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Friday, September 19, 2014

Album Review: King of the Tramps "Joyful Noise" - By Cveckian

King Of The Tramps has a story to tell. In fact, they have nine new ones to share and just a few seconds into the lead track called, “Weather” one can tell they are in for a musical treat. It just keeps getting better the further you venture into what is one of the most superbly produced albums (and yes, there are many among us that would love to hear it on vinyl someday) that I have personally listened to in the last decade or so.

Album art by Tom Bolan at Artworx

EVERY song is a gem in its own way and one of the first things I noticed was the way the songs are tapered: No boring intros with cookie-cutter fade-outs in this mix  - something I was pleased to hear on the previous offering as well - and the stories within the songs are memorable and lyrically appealing. The breakaway instrumentals are tight and various subtle styling techniques prove that this isn't KOTT's first rodeo...or even their hundredth. They know where the best foundations for music are laid as well. Textures of Santana, Allman Brothers, The Band and other assorted fabrics are woven throughout KOTT's joyful tapestry and all are backed up and strengthened by the individual talents of this fantastic group. 

Just past the halfway point of their new album comes "Deadman" which could have easily been a signature song played by the Rolling Stones during their prime (some would say "primal") years and a couple songs later "Rock Island Line" took me back to that good ol' Led Zeppelin "Physical Graffiti" vibe I used to enjoy in MY prime. 

This is followed by the incredibly poignant, “Six Bullets” which is a direct reflection on a recent tragedy that happened in our humble state – The shooting of an unarmed teen by the name of Tyler Comstock . I didn’t know this the first time I heard the song but found myself relating to the lyrics all the same. If you haven’t noticed your local police force taking on a more militarized feel, you need to wake up. A powerful song without a doubt.  I am hooked on KOTT even more now.

Todd Partridge of KOTT (Photo by Cveckian)
You will hear the love these guys have for music in each and every track and that is definitely a rarity these days. It is impossible for me to pick a single favorite (I cannot, I will not and you can't make me) so I will just give you my top three at this moment: "War", "Wandering Kind" (an anthem that mirrors what my own life was like not too long ago) and "Joyful Noise" which has got to be one of the best title/final tracks I have ever heard. You can feel the positive vibe flow throughout that song (the whole album for that matter) and it is unmistakably pure.

KOTT closed out the Iowa State Fair this year. (Photo by Cveckian)
On a scale of one to ten this new album is a solid ten and if you (being the collective you of anyone sitting on the fence as to throwing a few coins this great band's way) do not add it to your collection you are seriously missing out on nine great slices of Americana supported by some undeniable musical talent. 

King Of The Tramps are well on their way towards the next offering with several new songs already in the works and I for one cannot wait to hear more. These five talented musicians not only know the roots of rock and roll, they enrich them every time they get together and play and believe me THAT is a joyful experience to be sure. 

Come out to the Bigfoot Ball tomorrow to see and hear them for yourself!


King of the Tramps Official

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The "Everything You Need To Know" Guide For Attending the Bigfoot Ball

The Inaugural Bigfoot Ball is only a couple of days away and here is everything you need to know about this event.

Gates open at 5:00 nobody will be permitted inside until then. You may need to show ID to security upon entering and your car will be subject to search. No glass is allowed inside and if you are underage in possession of alcohol, it will be poured out and you will be turned away. Obviously we want everybody to have a great time, but we need your cooperation in abiding by the law. You will be given a wrist band upon entering. Please keep it on during your entire stay.

Photo taken onsite this past weekend

Once in the parking lot, you will be free to carry (or drag or pull) your gear and find a camping spot. There are many to choose from, and chances are you will meet interesting people nearby. The Briar Patch is very community minded. Freaks are welcome! 

Music starts at 6:00. The times and line-up are as follows:

(6:00-7:30) Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers
(8:00-9:30) King of the Tramps
(10:00-11:30) The Maw
(12:00-1:30) The Rumpke Mountain Boys

Food vendors will be present, but you are welcome to bring your own in as well. Controlled fires are permitted. Please be aware of your surroundings and keep valuables hidden and safe. The Briar Patch cannot be responsible for lost or stolen items.

Prize tickets will be handed out and prizes will be given away throughout the night. Lots of good, weird stuff! You will also be allowed to vote for a king and a queen, and the winners will enjoy the distinction of holding that title until next year when we do this again. If you find any Easter style eggs laying around, be sure to open them, as you may find your fortune Some might even offer cool prizes! 


Bring ID if you plan to drink alcohol. Wrist bands will be provided. Alcohol is NOT provided, BYOB.
Camping is strongly encouraged. Make wise choices.
Bring extra money to buy band schwag, t-shirts, food and firewood. 
Bring lawn chairs or a blanket.
Bring hand drums, guitars and/or other non-electric instruments. 
Bring bug repellent.
Be aware of thorns on the trees if you wander into the woods. There's a reason the place is called the Briar Patch. Also, be aware of Poison Ivy. It's everywhere.
Food will be sold on site, but please plan ahead if you have any special dietary needs.
Wearing costumes is encouraged!
Have fun!

T-shirts and other treasures will be available.


Bring glass of any kind into the venue.
Bring negativity and bad vibes!

