Thursday, May 29, 2014

Crawfishing with Johnny the Rapper...

Morgan and Ali had a craw fish boil last weekend. It was kind of a house warming party for their new home. We ate and played music so it was kind of a gig in the way that when your family and friends show up to your house with instruments they play and if someone does not have an instrument you give them one. That's what we did for Johnny the rapper and his friends. 
This is 62 pounds of crawfish. They were all eaten except for the barest bowl of tails we shelled out at the end of the night. 

Morgan did the cooking. After years of training my kids throw great parties. I don't have to do anything but bring my guitar. Oh yeah there was the fact that Morgan made me weed eat the yard while he mowed the morning before the party but it's a pretty small yard and it might have been some kind of pay back for me making him do the same thing at some point in his growing up. 

"Hey man, what you going to do with that cob when you through with it?" 

This girl wants me to eat craw fish with her. 

Here is some of the folks sitting around shelling and sucking heads. As the evening wore on instruments came out. I regret I laid down my camera for a guitar as there was some interesting music that happened and I did not get a picture of the players. Sometime through the evening Johnny the rapper and two friends appeared.

Johnny saw me playing the harp with the guitar as I do and told me he had played the harp but had given that up for rapping. His friends, and I regret again I did not get their names. One told me he played like Van Halen. The other was either not a musician or a braggart. He did not tell me anything. 

Me and Johnny got into a conversation based on a mutual love of thick delay and flanged sounds. We were not able to create such as this but with Cathy on guitar, Morgan on acoustic bass, me on reso, harp and cigar box we gave Johnny the bongo cajon drum, Van Halen took the cajun washboard and not a musician played tambourine.  We suddenly had a band. 

Now I must say that Johnny and friends were drinking beer. I don't drink and don't encourage it to facilitate creativity but a person can consume a certain amount to be at such a point as they can do no wrong. Johnny got to this point with the bongo cajon. The bongo cajon is a square box drum you play like standard bongos. Only thing is that in addition to playing it in this manner Johnny turned it over to shriek, yell, moan and groan into the sound chambers. At this point in the story I must note that neither Johnny or his friends had ever played any of these instruments before and before the evening was out all had taken a worthy solo spot. 

Which I guess brings me to the point of this long rambling story.  I am sorry but sometimes I would rather play with Johnny that I would with you old boys who think you know how the song goes. Seems like sometimes a musician is a closed book. He's got his thing. He likes it and he sticks to it and might not be very adaptable when things get different. People like Johnny keep it fresh and open. 

Later on Van Halen did play some guitar. I guess he did sound like Van Halen but I don't know. I'll have to youtube some of that stuff to see. All these guys and the various onlookers did well with the traditional big ball dance as the band cooked up a spooky stone groove to "Big Balls in Cowtown." Johnny never did throw up in the bongo cajon although it seemed he might at times. I like to think that was just his passion for the moment we were in. His friends capped the evening off by assuring us that there was no way in heck they were going to let Johnny drive. 

People like Johnny teach us all. There are no barriers. Get out there, eat crawfish, jam, live. 

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Dreamed...

I dreamed last night that I was running. In the air. I was naked. Well not really naked but I did call the phone company and disconnected the land line. If you need to get us now it's on the cell which most people, my employer and even my mom use because they can get me most anytime. 

Here's my old phone. Other than the 5 gallon bucket full of portable second phones and answering machines I have owned that now reside in landfills this is the one the kids grew up using. Sorry kids about those bad grades they sent home in the early days of your schooling. You know the work sheets given a child to see if they can sequence tasks? Well they give out one for making a phone call. Only problem it was a push button phone pictured on the sheets. My kids had never seen one. They failed. I had to go talk to the teacher an all that kind of parental type stuff that did not well for the teacher in the fact that nothing was changed. I guess you can say that I finely changed.  

It had just gotten to where I received nothing but solicitations letting me know that my warranty had run out on my 9 year old car on this old phone. I kept my internet service with the local phone company and this will reduce my bill about $20 a month. That will give me an extra $240 a year to blow. I do still have some limited phone privileges. I can receive calls but I will unplug later today. I can make calls for a small fee. I can call 911 in the event cell phones are not charged or towers down or something like that which I kind of think if I don't get 911 on the cell they are not going to come anyway.  


Monday, May 26, 2014

My Wife Caught the Most Fish but That's Not All...

