NOAA Photo Library
August 26, 2009
Slide 7 of 25 - 16th Street Overpass - Bridge Creek
The first overpass fatality of the event occurred at the 16th Street overpass bridge over Interstate 44 in rural Newcastle (this is just east of Bridge Creek, where F5 damage occurred). The upper two photographs were taken in late September by the author and are different views of the west side of this bridge where the people were seeking shelter. Close examination of the upper left picture reveals several things. First, the construction of this overpass is very different from the one on the Kansas Turnpike as seen in slide 9. There is only a tiny ledge that is not big enough for a person to crawl up underneath. Also, the bridge support girders are skinny. Second, there is a large amount of red clay dirt that has been sprayed up underneath the overpass. On the concrete, one can clearly see the silhouettes of the people where they were crouching. The upper right image is looking northeast along Interstate 44 in the direction of Oklahoma City. A piece of metal debris is clearly seen embedded in the bridge. The lower left photographs were taken in the days just after May 3. It is looking northwest with the damage path the scoured red area. This shows clearly that this bridge took a direct hit from the tornado. This picture also illustrates another point that was already mentioned in slides 4 and 6: the wind direction at any point that is near a tornado's path will experience a rapid and sometimes 180 degree change in the wind direction during tornado passage. This is in stark contrast to a 'straight line' wind event (or downburst), which is the most common damaging wind phenomenon associated with severe thunderstorms. In the case of a downburst wind, the wind generally comes from about the same direction throughout the event. During the May 3rd tornado case, the people were seeking shelter under the west side of the bridge, perhaps assuming that being on the same side of the bridge as the direction from which the tornado was approaching would offer the most protection. This might be true if the winds were only from that direction during the event. During the tornado, unfortunately, as it approached from the southwest, the initial strong wind was from the southeast, directly into the west side of the bridge where they were crouched! If they had taken shelter under the east side of the bridge, they would have been protected somewhat from the tornado's initial winds; however, as the vortex passed, the wind would quickly shift, with the strongest wind from the northwest on the backside of the tornado!
The final two pictures show that a violent tornado can still cause tremendous devastation, even in a relatively rural area where debris in the flow might be expected to be less than in an urban area. The lower right photo in the foreground is the tornado as it appeared near Bridge Creek (located just west of Newcastle) just before 7 PM CDT. The tornado was producing F5 intensity damage at this time. The lower right photo was taken in the damage path just minutes after the tornado passed by NSSL student Jason Lynn. In the center of the photo is what remains of a tree that was completely de-barked and reduced to a splintered 3-foot tall stump, apparently the result of impacts from "natural" debris (e.g., gravel, parts of other trees, etc.). This clearly illustrates that even 'natural' debris can be extremely destructive, especially in a strong or violent tornado; a tornado need not have structural objects or automobiles entrained into its circulation and debris cloud to make it extremely dangerous to unsheltered humans.
The second fatality occurred at the Shields Boulevard overpass at its junction with Interstate 35 in the City of Moore. These photographs show many of the same things as the pictures of the 16th Street overpass. The top two photographs were taken by the author in late September. On the upper right is a view, looking south, of the west side of the bridge where the people were huddled. In the drainage ditch in the foreground, is a small memorial to the lady killed at this location. Her body was not found until one week after the tornado. The spot where her body was eventually found was buried underneath 6 to 8 feet of debris immediately after the tornado passed. On the upper left is a close up of this view, looking underneath the bridge. Notice the complete lack of any girders or support beams, simply smooth concrete up the embankment and smooth concrete overhead. There is absolutely nothing to hang on to underneath this bridge, and nothing to offer any protection whatsoever from flying debris. The picture on the lower right was taken by Chuck Doswell about 1 week after the tornado, and shortly before the lady’s body was found. In the photo near the shadow of the overpass is someone looking for the woman's body; they found the body shortly after the photo was taken. The photo's view is to the north, and from the other side of the bridge than the upper two pictures. Note the complete scouring of all vegetation and even a considerable amount of topsoil in spots. This explicitly illustrates what a tremendous danger exists from flying debris. The lower left photograph was taken the day after the tornado from the air, looking northeast. Again, it can be seen that the overpass experienced a direct hit. The tornado was doing F4 intensity damage at this time.
The events at the Shields Boulevard overpass are quite frightening and clearly illustrate many of the ‘non-weather’ issues of why this practice is so egregious. The Interstate highway eventually became blocked by people parking near the bridge to seek shelter there. Per eyewitness accounts, many vehicles began parking on the shoulder under the bridge as much as 10 to 15 minutes before the tornado actually stuck that location. Eventually, of course, all of the space of the shoulder was taken, so motorists began parking in the right-hand traffic lane, then the left-hand lane, and so-on until all of the roadway was taken by parked vehicles and the free flow of traffic was completely blocked.
One particularly frightening story was told by Brian Hansen, who works for the City of Moore Emergency Management. Brian was attempting to get to the Moore Emergency Management Operations Center to assist that night and was caught in the traffic jam at the Shields Boulevard overpass. He attempted to fight his way through, but eventually became trapped 3 car lengths from the front, directly under the overpass. The traffic jam eventually grew to a quarter-mile long "parking lot" by the time the tornado crossed the highway. Brian said the vehicles were packed so tightly under the bridge, he could not even open the door to get out of his truck. He eventually chose to ride out the storm on the floor of his truck. When asked why he chose that option, he stated that he knew he was in big trouble no matter what, but that by staying in the truck and getting as low as possible might offer some protection against flying debris. As it turned out, he miraculously walked away with only minor injuries and was able to help in the search and rescue efforts near the bridge after the tornado. However, what is somewhat of a mystery is why more of the vehicles did not become airborne, in which case Brian would likely not have been so lucky. It is speculated that the vehicles were packed tightly enough together that the combined weight helped prevent them from going airborne, but the truth is we will really never know.
The people who were up under the bridge were not as fortunate as Brian. There were approximately 12 people under the bridge (the exact number is not known). Perhaps it's possible to argue that since there were 12 there and only 1 died, that's not bad. Unfortunately, what has not been well-publicized are the horrific injuries suffered by all but one of the survivors under the bridge. The casualties all had serious injuries, some life-threatening, from the effects of flying debris. Their injuries included, but are not limited to: compound fractures and shattered bones, missing fingers, missing ears, missing noses, and being impaled by pieces of shingles, 2x4s, etc. The most important point here is this: seeking shelter under the overpass resulted in the highway becoming blocked, trapping people in the path of a violent tornado with no options other than a ditch, an overpass, or their vehicle - all terrible options. In effect, those who sought shelter under the overpass made a bad decision that put many more people than themselves into a life-threatening situation, unnecessarily .
These images explicitly show the grave danger posed by flying debris in a tornado passing through an urban area, particularly a tornado of this intensity. The image on the left is the reflectivity image from the Twin Lakes (KTLX) WSR-88D National Weather Service Doppler radar at 7:28 PM CDT on 3 May. The highest reflectivity values, in white, are in the ‘ball’ at the tip of the hook echo, which is the location of the tornado. The reason for this is that large and numerous pieces of debris make for very good reflectors of radar energy (the radar ‘sees’ anything that will scatter radar energy - and that is NOT limited to precipitation particles!).
The two images on the right are image captures from a video taken by KFOR-TV (Oklahoma City Channel 4) at roughly the same time as the radar image. These pictures clearly show the large amount of debris within the circulation of this tornado as it destroyed numerous housing subdivisions near the highway. When violent tornadoes hit a large number of structures, this amout of debris is typical; even small objects become dangerous missiles. It's not the wind that causes casualties, it's what's *in* the wind. This was the situation facing the people underneath the Shields Boulevard overpass bridge.
Storm Prediction Center
NOTE: Having happened before the era of comprehensive damage surveys, some of these events may have been composed of multiple tornadoes along a damage path. Death counts for events in the 1800s and early 1900s should be treated as estimates since recordkeeping of tornado deaths was erratic back then.
18 Mar 1925
06 May 1840
27 May 1896
St. Louis MO
05 Apr 1936
06 Apr 1936
09 Apr 1947
24 Apr 1908
Amite LA, Purvis MS
12 Jun 1899
New Richmond WI
8 Jun 1953
11 May 1953
18 May 1902
23 Mar 1913
26 May 1917
23 Jun 1944
18 Apr 1880
01 Jun 1903
Gainesville, Holland GA
09 May 1927
Poplar Bluff MO
10 May 1905
24 Apr 1908
09 Jun 1953
20 Apr 1920
Starkville MS, Waco AL
28 Jun 1924
Lorain, Sandusky OH
25 May 1955
29 Sep 1927
St. Louis MO
27 Mar 1890
X-Ray Vision While You Drive - Progressive Auto Insurance Articles & Blogs
X-Ray Vision While You Drive
Automakers and researchers are developing technology — in some cases future technology, to help eliminate blind spots.
By Salvatore Salamone
One of the most interesting approaches, still in the experimental stage, renders a vehicle's frame transparent — allowing drivers to "see" through a car's pillars and dashboard.
The technology, dubbed the transparent cockpit, was developed at the University of Tokyo in an effort led by electrical engineer Susumu Tachi.