The Bigfoot Diaries is honored to be able to host this event in conjunction with Bob and the Briar Patch. We look forward to observing the traditions he has created during his tenure as master of ceremonies and we hope to create a few of our own. We strongly encourage you to invite your friends to this epic event as we celebrate the last weekend of summer. 

This Fall and Winter is going to be a doozy... let's kick it off right! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

ASK EAST-SIDE EARL: Trendy West Des Moines Restaurant Etiquette

Are you unsure about the proper way to mount your '72 Nova on cinder blocks? Maybe you have questions about what to do with that damned BBQ stain on your (almost) new wife beater? Do you know how to handle yourself in a chain fight, and what to do about that dude who is eyeballing you from across the bar?

Now you can get the answers to these questions - plus any others by simply asking our new columnist, East-side Earl. He has lived near the Fairgrounds his entire life, growing up just east of Hubbell Avenue near the K-Mart. He knows a thing or two about east-side dilemmas and has a rare insight on how to handle just about any situation. 

We at the Bigfoot Diaries are extremely grateful to have a man of his caliber among our ranks.    

Dear East-side Earl,

I have a problem. My girlfriend's family is having a function in West Des Moines and I have to go along. I tend to feel out of place and don't know how to act in trendy West Des Moines restaurants. Can you offer any advice?

Thank you,

Barnacle Barney
Perhaps the best defense during a trendy outing?

Dear B.B.,                                                                                                        

Man I know how you feel on this one, but it's been a while since I've been to WDM. The most important thing to remember is you're only half as uncomfortable in a place like that as they are having you there. So just put on your best steel-toe boots and jean jacket (the kind w/ a nice sized flask pocket inside) and be confident man! Usually a 5th of Beam can help you there. Speak loud and often so there aint no break in the conversations. Don't forget to brag about stuff, that's what those kind like to hear. So tell 'em about all the fights you won outside of bars, or your two-tone primered '77 Monte. Oh yeah, don't forget jewelry, a nice chain around your neck goes a long way. And brass knuckles look sweet under fancy lights. Cops out there would just love to get a hold of a fella like yourself so make sure you got some red plastic to tape over your broken tail light lenses.

That should take care of all your worries, good luck to you, Barnacle!      

-East-side Earl

If you have a question, you can send it to East-side Earl at Be sure to write "East-side Earl" in the subject line. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Five Questions With... Jay Mohr

Jay Mohr really doesn't need an introduction. His name is synonymous with so many elements of the entertainment business that it's possible that 6-7 people know who he is, all for completely different reasons.

He is a Hollywood actor who has starred in such movies as Jerry Maguire and Suicide Kings, he spent two seasons as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, and he has starred in several television shows, including a voice cameo in Family Guy, and a spot in the first season of The Jeff Foxworthy Show, playing Foxworthy's brother. He is an active stand up comedian who draws huge crowds nation wide, and he is (was) the creator, host and executive producer of NBC's Last Comic Standing reality TV series.

Jay Mohr played Tom Cruise's agent Bob Sugar in Jerry Maguire.
Somehow despite that huge workload, he still finds time to do his real job - he is the master of ceremonies at Jay Mohr Sports, a talk show on Fox Sports Radio that airs three hours each weekday.

One wouldn't think that a person of his caliber would be approachable, especially to a little ol' rock and roll blog from Iowa, but in fact, he is one of the most accessible entertainers in the business today. He says on his radio show that if you go to his website and send him an email, he will answer it. He has created a super exclusive Twitter club that allows people he follows to communicate with him on the regular, and he is known to have Twitter conversations well into the night. Every stand-up event he performs at is a meet and greet, and he will take the time to shake hands and pose for pictures with every person who stands in line to meet him.

Last week, after a show in Denver, he spent an hour with Travanti Jaramillo being interviewed on Jaramillo's Go From There Podcast. While Jaramillo is exceptionally good at what he does, his name isn't household material. It just goes to show how down to earth Jay Mohr really is.

It's been awhile since we've done the Five Questions With segment on the Bigfoot Diaries, so we thought that we'd test Jay Mohr's accessibility, and see for ourselves just how easy it is to have a correspondence with one of the busiest men in show business. He did not let us down. Here are five completely random questions with Jay Mohr.

Tell me a crazy but true Saturday Night Live story...

Dave Attell and I dared Chris Farley to take a shit out of our window. It was the 17th floor and he did it. He was pretty much all the way out onto the ledge with just his feet and head on the inside of the building. He shit and a little 2 inch poop came out and it fell on the INSIDE of the window and landed on the window sill. He looked around for toilet paper and not seeing any, wiped his ass with his hand. Then he got down from the window ledge and chased Attell and I around the 17th floor like a zombie with his shit hands...

Your impressions are great. Like really great. What is one impression that no matter how hard you try, you are never able to pull it off? What is your current favorite? 

I haven't been able to lock McConaughy down and it's making me nuts. All of my impressions I can either do right away on the firsttry or I can't do it at all. I wanna do McConaughy so bad though that I keep running it out here when I'm in private.. On stage is no place fro an impression to be "pretty good". For real comics, "Pretty good" is fucking horrible. My current favorite is Pacino because it's getting better each night.

What is the entire process of Jay Mohr Sports' daily Twitter Hat Trick contest?

