Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dear C. ~

I don't whether you know it or not but Aretha Franklin got started in Alabama.

Dan Penn talks about some of his hits:

Do Right Woman, Do Right Man: In January 1967, Atlantic's Jerry Wexler brought Aretha Franklin to Fame to record "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You." In an interview with British journalist Neil Rushton, Penn recalled the scene. "When she walked in she was like a young queen. Most of the guys in the studio pretended not to be paying too much attention to her, but they were looking at her from the corner of their eyes.

She appeared so calm, but I knew she was scared to death. She just sat down at the piano, calmly took a deep breath, lifted her hand up and then just hit the unknown chord! The instant she did that all the guys stopped eating or talking or whatever and just headed for their guitars and drums to play. You just knew history was going to be made that day."

Wexler okayed the recording of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man' as a perfect b-side, provided that Penn was able to come up with a usable bridge on the spot. A few minutes into the job, Aretha came up to him. "She said, 'Dan, bay-bee, what you got?' I said, 'This is what I've got, Aretha: "They say it's a man's world, but you can't prove that by me,"' and she comes right back and says, 'I've got the next line: "As long as we're together baby, show some respect for me."' And I said, 'Thank you, Aretha.

But Wexler canceled the session the next day, choosing instead to continue cutting the rest of Aretha's album in New York. Since Moman was playing guitar on the sessions, Penn went along with him to New York. "We went to the Atlantic building up in the elevator and Jerry Wexler says, 'Dan, you and Chips come with me. He took us to the Atlantic studio control room and played us what they done to our little song. Aretha had redone the vocals, they had added her sisters (Erma and Carolyn) and I was hearing this big, big sound. It was astonishing, one of the most amazing moments in my life."

Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham
Moments From This Theatre [Live]Proper Records/$15.98

Dan Penn is one of American music's most important songwriters. Consider: "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," by Aretha Franklin and "Cry Like a Baby," by the Box Tops. Many of his best works were co-written by Spooner Oldham, who also played keyboards on Ms. Franklin's biggest hits for Atlantic. This CD, taken from a series of 1998 U.K. concerts and now officially released for the first time in the U.S., is a nearly perfect album. These spare recordings largely sung by Mr. Penn, and backed only by his guitar and Mr. Oldham's Wurlitzer, should remind listeners that some of the best Southern soul, especially in Muscle Shoals, was a true marriage of R&B and country. (That recipe is demonstrated beautifully in a series of releases by Urgent Records: the two-volume compilation "County Got Soul," as well as "Testify: The Country Soul Revue," which convened many of the Muscle Shoals musicians for a new recording. Trikont Records' excellent "Dirty Laundry: The Soul of Black Country" presents the flip side: country songs by African-American artists.) Mr. Penn has also produced a new soul album backed by the Muscle Shoals musicians, Bobby Purify's fine "Better to Have It."


Every time I see Wally Price he f*ckin' begs me to get you back to town!

Meet The WTBC Staff

Wally prepares for "The Morning Show"

Ryan Fowler, co-host of Sports Wrap
Ronnie Quarles, GM Johnny Sisty Bert Bank, the legend. Still teaching us a thing or two about the radio business.

Wally Price, The Morning Show Tiger Jack Garrett, "The Tiger Jack Show"

image courtesy of

Friday, June 06, 2008


Wilbur needs to come to Tuscaloosa this summer.

Maybe y'all could make it in two cars.
Jimmy & Wilbur in one & you & Gloria Jane in duh udder.

No performance.
Just promotion in maybe Montgomery on the way up, T-town and B'ham.

I'm gonna make Lee set up a meeting with Paul Jr.

Leave on Thursday. Spend Thursday & Friday night in Tuscaloosa.

Newspapers, TV, radio in both T-town & B'ham ~ Internet blast, etc. , etc.

Set everything up for a gig during a ballgame weekend this Fall @ LITTLE WILLIE'S


RE: When Girls Don't Put Out


I oughta known somethin' wuz up when the bartender said, "You oughta have "PAYING CUSTOMER" tattooed on your forehead!"

Well, at least I hadzzzzzzzzzzz
a nickel to spend before
come on!


Thursday, June 05, 2008

I had me some good fun at Jumpin Johnnies!
I had forgotten about that haunt.
Lots of young beautiful bodies pushed together.


Thanks for the Tippy bit.
Tippy was a rare one, an incredible musician, a big heart and a pleasant person to be around. I think what I remember most about him was when a bunch of people would just be setting around chatting Tippy would be trying to make everyone laugh.
If he said anything, about half of what he said would be funny.

After he was gone it occurred to me that he may have been hiding his own pain with comedy.
We were lucky he was here for a while with us.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Johnny's Restuarant was at 2400 Univ. Blvd., the Deep South Lounge was at 2402 Univ. Blvd. and Roy's Place was at 2404 Univ. Blvd. The Tuscaloosa Cinema was at 2408 Univ. Blvd.