In prototype systems, the technology uses a pair of stereo cameras mounted on the passenger-side mirror to scan the landscape and objects that are normally hidden from the driver's view by the dashboard and the solid parts of doors. The driver wears a headset that projects the cameras' output onto the interior frame. To make the illusion work, the solid parts of the car are coated with a reflective material. The result: The driver sees the items on the outside of the car as if the car's body were transparent.
Previously, Tachi demonstrated the technology in what has become known as the 'invisibility cloaking' of a raincoat. In that demonstration, images from behind a person were projected onto a raincoat, making the raincoat appear transparent.
Transparent Cockpit Technology
In this experimental technology, outside-mounted cameras allow drivers to see "through" the dashboard and door of a car.
When applied to a vehicle, this technology is quite impressive. It looks as though the driver has x-ray vision and can see through the metal and body panels of a car. This allows drivers to see a passing bicyclist or pedestrian, better judge how close they are to a curb, and improve the chances of seeing a trailing car when changing lanes.
Unfortunately, the transparent cockpit technology is still in the early proof-of-concept stage. Industry experts believe its development might be aided because it has applications in other areas, such as aviation and trucking. Interest by these other industries might help spur development in passenger cars.
A More Immediate Fix
For those who can't wait for the transparent cockpit to come to market, there are more practical alternatives for eliminating blind spots. These include:
Special side mirrors – Many automakers and third parties now offer special side mirrors that help eliminate blind spots. Some simply use a second, convex mirror in the corner of the traditional driver-side mirror. This basically gives the driver two views, where the "extra" view includes a wider angle to help see cars and other objects next to a car. This type of dual mirror is gaining popularity. For example, last year, Ford has made a special Blind Spot Mirror available on some 2009 models. It plans to make the mirror standard equipment on many Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln cars in the future.
LaneFX technology – A more sophisticated approach incorporates LaneFX technology. Typically offered through aftermarket vendors, cars equipped with LaneFX technology sweep the mirror when the driver signals a lane change. The motion of the mirror provides a broader view of passing and trailing cars.
Dash-mounted displays – Going a step further, some manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, use dash-mounted displays with optional audio tones to signal the proximity of a car in either rear quarter. The solution uses short-range radar in both sides of the rear bumper to monitor areas alongside and behind a car.
Cameras – A number of automakers are adding optional cameras that give drivers a view of blind spots—particularly of objects directly behind the car. The images are typically displayed on a video monitor in the dashboard or behind the driver's sun visor.
Radar systems – At the higher end of the technology spectrum, Buick offers a radar-based system with warning lights mounted in each of the outside mirrors, so when you check your mirrors, you'll know whether it's safe to change lanes.
Infrared detection systems – To aid drivers at night, infrared detection systems are being included as an option on some trucks and in a number of car models from Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and others. These systems typically look ahead of the vehicle and project images of cars, animals, trees and other objects onto dashboard video display systems.
Although it might be years (if ever) before transparent cockpit technology moves beyond the demonstration stage, automakers are incorporating other technologies to help improve a driver's view and avoid blind spots.
Segway Facts About Segway HT
Segway HT Facts
- The Segway HT's top speed is 12.5 mph — two to three times faster than the average walking speed.
- Charging the Segway HT's batteries for one hour provides two hours of operation and costs about 5 cents' worth of electricity.
- Traveling downhill or decelerating generates electricity, recharging the Segway HT's batteries.
- In addition to the operator, the i Series Segway HT can accommodate 10 pounds of cargo.
- The Segway HT does not have an engine, brakes or a steering wheel — it accelerates and decelerates by responding to a person's center of gravity, and turns with a mere flick of the wrist.
- The Segway HT takes up about as much space on a sidewalk as a person — its width is similar to an average person's shoulder width.
- People who buy the Segway HT participate in special orientation classes offered around the country, but operating the Segway HT is actually very easy because its gyroscopes sense subtle body movements and use them as cues for moving forward and backward.
- The Segway HT has three performance settings:
- Beginner — Slowest turning rate and a top speed of 6 mph
- Sidewalk Operation — Medium turning rate and a top speed of 8 mph
- Open Environment — Most sensitive turning rate and a top speed of 12.5 mph
- The Segway HT can operate on a variety of terrain surfaces.
- The Segway HT has many safety features that assist in ensuring safe use and performance.
- The non-balancing Power Assist Mode allows users to walk their Segway HTs over slippery surfaces, up and down stairs, across steep slopes or wherever riding is not safe and appropriate.
Understanding Car Crashes: When Physics Meets Biology
DVD | 2008 | color | sound | 16x9 | 24 minutes | closed-captioned
contains additional material for teachers
$35.00 for online credit card purchases; $40 for mail-in check
In stock; usually ships within 3 days
Why do some car crashes produce only minor injuries? How can a single crash of a car into a wall involve three separate collisions? Griff Jones, award-winning science teacher, returns to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Vehicle Research Center to answer these questions and to examine the laws of nature that determine what happens to the human body in a crash.
Jones reviews levels of organization in the body and explains how body cavities house and protect major internal organs. Through creative experiments, he explores how the third collision can cause injuries to organs. He introduces the concepts of stress and strain. He demonstrates how shortwaves can damage tissue and what happens at the cellular level.
Tools from the field of injury hydromechanics, like infidelity crash test dummies, help doctors and engineers determine what works to reduce injuries and deaths in crashes. The key to preventing injuries in any type of crash, whether it's in a race car or a family sedan, is to reduce forces on occupants. Extending impact time, keeping the occupant compartment intact, and tying occupants to the compartment are what keep people safe in car crashes when physics meets biology.
Children's Watering Cans Sold Exclusively at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores Recalled Due to Violation of Lead in Paint Ban
Children's Watering Cans Sold Exclusively at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores Recalled Due to Violation of Lead in Paint Ban
NEWS from CPSC
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Information and Public Affairs Washington, DC 20207
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2007
Firm's Recall Hotline: (888) 739-4120
CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908
Children's Watering Cans Sold Exclusively at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores Recalled Due to Violation of Lead in Paint Ban
Note: there has been an expansion of this recallWASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.
Name of Product: Robbie Ducky™ Kids Watering Cans
Units: About 6,000
Importer: Jo-Ann Stores Inc., of Hudson, Ohio
Hazard: The beak of the watering can contains lead in the paint, which violates the federal law prohibiting lead paint on children's toys. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects.
Incidents/Injuries: None reported.
Description: The recalled Robbie Ducky™ Kids Watering Can is yellow with an orange beak and is about 10 inches high by 6 inches wide. "Robbie Ducky™ Garden Collection Duck Watering Can" is printed on a sticker on the bottom of the watering can.
Sold exclusively at: Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores nationwide from February 2007 through August 2007 for about $10.
Manufactured in: China
Remedy: Consumers should immediately take the watering can away from children and return it to any Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store for a full refund.
Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Jo-Ann Stores Inc. toll-free at (888) 739-4120 ext. 7 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or email the firm at email@example.com or visit the firm’s Web site at www.joann.com
Baseline Design Recall of Bean Bag Chairs
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Information and Public Affairs Washington, DC 20207
May 8, 2002
CPSC, Baseline Design Announce Recall of Bean Bag ChairsPRODUCT: Bean Bag Chairs - Baseline Design of Linwood, Pa., is voluntarily recalling about 30,000 bean bag chairs. The bean bag chairs are designed with 12-inch double zippers in various types of motifs: a smiley face, a football-shape, a baseball-shape, a basketball-shape and solid neon green, yellow, pink and blue neon colors. Walmart stores sold the bean bag chairs nationwide from September 1999 through December 1999 for about $30.
PROBLEM: The bean bags contain small polystyrene beads that present suffocation and strangulation hazards to young children who may inhale the small beads. The recalled bean bag chairs have zippers that were not properly sealed to prevent young children from opening the bean bag chairs and being exposed to the small beads.
INCIDENTS/INJURIES: Baseline Design is aware of three incidents in which the zippers opened freely. Two of the incidents involved young children who were able to open the bean bag chair zippers, and gain excess to the small polystyrene beads. One child received medical attention at a hospital after inhaling the small beads.
WHAT TO DO: Consumers should inspect their bean bag chairs. If the zippers can be opened freely, Baseline Design will provide owners with a free replacement bean bag chair with zippers that do not open. For more information and instructions consumers should call Baseline Design toll- free at (800) 497-3626, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, EST or visit the firm's website at www.foamex.com
Design Ideas Ltd. Recall of Bean Bag Furniture Sets
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2005
Firm's Recall Hotline: (800) 426-6394
CPSC Consumer Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908
CPSC, Design Ideas Ltd. Announce Recall of Bean Bag Furniture SetsWASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.
Name of Product: Lily Chair and Lily Ottoman Bean Bag Sets
Units: About 1,100 sets
Importer: Design Ideas Ltd., of Springfield, Ill.
Hazard: The chair and ottoman do not have locking zippers or warning labels. CPSC is aware of children who have died from suffocation when they unzipped, inhaled and ingested small pellets in similar bean bag furniture.
Incidents/Injuries: There have been no incidents or injuries reported.