I throw up the bat signal and tell people to tweet the show. I tell them to tweet me, @jymohr37 and to be sure they hashtag it #jaymohrsports ... The show tweets et mixed in with my personal tweets so the # is how I find only show tweets... I check the tweets a few minutes before I go on air and during every commercial break. Then I favorite them and then they get retweeted by @THTC37 and I read the tweets off of there. It's a pretty hectic process and insures that I never really rest for three hours but the tweets are many times the funniest part of the show so it definitely pays off. Whoever I feel has the best three or more tweets on the day wins a follow from me and worldwide fame and glory.

Finish this sentence: You know you are doing a show with Jeff Foxworthy when ______________.

There is no anxiety and everyone is totally relaxed and instead of feeling like you gotta hit out of the park you feel like, "I can't wait to hit it out of the park." one of the single kindest human beings I have ever met and nobody out works him.

What is the nuttiest thing Tom Cruise ever said to you?

My dad and Tom raced a few times on the same race tracks in the north east... One day on set i told him this and he seemed to think it was a pretty cool coincidence. TWO MONTHS later, we were filming at ASU on the football field. it was 3 in the morning and Tom Cruise came up to me and asked out of nowhere, "Ask your dad what gear he uses on turn two at Watkins Glen." It blew my mind that he even remembered my comment 8 weeks earlier let alone thought about my dad when I wasn't around. TC isn't crazy. Jumping on the couch at Oprah he sure looked it but the man is as down to Earth as they come which I would have thought impossible if I hadn't experienced it for three months.


Pertinent Links:

Jay Mohr on Twitter

Mohr Stories Podcast

Official Jay Mohr 

Photo Blog: 311 at Val-Air Ballroom in Des Moines, Iowa on August 7, 2014

Last Thursday 311 came to town and showed Des Moines what's up. 

They played a 22 song set to a very enthusiastic sold out audience with tracks dating throughout their entire 25 year career. The crowd started the party early in anticipation of this show, forming a line as early as 5:00.  As for the concert itself, it seemed to go off without a hitch. 311 has become one of the tightest bands on the travelling circuit.

The show ran deep into the night but the audience's spirit never dampened. The band seemed to feed off of the crowd's energy and as the night wore on, the more fun everybody seemed to have, including the band. At shows end, it seemed impossible that 311 had played a 22 song set. Time flies when you are having fun.

You can check out the evening's setlist here

Highlights were a blistering version of standards "Homebrew" and "Applied Science" from 1994's GRASSROOTS album and "Sand Dollars," a very cool track from their latest album, STEREOLITHIC. Another highlight was the reggae infused "Beyond The Grey Sky" from EVOLVER. The band brought with them an incredible light show with colorful spotlights shooting like laser beams from the stage rafters.

Tim Mahoney and SA Martinez
(All photos by Troy Church and the Bigfoot Diaries - click to enlarge)
Tim Mahoney finding that groove
Chad Sexton 
Nick Hexum
Mahoney and Hexum matching licks
"All Mixed Up"
Mahoney with the halo effect
P-Nut in the pink
Very few can rock the mic like SA Matrinez does.
Chad Sexton during "Beyond the Grey Sky." .
Mahoney in the red zone
Nick Hexum banters with the sold out audience.
Mahoney and Martinez share in Chad Sexton's drum solo.
Hexum and P-Nut
SA Martinez getting "Down."
311 got the groove ya'all 

311 is touring in support of STEREOLITHIC, the band's 13th studio album which debuted at # 6 on the Billboard Charts. Doing so, it became the band's 9th album in a row to debut in the Billboard's Top Ten. (The album also entered #1 on both the Rock and the Indie charts.) The 7 week headlining tour of North America started on June 26th in  Albuquerque, New Mexico and finishes up in mid-August in Salt lake City, Utah.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Multi-Platinum Rock Band 311 To Play Val-Air Ballroom on Thursday, August 7

Omaha born rockers 311 will play the Val-Air Ballroom on Thursday night, marking the first time the band has played Des Moines in several years. They are touring in support of STEREOLITHIC, the band's 13th studio album which debuted at # 6 on the Billboard Charts. Doing so, it became the band's 9th album in a row to debut in the Billboard's Top Ten. (The album also entered #1 on both the Rock and the Indie charts.) The 7 week headlining tour of North America started on June 26th in  Albuquerque, New Mexico and finishes up in mid-August in Salt lake City, Utah.

Doors open at 7:00 and music starts at 8:00.
The first time I heard 311 it was in or about 1994. I was working in Ames as the kitchen manager at People's Bar and Grill, which was a highly renowned music venue. 311 had played there in '93 or '94 and were still considered by many to be an underground band. Music CDs played a great role in our workday flow, and 311's MUSIC and GRASSROOTS fit heavily into our daily rotation.

I had never heard a band that sounded like 311. With elements of rap, rock, funk, reggae groove and soul the closest band I could form a comparison to was the Red Hot Chili Peppers - whom I was also digging at the time - but that comparison wasn't realistic and I knew it. 

311 had it's own distinct sound which enthralled me. I didn't realize it then, but those two CDs would become part of the soundtrack to my life. I knew the words to the songs and as we prepared lunch for the noontime crowd, my buddies and I would sing through the track lists,, changing the CDs  out concurrently. 

