Willie turning 80; my interview in Texas Music mag

WillieTM

Back in late January, I caught up with Willie Nelson for the first time since the biography I wrote Willie Nelson: An Epic Life was published.

We talked about music, his new recordings, Lance Armstrong, and life its ownself.

I’ll post the interview in a few weeks. If you’re hot to read it now, go buy the magazine and help out some good folks including a few writers.

link to the magazine here: txmusic.com

and here are two photographs taken by Turk Pipkin on the bus:
WillieYamahaSignedGuita5x7

WillieJoeNick

and here’s the story:
Five years ago, my 500 page historical biography, Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, was published on Willie’s 75th birthday. At least seventeen biographies and his own autobiography, ghosted by Bud Shrake, no less, were already out there, but you can’t write about Texas without writing about Willie. I already knew him as the most interesting person in the world, just as he struck me during my first interview with him back in 1974. It turned out there were a lot of new things to learn, and unlike the case with most public figures, the more I knew, the more I liked him. Since a whole lot of other folks feel the same way, I’ll be talking about him for the rest of my life.

Since the Willie book, I’ve been obsessing about football, the Texas high school version and the Dallas Cowboys version, so I hadn’t been inside the Willie bubble in awhile. With his 80th birthday rolling around, a fine, even number to stop and ponder, it was a good time to check in. A lot had changed, I quickly discovered. A lot remains timeless.

Nutty Jerry’s is a massive, utilitarian metal building a few miles east of Winnie, the southeast Texas farming community just off Interstate 10 that is home of the Texas Rice Festival. Nutty Jerry’s is the community’s big bar, dancehall, and all-purpose entertainment facility. On a Friday night in late January, it was also a tour stop for the longest running road show in music, the Willie Nelson and Family traveling revue, this particular leg being one week into the Old Farts and Jackass Tour.

A little more than a year earlier, on the morning of January 8, 2012, Kevin Smith got the call from Mickey Raphael: “Can you drive to Winnie tonight and play with the band?” Smith was the standup bassist for Heybale! the trad-county supergroup of hotshot pickers featuring Merle Haggard’s guitarist Redd Volkaert and Johnny Cash’s (and the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”-vintage Byrds’) Earl Poole Ball, currently in their fourteenth year of Sunday night residency at the Continental Club in Austin. Smith had also logged time with High Noon, the retro country band, original rockabilly Ronnie Dawson, western-swinger Cornell Hurd, and had knocked off more than 160 dates in a year-long tour with Dwight Yoakum in 2006. He got on Willie’s radar three years later by playing on the Willie and the Wheel album and tour, when Smith was with Asleep at the Wheel.

“Tommy Tedesco, in that Wrecking Crew documentary, said there’s three reasons you should take a gig – the hang, the money, and the music,” Smith said, fairly beaming as he tuned up a bass on the crew bus before the show. “All three of those are just great here. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Bee Spears, the one player in the Family band who could hear and anticipate Willie’s sometimes unusual timing and his tendency to sing behind the beat, died from exposure after falling outside his home in Nashville on December 8, 2011. The loss of the forty-year veteran was the band’s first personnel change since rhythm guitarist Jody Payne retired in 2008 after thirty-five years on the road. Spears’ last gig, which was a few days earlier in Mississippi, happened to also be the very last gig for Chris Etheridge, Willie’s long ago bassist in the early 1970s, who sat in with Bee and the band, knowing he was dying of cancer.

In the wake of Bee’s sudden death, Billy English switched from drums to bass (regular drummer Paul English, Billy’s brother and Willie’s friend and bandmate for sixty years, was at home in Dallas recuperating from a stroke) and Willie’s son Micah filled in on drums to finish out the year’s dates.

Smith doesn’t just play bass. He also plays old-style slap bass with a big upright, bringing a new-old sound to complement the other addition, young gun guitarist Lukas Nelson, who opens shows with his band, Promise of the Real, before joining his father’s band as second guitarist.

But on this balmy, late January evening, Lukas wasn’t feeling well, so his dad would have to handle the guitar chores alone, which actually turned out to be a good thing. Paul English had experienced a second wind and rejoined the family, playing and doing the books on the road. Paul allowed that he and Willie had played a round of golf had played a round of golf not too long ago but stopped after nine holes; they were two old duffers with nothing left to prove.
Music, however, was another matter. “I’m feeling good,” English smiled in his office in the back of the band bus, where he offices to keep the band’s books.

Poodie Locke, the garrulous stage manager for the band for the past 35 years and a legend in his own right, passed away from a massive heart attack in 2009. Filling his shoes was young John Selman, Poodie’s neighbor at Willie World. John, who joined the family after road managing Randy Rogers, had been at the job long enough to run a very tight ship. Shows were running on time from stage call to last note, performances consistently hitting the ninety minute mark, a cutback from the four-hour marathons of the 1970s, perhaps, but mighty impressive for a six-piece that included three octogenarians and one septuagenarian.

The three-bus, one-truck conglomeration was a lean, mean traveling machine, with music as the driving force binding everyone on board, one reason why Willie’s home base studio, Pedernales Recording, had recently gone private, so Willie can record whenever he wants.

Mickey Raphael, the Dallas-born harmonica man responsible for giving every WN tune its indelible ID, was almost giddy with the band’s renewed sound, the new crew boss, and the revived Paul. As the former “kid” in the band, Mickey went out of his way to mentor John Selman and now Kevin Smith in the Willie way. The infusion of youth was proving infectious.

