D'ville Tom Sez...

Song of the Day 

July 4th has always been a big day for our band, with a lot of memorable performances over the years. 

The last couple of fourths, however, have been rather wistful because of what’s been done to the country by the unskilled people charged with running it. So I’ll just have to rely on memories for this time around. 

Those memories begin for me in 1976 in Las Vegas, our first fourth as a band. That was, among other things, the day that our guitarist Richard Bennett Tina got hitched to his wife Tina Ward Bennett in our vocalist’s suite before the show. Fireworks later followed (no irony intended), which we watched from the roof of the Jockey Club across the street after our show at the newly-opened Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts, which is now newly-demolished. It was the bicentennial, and worthy of a big party, and we had good reasons for one.

Flash forward many years to Dubin, where our caterers served up a holiday themed spread for a rehearsal day, albeit one with a bit of Asian flavor. Any day in Dublin brings fun, and this one was no different.

 Another year we were invited to "our home in England," Woburn Abbey, where our friends threw an American-style Independence day party for us, even though we were in England, the place we got our independence from.

Then there was Boston in 2009...The 4th is a jolly time in Boston, so we jumped right in, performing with the Boston Pops (that's conductor Keith Lockhart hanging with the vocalist above), for an evening hosted by the brilliant Craig Ferguson (below, next to an unidentified Muzoid). 

Above, our vocalist says "Hi, Pops!"

And there was the very impressive one in 1986, on Governor’s Island in NYC, when we re-opened the Statue of Liberty after it had been refurbished. The ferry ride back from the island was one of those rare moments when everyone on the boat was the most important person there.

I hope our country gets back to normal sometime soon, so we can celebrate it the best way possible. We’ve got a really good song for it, one about immigrants traveling here. 

Perhaps you'd like to hear the fine version of it that we did at the Greek Theatre in August of 2012. It will appear on our upcoming Hot August Night III package, coming in August. Here's a link to see it right now.

Harlan Ellison has left the building 

Harlan Ellison, who died today, was a long-time friend and collaborator to my late brother Joe. When we moved to LA long ago, we became the beneficiaries of that great friendship.

Harlan was irascible, brilliant and motivated. He was a great friend (and, as been documented, a ruthless enemy), and time spent with him was never wasted. Harlan once came to a party at our house and spent the entire evening sitting a at a typewriter in our living room, writing a story which he sold the next day.

A visit to his house, sometimes known as the Lost Aztec Temple, was what we used to call an E Coupon coupon ride; a work of art in itself, full of mystic treasures, from the exterior gargoyles made to look like members of the Nixon administration, to the low-ceilinged secret room below, which was made intentionally inaccessible to tall people. His work always sold, and he created it tirelessly. He had an enormous fanbase.

And he loved music. I remember when I once had temporarily convinced myself that MP3 recordings sounded pretty good, he played me a pristine LP of Aretha Franklin's first album, which was pure jazz, and it cleaned out my ears so thoroughly that I couldn't listen to an MP3 file for months afterward.

We hadn't seen him for months, not since he declared that he just wasn't up to visitors any more.

His wife, Susan, has been a valiant caregiver for the duration of his recent years of illness, and we send her our love and all the comfort we can offer.

Last Tango in Glasto 

On June 29, 2008. The Arch Angel touring organization wrapped up phase one of its plan for world domination with a performance for an audience of wild-eyed youths and a few adults who managed to sneak past security at a festive gathering in Glastonbury. 

The late afternoon performance was telecast live by the BBC to a nation hungry for another look at us, or perhaps it was just hungry. It was tea time, after all. 

"It wouldn't be Glastonbury without the mud," we had been told, but still our vocalist was promising to the press that we would deliver some California sunshine to the site. Somehow, he was able to deliver. 

As it was, our performance—which had the potential to be something akin to a gig at the old Hollywood Tropicana, the saloon at Hollywood and Western where the main attraction was mud wrestling—was a sun-kissed love fest. The sight of 130,000 or so people, depending on who’s counting, waving their arms during Sweet Caroline was one that Touroids won't soon forget. (Those 130K audience members weren't there just to see us--Jay Z, John Mayer and Leonard Cohen were among the others on the bill.)