Looking West At the Intersection of Greensboro Avenue and University Boulevard
Left to Right: 2414 Univ. Blvd (Tucker Motor Co.), 2410 Univ. Blvd. (Fitts Yellow Cab), 2408 Univ. Blvd. (Dunn's Wholesale Florist), 2406 Univ. Blvd. (The Blossom Shoppe), 2404 Univ. Blvd. (Roy's Place), 2400 Univ. Blvd. (Deep South Lounge & Johnny's Restaurant)
source: 1963 Tuscaloosa City Directory

From the August 31, 1972 issue of the Crimson-White~

Stones show Hard to follow
by Courtney Hayden
C-W Staff Writer

We need a little affirmation around here.


Yes! October first in the Coliseum!

And that's just a small example of the mirthful wordplay that's bound to erupt from the apprentice comedians around here as the first of October approaches.
Yes, of course.

Something to clear out the stardust the Stones left behind!
Really, what could follow the majestic decadence of the Stones' show?
Henry Kissinger with Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts maybe,
but nobody else extant on the Hit Parade.
So let's get away from wallowing in the spectacle and back to enjoying sheer musicianship.
Not many showmen left, but there're loads of great musicians around right now.

Consider Yes.
Four albums and a fifth on the way.
Their first album had liner notes by Tony Wilson of Melody Maker who had two choices for stardom way back in 1969:
Led Zeppelin and Yes.
Classy prophesies.
The succeeding albums were lush with great arrangement and catchy riffs and went practically nowhere with the masses.

But cometh "Roundabout", a single with Teen Appeal from the Fragile album, their most recent. Rick Wakeman's devastating keyboard work transformed the normally tight musicianship into breathtaking perfection.
The ideal fusion of classical music and rock; it's got a backbeat, you can't lose it, but you'll sure get spacy keeping up with it.

The awesome, ethereal Yes balanced perfectly by The Eagles, second-billed and hitbound as well. The Eagles used to back up Linda Ronstadt, and evolved into the tightest L.A. country-rock band.

Given the bustup of the Burritos, the paucity of Poco and the general cocaine insipidity on the coast, Eagles are probably preeminent on...
the Scene.

Where Yes tiptoe around T. Wolfe's Edge City, the Eagles hang out in places
like Winslow, Arizona,
and Jackson Browne's parlor.
Earthy sensitive rock, not as wimpy as James Taylor,
but not as hardnosed as Commander Cody.

"Take It Easy" by the Eagles might well be a single of the year as far as catchy story telling goes, much more touching than "American Pie", the recent classic in the genre (but listen, oh listen, to Rod Stewart's "True Blue", a beautiful hair raiser).

Long, smooth roller-coaster ride for first October's enjoyment; swooping down into country consciousness of the Eagles,
then powering upward toward the frontier with Yes.

You'll glide for weeks afterward.

Look, that's all the hype you need right now.

Autumn's coming on, everybody's cooling out, smiling a little more.

There's plenty of good music in the meantime in Tuscaloosa:

Brownwood, wherever they gig;

Tippy Armstrong's
hanging out with Buttermilk;

and there that nice aggregation called Saloon.

Find some places to hang out.

Listen to Boz Scaggs and Mott the Hoople and Davie Bowie and Weather Report and Al Green.

And, oh yeah, the radio, too.

We'll keep you posted.


was jogging on campus today so I pulled THE EXPLODER up next to him, yelled, "Hey, Tommy!" & told him how much we appreciated him putting the clip of THE DAY BEAR DIED
on YouTube.

He said he was glad we appreciated it and I got a big smile out of him when I told him we had over 1600 views.



Article recently in the Oregonian regarding Kesey’s last book. Thought you might enjoy the article which is set out below.



Jim Tiger

Duncan Tiger & Niegel, PC

Attorneys at Law

582 E. Washington St

PO Box 248

Stayton, Oregon 97383


Babbs said this week that's there's a demand to republish it. I'll send details


LAST GO ROUND, the novel Kesey and I wrote about the Pendleton Roundup of 1911 is getting a push to be reprinted. Here's an article in the Portland Oregonian about it:

On the left, the black cowboy, George Fletcher, on the right, the Yakima Indian cowboy, Jackson Sundown.
On the left, the Tennessee cowboy, Johnny Spain, on the right, the mudsplattered gawker.
images courtesy of

Ken Kesey rounds up a legend and lets 'er buck

Monday, May 26, 2008


The Oregonian

W hen Ken Kesey died in 2001, he was remembered as the author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and as the original Merry Prankster, the leader of an LSD-fueled bus trip across America that brought the Sixties to Day-Glo life and was captured in Tom Wolfe's classic "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."

Little attention was paid to his greatest artistic achievement, his novel "Sometimes a Great Notion," and almost no mention was made of anything else he did. The consensus was that Kesey wrote two books, goofed around on an old school bus and faded into irrelevance. The brilliant sparks that flashed off him in the morning of his life flickered out in the twilight.

The truth is more complicated, of course, and evidence that Kesey was more than a flash in the pan has long been overlooked. Kesey not only made his life a work of art but continued to create in the way he loved best, by telling stories. He loved tall tales and was skilled at acting them out for children, especially "Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear," and he was obsessed by a rodeo story he first heard when he was 14 from his father.