Description: The Lily chair and Lily ottoman were sold together as a bean bag furniture set. The chair and ottoman sets were sold in ivory/white (model 170001), ivory/blue (model 170003), ivory/black (model 170004) and ivory/orange (model 170009). Model numbers can be found on a label affixed to the bottom of the furniture.
Sold at: Specialty gift and furniture stores nationwide sold the chair and ottoman sets from January 2004 through July 2005 for about $170.
Manufactured in: Thailand.
Remedy: Consumers should stop using the chair and ottoman set immediately, keep them out of reach of young children and contact Design Ideas to arrange to return the product for a full refund.
Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Design Ideas at (800) 426-6394 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm's Web site at www.designideas.net
Simplicity Drop Side Cribs Recalled by Retailers Due to Risk of Death from Suffocation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2009
Release # 09-260
CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908
Simplicity Drop Side Cribs Recalled by Retailers Due to Risk of Death from SuffocationWASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.
Name of Product: Simplicity Drop Side Cribs
Units: About 400,000
Importer/Distributor: Simplicity Inc. and SFCA Inc. of Reading, Pa. (The firms appear to no longer conduct day to day operations.)
Hazard: The crib’s plastic hardware can break or deform, causing the drop side to detach. When the drop side detaches, it creates space between the drop side and the crib mattress. Infants and toddlers can roll into this space and become entrapped which can lead to suffocation.
Incidents/Injuries: CPSC is aware of one death involving an 8-month-old child from Houston, Texas who became entrapped and suffocated between the drop side and the crib mattress when a plastic connector on the drop side broke. The child’s death was previously reported by CPSC. CPSC also is aware of an additional 25 incidents involving the drop side detaching from the crib. In six of these incidents, the drop side detached because the plastic flexible tab deformed or broke. In four of the drop side detachment incidents, other plastic parts, including connectors or tracks, deformed or broke. In two of the incidents, two children became entrapped between the drop side and the crib mattress. There were no reported injuries.
Description: This recall involves all drop side cribs with a different or “newer” style of plastic hardware from those cribs recalled in September 2007. This newer style of Simplicity hardware can be identified by a flexible plastic tab at the top of the lower tracks. The recalled model numbers include but may not be limited to: 8050, 8325, 8620, 8745, 8748, 8755, 8756, 8765, 8778, 8810, and 8994, 8995, 8996.
Sold at: Department stores, children’s stores, and mass merchandisers nationwide from January 2005 through June 2009 for between $150 and $300.
Manufactured in: China
Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled cribs and find an alternative, safe sleeping environment for their baby. Consumers should immediately return the crib to the place of purchase for a refund, replacement or store credit.
Check your home for this and other Simplicity recalls: click here for a list of other Simplicity recalls.
The world's first cocaine bar | World news | The Guardian
The world's first cocaine bar
Route 36 has turned La Paz, Bolivia into a hotspot for drug tourism, tempting backpackers from all over the world
"Tonight we have two types of cocaine; normal for 100 Bolivianos a gram, and strong cocaine for 150 [Bolivianos] a gram." The waiter has just finished taking our drink order of two rum-and-Cokes here in La Paz, Bolivia, and as everybody in this bar knows, he is now offering the main course. The bottled water is on the house.
The waiter arrives at the table, lowers the tray and places an empty black CD case in the middle of the table. Next to the CD case are two straws and two little black packets. He is so casual he might as well be delivering a sandwich and fries. And he has seen it all. "We had some Australians; they stayed here for four days. They would take turns sleeping and the only time they left was to go to the ATM," says Roberto, who has worked at Route 36 (in its various locations) for the last six months. Behind the bar, he goes back to casually slicing straws into neat 8cm lengths.
La Paz, Bolivia, at 3,900m above sea level – an altitude where even two flights of stairs makes your heart race like a hummingbird – is home to the most celebrated bar in all of South America: Route 36, the world's first cocaine lounge. I sit back to take in the scene – table after table of chatty young backpackers, many of whom are taking a gap year, awaiting a new job or simply escaping the northern hemisphere for the delights of South America, which, for many it seems, include cocaine.
"Since they are an after-hours club and serve cocaine the neighbours tend to complain pretty fast. So they move all the time. Maybe if they are lucky they last three months in the same place, but often it is just two weeks. Route 36 is a movable feast," says a Bolivian newspaper editor who asked not to be named. "One day it is in one zone and then it pops up in another area. Certainly it is the most famous among the backpacker crowd but there are several other places that are offering cocaine as well. Because Route 36 changes addresses so much there is a lot of confusion about how many cocaine bars are out there."
This new trend of 'cocaine tourism' can be put down to a combination of Bolivia's notoriously corrupt public officials, the chaotic "anything goes" attitude of La Paz, and the national example of President Evo Morales, himself a coca grower. (Coca is the leaf, and cocaine is the highly manufactured and refined powder.) Morales has diligently fought for the rights of coca growers and tossed the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) out of Bolivia. While he has said he will crack down on cocaine production, he appears to be swimming against the current. In early July, the largest ever cocaine factory was discovered in eastern Bolivia. Capable of producing 100kg a day, the lab was run by Colombians and provided the latest evidence that Bolivia is now home to sophisticated cocaine laboratories. The lab was the fourth large facility to be found in Bolivia this year.
Nowhere in South America is cocaine production growing faster than Bolivia. Reports by the UN show that in Colombia, production dropped 28% last year , while in Bolivia it rose nearly 10%. "There is more interest and and investment in purifying coca paste here and exporting it, rather than sending it to Colombia for purification," Oscar Nina, Bolivia's top anti-drug official, said recently.
As the US and Colombian military put pressure on drug traffickers, operations are migrating into nearby countries, especially Bolivia, where the turf for illegal operations is as fertile as the valleys where the locals have grown coca for the last five centuries. Stopping cocaine tourism in La Paz could be as difficult as keeping Americans from drinking during prohibition.
Down in Route 36's main room, the scene is chilled. A half-hearted disco ball sporadically bathes the room in red and green light. Each table has candles and a stash of bottled water, plus whatever mixers one cares to add to your drink. In the corner, a pile of board games includes chess, backgammon, and Jenga, the game in which a steady hand pulls out bricks from a tower of blocks until the whole pile collapses. If it weren't for the heads bobbing down like birds scouring the seashore for food, you would never know that huge amounts of cocaine were being casually ingested. There's a lot of mingling from table to table. Everyone here has stories – the latest adventures from Ecuador, the best bus to Peru – and even the most wired "why-won't-he-shut-up?" traveller is given a generous welcome before being sent back to his table, where he can repeat those stories another 10 times.
"Everyone knows about this place," says Jonas, a backpacker who arrived two days earlier. "My mate came to Bolivia last year and he said, 'Route 36 is the best lounge in all of South America.'" It is certainly the most bizarre and brazen. Though cocaine is illegal in Bolivia, Route 36 is fast becoming an essential stop for thousands of tourists who come here every year and happily sample the country's cocaine, which is famous for both its availability, price (around €15 a gram) and purity.
The scene here is peaceful; there seems no fear that anyone will be caught. ("The owner has paid off all the right people," one waiter says with a smile.) A female backpacker from Newcastle slips on to one of the four couches arranged around the table. "We've brought some [cocaine] virgins here. This will be their first time, so we are just rubbing it on their lips. But they are lucky – you could never get such pure coke back home. In London you pay 50 quid for a gram that's been cut so much, all it does it make your lips numb and sends you to the bathroom."
Travellers' blogs also give the place a good writeup. "I travelled the world for nine months, and for sure La Paz was the craziest city and Route 36 the best bar of my entire trip," writes one, while another says, "Like to burn the candle at both ends? Well, here you can bloody well torch the whole candle."
And torch your brain as well. Cocaine, as everybody knows, is highly addictive, destructive and easy to abuse. The rationale for outlawing cocaine was to protect public health – but instead the now 40-year experiment in prohibition has done little to protect the lives of millions of users worldwide who will snort whatever white substance is placed before them. The billions in annual profits have corrupted governments worldwide, and La Paz, without intending it, seems to have mutated into the front line of this failed drug war.
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Sam Parker Trial: Theresa & Elvis in Mexico
During day 7 of the trial, the defense gets its chance to try and prove Sam Parker did not kill his wife.
Theresa Parker disappeared in March of 2007.
Her body has never been found.
On Tuesday, Jurors saw an interview Parker conducted with an Atlanta t.v. station.
In that interview Parker said thought he knew where his missing wife might be.
G-B-I Special Agent James Harris then did his own interview Parker.
That's when he Parker told him about a possible trip to Mexico.
David Dunn\Defense Attorney:
"We heard in the FOX report, that we heard he thought he knew where Theresa was. You followed up and asked him, well where is it? And he told you he thought she had gone to see this Elvis guy in Mexico, is that fair? Harris: that's what he said."
During rebuttal, Parker's attorney's hammered Agent Harris on the deal cut with former officer Ben Chaffin for his testimony.
