“I Fought The Law” and Texas Musicians

This is a two- or three-part story. But, still, relatively simple.

It includes a favorite rock ‘n roll song, the iconic “I Fought The Law”, made famous by Texas musician Bobby Fuller and The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966.  Recovered by dozens since, including The Clash, Hank Williams Jr. The Dead Kennedys, Bruce Springsteen, Waylon Jennings, The Ramones, The Grateful Dead, etc.



“I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four

The story also includes Mike Sinks, my contact at The Woody Guthrie Folk Music Center in Pampa, Texas. Yes, another Texas musician.

Finally (maybe), there’s The Crickets, the Texas band made famous in part by Buddy Holly, who died in a plane crash February 3, 1959 in Iowa with Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

And here’s how it goes:

A month or so ago, I found a bunch of CDs by The Bobby Fuller Four – a “best of”, a live cd, one of those “Never To Be Forgotten” cds, etc. I bought the “I Fought The Law” 45, on the Mustang label, at 12. Wish I had it, still. Anyway, I decided to look up the song’s history and discovered, on Wikipedia, that Sonny Curtis wrote the song in 1958 and The Crickets – sans Holly – recorded it in 1959.




The Crickets’ line-up for the song was:

Henry Earl Sinks – Vocal/Rhythm Guitar
Sonny Curtis – Lead Guitar
Joe Mauldin – Bass
Jerry Allison – Drums

(The original Crickets: Holly, Mauldin, Allison and Nikki Sullivan on rhythm guitar. Sullivan quit the band in 1958 but performed on most of the songs Holly recorded before his death.)

Interesting. A post-Buddy-Holly Crickets connection. The song never hit the charts the way it did for Bobby Fuller. Still, here’s the version by The Crickets with Henry Earl Sinks as lead singer:

[A note for lyrics freaks: The song as recorded by The Crickets has these lines:

A-robbin' people with the zip gun
I fought the law and the law won

Bobby Fuller (and many others) replaced "zip gun" (a crude, homemade weapon) with "six gun" - in line (at the time) with outlaws, the old west and, certainly, Texas legends.]

Curtis, alive and kicking at 77, and Holly were teenage friends in Lubbock, Texas. Prior to The Crickets, they played and recorded with other musicians. Curtis also wrote the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, titled “Love is All Around”; “Walk Right Back” (a 1960 hit for the Everly Brothers) and other songs.

Anyway, the name Earl Sinks kept bugging me. And I finally realized it’s because I know Mike Sinks. Two Texas musicians named Sinks. What are the chances?


A Young Earl Sinks


In a recent email, I asked Mike if he’s related to Earl. This is what Mike said (it’s part of a longer email, part of which will not make sense):

“And another yes, Earl Sinks is my cousin, though I’ve only met him once. Now he has Alzheimers and I can’t even talk to him on the phone. I wanted to ask him to come do a show for us but I was too late. He has a son who is a terrific singer,too.

About the festival, many folks with little or no money show up and busk on the sidewalks, and play at the open mic at the Rocky Road Tavern. Some only show up for the campground picking. You can go on a budget if your expectations aren’t too high! Most of the artists play the festival for room and board. [Mike refers to the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, OK.]

Lastly, we still jam every Friday night. Let me know when if you decide to come. See ya later and thanks again!”

There you have it. Texas: A big state with a rich music history. And this is just one footnote.

Next trip to Pampa, Mike is singing “I Fought The Law.” You can bet.

I leave you with this video I shot last year of Mike singing “Silver Wings”, a Merle Haggard tune. Haggard, a California country singer and part of the “outlaw” country music scene in the 1980s, is perhaps best known for his hit, “Okie From Muskogee.”

Recorded at The Woody Guthrie Folk Music Center in Pampa, March, 2013. (Jerry Lister on electric guitar.)



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[The Beatles picked their name partly as a tribute to The Crickets - who briefly considered calling themselves The Beetles.]

Recycle Florida: Wawa vs Starbucks

Starbucks touts itself as the environmentally responsible, progressive company. Great.

This is a photo shot Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 at a WaWa gas station near where I live:

Recycling At WaWa

This is my ‘artist’s rendering’ of recycling at my local Starbucks in north St. Petersburg, Fla.



Yes, it is a black box. As in nothing. I’d post a photo of Starbucks’ recycling bin – except there isn’t any.