The night before on an off-night in Baton Rouge, Mickey broke his standard “I usually stay in when we’re not working” policy and headed to Lafayette, an hour away, with Lukas Nelson and Kevin Smith in tow to join guitar wild man C.C. Adcock at an informal private jam and gumbo party with C.C.’s Lil’ Band of Gold compadres Warren Storm, Steve Riley, and Lil’ Buck Senegal, and David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, and the rest of Los Lobos.

Staying in on most off-nights reflects the maturation of Willie’s players. These days, wild times are recalled, not lived. “Everybody’s over their nonsense,” is how Kevin Smith put it. “I’m a pretty square dude. I don’t know how I would’ve done in the Poodie days.”

Once upon a time, band problems revolved around the inability to match drugs. When Willie banned coke back in the 1970s, the rest of the band continued doing blow. When everyone was dropping LSD, someone slipped Mickey some PCP, causing him to pass out at the side of the stage during on those four hour marathon sets without anyone noticing Mickey was missing. Mushrooms and Richard Pryor onboard caused Budrock to forget how to work the lights at the same of one show. If the band was jacked up, they were nowhere near as jacked up as opening act Johnny Paycheck nervously paced up and down stairs thanks to a lot of speed. The band was so high at some shows, “We played for four hours just to keep from having to get off the stage and having to deal with anybody,” Mickey said. These days, “Willie’s smoking and no one else is doing anything; it’s almost like a real band now,” Mickey marveled.

For all the recent changes, which included the late arrival and early departure of Willie’s bus from every gig, the core of this band of gypsies rolling down the highway remained the same. Budrock aka Buddy Prewitt, Jr., lighting director for the ages, reported he’s switched to LED lighting which has eliminating the heavy lifting of big lights and trusses of yesteryear. Tunin’ Tom, steward of Willie’s ancient guitar, Trigger, watched the Simpsons while Kenny Koepke showed off smartphone pics of his grandson. Billy English hung with his brother Paul in the office in the back of the band bus while Flaco Lemons tweaked the sound inside where the Franks Brothers and friends were setting up the merch booth. Outside Honeysuckle Rose, driver Gates Moore talked up Dallas Cowboys with top security man LG, who talked up his 49ers. Inside the bus, David Anderson maintained traffic control while staying close to Willie’s side.

While all the usual preshow business swirled around him, the man at the center of it all sat serenely in his booth chair in his rolling home thirty minutes before showtime, wearing a black t-shirt that read North Shore on the front with a map of the Hawaiian Islands on back. He was twirling a big fatty in his hand while surveying the world around him, facing forward, as always.

Willie’s friend Turk Pipkin had brought a guitar to be signed and auctioned for a fundraiser for the Nobelity Project. Daughter Lana poked her head out from the back of the bus where Little Sister Bobbie (actually, his big sister) was resting up, while daughter Amy sat up front, talking to Kevin Smith after Kevin got last minute instructions to open in A minor.

Willie, it turned out, had been rather busy for a man with his 80th birthday in sight. His book Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die was a bona-fide national best-seller. On the heels of the album Heroes, he had a new record about to drop, Let’s Face The Music and Dance, with an album of duets lined up behind it, along with a tour schedule that would keep him on the road, interspersed with breaks, through next fall.

“Still working, still fun, people are still showing up,” he said off-handedly of the schedule ahead.

The new album was kind of a repurposed Stardust. Rather than pulling songs from the Great American Songbook, though, Face the Music And Dance is part-Irving Berlin, part-Django Reinhardt, and all-Willie.

“Someone came up with the idea, ‘Why don’t you do an Irving Berlin album?’ I started thinking about his songs and all of a sudden, Face the Music is there. I listened to Sinatra’s cut on it and Diana Krall’s got a great cut on it. I really fell in love with the song all over again.

But instead of going total-Berlin, Willie veered off into other composers starting with “Walking My Baby Back Home,” and running through “You’ll Never Know,” and “Twilight Time.” “These are all great romance songs, “ he explained. So Irving Berlin simply became the inspiration.

“We’re playing a song or two or three from it every night, mainly because it’s new music and we enjoy a couple of new Django things that we’re doing.”

Ah, Django. Willie couldn’t do an album of classics and leave the original gypsy swing guitarist out of the mix. “Many years ago, Johnny Gimble gave me a tape of Django stuff,” Willie explained. “It’s the first time I ever heard him, and I realized as soon as I heard of him, I’d have to hear a whole lot more. I probably have everything he ever recorded, from the Hot Club of France to when he played the electric in New York. He was the greatest guitarist ever.”

Face the Music and Dance marks the second time he’s recorded “Nuages” and “Vous et Moi,” both of which appeared on 1999’s swing album Night and Day. But on the new version of the latter song in particular, Willie exhibits some of his finest guitar picking on any recording over the past two decades.

Still, it’s the old warhorse, “South of the Border,” that catches the ear, especially the singer’s plaintive “ai-yi-yi”s. “It’s one of those naturals when you’re from Abbott,” the man across the table said matter-of-factly, inhaling deeply before passing the big joint. “It’s one of the first songs you learn. I’ve got a lot of Mexican in me,” he laughed.