Fred Kesey liked to take his sons hunting in the Ochocos, and one year they got delayed by traffic heading for the Pendleton Round-Up. Later, once they'd settled in around a campfire, Ken Kesey first heard about the 1911 Round-Up, when George Fletcher, an African American cowboy who grew up on the Umatilla reservation; Jackson Sundown, a Nez Perce who was a nephew of Chief Joseph and was wounded in the 1877 war against the U.S. Army; and John Spain competed for the saddle bronc championship. Spain was awarded first place and a new saddle even though the crowd thought Fletcher had the best ride. Umatilla County Sheriff Tillman Taylor averted a riot by tearing up Fletcher's hat and selling pieces of it so Fletcher, the people's champion, could have a saddle equal to Spain's.

Kesey heard the story again from his father when he attended his first Round-Up a few years later, and again from an Indian named David Sleeping Good when he went to the Round-Up to research a documentary for a screenwriting class at the University of Oregon.

Kesey loved the Round-Up and loved the story of the three cowboys -- one black, one white, one Indian -- competing for the saddle bronc championship. He loved Charles Wellington Furlong's 1921 book "Let 'Er Buck: A Story of the Passing of the Old West," and was fascinated by the history surrounding the event. His first thought was to write a movie script, and a draft of a script called "Last Go Round" was circulated in the 1980s. It apparently was sent to Morgan Freeman, among others, but nothing came of it, and Kesey withdrew it and decided to write the story as a novel with his friend Ken Babbs.

"Last Go Round" was published in 1994. It takes the story of Fletcher, Sundown and Spain, adds Buffalo Bill, champion wrestler Frank Gotch, legendary Indian preacher Parson Montanic, cowgirl Prairie Rose Henderson and dozens of other real-life characters from the Old West and throws them all into a bubbling fictional stew. A generous selection of vintage photographs from the early days of the Round-Up were included, showing Sundown and Fletcher and Spain in their hat-slinging, spurs-flying glory days.

The novel is tons of fun to read and reflects Kesey's love of wordplay. It's narrated by Spain, who's presented as a naive kid from the South taken under the experienced wings of Fletcher and Sundown. Buffalo Bill is the bad guy who wants to corrupt the Round-Up. The conclusion is slam-bang and wistful, as Spain looks back on a time when he and the Round-Up were young.

"Last Go Round" was Kesey's final novel, and many people weren't sure what to think of it. A review in The New York Times said, "Mr. Kesey has produced a pulp-thin plot . . . together with an excess of episode, inflated atmosphere and wonders of prowess. . . ." The Oregonian said that while it was "no match for his early masterpieces, certainly (it) has a renewed strong voice we may all enjoy." In Pendleton and elsewhere, there were complaints that Kesey and Babbs played fast and loose with the facts, forgetting that "Last Go Round" is a novel and that in an author's note Kesey explained that they chose "to conjure our three spectral riders out of the old tall tales, told over hot coffee around a warm campfire, instead of the cold facts and half-baked truths served up by library stacks."

In an e-mail interview, Babbs said he and Kesey went to the Round-Up in 1979 and "shot stills and made tape recordings, doing background" for the movie script. After Kesey withdrew it, they worked on the novel together.

"When we were doing the book tour, someone always asked what I did as the research assistant and I responded with a smile, which put a pained look on Kesey's face," Babbs said. "The way we did it, I started off on the novel, writing, then passed it to Kesey, who rewrote by hand, then back to me to retype on the word processor, back to him, ping-ponging until we were happy with that section, then on to the next."

The story of Fletcher, Sundown and Spain and the 1911 Round-Up continues to fascinate people. Cedric Wildbill, a Umatilla Indian who as a child was befriended by Fletcher, made a documentary about it with his wife, Tania, called "American Cowboys" that won several awards. Fletcher and Sundown were recently inducted into the National Cowboys of Color Hall of Fame. A copy of Kesey's script was offered for sale by noted rare book dealer Ken Lopez for $1,750 last year. "Last Go Round" lives on.

"Kesey and I both liked the book, and everyone who reads it says the same thing," Babbs said. "But the book industry being what it is, lots of books get remaindered and that's the end of them except for what's in the libraries."

Jeff Baker: 503-221-8165; This is the second in a series of articles on Lost Northwest Books. The next, on the journals of explorer David Douglas, will appear in a few weeks. Reader suggestions are welcome at

©2008 The Oregonian

Forgot I'd posted these from Paul Cochran's website


photo courtesy of

Standing: Robert Nix, J.R. Cobb
Seated: Bobby Peterson, Buddy Buie & Rodney Justo

Oh my Gawd! When, where and HOW did you unearth this poster? I vaguely remember designing it, only 35 YEARS AGO! I must have given you one at one of your parties in Tuscaloosa back in the day (nice job of scanning it!). I have no "hard-copies" of those left in my possession, so I thank you for sending this. What more treasures do you have in the vault? It brought back some fond memories of those crazy days in Alabama, so long ago.
Thanks again for the remembrance, and please keep in touch.
All best,

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rock'n'rapper ... Bo Diddley shocks the Blues and Roots crowd at Byron Bay at the weekend.

Rock'n'rapper ... Bo Diddley
shocks the Blues and Roots crowd at Byron Bay at the weekend.
Photo: Edwina Pickles


Another great one is gone. Bo Diddley. RIP.

I lived in the French Quarter in '87-'88. One Saturday
night Bo Diddley appeared for two shows at Storyville.
I decided to see the early show since the late shows
have a more rowdy crowd.

