Happy Holidays From Indian Rocks Beach, Florida


Holiday Sand Carving, December 18, 2014

From: A Sunset Stroll Down Indian Rocks Beach, Florida


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Happy Christmas To All

And To All A Good Night



A Morning Ramble Through Tulsa Art Deco 1.1


Tulsa, Oklahoma boomed in the 1920s. Oil money poured in as the country prospered. Newly minted millionaire oil tycoons and others spent lavishly on new, stylish buildings – creating one of the greatest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world.

Noted architects included Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff.

One morning in the pre-dawn hours, I kicked myself out of bed, grabbed my camera to walk the downtown district – hoping to catch that magic morning light.

I’ve since discovered a little research might have helped. There’s an Tulsa Art Deco walking tour. And many other resources. However, I was in town for a music benefit and this was a last-minute thing.

So here – and in a few subsequent posts – are a few photos from that morning’s walk.

First stop: Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, completed in 1929 – the year the stock market crashed, ushering in the Great Depression.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1999, the church exemplifies the  individuality and innovation that marks the Art Deco style. Its vertical lines suggest links to Gothic Cathedrals such as the Parish Church of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, the U.K., among many others.


The church features many open hands extended upward in prayer – a theme echoed in the numerous spires at the top of the church. The various colours of the church’s exterior are largely the result of materials used – including metal, terra cotta, granite, limestone and – at the top of the church tower – stained glass.


Source: Wikipedia




A View Toward Downtown From The Boston Avenue Methodist Church

Bob Wills Song Of The Day 1.8: Sitting On Top Of The World

Bob Wills grew up poor in the cotton country of northeastern Texas and in the southern Panhandle which – for some reason – is referred to as West Texas. Turkey, Texas, claims him and every year has a festival in his honour. Wills’ father had moved the family to the Panhandle in 1913 and bought a farm near Turkey six years later.

Wills and his family worked alongside blacks, Mexicans and other minorities on farms his father rented and sometimes anywhere they could to make money. They once moved in a covered wagon. Along the way, Wills picked up many musical influences – gospel, jazz, blues, Mexican ballads and string numbers – his sources almost endless. Often, he revamped a traditional song, added lyrics and turned it into a hit.

In 1921 when he was 16, Wills – known as “Jim Rob” then – left home and traveled by freight train and other means necessary. Moving often, Wills did whatever jobs he could and, as with many people, were sometimes chased by railroad “bulls” – or private cops hired to keep people from riding the rails for free and camping on property owned by companies that transported people and goods across the state.

In his 20s Wills went to barber school and eventually got a job at Hamm’s Barber Shop in Turkey. He moved to Fort Worth – known to locals affectionately as Cow Town” – in 1929 – the year the stock market crashed. And it was in Fort Worth that his musical career began. [Click to hear Wills’ Big Ball’s In Cowtown.]

At a time of great economic and political turmoil, many farmers and their families went bankrupt and moved to cities looking for work. In cities crowded with rural and urban poor alike, they heard familiar music played by Wills and others over the “wireless” – pretty much the Internet of its day. Radio connected people at least in spirit; people who otherwise had no means to stay in touch with family and friends other than by mail or – if lucky – by the nation’s slowly growing telephone system.

People who hit the road looking for a better life found comfort in radio shows on which Wills and his bands performed. As Woody Guthrie did on a daily radio show from Los Angeles, Wills played music people knew from their years on the farm. [Guthrie, originally from Oklahoma, fled the Texas Panhandle town of Pampa – less than 100 miles due north of Turkey – after the Great Dust Storm of April 14, 1935.] Wills often did the radio shows for free – figuring it advertised his real money makers – the live dances he and his bands performed in Texas, Oklahoma and – later – across the country.

In Fort Worth, Wills performed with a band known as the Light Crust Doughboys – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the company (Light Crust Flour) that sponsored a radio show on which the band performed. Milton Brown, known as the Father of Western Swing, sang with the Doughboys but two years later left to form his own group, the Musical Brownies –  often credited with being the first real western swing band. Brown died in a car accident in 1936, otherwise he might have been more popular than Wills.

Vocalist Tommy Duncan joined the Doughboys in 1932. But wills fought with W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, host of the Doughboys’ radio show and – as fate would have it – a future governor of the Lone Star State. Wills and Duncan quit the Doughboys and moved to Oklahoma – first to Oklahoma City and then to Tulsa where they got a show on a powerful radio station KVOO.

On most days, KVOO broadcast what became a wildly popular music show featuring Wills and his band ,live from Cain’s Ballroom in downtown Tulsa. In the 1950s, Cain’s added a five-point blue-and-neon star to its ceiling – the same star featured on the Texas state flag. A banner above the stage says “Home Of Bob Wills”.


Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK


Even though O’Daniel attempted to disrupt Wills’ success in Tulsa – supposedly because O’Daniel did not like “hillbilly music” – KVOO’s owners ignored him.

As mentioned, Wills drew from and performed many kinds of music, including Sitting On Top Of The World, a bluesy tune written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks.

