Comfort Music

Shrimp Po’Boy, fully dressed.

First course: comfort food

Sometimes a good shrimp po’ boy does the trick. Shrimp Creole, the way my mama used to cook it, always made me feel better, even when I was feeling fine already. Boiled shrimp, Trout Amandine or broiled flounder can’t help but improve my mood. Other times, a perfectly cooked filet mignon (medium rare, but not too medium) makes life right. Don’t even let

Red beans and rice – mighty nice!

me look down the Southern fried chicken-fresh tomato-fried okra road. You’ll never see me again. Then, there’s that moment when only vanilla ice cream will do. All of that falls into the category that people now call“comfort food.” You may agree with my choices or have completely different delicacies that just make you feel good when you think about them, but we all enjoy special dishes that make us feel better.

Entree: Comfort Music

A little of my comfort music: B.B. King, John Hartford, Mac McAnally

It is my belief that music also provides a big dose of comfort, just when we need it most. These days may be the perfect time to reach for those records, CDs or that playlist and let ‘em do their jobs. We often can’t control what happens in the broad, wide world or even in our little piece of it, but we can always reach for those melodies that bring us a little comfort. Those are songs and singers we might have grown up listening to or recently discovered when something they sang or played seemed so meaningful, that it went straight to our hearts. Be they old standards or brand new tunes, when we hear them, it’s as if they were written just for us. Comfort music can make us remember when days were better, even if only the passage of time has made them so. Comfort music brings a smile or a fond tear or an outright belly laugh when all we do is play our mind’s record player.

More of my comfortable choices: Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Kristofferson, Buffett

Lately, I have found myself retreating to those old melodies. I rely on everyone from Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to Bing Crosby, Jo Stafford, Lester Flatt, and B.B. King to brighten moments of my day. Just as with comfort food, the universal music menu allows me to lean toward what is just right for my mood at the moment. It is my hope that you have your own comfort music “recipe” and that those songs are brightening your world these days.

Please enjoy my song “Comfort Music,” in this video prepared just for this piece. More importantly, I hope your own collections of songs that just make you feel good are close at hand and that they are serving you well.

Click this photo for “Comfort Music.”

Click to see video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text and photos copyright 2017 by Les Kerr

Click photo to download album or order The Americana Boogie CD featuring Comfort Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Minnie Pearl: from Grinders Switch to Seoul

Many pearls of wisdom are found in Minnie Pearl’s Diary

I am a huge Minnie Pearl fan. So much so that I keep a copy of her 1953 book Minnie Pearl’s Diary on my desk to open when I feel the need for Minnie’s down-home, dead-on philosophy. The life lessons she learned in “Grinders Switch” hold true today.

Performing with the Grinders Switch Ensemble

Since 2010, I have had the honor to perform music in Centerville, Tennessee, the Hickman County  city that includes Grinders Switch, Miss Minnie’s hometown. It’s always a treat to be a guest on the Grinders Switch Radio Hour, broadcast live every Saturday morning on KiX96, the local FM country music radio station.

My Minnie Pearl’s Chicken box autographed by Miss Minnie

In 2013, I was pleased to appear at the Centerville Independence Day Celebration with the Grinders Switch Ensemble, the excellent musicians who perform each week on the radio show. I wrote a blog about that appearance that featured a photo of another of my prized possessions, a Minnie Pearl’s Chicken box autographed by Miss Minnie, herself. She ventured into the fast food business for a while and this box is among the remnants of that excursion into non-entertainment business.

Four years later, in fact, last week in September, 2017, the blog and that photo found its way to a South Korean journalist writing a story about franchise businesses in the United States. Reporter Gwanghyeon Gim contacted me and asked permission to use my photo of Minnie’s chicken box in the story.

So the photo and Miss Minnie have traveled from Grinders Switch to Seoul. Readers of Culture & Biz 저널 (weekly.cnbnews.com) are getting a good look at Miss Minnie’s broad smile as she offers a plate of Southern fried chicken to the world.

