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Entry date: 3-26-2024 – The Suns are Bad (The Bet continues) – Letters to My Friends

 Dear Friends,

 

While I wrote last night, I watched the Suns score on the ESPN feed. You can watch the play by play and it gives you a little feel for the game. I think I’ve shared that I have no desire to pay any more for sports than I already do with our streaming packages and the $15 a month for the Suns games is ridiculous. I’m not doing it.

 

Well, I think last night is probably the last draw for me. How they go and lose to San Antonio with their playoff picture so precarious is beyond me. This team just doesn’t know who they are, and they don’t have a leader. I can’t care any more about this, so Phoenix Suns, we are now merely acquaintances. Something tells me that my interest might not come back and that’s okay.

 

I recently read a list that a writer named John Lefevre put together about things he wished he knew at 18. In it, one of the things he said was “Don’t waste much time watching pro sports” and how “letting a game dictate your mood is a waste of time and energy.” Instead, he said, “play a competitive sport as long as you can.” These are good words.

 

*****

 

Cocaine Baby was back yesterday and relatively subdued. He will get back into the swing of things soon, though, I can only bet. He seemed to be pretty happy, so that’s a good thing. I’m glad for him.

 

*****

 

(The Bet)

 

Betsy wasn’t sure what to say. She had seen these types of breakdowns with her students many times over the years. In those times, she had learned that the best thing you could do was just sit with the students and let them calm down enough to talk. The more you said or asked what was wrong, the harder they would cry.

 

It seemed like Nurse Marcy needed to let something out, so Betsy just stayed quiet for a minute or so.

 

Finally, Marcy wiped her eyes and looked at Betsy again.

 

“I’m sorry,” was all Marcy could get out.

 

Betsy reached out for Marcy’s hand and held her own hand out with a loving smile on her face. Marcy looked at Betsy’s hand and then down at her own hand.

 

“I can’t…I…”

 

“It’s okay, dear. I’m here,” Betsy said as she withdrew her hand. She patted the edge of the bed, instead, and said, “If you want to sit here, I’m happy to listen to you.”

 

Marcy continued to stand next to the retired teacher’s bed but finally acquiesced and sat down.

 

Marcy sat in silence for over five minutes. Her mind was racing, though. She had no idea what she could tell Betsy or if she could even tell her anything. She didn’t want to lie to Betsy, and she didn’t want to tell her that she was most likely in a lot of danger.

 

 

“I’m so sorry, Betsy,” Marcy said again.

 

“Why are you sorry, dear?”

 

“I have involved you in something you don’t deserve to be involved in.”

 

“That’s all right, dear,” Betsy said, and she paused before adding, “I’m a captive audience and a good listener.”

 

Marcy thought to herself, she doesn’t understand what I’m trying to tell her. Should I correct her, she wondered, or should she just let it go.

 

“Betsy, I am going through a lot right now and somehow, you are involved. Jonathan, the one from your dreams, is a friend of mine. He died...shit, I guess yesterday or the night before. I really don’t even know what day it is. I’m not sleeping and I’m …”

 

Now it was Betsy’s turn not to know what to say.

 

*****

 

Podcasts are a great way to discover music these days. A few years ago, I discovered Cocaine & Rhinestones and it hipped me to the backstory behind a lot of country artists I was familiar with on some level but didn’t know the stories behind the music. If you have any interest in country music or just an open mind, I highly recommend checking it out.

 

Several of the episodes in the first season are dedicated to Buck Owens & The Buckaroos. I was immediately hooked after listening and started seeking out as much of their music as I could get my hands on. One of the great collections I came across was The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966. Omnivore Recordings put this out on 2 CDs in 2016 and I have to say it is great.

 

Let me say that there are 56 songs on this compilation, so I’m not going to dissect each one. If you want that to happen, I’m happy to do it. Just Venmo me $50. 😊 These things are a labor of love at the moment, but 56 songs are a lot to dive into on a school night.

 

For me, the most interesting thing about Buck and the Buckaroos is how influential they were in the world of country music. Buck Owens is credited with creating the “Bakersfield” sound and learning about this made all the Buck Owens signs and such in Bakersfield, California make a lot more sense.

 

One of the most fun shows Hillbilly Devilspeak ever played was in Bakersfield. We spent the day at Magic Mountain riding rollercoasters and such before heading towards the gig. We had played Al’s Bar the night before and crashed at a hotel near the amusement park so we could get our early start.

 

We also ate some mushrooms. Well, Shane didn’t eat any, but Steve, Brian, and I did, and they were a hell of a lot of fun. I was still feeling their effects as we drove the 90 minutes or so from the park to the gig, and when we got to The Mint, which was eerily similar to an old Phoenix haunt called Liquori’s on the inside, they kicked in again.