So I got in line behind 4 young Japanese couples,
maybe in their mid 20's) on tour of N'Awlins. None of
them spoke English, but one of the guys had been to a
collectors' record store and bought a Bo Diddley album
from the 50's enclosed in a plastic protective sleeve.
I think he paid $100 for it even back then. He was
grinning from ear to ear, held up the album to show
me, pointed to the "Man" on the cover, and proudly
exclaimed "Bo Diddley!!!"

We got inside and the 8 Japanese grabbed a table for
10 and invited me to sit with them. As the band
started their warm-up set, Bo Diddley came from
backstage, and asked if he could sit at the 10th chair
at our table. The kid with the album, stood up, showed
him the album, and still grinning from ear to ear,
said "Bo Diddley!" Bo took the album from the kid, and
told me "This was my first album." He took the album
from the sleeve and autographed it for the kid. The
kid never stopped grinning. Of course each of the
Japanese had a camera, and a couple hundred pictures
were shot. I wish I had one of them. I'm sure that kid
with the album has had a flash of fond memories when
he heard the news that Bo Diddley died. I'll bet he
still has that album.

Bo Diddley sat with us for an hour warm-up set by his
band, drank a couple of Coca-Colas, and then joined
the band onstage for an hour and a half set. Damn! He
could still play - talk about rhythm! - what an
entertainer. After his set, he came back to the table
to shake hands with all of us and thanked us for being
there. What a gracious person. RIP.

Take care,


Another of my rock & roll heroes has passed on...
Truly, he was one of God's prototypes, never meant for mass production...
Bo Diddley


Recently Discovered Tuscaloosa Cinema poster from February of '73.
At the time, John Allen Cassady worked as the projectionist.

Fictional characters based on John Allen were created by Jack Kerouac.

Suddenly, boom, the door of the cabin is flung open with a loud crash and a burst of sunlight illuminates the room and I see an Angel standing arm outstretched in the door! -- It's Cody! all dressed in his Sunday best in a suit! beside him are ranged several graduating golden angels from Evelyn golden beautiful wife down to the most dazzling angel of them all little Timmy with the sun striking off his hair in beams!

from BIG SUR by Jack Kerouac

image courtesy of ZANE KESEY @

Aliases created by Jack Kerouac in his fiction to name members of the Neal Cassady family:

Neal Cassady

Big Sur - Cody Pomeray
Book of Dreams - Cody Pomeray
Desolation Angels - Cody Pomeray
The Dharma Bums - Cody Pomeray
On the Road - Dean Moriarty
Visions of Cody - Cody Pomeray

Carolyn Cassady

On the Road - Camille
Visions of Cody - Evelyn

Cathy Cassady

On the Road - Amy Moriarty
Visions of Cody - Emily Pomeray

Jamie Cassady

On the Road - Joanie Moriarty
Visions of Cody - Gaby Pomeray

John Allen Cassady

Big Sur - Timmy John Pomeray
Visions of Cody - Timmy Pomeray

image courtesy of

My father, Neal, was a writer in the '40s, '50s and '60s. He passed away in February, 1968. My mother is an artist and writer and currenly lives in England. Her book "Off the Road" was published in 1991, and a new revision of it will be published by Black Springs Press in July, 2007. I worked as a computer engineer in Silicon Valley for 20 years and am currently writing a book about my father. I also join Jerry Cimino on speaking tours to colleges and universities about the Beat generation. See Visit my website at for more information.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Hey, long time. Don't believe everything you read. I've discovered Carolyn has "selective memories." She was just here from London for 3 weeks over the holidaze and we had a rockin' good time. Between her, my girlfriend and sister I could barely get a word in edgewise. I'm still surrounded by women. Could be worse, I guess.

I'll check out Babbs' site. Roll Tide!



From : John Cassady
Sent : Tuesday, April 23, 2002 10:50 PM
To : "robert register"
Subject : Re: As Upright Rod and Standing Stone,Live Only To....

| | | Inbox

Hey, thanks for the web site. I missed that one somehow. He kind
of lost it toward the end there, and really tripped over it endorsing that
pedophilia club or whatever, but he was harmless. In spite of his radical
approach, he had a great mind and was smarter than all the wannabes put
together. He was a whole lot less out there when my father named me after
him in 1951. My name was originally Jack Allen Cassady, his best friends
(and all the Beat pioneers) embodied in one name, but Neal changed "Jack" to
"John" at the last minute, and it says "John" on my birth certificate. I was
awfully young, but my mother says that Neal told her, "you see, if you say
it fast, it comes out "Jackassady," and we don't want him being called
"jackass!" Allen was jealous and used to introduce me as "Allen" years
Tuscaloosa sounds like a cool place to live nowadays. If I ever pass
through there I'll be sure to look you up. Too bad about the wife and kid
thing. I've been married and divorced twice, but my only son has lived with
me since he was about 13. My current girlfriend has her own place so it
works out ok.
Ok, keep in touch, and let me know if that web site gets off the ground.



