Saturday, December 18, 2004

Cassady's son doesn't miss a Beat in preserving movement's history
Friday, October 29, 2004
I was on the road with Miss Thing and Peaches explaining the whole second half of the 20th century.

"In 1942 there was World War II, which, even though we won, still devastated everyone in America. It completely unsettled people's sense of security. So from 1945 to 1955, there were 10 years of national devotion to normality and conformity. Post-war folks sought the white picket fence, Beaver Cleaver American dream," I told them.

"Then in 1955 came the writers, poets and painters of the Beat Generation. They changed everything."

We were driving to visit the Traveling Beat Museum and its performer/promoter John Allen Cassady, the son of Neal Cassady. He inspired Jack Kerouac's classic novel "On the Road" and a decade later drove the bus for Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters.

Talk about countercultural credibility.

I told the kids we were meeting Beat royalty. Even his name was loaded. John Allen was named for Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who, along with Neal Cassady, were the troika of the Beat Generation. John Allen Cassady met us with his partners, Jerry Cimino and Garland Thompson, at the Mongolian Barbecue on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. The trio had given a performance the night before at the B-Side under the Grog Shop. The event was sponsored by Suzanne DeGaetano of Mac's Backs Paperbacks.

Cimino is the Beat history scholar, Thompson does dramatic readings of classic Beat works, and Cassady plays guitar and answers questions about what it was like growing up with the man some called "the fastest man alive." Neal Cassady lived fast, talked fast, drove fast and loved fast.

"My mom said when my dad named me, it was originally going to be Jack Cassady. But he changed it to John just before signing the birth certificate because he was worried I'd get the nickname Jackass-ady," he said.

John Allen Cassady had been laid off for a year from his tech-support job in Silicon Valley in 2003 when Cimino, who was the owner and curator of the Beat Museum in Monterrey, Calif., contacted him about a traveling Beat Museum. Cimino knew Thompson as an actor and event promoter and thought he would be perfect in helping them spread the Beat gospel.

With a 34-foot silver Airstream RV and a trailer full of Beat books, tapes, T-shirts, posters, etc., they've crisscrossed the country putting on events and seminars at high schools, colleges and bars. They adapt the presentation to suit the crowd. For example, the "dirty parts" of Ginsberg's famous poem "Howl" are edited out of the high school gig.

"One thing I try to get across is that I remember my dad as a father to me and my sisters and a husband to my mom," Cassady said. "I had an idyllic childhood. He worked for 10 years as a brakeman for the railroad. He died at 42, but he lived 12 lifetimes in one. It was like he was everywhere at the same time."

In "Holy Goof," William Plummer's biography of Neal Cassady, the man is described alternatively as a "criminal, saint, lunatic, genius and muse." Jerry Garcia called him "a tool of the cosmos." Kesey called him "irrevocably beyond category." Cassady the son is interested in parsing the man and the myth, all the Beat men and their myths.

"This was not a planned movement' with these guys," Cassady said. "They were not out to change the world with their beliefs. They were simply free thinkers, ahead of their time, who were deeply committed to art. To music, writing and painting. And to each other."

If Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Ginsberg were the holy trinity of the Beat Generation, John Allen Cassady, Cimino and Thompson consider themselves the Larry, Curly and Moe of the next generation. Their bus ran out of gas coming up Cedar Hill on the way to the B-Side performance. DeGaetano rescued them. But then Neal Cassady was always pushing the envelope when he drove.

"Once we were broken down on the highway, and we couldn't get the bus to go," said Cimino, who also runs the Web site.

"John tells us that his dad's advice for a stalling vehicle was always to stand on the accelerator. He would shout STAND ON IT!' at the top of his lungs. I did, and the engine boomed and turned over just like that. We were channeling Neal."

I had to ask Cassady what he remembered about Kerouac, my writing hero.

"When he visited he always slept in a sleeping bag in the back yard under a tree," Cassady said. "In the morning, we'd run out and jump on him. My older sister Cathy obviously spent more time with him than I did. I visited her recently in California. She has a frame around the license plate of her car that reads Jack Liked Me Best.' "


Friday, December 17, 2004

Click here to hear Wilbur sing "24 Hours of Loneliness"

Wilbur Walton Jr. & The James Gang performing at Ft. Brandon Armory in Tuscaloosa.
photo courtesy of WTBC



I also visited Dothan over Thanksgiving - first trip
back in two & a half years. Unfortunately I spent most
of the Holiday in Los Angeles and Atlanta airports and
very little time in Alabama.

I dug out this old treasure from a storeroom at
Mother's. James Gang's "Everybody Knows (But Her)"
written by John Rainey Adkins and "Ladies Man" written
by Buddy Buie & John Rainey - Ascot 2168. "Everybody
has a Jimmy Reed feel to it - shows the James
multiple influences: blues, soul, R&B, R&R. I
picked up the record around 1970 when a college buddy
let me dig through his Father's radio station's
archives in Roanoke, Alabama.

I think it was James Gang's first record, preceeding
"Georgia Pines/Baby Take Me Back" (Ascot 2196) and
"Right String Baby, but the Wrong Yo-Yo/Satin & Lace"
(Ascot 2205)
Jimmy Dean, can you resurrect a memory
cell or two and tell us more?

I've scanned in the images of the record and attached
an MP3 (partial - only 55 seconds) of "Everybody Knows
(But Her).
I have 3 of the original James Gang Ascot
records and 2 of the later Wilbur Walton and the James
records recorded on Bill Lowery's 123 Records
(#1703 Wilbur Walton Jr. - "Twenty-Four Hours of
Loneliness/For the Love of A Woman"
and #1712 Wilbur
Walton Jr. & the James Gang -
"Delicate Women/Bed of

J. Hodges


--please pass this along to Jim Hodges---
Jim, that was our first record, cut in the latter part of 1964; we cut Georgia Pines at the end of 64 at Fred Foster's studio in Nashville. I have both those early tunes on CD thanks to Bubba Lathem, our piano player. If you have a complete digitized copy of "24 Hours of Loneliness" please let me know. I need it for a record company that wants to rerelease it---
Jimmy Dean

Everybody Knows
was originally cut by Steve Alaimo and recorded in Muscle Shoals.
Some of the musicians on the date were, Joe South on guitar and Ray Stevens,on Piano I believe, as well as singing.
In those days it wasn't that unusual to get as many people as possible to record a song, increasing your chances of getting a hit.
That period in time also pretty much had singers and songwriters,compared to now where you have singer/songwriters or even worse, would be singers,would be songwriters,and would be singer/songwriters.
I have it on a CD when I was going berserk downloading every old song I could find during the NAPSTER heydays.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I think Eddie graduated in the class of 62....he was a year older than
me and I graduated in th class of 63.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Our old Aussie mate, Keith Glass, sent us something SUPUH from DOWNUNDUH!!!!!!!

Here's Keith with "Big Kahuna" and wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwyker!

- photo of Roy in the radio station is 3DB in Melbourne,
Australia - not sure who DJ is - looks like Don Lunn but sure he worked for a
rival station.
This is nothing to do with Roy or Alabama but try these shots on -
recently discovered photos of Jerry Lee and The Crickets doing a live radio
broadcast for another Melbourne station 3AW in 1958 - the tapes are
missing but may turn up.
Keith Glass

Barbara & Roy Orbison at Melbourne Radio Station 3DB