R.I.P. Larry Knechtel: Five Songs to Remember Him By :: Music News :: Articles :: Paste
R.I.P. Larry Knechtel: Five Songs to Remember Him ByDefining the legacy of keyboardist and bassist Larry Knechtel, 69, is a rather daunting task. Although his career spanned more than 50 years, a large portion of it, especially his contributions in the '60s, still remains uncredited.But what is documented of his career is nothing short of impressive. Knechtel did the majority of his work in the studio, though he also contributed to live performances, most notably by playing bass at1968 comeback TV special. Most recently, he played organ on theElvis Presley'sTaking the Long Way tour, after playing keyboard on the album of same name.Dixie Chicks'
Knechtel died on unknown causes on Thursday, Aug. 20. Those close to him call him "honest, humble, hard-working and charismatic," though as news of his death circulates, we hope that he finally gets all of the credit he deserves. Perhaps remembering these five songs will help:- "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (organ):The Beach Boys- "Mr. Tambourine Man" (bass):The Byrds
Sammy Johns - "Chevy Van" (co-produced with Jay Senter)- "Light My Fire" (bass)The Doors
Simon and Garfunkel - "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (arrangement):
Remembering Jim Dickinson | Sing All Kinds | Memphis Flyer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Music Remembering Jim Dickinson
Posted by Andria Lisle on Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 1:01 PM
I've said goodbye to a lot of cultural heavyweights and big personal influences over the last few years: Otha Turner, Ike Turner, Rev. Gatemouth Moore, Ernest Withers. I've also been mourning my father, who died in 2007. Now I've got yet another name to add to the list.
Now I have to ponder a Memphis without Jim Dickinson in it. He could be fierce — he once described producing as "pushing a band off a cliff and taking a picture as they crash to the ground" — and he was often unrepentant in his declarations about other producers and fellow musicians. Yet he was also a link to the wild-and-wooly mid-20th century river town that Robert Gordon so aptly documented in It Came From Memphis — a world I'll never know, save through the moments captured on studio tape.
As a journalist, I considered myself incredibly lucky to be able to call up Dickinson and quiz him on any number of topics. He was a raconteur who yielded hours of commentary that I plied into articles for the Memphis Flyer, MOJO, and more. He could provide the technicolor details on legendary Aretha Franklin and Rolling Stones sessions in Muscle Shoals, and educate me about relative unknowns like Chicago radio personality Two Ton Baker the Music Maker and Bill Harris, the bandleader on The Jack Benny Show. His gravelly voice would hypnotize me as he spun yarns about the buffalo trails which evolved into modern-day Union Avenue, or meticulously detailed the size of the jar of pickled pigs feet that Aretha once dropped on a hotel lobby floor.
In a typical flash of curmudgeonly brilliance, Dickinson once told me, "I was always looking for something beyond the music — the beauty, the mystery, whatever it was. And all of these people had something that went beyond just music: philosophic depth. That stuff was really hard to come by, so as a result, when you did find it, you thought you'd found the Rosetta Stone. This is the key to arcane knowledge. I feel sorry for the kids who have to download these little pieces of shit from their computers, and this is the art that's supposed to represent their lives! Back when I was young, you had to reach for the culture that you're trying to identify with!"
I also got to know Jim and Mary Lindsay, his wife, through my friendship with their sons, Luther and Cody. In the mid-1990s, I co-released a slab of vinyl called Hambone's Meditations that featured one of Jim's tracks, "Cut Me at 7 and a Half." And, as recently as this spring, I produced a documentary short on Cody for the Commercial Appeal that featured Jim in a small role.
Luther sent me an email this weekend, entitled "Daddy's Last Words":I refuse to celebrate death. My life has been a miracle of more than I ever expected or deserved. I have gone farther and done more than I had any right to expect. I leave behind a beautiful family and many beloved friends. Take reassurance in the glory of the moment and the forever promise of tomorrow. Surely there is light beyond the darkness as there is dawn after the night. I will not be gone as long as the music lingers. I have gladly given my life to Memphis music and it has given me back a hundredfold. It has been my fortune to know truly great men and hear the music of the spheres. May we all meet again at the end of the trail. May God bless and keep you.
World boogie is coming,
James Luther Dickinson
Meanwhile, the accolades for Dickinson, who died Saturday, August 15th, continue to pour in.
Best MJ Memory Yet: Michael Jackson the Record Collector - Michael Jackson visits Recycled Records - by Andrew Rush - Chuck Prophet: blog
Chuck Prophet: blog
Michael Jackson visits Recycled Records - by Andrew Rush
Last night after we closed the doors at the record store, three men came to the door. Two looked like rich gay guys dressed in dark clothes and moussed hair, but the third guy was dressed up like an Arab sheik, covered from head to toe. He had sunglasses on and he had a cotton veil pulled across his face. He was in all white. One of the guys was asking us to let them in. We began to brush him off, but then he insisted, "It's very hard for him (the sheik) to shop." Anyway, it was starting to seem weird, so Mike, my colleague, let them in. It almost felt like we were going to be robbed.
They wanted to know right away where the spoken word section was. I showed them to the back of the store and when the veil came away and the sunglasses came off and I saw that incredible face, I thought it was a gag. His facial hair looked like stage hair and he had a bandage on his incredibly thin nose. But, when I heard that voice ask, "Do you have any more Edgar Allen Poe," I knew that it was really and truly the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. When I returned to the front of the store, his companion said to us, "I think you know who it is by now" Anyway, that began an hour and a half of my night with Michael Jackson a night in which I shared with him some of the songs which I love the best and he shared with us his inimitable sweet, boyish presence. I still feel really weird, but I assure you, I shit you not!
I'll just have to get to the memories randomly, as the magic really hasn't had time to coalesce in my mind. He kept singing that line from "The City of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie, "Good morning, America, how are you∑" He smelled kind of like a Catholic priest. They all were wearing cologne. But Michael had the scent of the super-rich, reclusive count. We played one of his favorite songs for him at his friend's request: "Lightning Strikes" by Lou Christie. We didn't have any records by the band that does his favorite song, The Cowsills. He asked for Free Design but we didn't have it. He also wanted 101 Strings. He bought a lot of Harry Belafonte, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Temple, boys' choirs, Disney stuff, and a lot of 60's pop.
I asked him at one point if he wanted a Smurfs record and he said, "No, thank you." He said, "Do you have that song "Paper Cup" by the Fifth Dimension?" He also bought a bunch of old nude stuff-clipped out pictures from nudist magazines and old shots of posed nude women. I asked him if he wanted any of these old TV theme paperbacks we had and began to read off the titles. "I'll take the Brady Bunch!" he said. He also bought a big poster of Burt Bacharach. His friend wanted only sealed records, but Michael didn't seem to care about condition or which issue it was. In fact, he didn't seem like a record collector at all. He just seemed like he was buying a bunch of records on a lark. At one point when we had taken him down to the basement to look through all of the junk, he turned and asked me, "Do you like Diana Ross and the Supremes' music?" I said that I did and I asked him what his favorite song was by them. He said "Stop In the Name of Love", I think. I told him that mine was "I Hear A Symphony", and he said that he loved that one, too. He said he thought it was a shame that their reunion tour that was supposed to happen didn't because they couldn't get along.
At that point, he told me that he really wanted an old portable record player and I said that I had one at home that I would sell to him. He asked me, "Can you get it?" So, I ran home to get it and brought back a Wandering Stars CD to give him, as well. He asked me how much I wanted for the record player. I asked, "How much do you want to pay me for it?" He said, "Well, you have to name a price." I told him $15 and it was a deal. He paid with a $100 bill. All he had were $100 bills. Then he asked me, "Does it work?" I told him it did and he asked me, "Can you plug it in?" The crazy thing was that I had run most of the way home and it is practically a 90-degree angle straight uphill. So, when I got back to the store, I kept coughing and I thought to myself, "I gotta cool it, or Michael's not gonna want to be near me anymore!" Because at that point, I had touched him. I had gently held his arm as I had directed him toward the stairs when we were going down to the basement. But, he really didn't seem like a germ freak at all. He was really normal in that respect. In fact, he wasn't imposing at all. He was a guy who you just wanted to be nice to! I played him Bertha Tillman's "Oh My Angel" and Walter Jackson and "Can You Hear Me" off of David Bowie's "Young Americans." I called him Michael and he would avert his eyes and smile. When I gave him the WS Cd, he asked, "Is it copyrighted?" I said yeah and he said, "Good."
He autographed a record for each of us that worked there. Mine was "Thriller." When Mike, my colleague, held up a copy of the soundtrack to "The Wiz", one of Michael's companions (one who said they had been friends since they were 12 years old) said, "I know a very talented young man who was in that movie he played the scarecrow." At this, Michael smiled shyly. Another time, this same guy was showing Michael a CD by some female vocalist. I couldn't see who it was. Anyway, he was saying, "Remember, we were on stage and she was holding you and she wouldn't let go?" Michael didn't seem to remember and his friend continued, "Remember, we were there with Liz?" Michael then said, "I'll have to see the tape."