If that doesn’t promote world peace, nothing will.

 

Click photo to view Les Kerr’s online CD and download catalogue.

Text and photos copyright 2017 by Les Kerr.

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Off Broadway

Lower Broadway, Nashville’s popular honky tonk and tourist district

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” According to baseball great Yogi Berra in The Yogi Book (I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said), he made that comment in 1959 to Stan Musial and Joe Garagiola about a favorite restaurant in St. Louis.

Many residents of Nashville may say the same thing about the city’s iconic honky-tonk district, Lower Broadway, today.

Crowds rock at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Lower Broadway

As Nashville has become the “it city” in recent years, many people who find their entertainment on Lower Broad are tourists who never leave the area.

As a thirty-year Nashvillian, let me quickly and simultaneously say to those visiting for the first time, “Welcome” and, “You don’t know what you’re missing by not exploring music beyond downtown Nashville.”

Historic Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in the heart of Lower Broad definitely deserves a visit by tourists and it should be a required stop for locals, as should the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium. But do yourself a favor and explore the eclectic mix of entertainment to be found all around the city, as do those of us who live here. Here are some photos taken during the summer of 2017 of entertainment I have seen “Off Broadway.”  Enjoy!

The Station Inn

Larry Cordle, Ashley Campbell, Val Storey, Mike Bubb and Carl Jackson routinely deliver truly authentic country music at this legendary Nashville spot.

Musicians Corner at Centennial Park

The Secret Sisters are among the nationally touring acts who perform at this free concert series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovery Saturdays at Red’s Wine and Spirits in Bellevue, broadcast live on Roots Radio, WMOT FM

Mark Robinson (pictured here) and others perform as part of this series that takes place in the West Nashville community of Bellevue.

Homegrown Taproom and Marketplace, Donelson

Eclectic is the word when it comes to this Donelson spot for locals. From Bob’s Your Uncle (pictured here) to bluegrass great Roland White, each music act brings unique talent and individuality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bluebird Cafe

I am always honored to step on stage at this legendary songwriter showcase, located in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood. Each night is filled with many writers who bring their original music to local and tourist audiences.

Text and photos copyright 2017 by Les Kerr.

Click photo to view Les Kerr’s online CD and download catalogue.

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The moon, Sun and Hemingway

The Moon

My 1969-era globe of the Moon, a testament to the inspiration the astronauts gave me and so many others.

It was a product of the pride the people in the United States had in the 1960s for our race to land a man on the moon. A globe of the moon. As a boy in Mississippi approaching my teens, I was consumed with all of the news, images and incredible prospects of space exploration. In 1969, when that hero of American heroes Neil Armstrong set foot in the Sea of Tranquility, a lot of other Boy Scouts and I watched the historic moment on one of the TV sets dispersed around the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Idaho. We were also given small American flags to attach to our tents to commemorate the historic occasion. Upon returning home, I made it my mission to learn about the space program. I wrote to NASA and they sent 8”x10” full color photos of the astronauts who flew several missions after the first moon landing. Each time a new one arrived in the mail, I immediately set out to learn everything about these brave men. I wore out my friends and family with my knowledge of our American space pioneers.

Sun

I’m proud to have this original Sun record autographed by one of my heroes, Johnny Cash.

Prior to my fascination with the moon was a preoccupation with Sun. Not the star that lights our world each day but Sam Phillips’ record company based in Memphis. Sun Records lit the musical landscape of the globe by launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Sonny Burgess. Elvis and Johnny Cash were my favorite rockabilly astronauts. As I set out to learn more about them, I naturally learned about Sun Records. I still learn from them and the other Sun luminaries who have graced the world’s musical heritage.

The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway was not the first person to coin that phrase. He got it from “The Preacher,” who wrote it in Ecclesiastes.

“The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he rose.” – Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1, Verse 5, Old Testament, King James Version, The Bible.