Now, years later, I still have those copies. To look at them, one would think that there is no way that they could be played, as they are battle scarred with chips and scratches. The CD cases themselves have lost their hinges, and the two sides lay together like a shiny disc sandwich. Looking back, it seems odd that I never switched out old case for a new one. The last time I played them was about 10 years ago and I remember being surprised that they could  be played without a hitch all the way through.

Through 311 I learned to appreciate styles of music I wasn't familiar with, such as rap and funk, and the feel-good message that they resonated did wonders for my post-teenage soul. Even now as an adult, I feel compelled to play "Homebrew"  (GRASSROOTS) each years' Fourth of July celebration.

311 has evolved as a band that has gone from being sassy young boys who were as known for their consumption of marijuana as they were for their music to grown men who are now regarded as major players in the Los Angeles music industry. They have enjoyed amazing success in their musical career, including the celebration of having sold nearly 9 million albums world-wide.

STEROLITHIC was recorded with longtime collaborator/producer Scott Ralston, best known for his work on some of the band's most popular releases, including MUSIC, 1995's triple-platinum selling 311, 1997's platinum- selling TRANSISTOR and 1999's gold selling SOUNDSYSTEM

STEREOLITHIC was mixed by Ralston and 311 drummer Chad Sexton. 

Rolling Stone described the album as an LP "bursting with joyous choruses and taut grooves" and Entertainment Weekly praised the disc for it's "fattened power chords, reggae stylings and gentle melodies." Relix Magazine wrote, "Keeping true to one's roots while still evolving musically for 24 years is challenging, but these five veteran rockers are arguable some of the most skilled musicians in their scene, and they pull it off with massive success."

From L-R: Tim Mahoney, Chad Sexton, Nick Hexum, P-Nutt, and SA Martinez
311 has had 9 top 10 radio hits, including three No. 1's. Their list of hits includes, "Down," "All Mixed Up," "Amber," "Love Song," "Come Original," Beautiful Disaster," "Don't Tread On Me," "Hey You," and "Sunset In July."

For 11 years now the band as headlined stages across the U.S. with their summer "Unity Tour." They also host an annual Caribbean Cruise - a four night trip from Miami to a private island in the Bahamas attended by thousands.

On Thursday night in Des Moines, fans will be greeted with a musical catalog spanning the band's entire career.


Pertinent Links:

311 Official

Val-Air Ballroom 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Getting to Know: C.W. Smith

To say that CW Smith is an interesting dude would be an understatement. I've enjoyed talking with him in the past, so when he invited me to his house for coffee on one recent Saturday morning, I eagerly obliged. After making a few introductions to his wife and family pets (he has three cats, and he introduced them to me by name) we made our way downstairs to his studio. 

His basement is divided into two parts, One half is a display of guitars, keyboards, and other stringed instruments. In the back sits a complete trap set and a few hand drums. Macintosh computer screens adorn his counter space which he uses to record and mix his music. Nearby is a custom patch bay that he uses to track and layer his songs. He has instruments from every faction of music including a sitar, numerous electric guitars, two baritone guitars, a stand-up bass, a couple of keyboards, the aforementioned drum set and a trumpet. Being in his basement is a lot like being in a music store. He says that when he records an new album, he tries to implement as many instruments into the mix as possible and most of them he plays himself.

"I don't play the keyboards very well," he told me. He said that he brings in Justin Chastain to fill that role on his recordings. "Justin was the keyboard player in my first band, Sound System. 27 years later, he's still my go-to guy when I need a keyboard part."

The other half of his basement is CDs, record albums and cassettes. He also has some open reels and player piano rolls. Heck, he's probably got 8-tracks too.

"At one point it was my goal," he told me to have every available recorded device and something to play it on." 

There are literally thousands of CDs, all organized alphabetically and stored in boxes. Each box is labeled and sits on a shelf, completely full. The big wall contains a huge assortment of music with recordings from a wide assortment of artists. The smaller wall (which actually isn't that much smaller) is perhaps what CW is most proud of - it's filled with Beatles music. Almost every Beatles record is there, every CD, every re-issue, every CD that is remastered, CDs that are not necessarily Beatles CDs, but have a Beatle making a cameo appearance (For instance, he has a copy of the 3 CD set Buck Owens Collection 1959-1990 because Ringo Star makes an appearance on "Act Naturally.")... You get the point. 

CW stands for Curtis Wade, but nobody calls him that except his wife. "I'm fine with that," he says. Interestingly, his wife once lived in a small town in western Iowa called Pisgah. Pisgah is home of the Old Home Cafe made famous by another CW, C.W. McCall. It is the cafe that was featured on the Old Home Filler-Up Keep On Trucking Cafe commercials from the '70s that launched McCall's career. Smith says that the cafe is still in operation. 

CW Smith grew up in Pleasantville, Iowa and has lived in Norwalk, Harford and Des Moines. He graduated high school in Indianola and then attended Iowa State University for a year in 1987. He enjoyed his short tenure in Ames, but while he maintains that Iowa State is a great school, he also maintains that he was not a great student. At the time CW was studying Computer Science, which isn't exactly what an engineering school like Iowa State is known for. After studying for a year, he moved back to Indianola to attend Simpson College. There he he changed his majors to Music and Communication.

A few of the guitars that CW Smith keeps in his basement studio 

In 1992 he was offered a co-ownership position at Trifecta Studios just north of Easton Boulevard in Des Moines. CW seized this opportunity, and with his business partner, Steve Hudspeth, they operated a full function studio for ten years.