Well I was hoping for a nice warm day with maybe a swim. The swim would have been nice because I had to stop and change a flat on the boat trailer. No problem. Had a spare but then this blew up on the lake. 

Oh yeah the part about the fish. Lilly pads curl up and wave in the wind as Cathy schools me to the tune of 10 keepers to my 3. 

The rain comes down with a little bit of thunder. We ease up in a nice sheltered stand of cypress trees.    

Lilly pads catching rain drops. 

You can see how far we put the boat into the brush for cover from the rain. Cathy is barely visible in the front of the boat. 

Fish eagle on the nest. 

And for the big screw up. I get stuck in the yard trying to back the boat in. Cathy surveys the damage. I get the boat and truck out but lose a lantana bush. I solved all my own problems today but I am in trouble over that bush. 


The Sugarland Skeeters played the Long Island Ducks last Friday night and we got a group together to attend the game. The Skeeters lost but it was not because I saw anybody digging in a crawfish hole in the outfield or anything. Decent baseball and a heck of a lot cheaper that seeing the big boys play the Skeeters are in the independent Atlantic coast League and are the first independent team in Houston since the Houston Buffalos' last season in 1961. The Skeeters first season was in 2012. 

Here's a crew of Skeeters fans. Left to right top row John, Megan, Caitlyn, Mary, Cathy, bottom row Warren, Ali, Morgan, Rose and Coraline. 

The Skeeters had pink sleeves and there was a lot of pink in the stands because it was some kind of cancer awareness day. I did not have own pink. If I had know about it I think I would have had to buy some. I do't have any pink clothing. 
One great thing about minor league games is little fan involvement games that are played between innings. Here you see two fans linked by a bungee having some kind of race. This gives me an idea. I think I have everything to do this in the gym at work. It would be a good strengthening activity for my patients. 
After the game there were fireworks. 

Probably should have bought a Skeeters T-shirt. Have you ever done that? Go somewhere and see something you like but pass on buying it. I do it all the time. I really hate the time I passed on the bamboo saxophone in New Orleans. That would have been so much fun. I guess that kind of thing has it's roots in being only one generation removed from the cotton fields and the Great Depression.   


Friday, May 23, 2014

I Make Money Playing Music and Built a Fretted Instrument...

I did not sell any instruments at the flea market. I did have a good time hanging and playing with Pop and Danny throughout the day. I did get a tip from some one that I should present myself as a folklorist and try for some gigs at children's workshop presentations at the museum or library this summer. I guess that only makes sense. I do have the credentials as I have done my due as a scout leader, little league baseball coach, Summer Sunshine, taekwondo teacher and children's church choir. So with that suggestion it's good to know that I do not generally present myself as a dangerous rock musician and that people do want to hang around while I play and see possibilities for my music that I may not see myself. One of these days I will roll everything I have done in one complete package and present to the world. Only problem with that will be that the catfish bait will make it stink. 

We did make some money playing music. Me and Pop set up by the food truck and got this in our tip can.
Believe it or not I have made less playing music. A whole lot less. 
Thanks to Sal and Sam's food truck for letting us set up by them. There were several people who sat at tables and ate while we played. Did not even make anybody sick! 

Here's Pop in the booth holding up my business card with his photo. He's my celebrity endorser. What, you don't have one? This guy is famous because he plays my instruments and was involved in the attempt to break the Guinness Book of World records record for most guitar players jamming. He was playing banjo so if that don't get you famous I do not know what will.   
In the background is Ed. I have probably known Ed for close on 40 years. I thought he was old when I met him. Now I'm old and he looks about the same. Funny how that works. 

Anyway we are rambling around like a guy dancing in the back of a pickup in a country music network video so I'll get to the point. I built a fretted instrument. 
It's a tenor uke. String tuning is g-c-e-a.

Nut and bridge is turtle shell. 

Rose found this cigar box in a dumpster in Lake Jackson. I did not ask why she was in a dumpster. 

This looks like neck pull but I think it's more the case of the light weight screws did not have enough strength to pull the neck down without stripping the heads. 

It really plays pretty well in open chords in first position. Of course I only know about three tenor tuning chords but what the hey. I think it was Woody Guthrie who said if you play more than two chords you are just showing off.  I may never be the musician I would like to be but I am making myself very happy with three or four strings strung on something some one else threw away. 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

At the Flea Market Tomorrow...