Thanks for the update and the Tuscaloosa memories and details. I don't
recall "the Chukker," what was it, a bar? I do remember a sign for Zap Photo
along the main drag, I think, but there's been many brain cells lost in the
last 30 years. Is that stinky old paper mill still polluting the air across
the river? I think I remember your house, if it's the party I'm thinking of.
I showed up with some girl I met at the theater, forget her name, but she
drove a VW bug, and we started making out in the yard. I almost recall
finding the Charters book. I remember somebody had some white powder they
called "cocaine," but it was not even close, and produced a really weird
high. I think what's-her-name and I left shortly after that. There were a
lot of crazy people there that night--I felt right at home.
The theater was actually a project started up by me and my partner at
the time, Jerry. We came out from Berkeley 2 years earlier because his Air
Force major father had just died and we came to visit his mother in
Montgomery. Jerry eventually inherited some bucks and we came back and
started the theater there because it was the closest quasi-hip college town
to his mother so he could visit her on occasion. We fashioned the theater
format and movies shown after the underground, all-night cinemas in Berkeley
where we used to go to get some sleep in the wee hours. Marx Brothers, W.C.
Fields, etc. Lots of funny stories about that place. But anyway, Jerry
turned out to be psycho, and I lamed out of that house around May of '73 and
lived for about a month with some co-ed in a big Victorian where she rented
a room down by the U of A campus. Forget her name too, but I have a picture
of her somewhere. She wanted me to move to her brother's ranch in Florida
with her, but I was homesick for California, and took off West in Jerry's
old '55 Chevy panel truck (I traded him my dead Ford Cortina for it), and
never returned. Those were some wild, fun times, though. I guess we felt
pretty invincible at that age. I can't party like that anymore.
Nowadays I'm working in computers (who isn't?) in Los Gatos and trying
to stay out of trouble. Let me know if you ever get out to the Coast. Keep
in touch, more later,


By John Allen Cassady
"One flew East, one flew West, and one flew over the cuckoo's nest."

The long, strange trip came to an end for Ken Elton Kesey at 3:45 AM Saturday, November 10th, 2001, after 66 years and a few hundred lifetimes on this planet.

Ken was a great friend to my father, Neal Cassady, and almost a second father to me after Neal died in 1968 when I was 16 years old. Kesey was one of the kindest and wisest men I've ever known, and he was one of my biggest heroes and mentors starting soon after he met Neal in the early '60s, a feeling which continues in me to this day. The pearls of wisdom that he shared with me and others around him are too numerous to count, but thankfully he left a great legacy in his body of work that will last forever.

Neal always wanted to be a provider to his family, and little did he know that much of that provision would be accomplished posthumously through doors that were opened to me because of his famous friends like Kesey and the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia being another of my heroes from about 1965 on. Much to the worry of my mother, Kesey and Neal would come collect my sister and me at high school, giving the authorities some song and dance about dentist appointments or whatever, and they'd whisk us away to see the Dead play at some local high school prom dance, just after they changed their name from the Warlocks. Some fond, early memories there. I recall once being called to the school office, not knowing what I had done to deserve what was surely going to be trouble from the evil principle, only to open the door and see Neal and Ken dressed in American flag jumpsuits complete with day-glo red Beatle boots and silly hats. The principle looked confused and said to me "this man claims to be your father!" He looked like he thought the circus was in town.

My mother needn't have worried. When I'd try to sniff the smoke from the refers being passed around the car, Dad would admonish the passengers "no dope for the kid!" Kesey knew I was disappointed, but always honored Neal's request in those early days.

After Neal's death Kesey would go out of his way to look us up when he was in the Bay Area, and he showed up unannounced at my wedding in November of 1975 on his way back from Egypt, while writing a piece for Rolling Stone. That was one heck of a party. I still have pictures of him holding my then-3-month-old son, Jamie, and beaming like a proud godfather.

Another warm memory was back stage at a Dead show in Eugene when Kesey's fellow prankster Zonker ceremoniously presented me with one of 2 railroad spikes that the Dead's roadie Ramrod, while on a sacred pilgrimage, had extracted from the tracks where Neal died in Mexico. And again when Kesey and Ken Babbs bequeathed Neal's black and white stripped shirt to me that he had worn on the bus trip to New York in 1964, this time during a show we did at the Fillmore in 1997 before bringing the bus to Cleveland, where it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ken called and asked if I would drive "Further" into Ohio "because Neal can't make it this trip." Although veteran Prankster driver and mechanic George Walker did the actual driving, Kesey's heart was in the right place. That road trip was surpassed only by the 4-week tour of the UK in 1999, sponsored by London's Channel Four studios. Traveling with Ken in close quarters for that long really made for a lasting bond between us, and he was at his peak as a performer. It was fun for me to play guitar behind his harmonica and the Thunder Machine. I last saw him as we said our goodbyes at SFO after that incredible journey, and I was sad to have not been able to do so again before last Saturday.

Ken Kesey was a great teacher and a beautiful soul, and he will be missed by all that his magic touched.


Subject: What's Kesey Got To Do Wid Da Chukker?

