I really appreciate all the generous invitations to visit y’all in your home countries and I seriously hope I can make such visits happen over time. Thanks to Zakaria Alami and Hejer Baalouch, I’ve already got an outfit that’ll help me fit right in so now I’ve just got to go and make it happen (seriously, many thanks again to both of you for the wonderful gifts)! The outpouring of support and appreciation in everybody’s comments, notes, and emails during the last week has been immensely gratifying and I can’t thank you all enough for the kind words and gifts. Know that they are treasured and if I am able to help any of you in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The LPA job was certainly not short on challenges (which I shall not care to revisit here), but the positives FAR outweighed the challenges, which in the end weren’t so much negatives, but instead opportunities for discussion, problem-solving skill enhancement, working together as a team, and multicultural understanding. To say the least, I learned a LOT this summer. I send my hearty congratulations to all of the GBIers and wish you all continued success in all that you do!

#kelleygbi #cokescholars #algeria #egypt #jordan #morocco #pakistan #palestine #tunis #iub

Country Musically,
Nate Gibson
Ph.D. Candidate and Lead Program Assistant,

Global Business Institute, Kelley School of Business
Indiana University

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Top Ten Reasons Why Baseball Is the Single Greatest Sport in the World

Now that the USA is out of the World Cup it looks like we can all finally re-shift our attention back to the single greatest sport in the world... BASEBALL! Well, maybe there is no such thing as "single greatest sport in the world," but in just a few days I'll be leading a group of 100 Middle Eastern, North African, and Near Asian students from the Global Business Institute to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game to introduce them to our national pastime and watch fireworks. I'm real excited about it. To bolster excitement for the trip I've tried to come up with my Top 10 reasons why baseball is great. Here's what I've come up with so far but I'd be real curious to hear from others about why they love baseball... What'cha got?

1. Well, for personal reasons, baseball is my childhood… It represents everything I cared about for every summer of my life from age 7 to 17.

2. It is America’s national pastime. As a kid it was my game. It was also my father’s game. It was his father’s game too and so on. Nostalgia plays a big part in all of this.

3. A stolen base in the Fall of 2004 is still among the most exciting things that I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I'll never get sick of watching this Dave Roberts highlight...

4. Group Singing… Who doesn’t love singing along with 35,000 strangers? Sure, I might pass on singing 'Sweet Caroline,' but I'll always partake in the singing of this little gem:

5. There are good guys and there are bad guys. In this case, the Boston Red Sox are the good guys and the New York Yankees represent everything that is evil and wrong in the world.

6. Free Souvenirs… beyond the souvenirs found in the gift shop, approximately 120 baseballs (aka: free souvenirs) are hit into the stands during the average professional baseball game. Sure, there’s the risk of injury involved, but this only ensures that more people pay attention to the game so as to not get hit in the head by a foul ball. In all my years of going to baseball games, I’ve only caught a foul ball once. It’s rare, but extremely exciting when it happens.

7. I’m no fan of brawling in sports, but the single greatest move I’ve ever seen by a player who is upset came from Izzy Alcantara in a 2001 baseball game:

8. A baseball field is a work of art. The crack of a bat, the smell of fresh cut grass, and the sight of beautifully groomed infields are among of the most pleasing sensations my ears, eyes, and nose have beheld.

9. Most stadiums, Indianapolis included, have a section of the stadium where fans can see how fast they can throw a baseball… After watching a game, it always looks so easy. During almost every game I start to feel like I too can throw a baseball 100 mph… Inevitably I pay a couple dollars to play the Speed Pitch game and throw my arm out on the first pitch. That sore, achy feeling in my elbow is a reminder of the great time I had at the baseball game and it lasts for WEEKS!

10. In the end, I love baseball because it is a commitment to relaxing with friends. Every game takes roughly three hours, often more, and going to one with friends means that I am dedicating a significant portion of my day to just hanging out with friends in a beautiful park, enjoying the thrills of the crowd, and soaking up a family-friendly atmosphere in which I love to be immersed. I love seeing kids learning how to keep score of a game or trying to meet with players in between innings or run for foul balls… It’s how the game was passed down to me and I’m always happy to see the cycle continue and even help when I can.