Come check us out at the Country Barn Flea Market in Huntington tomorrow. I will be selling cigar box guitars. The Cotton Square Explosion will be busking. Should be fun starting by about 9am in the morning. Might even have a special guest playing with us. 
Here's the price list for sale tomorrow. Christmas banjos are on sale. They won't be this cheap come December. No reasonable offer refused. 

Also for you gear heads there is a guitar shop located in the building and the proprietor is named Tank. He definitely has some interesting pieces for sale including vintage mandos and fiddles. 

See you tomorrow! 


Monday, May 19, 2014

Tomorrow is Friday for Me...

Here's a little looping track to celebrate tomorrow being my Friday from work. All parts are played by me except the drums which are a simple canned track stored on the looper. The Rhythm guitar is Miguel's Bohemian gas can Guitar. The fuzz lead is the Eastwood Baritone. Amp is Fender. Effects are pictured. 
Here's the link:
You know how it is with computer stuff at least this is how it is with me. You got something that works real good and so the thing upgrades and don't work like you like it anymore. Sound Cloud has done this to me. You can't seem to turn off the streaming feature so when you click the link you not only hear the current tune but it will stream the good, the bad and the ugly of all my recording. Kind of like a radio show but not as good. Sorry. We might do something different in the future. 

In the mean time you can catch me playing live music somewhere the rest of the week. There is the LSSLC dance with the Strat Kats. I'll have a booth at the Country Barn flea market in Huntington on Thursday selling cigar box guitars most all day and will be test driving a blues project the Cotton Square Explosion with some picking and grinning in the booth. Saturday finds most of the family band Mudbelly and the Whiners (the kids used to hate it when we told them we were forming a family band, the Whiners. They said "don't want to be a whiner.") playing for a crawfish boil at Morgan's. And of course we will play at church Sunday. 

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

What's a Scotsman Keep Under His Kilt...

Why his banjo of course. Here we are with Mudbelly Primitive Stringed Instruments build #36. It's a thrift store tin with marching Scotsmen on the front. 
Sorry for the flash wash on the photo but I just finished at dark and was excited to get this posted. Banjo sounds good acoustic, very banjo like. Tunes right up to E, G#, B. Electrically it has something special going on inside.  
This is a tandem piezo disk pickup rig. I knew such things were possible and I noted recently when I saw Charlie Parr at the Standpipe his banjo had a piezo on each side of the bridge. I accidentally ordered a pack of piezos with out leads soldered to them. So since I have to do more soldering that just an extension lead and a jack I decided I might as well experiment. Charlie's banjo sounded like soft rain falling. This one, like all tin instruments I have built sounds old timey  acoustically. I haven't tried it with a big amp but with the 2 watt home built jobs it sounds like a dirty blues storm coming. 

It has the BB fret markers on the side of the neck at the I, IV and V chord. Action is a little close for slide so will be a good instrument for a delicate picker. Plays well but with the two pick up rig hard "franging" on top will b picked up by the amp. 

At one time I was really in love with the tin sound but I have sold most of them for now. With the coming of hot weather in the shop I will probably built a lot of tin and wooden boxes as you can drip sweat on them with out messing them up like a paper cigar box. I do have one order for late summer I'll build a good one out of a special box. 

This banjo will be for sale at The Huntington Country Barn next Thursday for $65. Come by and see us. I'll have a booth and be picking and grinning. 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sold a Guitar...

Sold the Holy Bible guitar, the one I call the preacher. 

I sold this with the help of Sandye at the Country Barn Flea Market in Huntington. She gave me a call after some folks who had seen me busking last weekend came in looking to buy one of the "home made guitars.' 

This was the 11th guitar I had made. It's been in my inventory for a while. I actually expected this guitar to sell instantly because for one it's a nice box with a good clear sound and of course it can serve as a symbol and a reminder of your faith. I am glad for the folks that bought it yesterday. They knew instantly it was the one for them. 

By the way, I have one for you. It will be in my booth at the Country Barn next Thursday May 22nd. I'll be showing them off by singing and playing most all day that day. Come see me.  


Friday, May 16, 2014

More Shameless Self Promotion...

Nope it's not what you think. I know this photo looks like one that local law enforcement might submit to the newspaper with a story of how I was arrested at Dollar General after shoplifting panties, fingernail polish and Chiclets.  It's the only good one I have right now and I'll use it to promote a couple of upcoming gigs. 