I was partying in my bedroom at the house on 8th Street back in '73
and this guy at the party started looking at my Ann Charters book,
Kerouac. He opened it up to the pictures and pointed to Neal Cassady
and said, "That's my Dad." I will never forget the glow I felt when
I first realized I was with John Allen Cassady (He was named "John"
after Jack Kerouac and "Allen" after Allen Ginsberg.)
John had come to Tuscaloosa and opened an alternative movie
theatre on University Boulevard near Johnny's Restaurant. Here's an
interview where he mentions working as the projectionist here in

What is here is only a sample of the conversations I saved --
many of them were interesting but not relevant enough to include in
the "real" interview. Like this exchange, which took place after
John and I discovered we were both into Marx Brothers movies:

John: Duck Soup is my favorite. A buddy and I opened an alternative
cinema in a college town in '72 and showed all of them as well as
W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, etc. Two shows per night for a week;
I saw them all 14 times each and know every line.
Me: That's great. My favorite was prob. Horsefeathers, like when
Groucho is in the canoe with Thelma Todd and she says "will big
strong man give icky baby the bad little football signals?" and he
says "Was that you or the duck? Because if it was you I'm going to
finish the ride with the duck?"

John: And then he sings "Everyone Says 'I Love You'" while
accompanying himself on guitar, at which he was quite proficient, a
leftover from their old vaudeville acts. He used surprisingly
sophisticated diminished chords as passing phrases in that
arrangement (not that I studied it or anything) and of course
finishes by throwing the guitar into the lake, argh! But showing
future Pete Townsends how it's done. Chico's version of the song
had a great line: "The great big mosquito and-a he sting you" (had
to have been there). Zeppo turned it into a torch ballad, and of
course Harpo ripped it up on the harp. Horsefeathers was indeed a
classic I had (almost) forgotten.

I don't know if anybody will fully believe this, but I knew all
about those diminished chords.

I remember seeing John at the Chukker but he says he

doesn't remember it but he does remember the girl he picked up at my
party on 8th St. I'm pretty sure it was Betty Boswell.(Sorry, Craig)

When Kesey got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he
asked John to drive the bus because "Neal wasn't available to do the

Kesey also hired John to drive the Bus through England in 2000
when Channel 4 sponsored the "Searching For Merlin" Tour.

After Kesey spoke at the University with Leary in the early 90s,
Kesey partied at Tracy Priest's house on Audubon. Babbs says that
Kesey had fond memories of Tuscaloosa. Kesey actually played a video
of John's father at the party on Audubon. Babbs says that Kesey had
a big BAMA bumper sticker on the front of his desk on the day he

Anyway, if any of ya'll remember that long haired blond guy who
was the projectionist at the movie theatre where "Last Tango In
Paris" was banned, it was John Cassady, the man who inherited the
job of driving Further.

And another thing. The Summer of '04 will be the 40th anniversary
of the famous road trip described by Tom Wolfe in "The Electric Kool-
Aid Acid Test". They came through Mobile because Babbs had been
stationed at Pensacola before he shipped out for 'Nam to fly Marine

In honor of the publication of the two new Kesey books, I tuned up
my weblog for kesey.

MONTGOMERY, AL (Friday May 9, 2008) The Alabama Shakespeare Festival has commissioned playwright and Chief Operating Officer Michael Vigilant to write a new play about the legendary University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The public will get a preview of this play called Bear Country on at 3:30 PM on May 16, when it is read as the kick-off event of the 2008 Southern Writers’ Project Festival of New Plays at ASF.

Bear Country highlights the wit and wisdom of a man who rose from the child of dirt poor sharecroppers to become the standard by which college football coaches are judged. The play focuses on Coach Bryant’s characteristic leadership style and reveals some of the lesser known anecdotes and stories about his life and career, chronicling his evolution from a young man driven by poverty into an inspiring leader who left an indelible mark on the lives of his players and associates.

Playwright Michael Vigilant has been involved with writing and producing plays and musicals for a two decades. As a playwright and lyricist he has more than a dozen works published with Samuel French, Contemporary Drama Service and Pioneer Drama Service. Five of his plays have been picked as catalogue covers. Award winning works include Cindy Cinderella (Page Award for Best Musical) and The Wedding Ring (MAPT Award for New Work). For his lyric writing efforts Mike has received five ASCAP project grants. Before coming to ASF, Mike was a playwright resident and public relations manager for Michigan ’s Meadow Brook Theatre , where he worked with ASF’s current artistic director Geoffrey Sherman.

Tickets to the reading of Bear Country on May 16 are just $10. For more information on the Southern Writers’ Project Festival weekend and packages, call the ASF Box Office toll free at (800) 841-4ASF or go online at

Date: May 2008
Story: No sooner had the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Southern Writers’ Project’s Festival of New Plays (May 16-18, 2000) ended than two entered the 2008-2009 ASF season line-up: Bear Country and The Furniture of Home. Both were commissioned by ASF and received staged readings, along with three other dramas, one with music. All SWP plays concern Southern topics as well as African-American issues in general, presented by Southern and Black writers.

The opening event of the Festival, “Nothing But a Winner” featured a slide-illustrated speech by Ken Gaddy of the Bear Bryant Museum of Tuscaloosa about its subject.
Preparing for a staged reading of Bear Country, Gaddy traced the career of Alabama’s legendary Coach Paul “BearBryant, including his time in Arkansas, the U. S. Navy (WW II), and Texas A & M, before making the U. of Alabama “his.” Samples of and references to Museum holdings included pictures, charts, letters, awards and citations, film, a Time cover. Supplementing Gaddy’s notes about Bryant’s work with great players like Pat Trammel and Joe Namath, alumni of the Bear’s various winning teams were on hand to share memories.