Sitting On Top Of The World


Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys (1935)

From a 78 rpm recording


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Sitting On Top of the World – sometimes Sittin’ On Top Of The World – became a blues standard.

Many other artists who recorded the song, most after Wills:

Big Bill Broonzy
Milton Brown
Les Paul
Ray Charles
Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
Howlin’ Wolf
The Grateful Dead
Cream (Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton)
Chet Atkins
Bob Dylan
Taj Mahal
Doc Watson
The Radiators
B.B. King
Willie Nelson



Portugal 1979

Sleeping on the beach? Legal.

Two things I remember about the towns along Portugal’s south coast: fish (fresh sardines, I believe) grilling on small sidewalk barbecue grills, billowing acrid blue smoke singeing the air and . . . packs of barking dogs racing through town. Which, if not prepared, imperil those lugging backpacks and other traveling paraphernalia. And anyone else caught unawares. One, two, three, four, 10, 11, 14 . . . who counts that fast?

The dog thing wasn’t so bad. The first time, I thought: “Wow, that was weird.” The next time, I noticed shopkeepers and restaurant owners – including the sardine grillers – pressed up against a wall, staring as the dogs raced past. Complacent. No stress. So the next time I heard barking dogs approach, I pressed against the nearest wall – and watched as the four-legged pack streamed around the corner on to . . . wherever. A man standing in a storefront across the street looked at me, smiled and waved. I did the same, feeling almost Portuguese.

As for the grilled sardines, that smell is with me still – almost 35 years later.

The next part is from my journal.


Sept. 17, 1979.

Albufeira, Portugal

“17-9-79 Albufeira, Portugal Sunny & warm (but windy)

Arrived here late last night with a woman named Joy, who now lives outside La Crosse, Wis. It has been many days since I last wrote so I must try to catch up.

At the moment, I am sitting on a wall by the beach, it is late morning and I am waiting for my hunger to build to try a local cafeteria’s paella. I am using a bottle of
wine in an attempt to help my appetite along.


Morning – Looking west toward Albufeira, Portugal from our beachfront hideaway



I am officially in Algarve now, and it has to be the most expensive region in Portugal. Whereas up north (Peniche) I got one egg, pork chops, chips, bread & a beer for
less than two dollars, here the same meal would be 4-5 American dollars.


Albufeira, Portugal – Fishermen Pulling A Boat Up The Beach


Joy and I slept on the beach last night – she slept better than I, being a bit more paranoid about losing my possessions. Everything worked out fine. We built a fire and soon
it was morning.


Sunrise On The Beach – Looking East



Joy On The Beach In Portugal – some people just look good waking up, even after sleeping on the beach


Joy left for Spain today – she is to meet her friend Shirley, who is a real case – actually Algeciras. We arrived yesterday on the train from Sagres, after spending two
nights at the youth hostel there. It was crowded; but fun. The water was magnificent – cool and clear and refreshing.


Sagres, Portugal


The hostel was in a “fort,” which used to serve as a navigation school for the likes of Vasco de Gama and Magellan. We went out at night to look at the stars, and we could
see why that spot was chosen – a promontory with horizon lines on three sides, “essential for navigation by the stars,” said Joy.


Road To The Hostel On The Southwestern Tip Of Mainland Europe (we were walking)


Sagres, Portugal – Navigation School Turned Hostel




Before Sagres, I was in S. Martinho – for three nights. A Canadian woman with a mustache named Janet who was also kind of fat and I hitch-hiked around one day to a town call Peniche, where the only nice thing was a cheap lunch, and then to a town called Obidos, which was lovely. It is an old walled city, with hanging gardens and nicely kept homes and stores.


Obidos, Portugal

It was easy hitching – again proving Let’s Go Europe wrong and we never waited longer than ten minutes for a lift.


Colourful Homes In Obidos, Portugal

Right now, life seems easy, and America seems so far off. My plans for the immediate future – today and tomorrow morning – are to stay here one more night, sleep on the beach, have lunch, perhaps buy a few things, build a fire tonight, and then attempt to catch the 8:04 train east tomorrow. But I do not know to where. Oh yes, and the beach this afternoon. Today is the 17th, and I imagine that it shall take at LEAST one full day to reach Malaga, but I have no choice. Anyway, what that means is that I will not find out when Lou and LIz are coming until the 19th, or 20th, and I hope that they have not arrived already. This is so strange, perhaps I should call. (?)”

[End journal entry.]


Joy and I met in a hostel in a small beach town north of Lisbon. We had monumental arguments about, of all things, the so-called free-market economic system. I won’t bore you – except to say I think events proved us both right, in different ways. Joy was headed to grad school in business; she’d become a free-market convert. We crossed paths by chance once more a few days later – on the TALGO – then the only fast train in Spain – from the Costa del Sol to Madrid. She probably runs a bank somewhere.