Nor will they forget our unplanned break in the middle of the show, when electricity for the audio system went away for a while. King and Ron kept the beat going, which was all that was required for most of the audience and the Beeb, so when the juice was restored, the vocalist leaped in at the exact spot where the interruption had occurred, with a look on his face that could have been interpreted as “I meant to do that.”

Convincing a jury that the extended percussion solo was entirely planned was made a bit more difficult because of the puddles of sweat accumulating around Bernie Becker’s audio work station. But Bernie is such a grizzled veteran that he knew how to make us sound like we were doing just what we intended.

After the show, traffic made it necessary for us to a swift exit (we call it a "runner") with our police escort. We had planned to have dinner on the bus, but a little culinary miscalculation, resulted in our having to enjoy a sumptuous banquet of potato chips and peanut butter. Mmm, my favorite!

Later on, the reviews from our appearance began to roll in, and while that little moment out of time had been noticed by some, the spin tended described as “Diamond Triumphs over Technical Glitch.” Which, in retrospect, was exactly what had happened. Bravo, British journos, you got it right fer once.

Fake Osmond Alert! 

Picutred above, Left to right, are: Donny Osmond, Jimmy Osmond, Alan Osmond, Tom Osmond, Jay Osmond, Ron Osmond, Wayne Osmond, Marie Osmond, and Merle Osmond. 

Two of the individuals in this portrait are not actually bona fide members of the Osmond family. Yes, it's an extended family, but it doesn't extend quite that far. Perhaps you can spot the fake Osmonds if you look closely. If you do, write down the names of the two Osmonds you think are bogus and put your entry in your bedroom wastebasket. Then watch for your mail. If your answer is correct, you will receive an absolutely FREE advertising circular from a major department store in your area! Good luck! 

Full disclosure: We were doing a TV appearance in London a decade ago, and The Osmonds were guests on the same Jonathan Ross show as our motley bunch. Ron Tutt and I, who had played on a lot of records with various Osmonds a long time before that, took advantage of the opportunity for this little reunion picture. None of us had aged a bit, except some of us.

Bluegrass memories 

An old college friend named Neil Rosenberg just sent me a copy of his new book, Bluegrass Generation, and I settled into it happily. Along the way, it presents some moments in my life that I don't get to recall often, specifically a period in the early sixties when I was playing bass in a band called The Pigeon Hill Boys. If you don't know much about bluegrass, it's like country music, except way better. Maybe you could consider it a cross between country music and bebop. Unless you're Irish, in which case it sounds like Irish music.

Neil Rosenberg, the book's author, was a scholar who came to Bloomington from back east, and was the instigator who drew a number os us into it. I came, of course, from a jazz background, like many in Bloomington, as the book explains. t inexplicably gravitated into the picking world. We played for our meager following at coffee houses and folk festivals around Indiana and  beyond, and I enjoyed all of it. 

I especially enjoyed a festival concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan, an all-day event which concluded with a gala set featuring all the featured acts. We followed a folksinger whose name was misspelled on the poster as "Bob Dillon." Yes, it was that guy. It didn't destroy his career, apparently.

My only memory from that day is that during a lengthy break, I walked down the street in Ann Arbor and found a jazz club where an afternoon jam session was going on. I went in to check out the scene. After a bit, I stopped by the bandstand, and uncharacteristically asked if I could sit in.

I was dressed in my full bluegrass mufti, including cowboy hat, checked shirt and jeans, and I enjoyed the predictable look of horror on the musicians' faces at the thought of an apparent hillbilly buffoon sharing their hip space, but they were good sports about it, and didn't bar me from the premises. I felt their palpable relief when they determined that I could play somewhat credibly in their genre. This was many years before Charlie Haden made it perfectly okay for jazz players to diversify into bluegrass. I told Mr. Haden that story a few years ago, and thanked him for blazing the trail.

In his book, Neil recounts tales of his work with Bill Monroe, who is regarded as the father of bluegrass. Neil is also the author of a book called The Music of Bill Monroe (Music in American Life). The Pigeon Hill Boys played at Monroe's Jamboree venue in Bean Blossom, Indiana a few times. It's in the book. It's all in the book.

This photo (below) of the Pigeon Hill Boys rehearsing amid blue grass and green leaves in Bloomington a very long time ago is also in the book. Left to right, the troublemakers were Neil Rosenberg, Charlie Leinenweber, an unidentified Touroid, Bob Patterson and Jim Neawedde.