Thursday, August 28, 2014

I thought They Said Bring Your Gar...

But they really said bring your guitar. The Back Porch Band plays Shirley Creek Marina and Campground Saturday August 30th 6pm-10pm. Bring a lawn chair and a cool drink. Attire is swim suit and cowboy boots. This is a return engagement for the band. First gig was July 4th weekend and although I was unable to make the show they got a sub and did very well. This weekend our drummer can't make it so Mary will return on drums for this show. 

I am lucky to be playing with several pretty good drummers right now but it is great to be teamed as a rhythm  section with my daughter again. As they say about drummers in the music business if you need some one to swing a sack of you know what, call Mary. 

Rain is predicted so maybe we might have our own little Woodstock festival. We won't perform a psychedelic version of the Start Spangled Banner but if it's your birthday we will play Happy Birthday in 3/4 time. It's only right that some one get to waltz on their birthday.   

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Miguel...

We have shared so much. Hope the birthday is good for you too. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

$10 and a Junk Store...

Ten bucks and some kind of junk/thrift/resale/antique store and I'll have good fun and turn up some records you need. I found these walking the streets of downtown Lufkin at one of the antique consignment shops. 
Left to right my finds began with the Mexican Joe release "Living Marimbas." It's from the late 1960s and I suspect that Mexican Joe was trying to coattail on some Tijuana Brass success. The music while not remarkable is not unpleasant and certainly worth collecting if for the album cover only. It's hard to find out much about this guy. Just try searching the internet for the topic "Mexican Joe." He does seem to have made Nick Difozio's Book, "Worst Album Covers Ever."  Alas I gave this as a gift to my son in law Miguel and only kept a digital copy from my USB turntable for myself. Don't worry. This gem is in capable hands. I might have over paid by 99 cents for this item. 

Next up is "20 Golden Moments of Hawaiin Music" by Lani Kai and his Hawaiians.  Looks like this album ebays for $10. I got a deal. Lani played guitar, bass, drums and played congas in Lionel Hampton's Las Vegas Band.  Plenty of good steel guitar and it's only a short step to country music from here. The only difference is which lap steel guitar strings you hit if using a C6th tuning. Hit this one you got the islands. Hit another one and you can be sure Hank done it thataway.  

Last album is by the great bandleader Woody Herman and his forth Herd. Woody always called his bands the "Herd."  Seems like this release which is from 1960-61 is often combined with a Herman combo called The New World and sells on Amazon for $15-$25 depending on new/used or collectible. Actually I jammed with Woody one time. It was 1972. At the halftime of a University of Houston football game a half a dozen or so high school bands of which I was in one took the field in a mass, Woody and the Herd were on an elevated stage and we all made a heck of a racket on one of his famous tunes "Woodchoppers Ball." I got this patch for my participation. I wish I had a bit of a better story about jamming with Woody but I was like sleepy or something and so the patch this is about all I have.  
Also in 1972 Woody was the half time entertainment at Super Bowl VII between the Dolphins and Redskins. 

Here's a late 60s clip. Looks like from the band uniforms Woody tried to keep it hip. 

Scavenging records like these which are not really in collectible condition but are in good playing condition is good cheap fun. It keeps me on the streets. 

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bob McKnight and his Ranch Boys...

While looking through my collection old family photos courtesy of cousin Mary Lou and her husband Mike I find something else interesting. I don't know how it connects to the Wiley/Ledbetter clan but I think there is something to be found here if we use our imaginations to go back to a time of old radio, the river and the instruments and people of another time. 

Best date I can find of this promo postcard is 1940. It's Bob Mcknight and his Ranch Boys. The internet tells us that info about this group is "sketchy at best." We can pretty much be sure they were active and played on an on air radio show over WSM in Memphis Tennessee in the late 30s to mid 40s. The WSM "barn dance" is what evolved into the Grand Old Opery. WSM is one of only three Clear Channel stations to still broadcast music. The rest are a combination of news and talk radio. 
Bob McKnight was a blind county singer. He later on went on to found the first rehab services for the blind in the state of Tennessee which was located in Memphis. The band as best I can discover was Freddie Boy Burns, Jimmie Smith who play sax, violin (he had a case for it) and other instruments, Ray Martin on accordion and other instruments, Slim Sullie and Herman Horsehair Bugfuzz AKA Ivy Peterson.  