You know, his skin was very white. He was wearing makeup, like foundation. And, his eyes were really wide. He was wearing jeweled, woven black leather shoes. I couldn't really see his hair, but it looked pretty long and straight. The crazy thing was indeed, that we were hanging out with Michael Jackson, but even more, that he was dressed up like a sheik the whole time! Also, we were really hanging out with him. It wasn't like we just shook hands backstage or something. I was bugging him about whether he liked the songs that I wanted him to like just like I do my friends! Super. He was super sweet-- hard to stress that enough. When they were getting ready to leave, they asked for wet paper towels with a little soap to wipe off their hands with. I said yes, I have to wash my hands about twenty times a day working in a dirty record store. Michael said, "You should get some HandiWipes; they're really great. Better yet, Baby Wipes." Anyway, I'll probably remember more, but I will say that after they left, they were going to a Mexican restaurant in Hayward.
Chuck Prophet: blog
Jim Dickinson (1942 - 2009) R.I.P.
Have faith in the process. Trust the producer. Listen to the songs. Never, NEVER, stop rolling! Don’t answer the phone in the studio, it could be the company telling you to stop! Don't let anybody make you feel bad about what you're doing. You can burn out but that doesn’t mean you can’t get lit again. I’ve seen in happen.
- Jim Dickinson (1942 - 2009)
I just learned that Jim died. I’m punched in the chest.
Jim's presence here may be gone. And it was a big presence. But his music, his spirit? Well, hell, you know how this sentence ends.... I’m sad. Deeply. But the memories that swirl tonight under the ceiling fan aren’t sad at all.
Jim’s health hadn’t been good for some time. I reached out to his son Luther last week to see how Dad was doing. They were preparing for a benefit show for Jim and Luther sent me a text, "Dad woke up at midnight after sleeping all day, and started barking orders. Still producing!"
Dickinson: you might know him as the guy who produced Big Star's 3rd, or the guy on the back of the "Paris, Texas" soundtrack rolling what looks like a round of duct tape across the keyboard of a Steinway grand piano (they opened tuned that piano, by the way. "It took days!"). Or playing with Dylan. Or maybe you know him as the man who played those three notes of tack piano on the Stone's Wild Horses. Jim was a magnet. The people that stopped by the sessions were unreal. Sputnick Monroe? Sure. And Ry Cooder coming by and sharing a chat with us. Casually picking up every one of the 15 guitars laying and playing a half riff. Always searching.
He was a sensitive man. But full of mischief and fun. Corny as it sounds, he was like a father to me. I was definitely a student. I always feel his presence. He left his mark.
Jim was also a dedicated man, dedicated to the art of record producing and to his family. He believed making records was a fight of Light vs. Dark-- but he refused to work Saturdays so he could watch his Memphis Wrestling on TV. A tangle of contradictions, his gruff exterior never hid his huge heart.
As a producer, when he sensed that Green on Red lacked faith in ourselves, fearing it was all hollow, a scam, Jim said, "Never let anybody make you feel bad about what you're doing" . He offered belief. And made you feel your work was important. It was clearly important to him. What a gift he gave us.
Makes sense that Jim once wanted to teach history. Every session, every van journey, was a history lesson with Jim. Often in the morning of a session -- and Jim was old school: he was punctual -- Jim would play music to inspire us. Might be scratchy vinyl of Kerouac recitations, or Mac Rice demo's on 7" reels he'd cribbed from Stax. (Tina the Go Go Queen was on there.) Or Black Oak Ark sessions Jim produced back when Ardent was still 8 track. Back when Jim engineered. "Sure, I used to go out and do the hand claps with the band." It was all part of our extended education.
I made several records with Jim, including two-and-a-half Green On Red slabs, and the odd session Jim hired me for. With my band, we backed Jim on a live record. Jim had been a constant presence in my life. A mentor. A friend. Just the other day a Radio 6 DJ accused Jim Dickinson of producing my last record. She was wrong, but I said, "Yeah, well, it's like he's always in the room." I told the truth. "Jim was always excited about new music. He loved The Cramps. He never got old.
“Yeah, you’re right this Johnny Dowd record is DANGEROUS. Gives me faith it can still be done this late in the game, Chuck.”
Some of my favorite Dickinson memories:
Green On Red picking Jim up at LAX back in 1986 or so, to take him to the studio. Jim mentioned he'd like some weed. No problem. We took a slight detour to Alvarado St. where you hold a ten dollar bill out the window and a kid runs off with it. Out of nowhere someone lowers a basket from a rooftop on a fishing pole with a bag of weed in it.
Jim later said to me, "Boy, you guys. I have to say I was really impressed."
How happy Jim was when Dylan started performing Across the Borderline in concert? “Bob Dylan singing MY words!”
On over-dubbing the solo on GOR's Morning Blue: "Come on Chuck, grow up, play something cohesive!"
Over-dubbing the backing vocals on GOR’s Zombie for Love, Jim said "make it sound like one of the black extras for the cheap horror movies: Eye's a S-s-s-s-ombie/Eye's a S-s-s-s-om-beee". With Dan Stuart singing, Dickinson playing drums without sticks but those paint stirring things from the hardware store instead.
On showing me his version of Shake Your Money Maker, I asked ‘Is that on Elmore's version Jim?’ "Hell no, that comes from the Fleetwood Mac version. It SMOKES over Elmore's" . The immortal Jim Dickinson: Fleetwood Mac could smoke Elmore James.
The biggest honor (but I was mighty honored when he covered my songs) was that I was his first one in -- calling me as soon as he got back from the Time Out Of Mind sessions. Sharing Dylan stories; Dylan needling Lanois: "Maybe if I took some more advice on how to sing I'd have a career by now." On the passing of Sam Phillips: "They say God created all men equal. Still, I think God created Sam with just a little extra.” On tuning: “Tuning is a decadent European habit bordering on the homosexual.” Said with no malice, just his grin. And again on tuning but years later: “This auto tune is great. I’d run the drums through it if I could.”
On producing the Replacements: "Did you know Paul Westerberg wears make up?"
In the studio producing -- David Hood and Roger Hawkins were the rhythm section-- listening to those guys reminiscing about the Stones at Muscle Shoals. Hood: "Who was that chick with the camera that hung around?" And Hood again: "Jagger wore the same clothes five days in a row. Until Wexler showed up and Jagger came out of the hotel elevator wearing that white suit."
Jim giving me a white label copy of Big Star's Sister Lovers. There weren't really cassettes back then. Ardent pressed up white label LP demos to try and get a deal for the cracked masterpiece that wasn't to come out until years later. They even sprang for a tailored suit and sent Jim out to LA to play it for some A & R people out there. Jim showed up one day to a session wearing a colorful scarf and I asked where he picked it up. "That's about all I have to show from Sister Lovers" . On the acetate he gave me he wrote in his inimitably crude style with a felt pen: "Big Star Sister Lovers --- produced by Jim Dickinson. Eng. John Fry. NOT 4 SALE."
Rehearsing with Jim for a couple of gigs that later turned into the Thousand Footprints in the Sand live record, I asked, "Is that a major or a minor chord you're playing there?". Jim looked down studied his fingers at the keyboard and said, after a pause, "I don't know, I just kind of float it."
Once when Dan Stuart and I made the trek to Hernando for dinner at the Dickinson house: Jim said, "I was hoping you might be willing to go down in the basement and fuck with my kids". And so we did. Went down there and fired up the Marshals and jammed with Luther and Cody on some thrash metal. When we resurfaced, Jim was really pleased. Just beaming. Jim and Mary did something right, because they raised two boys who are a couple of the kindest and most gentle men you'll ever meet.
That was a long time ago. The dot where Memphis is on the map became a tunnel and a journey and a life’s work. And now the new heroes are the business men. It’s a mixed up shook up world. Indeed.
Don’t answer the telephone in the studio, it could be the company telling you to stop…
God bless Mr. Jim Dickinson. God blessed us with him.
--Chuck Prophet, Baja California, Mexico, August 2009
by Chuck on August 17, 2009 • Filed under Friends • 8 COMMENTS •
Notes and Musings: August 2009
There are cool cats and there are cool Memphis cats but no one, not Elvis, not Jerry Lee, not even the Wolf came close to epitomizing Memphis and cool like Jim Dickinson did. He was the Top Cat Daddy, an inspiration, a mentor and my friend.
If you knew his music and understood his role as one of the links between black and white culture and between blues and rock and roll, you know what I'm talking about. If he is unfamiliar to you, now's as good time as any to get to know him, even though he's checked out of the motel.
Click on the headline to link to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal's obituary.
In honor of his spirit, I share the oral history he did for me back when I was working on the Voices of Civil Rights project. His physical body may be gone, but his words and his music live on.
To passersby on the two-lane blacktop winding through the Hill Country of northern Mississippi just south of Memphis, the eclectic collection on the other side of the gate consisting of two mobile homes, a ramshackle barn, a small one-room frame house known as the Fortress of Solitude, an abandoned yellow school bus, and an ancient pre-Airstream trailer may appear to be nothing more than a duct-taped testament to Southern poverty. But as far as Jim Dickinson is concerned, he lives in the lap of luxury. The barn houses a recording studio where Dickinson, a noted Memphis musician and record producer, works. The TV is wired to cable so he can watch old black-and-white westerns and his beloved wrestling. His hound dog Lightnin' rests at his feet contentedly while his wife, Mary Lindsay, goes on and on bragging about their sons, Luther and Cody, and their band, the Northern Mississippi All-Stars--Luther's Jaguar is parked in front of their mobile home while they're on tour. The family photograph hanging among the Zebra skins and various and sundry memorabilia cluttering the walls was taken by Annie Leibowitz.