All it takes is a recycling bin and in-store recycling bins. Starbucks’ interest is elsewhere: Lots of expensive, high-fat, high-salt, food and treats, increasingly plastic-wrapped – which the store has no way to recycle. Yes, Starbucks offers some food that won’t immediately kill you. I’m sure it’s an oversight.

The apartment complex where I live – less than 3 miles away – recycles. Paper. Plastic. Etc. I’ve written this before, I know.

However, Starbucks trades on a bogus environmentally friendly image.I know they’re in it for the money. However, this irresponsibility earns Starbucks my new

Five Black Star Award For Corporate Negligence


Death Or Glory

Tonight in Austin, Texas is a benefit to raise money in part for Strummerville, an organization set up to help musicians. Part of Joe Strummer’s legacy – the man who lead The Clash to rock ‘n roll stardom and then oblivion.


Born August 21, 1952 in Ankara. He would have been 62 on Thursday.

A hero and heroic – guitar and otherwise – this is the story of my brief encounter with a legend.



I met Joe Strummer in the summer of 1982 – summer by the Australian clock. Working as a waiter at The Royal – an old (1888) hotel-turned-pub-and-restaurant in Sydney (Five Ways, Paddington) – The Clash had performed that night. Philip Ashton, The Royal’s owner and a music promoter of sorts, hired out the place for the after-hours.

After sending dinner guests home early, the other waiters and I set up the cramped main dining room – a euphemism if ever there was a euphemism. Could not have been bigger than 25 feet x 45 feet. The old hotel’s lobby. We set up for at least 50 guests with one table running crosswise at the head of the room near the fireplace which, trust me, wasn’t needed.

The Royal

Soon after the concert, dazzling lovelies and their escorts from the local music scene filed in. Beautiful young men and women, nicely dressed, nice hair, perfect teeth, tanned. Like a modeling agency. Really. I stood in the one doorway to the dining room – did I mention The Royal was very old? – at the top of the stairs that led up from the street. You must understand – there was no extra room, anywhere. The stairway ended in a small platform – and I use that word only because I do not know what else to call it. The dining room doorway opened immediately to the right; the kitchen three steps ahead; shelves of plates, napkins and other restaurant paraphernalia lined the short wall between the two. To the left: A hallway that led to a back dining room and other old hotel rooms that held a large refrigerator . . . and more restaurant paraphernalia.

At some point – and I don’t remember at all how long it was later – the band appeared. Four London street punks in black leather, chains, black motorcycle boots, greased black hair. Smoking. Seated at the head table: Guitar-playing wonder, song-writer and vocalist Mick Jones (later of Big Audio Dynamite and elsewhere). Bassist Paul Simonon (he of the famed London Calling album cover, smashing his guitar in one of the greatest rock ‘n roll photos ever). Drummer Topper Headon. And, to the far left, nearest the balcony at the end of the table, John Mellor, known to the world as Joe Strummer – rhythm guitar and lead singer,  heart and soul, of The Clash.

The Clash – Early On

The music industry guests. The band. My eyes shifted – to the other and back, again and again. Watching what looked like two sides ready for a brawl – rich spoiled kids faced off against four punks – five, if you count the overweight, slovenly manager. If I was going to talk to Strummer, I had to do it. Now.


Under some waiter-person pretense – perfect because I was, if nothing else, pretending to be a waiter, little experience, lied to get the job, etc. – I walked up to Strummer’s end of the table. Strummer’s black-leather-jacket back was toward me. Chatting with a woman seated next to him.

“Excuse me, but, I was just wondering,” I said. Looking back, if I didn’t have an American accent, he might never have turned around. But he did. Barging ahead, “I was just wondering who sang the lead vocal on Hitsville U.K.?” It was the only thing that came to me.

Stupid, I thought.  Any real Clash fan would know, right? This is it, I thought. He’s going to tell me to fuck myself.


Instead, Strummer looked at me with an impish grin. Dabbed the corner of his mouth with a napkin (yes, a napkin, not the tablecloth), winked (yes, winked) and said, “It was Ellen, Mick’s girlfriend.” Ellen being Ellen Foley, then girlfriend to he of the famed London Calling album cover shot.


“I’m an idiot” thoughts rode through my head like carnival clowns.

But Strummer only smiled, again. “You’re American.” “Yes, from California.” Another smile. Strummer, yes, he actually then smiled again and told me about the time he and “the boys” rented a big, American Cadillac convertible and drove down Highway 5 to Los Angeles at, I concluded, a rather high speed.

