Politics: A New Solution

by SteveHulse on June 12, 2019 · 3 comments

My blog has never been a political forum… until now. Desperate times call for desperate measures, even if those desperate measures happen to take the form of a little fun in the face of impending doom. So let’s have a bit of fun, okay, before the next news cycle…

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I’ve been trying for months now to come up with a way to fix our federal
government. I knew there had to be a plan out there somewhere, out there
in the misty remains of what used to be truth, honesty and integrity. But I
haven’t been able to corral it… until last night.

I was watching an old movie on Turner Classic Movies, when suddenly the
idea of how to fix America finally broke into the sunlight… and it was so
obvious, as the strongest and simplest solutions usually are. Robin Hood!
Of Course! We need a new Robin Hood!

Well, having finally burst that dam, the flood waters came pouring through,
and man was that fun! It’s great, how a mediocre mind can run with an idea, though hair-brained it might be. And however embarrassed I might be after the fact, still I’m driven to share it with you, on the off-chance that you might possibly come up with an alternative idea off the original that is much more useful, and perhaps practical. Hell, it can’t hurt, right?

Okay. So we need a cast of characters, a cast that can fulfill the functions of
the original members of Robin Hood’s band. And naturally we’ll need the bad dudes… god knows we’ve got those in spades! Anyone care to take a guess at who the Sheriff Of Nottingham will be played by? Yes, I thought so. My choice as well! And god knows he has easily enough henchmen to go around. Matter of fact, he has a senate and almost half a house worth, which indicates we’re going to have to come up with quite a large band of Merry Men! Where to find that many good-hearted, well-meaning folk, courageous enough to put up the good fight against the tyranny of The Sheriff and his gang of evil-doers? Where? Why, the American voters, naturally! There are millions of them out there, and if even half of them join Robin Hood’s band, they’ll easily be enough to defeat the bad guys and retake the castle!

All right! I’m loving this, so far. But there are still so many casting questions
to be answered, and they’re not all easy to answer. First, who should play
Robin Hood? Oh, that could be a toughie. We all come from a place of
subjectivity on that one, and rightly so, for we each have a concept of how
bad it is in the first place, and assuming that it needs fixing, how much to fix, how far to go? Being as subjective on that issue as the next person, i have thoughts on that, thoughts which I will now share with you.

In trying to find the exact right Robin Hood, I had to first look into what I
consider to be the problem, knowing the problem would at least give me
a hint as to who to send to fix it. From my perspective, the problem in
Nottingham boils down to a large number of white, wealthy male politicians who are aware their power is being threatened by, gasp! minorities who now legally live in “their” country. This faction, in their not-so-quiet desperation to hold onto their perceived higher ground, have somehow resorted to trying to turn Nottingham into its own country, with the Sheriff as supreme ruler of all. Here we must define supreme ruler as a dictator, because that’s the truth of it, and if we’re going to fight for truth, then by god we’d best start with the truth.

So, to finally get to the point, exactly what is it that is so threatening to the
Sheriff and his cronies? Well, there are many, but we’ve got to pick a few,
just to keep it simple, and doable. So let’s see… people of color, for one.
Women, of course. Non-Christians also, it would seem. Anyone with a
different sexual orientation from their own. In that light, Mayor Pete would
be almost perfect, but he’s white, and he’s a guy. What I think we need for
our Robin Hood is, yes… a woman of color! Perfect! That would certainly
throw Nottingham into a hysteria it probably wouldn’t recover from. And
that hysteria would most likely manifest itself in some of the most radical
and outrageous actions this country has ever seen! Peasants’ villages would
be raided and burned, all residents of Nottingham who did not bow and
scrape to the Sheriff would be summarily punished, hanged and/or kicked out of Nottingham. All notifications and communications to the countryside folk would have to first be approved by the Sheriff, who would certainly edit or discard any thought that did not parallel his own. The Sheriff’s henchmen would lie and cheat to discredit all those who would stand agains him. Actually, we’re already seeing many signs of that… could it be that things in the fair castle of Nottingham are about to get even worse??