"Jim, you have everything a man could want," Bob Dylan told him when he visited the spread known as Zebra Ranch a few years back. "A man could do a lot of thinking here."
Jim Dickinson makes a passionate, articulate case for Memphis being the greatest music city in modern history. As the home of Elvis Presley, it was for all practical purposes the birthplace of rock n' roll. It is also the rich melting pot where blues, rhythm 'n' blues, and soul, hillbilly, rockabilly, and country & western mixed and blended to create the most American of sounds. To achieve this feat, Memphis musicians like Dickinson, both black and white, defied Jim Crow laws and crossed color lines out of the simple desire to make music. By doing so, they broke down barriers long before the courts or lawmakers got around to changing laws.
I was born in Little Rock, lived in Hollywood as a tiny infant for six months, moved to Chicago where I lived until I was almost 9. In 1949, we moved to Memphis, where I was actually conceived. The fifties were about to happen. The world changed in front of my eyes.
My father worked for Diamond Match Company. He'd been an executive vice-president until they closed the Chicago office. Rather than move to New York like the rest of the company did, he'd saved himself with a demotion job in South, so he could be near his family in Little Rock. Memphis was as close as he could get.
I thought we'd moved to Hell. I was a city boy. I'd spent times at my grandparents in Little Rock in the summer, so I'd been exposed to the South. We moved into what wasn't yet suburban East Memphis: there were cotton fields in front of my house and a truck farm behind it. I was coming from the National College of Education in Evanston where in the first grade I had six teachers and we changed classes. I had an arts & crafts teacher who had a navel jewel on her forehead. I came to Memphis to a school in Shelby County where they let out classes for cotton picking. I seriously thought it was a school for farmers. "Well, farmers gotta go to school somewhere. This must be it."
I really thought it'd been a terrible mistake. Gradually, I came to love it and can live only here now.
Cultural differences? My father bought this three-acre piece of property in east Memphis with a big ol' house on it. It'd been vacant for some time due to a divorce case. He had hired this black guy from the local crossroads called Orr's Corner where the blacks hung out to clean the place up when he bought it. My mother and I were still in Chicago.
We drove in the driveway for the first time, the first thing I saw was Alec. His name was Timothy Teel, but they called him Alecs because he was a smart alec. He was real short. He was the first thing I saw in my new home. He became my teacher.
He took it upon himself as part of his job to teach me the things I needed to know, and not be a smart alec Yankee kid, which I was. Alec taught me about nature and life.
He taught me how to throw a knife underhanded. How to shoot craps, play pittypat and smut. He was a great singer but he didn't play an instrument, and when he realized I wanted to play music, he brought me musicians to teach me. It was very Uncle Remus, very politically incorrect, and probably the most valuable relationship of my life outside my family.
Alec must have been in his late twenties. He was very much the young buck. They called him The Ram in the neighborhood. He stabbed a couple guys. My father had to get him out of jail periodically. He was an inspirational role model.
He was the yard man. He'd put on his white jacket and do dinner parties for my mother. His mother was a part-time maid. His wife was my baby-sitter. It was like a family deal.
My father became very much the white man of the neighborhood. We referred to the colored section as being Down The Road. It was like another world, and totally inaccessible. Old man Orr, who owned the grocery at Orr's Corner, would lend blacks money at real high interest rates, a real plantation mentality. My father developed into the anti-Mr. Orr. He was very much the Captain and was treated as such. I grew up with a very definite double standard in that way.
The single, most important motivating thing that happened to me in that same period of time was seeing the Memphis Jug Band--Will Shade, Charlie Burse, Good Kid [considered the most important jug band of all time, with roots dating back to the 1920s.] It took me years to find out who they were, but I saw them downtown with my father one Saturday afternoon. After hearing that music, other things in life didn't seem to be as important as that did. I spent the next 10, 15 years of my life, trying to find that music.
It was right down the road, literally, but I couldn't get there in 1950. A white kid couldn't go where the music was.
I'd never heard anything like it. You have to imagine what music was like in 1950. I was already interested in music and had taken music lessons. My mother was a piano player, played in the Baptist Church. I was classically trained, but I had real screwed up vision. I couldn't see multiple images and I still can't read music to this day. So at this point, in my mother's eyes, I was already a failure as a musician.
I heard some Dixieland and some boogie-woogie on the radio that had interested me. There was a piano player in Chicago called Two-Ton Baker the Music Maker, who had a radio show. I heard him playing boogie-woogie and that kind of interested me. There was no rock and roll on earth.
But when I heard Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band, it was like hearing Martians play music. It was so transcultural. He was singing, "Come on down to my house, Honey. There's nobody home but me" and playing this string tub bass, which was this string coming out of this metal washtub tied on to a broom stick while Good Kid played a washboard with drumsticks. This was not typical music that a nine year old white kid would encounter.
It utterly changed my life.
Several years later, Alec brought me a piano player to teach me. He'd work half a day on Saturday and come in hungover, wash my father's car, and get paid. On Saturdays is when he'd bring me musicians. He brought me this guy who was legendary. I don't know what his real name was. They called him Dishrag. You hear people talking about Memphis music history, talking about Dishrag. He was a notorious alcoholic and was dead drunk the day I saw him. Obviously, they'd both been up all night. Never took his overcoat or his hat off, sat down at my mother's piano, and started to play like nothing I'd ever heard.
I asked him if he knew, "Come On Down to My House, Honey, There's Nobody Home But Me", the song I'd heard Will Shade sing, which believe me, I'd never heard again. He grinned and kind of chuckled and said, "How do you know that song? That song's older than you are."
It opened him up and Dishrag showed me the thing that enabled me to learn to play the piano, the thing my mother and my other piano teacher had been incapable of doing.
He said--again, this is as politically incorrect as it could possibly be, and I have to go into ebonics--he said, "Everything in music is made up out of codes." I thought meant codes like secret codes, Captain Marvel, Morse code. Of course, he meant chords. But I thought he said it was all made up out of codes and I thought, "No wonder I can't damn well do it. My mother didn't tell me it was code. This guy's about to give me the secret here."
And he did.
He said, "You takes a note, any note"--his index finger went to an E note on the piano. "You goes three up"--and his hand went up three keys ---"And you goes four down"--and his next finger went four down. These are not musical half-steps. These are just keys on the piano. He ended up with one finger on C, one finger on E, and one finger on G--which is a major C triad. And it works anywhere on the piano--he said, "You goes three up and four down, just like poker." That's the part I never understood because that's not the way I was taught to play poker. Obviously, it was for Dishrag. You go three up and four down and it makes a code. At that point, I realized he was talking about a chord, nonetheless, he gave me the information that I needed. Because it does work anywhere on the piano, it does make a major triad, and your thumb is always on the tonic root note.
With that piece of information, with a chord in my right hand, and an octave in my left hand, that's all you need to play rock and roll. To this day, that's basically what I do. I play an octave and a major triad. If you play it back and forth between your hands, right, left, right, left, then you have a shuffle. If you play it straight, you've got eighth-note rock and roll.
That's the racial difference.
The racial difference of music is how the implied eighth-notes of rock and roll are handled. Whether it's politically incorrect or not, I don't care. It's absolutely true. Black people do it one way. White people do it another way. The difference is feeling, therefore, interior. Not to be too anthropologic.
My parents thought it was a good thing. My mother and Alec had a very special relationship. As a Christian lady, she took it upon herself to reform Alec, to give him the information and education that he had lacked in his life.
She had a picture of Shakespeare and a little miniature of Romeo and Juliet on the wall of the room my grandmother stayed in. Alec was in the room with my mother one day, looking at the picture of Shakespeare. "Who that be?" he asked. "Abraham Lincoln?"
Imagine my mother explained to Alec, who dropped out of school in the fourth grade, who Shakespeare was. This is the kind of thing I witnessed as a child.
Alec, when he came to work for us, didn't believe the world was round. As he was dusting one day, he saw a globe and asked my mother what it was. When she explained it to him, he didn't believe it. Finally she convinced him that the world was round like a ball. When I talked to him later, he explained he thought it was a ball, but that we were inside. Which does make a lot of sense.
He gave me many an important life's lesson.
Years later, I recorded him in my carport for a project I did for Beale Street redevelopment. He couldn't sing inside, and he had to work in order to sing, so he chopped wood while he sang and I recorded him. People hear the recording say it sounds like a chain gang, which is entirely different from what it really is. It's one of the best recordings I ever made.
[As a young man, Dickinson's quest forced him to cross barriers erected by segregation.]
The lines were very real and could not be crossed. Music created the problem. My parents certainly saw it as the problem. The racial situations that developed in my family were all a result of me seeking after the music.