(It’s actually Interstate 5, but, like, I was going to say something about that, right? Anyway it’s a north-south highway that runs through some of the bleakest, driest parts of Central California until you hit “The Grapevine” and then LA. I once got the family wagon up to 110 mph on this road – so I could only imagine.)


Strummer in Los Angeles, 1982

Feeling incredibly lucky and incredibly stupid I thanked him and said I’d better go do something – else.

Later, Strummer ranted to the musical multitudes. About politics. About the need to not just work for money. About justice. About how working for the music industry did not mean you had to give up on life. Yelling, he was. A red face,  white T shirt, jeans and boots stomping aisles crowded with Sydney’s young-and-pretentious. Baffled by this crazy, manifesto-spitting yobbo.


Frank, the head waiter, later said something mean about Strummer. About how he was living in the past. About how his rant was something “straight out of the 60s.” I held my tongue. For more than thirty years. But now I can say it. “Fuck you, Frank.”



I met The Clash in the spring of 1977 as a student in southern California. A pretty young female graduate student had an office, you see. Desperate to make conversation, I asked about the poster on her wall. It said: “The Clash”. That’s all I remember. “Oh, it’s an English punk band.” Assured of my uncoolness, I dared not ask, “so . . . what the hell is that?”


Then came my first solo trip to Europe that fall when, still at the peak of uncool, I passed up chances to see punk bands in London pubs (quite possibly The Clash and The Sex Pistols, sorry to say). Instead, I went to the Royal Albert. Yeah, I was a lot of fun. Eventually I caught on, especially after people kept talking about this song, God Save The Queen, that you could not hear on London radio.

I stumbled into London Calling (1979) – one of the greatest rock albums ever. The Sandinista! (1980) cover caught my attention at a Tower Records (remember those?) because of the name and because it was 3 vinyl discs for $9.99. The band negotiated a deal to accept less money if the record company kept the price below $10. Imagine. Anyway, the band’s anti-establishment fuck-you-very-much Margaret Thatcher stuff is well-documented.


The Clash fell apart during or soon after that summer’s Combat Rock tour. The weakest – and most-popular – Clash album. It figures, right? Commercial success equals death. The band had peaked after, for awhile, being “the only band that matters.”


Strummer went on to play with The Mescaleros, a fine group, if you’re not familiar; The Pogues, and other bands. Some good music. He acted and wrote music for films.


Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a good 2007 documentary about this guy, who helped change my life – if only for a few moments. He also hosted a popular BBC radio show, London Calling. Good title.


John Graham Mellor died December 22, 2002. He was 50.

So why am I sad? Because the world needs Joe Strummers.

“Somewhere in my soul
There’s always Rock ‘n’ Roll.

From “Long Shadow”, written by Joe Strummer and Smokey Hormel, a tribute to Johnny Cash.
Performed by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros on Streetcore

Joe Strummer

Despite strident lyrics and posing, Strummer’s influence lives on in environmental causes and help for struggling musicians.



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Death Or Glory


Canalazzo, Venezia, Winter 1978
Canalazzo, Venezia, Winter 1978

This is an old photo – from a 35mm slide shot in 1978 with a small rangefinder camera.
After scanning the image – the sky had little black dots/blotches everywhere. Not dust. Just an old slide. Not too well cared-for – although after 36+ years I’m not sure how much to expect. Unless you thought about archiving your photos/slides when you were 24 – which I definitely did not.

I edited this photo first using GIMP 2 because, for me, it’s easier to adjust colors. Then I attempted to remove as much “noise” from the sky as I could using Photoshop Elements 11 – which came with my scanner. I have Adobe Lightroom but haven’t used it. Yet. However, I’ve read with older photos, Lightroom can do some pretty good things.

This is the slide as originally scanned. Just so you’ll know.


Darkening the colors brings out many imperfections in lighter areas – i.e. the sky. That’s why the sky on the original doesn’t look so bad.

Yes, I’ve much to learn. :-)

Travel early; travel often; travel in the off season.

[Click on either photo to see enlargement in new window.]


And, then, this one. Just because.



When I Was A Lad



Sir Joseph.
I grew so rich that I was sent
By a pocket borough into Parliament.
I always voted at my party’s call,
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.

He never thought of thinking for himself at all.

Sir Joseph.
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!

He thought so little, they rewarded he
By making him the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!

Sir Joseph.
Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn’t fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.

Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.

Sir Joseph.
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen’s Navee!

Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen’s Navee!



From Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore




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