I think the trip has potential to be somewhat challenging because the game has a lot of rules and it can be real confusing for people who have never seen baseball before. I certainly understand that. It’s how I felt when I went to Brazil a few years back and for the first time I began to appreciate soccer. It’s how I felt when I went to Finland and watched pesäpallo for the first time too. It’s new and weird, for sure, but I'm optimistic that we're going to have a GREAT time at the ol' ball game! And even if things don't go our way (Go Indians!), at least we still get fireworks after the game!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Photos & Videos from Pickin' & Grinnin' Alongside Betty Amos w/ Judy & Jean

As many friends know, I was in Nashville just a short while ago and while I was there I got to see a lot of friends do some pretty amazing things. One of my biggest thrills was dining with my good friends Betty Amos and Judy Lee, followed by a whole afternoon of pickin’ and grinnin’ with Betty Amos w/ Judy and Jean!

Many country music fans know Betty from her early ‘50s stellar solo outings for Mercury Records ("Gotta Have Some Lovin’" being a personal favorite of mine) and by the mid-50s she was recording and performing with Bill Carlisle and the Carlisles. In the 1960s she went to record for Starday Records alongside her sister Jean (aka Stick) and best friend Judy where they made eight incredible singles including some of the earliest all-female bluegrass cuts ("Franklin County Moonshine") and were among the first women to sing about the truckin’ lifestyle ("18 Wheels A-Rollin’") to name just a few ("Cat and the Rat" is another personal fave). Many years ago I interviewed the gals about these recordings forThe Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. Nowadays, whenever I’m in Nashville I love to meet up with them and last week was no different.

Over dinner we talked about all sorts of good stuff—marriage and country music (and how they can or can’t work), Betty’s brother-like relationship with Elvis Presley while they were on the Louisiana Hayride together, Betty’s expert marksmanship and hunting prowess, how Judy got her start making music with Tex Ritter, Judy's time playing doubleneck guitar alongside Joe Maphis, how all three gals survived their plane crash in Baffin Island (I knew bits and pieces of this story before, but I never knew that Judy’s Gretsch survived the crash as well!), how amazed people would get when they would see Betty singing and playing banjo at the same time (seriously, banjo rolls and singing don’t mix!), how Betty Amos with Judy & Jean got their Gretsch and Sho-Bud endorsements, how difficult it was at times being a touring woman in country music in the 1950s (and fending off unwanted advances from the likes of Werly FairburnJimmy Martin, and others—but how many of the men in country music, such as Bill Carlisle and Josh Graves, always took on a protective role and looked out for Betty—it also helps that one of Betty’s five siblings taught her karate at an early age!), how one of Betty’s brothers played with Mac Wiseman for years, how Judy later got into softball and ended up in the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame, how Betty was inspired to write "Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar)," the time they shared the Grand Ole Opry stage with Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe, how Judy came into owning Chet Atkins' old Viking guitar, and so much more… And of course I can’t retell these stories with any justice, as I can’t remember even half of the jokes and one-liners… I just know that they were hilarious (though I do recall asking Betty at one serious point in our conversation, ‘Man, didn’t you ever have fun?’ and she responded, ‘Well, I did, but I divorced him!’ Ha!) I just love hanging out with these incredible ladies!

After dinner we decided to head over to Judy’s house and bust out the instruments.

Judy with Chet Atkins' old Viking:

Betty Amos with my Harptone:

We were joined by Betty’s sister, Stick, and little did I know that we’d be pickin’ and grinnin’ for the next four hours! We played both kinds of music—country and western— and after a couple hours I couldn’t let the opportunity pass… I asked the ladies if I could record a couple songs and to my surprise, they said sure! Even more surprising, they were OK if I posted ‘em on the interwebs to share with y'all… I just love the results—informal pickin’ and grinnin’ at its best by three of my favorite ladies singing some of my favorite songs. And they still sound great together 50 years later (their first Starday recordings were in ’64)! Sadly, I had to put the guitar down to do the recording, but I had a blast pickin’ all day long and I can’t wait to do it again! Thanks again to Betty, Judy, and Jean (and also Sandy for taking some photos and hanging out with us all afternoon)! Hopefully y’all enjoy these videos as much as I do…

18 Wheels A-Rolling - In this clip they are recreating one of my Starday favorites, 18 Wheels A-Rollin' (originally done as a bluegrass tune). 45-692 (originally rec. December 1964)

Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar) - In this clip Betty sings her song Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar), which became a big hit for Jean Shepard. Judy and Betty even take turns yodeling at the end!