In 2002 the studio closed it's doors, and it's actually where CW acquired much of the equipment and a good amount of the musical instruments that he keeps in his basement today. He keeps busy by playing solo gigs in and around the city. He says that he tries to keep it down to just a few gigs a month, but sometimes the opportunities exceed that. You can find him at various coffee shops in the city or at the occasional neighborhood bar, or at the place where he attends worship, the First Unitarian Church. He's set to play Chuck's Restaurant on August 16.

On August 29th, he will be playing at the Chocolaterie Stam, which is exclusively a dessert restaurant. 

When he is not playing music, CW enjoys spending time with his family or working out of the computer shop he owns, CW Smith Computer Services. It is located at 2620 East 9th Street in Des Moines and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8-5. Tuesdays and Thursdays he prefers to work by appointment only. It is then that he likes to schedule his house calls, and he isn't always necessarily in the shop. 

Most of his business comes from fixing computers that are either physically broken or infected with a virus. He is quite adept at working on Windows based machines as well as Macs. "I'm part mechanic," he explains, "and I'm part doctor. I'm part detective, and I'm part guidance counselor."

"I'm also just a good friend to hold your hand," he said with a laugh. "I like to say that sometimes I wish my bank account reflected how busy I am, but I do get honest pay for honest work. I will go above and beyond for my customers."

Sometimes, like at any job, things will get a bit hectic in the shop. For those moments, CW keeps a couple of what he calls "emergency guitars" close by. They are his go-to stress reliever when things get a little crazy. "You just never know." he says.

A Function of Time

CW just released A Function of Time, an album that was 20 years in the making. It contains 14 songs, mostly about the modest life that he lives. "I'd say it's semi-autobiographical," he told me as he took a sip of coffee. "There are scenes from my own life, with some fiction thrown in."

The album contains songs about road construction, ("You Can't Get There From Here"), juggling work and family time ("A Function of Time," "Yesterday, a Long Time Ago," "Fall Back in Love With Me"), children's fantasy play ("Under the Radar"), information overload ("Too Much Information"), faith and doubt ("Have Faith In Me," "Leap of Faith"), and the long-term pain of loss ("Eyes of a Common Man."). 

"'Don't Mind Me' is pure wordplay," he adds. "Just me having fun with chords and rhymes." 

And I don't have a care
I'll just sit right back in a comfortable chair
And I won't feel a thing
As I ponder all the things that the Universe brings to me ..
Baby, don't mind me

When asked about his influences, Smith offers a wide variety, all of which find their way into his musical vein. There's Big Star, David Bowie, Tom Petty and even Television and Crowded House. But he admits that most of his influence comes from The Beatles, whom obviously, CW pays a strong homage to.

While Smith spent 20 years painting the edges around A Function of Time he kept busy with other projects. Before that he released four full-length CDs, all of which were created solo except for I Think There's Something Here and Au Naturel:  Raw Naked Tracks which he co-wrote with Rob Straughn. Smith has released four more albums, which are EP length. 

"I'm thankful for my songwriting partners, Rob Straughn, Bryan Baker, Justin Chastain, Steve Hudspeth," Smith explained. "I've learned a little from each of them."

You can catch CW Smith live at Mom's Place (910 Hull Avenue) on Friday, August 8th at 9:00 PM. The following night you can see him perform at Green Grounds Cafe in Valley Junction from 3:30-5:30 PM. 

The following is a list of his other shows in August and September:

Ritual Cafe: Second Thursday at Ritual Cafe, August 7, 7:00 PM

Chuck's Restaurant: Saturday, August 16, 7:00-10:30 PM 

KFMG FM 99.1 on Iowa Homegrown: Sunday, August 24, 4:00 PM

Chocolaterie Stam: Saturday, August 29, 7:00-9:30 PM

Hotel Patee, Perry: Saturday, September 6, 7:00-10:00 PM

Ritual Cafe: Second Thursday at Ritual Cafe, September 11, 7:00-9:00 PM

Green Grounds Cafe: Friday, September 19, 6:00-8:00 PM

Whether CW Smith is playing an acoustic solo show or if he is removing a virus from a laptop computer in his shop, one thing is certain: He approaches each task he does with genuine love. When you meet CW, you instantly realize what a great and friendly guy he is. He conducts himself in a manner that defies ego but he operates with a high sense of integrity. 

Extremely proud of the life he has created for himself and his family, he makes no excuses for who he is. Whether he is in his shop or making music, he leaves no stone unturned in regards to detail and the values in which he lives his life. CW Smith  is a rare bird and an incredible asset to the Des Moines community.


CW Smith Computer Services

CW Smith's Music Page CW Smith's Complete Catalog and Music Store

CW Smith's Reverb page

Sunday, July 13, 2014

John Carlucci Talks About The First Time He Saw The Ramones

With the passing of Tommy Ramone this weekend the social networks have come to life with photos and stories and fascinating tributes. (Not just about Tommy, but the Ramones in general.) It is especially cool to read stories from those who were in NYC during the '70s and actually caught a glimpse of punk history from the bar room floor. John Carlucci of The Speedies fame (also played bass with the Fuzztones for a stint) had a unique perspective on the NY underground scene - that of a highly impressionable teenager.

