The Importance of Elvis

Posted: June 20th, 2022 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Music, Personalities | 2 Comments »

This piece was originally published at the turn of the century. It has been very slightly edited for clarity and content in advance of the release this week of the Elvis Presley biopic.

In his book “The Fifties,” David Halberstam chronicles the most misunderstood of the century’s decades. In the tome, he relates a conversation where noted composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein discussed political and social trends with Dick Clurman, an editor at Time magazine. Halberstam quotes Bernstein: “Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force of the twentieth century.”

Incredulous, Clurman suggests some other choice, Picasso perhaps.

Bernstein, not to be deterred, retorts: “(Elvis) changed everything — music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution . . .”

Elvis Presley is LEO’s Person of the Century.

That is not a typo. No Henry Ford or Winston Churchill or Bill Gates or FDR or Einstein or Rosa Parks or Jackie O could meet our standards at Louisville Eccentric Observer for such critical status.

Elvis Presley is the wise choice, the eccentric choice, the correct choice. Love him or loathe him. Pity his Greek tragedy of a life. Ignore him if so inclined. But don’t make the mistake of dismissing Elvis as irrelevant.

Elvis was the undisputed King of Rock & Roll but no longer a major player on the music scene twenty two years ago when he died ignominiously in his throne room. The causes: Terminal, drug-induced bloat and chronic ennui. He had become the caped, prescription pill-addled Elvis who arrived for a White House audience with Richard Nixon, carrying a handgun as a gift, then requesting a badge to fight drug abuse.

We chose the Elvis who in the summer of 1953 entered the Memphis Recording Service studio at 706 Union in Memphis to record an acetate for his mama. The Elvis who the following year, at the insistence of guitarist Scotty Moore, and with encouragement from Sam Phillips’ secretary Marion Keister, waxed revved versions of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right Mama.” The songs changed Elvis’ life forever.

And the lives of all who heard them.

And life itself.

As Renaissance Woman Caroline Dahl titled her magnificent needlepoint seen above, Elvis was “The New King of Heaven and Hell.”

Elvis Presley. The world’s been a different place since. Read the rest of this entry »

“Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent: Review/ Podcast

Posted: May 19th, 2022 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Film Reviews Podcast, Personalities | No Comments »

So, Nick Cage, he’s like a thing, right?

Because of his over the top acting style and other stuff, he’s more than an actor. A cultural icon, or, at least curiosity.

So it would seem.

He’s won an Oscar. He’s been in a 109 films. He’s made some bold choices in his portrayals, daring even.

Some hit. Some have you walking out of the theater, scratching your head. Even before the movie’s over perhaps.

He’s a flashpoint for aesthetic colloquy.

Now, he plays himself, along with his alter ego Sailer Ripley, his character in “Wild at Heart,” in what is either an astute bit of self deprecation, or vanity in the extreme.

Way more the former, I’d opine.

In “Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” you get all Nick Cage all the time.

It’s pretty danged funny. Astute. Often a brilliant send up of the movie industry.

For more on the movie, listen to my podcast below:

Audio MP3

Le Brer (in A. Miner)

Posted: March 4th, 2022 | Filed under: Culture, Music, New Orleans, Personalities, Ruminations, Today's Lesson Learned | 5 Comments »

The header is not a misspell. Read on.

I live in a part of my hometown where everybody seems to be interconnected, where there are not a lot of degrees of separation. Where your cousin is likely to work with your neighbor’s uncle. The mother of your daughter’s current BF went to the junior prom 25 years ago with your boss’s brother. A former fellow bandmate of your Louisville contractor teaches guitar to your former fraternity brother. In New Orleans.

That kind of stuff.

An educated area, yet when asked what school one attended, the intention is to learn what high school, not college.

I’ve often joked that on my deathbed, two people will walk in together and provide the final tie in to everyone I’ve known.

I am used to connectivity.

So, I look for links in my life.

 * * * * *

I am a huge music fan.

Rock & Roll.

I’m full with it, my history with it. I can tell you exactly where I was when I first heard “Walk Don’t Run.” What acts were on the bill at the first concert I attended. “Biggest Show of Stars.” On July 29, 1961.

I’ve often mused whether I’d have made it as I have to double sevens without tuneage to provide a necessary soundtrack along the way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Night I Said No to Little Richard

Posted: May 9th, 2020 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | 2 Comments »

Of the Founding Fathers of Rock & Roll, the quintet whose mugs would be on Mount Rushmore, two were frankly more incendiary than the rest.

It’s not that Elvis, Fats Domino, and Bo Diddley weren’t rockin’ and rollin’ in a totally new fashion in the mid 50s.