The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite books. Images created by Hemingway of young people in Spain interacting with each other as the bulls ran have captivated many and I am among them. I was around the age of the characters in the book when I read it. I have seen the sun rise on the French Quarter in New Orleans more than once. Not because I woke up early but because I went to bed so late, it had become early. One early morning on Royal Street, as I wearily made way back to my hotel I said out loud, “The Sun Also Rises down on Bourbon Street.” Later, with much more clarity, I put pen to paper and the song that resulted is below.

The moon may briefly eclipse the sun occasionally but it is comforting to know that once again, as The Preacher wrote, the sun also rises.

Click photo to see Les Kerr perform The Sun Also Rises at the Bluebird Cafe, Nashville

The Sun Also Rises (Down on Bourbon Street)
Words and Music by Les Kerr

A little boy down in New Orleans spied my shoes
He made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse
He said, “If you got a quarter
That you ain’t afraid to lose
I’ll tell you where you got them shoes.”

He said, “You got ‘em on your feet, 
Right here on Bourbon Street, 
That’s where you got ‘em; 
That’s where you got ‘em 
You tapped out your ol' soul 
Tryin’ to find the hole 
Down in the bottom; 
Down in the bottom 
You been up all night 
Tryin’ to see the light 
But those neon moonbeams
Just don’t make it right 
I hate to tell you, Mister, 
But you just met your de-feet 
The Sun Also Rises
Down on Bourbon Street”

‘Bout the time they turned the lights out
At the Famous Door
That sticky Southern sun 
Began to rise once more
I gave that boy a dollar, yes, 
I paid my dues
He told me, “When you’re lost, man,
You’re just following your shoes”

French Quarter philosophy served me well
I headed back to Royal Street to my hotel
When I think about it now
Wnd want to lose my blues
I thank that little boy
Who made some money off my shoes

He said, “You got ‘em on your feet,
Right here on Bourbon Street,
That’s where you got ‘em; 
That’s where you got ‘em
You tapped out your ol' soul
Tryin’ to find the hole
Down in the bottom; 
Down in the bottom
You been up all night 
Tryin’ to see the light
But those neon moonbeams
Just don’t make it right
I hate to tell you, Mister, 
But you just met your de-feet
The Sun Also Rises
Down on Bourbon Street”
©1994 by Les Kerr
Publisher: O.N.U. Music (ASCAP)
Click here to download
The Sun Also Rises
(Down on Bourbon Street)

Text and photos copyright 2017 by Les Kerr

Click photo to view Les Kerr’s online CD and download catalogue.

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Retro

Art deco or just old? You tell me.

From the first apartment I lived in after leaving home up to and including the house I live in today, some of my furniture was accumulated from different friends and relatives. My first coffee table was one my parents no longer wanted. I still use that table to hold legal pads I write songs with, books and odds and ends that just seem to fit on it.

In the early 1980s, the table and I lived in a poolside apartment in Mobile, Alabama. Steve Smith, an artist friend, saw it for the first time and said, “Where did you get that great art deco piece?”

“Art deco piece?” I said. “I don’t know what that means. I always thought it was an old table.”

45rpm-Ready Teddy by Little Richard with Rip It Up on the “flip side.”

In the years since then, I have noticed that there seems to be an indefinable moment in the history of people, places and things when they cease being “old” and are suddenly “retro.” The resurgence of vinyl records is a good example.

My solid-state transistor radio kept me entertained day and night.

I remember well when they were the only way other than A.M. radio that recorded music could be heard. By the way, I still listen to A.M. radio, too. The little red transistor I had as a kid and a college student in Mississippi is still with me. Often, I went to sleep with it under my pillow as it played hits of all musical genres from local or far-away 50,000 watt clear channel stations like WLS (Chicago), WSM or WLAC (Nashville) or WWL (New Orleans). That may be why I have always been able to remember song lyrics so well.

2 of my favorite “45s.”

As these thoughts were running through my head I decided to put them to music in a song called Retro. Some of the lyrics refer to buying vinyl records and how much fun it was to take them out of the shrink wrap and to play them for the first time on the “record player.” The irony that two versions of this song can be now downloaded from many Internet sites is not lost on me.