First of the five plays formally read in ASF’s Octagon Theater, Michael Vigilant’s Bear Country began with Paul Bryant (Rodney Clark) speaking from atop the kind of Tower he had built from which to direct his players. He reminisces about his life on and off the job, explains or defends his professional strategies and actions, comments on opponents and friends -- punctuated with lessons he gave and learned. He relives a few crises: an investigation involving betting on games, a crossroads in his coaching (25 years in college football, with a chance to go to the pros), charges of racism in selecting his teams.

Interspersed with the lead narration are radio and TV announcements, sportscasts, and voices or appearances of players, writers, other coaches, an attorney, a professional expert.
The racial issue seems to boil down to a (not completely satisfying) notion that what happened was a matter of the times and owing to Alabama’s political leadership.

As yet the “play” is not so much a drama as an oral interpretation of a biography. Certainly of regional interest, it should serve to bring new audiences to ASF, which seems to be the organization’s aim. Geoffrey Sherman, Producing Artistic Director of ASF, directed.

Today I Found Your Picture On the Cover of the April 16, 1964 Issue Of THE GRAPHIC!!!!


LEADING THE CHEERS... Tuscaloosa High School next fall will be Lana Johnson, front center,
head cheerleader. Other cheerleaders are, front row, Carolyn Hamilton
and Julia Chabannes alternate; second row, Clifton Harris and Shirley Rice;
top, Carolyn Nevin, Linda Reid, Martha Moore and Mary Lynn Duncan.
not pictured is alternate Judie Snow.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hey y'all~

These two newspaper articles I discovered today represent the ALPHA & OMEGA of Coach Bryant @ BAMA:

A March 30, 1958 article by Benny Marshall, Assistant Sports Editor of THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS:


Alabama work brings small joy to Bear
[ed. note: the accompanying photo of Bear in baseball cap had the title
...He's not pleased]

The voice of The Bear was heard thoughout the land Saturday.

It growled angrily, dropped sadly, rumbled with determination; a baritone running the scale out of an anguish that had two weeks of Spring football to feed on.

Paul Bryant was not being happy Saturday about the Crimson Tide team which will be his first.

He said so, out loud, and at length, to the News.


"We are confronted with a lot of problems, to say the least."

The warmup didn't startle:

"We have a fine bunch of kids; some of them are really wonderful boys."

"We've got a few football players, a very few, who GO all of the time.

"We've got some who go part of the time.

"We've got some who don't go any of the time.

"And we're about to start eliminating those, no matter who they are.

"IF I'M GOING to get beat,
it'll be with boys who we can count on to reach down when they're tired and get something extra,
boys who want to play.

"Right now, we have four or five who give everything they've got, but that's not enough!

"If we don't find more, we're in awful bad shape.

"It's one thing to block AT a man and call that your assignment. It's another to go and knock him down.

"AFTER A COUPLE of more practices, we'll be off for Spring holidays. When we come back, we're going every day, we'll be forced to give up on the guys who won't hit somebody.

"If they do come back after the holidays and go, it'll be a pleasant surprise. It'll make us very happy.

"We've got some kids who'd cut your throat, almost, to win. Some of them are doing real well,
but not enough to beat anybody."

NO, COACH BRYANT was not downcast about it. Yes, he was disappointed. For true, the man who rebuilt Kentucky and Texas A&M football was rolling up his sleeves and getting ready.

Obviously, his Crimson Tidesmen could do the same.
But Saturday, right now:
"We don't have a thing to shout about," said the voice of the Bear, echoing through the land.

& next we have
a Thursday, January 24, 1984 article by Billy Mitchell, Sports Editor of THE TUSCALOOSA NEWS:

Year ago

Bryant death brought hurt like no other

I had left the office about 20 minutes earlier and I was just sitting down to the perfectly unbalanced meal of two cheeseburgers and some greasy fries spread out elegantly over two paper plates, along with a Coke I'd poured into one of those big plastic cups I'd brought home from a ball game.

It was one year ago today.

I was single then.

It was raining, an ugly, gray day; and the apartment was cold and damp. And lonely.

I got lonelier.

The phone rang.

It was Ben Windham, The New's editorial page editor.

There was a foreboding pause before Ben said, "You need to get back to office. Coach Bryant just died."

God, what a devastating phone call.

What a devastating feeling.

Here I was, a man who, not too long ago, had been used to a home that always seemed alive even when the wife was at work and the kids were in school. But here I was, standing in this godforsaken apartment that suddenly was seeming like a cell, looking at cheeseburgers and french fries on paper plates- alone,
and someone had called to tell me the greatest man I'd ever known had just died.

For a second, a split second, I started feeling sorry for myself. That might sound cold;that might sound insensitive.
But that's what I felt.

But in an instant, I started thinking about Bear Bryant.
And the hurting set in.
And It was a hurting I'd never known before, and that made it difficult to combat.

Less that a month before, Bryant had retired after 25 years as University of Alabama's head football coach.

He was the greatest coach ever; a greater man.

My last visit with him came to mind. It was just after Alabama had returned from its successful Liberty Bowl trip, Bryant's last game.

In Memphis, during Liberty Bowl Week, he'd made a facetious comment, a true reflection of his inimitable wit, about how "all you sports writers will forget about me as soon as this game's over."