If so, then we need to pick our Robin Hood, and we need to pick now! I have
chosen a person who is a natural leader of good people, who has the
experience and wisdom our Robin Hood will need to fight the forces of evil.
And best of all, my person will certainly send the Sheriff and his bandits
screaming up the hall in disbelief and panic! Perfect! My selection for our
Robin Hood, then, is Kamala Harris!

But why Kamala?” you might ask. Easy. For starters, she’s a woman of
color, and that covers two important bases if we want a Robin Hood who
can panic the Nottingham forces into even more stupid and untimely mistakes that will hasten their demise. If she is a Christian, she’s a passive one, which will surely drive Pence (oops, I mean Sir Guy Of Gisborne) slowly mad. Actually, Mitch McConnell would be a better Sir Guy. We need to find a boot licker/ass kisser in Nottingham that would fit Pence perfectly!
Anyway, Kamala is strong and smart, as our Robin needs to be. She is a fighter, a straight shooter, who has an unwavering belief in our Constitution and how it’s being undermined with lies and twisting of ideals which stood for centuries, but are now under severe attack. She understands what has to happen for Sherwood Forest to do what is necessary to finally defeat the wicked powers of Nottingham, and in so doing return the realm to the peace and tranquility it so desperately needs now.

And there are other roles to be decided, of course. Who shall play Friar Tuck? Who shall be Will Scarlett? And Lord Locksley? And Little John? And do we even need a King Richard? Ah, probably not, given that he came back from the wars only when Nottingham was already restored to the democracy it had previously enjoyed. And the role of Maid Marian is now something of a thorn in the casting department’s side. Bill Barr would be an excellent Lord Locksley, and I would love to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez play Will Scarlett, if only to further scatter the powers of Nottingham into uncontrollable fear and panic… not that they need much help in that area these days.

Anyway there it is, my new version of Robin Hood. I would guess that many
of you will find fault with my ideas of how to approach these next several
years, and of course you’re welcome to do so. That is, unless Roe V Wade
is overturned, Fox News becomes the only communication we’re allowed,
and our freedom of speech is removed as a right of the good folk of
Sherwood Forest. And lest you forget, arms will no longer be allowed for
any save the Sheriff’s closest subjects. Barring all that, however, Robin and
his band of Merry Men (the voting American Public) should persevere as
they did in the original story… and I think that would make for a hard-fought, but truly happy ending!

Steve Hulse

{ 3 comments }

Lightly Touching Greatness IV

by SteveHulse on June 9, 2019 · 1 comment

We had flown up to Boulder, Colorado, to record some backing vocals at
North Star Studio in Boulder. James was wanting to spread his production
money around as much as possible, so he’d have studio “friends” when he
later went on his own. Those sessions were okay, nothing big, and I spent
the afternoons at several of Boulder’s finest watering holes, as James
always produced the vocal sessions, and I wasn’t needed. Back in L. A.,
James had booked Conway Studios for our horn section overdubs for the
Masqueraders’ album. He had told me we were getting the Tower Of Power
horn section, but on the way to the studio he informed me that the Tower
boys had canceled on us. He assured me that we still had some of the best
brass players in L.A. on the session, and he was right, we did… but the
section leader of that session turned out to be my undoing, and the end of
the line with James.

The horn overdubs on the first tune went fine, sounded great. But the second, tune… the lead part was high, and staccato, and the lead trumpet player, who was also the section leader, couldn’t quite nail it. After a half dozen runs at it, James called for a break, and told me he was going to have a chat with the section leader.

I had purchased a Tower Of Power album, which I still love, by the way, and
studied their horn sound… their ranges, highest notes, etc., and felt confident that I’d written these arrangements right in their wheelhouse. We’ll never know if I was right or wrong, because this particular section wasn’t cutting it. I walked out into the studio and sat down next to the second chair player. “I’m not sure what just happened,” I said quietly. “I studied these ranges, they’re supposed to be okay…”
“They are okay,” the second chair replied. “This chart is fine.”
“But the high notes aren’t happening,” I complained. “Did I write them too high?”
“Nope,” the second chair said, picking up his horn. “I can play them.” He
grabbed the first trumpet part off the leader’s stand and put it in front of him. He played the part, beginning to end, without a flaw, and nailed the high note section the leader had been struggling with. “God, that’s great! Why didn’t you play this part instead??”
“I’m not the leader, man.”