Willie asked if I heard about Country Music Association Male Vocalist r of the Year Blake Shelton’s comments about “old farts and jackasses” and that “nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music,” which earned Shelton a heated response from Willie’s friend and mentor Ray Price, who suggested Shelton check back in sixty-three years to check on his legacy. Price signed his letter “Chief Old Fart and Jackass.”

“Wasn’t that funny?” Willie said. “Ray will kick his ass. I think it was a stupid thing to say. I think he realizes it now, that maybe he stepped in it a little bit there.” He paused then expounded. “It’s not often they do [step in it]. Most everybody I know has a lot of respect for those who came before them. I think it was unfortunate thing he said. I haven’t heard a lot of that.”

Willie’s response was to rename his roadshow “The Old Farts and Jackass Tour.”

After Face the Music and Dance comes the duet album, To All the Girls. “I did some songs with Loretta Lynn, Dolly, Roseanne Cash,” Willie said. “You know, I keep having fun doing it. It’s my band on Face the Music and for the Duets album that’s being produced by Buddy Cannon, it’s Nashville musicians who know me up there.”

We talked about the revival of Paul English (“I don’t know. He’s been getting into that Viagra or something”) and the growing acceptance of marijuana, an appropriate topic since Willie sits on the advisory board of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, and was passing around some very strong weed at the moment. “I think there’s 15 or 20 states where medicinal is legal. It’s just a matter of time. When the economy gets worse, and worse and worse, people are gonna say, ‘Wait a minute. We’re missing a deal here.’ And they’re going to finally tax it and regulate it like Chesterfields. They’ll find out there’s a whole lot of money there. “

As onerous as his bust two years ago at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint on Interstate 10 in West Texas may have been, I thanked him because it got me a byline in the Texas Tribune and New York Times. Willie derived some benefit from the inconvenience too. “After I got busted I started the Teapot Party. There was a Tea Party and I thought there should be a Teapot Party. It was kind of a half-ass joke, but it’s now represented in every state in the union and in some foreign countries. There are millions of pot smokers out there who could vote if they wanted to. “

We also talked about Lance Armstrong, the other famous mega-celebrity with Austin ties, who had confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he had doped while winning seven Tour de France cycling races. If anyone could relate, I figured it was Willie. He could.

“If it [doping] is a bad thing to do – and in some instances and with some age groups, it would be a bad thing,” he said, maybe there was reason to go public. “But I don’t know any sport that’s drug-free, do you? From professional football to wrestling.” He laughed and said, “I know some of those old wrestlers who took better pain pills than you ever saw, because they went through a lot of pain. There’s a lot of sports out there that depend on drugs to get them [participants] to the next big town.”

Just like some entertainers enjoy a fine smoke before they hit the stage.

So in a way, Willie had been where Lance is. “We oughta look at it like, ‘Let’s don’t judge ‘til you’ve walked in that man’s shoes. Let’s not tell him how to live or what to do.’ That’s what we were all taught early in life. Judge not, lest you be judged. I don’t think any of us can afford to be judged too close or harshly.”

Turned out, Willie and Lance were friends. “I’ve passed a couple emails back and forth, but he got real busy,” Willie said. “I didn’t want to bother him.”

Did Willie offer Lance any advice?
He nodded, exhaling. “Fuck ‘em.

“Who knows what brought everything on and why everything was like it was? I think BC, Billy Cooper [Willie’s one-time driver], said it pretty good: ‘It’s my mouth and I’ll haul coal in it if I want to.’

“I know one thing that comes to mind when all that happened. I had an arm that I couldn’t use. I hurt it really bad when I was playing golf. George Clooney told me about a doctor in Germany. I went to see him. He took blood out and recharged it with a lot of healing qualities, put it back in, and my arm got OK. It’s about 100% now. You just can’t throw everything in one big bag and say, That’s bad.’”

That was Willie the Star talking. As the grand old man of Texas music, did he dispense advice to younger musicians coming up?

“If they’re any good, they wouldn’t listen to me or anybody else,” he allowed. “They’ll do what their instincts tell them to do and they’ll wind up doing the right thing. You can get a lot of bad advice out there.”

And what were Willie’s instincts telling him?

“To go do a show right here in a minute,” he said, nodding his head towards the big building outside the bus. “That’s about all I have planned until tomorrow.”

Those soulful, deep brown eyes across the table signaled it was time to go to work.

With the band dressed in various shades of black, and Trigger, his battered guitar tethered to his red-white-and-blue macramé strap, Willie had the full house at Nutty Jerry’s eating out of his hands from “Nightlife,” a tune originally recorded less than an hour from Winnie at Gold Star Studios in Houston, just before Willie hit Nashville and was discovered 53 years ago. This particular version showcased his guitar-picking with a long extended improvisation of deft, distinctive notes. He wore the song like an old sweater.

“Little sister” Bobbie, two years his elder, took off on her signature piece, “Down Yonder” to kick the show into gear, followed by “Me and Paul,” the saga of misadventures with Willie’s drummer, his back, and his best friend, Paul English, who nodded assuredly in time with the rhythm as he worked his brushes on the snare.

The crowd provided the response lines to “Good Hearted Woman” “in love with a good-hearted man.” Before long, hardcore fans were pressing up against the stage, women were standing up, arms raised high, mouthing the lyrics, with yeehaws and rebel yells echoing off the walls. Several times, Willie removed the red bandanna he wore around his head and tossed it into the crowd, with outstretched hands grasping for it like it was one of Elvis’ scarves, only better.