So I popped by his office just to let him know that I'd still be around to pester him.

"Whadda ya' want?" he said with mock gruffness. He was smiling. He was glad to see me, I could tell. "Don't you know I don't do nuthin' around here anymore?" he added.

Sometimes I wanted to get under the carpet when he talked like that. But I could sense it meant something to have a writer coming around.

We talked. It wasn't meant to be an interview, but before long I had the pen and pad out and was noting the man's words about how he was going to get the (bleep) out of the new football coach's way and do some great things to help the University raise money for academics.

Bryant could raise money, too; thousands of dollars with a phone call.

He looked magnificent.

Bear Bryant, in his younger days, was a Hollywood-handsome man. At 69, he still cut a pretty dashing figure when he put on his "Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes."

Joe Rummel, one of Bryant's boyhood friends, told me once during a visit to Fordyce, Ark., where they grew up, "That Bear...he could put on a 'tater sack and still look good in it. But when he put on the best suit and got that hair combed right...he could knock the gals a loop."

It was gratifying to see Bryant in such a good form because, to be honest, like so many others, I was afraid that giving up coaching would be the same as giving up life.

Some people, who must feel they have divine perception, drew that parallel around his death less than a month after his last game.

But during that visit, he looked great. He sounded great. and I felt great when I left his office.

Of course, I always felt great when I left his office, even after those times when I thought the man they call Bear was actually going to bite my head off.

It was just always a privilege to be in his office;at least to me it was. It just always felt like a privilege to be around him.

That last visit was Jan. 2 of last year.

There was nothing, to me, to soften the impact of Bear Bryant's death.

Two days after my visit with Bryant, Alabama's new coach, Ray Perkins, arrived.

Time moved incredibly fast during the first few weeks of January. Perkins set an unbelievable pace, building his coaching staff and recruiting. The man's actions, along with the basketball season, took up almost all of my work time.

So when I got a call on Tuesday night, Jan. 25, and was told Bryant had suffered a heart attack, the news itself was shocking. But it seemed even more jolting because that last visit with Bryant, his smiling face and cheerful voice, flashed through my mind.

I kept a constant vigil on Bryant's condition throughout most of Tuesday night. About 11 p.m., one of his longtime friends who'd been at his bedside or outside his room, told me in a reassuring voice, "I think he's going to be OK."

I felt relieved, but that uncertainty that always lingers after someone's had a heart attack was still there, and it made for an uncomfortable night's rest.

I was back in the office at 4 a.m. the next morning. Naturally, the first thing I did was to check on Bryant. The report from the hospital was encouraging.

I guess I was thinking like everyone else. When the life of someone of such greatness is in danger, you always hope for the best.

I kept checking on Bryant throughout the morning. The last report I got was from another one of his close friends who said,"Heck, he's sittin' up in the bed carryin' on with those pretty nurses up there."

Around 1 p.m., I left the office. My eyes looked like two holes that'd been burned through a bedsheet.

But I was relieved. I was thinking about that last visit I'd had with Bryant and how good he looked. And I could see it in my mind, him up there in the hospital, winking at some nurse and causing here heart to get a little out of rhythm.

The visage brought to mind a story Bryant's personal aide, Billy Varner, once related. "We'd be going somewhere, maybe on a recruiting trip or something, and we'd stop at a restaurant," said Varner. "The waitress would take our order and then she'd disappear. It'd seem like forever before she would come back.

"What she was doing was going out to the phone and calling all her friends and telling 'em, 'Guess who's sitting at my table?' "

So I whipped through the fast-food drive-through on the way home and was about to do some serious damage to those cheeseburgers when Ben Windham called.

I don't remember leaving the apartment complex. I don't remember driving down Skyland, turning into McFarland, turning onto 15th and turning onto Greensboro. But I do remember turning off Greensboro onto Sixth Street.

The radio had been going full bore, as usual, but I hadn't even noticed. But then a voice from the radio waded into my conscious mind. It was Bert Bank, a veteran radio man in this city, and a man close to Bear Bryant.

"Ladies and gentlemen..."

Bert's voice was cracking. My heart started breaking.

It was easy to tell that Bert was fighting back tears as he gave the report of Bryant's death. And I was glad, oh so glad, that I could see The Tuscaloosa News building. I had a need to be around people.

There is, sometimes, a brutal commitment to this business of newspapering. No matter how close tragedy strikes, whether it's nearby or in your heart, you have made a commitment to get the news out to the people.

We all hurt at The News, just like everybody who admired or loved Bear Bryant. But for those of us who stayed up through the night- all night - we had to wait a while before we could let it all out.

I think we did as fine a job as any news source in reporting on Bear Bryant's death. But as satisfied as we felt with our effort, we sat back when the paper came out the next day and realized just how insignificant all the words really seemed.

It was a phone call and a work effort I'll never forget.

But I won't ever sit around and tell my grandkids about it. I'll tell them what a great coach Bear Bryant was, what a compassionate man he was.

I'll tell them that he was such an extraordinary man that I really can't adequately describe him, and I get paid to use words.

And in no way can I capture in words the feelings that went through me on Jan. 26 of last year.

& a music video courtesy of Tommy Wilcox Outdoors