James and the rest of the section came back into the studio. “James,” I started, “this guy can play the part just fine…”
“That’s okay, Stevie. We’re not going to record this right now. We’re moving
on to the next piece.”
“but you need to hear this guy…”
“No. We’ve decided not to do it.” And that was that.

“Desire” by The Masqueraders

This is the song that the lead trumpet coudn’t play. There are still plenty of horns on the track, but the high part in the middle (which I was very proud of) is gone. Instead you’ll hear an electric guitar lead.

James never explained what had happened in that break room. He began
distancing himself from me from that day on, and even when we went back
up to Caribou Ranch to finish up the Masqueraders with backup vocals and
synth overdubs, things were never the same, not even when I came up with
a whole bridge of synth for one of their problem songs, “Starry Love,” turning the piece into a beautiful love song. Saving that song delighted the band, but it didn’t change James’ new opinion of me.

We finished up in L.A. in the late summer of ’79. At that point we knew quite a few studio owners, engineers and musicians on a first name basis. On off- nights I would drive over to the Baked Potato, which was located right in the notch between Hollywood and Burbank. A great jazz club, it featured the best jazzers in town on a nightly basis, and it felt like my second home. On one off-night we drove down to Huntington Beach and heard Russell Ferrante sit in with a (then) new jazz guitarist named Robben Ford, who absolutely burned all evening. Little did we know that night that both would become famous jazzers before long! We met up with some of the studio musicians (including Richie Zito) and background vocalists, pushed several tables together and had a fantastic evening of excellent music and fun. The band played to our tables, which made it even better!

Finally back in Atlanta, James and Ed Seay began the final mixes of Nigel
and The Masqueraders. James was getting bills and writing checks to all
the studios and musicians we had worked with, and was surprised when
he began getting phone calls from those people, saying their Bang Records
checks had all bounced! Ilene Burns, the owner of Bang, and her daughter
were at their New York apartment, not answering the phone, so James finally got hold of Bang’s CPA. “Oh, didn’t Ilene tell you? That money’s gone.
She spent that budget money!”
James was livid. “How could she do that?” he yelled into the phone. “She
knew I was depending on that budget! What the hell did she do with it?”
“She bought a used Rolls Royce.”

And right there was the end of Jimmy James Stroud’s love affair with the
Atlanta music community. I don’t know what happened, if any or all of those bills finally got paid. One can assume that CBS Records, who owned Bang, covered those debts at some point. I do know that Ed Seay and James
finished all the mixes. Nigel’s album was released, but did nothing. The
Masqueraders’ album was released with no promotion or news releases,
so naturally it went nowhere as well. On the other hand, Fred Knobloch’s
single release, “Why Not Me?” reached number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100
singles chart, number 30 on the country chart and spent two weeks at number one on the Adult Contemporary chart.

This is Fred’s song, “Why Not Me?”

Later that year the Scotti’s released that duet we cut with Fred and Susan Anton, “Killin’ Time.” It hit number 26 on the Hot 100 and went top ten on the country chart. I was having lunch in a local pub in Atlanta one day about six months later when “Killin’ Time” came on the overhead. It took me a moment to remember why I knew it. “Hey,” I told my friend, “I worked on that song that’s playing now!” It was always a kick to hear something I did on the radio, probably because it didn’t happen very often.

By this time a number of big music people around the country knew who
James Stroud was, and regardless of their perception of him, (he was honest
to a fault back then) his business dealings and his wacky Atlanta backer, he
was well on his way, out of Atlanta and into a most successful music career
as a player, producer and studio owner in Nashville.