First up I will be reading an original poem at The Standpipe Coffeehouse Poetry Slam. It starts at 7:30 this Saturday night. I'll need some audience participation during my reading so if you have ever wanted to be taken up by a flying saucer please come down and give me a hand as this will be my first public reading for something like this and I am sure there will be some good poets there as well.  

Next up will be Thursday May 22nd at the Country Barn Flea Market in Huntington, Tx. On that day roughly 9-5 hours I will have a booth selling my cigar box guitars. Still working out the details so keep an eye out but right now it looks like cigar boxes, one stringers, a sale on Christmas Tin banjos, the electric box drums and  performances through the day by my new music project The Cotton Square Explosion. There will be a tip jar. I have a bass player to feed now. I know Thursday might not be the best day but it's all I can spare right now.   

Say in touch for more details. 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Blood on the Strat...

In 1974 Bob Dylan had come out with an album called Blood on the Tracks. I was in high school and one day I was walking a girl to the school parking lot and I quoted some song lyrics from that music that I thought were pretty deep and should be brought to the attention of everyone. Little did I know it was Bob's divorce album detailing the break up of his marriage. The girl gave a sneak preview of a scene that would be in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail which would come out the next year in 1975 and shouted, "Run Away," and did. In 1976 the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation made the Stratocaster guitar that I bought used in 1983 and still own. On that guitar I learned to play that particular song I quoted that day. I still encounter that girl at the rate of a meeting every two decades. I don't know if she recognizes me. Friday night after a jam session here at the house I got blood on the strat.
I guess I could lie and tell this long story like Lucinda Williams does in one of her songs about "real life bleeding fingers and broken guitar strings." I am sure Lucinda is not lying about her situation and while I do play a lot I usually use a slide and rarely break a string. I might occasionally break a bass guitar string but that's usually after they have been on the guitar for about 10 years and it's more of an age related decline that something I did. This blood comes from me slicing my finger while putting away the cajun washboard thing. 

You know those cajun wash board things.They are worn like a shirt you save especially to wear to Walmart. You slip it over the front but you are kind of out in the back. This one had some kind of epoxy seal covering what might become a sharp edge and the epoxy had become a sharp edge and sliced my finger. As I streamed blood I continued putting up the rest of the gear used in the jam session and got it on my guitar.

I noticed the blood stain two days later when I took my guitar out for a bit of general maintenance that a 38 year old guitar requires. I am going to leave it there. Hopefully the possibility of body fluid exposure will make others keep their hands Off of it. Not like anyone is going to pick up a banjo, guitar or mando around here and play it anyway because they are all in some tuning that is particular to the Mudbelly thing I do.There was the incident once where a guy picked this guitar up and instead of playing it he demonstrated a move he claimed to have seen Bruce Springsteen perform and rammed the headstock into a low ceiling. Kind of like the girl he had to run away after that.    

Blood is drawn. There will be more. Run away or I'll get it on you. 


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Monday, May 12, 2014

Babylon Breakers...

The Standpipe Coffee House went international this past weekend (again) with a punk rock band from Japan, You can call it punk or what ever it was just plain old rock to me that the Babylon Breakers played. I got a couple of cell phone photos and I am sorry to say I did not take a photo of local favorites Social Bliss who also played. That's ok, I was dancing and I think I have had their photo here before. 

I liked the Babylon Breakers as a choice for a name. In the apocalyptic portions of the Bible Babylon is often referred to and is thought to mean the Old Roman Empire. Singers of reggae music, who are often Coptic Christians speak of Babylon. I think those reggae singers were talking about the bad things in American culture as Babylon. Glad the Breakers got here to do something about that.    
Speaking of breaking Babylon I think the crowd at the Standpipe was up to the task that night. In addition to the Asians in the band I spotted white people, black people, brown people, a person using an assertive device, orange hair, young, old, male, female, hippies and so on. That's how you break Babylon folks. If you are hanging with only people who look like you you might not be getting the big picture. You might have been at home thinking you were getting the big picture by watching your TV and having some man tell you how white your shirts can be between proclamations of how bad things are but I think you might better think again about that. 