It’s just that the music of the other two blasted from the tinny speaker of the 7 transistor portable radio I got for my Bar Mitzvah, the device I could put in my bike basket, and thereby take my life’s preferred soundtrack with me wherever I roamed.

One was Jerry Lee Lewis.

When you’re 12 years old and you hear “Great Balls of Fire,” you turn to your pal and scream, “Holy shit, did you hear what he just sang?”

To get a sense of how raucous Jerry Lee could be, youtube his ’64 concert at the Star Club in Hamburg.

(Aside: That Jerry Lee Lewis is the last of those Founding Fathers standing is one of the wonders of the universe.)

The other who pushed the boundaries of the new teen culture to other dimensions was Little Richard. RIP.

His songs propelled. They were insistent. They were outrageous. Read the rest of this entry »

Meditation: In Memory of Gregg Allman

Posted: May 29th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | 11 Comments »

‘Cause time goes by like hurricanes/ And faster things.

Pop up thunder showers this Memorial Day Saturday.

It’s not unusual in my neck of the woods.

So I chose a movie over one or another of a couple minor music fests.

Part of the way through the flick, my phone buzzes with a text, then another, a flurry. Unusual. So I step outside to find out why the commotion?

Gregg Allman. Gone.

He’s now the fourth of the original, iconic, innovative and transcendent Allman Brothers Band to pass, joining his brother Duane, drummer Butch Trucks and bass player Berry Oakley in the rock & roll beyond.

Memories insist. Though I stay the movie becomes an afterthought. I recall there was such a pop up shower that intercepted the first set of Allmans’ music I ever heard, which was, what, wow, just short of a half century ago.

Atlanta Pop. 1970.

The rain interrupted “Mountain Jam,” the loosey goosey but ever euphonious noodling around the band ended sets with back in the day, hooked on the end of “Whipping Post.”

There’s no reason to cite the details, but that interlude allowed for a significant turning point in my life.

In fact, that whole Independence Day weekend was transitional. I had finished law school and taken the bar exam the week before. Not having properly prepped, I figured there was no way I’d pass.

On the threshold of adulthood, I hadn’t the slightest idea what came next in my life. I was without rudder.

Yet there I was reveling about in a musical wonderland at a raceway in deep Georgia. Skinny dipping. Eating nickel peaches. Savoring in their fullest the sounds — Jimi, Col. Bruce, Chambers Bros., Procol Harum, et al — and sensory enhancements of the day.

And at the first evening’s sunset, hearing the band that caused the plates to shift, that was to provide unrequited joy, ballast and succor in the decades to come. Read the rest of this entry »

A Short Tribute to James Bickers

Posted: September 30th, 2016 | Filed under: Personalities, Ruminations | Tags: | 7 Comments »

bickMy long time radio host and on air adversary James Bickers has passed away.

He was a friend.

He was a good guy.

He was a loving husband.

He was a loving father.

He was beloved by his adoring listening audience.

A short remembrance and tribute:

Audio MP3

The Snapshot Chronicles: 6/27/16

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Music, Personalities, Ruminations, Snapshot Chronicles | 4 Comments »

chron“Step On Up” Billy Joe Shaver (Sirius XM Outlaw Country). If Muddy Waters was the most masculine of the electric blues singers — and you know, really, he sang “I’m a Man,” and felt compelled to spell it out, in case his point wasn’t indelible enough — swamp blues master Slim Harpo was the most sensual.

Don’t move your hands/ Don’t move your lips/ Just shake your hips/ And do the hip shake thang

And if author/rock & roll historian Robert Gordon, an inveterate Memphian, came as close to a legit definition of that genre as anybody, when he declared “Rock and roll is white rednecks trying to play black music,” then a sure enough classic example blew through the box in my car the other day.

On the Outlaw Country channel no less. It’s all mixed together now, folks.

Corsicana, Texas’s Billy Joe Shaver was singin’ — no “g” at the end of that verb — “Step On Up.”

The lead is a boogie shuffle — thanks John Lee Hooker — with its back strokes on the guitar. Then a little six string vibrato tag that oozes from the swamp primordial. All Slim. All bayou slinky.

Redneck white boy playing black music. Bingo, RG. Rock & roll.

As an exclamation point, the lyrics assure the listener Billy Joe knows Muddy too.

Step on up here baby/ I’ll show you what’s it about/ You know I’m packin’ something/ Something you can’t live without

“Thunder Road” (2016 Sundance Festival Short Film Tour). The finale of this fascinating eight film potpourri, the pick of the litter of thousands submitted this year for Robert Redford’s annual fete in Utah, was written, directed and stars a guy named Jim Cummings.

Remember the name. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greatest is Gone: Muhammed Ali, R.I.P.