John Carlucci onstage w/ The Speedies
at The Rat in Boston, circa 1979
The following was posted on his Facebook page, and with his permission, I am sharing it with you.

My First Ramones Show

 I've been wanting to sit down and write this story for quite some time now. I did a few blogs in the My space days, but life got in the way and I never had the time. Hearing that Tommy Ramone passed away yesterday brought back some memories. So I thought I would share...I was inspired by some of the blogs & postings  I have seen today from others, Andy Schwartz, Chris Morris, Richard Manitoba & Binky Phillips to name a few.

 I grew up in Queens NY. I lived in Elmhurst, worked in Jackson Heights, & hung out a lot in Corona. I went to Newtown High School, and graduated in 1975. This was the same High School that Syl Sylvain, Arthur Kane & Johnny Thunders from the NY Dolls attended. It was also the High School Gene Simmons of Kiss attended. I knew I was musically inclined from the age of 6, but it was not until I was 14 that I purchased my first bass guitar. I saved the money I made delivering pizza after school, and purchased a 1969 Fender Jazz bass through a friend. The bass came from We- Buy Guitars on 48th Street & the person my friend got it from was Fred Smith,  who would become the bass player in Television. (At the time, he played with Blondie)

 Like most teenagers in the 1970's, I  listened to The Who, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Mott The Hoople, Bowie, Slade etc. I played in bands, but for the most part, we jammed in basements & garages around the neighborhood. 

 Then I discovered the NY Dolls in Rock Scene Magazine. I saw an ad in the Village Voice that they would be playing a small club on Queens Blvd called "The Coventry", so along with my two High School buddies, Joe Katz & Bill Muller. we hopped on the #7 train and went to the show, The drinking age in 1973-74 was 18. We were 16, but no-one cared & we were in. That night, I discovered a whole new world. A world where the bands on stage & the audience were the same. There was no barrier as I had experienced in typical Rock Concerts at large venues. Here the bands mingled with the crowd, and it was as if we were all in this together. The electricity in that room was something I never felt before.  In my gut, I knew I was witnessing something special. There was another band on the bill that night that I discovered for the first time, they called themselves, "The Dictators" They were brilliant.  I liked this new world. I wanted to explore it more.

RIP Tommy Ramone 
 As the weeks went on, I kept my eyes on the Village Voice ads to see who was playing the Coventry. I went a few times and had a few hits, but more misses, nothing as inspiring as the Dolls/ Dictators show I had seen previously. Then one day, we saw that the NY Dolls were playing the Coventry again. (Or so we thought) and we decided to go. When we got there, we realized it was not the Dolls after all, but a new band by "X NY Dolls members, Johnny Thunders & Jerry Nolan". They were a trio billing themselves as "The Heartbreakers". The third member was Richard Hell on bass.  He had just left Television, to be replaced by Fred Smith. Johnny & Jerry still had long hair.

 The opening act that night, were called "The Ramones". They all wore leather jackets, played cheap pawn shop guitars, and played really really loud. So loud, that it was impossible to hear the singer.  There were maybe 20 people in the crowd.They were nervous. They argued onstage, yet they kept playing at breakneck speed, what seemed to be the same 3 chords over & over for twenty minutes. The muted vocals, along with the 1-2-3-4 counts were barely audible, so I thought they played one 20 minute song. Then they unstrapped their guitars and bass & let them drop to the floor. The singer threw down his microphone and just like that, they were gone. This was 1974, before they had released any records. They were so weird, that we decided we had to see this again. A few weeks later, I noticed an ad in the Village Voice for a club called C.B.G.B's. The Ramones were listed for the following weekend, so we went. The PA at C.B.G.B's was much better than the one at the Coventry. I now realized that they actually played 14 two minute songs not the one 20 minute song I thought I had heard at " The Coventry". Plus, I could now hear the singer, & the lyrics were brilliant.  From that moment on, I was hooked. I went to these clubs every weekend. I finally got up the nerve to test the waters and see if I too could play on this club circuit.  Had I not seen The Ramones, Dolls & Dictators, & absorbed their DIY ( Do It Yourself) spirit, I doubt I would ever have gotten the nerve to get onstage myself.  Now I never made a million dollars playing in music, but I did land a major label record deal (on RCA), & I toured the world in bands. Music has taken me to many places. I have met many friends, even my own wife, through Music. Without the inspiration of bands like The Ramones, Blondie, The Dictators & the NY Dolls, I might never have gotten out of the old neighborhood.

John Carlucci as he appears today

John Carlucci grew up in Queens, New York and currently lives in Los Angeles. He has recorded or performed with Sylvain Sylvain, Clem Burke & Frankie Infante, Ian Astbury, Lemmy, Dave Vanian, The Ghastly Ones, The Beat Killers, The Hexxers, Rik L Rik, Deke Dickerson, The Sprauge Bros. Dawn Shipley, Truly Lover Trio, Nikki Corvette, The Odd Squad, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang & The Mighty Manfred.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Night That Will Live In Infamy: Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park

"Pop music, disco music and heavy metal music is about shutting out the tensions of life, putting it away." - Peter Tork

"Around '75 when the recession hit, club owners started going to disco because it was cheaper for them to just buy a sound system than it was to hire a band." - Tommy Shaw

"I feel the same way about disco as I do about herpes." - Hunter S. Thompson

Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, 1979
Photo by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending.)