My first and only 45rpm vinyl record, The Camellia Grill.

My first professional recording was released on vinyl. I often joke on stage that in 1986, I was the last person who made a 45rpm record who thought people were still buying them. But my “original compact disc” with The Camellia Grill on side A and Seductive Eyes on side B, recorded at Southern Sound Productions in Mobile, Alabama, got me going.

The lyrics to Retro are below, as is a link to a video of a live performance of the song at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. I hope you’ll watch, listen and enjoy. It is also my hope that you will skip becoming “old” and go straight to “Retro,” as I am attempting to do. In the words of Bill Haley who sang them and Bobby Charles Guidry who wrote them, “See you later, alligator.”

Click photo to see Les Kerr perform Retro at the Bluebird Cafe, Nashville

Retro
Words and music by Les Kerr

I play a thirty-year old guitar
That I bought when it was new
Through and old tube amplifier
Built by Leo Fender, too
I remember when The Beatles
Were a brand new band
My solid state transistor played
I Want to Hold Your Hand

Chorus:
If I live to be a hundred, well,
I guess I’m middle-aged
Life is one unfinished book; 
Each day you turn a page
Looking at the years ahead
Can’t help but make me smile
I’m not older, I’m just “retro”
That’s always been my style

I was loyal to The King
All through his movie years
And on the day he died, 
I cried a hunk of burning tears
Thinking of how long that’s been
Could really bring me down
But time moved on and I did,too
I’m glad I’m still around

Bridge:
They call it vintage vinyl now
But I remember when
You found the latest album 
In a retail record bin
You couldn’t wait to get it home
And hear the music play
Now, you can download it
But the feeling’s gone away

Repeat chorus
If I live to be a hundred, well, 
I guess I’m middle-aged
Life is one unfinished book
Each day you turn a page
Looking at the years ahead
Can’t help but make me smile
I’m not older, I’m just “retro”
That’s always been my style

Words and music copyright 2008 by Les Kerr
Publisher: O.N.U. Music (ASCAP)

Click to download Retro.

Text, photos, video and music copyright 2017 by Les Kerr.

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Glen Campbell – Still gentle on our minds

With the news of Glen Campbell’s death, I couldn’t help but remember seeing him at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during his Farewell Tour in 2011. He was truly an inspiration to me. I hope you will enjoy this account of the evening. Thanks, Les.

The extended guitar solos in Galveston and Wichita Lineman were worth more than the price of admission for me.  Glen Campbell’s Goodbye Tour came to the Ryman Auditorium November 30, 2011 and the performance was an unadorned look at a man whose music has brought much joy to many people for over  four decades.

There was a lot of love for Campbell flowing from the audience who packed the hard old Ryman pews and from those around him on stage.  The band  included his son Cal playing drums, daughter Ashley playing keyboard, banjo and guitar, and son Shannon playing guitar.  With each song, everyone in the room was pulling for the star whose memory is leaving him.

After a teleprompter glitch caused a false start at the show’s beginning, Campbell launched into Gentle on My Mind, the song that brought him into the consciousness of most of the world in the 1960s.  And then he did them all. The aforementioned Galveston and Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Where’s the Playground Susie, Dreams of the Everyday Housewife, Try a Little Kindness and on and on from his early career.

This is a man with soul, joy and dignity who knows what he’s about.  He laughed about his memory loss and said, “Did you ever go into a room and forget why you went in there?  That happens to me a lot.”  As he moved around the stage with the agility of a much younger performer, Campbell’s eyes sought and found the teleprompter screens with a determination to offer the showmanship for which he is famous.  While they didn’t catch all the lines at the right time, those eyes still had the twinkle of a singer delighted to be on stage.  He referred to Nashville throughout the evening, sending the message that he was truly happy to be on the Ryman stage singing for us.