Looking up these various band members finds Freddie Boy living in a nursing home and still pulling out his guitar at 98 years old in the year 2012 which is the latest news I can find about him. He says his show business career has not been an overnight sensation like Elvis but a gradual progression. I want to be Freddie Boy when I grow up. Here's a clip:
I could not find any music clips of Bob McKnight on youtube. 
The only other band member I can find anything about is Horse Hair Bugfuzz. He was apparently the clown or the funny sidekick on the radio show. He went on to the Louisiana Hayride and the Georgia Barn Dance Program.  He performed in costume, wig and fake teeth. I zoomed this photo up to get a better look and it seems he has his hand on another guy's pistol. Many of you know I play in a cowboy band but my wife tells me we are not supposed to handle each others pistols. 
I like checking out the old instruments in these photos. If you have studied your guitar history many stringed instruments were made in Chicago and sold through mail order. I can imagine these instruments on barges being shipped down the rivers of the American Heartland to the southern hillbillies so blues, country, folk and more could all birthed into what today we call popular music.  We still get our instruments shipped to us by water except they now come from the far east. They are good quality but lack the mojo magic a ride down the Mississippi brings. 

I guess the reason these photos ended up in the collection of my relatives is that someone thought that Bob McKnight and his Ranch Boys were gone cool crazy cats and could not get enough of this stuff. See them crowded around the radio, just one radio with old glowing tubes to listen and not a room full of passed around ipads broadcasting latest favorite  twerks. 

One last photo from the collection. I don't know who this is. He's got a nice hat. I bet he's a singer. Probably the pretty boy standing out in front of the Bugfuzzes of the world.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Osprey Nest...

While at the lake we took the kids by to see this osprey nest that was located not to high off the water making it easy viewing. There are several nests in this area. If you consider a pair of birds per nest plus chicks and the fact that fish make up 99% of an osprey's diet you can bet there is some good fishing right around these parts. 

When I was a kid my dad would tie up and fish every stump that had some green growing out of it like this nest stump does. Not too many stumps on the lake are fertile enough to grow green anymore. 

Cathy spotted and zoomed up a a catfish skull that was dropped and hung in the sticks that make up the base of the nest.  

A little check on the internet says that ospreys eat fish 9 to 13 inches in length. That's about the size of this cat that Warren has on display. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Answer all Kind of Questions...

You know the kind of questions you get from your granddaughter when out fishing. "What kind of fish, how deep, can we swim now, how many movements in the Brandenburg Concertos," and so on. 
Wait a minute there was one more. "Pop-Pop is my back going to be as hairy as yours?" 

I do better with questions like this. "How fast do I reel?" 

"How hard do I set the hook?" 

You do not set it so hard that you fall out of the boat. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More Wiley Family Tree...

Last blog post where I left off my ancestor story I posted a photo of my grand parents Caleb and Pinky with son Clay. Clay Wiley passed away of spinal meningitis. He left behind a wife Vina and two children Rena and Raymond. As always I welcome any info from the family they may have but this is their story as best as I have pieced it together. 

Here is my mother's niece Rena. She was a few months older than my mom and they were often taken for  sisters. The 1930 census has the family (Clay had passed by this time) in Golden Lake Township near Wilson Arkansas. Rena is 6 and brother Raymond is 8. Parents Clay and Vina are listed as 26. The 1940 census lists Vina as widowed and living in Civil District 5 Tipton, Tn.  
With the war soon underway many women went to work. Rena  pitched into the war effort and went to work in the Chickasaw Ordinance Works at Millington, Tn. It was there she was killed in an explosion in the powder room. She was apparently the only employee killed. A date is unknown to me. 

A little internet research tells that this plant opened in 1941 making smokeless powder for small arms, artillery and TNT. The info I discovered said that by 1944 8000 women worked there and the plant was awarded for 2 million and later 3.6 million man hours without a major injury. It once operated day and night for 871 days round the clock. I guess it's pretty easy to rack up the hours with a large workforce and those kind of hours. Easy to miss one fatality. The plant was shuttered in 1946 after it was deemed too dangerous to operate anymore. The smoke stacks still stand and images of them are quite plentiful on the internet.The area is classified as a toxic waste site. 