1979 wasn't a very good year for the Chicago White Sox. The team would eventually finish with a 73-87 record, which was only good enough for 5th place in the American League West. The team had a lackluster season without many highlights.

To get an idea of how things were going, the Sox sent one player to the All-Star game in 1979, as an obligatory gesture required by Major League Baseball. Chet Lemon came to the plate twice in that game and in one at bat he struck out; the other he was hit by a pitch. It was a pretty good metaphor for the way things were going that summer on the south side of Chicago.

Mike Veeck, son of White Sox owner Bill Veeck was the promotions director for the team. His father was known for hosting wild promotions over the years and even once said, "You can draw more people with a losing team plus bread and circuses than with a winning team and a long, still silence." He couldn't have had any idea how that remark would foreshadow one of the craziest moments in MLB history. 

His guerrilla promotion style was emulated by his son Mike who had made a guarantee to fans that year in spring training that no matter how the White Sox played on the field, the fans would have fun at the ball park. He couldn't have envisioned the circus that was coming on July 12.

A post Disco Demolition Night Mike Veeck in his office. 

It was Mike who came up with the idea of staging Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. The idea was, in accordance with a local radio station, that in between games of a double header they would blow up a giant pile of disco records in center field. It seemed like a harmless enough idea at the surface. What could go wrong? The White Sox were only drawing about 10,000-15,000 people a game during the first half of the season, and with the anti-disco movement making waves across the nation, it seemed like a good way to get a few more bodies into the ballpark.

Meanwhile, Steve Dahl was a radio DJ at 97.9 WLUP-FM. He had been fired from his previous radio spot at WDAI on Christmas Eve the year before when that station changed it's format from rock to disco. His hatred for disco became his rally cry at the new station and he often mocked his former employer on air, referring to their "Disco-DAI slogan as Disco Die.

He and his co-host Gary Meier organized a mock organization called the Insane Coho Lips, an anti-disco fraternity that used the "Disco sucks!" moniker as it's anthem. The Insane Coho Lips were mostly listeners of his radio show and they numbered in the thousands. Dahl would organize anti- disco events and the Cohos would show up in droves.

When a discotheque in Indiana switched from the disco format to rock in June of 1979, Steve Dahl and his followers were there. They showed up by the hundreds and the police were called to keep the peace. Later on, he and his followers attended a teen disco in the Chicago suburbs. Again, the cops were called. Then, a few days after that, he urged his listeners to throw marshmallows at a WDAI van that was parked at a shopping mall where a teen disco had been built. Again, hundreds showed up and they chased the van out of the parking lot eventually cornering it in a nearby park. Police were called and the incident ended without violence. A week or so after that, hundreds of Cohos were denied access to a promotional event in Hanover Park, Illinois and several fights broke out. Over 50 police officers were called in to straighten out the mess. It seemed that no matter what the event was, if the Cohos were called in, chaos ensued.

Naturally, Mike Veeck figured Dahl and his anti-disco campaign to be the perfect liaison to the event he had planned. And of course Dahl was on board with the idea. What better way to put an exclamation point on his Disco Sucks campaign than by blowing up several "hundred" disco records in a stadium? To make the promotion even more alluring, Mike Veeck announced that tickets to the doubleheader that day would be a mere 98 cents, a reference to where WLUP-FM was on the radio dial.

Steve Dahl in the late '70s

Veeck had hoped that this promotion would draw 20,000 people, about 5000 more than the usual crowd. In the weeks prior to the event, Dahl had invited his listeners to bring disco records they wanted to see be destroyed to the radio station. He was worried that the promotion would fail to draw a crowd, and this was an attempt to get a handle on the number of people who might be attending. Veeck hired enough security for 35,000 people, expecting that to be more than enough to manage the crowd. His father Bill Veeck, worried that the promotion might be a disaster, checked himself out of a hospital where he was undergoing routine tests. His fears were substantiated when he saw thousands of fans approaching the ballpark, many of them holding signs that used profane language.

Dahl's worries about attendance turned out to be fruitless. Not only did the 44,500 seat stadium sell out, but an additional 20,000 people remained outside, most determined to get in. 

Some were content to stay there, but the majority became angry and began to crash the gate. People were running through turnstiles, climbing over fences and darting past security. The official attendance inside was announced at 47,795, but nearly everyone who was there estimated it to be closer to 60,000. The seating areas were overflowing. People filled the stairwells and the entire concourse was packed with fans trying to make it into the stands. The crowd was so enormous that the police had closed down the off-ramps extending from the Dan Ryan Expressway. It was by far the largest crowd during Bill Veeck's ownership of the team.

As fans walked in, they were instructed to deposit their records into a giant box that was provided near the entrance to the stadium. The boxes filled up quickly, and because of the overflow, many fans took their albums to their seats with them. Meanwhile, a very popular young model named Lorelei who had made some public appearances for WLUP that summer, threw out the first pitch. As the game got underway, Mike Veeck received word that people were crashing the gates and attempting to enter the stadium. He sent extra security personnel  to deal with the situation, which left the field unattended. Fans began to throw record albums and singles frisbee style, and much to the horror of the players on the field, flying vinyl came sailing in from all angles.