Franklin County Moonshine - In this clip they are recreating a snippet of another of my Starday favorites, Franklin County Moonshine (also originally done as a bluegrass tune). 45-735 (originally rec. October 1965)

Fair and Tender Ladies - In this clip they are performing Fair and Tender Ladies with beautiful three-part harmonies. I know they had cut a demo of this back in the day, but I'm not sure if it was ever released... Beautiful song!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Full Year of Country Music and the World Is In the Books! (...Almost)

Well friends, my second semester of teaching at the Global Village is just about in the books and I can honestly say that I absolutely loved it. There was certainly a learning curve involved with the course this second time around (particularly regarding how to adjust a 16-week course to fit into an eight-weeks only schedule), but somehow it all worked out. Once again the semester was filled with incredible guest speakers and interesting student papers and I still can’t believe that I got paid to teach about country music around the world. It's been a sweet gig!

I’d like to take just a moment to sincerely thank both Indiana University and the Global Village Living-Learning Center for providing me with this opportunity. Specifically, I’d like to once again thank Dr. Jeff Holdeman, director of the Global Village, for his tireless work promoting the course to new students and student-advisors, his always creative pedagogy tips, the inspiration to always improve myself as an instructor, and for sharing his wisdom and experience to continually improve the course. Sincere thanks are also due to new GV coordinator Andy Fak who assisted me throughout the semester with many mini course-related crises.

Even though I felt as though last semester’s course went well, I was excited to incorporate several of the student’s suggestions into improving the course for this second time around. Fewer papers were assigned, more listening exercises were done in class, a lot of new information on international country music was researched and presented, and a whole new group of distinguished guest speakers lined up to meet and/or speak with our class. 

Much like last semester, our lineup of guest speakers was truly spectacular. We kicked off our series by Skyping with the always affable and legendary rockabilly singer on Starday, Sun, and Capitol Records (and one of Elvis Presley’s first touring mates), Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell. We were then joined in class by Australian country music songwriter and performer Al Backstrom, who not only presented a stellar lecture on the history of country music in Australia, but also performed his own version of Australiana music for the class! (The Wild Colonial Boy!!!) We then phoned in Maine’s main country music attraction, bluegrass legend and Event Records founder, Al Hawkes. All three of these speakers were fantastic and raised some very interesting points about country music in all parts of the world (including Mexico, Australia, and Libya in particular) and provided some great material for later class discussions. In addition to our speakers, it was also a thrill to once again screen Beth Harrington’s 2003 Grammy-nominated documentary, Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockabilly, as well as Lee Bidgood’s excellent documentary, Banjo Romantika, about bluegrass music in the Czech Republic. Words don’t seem to do justice in expressing my gratitude to these fine folks, but Rudy, Al, Al, Beth, and Lee, thank you all so much for your contributions!

Last but not least I’d like to thank the fifteen brave student souls who enrolled in my class and stuck around until the end. It’s been tough to keep up with all the work at times (not only do the students have half the time to do all their work, but I also have half the time to grade all their papers), but I greatly appreciate all of the energy and thought they put into our discussions and readings and I am mighty proud of their work, especially on their final research papers. I always love reading the final papers for this class because each student is assigned a different country to research and I love finding out which aspects of country music they discovered and explored. This semester’s locales included Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, and Sweden.

As I mentioned last semester, these kinds of courses don’t happen without the help and encouragement from a lot of different people and I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout my academic career to have people in my corner rooting for me along the way. I’m excited now to be continuing my development as an instructor with my own classes, where I can now be in a position to help students by being that person in their corner. And in that spirit, if any of my students ever need any recommendations or just help with future classes, or if you just want to go have lunch at Gresham, please do drop me a line and say, ‘Howdy!’