 

While we were playing, I could only really focus on playing music. When I looked at the crowd, my eyes played a lot of tricks on me. We ended up playing really well, though, and people were into it. The guy who set up the show took care of us, and we had a great time. Brian even traded shirts with one of the local ladies and she didn’t need to go behind closed doors to make the exchange. Bakersfield is a friendly place.

 

Back to Buck!

 

What I learned was that I like the “Bakersfield” sound a lot. I guess some of that stuff I heard on Hee Haw over at my grandparents’ house on Sunday afternoons sunk in or something. Don Rich played fiddle on this set of songs, and he was a beast. Sadly, he died in a motorcycle accident and the world had to go without what I have to believe would have continued to be a wonderful and highly influential career.

 

The combination of Owens and Rich on fiddle really makes this collection for me. I kind of guffawed the first time I heard King Buzzo (Melvins) gush over Buck Owens, but now I get it. The man wrote some great tunes, and the Buckaroos could all really fucking play.

 

Some of the real highlights of this huge collection are ones that longtime Buck Owens fans would probably give me the ol’ Captain Obvious salute for, but I don’t care. One of the great things about music is that it’s new whenever you discover it.

 

“Come Back” kicks things off and I love the innocence of it. It reminds me a bit of Buddy Holly and while I know Owens wrote a lot of his songs, I’m guessing this is not one of them. It’s also impossible to tell who played on what song from these without diving into a whole mess of catfish I don’t want to fry.

 

I’m partial to “I’ll Take a Chance on Loving You,” as well. Owens was a master at starting a new chorus with two or three words as the band does a little pause before coming back in. Whoever played fiddle here, probably Rich, really killed it. Nice twinkly piano, too. Sounds like a toy.

 

On disc one there are quite a few of the slower, waltz-y kind of numbers. Admittedly, I have to be in the mood for these, but when I am, I love the style that Owens and the Buckaroos play. 15-year-old me is cringing right now, though.

 

During my freshman year of high school, we spent two full weeks square dancing in PE. I now know that this was just a PE teacher taking liberties and fully fucking with us, but a lot of these songs kind of remind me of the part of square dancing where you “Promenade.” That’s all I’m going to say about it, but if you are curious, listen to “Everlasting Love.”

 

“Under Your Spell Again” is another favorite. It’s quintessential Buckaroos. Owens had a really nice voice and there is no doubt about why he was the man on the West Coast for Country music for so long. I read somewhere that he amassed a 9-digit fortune. Imagine if he were going now. The guy would be a billionaire.

 

“Above and Beyond” has some great vocals and guitars. The steel guitar here is pretty boss. Not sure who it is, but I wish I did. These songs just take you back to a time where things seemed like they were simple. I know they weren’t, but it’s nice to have these types of romantic thoughts about time gone by. Lots of broken hearts and love gone wrong happening here, too.

 

“Mental Cruelty” is a fun one. Rose Maddox does the other vocal track on this one about divorce. Pretty racy stuff for 1960. I think Owens went through his fair share of them. It has this line, “All a woman has to claim is two words: Mental Cruelty.” Seems like it hits a little close to home for Buck.

 

Maddox sticks around for “Loose Talk,” too, and that one is also pretty good. She was a fellow Central Californian. I have to wonder if she played fiddle on these tracks, as well. Apparently, she was quite a fiddler. Good stuff.

 

“You’re For Me” is another fun one thanks to what I presume to be Ralph Mooney on pedal steel guitar. The dude was just so tasteful in how he played, and he rips this song a new one. Between he and George French (piano..and yes, I had to do the research), this song just kills me.

 

“Act Naturally” is the debut of Don Rich on guitar and it’s really quite a debut. The song is solid and Rich sounds great, but…I like “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again” a lot more. It has an almost Beatles sound to it and this might be due to the fact that Owens was a fan of theirs. Rich might have been a George Harrison fan, too, but who knows. Some of his leads are kind of Harrison-esque at times.

 

My favorite Buck Owens doesn’t come until about halfway through disc two. “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail” is just a ripper. Unlike a lot of the other songs where there seems to be a formula, this one just kind of steps outside the box. There is a tinge of rockabilly happening here that really shines through a lot. There is a lot of rock and roll in the Bakersfield sound if you listen and it’s very apparent here.

 

 

“Before You Go” is probably the last song on this compilation that I get really excited about. It’s got that rock and roll fake out beginning before it starts waltzing. I love the change in tone of this song that happens back and forth. They must have had a lot of fun writing this one. I bet there were some looks in the practice room/studio that said, “you want us to do what?” It works, though. Great song.

 

This whole compilation is really great. I wish they would have put it out on vinyl.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



I would never grab her by the tail. She's kick my ass.

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Yes, podcasts are a good way to discover new music.

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Indeed.

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