The last half of the show was pure tent revival, with daughter Amy and son Lukas, arms around each other, taking the stage to sing backing vocals while their father rolled through “On The Road Again,” “Always On My Mind.” three Hank Williams songs including “I Saw The Light,” working in “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” until closing with his latest, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” a spiritual with decidedly secular lyrics.

As the band played on, Willie signed autographs for fans bunched at the lip of the stage, autographing hats, pieces of paper, shirts, bras, dolls…anything offered for close to five minutes.

And then he walked offstage. The band finally shut down, and Paul English gingerly escorted Sister Bobbie offstage. When Bobbie recognized a writer waiting at the bottom of the steps, she lit up, gave him a hug, and accepted his compliments for her performance. She kept smiling as she sweetly allowed, “The sound wasn’t very good tonight. You’re just going to have to come back and hear us again real soon.”

Her words made me stop and marvel. Bobbie and Willie have been playing together for seventy-six years. Seventy-six years. That’s longer than any two people in the history of American music. From their perspective, they’re simply still doing what their grandparents raised them to do: make music, and have fun doing it.

Paul helped Bobbie step gingerly onto Honeysuckle Rose, then stepped off as the door closed. Within seconds, the bus with the half-eagle, half-Willie face painted on the back began to back out of its parking spot. A minute later, it had vanished into the coastal fog.

And that should have been that.

Except that the following night in Bossier City, Willie and Family were joined onstage by one of his mentors, Ray Price, who sang “Crazy” and “Nightlife” and killed with his performance, inspiring Willie to advise the audience, “Watch out for them old farts!” The next night, Willie did an intimate two-fer with old friend Kris Kristofferson at the Bluebird Café in Nashville.

Like the big wheels rolling, the Willie show never really stops. It just keeps on going. The man behind it all wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Unfinished Blues and Ernie K-Doe, from the Oxford American

link here OxfordAmerican.org

unfinished_bluesernie_k-doe

by Joe Nick Patoski

As the port and melting pot of American music, the Crescent City sound began in Congo Square, where African slaves and immigrants from the Caribbean and Europe played music from their home countries and proceeded to mix it all up. Jazz came from New Orleans, and by virtue of lineage so did rhythm and blues, rock & roll, Zydeco, brass bands, and bounce. Music is the linchpin of Mardi Gras, of St. Joseph’s Day for the local Indian tribes, and of Jazz Fest. Music celebrates births and ushers the dead to the cemetery in festive fashion. If New Orleans isn’t really where all music comes from—as Ernie K-Doe once proclaimed on WWOZ, the city’s community-owned radio station—then I’d like to know where else.

You can hear music anywhere, but in New Orleans you can feel it and smell it in the thick and salty air. Now and then you can read about it—but rarely in stories as well-told as Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan (2010), and Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans by Ben Sandmel (2012). These are the first two books in a series published by the Historic New Orleans Collection. The large-format books are liberally illustrated with photographs, poster and record label reproductions, and ephemera—get-well cards, poster boards, newspaper clippings, election buttons—that alone are worth the cover charge. But the storytelling makes the difference in these lavishly produced books.

Of all the arts that inform New Orleans’s rich culture and separate the city from everywhere else, music remains by far the most important. The musicians at Preservation Hall, one of they city’s oldest living traditions, charge $20 for playing jazz funeral standard “When the Saints Go Marching In”; it is so well known around the world that tourists can’t help but request it. And the creators of this culture, the musicians at the heart of it all, from Jelly Roll Morton to Lil Wayne, have been recognized for their contributions and have sacrificed themselves for their art (a moment of silence for James Booker, Professor Longhair, and all the has-beens and never-wills). Harold Battiste Jr. and Ernie K-Doe, the subjects of the two books, traveled wildly divergent paths to reach hometown legacy status.

Battiste is that rare success story from New Orleans’s classic R&B/rock & roll heyday, from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s; he was one of the cats who left town to be somebody and make money. Most artists bitch about never getting paid and having royalties and publishing rights stolen, and were and are bitter, but Battiste rose to a position of prominence as an A&R cat for Specialty; as owner of the trailblazing African-American-owned AFO label; as a producer and arranger of classic American popular music (including Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” and some of the earliest recordings of the Marsalises, New Orleans’s first family of jazz); and as producer and arranger of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and musical director of their television show orchestra. Along the way, Battiste tried to give breaks to others, including Melvin Lastie and Mac Rebennack, whom he produced as Dr. John, The Night Tripper.

Battiste was a scrupulous list keeper and diarist, and many of his diary entries turn up in his memoir. Still, for all the intimate writings, a reader is left wondering about the dynamics of Battiste’s relationship with Bono and with other music-business players, as well as the specific details of what led to his divorce (besides the implicit demands of the lifestyle musicians lead). Too often Battiste gives his personal life short shrift to focus on career highlights.

Ernie K-Doe’s story is more compelling, due largely to the writing talents and outsider’s eye of author, musician, and historian Ben Sandmel, whose prose reads like a great New Orleans song is supposed to sound: you start tapping your foot with each turn of the page, as the tales grow wilder, more exotic, and larger than life. Each time you’re ready to put the book down, you’re swaying and moving to some silent rhythm.

K-Doe was one of those one-hit wonders who never got his due, popularly or financially, after his moment in the national limelight with the number-one single “Mother-in-Law,” in 1961. Like so many others, his story should have ended there, but K-Doe’s mid-life resurrection became the bigger story. First he was a disc jockey on WWOZ, where the self-declared Emperor of R&B became a star in his own right. Then he and his third wife, Antoinette, started Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge, where K-Doe held court and gave a satisfying show (on most nights) to visitors seeking an authentic New Orleans music experience—unlike, say, witnessing Frogman Henry singing “Ain’t Got No Home” on Bourbon Street for the two-drink minimum.

Sandmel’s appreciation and respect for K-Doe and Antoinette shows through his rollicking, party-time narrative that celebrates the extreme aspects of entertainment without ignoring the consequences of what the pursuit of pleasure can bring. K-Doe’s post-“Mother-in-Law” life was defined by what Sandmel calls “anarchic madness,” which is a nice way of describing the collateral damage brought on by all that partying, such as alcoholism and broken relationships.

But the redemption K-Doe found late in life through his wife and the Mother-in-Law Lounge is indisputable, culminating with his postmortem immortalization in 2001 as a life-size, stuffed statue that remained the lounge’s centerpiece even after Antoinette’s death on Mardi Gras morning in 2009. Betty Fox, Antoinette’s daughter, ran the joint for a year and a half before she threw in the towel, acknowledging that she wasn’t her charismatic mother. The current owner, trumpet player Kermit Ruffins, temporarily reopened the lounge at North Claiborne Avenue and Columbus Street for this year’s Mardi Gras, and he hopes to eventually reopen the venue full-time.

K-Doe may have talked a lot of shit (he once said, “Ain’t nothin’ but two songs gonna make it to the end of the world—’The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘Mother-in-Law'”), but he was always worth listening to. The man’s radio wizardry and penchant for hyperbole has been preserved for posterity:

As for the larger question K-Doe posited about all music and New Orleans, both books go a long way in providing the answer: music couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

For more on Ernie K-Doe and the outsize influence of New Orleans on America’s musical tradition, read “All Music Comes from Louisiana” by Chris Rose, featured in the OA’s Louisiana Music Issue.

K-Doe on DJing and WWOZ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UNSdf9i0ixA

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Not Just America’s Team on Yahoo! Sports The War Room

LINK TO STORY AND AUDIO IS HERE
www.yahoosportsradio.com/nft/joe-nick-patoski-not-just-americas-team944500/

Joe Nick Patoski, author of “The Dallas Cowboys”, explains the importance of the iconic franchise (and brand) to the city of Dallas and the history of the NFL.
tom

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Willie’s Willie book and my Willie book

from the Aquarian, a nice shoutout. Willie will be with me until I’m no longer here.Roll-Me-up-and-Smoke-Me-When-I-Die-by-Willie-Nelson

Rant ‘N’ Roll: The Wisdom Of Willie

—by Mike Greenblatt, February 27, 2013

Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From The Road (William Morrow), by Willie Nelson, with a foreword by Texas Jewboy Kinky Friedman, can be read in one sitting. Consider it dessert to the much more substantial main course of Joe Nick Patoski’s Willie Nelson: An Epic Life. Willie, who hits 80 in a few weeks, is still vital. His current album, Heroes, is terrific and his new album, Let’s Face The Music And Dance, due this spring, will have new originals and covers in the Willie way of Irving Berlin, Carl Perkins, and most surprisingly, Spade Cooley. Cooley (1910-1969) has fallen out of favor ever since he murdered his wife who had an affair with cowboy movie star Roy Rogers.

“It’s already been proven that taxing and regulating marijuana makes more sense than sending young people to prison for smoking a God-given herb that has never proven fatal to anybody,” writes Willie, who also writes “the greatest musician, singer, writer and entertainer that I have ever seen or heard is Leon Russell” and “the best country singer of all time was, and still is, Ray Price.”

Willie’s also a big fan of the three-fingered gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-1953), whose “Nuages” he covers on the upcoming album. I saw Willie at Farm Aid last year. His guitar playing is extraordinary. He came on to jam with Neil Young and his timing was so jazz it was thrilling. Neil did all he could do to keep up with him. He sings the same way, a bit behind the beat. Drives musicians crazy. New cats find it hard to deal. His band seems to stay put. They know his predilections. Harmonica player Mickey Raphael says, “When I started this gig, I was 21 and I’m 60 now. I learned so much from watching Willie play, and his unique phrasing has given me a musical education I would have received nowhere else.” The book features other testimonials including his sister, his fourth wife, Annie, and some of his six children and seven grandchildren (but none of his eight great-grandchildren).

Willie is as comfortable playing with jazz trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis as he is playing reggae, blues or standards. Screw Rod Stewart’s five albums of American standards. They’re all garbage. When Willie Willie-izes the great American songbook, everything old sounds new again.

“Annie and I have oral sex all the time,” he writes.

He admits to having been beaten up a few times in his life. Even had a gunfight once when he kicked off his property the abusive husband of his daughter and the wife-beater came back shooting. Luckily, everybody missed.

Greatest songwriters? Willie lists Billy Joe Shaver, Roger Miller, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Vern Gosdin.

“I’m so opinionated that I can give you my opinion on anything, anytime, and I’m glad to do so because I’m just an asshole,” he writes.

He tells a few jokes and gives out with one Major League piece of advice: “If you want to be a star, you should start acting like one now, so that when you become one, you will already know how to behave, and maybe you won’t blow it. For instance, I don’t know anybody who is better drunk than sober. You might get by awhile, but sooner than later it will take you down. I know. I tried it.”

There was a period in his band with two drummers and two bassists, and the music got harder and wilder like The Allman Brothers: “Everything was great until we all got on different drugs,” he writes, “then it sounded a lot like a cluster-fuck and a catfight going on at the same time, but we had fun.”

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Pro Football’s Biggest Star

from the February 26 edition of TMDailyPost.com
link here:

The passing of Jack Eskridge on Februrary 11 was noted by one of his former employers, the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, which cited Eskridge as the team’s first equipment manager and one of Tom Landry’s very first hires in 1960. But, arguably, Eskridge’s most important contribution to the Cowboys was choosing a blue star to be the team’s logo.

Eskridge’s life was defined by numerous achievements, including witnessing the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima during World War Two, playing professional basketball for the Chicago Stags and the Indianapolis Jets, and coaching basketball as an assistant at the University of Kansas, where he recruited future superstar Wilt Chamberlain. But his simple choice of that star has resonated farther and wider than anything else he did.

It began as a blue star on the side of a white helmet—no white border around the star and not a spec of silver anywhere in the team’s uniform. The Cowboys’s other logo, a cartoon helmeted football player riding what appears to be a freaked-out miniature Shetland pony, was used to promote the team in print ads.

alternate Cowboys helmet

Before the 1964 season, there was some tinkering with the helmet logo that was credited to Tex Schramm, the Cowboys’ first GM. The team experimented with a Cowboy boot with a star spur logo and considered a blue helmet with a white star, but neither gained traction. When the season started, though, players wore the now-familiar silver helmets with the blue star, which was now outlined in white.

Schramm continued experimenting trying to come up with the right shade of silver, according to Carol Hermanovski, who designed the football club’s new offices at Expressway Towers at 6116 North Central Expressway and redid their bumper sticker to highlight the star.

“I’d meet with him, and he would say, ‘Carol I want to show you something.’ He’d say, ‘What do you think about this color for the leggings for the pants?’ He was obsessing constantly about that silver-blue color. He was so concerned about how that color looked on TV, and of course that was something you couldn’t control because each person’s TV was set differently. He was always trying to get that perfect silver blue. At times he got it a little much like a pale turquoise and I would tell him, ‘No, Tex, it’s got too much green in it. It looks too turquoise.'”

(Here’s a year-by-year evolution of the Cowboys’ look.)

This much is true: Eskridge’s embrace of the star as helmet logo would have been called marketing brilliance, if such a term existed around pro football in the sixties. Of all the brands associated with the state of Texas, none is as well-known and instantly identifiable around the world as that blue star with the white border. No other sports franchise can claim a logo that’s as simple and as instantly recognizable.

Helping to promote the star was the television show Dallas, which by 1980 was the most popular television show in the world, dubbed into 67 languages in more than ninety countries. No matter if viewers understood American culture, much less had an inkling about the city of Dallas—they knew the star, since the opening credits of every episode featured an aerial shot of Texas Stadium, zooming down through the hole in the roof to focus on the end zone where the letters spelled out “COWBOYS,” accompanied by the five-pointed logo. The star said all that needed to be said.

Just think, it could have been that goofy cartoon player riding the midget pony, which is right up there with the oil derrick that ID’ed the Houston Oilers, or that silly patriot hiking the ball that Boston originally embraced.

Or it could have been just a big D, for the first letter of the city the team represented, which of could have been confused for Denver (although today, D might be more appropriate, since it could also be mistaken for Dysfunction, which pretty much sums up the current state of the franchise).

Whatever it represents, it goes back to Jack Eskridge. No matter what one thinks of the Dallas Cowboys, that iconic star represents the team, the city, the state, and NFL football better than any logo in sports.

(Stars from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net, Boot helmet from Helmethut.com.)

Joe Nick Patoski is the author of THE DALLAS COWBOYS: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America (Little, Brown). Read an excerpt from it here.

AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher

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Ten Best Football Books of 2012

according to Kirkus Reviews
link here: www.kirkusreviews.com/lists/10-best-football-books-2

10 Best Football Books

We know what you’re thinking—why are those book nerds over at Kirkus pontificating about the best football books? Do they even watch football at Kirkus? Ahem—we’ll bypass that question to remind you that if it’s a book, we know whether it’s any good. This week, we highlight 10 gripping, insightful stories about the big egos, big money and big bruises at the heart of America’s national sport. You won’t get all 10 read before Sunday’s epic battle, but any of these titles will provide some nice perspective on why that little oval of pigskin—and the guys fighting and fumbling over it—capture our attention (even our attention).
Cover art for MUCK CITY
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 23, 2012
MUCK CITY: WINNING AND LOSING IN FOOTBALL’S FORGOTTEN TOWN
by Bryan Mealer
“Mealer tries a little too hard to tug at the heartstrings; nonetheless, he offers a stirring tale of sports as a means of escape from dire circumstances.”
High school football players and other residents of hardscrabble Belle Glade, Fla., fight for their pride and their lives in this chronicle from veteran reporter Mealer (All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo, 2008, etc.). Read full review >
Cover art for THE DALLAS COWBOYS
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 9, 2012
THE DALLAS COWBOYS: THE OUTRAGEOUS HISTORY OF THE BIGGEST, LOUDEST, MOST HATED, BEST LOVED FOOTBALL TEAM IN AMERICA
by Joe Nick Patoski
“A fittingly exhaustive history of a larger-than-life franchise.”
Texas journalist and author Patoski (Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, 2008, etc.) delivers an oversized history of one of sport’s greatest franchises. Read full review >
Cover art for WAR ROOM
NONFICTION
Released: Nov. 8, 2011
Kirkus Star WAR ROOM: THE LEGACY OF BILL BELICHICK AND THE ART OF BUILDING THE PERFECT TEAM
by Michael Holley
“A deeply reported, thoroughly engaging look at what it takes to succeed in the NFL–and a perfect complement to the NFL Network’s compelling miniseries Bill Belichick: A Football Life.”
A longtime Patriots chronicler goes inside the brain trust of the NFL’s most successful team. Read full review >
Cover art for OUR BOYS
NONFICTION
Released: Aug. 18, 2009
OUR BOYS: A PERFECT SEASON ON THE PLAINS WITH THE SMITH CENTER REDMEN
by Joe Drape
“A feel-good story of youthful drive, great coaching and the value of unflagging communal support.”
Turning his attention from horseracing (To the Swift: Classic Triple Crown Horses and Their Race for Glory, 2008, etc.), New York Times reporter Drape follows a high-school football dynasty. Read full review >
Cover art for THE GLORY GAME
NONFICTION
Released: Nov. 4, 2008
THE GLORY GAME: HOW THE 1958 NFL CHAMPANIONSHIP CHANGED FOOTBALL FOREVER
by Frank Gifford, Peter Richmond
“Touchdown, Gifford!”
NFL great Gifford (The Whole Ten Yards, with Harry Waters, 1993) reminisces about the legendary game between his New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Read full review >
Cover art for THE BEST GAME EVER
NONFICTION
Released: June 3, 2008
THE BEST GAME EVER: GIANTS VS. COLTS, 1958, AND THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN NFL
by Mark Bowden
“Not quite on par with Bringing the Heat (1994), among the best football books ever, but surely a delight for anyone interested in the history of the NFL.”
Bowden (Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, 2006, etc.) takes a sharp look at the 1958 National Football League championship game, which featured “the greatest concentration of football talent ever assembled for a single game.” Read full review >

Cover art for CARLISLE VS. ARMY
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 4, 2007
CARLISLE VS. ARMY: JIM THORPE, DWIGHT EISENHOWER, POP WARNER, AND THE FORGOTTEN STORY OF FOOTBALL’S GREATEST BATTLE
by Lars Anderson
“Gripping, inspiring coverage of three powerful forces’ unforgettable convergence: the sports version of The Perfect Storm.”
Sports Illustrated staffer Anderson (The All Americans, 2004, etc.) chronicles a 1912 game that proved a turning point not just for college football, but for the sport as a whole. Read full review >
Cover art for NAMATH
NONFICTION
Released: Aug. 23, 2004
NAMATH: A BIOGRAPHY
by Mark Kriegel
“Namath was no angel, thank goodness, but this evocative portrait shows him at play in the fields of magic. ”
Meaty biography of Broadway Joe from sports-columnist-turned-novelist Kriegel (Bless Me, Father, 1995). Read full review >
Cover art for BACKYARD BRAWL
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 3, 2002
BACKYARD BRAWL: INSIDE THE BLOOD FEUD BETWEEN TEXAS AND TEXAS A&M
by W.K. Stratton
“Good-natured, intelligent, funny, and less bombastic than the title suggests.”
A savvy sportswriter uses the football rivalry between the University of Texas and Texas A&M to paint a lively, partial portrait of the Lone Star State. Read full review >
Cover art for MY GREATEST DAY IN FOOTBALL
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 8, 2001
Kirkus Star MY GREATEST DAY IN FOOTBALL: THE LEGENDS OF FOOTBALL RECOUNT THEIR GREATEST MOMENTS
edited by Bob McCullough
“Simply not to be missed: Meat and potatoes for the football fan.”
Fun memories from football greats, and some fascinating insights into the politics of the Hall of Fame and football’s evolution over the past 50 years, as compiled by McCullough (My Greatest Day in Golf, not reviewed). Read full review >

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Cowboys first Bling Ring 4 Sale

Dallas Cowboys’ first team publicist is auctioning off a rare keepsake: his ring from team’s first Super Bowl win in ’72

The link is here direct from the Scoop blog at the Dallas Morning News.

And here’s the Scoop:

By Robert Wilonsky
rwilonsky@dallasnews.com
9:51 am on January 24, 2013 | Permalink

Curt Mosher’s held on to this Super Bowl ring for more than 40 years. Selling it now, he says, is “the thing to do.”(Courtesy Heritage Auctions)

Curt Mosher, a sportswriter who got comfortable in some front offices around the National Football League, officially became the Dallas Cowboys’ public relations director on April 1, 1967. He wasn’t the first to hold the position: “Tex Schramm’s official title was general manager and chief public relations executive,” says Joe Nick Patoski, author of The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America. “But Curt was the first I read about who was ID’d as team publicist.”

Mosher held that title till 1976, when he left to run the day-to-day operations of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers; a year later, he was assistant general manager for the Atlanta Falcons. But he left Dallas with one heck of a parting gift: a diamond-studded “World Champions” ring, the result of Dallas’ 24-3 whipping of the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium down in New Orleans.

And now it could be yours: Mosher and wife Mary are selling the ring in Heritage Auctions’ February 23-24 Platinum Night Sports Auction, which will take place in New York City. As far as Heritage can tell, this is the first 1971 season title ring to be offered at auction.

“It’s hard to part with it,” says the 80-year-old Mosher. “And it’s a gorgeous thing. Tex was the one who OK’d the design. Tex was appreciative of a lot of things, including jewelry. It’s gorgeous.”

But Curt hasn’t worn it “for quite a while,” says Mary. The reason: “He’s been ill, and it just fell off his fingers. It’s been laying around for years …”

“Not years,” interrupts Curt.

“Well, you haven’t worn it for years,” Mary says.

“I wore it when my fingers and hands worked,” Curt says. “I’m very arthritic. And I’ve had health issues. But you don’t want to hear all that.”

In an emailed statement Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage, reminds this is far from the first Super Bowl ring Heritage has sold; it was news back in 2011 when long-ago Green Bay Packer Fuzzy Thurston sold his Super Bowl II jewelry to cover some back-tax issues, for instance.

“But we can’t find another instance of a single 1971 Cowboys Super Bowl ring ever coming up a public auction,” says Ivy. “For fans of America’s Team this may well be the ultimate artifact, and there’s certainly no telling when, or if, another one will surface.” He guesstimates the bidding will open around $10,000 and go up from there.

For Curt, parting with the ring won’t be easy. His connection to the Cowboys of old goes way back and runs deep. “I loved Tex Schramm,” Curt says. He and Mary were at his house just days before the team’s first president and general manager died on July 15, 2004.

And “he was the messenger who informed Roger Staubach that Don Meredith had retired, sealing the Dodger’s future with Dallas,” says Patoski. “Until that point, Staubach was thinking his future was probably with another team. And he was in the inner circle of the front office that got to party with Clint Murchison at Spanish Cay, back when owners were beloved rather than reviled.”

The Moshers say, yes, it’ll be nice to make some money off the ring. Of course. Absolutely. “That’d be great,” Mary says.

“But I’d like to see it in the hands of someone who loves it as much as I do,” says Curt. He says he used to wear the ring all the time — even in New York, when he worked for the National Football League’s Management Council, though he would wear it backwards as not to attract undue attention. But those days are long over. Time to pass it on to the highest bidder who’ll really appreciate such a rare keepsake from the team’s very first Super Bowl win.

“I always love to hear good things about the Cowboys,” says Mosher. “It’s just been very pleasant. Mary’s taken on the task of selling it, and that’s the deal. Yes, it’s hard to give it up, but that the thing to do.”

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Book of the Week on TheFinancialist.com

Very fine review from the Finalialist, link here http://www.thefinancialist.com/book-of-the-week-the-dallas-cowboys/

Book of the Week: The Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl in nearly two decades. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009. They finished this season with an 8-8 record and a gut-wrenching loss to the Washington Redskins that ended their hopes for a playoff berth.

Despite their lackluster performance in recent years, the Cowboys still have a swagger that delights their fans and enrages their many detractors. “America’s Team,” as the Cowboys have dubbed themselves, plays in a $1 billion stadium that includes displays of high-end art alongside the team’s five Lombardi trophies. The stadium and its gigantic high-definition screen (the fourth largest in the world) is a reminder that, win or lose, the Cowboys always seem to be in the spotlight.

In his 800-page book, “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America,” former Texas Monthly journalist Joe Nick Patoski explains how the team cultivated its larger-than-life persona over the last four decades. He argues that the Cowboys’ brash attitude is part of the Lone Star State’s own unique football culture, where high school and college football often approach the status of religion. In fact, when Clint Murchison Jr., the son of an oil baron, invested $600,000 to launch the Cowboys in 1960, he had to rely on a healthy dose of spectacle to convince fans who passionately followed high school and college play on Friday and Saturday to also cheer for professional football on Sunday.

While Murchison used marketing to build a fan base, by the 1970s, the team was drawing crowds with its winning ways. Head coach Tom Landry, always wearing his trademark fedora, led Dallas to five Super Bowl appearances, winning in 1971 and again in 1977.

Much of Patoski’s best material comes from this era, including his descriptions of quarterback Roger Staubach, who asked for a station wagon instead of a sports car after being named M.V.P. of Super Bowl VI, and running back Duane Thomas, who refused to speak for an entire season as part of a contract dispute.

Patoski also dedicates a great deal of ink to the Cowboys’ current owner Jerry Jones, whose over-the-top sense of style personifies today’s team. The author portrays Jones as a passionate, hands-on owner who signed some of the league’s biggest contracts and built one of the its most ambitious stadiums.

In his own way, even though the Cowboys are no longer winning, Jones has helped solidify the brand established by Landry and Staubach back in the 1970s. Dallas remains big and bold, and whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are still America’s team.

Photo courtesy of Ken Durden / Shutterstock.com

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