Tiger outfielder Rusty Staub remembered record albums slicing through the air and sticking into the ground upon landing. He encouraged his teammates to wear batting helmets while playing their positions on the field. "It wasn't just one, it was many," he said. "Oh god almighty, I've never seen anything so dangerous in all my life."

Attendees also threw empty liquor bottles onto the field and shot bottle rockets at the players. Play was stopped several times due to the constant barrage of foreign objects being thrown. Hand made banners were hung from the stadium's upper decks that read DISCO SUCKS! and other phrases that weren't as "friendly."

Harry Caray commented ont he number of non baseball fans in attendance.
Photo by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending)

White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray commented on the number of non-baseball fans that seemed to be in attendance. Mike Veeck later mentioned that the odor of marijuana was strong, and it even seeped up into the press box, were Harry Caray and his partner Jimmy Piersall talked about it live on the air. The gathering outside was also throwing records and burning them in small bonfires in the parking lot. The circus had come to town, but despite the constant pandemonium, all nine innings were played. The Tigers won the first game 4-1.

After game one ended there was a 20 minute break. Then, Dahl, Meier and Lorelei walked out onto the field. They immediately boarded a jeep and took a "victory lap" around the stadium. The fans showered them ("lovingly," according to Dahl) with firecrackers and beer. After getting the crowd whipped into an anti-disco frenzy, the three walked out to center field where the vinyl-filled box awaited them. The box had been equipped with explosives, and leading up to the moment of detonation, Dahl fired up crowd even further with a chant of Disco Sucks!. 

White Sox pitcher Ken Kravec had already taken the mound, warming up for his scheduled start. Aside from the catcher, other White Sox players remained in the dugout wearing batting helmets for protection. Lorelei recalled later that the scene from Center Field was surreal. Firecrackers, bottles and record albums continued to fly out of the stands onto the playing surface. Some people, fearing the worst, tried to leave. Unfortunately this was almost an impossible task, because of the would-be gate crashers. Security had padlocked every entryway at Comiskey Park except for one.

Photo by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending) 

According to the Chicago Reader, Dahl reportedly told the crowd, "This is now officially the world's largest anti-disco rally! Now listen... We took all the disco records you brought tonight, we got 'em in a giant box and we're gonna blow 'em up REEEEEEEEAL GOOOOOOOD!"

At that, Dahl set off the explosion, destroying the records and leaving a giant hole in the spot where the box had been placed. With most of security personnel still guarding the entrances to the stadium, it became very easy for fans to run out onto the field, which thousands did. 

As the first wave of troops emerged from the stands, Ken Kravec and his catcher ran back to the dugout and barricaded themselves with the rest of the team inside the clubhouse. In total, it's estimated that about 6000 people took to the field. Fans were climbing the foul ball poles and pulling up grass. Some made piles with the remaining record albums and set them on fire. The equipment that was remaining in the dugouts was taken, and the bases were dug up and stolen. The batting cage was destroyed.

Meanwhile people were still chanting Disco Sucks!, even as Bill Veeck stood at the area where home plate had been and with a microphone begging the crowd to go back to their seats. A huge bonfire raged in center field. Harry Caray also attempted to restore order by addressing the crowd through the public address system. PLEASE RETURN TO YOUR SEATS flashed on the center field scoreboard. 

Strangely, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was playing through the stadium speakers. People sang along and were dancing around the shards of vinyl that were burning on the outfield grass.

Photograph by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending)

After what must have seemed like forever (it was about a half hour after the explosion), Chicago police in full riot gear arrived on the scene. Those on the field immediately began to disperse but before order was restored, 39 people were arrested for disorderly conduct. It's been estimated that over 30 people left Comiskey Park that day with injuries.

Despite the gutted dugouts, the stolen bases and the damage on the field, Bill Veeck wanted desperately to play the second game. After order was restored the grounds crew spent almost an hour cleaning up the mess that had been left behind on the field. Eventually umpire crew chief Dave Phillips declared that the field was so badly damaged that it was unplayable.  After making a call to American League president Lee McPhail, it was decided that the game would be played on the following Sunday. 

This enraged Detroit manager Sparky Anderson who claimed that the White Sox were responsible for the field's condition. He argued that only an act of god could postpone a game, and that clearly wasn't the case here. The next day, McPhail forfeited the game to the Tigers 9-0. He claimed that the White Sox hadn't lived up to their expectation of keeping the field in good playing condition.

Later Sparky Anderson said this about the crowd: "Beer and baseball go together. They always have. But I think those kids were doing things other than beer." Mike Veeck noted that as soon as he saw that first person shimmy down the outfield wall, he thought, 'My life is over!' Rich Wortham, a White Sox pitcher from Texas stated, "This wouldn't have happened if they had country and western night."

The next morning Steve Dahl began his show by reading the indelicate headlines from the local newspapers. He feigned ridicule at the outrage saying, "For the most part, I think everything was wonderful. Some maniac Cohos got wild, went down on the field. Which you shouldn't have done. Bad little Cohos..."

That 2nd game forfeiture remains the last time a game was forfeited in the American league. (In 1995 a National League game at Dodger Stadium was forfeited due to a baseball promotion that went awry.) Baseball analyst Jeremiah Graves said, "To this day Disco Demolition Night stands in infamy as one of the most ill-advised promotions of all-time, but arguably one of the most successful, as 30 years later we're still talking about it."

Let's make that 35 years...