The only mention I found on the internet about Rena's death came from a paranormal site researching reports of activity in the plant area. You can read their site by clicking HERE

Rena's brother Raymond joined the navy. I don't know what year but my mother recalls his death from a brain tumor. Other family members recall a fall from a mast on a ship and the death coming some time after this. Here's Raymond.
Another Raymond photo.
I think this is Raymond's dad Clay also in a Navy uniform. 

These are Raymond's children Jeannette, Dannie and Claudia. No info on them. If I have a photo of Raymond's wife I don't know which one it is. There are about 3000 photos I am taking these from so it's a bit of a job sifting through.  

Clay's wife Vina, the mother of Rena and Raymond. No info on her whereabouts or the date of this photo. 

I invite all relatives to add to these stories with anything they have. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

An Anniversary...

I bought and moved into our house 31 years ago today. There's been a lot of things happen in those 31 years. To me and to the house and as time passed on to me, my wife, family and house. Not long after I had bought the house I was living there and still single a guy. A fellow stopped by with a photo of my house taken from the air. He wanted to sell me a painting done from the photo and he did. I liked the painting and still do but I guess Google Earth has made this kind of thing obsolete. 
There is a bit of camera flash but you get the idea. I don't remember exactly what year this was but I can offhand without going outside think of at least 15 trees, various shrubs and one outbuilding that have been added to the property. The front porch has been closed in.  That's a 1984 Oldsmobile Delta 88 parked in the garage. I don't own it anymore but sometimes wish I did. 

Now back to all those things that have changed. One of them was getting married which has been a good thing but for some reason my wife was never taken with the painting of the house. It now hangs behind the door in my bedroom out of sight. So if you come over and say "let's go somewhere," and I say "ok let me change clothes" and I shut the bedroom door and it seems like I am taking a long time I probably forgot about you and am looking at the painting. It will be ok to knock, come on in and look at the painting too. Just don't tell my wife I showed it to you. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Cigar Box Guitar #40...

I was in a hurry so these are not the greatest pictures but I have cigar box guitar #40 up for sale. It has a nice clean sound, three strings, a dual piezo pickup and sells for $75. 
Black cigar boxes are a good seller but red comes in second. 

 Romeo Y Julieta. It's a guitar for lovers. 

Just for you history buffs here is the earliest known recording of a cigar box guitar. 
"Beans" is a very obscure 78 record recorded by minstrel performers, "Beans" Hambone - El Morrow in 1927. The song was a staple in vaudeville and snake oil medicine shows and tells the story of prisoners forced to eat only beans. 


Thursday, August 07, 2014

More Family History...

Here's a photo of my grandfather on your left Caleb Lester Wiley and his brother Jim. Lester is my mom's father. We do not know the date of this photo.
Looks like the boys may have been joking around. I think this is a posed photo. I have done similar things taking photos like this with my family on vacation. Maybe they are goofing around in Memphis on a school boy lark. Trying to guess their ages I checked out census records. The 1900 U.S. census of district 6 Obion Country Tennessee  has Lester and Jim Wiley still living with their parents.listed as Caleb Thomas and Rebecca. Best I can tell Caleb Thomas later had a wife name Catherine Denton. In 1900 Lester is 21 and Jim is 25. 

I don't know why the guns. I do know that Davy Crockett of Texas history fame had a hand in organizing Obion County, was their elected representative in congress and killed a 103 bears in Obion County. Later on Davy told everybody to go to Hell while he went to Texas. We know that turned into a bloody mess but the bear record still stands.   Maybe there were still bears in the woods at this time is why the guns. I cropped up the photo to see the guns better. I do know that there was some violence in the area around 1908 concerning land rights to who owned Reelfoot Lake. That should have been well after this photo was made..Reelfoot lake was created by a big earthquake in the early 1800s. Land that was deeded and granted was underwater. Some tried to settle it with a gun. Like you might suspect the gun thing did not work. Reelfoot is now a great state park fishing and hunting paradise. 