One final thing: the suntan lotion, oil, or whatever it was. Beach shops on the Algarve sold an aromatic mixture of lemon and oil and I don’t remember what else (if anything). Thick, sticky and smelling like freshly squeezed lemons. That bottle traveled to Greece, including Crete, where I maxed out on beach time. To this day, my favorite suntan lotion. Ever.




Lisbon – When you’re young and backpacking, you brush your teeth wherever you can. Here by a city center fountain.




Circa 1950



Red Star At Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK 2014


The ‘Cain’s’ features a ballroom that measure[s] 79 feet by 90 feet. The highlight of the ballroom is the historic, spring-loaded, curly maple dance floor that is laid in a ‘log cabin’ or concentric square pattern. The historic, painted, white, drop ceiling is ornamented with painted red diamonds. Lighting the dance floor is a four foot, blue and red neon star which was likely added circa 1950 when other changes were made including the addition of photographs of noted musical artists that line the walls. These photographs include Bob Wills, Johnnie Lee Wills, Ernest Tubb, Ted Williams, Kay Starr and Tennessee Ernie Ford.” The Tulsa Preservation Commission

I’m not sure what happened to the blue in the “blue and red neon star”. But, my cell phone is ancient and takes crappy pictures – so this is all I got. I’m sure better photos are out there.

Anyway. As much here for my recollection as anything else. And to finally get it off my cell phone – an adventure in itself. :-)



Another Pointless Shooting

Whatever else I might have written or posted today – I cannot. Because of the most-recent shooting at a U.S. university – this time early Thursday morning at Florida State University in Tallahassee, the state capital.

Writing anything would exploit another senseless shooting. Here is a story from my current hometown paper. Many others exist.

Sadly, this will happen again. And again. And then again. People I know – people I never expected – carry guns.

This is madness.



Bob Wills Song Of The Day 1.7: New San Antonio Rose & Some More History

Bob Wills might have remained a popular regional performer had it not been for one song: New San Antonio Rose. The original, San Antonio Rose, drew the attention of someone from big-city music promoter Irving Berlin Inc. in early 1940. Wills received a $300 advance with the promise that he’d write some lyrics for the song – the original being an instrumental.

At the time, traditional “swing” music – Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and the like – raged across American concert and dance halls. Wills and his band lent a Texas and prairie edge to what had been mostly brass-based jazz, adding the fiddles, vocals and honky-tonk piano that distinguished western swing. Not to mention the lyrics.

Music snobs downplayed Wills as a “hillbilly” musician. Wills himself said he played jazz and later, when rock ‘n roll arrived, Wills said his bands had been playing that music since the 1920s.

Either way, New San Antonio Rose took Wills “from hamburger to steak”. His words, supposedly. The song, based on a traditional song called “Spanish Two Step”, rocketed Wills and his music to national prominence – especially after Bing Crosby released his version in 1941 and it sold more than 1 million copies.

It’s important to note the changes from San Antonio Rose to New San Antonio Rose. When Wills released New San Antonio Rose, the fiddles and guitars vanished. Instead, the backing was pure brass and drums – and it sounded like a swing jazz band doing a western tune. There was a fight about how the song would sound – with Wills winning that battle. Most of it, anyway.

Still, Crosby’s version could not match the intergalactic airplay New San Antonio Rose received when astronauts Alan Bean and Charles Conrad sang it aboard the Apollo 12 spacecraft as it circled the globe in 1969 as part of the second U.S. space expedition to land men on the moon.



New San Antonio Rose


Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys




 San Antonio Rose


Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

The original 1938 instrumental version – fiddles, guitars, bass and piano.



Bing Crosby croons it up on

  New San Antonio Rose [1941]


Minus Bing, all this gets a little fuzzy for me. Bob Wills had his musical roots in Texas and that always showed.

For the sake of comparison, listen to this 1946 hit song by “Texas Troubadour” Ernest Tubb, a Bob Wills contemporary and (yes, another) country music legend.


Ernest Tubb

Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin



Ernest Tubb And His Band – Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK

Click on photo or here to arrive at Cain’s Ballroom: The Bob Wills Connection



The difference is more notable in Tubb’s biggest hit, from 1941. The rhythm and tempo are distinctly country; the arrangement, sparse. Not the fiddle-playing, jazzy swing style of Bob Wills at all.

Walking The Floor Over You


Ernest Tubb

[Walking The Floor Over You does sound a little less like a love song title in 2014.]

In 1948 or 1949, Tubb had the first commercial hit recording of Blue Christmas – a song most people associate with Elvis Presley.

Blue Christmas


Ernest Tubb & The Three Troubadettes




Last – but never least – is this version by Johnny & The Hurricanes.

Why include a release by an almost-forgotten band from the late 1950s and early 1960s?

Because Johnny & The Hurricanes had European fans.

In 1962, Johnny & The Hurricanes played at a dive in Hamburg, Germany called the Star-Club.

The opening act?

A little-known band called The Beatles.


San Antonio Rose


Johnny & The Hurricanes




 Yakety Sax!



ASCAP and the associated logos are trademarks of
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers