You Just Never Know

by SteveHulse on August 12, 2019 · 1 comment

Life Is That Strange

It was a cold winter’s evening in a small town in the Rockies. The year was
1959, and television was still fairly new to this small community. But in a tiny,
two-room apartment in the back of Hickey’s Motel in Ennis, Montana, a 15
year-old boy was sitting on the floor in front of his family’s new TV set, oblivious
to the cold and the howling wind just outside the door. The show he was ready
to see was not a western… was not one of the popular new evening shows like
Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke… no, the show
he was settling in to see was his favorite, the best show on TV… Peter Gunn!

He loved Peter Gunn, everything about it. Pete was cool and tough; his girlfriend,
Edie, was beautiful and a good singer, It was the big city guy, knowing his town,
always getting the criminals… but what it was, what it really really was,
was the music! It was all jazz!

Henry Mancini

Yes, the boy loved jazz, and the Peter Gunn show was his only access to it back
then. He noticed that a guy named Henry Mancini composed the music, and
began looking for Henry Mancini music in the Butte record stores. The following
Spring he found one, a new Peter Gunn album. He brought it back to the
apartment and played it to death for the next few months, memorizing every
song, every solo. Little did he know that he’d meet Henry Mancini and play
piano for him in a 5-concert tour 17 years later!

Pete                Edie

Yes, life can be that strange, even stranger sometimes. And yes, I was the
boy who loved jazz. These memories came rushing back to me in a flash
a few nights ago. I had found a Peter Gunn episode on some remote channel
and had to watch it, for old time’s sake. Well, it was an eye-opener, for several
reasons. Pete was still cool, his girlfriend, Edie, was still beautiful, and the
music hadn’t aged a day! There were some elements, however, I had not
noticed back then. For one thing, in virtually every episode, Pete got hit over
the head with a variety of things, always knocking him out while the perpetrator
of some dastardly deed escaped. Well, he actually got shot a few times, always
minor wounds… hell, even Edie was held hostage and got shot once. Now I
admit I might have entertained the thought of holding Edie hostage for a bit.
But shooting her?? Oh god, never! Ridiculous concept…

The show had a strong, repetitive formula… a murder of some sort takes place
in the beginning, Pete is at Mother’s jazz club kissing on Edie in the back room,
he gets a call, goes somewhere and gets hit over the head, then commercial
break. After the break, he runs into Lieutenant Jacoby, who tells him to “stay
out of this one, Pete.” – which Pete doesn’t, of course. Pete then meets up with
a bizarre variety of contacts to get the info he needs to find the guilty party. He
finds them, they fight, Pete wins, justice is done and Pete ends up back at
Mother’s, coolly asking Edie’s forgiveness for having to run out on that last
kiss. One wouldn’t think you could tell the same story for 3 seasons, with the
same result and still keep it interesting. But that’s what happened.

I noticed several interesting details in the show that didn’t hit me back then.
For one thing, Pete drove a ’59 Plymouth convertible, which today looks
fairly stupid. The car was long, two-toned paint job, with these huge fins in
the back. Eh, not cool, Pete. But those were the times back then, and those
were the cool cars, I guess. And another thing… every time Pete’s jacket
came open, the end of his tie was tucked into his pants! Would my favorite
hero tuck his tie into his pants?? Well, yes, he would and he did. Perhaps
that was okay back then as well. Quite frankly I don’t remember, not wearing
many ties in high school. But it sure looked dumb when I saw it the other
night.

And there were some elements that stood out, albeit the show is 50 years old now. For one thing, over half the men in the show still wore fedoras. The commercial airplanes still had props. Every vehicle in the show was a Plymouth or Chrysler, and there were no day scenes… all the action took place at night, and all the scenes were dark. Several of the apartment scenes (all dark, of course) had the light reflection of a blinking neon light outside… probably an indicator that Pete was snooping around in a sleazy neighborhood…

As I said earlier, however, the music hadn’t aged a day. Good jazz is like a
good wine. Turns out the ’50’s through the ’70’s were pretty much the golden
age of jazz anyway. The Peter Gunn theme won two grammys and was
nominated for an Emmy. Needless to say, the Peter Gunn music shot Henry
Mancini’s career sky high, and it wasn’t long before he was scoring for
movies such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Days Of Wine And Roses, The
Pink Panther and over twenty others. Mancini had an incredible career,
traveling around the country in his later years, playing and conducting
concerts featuring his own movie hits. I was lucky enough to play a small
part of one of them.

When he was conducting the larger, more energetic pieces, I would play
the piano part. When he did Moon River, for instance, I would sit off to
the side while Henry slid in and played the piano part. Occasionally he
would wink at me and smile… I was always thrilled, simply to be in his
presence. And being able to hear much of his music that I had loved so
much as a kid, and to hear it played live, by big orchestras, and to actually
play on a few of them…? I was in total heaven, the whole time!

And that’s why I write some of this stuff down. These memories are so
precious to me, and occasionally I think of them and find it hard to believe
that they actually happened. But life is truly that strange, and they did
really happen. The fabulous music of Henry Mancini lit a fire in one boy’s
musical heart on a cold winter’s night in Montana, coming full circle 17 years
later… with a smile and a wink.

Steve Hulse

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The Sound And The Fury

by SteveHulse on August 7, 2019 · 0 comments

Back out on the North Sound on my trusty Aimless. It’s quiet, peaceful, as if
everything else in the rest of this mad, mad world isn’t really happening. Blue
sky, puffy white clouds, very slight breeze, water a deep blue with barely a riffle.
The Olympic Mountains and Peninsula behind me, the beautiful Cascades
and Mount Baker in front of me… why in the hell don’t I do this more often?

My little raft seems to be almost smiling out here in the sunshine. I can’t hear
the water against the side of the raft, but I can smell it, sweet, mixed in with
the occasional scent of pine and spruce from the shore line, and the seagulls
crying overhead! As often as I see all this in one form or another, still the
natural beauty of this place can overwhelm me. Like right now… the sights,
the smells, the sounds, absolute magic!

I could fish, but I have enough food for a few days, and there are a lot of
fishermen over on the west coast already… I’m told the fishing has been
great this season. Right now I’m in harmony with all nature. I don’t need it
to sustain me, I just need it to remind me how beautiful the world can be
when we don’t screw it up.

It’s so simple, it should be so simple… to just stop, look around at the world
as I see it right now, and say to ourselves, “Look at all this. This is what
sustains us. All we have to does take care of it, nurture it, not strip it and
rob it of what it does naturally, of what it does best. Are we so stupid that…
no, let’s not even go there.

I’m out here because I cannot stand to see where our country is headed
right now. I was on the edge of a meltdown when B told me to go for a
sail, clear the air and the head. Clearing my heart would be more like it.
My heart is so heavy with a sadness and hopelessness… not only for our
government, but for our people, our culture, how we’re falling apart at
the very seams. Honesty, integrity, inclusivity, all have been thrown under
the bus by our “democracy,” and by our inability to find a way to right this
sinking ship. Our whole country is slipping into the mire, and we can’t seem
to find the backbone we used to be famous for.

Which is why I’m out here right now. The peace, the tranquility, the harmony
that nature embodies… the balance that it possesses when we’re not there
to mess it up. Even nature’s storms are nourishing and revitalizing… it all
works – without us.

I’m getting old, and I’m getting tired. When I first went to college, students
had to take the class, History of Western Civilization, only when they couldn’t
get into the classes they really wanted. Reading and learning about the history
of civilization, as I have started to do recently, only helps to sink my attitude
deeper into the mire. Through centuries we haven’t really changed, appears
we can’t change, but only roller coaster our way through time and space. Our
history becomes an evidence of a civilization containing signs of brilliance
and prosperity, but instead falls victim, over and over and over again, to the
tenets of hate, greed, power and religious self-righteousness. It appears we
will never find harmony among ourselves in any form except in small
numbers of us to understand, and help each other survive. There appears to
be a tipping point, in which a group becomes a mob, in which the mob
becomes a murderous band of sheep, and every time, it seems, a charismatic,
power-mongering asshole rises up from the muck to direct them, to lead them.
And they follow. Oh god, how they follow…

Last summer I was out here for the same reason, but not even imagining
how much worse it has gotten within the last year. I remember being depressed
then… now I’m devastated. As beautiful, as tranquil as it is out here on the
Sound right now, it seems to only magnify the difference between here and
the madness on the mainland. B and I live on an island, nearly as far away from
the festering center of our politics as one can get… yet suddenly it isn’t far
enough. Though I can’t hear the screams of the shooting victims out here, I
feel them, I hurt for them, and I weep for our country’s horrendous demise.
Past civilizations have experienced mass madness before, but we haven’t,
and this has become a nightmare I doubt any of us realized could possibly
manifest. But history tells us we should have seen it coming, that this is what
we do in large numbers, this is our legacy, warped and inhumane as it is.

I might as well set the sail and paddle on in. The Sound is not working for
me this time. Rather it’s simply reminding me of the incredible difference
between its calm balance of logic and reason as opposed to the raging seas
of hate, oppression and destruction we find mankind thrashing around in.
I actually slipped into the water for a few minutes and swam around the raft,
hoping I could pull myself out, cold and breathless, with a new perspective,
a little hope for our future… well, I got out cold and breathless all right, feeling
very alive and grateful for where I am, and for who I am.

We live in such an incredible world. I crawled back onto the Aimless, heart
pounding, senses alive, to towel off, warm up and take stock. I’m fine, and
nature, out here, feels like it’s hanging on. Our Orcas are dying from lack of
salmon, our salmon can’t get to their spawning grounds because we’ve
restricted their waterways… our forests are burning up. We’ve lost control,
and now that I think of it, that might, ultimately, be a good thing. As I slip into
my fleece and prepare to run the sail up, I know that an invigorating swim in
Puget Sound cannot change my perception of our culture. And that perception
sees our country as fighting for its white power, perhaps for the last time,
with every element of fear, hatred and divisiveness they can muster to hold on
to their power. I know, intuitively, that it won’t work. Our country has become
a multi-racial wonderland of possibility, and even some of us white folk see it,
accept it, embrace it. The United States Of America is no longer a white nation…
it has become, and will remain and grow into, a beautiful multi-racial country
that will once again lead the world in nature conservation, humanitarian
concerns and economic and social change to the benefit of all. B and I won’t
be here to see it, but it will appear to be a magical rebirth of a stagnant and
sick democracy that had to be jump-started by a multi-racial youth movement
that enough Americans got behind to bring its country back to prominence.
But… as I raise my modest sail and head the Aimless toward the eastern
shore, we haven’t hit rock bottom yet, though it certainly feels like it. I sense
we’ll hit it in 2020, right before the elections… rock bottom, and it won’t
be pretty. I just hope B and I are Villa Buonosera in Tuscany when it happens.

Steve Hulse

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A Sweet Slice Of Life

by SteveHulse August 1, 2019

  Doppler So many strange and wonderful things happened to me in my 35-year career, that I have to pick and choose carefully, with thought as to what would interest other people, what could I share that might give them a new insight on the music biz, or the career of a composer, or jazz […]

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There Is No Write Or Wrong

by SteveHulse July 25, 2019

I attended one writing class in my life. And the main theme of the class, that evening was, of course, “Write what you know.” Excellent advise for a beginning writer, or for any writer, for that matter. There was other scattered info that night, such as finding our “voice,” which person to write in, how […]

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From An Oldster To A Youngster: A Rant

by SteveHulse July 6, 2019

Over the span of our lifetime, our perception of life changes… about many things. How we view our fellow man is often dictated by our preferences and prejudices, ideas we have that were formed by our family, our teachers and our culture. Each generation of youngsters finds new and different hair styles, clothing and language […]

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Politics: A New Solution

by SteveHulse June 12, 2019

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…                                         —————————————— I’ve been trying for […]

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Lightly Touching Greatness IV

by SteveHulse June 9, 2019

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 […]

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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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