The gear hound that I am I can write about good old loud music with out mentioning the gear used by the band. Now I like my flange and delay and I got some gadgets. I have also written occasionally here how if I stand at the counter in the local music store three out of five people will buy some piece of gear I have no idea what it is.  The Breakers had a pretty simple set up. Fender guitars of a design born in the 50s. Tube amps by the Peavey Musical Instrument Company which are made in Meridian, Mississippi and based on 1940s circuits. Always be aware of the guy that shows up at your jam with a Peavey. Peavey gear does not always get the respect more hallowed brands do but I guarantee the guy that owns it will ring more out of it that some one else with something all new and shiny. That is exactly what this guy did. 

I guess this turned into another subversive blog post. Why do I wake up feeling this way? Don't trust a home with out a guitar. If your friends all look like you you might be in down town Babylon. 

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day...

Happy Mother's Day to my mom and and all moms!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

I Just Love a Culture Change...

I remember when I had jobs where you could not use the phone. Now most of that has changed with the coming of social media. Heck now a days when you get aressted young officers will let you make a selifie with the patrol car.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Happy Long Distance Birthday Cathy...

Cathy is down in Lake Jackson giving Rose a hand so here's a Happy Birthday and an I love you! Here's what they call a throw back photo of Cathy at about age 16. 

Other than the fact that I came along she has not even changed


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Went Fishing By Myself...

Cathy is down in Lake Jackson lending a hand to Rose so when I got off work today I headed to the lake. Some that are on facebook may have seen the immediate gratification photos. Here is what I ended up with after two hours of fishing. There's 15 nice fat cats in the tub. 
Not counting what I ate there's 6 pounds of filleted meat that went to the freezer. Seems like the last couple of trips they are biting "short." Does not seem like they take the hook well. I lost several after what seemed to be a good bite. Had a handful of throwbacks.  

Also had this one oddity. It's a black channel catfish We catch a lot that are light, some blueish and many of what Cathy Calls a willow cat but I think this is the first black one. Must be a rare bird because I bet we catch several hundred cats a year and this is the first I recall. I threw him back. I wanted to keep those weird genes in the pool.  . 

Photos don't really do it justice. 

For my Wallace cousins who were quick to hit like on the facebook photos I am fishing right around in the area our dads, uncles and grandfathers always fished. The old tall tree that my dad and his brother Leonard always baited up still stands. There are only a few trees still standing to mark the deep river bend Uncle Don liked but you can still find a place to tie up. Just behind me down the bank is the place where Uncle Sammy told me there was once a spring that the lake has covered. Good fishing places. They taught me. I have refined things a bit but with out the knowlege of where to start I might be one of those running around looking for the next greatest place to fish. 
On a recent trip with Warren and Coraline. I took Warren to the truck to back the trailer down while Cathy and Coraline ran the boat on. Coraline said, "This is what the girls do." She's right. I bet I have not run this boat on the trailer 10 times in the 10 years we have owned it. Cathy usually does it. I can still do it. I surprised myself today, running it on at the first pass with 20 MPH winds. 

Here's some man cooking. Grilled catfish with black bean and corn skillet casserole. It's all seasoned with handfuls of course ground black pepper. 

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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Loves It...

A singing duo I met through my daughter Katie played the Standpipe in Lufkin this week.Here's a photo of Jenny and Vaughn who call themselves Loves It.

 I first met them and saw them play in Chicago. I think there's a blog post about that if you use the search function.  After that gig we got to ride back through Chicago past the crowded clubs around Wrigley Field in a camper van full of us, guitars and the dog Boxie. This trip I did not get to ride in the van but they followed me to my house where I put them up for a night before they headed down for a show in New Orleans.

 We spent a bit of time. looking at my cigar boxes and visiting before we had to hit the sack because of a busy work day for me and a long drive for them. Nice to have some funky musicians in the house to appreciate the CBGs. There's a few musicians I know who give barely a passing glance to the boxes and act a bit like old Mudbelly he's not too serious bout this music stuff. As Todd Snider says, "well either I am or I am not."
Here's a clip of Loves it. 
Speaking of the cigar box guitars Jenny and Vaughn will play a gig soon in Florida with this group, Hym for Her who make wicked use of cigar boxes. I happen to have on of their cds. Here's a video of Hym for Her.

Now you might think it's pretty wild having a band stay at your house but they were perfectly nice. Boxie did not bark. They made the bed and only asked important questions like who would you use for transmission work and which way to New Orleans.  

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"...I know I've seen that face before," Big Jim was thinking to himself "Maybe down in Mexico or a picture up on somebody's shelf..."Bob Dylan from "Lilly Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
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