A Picker’s Picker

Song lyrics may have been elusive at times but the notes on his guitar came as naturally as the smile on his face.  The intro Campbell played on the electric 12-string as he began Southern Nights and his acoustic guitar part on Dueling Banjos with Ashley playing banjo showed that his fingers remembered every lick.  I was reminded why I wanted the Ovation acoustic guitar I received as a high-school graduation present – that was his trademark ax in the sixties and I still play my mid-1970s Legend model today.  To call Glen Campbell an inspiration for guitar players is a vast understatement.

Ghost on the Canvas

Campbell performed songs from his CD, Ghost on the Canvas, and the lyrics seemed to be perfect for where he is in his life.  Especially poignant are the title song and A Better Place.  I have never heard a singer perform more personally honest music.

Toward the end of the evening, his hit Country Boy was a standout.  Finally, being ever the entertainer that he’s always been, Campbell led the audience in singing Rhinestone Cowboy as one of many standing ovations again swept the auditorium.

Minnie Pearl once said that Grand Ole Opry master of ceremonies George D. Hay advised her to, “Go out there and love the audience – they’ll love you back.”  Well, Glen Campbell loved those of us in the audience that night and we loved him back.

For a great video including an interview with Glen Campbell about his 2011 Ghost on the Canvas CD and archival footage, visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbr_rCrEPVE&feature=player_embedded#!

Text copyright 2011 Les Kerr

Click to view Les Kerr’s CD and download catalogue.

 

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The music of McDill

Songwriter Bob McDill donates pads, lyrics, guitar to Country Music Hall of Fame.

Amanda. Good Ole Boys Like Me. Don’t Close Your Eyes. It is hard to read those song titles without their melodies and the voices of the singers who made them famous coming to mind. The songwriter who built those works of musical art, and many more, donated his construction bench to the Country Music Hall of Fame July 31, 2017. In its collection now are 217 of Bob McDill’s legal pads, boxes of work tapes and the guitar he used to write Good Ole Boys like Me. On the pads are handwritten lyrics to over two hundred songs later recorded by artists ranging from Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs and Perry Como to Bobby Bare, Don Williams and Alan Jackson.

Hall of Fame member Bobby Bare performs “Amanda.”

In honor of McDill’s gift to the Hall, several country music luminaries performed his songs. Country Music Hall of Fame member Bobby Bare sang Amanda, which was a hit by both Don Williams and Waylon Jennings. Bare recalled that he admired McDill’s work so much, he recorded a whole album of his songs called “Me and McDill” in 1977.

Jamie Johnson sings “The Door is Always Open.”

Performing The Door is Always Open, Jamie Johnson expressed his admiration for McDill, as did William Michael Morgan, performing Don’t Close Your Eyes and Jon Byrd, who sang Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold).

Don Schlitz sings a moving version of “Good Ole Boys like Me.”

Perhaps the most emotional moment came when Don Schlitz, the songwriter responsible for The Gambler and many other hits, performed Good Ole Boys like Me. Schlitz, scheduled for official induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame himself this October, recalled his days as a young songwriter in Nashville. Schlitz said he received nothing but encouragement from the older, established McDill. Playing the 1967 Martin D-28 that McDill donated to the Hall of Fame, Schlitz gave a moving rendition that made everyone in the room feel like a “good ole boy,” in the most dignified sense of that phrase.

It is said that a public appearance by McDill himself is a rare occurrence. But there he was, gracefully accepting the accolades heaped upon him by his peers. Speaking modestly and with honesty, McDill talked about the fact that when he began, he wondered if he had what it took to be a writer of country songs. He came to Nashville from Texas via Memphis. He was influenced by everyone from Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers to Hank Williams and Jackie Brenston, the Sun Records artist who gave the world Rocket 88.

Among his goals, McDill said, was to show the world that “those who make country music are not culturally isolated.” One good listen to Good Ole Boys Like Me, whose lyrics refer to Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams, Thomas Wolfe and Nashville R&B radio announcer John R. proves that Bob McDill more than made his point and adds his own contribution to our cultural landscape.

Text and photos copyright 2017 by Les Kerr.

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