I am guessing late 1890s. I don't know what happened to Jim Wiley. I know that in 1901 Lester married Pinky Ledbetter and in this next photo holds my mother's oldest brother Clay born in 1905. Looks like Lester cleaned up pretty good. Clay passed away about the late 1920s from spinal meningitis. Lester passed in 1951 and Pinky passed in 1970. Both were living in Lufkin at the time of their deaths. 


These Guitars Sold...

Thanks to local people supporting me my guitars are selling at a pace I like. I don't want to be too busy because I do still have that old day job and probably will for some years to come. These guitars are sold.

My guitars still hang in Sound Techs music store (I'll be rotating stock up there next week so look for new stuff) and Standpipe coffee house. I also plan on donating a guitar to The Joseph House Charity Auction Next month. 

Support local artists, businesses, take care of the sick, save the world. It's happening.  


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

It's Monday Morning for Me...

Back to work today but we did squeeze in a fishing trip yesterday morning with me, Cathy, Pop, Geneva, Mary and Miguel. We ended the morning with 13 keepers. Fish was a bit slow with a lot of undersized throw backs. Lake is full. All my favorite spots are deep. I like low water fishing but having plenty of water is good for the rest of the world so I'll suffer for now. 

Pop rassels in a nice one. Note the bare stick up the boat is tied to. It's a new spot called "the pencil." 
Morning view from the boat ramp. 

Mary catches fish but is still looking for that river monster. 

My son in law knows which side of the bread his butter is on. 

Geneva and Cathy use donuts for bait. 

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Monday, August 04, 2014

The Old Chair Blog Post...

I received a trove of old Wiley family photos from my cousin Mary Lou and her husband Mike. There are about 2800 photos. This is a lot to take in and this is coming from a person, me who makes a lot of photos. I would guess some go back possibly to the early 1890s. Many no one knows who the people are. To try and get a toehold grip on I'll start with this one. 

Here's me holding my brother Glenn. The top of the photo indicates December and I am going to guess 1961. 

Here's the same chair sitting in my living room today. I'd get Glenn to come over and pose the same photo but he's probably at work. I just sat in in drinking coffee and reading the LDN. It's been recovered since 1961 and looks like it could use it again. 

By the way Wily cousins those photos are on a zip drive and if you want them you can have them. Anyone else it there will be a fee. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Now You Can Have Some Texas medicine...

In the song "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" the rainman gave Bob Dylan two cures. One was "Texas Medicine" and the other was railroad gin. Like a fool Bob mixed them and we know how that ended up. The 39th guitar I have built has a Texas thing going on and it won't strangle up your mind.  

This is from a tin I found in a downtown Lufkin Antique store. It's pretty light weight metal so it was hard to work it without a small dent or two. 

The back of this tin had a sticker on it that had been removed by a previous owner leaving a sticky spot. I tried a couple of things and settled on cutting a Texas license plate to fit. So far so good. My neighbor has not missed it. He will probably just think it fell off on the road somewhere.   

Small finish imperfections no worse than on my 1976 Strat. 
For those that are squinting a little closer at my reflection I do have on pants but no shirt and I think there are plenty of photos out of me with no shirt.  

I got the Texas stuff pretty well centered and I don't think they will be able to run the number.  

The neck was left from some project that was a failure. For some reason it was perfect for this tin. 

It's electric. As is pretty typical of the tin guitars the acoustic sound is old time banjo and pluged in it's a roaring dirty blues monster. 

People say all the time "I want one of those for my grandson." That tells me two things. One is that you love your family very much to give the gift of music. Two is that I play for mostly old people. We all got grandchildren. Even thought the dangerous rocking days may be gone there may be some sharp edges here so adults only and I can pretty much guarantee you won't hurt yourself any worse than I have hurt myself after all these years.  

It's got the BB fret markers on the neck. You play it with a slide. I have not played it much, just built this morning but generally if you sit around and play one of these real hard and good the tuning will settle in. The piezo pickup might not do well at rock band volumes but for open mic jug band Americana Memphis Blues Again creativity it's very gigable.

 It's for sale and I'll take $60. 


"...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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