After I'd been to college and supposedly knew better, I signed my first record deal with Ruben Cherry's Home of the Blues label. Ruben Cherry had a record store on Beale Street. 'Course, he was a white Jewish guy. Everybody on the label but me was black. I had this lame Jimmy Reed thing I was doing. He would play my tape for a roomful of people and have them guess who was singing. They'd guess everybody who was black before me. He called me Little Muddy. He used to take me to these various black functions where we'd be the only white people.
One of which was an Ike and Tina Turner Show where I ended up in this photograph I would give anything to have now, of me standing between Ike and Tina Turner. It was taken by Ernest Withers, the famous Beale Street photographer who is now a famous art photographer. Back then, he was a black society photographer.
I came home, drunk. The picture fell out of my sport coat pocket when my mother hung it up the next morning. There was hell to pay. My father said, "Don’t you realize this would ruin my business?" And it would've, then. My parents, who were good Christian people and did not think of themselves as racists, were. Our politics were never the same. The older I got, the worse it got. But the music was always the thorn of the problem.
The only time I heard my parents speak the N-word was in regards to the music, not any human being or person: "Don't go playing it." Listening to it was bad enough.
"Why do you have to play that loud N----- music?"
I tell you why. Because it was in my head and it was driving me crazy.
One of the most important things Alec showed me was WDIA, the black spot on the dial [the Memphis radio station at 1070 on the AM band that was the first radio station in America to be programmed by African-Americans for African-Americans]. This was not common knowledge in the white community in 1950. It'd just been on the air three years. When Alec came in to eat his lunch, he'd change the radio to this wonderful thing. It didn't take me long to figure it out. Everything was segregated, even the damned radio.
That's what Dewey Phillips did that in Memphis that was so revolutionary. There can be no discussion about race relations in Memphis without talking about Dewey Phillips. He's the disc jockey credited with playing Elvis Presley on the radio for the very first time. Which would have been enough, if that was all he ever did. But what Dewey did was, he created the mindset in Memphis, Tennessee that was Elvis Presley.
Elvis Presley heard "That's All Right, Mama" on Dewey Phillips' "Red, Hot & Blue" radio show on WHBQ because Dewey Phillips was the only white man who played black music. There were four radio stations that played white music for white people and two black stations that played black music for black people. Dewey Phillips would come on the air and he'd play his theme music and say, "Ho, ho, good people" because that's who Dewey was talking to--good people. He played good music for good people. He'd play Hank Williams and then he'd play Sister Rosetta Tharpe. This created a mindset in Memphis that's still there.
Until recently, we had a white county mayor and a black city mayor. Both of these mayors are roughly my age or younger. And at one six month period of time, they both quoted Dewey Phillips in the newspaper, and I don't think either one of them was aware of the fact they were quoting Dewey Phillips. Because Dewey Phillips was so powerful a force on the radio in Memphis, that everyone in the city was affected by him. Certainly every child, everybody listened to this crazy, pilled-up redneck playing this insane music.
It wasn't until I went to college in Texas that I realized everybody wasn't hearing it. I realized I had this arcane information that they didn't have, simply from listening to Dewey Phillips on the radio. The racial idea that he got across, was the idea of Elvis.
Think about the five records Elvis Presley recorded on Sun Records, 45 rpm records, two songs, one on each side. On one side of each record was a jump blues song, or "black music". On the other side was a country ballad, "white" music. This is what was happening in Memphis at the time. The urban blacks coming to town and the urban whites coming to town--rednecks, if you will--were culturally colliding. And what was coming out, was Elvis Presley.
He was not unique. He represented a lifestyle that already existed in Memphis. It was almost a racial imperative for some of these white redneck guys to play this weird black music. I know these men. And some of them are still not comfortable with it, racially, but they were compelled to do it.
It's freedom. It does the same thing to me that it does to everybody all over the world. It symbolizes individual freedom of expression and freedom. That's what it is.
To find it, it's like my first music lessons when I couldn't see the music. I would have never understood music in the European tradition. I still don't. But when I heard Afro-American music, something happened. And it wasn't just me. It was a whole generation of crazy white boys that this happened to. That's what rock and roll is. Us trying to be them.
Alec brought me a guy named Butterfly Washington, fresh off the penal farm, still had a penal farm haircut. He didn't teach me anything, he just played for me. His father owned a gambling joint down on Broad St where Alec used to go.
This is pathetic, but it's true. For a middle-class white kid in the fifties, even though this music was literally right down the road, the only way I could think of to find it was in books. So I went to the library, and sure enough there weren't any. There was a Nat Hentoff book called You Hear Me Talkin' which had one chapter about blues and jug band music with specific references to the Memphis Jug Band. So I did find what I exactly needed. But that was all there was. There were no books about the blues because white culture didn't care about the blues, and black culture was ashamed of it at this point.
When Sam Charters wrote the Book of Country Blues in 1959 it was the first book on the blues. Although it's filled with misinformation, it's still probably the best book on the rural blues. I assumed incorrectly this music was antique. I should have known from seeing Howlin' Wolf on the radio broadcasting from West Memphis, Arkansas. I didn't know who he was, but heard the music, followed the music, saw the strange black man playing, till my father came and got me, just like with the jug band.
I knew the music was there, somewhere out in the bushes, but I couldn't get to it. Through books, I thought I could. When Charters came through Memphis, being a Yankee and relatively insensitive, he cut quite a wide path. I just followed his path. By following his path I found Gus Cannon, who was first for me. He was right there, cutting somebody's yard. Gus told me where Furry [Lewis] was. Hell, I thought Furry Lewis was dead. He was sweeping Beale Street twice a day with a garbage can on wheels and a push broom. He did it for 36 years. When he retired, the city found out he had only had one leg, which made him disabled therefore unemployable, so he didn't get any of his benefits. And that's why they call it the blues.
Furry literally swept Beale Street and he was prouder of that than making records, and proudly so. I used to work with Furry and Bukka White. Right before he died I taught him to play "Sunshine of Your Love". He thought it was so funny. He could only play part of the riff, then he'd crack up.
Through Ruben Cherry's Home of the Blues record label, the music became accessible. It did become an obsession to seek out this music and try to emulate it. Rufus Thomas and I used to be on panels together and would always start arguments whether or not white people could play the blues. Towards the end of his life, we did this interview for some TV show, I realized we had both changed our minds. He used to always jump in there, "Aw, white people can't play the blues." This time, he said, "I've just changed my mind. I've decided that white people can play the blues--they can't sing it but they can play it."
I told him that I had changed my mind. That after 40 years of trying to play the blues, I'd decided that white people can't play the blues. The same thing that had changed Rufus' mind was the same thing that changed my mind, which was Stevie Ray Vaughan, who as far as I'm concerned, was playing rock and roll. Like me, he was trying, but something was coming out. It's the same with the Beastie Boys or Justin Timberlake. They can play them but they can't feel the syncopated nuance of the implied eighth-note shuffle. It is a thing that is black. And I'm sorry, but it is.
Before the Beatles, this was not all right. It was not cool to be a musician. This was socially questionable to be doing what I was doing. It was not all right to play black music, believe me. The Rolling Stones made it OK. When I was doing it in 1958 in East Memphis, it was not all right.
William Brown, who was one of the black engineers at Stax and one of the singers in the Mad Lads, a brilliant singer who's sung background on a lot of my records, told this story to someone who asked how long he'd known me. He'd said, "I've known him since we was both too young to be where we were."
He sang with his uncles then. He was the youngest person in the group. (I never told anyone why I had to play before. Interesting) There's no liquor by the drink, a lot of the entertainment was private parties. This was a high school fraternity party at this dump behind a motorcycle shop on Summer Avenue at this place called the Theatrical Arts Club, which had nothing to do with theater or art, believe me. They did have a stage and had a PA. My band played a lot of parties there. It was illegal to play racially mixed. This was an all white band that night playing behind black singers, which was illegal. William says that before the gig started, I started an argument with the guy from the fraternity because he was paying the band $15 a piece and he was paying the singers $12 a piece because they were black. I told him that my band wasn't going to perform with $12 singers. Either he was going to pay the singers $15 or my band wasn't going to play.
William never forgot it.
I didn't see any reason to pay them less than me. Certainly I wasn't as good as they were. He should've been paying me less than them.
There's a certain thing which you can only learn playing with black musicians. There's a look that a black musician can give you, when you've done something stupid, that causes you to never do that again. There's no other way to learn that. You don't have to experience that putdown more than two or three times to change your stupid white way.
I first started playing mixed when I started playing Mar-Keys jobs. The real Mar-Keys had kind of broken up and Ray Brown would take one Mar-Key and five other people and take them to Sikeston, Missouri to play for a sock hop. I did a lot of that stuff. Some of the most fun I've had in my life.
There were hassles, even up into the sixties. I remember one night, coming home from a Mar-Key gig, a mixed band in the car, and the cops, I guess, picked us up at Dyer's Drive In, the only place with a black side and a white side that stayed open late, one of the only places to get something to eat after a gig. We left some white guy off, they didn't hassle us. We left the Shann brothers somewhere downtown in one of the ghettos. They were the last two black guys in the car. When they got out, the cops drove up and rolled down the window, this big ol' redneck cop stuck his head out and says, "You might as well just go on and live with them."
That was the way it was. I was glad they drove away.