The last time I saw James in Atlanta, he told me he was leaving town. He didn’t ask me to go with him, and I wouldn’t have, anyway. I was far too grounded in the Atlanta music scene. He said, “I’m leaving, Stevie. I’m going up to Nashville and start over.”
“What will you do, James?”
“Same thing I did here, only with real money!” Then, “I’ve been thinking…
I don’t see any reason why country music and rock can’t be mixed together.
I think it can work, and I’m going to go up there and give it a try!”

And he did. And he did make it work, and it worked great! And James
pretty much single-handedly started a new generation of country music that would move away from its classic formula roots and into a completely different era. He began up there as Eddie Rabbit’s drummer, then started producing his own artists. In 1989 he was named by the Academy Of Country Music as Producer Of The Year. When Warner Bros. Records founded the Giant Records branch, James became president of the new label and produced several of its acts, including Carlene Carter, Tracy Lawrence, Daryle Singletary and Clay Walker. At the same time, he produced acts not signed to the label. Between 1993 and 1994, twenty one singles produced by James reached the top of the country charts.

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Last evening I was playing some piano for B and me, as I often do around
cocktail time. I was playing “If You Leave Me Now” and B said, “Isn’t that a
Chicago song?”
“Yes, Sweetie, it is,” my voice a little tight.
She came over and put her arms around me. “Are you okay, dear?”
“Yes,” I whispered. “Just some memories, just some sweet old memories.”

Steve Hulse

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Lightly Touching Greatness III

by SteveHulse June 6, 2019

While working through the confusion the deadlines of 3 different projects I became James right-hand man. I could arrange for almost any style of music, I could travel with him and conduct the sessions, i could play synth overdubs when needed and could handle the piano on his rhythm sections, if he couldn’t find someone […]

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Lightly Touching Greatness II

by SteveHulse June 4, 2019

Bang Records, in Atlanta, was an unlikely place for James Stroud to be working. James was energetic, creative, talented and had a brilliant mind, as I would discover as I got to know him. Bang records, unlikely because it was sliding down slowly into the sewer when James hit town. Bang was one of only […]

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Lightly Touching Greatness

by SteveHulse June 2, 2019

This is a 4-part blog about the music biz, and my small part in it back in 1979. It’s for those of you who might want to know a little more of the underbelly of what used to be called “the record business.” I’ve tried to make it readable and understandable… hell, there are things […]

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The Rosewood Buddha

by SteveHulse May 25, 2019

I was having coffee one day with a friend in Atlanta. We were discussinga few concepts we’d learned at the feet of a Buddhist Monk the previousevening. The Monk’s name was (and still is) Geshe Lobsang Tenzin,Spiritual Director of Drepung Loseling, but we called him Geshe La,an endearing nickname for a beautiful person and and […]

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The Village Pump

by SteveHulse May 10, 2019

If only it could talk… I saw some pictures of the new gas station in Virginia City, MT the other day. It is beautifully done and historically mostly accurate… a great job, all in all, very well done. How could this news possibly matter to anyone outside of a resident of V.C. who is low […]

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Listening To Ourselves

by SteveHulse April 12, 2019

Ok, so I admit it. In the past, I’ve made fun of Jerry Vale. “Who the hell is Jerry Vale?” you might ask. He was a pop vocalist, Wikipedia says. Jerry Vale was an American singer and actor. During the 1950s and 1960s, he reached the top of the pop charts with his interpretations of […]

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Hanging On To The Old Ways

by SteveHulse February 4, 2019

Sentimentality has somehow become a part of my DNA, I think. It’s a curioussymbiotic process that can be easily disproved by medical science, yet hasa definite power, mostly emotional, though sometimes, I think, even physical.Physical in the sense of hearing the engine of a muscle car roar and the hairson my arm go straight up… […]

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A Christmas Memory

by SteveHulse December 20, 2018

Jean Shepherd was a writer, a radio host and a fantastic storyteller. In the ’60’s and ’70’s he hosted a radio show on WOR New York at 11 pm… I was in Boston at the time and I heard it often. He had a most engaging style, always telling tales about some of the crazy […]

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