Posted: June 4th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Personalities, Ruminations | 3 Comments »

aliimagesThere’s a reason my homage is here at this blog, the one I use for cultural stuff, as opposed to my sports blog.

Because Muhammed Ali transcended the world of sports.

He was The Greatest.

Not the greatest boxer, not the greatest this or greatest that.

The Greatest.


And, if you are too short in the tooth, if you didn’t grow up in, or weren’t around in the 60s and 70s, and, if you only know Ali as an old, Parkinson’s riddled man, revered by your elders for something or another, and you’re looking at the headlines, and wondering what’s the big deal with all this posthumous adulation . . . if that’s where you are, I understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Allen Toussaint “Tipitina & Me”: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: November 16th, 2015 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | Tags: | 3 Comments »

rock3imagesThis is the fifth in a series of rock & roll essays.

First the man, then the song.

The man was regal.

Allen Toussaint walked about — no let’s be accurate — Allen Toussaint carried himself, always, with aplomb. Chin up. Erect. Attuned to his surroundings, especially the sounds, in harmony with the melody of his whereabouts.

There’s an evocative moment in this BBC documentary, when, while walking the streets of NYC, he stops to tap a steel pole he intuits to be hollow. Just to listen how sonorous it may be. Then hearing the horn of a passing cab, observes it as a minor 3d of the pole’s ring.

He was a master at the piano, a master producer in the studio, a master songwriter, and far more important to the pantheon of contemporary music than his modest reputation outside of music’s insiders would indicate. If you aren’t aware, here’s a primer, his obituary in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

He was impeccable, whether walking the promenade, or driving around in his Rolls Royce. Dapper. Bespoke. He was Saville Row, even if dressed on stage in a deep red blazer adorned with iridescent gold lamé fronds, an electric turquoise shirt, cravat of course with perfect Windsor, and his ever present stage affection for comfort, slip on sandals. Read the rest of this entry »

Cecil’s Revenge: Walter Palmer D.M.D. & The New Scorn

Posted: July 29th, 2015 | Filed under: Culture, Personalities, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

palmerInstant Karma’s gonna get you/ Gonna knock you right on the head/ Instant Karma’s gonna get you/ Gonna look you right in the face/ Instant Karma’s gonna get you/ Gonna knock you off your feet
                                                                             Okay, let me see if I can get a sense of what this might be like.

The guy is looking forward to his summer vacation, away from filling cavities, bonding teeth, root canals and Minnesota’s nettlesome summertime mosquito epidemic.

Going to slip off to an exotic part of the globe, feed his favorite hobby by spending his hard earned cash on his not so secret passion, after which he’ll have photographic proof of his joy, a shot of him smiling with bow and arrows, and a new adornment for the wall his den.

And there’d be the stories he could craft for his pals, life in the wild, the invigoration of the hunt, how his prowess again hit the mark as it had done so many times before.

So, Dr. Palmer, tell us all about your safari in Zimbabwe.

Dr. Palmer . . . you who . . . yo, Walt . . . where ya be?

We stopped by your office. But it’s closed. Read the rest of this entry »

The Curious Matter of Rachel Dolezal

Posted: June 24th, 2015 | Filed under: Culture, Personalities | 1 Comment »

rachelRachel Dolezal’s name is the kind that pops up now and again in this insidious age of too much faux news and social media commentary. The kind of name with a relatively short public half life, the kind that, when mentioned in six months, or a year on, you say, “Oh yeah, wasn’t she the one . . . ?”

But Dolezal is still in the news, thanks to Maya Rudolph’s satirical take on the former Spokane NAACP leader, which comic shtick, as we’re wont to say these days, has gone viral on the internet.

We are inclined to make much ado about the trivial in these oversaturated media times. Dolezal’s 15 minutes of fame is curioser than most such momentary cultural flirtations.

In recent times, this woman born of Caucasian parents, has been passing herself off as an African-American. To nary a bit of harm to anyone or any organization or society as best I can determine.

For her out of the ordinary racial confusion — Which word may not be apt, but I use it for lack of any other description I can muster — Dolezal has become an object of derision. People seem forced to take sides. Read the rest of this entry »

Rants & Raves: Weekend Battle of the UKs

Posted: March 23rd, 2015 | Filed under: Culture, Personalities | No Comments »

historyIt was with a bemused sense of irony that I observed the confluxification of two sets of UK royals, arriving in our burg simultaneously.

In one corner, the tweedly, toothy twosome from across the pond.

Prince Charlie and his former inamorata, now bride, a/k/a now known as the Duchess of Cornwall.

In the other, the ever true UK royals, the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Who won this battle of the UKs for relevance and our attention?

I trust you can guess the correct answer, but listen anyway.

Audio MP3