I was more afraid of cops than any of the black joints I ever went in. (NEVER SAID THIS BEFORE) The biggest hassle I had in the fifties and early sixties going into black joints was from gays. Being hit on by black homosexuals, assuming because I was white in a black joint, I must have been gay.
I think the Civil Rights movement was a little different in Memphis than it was in other places. I sang "We Shall Overcome" a couple times at folk music shows and tried to be as politically incendiary as I could be, but I didn't march or sit-in.
I was on a picnic with my then girlfriend and her family the weekend Ole Miss was integrated and we saw the helicopters go overhead. We were just south of Memphis. When I got back home, the phone had been ringing off the wall from friends who were going down to Oxford to participate in the disturbance.
You sort of didn't talk about it, not till the mid sixties. By then, I was already so entrenched in what I was doing, I was obviously a social misfit and outcast amongst my people. It wasn't an issue for me. I didn't see a choice. I saw how emotional my parents became when they watched Little Rock Central, which they both attended, integrated on television. It was difficult to deal with. I still remember my mother's preacher, who was an Ole Miss graduate, his sermon during the Ole Miss integration. It was hard for them good Christian folks to deal with. But it couldn't change how I felt about the music and what I saw as a more honest way of life.
Things changed in 1968, but again, I think things changed less in Memphis. If King had been assassinated anywhere but Memphis, it'd still be on fire. But because of Dewey Phillips and the mindset that was at work here, when King was assassinated, Detroit caught fire, Atlanta caught fire, DC caught fire, LA caught fire. But Memphis didn't burn. Because it's different.
I think it's because of Dewey Phillips. I think it's that simple. It's because of the music.
The body politic was the anchor, they were pulling it the other direction. Mr. Crump don't like it! That's what the song says, "Mr. Crump don't like it/They ain't gonna have it here."
Mr. Crump is just dead, he's not gone. Believe me, he's down there right now and he still don't like it. What it is that he don't like is what we're talking about. But, like the rest of the song says, "We don't care what Mr. Crump don't allow/We're gonna barrelhouse anyhow." That's the way Memphis is.
I honestly believe there's no place like Memphis, not racially. Today, every issue in Memphis comes down to race. The black culture is strong enough to survive, like Faulkner said. You have to look no further than rap music as proof that at this late date black culture is strong enough to do something that would be both repulsive to white people and compelling to their children. Is that not a miracle?
One of the reasons I live in Mississippi and you look around you here and see what has been depicted in the press, in both fact and fiction, as rural poverty. I don't see it as poverty. It don't look poor to me. It don't look poor compared to Watts. These people will be here after the bomb drops. It'll be cockroaches and the people in these sharecropper cabins. And their life isn't even going to change much.
Now that's not true of all of Mississippi. The Delta is mean, but it's always been mean. It's mean-spirited. It's not just the white people that are mean. Black people are mean too. The Hill Country is not that way. The Hill Country is not like the Delta because it wasn't desirable for plantation ownership. Some of these farms go back three, four generations--the black farms. There's musical families who've been here long enough to create a tradition. This was not true in the Delta because all the people were itinerant, if they weren't sharecroppers. They weren't tied to the land. The musicians weren't tied to the land. They all moved around. So there was no feeling of community like there is here. I love it here.
At least not have to answer to the man.
Again, it's the fear of the cops. It's the fear of authority.
The Hill Country hanging on to the blues tradition is some kind of miracle.
Somehow, Robert Palmer, the writer, was right. When he moved to Holly Springs, I thought he was crazy. But he was dead right. The Fat Possum label, although I disagree with them and their marketing technique of presenting the blues artist as primitive savage, a man I think of as literally a holy figure, what they've done is a miracle. First time I heard R.L. Burnside was 30 some odd years ago. Friend of mine made a tape of him. The first word out of his mouth was the N-word. I thought to myself, "God, this is so good, no one will ever hear it." Well, now, R.L. Burnside has had a career. He opened for the Beastie Boys, the Cramps--that's a miracle. And that's progress. You can't tell me it's not racial progress.
Couple years ago at the Sunflower Blues Festival which is the only Mississippi blues festival left that hasn't turned into a Bobby Rush concert--not to say there's anything wrong with Bobby Rush, he just doesn't have much to do with the Mississippi blues--I had been invited to be on some panel. My wife and I went down to Moon Lake, have a romantic night before the event. We went down into Clarksdale for breakfast in the morning. This was on the square, traditional little Mississippi restaurant. At the back table were these six big fat guzzled-gutted redneck businessmen who obviously were there every morning. Without really listening, we could hear these men talking. Within the 45 minutes it took us to eat our breakfast, these guys who I venture to say 10-15 years earlier would have been in the Klan, may have still been--one guy obviously owned the restaurant--discussed Robert Johnson and William Faulkner. These are names that would have not been spat from these men's mouths 10-15 years ago. They were discussing them both, in terms of tourism, admittedly. But they were still discussing Robert Johnson and William Faulkner as positive elements in their community.
As we left, they were standing up to leave about the same time we were, the big fat one who obviously owned the restaurant said, "You know, sometimes I have a hard time with them damn Faulkner stories. I don't understand them." This other guy, quick as a heartbeat, said, "Yeah, well, sometimes you've got to read them two or three times."
Maybe there hasn't been much progress, but anyone who says things haven't changed in Mississippi doesn't know how bad it used to be.
It was so bad, it created music and art that are second to none anywhere on earth.
The Delta blues itself was maybe 30 men for eight years. And it won't go away. Robert Johnson is on the pop charts. The Delta blues continues to be reissued, reexamined, recategorized, redocumented. How many millions of dollars did Martin Scorsese spend on putting on that extravaganza of the blues? Do you think Charley Patton thought about that? I don't. How surprised would Robert Johnson be, that he had generated $5 million in income? I think he'd be pretty surprised. But I think he would equally surprised his picture was on the front page of the Commercial-Appeal newspaper. Things have changed.
My point is, pop music is created as a disposable item. It makes you want more, like ice cream. You're not even supposed to keep it. The blues is ultimately collectable, there's a beginning and end. You can put the blues in a box in a corner and stack it up. There's something appealing about that to western man. The blues is not going to go away. The Delta blues, unlike commercial music, is art. And art endures.
There's nothing like the literary tradition here in Mississippi anywhere in America. How can you explain blues and writers? It's not just William Faulkner, it's Larry Brown. It's going on as we speak. It's because of something in the area. I think it's the spirit. I don't mean to get too metaphysical on you here, but people think it's literally in the air and the water and all that. Although that has a little to do with it--I think it has a lot to do with the altitude we're at---but I think there's a spirit. I think it comes and goes. You can always feel a little of it. As bad as Beale Street is now--it's turned into a tourist trap; anyone would admit that. I got in trouble describing it in the press as a city-owned liquor mall, but that's what it is. The racial implications of what they did with Beale Street is truly ugly--if you walk down the middle of Beale Street, especially when there's nobody there, you can still feel something. It ain't like what W.C. Handy felt. And it's not the Beale Street of Will Shade. But there's still something there and what you feel is that spirit.
Obviously it likes it here, or it wouldn't keep coming back.
Memphis is the capital of Arkansas and Mississippi. It's certainly unlike everything east of the Tennessee River. The Delta literally begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. You come down off Rabbit Ridge and there it is--the Delta. Flat. There's nothing like it in America. I can't leave. I tried to leave once and I had to come back. If I stay away from Memphis too long, I start to play really funny.
It's not just the whites reaching for the black culture, it's the blacks reaching for the white culture. It's about the collision. If you drove through the ghetto in the sixties, you heard Eric Clapton on the radio, you didn't hear Ray Charles. That's what Stax [Records] was. Stax represents the period of time where the races really met, culturally, and then, interestingly enough, went beyond each other. Which is what is happening now. What happened was special and unique. It will never go away. Isn't that the prediction of Faulkner, of Jim Bond, that it would all turn gray? Isn't that what should happen.
Justin Timberlake [of the teen singing group N'Sych] was exposed to the result of Dewey Phillips. He was certainly exposed to Al Green. He's doing the same thing Elvis did. He's using a black idea, he's singing in falsetto. What's getting him across is the way he dances. He's tremendously professional. He's crossing racial boundaries. I think it's a good thing. I don't buy into any of this exploitation crap, the white musicians exploiting the black culture. That could not be farther than what I buy into. What it's all about is the white musicians reaching for the black culture and the black musicians reaching for the white culture. If we all stay in our own backyard, what fun is that?
What was Nat King Cole if he wasn't trying to sound white? There isn't anything wrong with that. He was the first black man in Bel-Air. That was an accomplishment. He wouldn't have got there if he was singing like Howlin' Wolf. Here Johnny Ace from Memphis trying to sing like Perry Como back in the fifties. He wanted to get across. Should've kept that gun out of his mouth. That's another issue.
I was conceived in Memphis and my mother thought is was somehow pagan to be born in Memphis so I was born in Little Rock. I think I somehow belong here. I must have been supposed to see what I saw, because I saw it.
If nothing else, a lot of black pseudo-intellectuals can listen to this and be horrified.
Posted by Joe Nick Patoski at 6:06 PM